Monday, June 16, 2008

Palenque

Day: 101

Mileage: 75

Total mileage: 5,552

Money Spent: 6-15: $14, 6-16: $35, 6-17: $17




This is what 9 bucks gets you in Palenque, not bad!
The view from my bungalow.

The jungle is very beautiful.

This was a nice treat in the humidity.
Wondering why in the blazes I am sleeping in a bog again!
At least the sunset was nice.


I helped these people jump start their car, I remember all too well what its like to have a car that needs to be jump started all the time! My jeep in high school was the same way, i hated it.


What a great place Palenque is, truly a travelers´ must stop location. The ruins themselves are amazing, and I will go into those later, but just the place itself, the town, the people, the scenery, are really impressive. The place is full of backpackers and travelers from all around the world. Everywhere time I turn around I hear a different language be it Italian, Spanish, German, French, English, or one of the 8 languages spoken by the indigenous peoples of the Chiapas state of Mexico. You see quite a few of the indigenous peoples as well. They have distinct features that set them apart and their language here sounds very unique, it has kind of a looping, musical sound to it. Many of them don´t speak Spanish however, which is the cause for quite a bit of conflict. The Chiapas state is said to be the most dangerous in Mexico.

Getting to Palenque was a trial. I left Villahermosa around 10:30 in the morning yesterday and said my goodbyes to Mike as he had to leave early on some personal business. It was a bummer to see him go so shortly after he had arrived but these things happen. It was great to have him and I, and I am sure the mosquitoes, will miss him. Good luck Mike, I was glad to ride with you for a while.

After leaving Mike I set out again and I have to admit, it felt good to be riding with no limitations. Mike had a time restriction and we were going to haul butt to Cancun, but now that I have nothing weighing down on me I was able to ride with a sense of total freedom. It felt good. I was cruising at a moderate pace just enjoying the ride.

That changed rather abruptly, however, when the road went form a nice 4 lane divided highway with a 5 foot shoulder, to a two lane no shoulder road with heavy traffic and terrible potholes and cracks everywhere. Add to this that it was VERY hot and humid and you have a long, annoying day of ride, watch your rear, get off the road when two trucks pass you at the same time. It is aggravating to ride like that as when the traffic is heavy, you make such slow progress. However, it is what it is.
I made it to about 15 kilometers outside of the town of Palenque and camped out in a marsh again. I didn´t have much choice as everywhere else there were Ranches. Every time I have encountered a Rancher in Mexico and asked him if it would be OK if I camped on his property, they were more than fine with it (one gentleman even offered for Mike and I to sleep in his house). However, its one thing to come across a Ranchero while he is working, and entirely another thing to go knock on someone´s door on a Sunday evening.

So, I rode down a gravel rode well into the marsh to be out of sight of the main road and again, I was reminded of how much I hate sleeping in swampy, marshy areas.

First of all, I had to sleep on the road as it was wet everywhere off of it. I hate sleeping on a raod after nearly getting runover ona country road at night in Texas. Also, there were all kinds of lizards and frogs and birds (which were cool) but again, the inevitable insects. I was armed with some mosquito repellent this time and it worked fairly well at keeping the little winged devils away, but it didn´t do much vs. The no-see-ums, bees or ants. And what ants they were! I have never seen so many or such humongous ants in my life! There were builder ants carrying little leaves, normal little red and black ants, gigantic ants the size of my thumb nail, some with giant golden thorax (rear ends), others with massive heads and pincers to go with them, and worst of all: army ants. They are nuts. I saw a line of thousands of them and I bent down to take a picture and before I knew it My leg was covered with dozens of them. I tried to swat them off but then they just got on my hands too. So then, slightly panicked, I started jumping up and down, karate kicking and chopping into the air, yelling insults at them, anything to get them off of me. They started biting me and it hurt like the dickens so I just started smashing them. Getting ant guts all over you is not the most fun of things. It was crazy how aggressive they were, I couldn´t imagine what it would be like when hundreds of thousands of them go on the warpath, like a giant sea of angry insects moving across the ground. They kill everything they encounter, even weak humans like children, or sick or injured adults.

However, the worst part of the night were these bizarre, groaning, moaning, I´m crawling out of my grave to come and eat your brains noises that were coming from all around. They echoed across the marsh so i couldn´t tell where they were coming from and they lasted all night. It was pretty much the exact type of noises you WOULDN'T´T want to hear when you are sleeping alone in a bog. It made for a very creepy, more than slightly uncomfortable night.

I woke early the next morning and made my way into Palenque which is a cool little town and has everything a traveler could want. I headed out towards the ruins and checked my gear into a Hostel called the Jaguar that was recommended to Mike and I by another traveler. It is a great deal at 100 pesos a night (about 9 bucks). I have my own little bungalow, two beds, a view of a little stream and, this is the most important part, a ceiling fan! Oh that is nice. Its communal bathrooms which are fine with me and they are a heck of a lot better than a bush in the swamp with mosquitoes biting my rear end. There were cheaper places (as low as 3 bucks for just a hammock) but I have a hammock of my own and the fan was worth the money. Being able to sleep well at night plus take a nice cool shower anytime of the day is well worth 9 bucks. The only negative was getting stung on the neck by a wasp right after I checked in. That sucked.
As I had mentioned, this place crawls with backpackers from all over the world which always makes for a lively place. You get a lot of tourist kitsch along with that though, like guys trying to sell you drugs, little imitation Mayan statues, guides, totes, etc. But then you also get a fun place full of young people that are out on an adventure. You see lots of dreadlocks and hear lots of Bob Marlie in places like this, and the bars are always full with people from all over the world sharing in an adventure. This is the kind of place you come entending to spend a week and end up staying all summer.

The ruins themselves are amazing. They are up in the hills overlooking the jungle and just blow you away. I am very interested in Mesoamerican history (well, I love all history for that matter) and it really must be seen to be believed. The temples are huge and there are so many of them! Palenque is an entire city of ruins and temples, any one of which would be a worth seeing on its own. The archeological site is enormous and you could easily spend several days going through all of the magnificent buildings. It is really pretty awesome to stand on one of the great pyramids and think that people lived out their lives here hundreds of years ago, that were totally different from what I have known. To think that people stood right in the same place I was standing and talked about and believed things that are completely alien to me now, and yet they accomplished so much. Their astronomy and mathematics were very advanced, and yet they also practiced human sacrifice and slavery. I wish more was known about their culture to shed light on things like the ball games in which whole teams were killed afterwards as a sacrifice to the gods. It is really very fascinating to read about the rise and fall of the civilizations that thrived here, be it the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, etc. Mexico is a country full of very interesting history running from prehistoric cave dwellers through ancient Mesoamericans, and colonial history to the present. I look forward to learning more about the pirates that inhabited the southern gulf coast at my next stop, Campeche.

I also went hiking through the jungles around Palenque. And that was a great. The jungle is so much better than the swamp! You can walk for one thing as the canopy overhead prevents light from hitting the jungle floor and keeps underbrush to a minimum. There are less insects as well which is always good and there are all kinds of other, less annoying animals to interact with, like monkeys! I came across some howler monkeys hanging out in some trees (they were responsible for the strange noises from the night before) and they are anwry little guys. When I came up to get a better look and snap a picture they through big sticks at me! If those things would have hit me from way up in the trees were they threw them, thery could have done some serious damage. I got the hint and left them alone after that.

As I said, I like this place a lot and decided to take a rest day here and just do nothing but relax. I will ride hard to Campeche which should take me about three days, followed by Merida, then Cancun. I will stay in Cancun for a few days, they head down the coast at a very leisurely pace and make my way into Belize sometime next month.
Until next time! Here are some fun with animals pictures. Chech out all of the wild beasties I have encountered and was abel to get a picture of.
Some howler monkeys, responsible for scary noises at night and stick throwing!
The biggest bug I had ever seen, until...
I saw this one! It was longer and wider than my finger! Huge!
The wasps that stung me on the neck. Thanks guys, good looking out.
Yet more wasps hanging out on my bungalow.
There were big giant frogs everywhere, this guy was bigger than my foot.

Army ants, do not, as I stupidly did, get close to them!

4 comments:

jesstheonlyartist said...

Oh my goodness! The ant story freaked me out! I have a little bit of a fear of ants like that. EWWW! Thanks Reece! *haha*

I'm jealous of you seeing the ruins. I am sure it was absolutely amazing! I love your description of it. Makes me want to be there... to feel it!

Glad to know those killer monkies didn't get you! I was super worried they would drag my poor little Reece away into the jungle to be their man slave ;) *haha*

I'm glad you are able to have your freedom and take it at the pace you want now... ENJOY IT!

Can't wait to hear from you again....

love
Jess

TP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TP said...

HAHAHA!! I never knew yelling insults at ants is a viable technique to get them from biting you! Good to hear your still havin fun and keep the posts comin'! Much love.

Evanapolis said...

You are a thousand times braver than I am. I would have gotten the HECK outta those marshes if I had heard all that!