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Palenque

Written on: Friday August 7th, 2009

A journal entry from: Cycle Mexico - Panama

August 5th - 8th

We left Flores very early, starting with an argument with the bus driver about our bikes....... Eventually we managed to get them on the bus as we had been promised at the travel agents.  After a 3 hour bus trip we reached the Guatemalan border and crossed. We transferred to small boats for a 20 minute trip downriver and then crossed into Mexico. We then transferred to a minibus and arrived in Palenque town 4 hours later.

On our way to dinner last night we saw a cycle tourist fixing a puncture at a petrol station. We thought - we know how that feels. It was the first fellow cyclist that we had seen, so we went over to say hello. We ended up having dinner with him, and he told us about his journey. His name was Vincent, from France, and he had cycled over 9000km mostly in South America.

Palenque town seemed quite pleasant, with a nice square with a band playing (very loudly) and people dancing.

Today we visited the Mayan ruins, which lie a few km outside the modern town centre. The site was first occupied around 100 BC and in its prime around the 7th century AD, when ruled by K`inich Hanab Pakal. By this time it ruled over a large part of what is now Chiapas and Tabasco. It was a vigorous town for architecture, religion, arts and crafts.

The site is in the jungle, overlooking a plain below. It is spread over 15 sq km with 500 buildings excavated of the 1453 found so far. The typical style of the temples has a three entrance doorway on the top. There are numerous reliefs of both gods and earthly rulers in the temples. Most buildings were painted red from dyes made from squashed insects during Palenques heyday. Palenque was abandoned around 900 AD due to the neighbouring rival Tonina´s ascendancy. It was rediscovered in 1773 by a Spainish preist who led a trip here.

The Temple de las Inscripciones is Palenques tallest at 25m high, and houses the tomb of Pakal. The giant sarcophagus lid still remains here. After this we visited Las Cruces Group which consists of Templo de la Cruz Foliada, Templo de la Cruz and Templo de la Sol. These buildings are all dedicated to Pakal's son, Kan Balam.  On these temples are several carvings of God L (sometimes smoking tobacco) and Lord Serpent Jaguar II, who ascended to Palenque`s throne in 684 AD.

El Palacio is a structure with a maze of corridors, vaulted galleries set around 4 courtyards. There are numerous stuccos (often masks and figures), glyphic inscriptions and basreliefs. One of the courtyards was used for the reception of visitors and presentation of war captives (!). It is decorated with reliefs representing prisoners from nearby cities. A tower in the corner is belived to have been an observatory.

On our way out we walked along some overgrown jungle paths, past residential ruins. In most of these tombs were uncovered underneath the houses....... 

The site was beautiful, much more compact than Tikal and less grand. However the buildings seemed more intricate with lots of carvings and internal spaces to explore.

We were supposed to have gone to San Cristobal today, but the bus was full when we tried to buy a ticket. A bit frustrating but we will go tomorrow morning and look forward to it.

 

From Jen on Aug 8th, 2009

Lovely to see the pictures of Tikal and Palenque- haven't changed since I was there over 10 years ago. Then again they probably haven't changed in over a thousand years! Glad to hear that the paunch was a money belt. Was wondering how you'd managed to put on any weight with all that cycling!! Where are you off to next? Guatemala? Make sure you go to Antigua if you are heading to Guatemala.

From issy on Aug 8th, 2009

I like your pictures. I like the ones of Yasmin's birthday and Andy's chocolate cake best. Daisy Lily Rainbow says hello to Shaun and Toby.

From Uncle Peter on Aug 13th, 2009

Hi... still following your progress avidly etc. I will be in your part of the world soon: Guatemala City from 2 Sept - 6 Sept and Nicaragua, Managua plus field trips, from 6 Sept- 13 Sept. Any remote chance of catching a glimpse of Sean and Toby?

From Meg, Will & Lenny on Aug 14th, 2009

We are in the dirty mess drinking tea and eating carrot cake, and we have just read your entire blog. We enjoyed it immensely and are now all considering a sabbatical year in South America. Do you miss us as much as we miss you? Lenny says he thinks it was a bit irresponsible to frighten those reef sharks in their own home. Also have you got any party hats left, they would go lovely with his blond wig? Love xxx

From Andy & Yasmin on Aug 16th, 2009

Hi Pete, it would be great to meet up! However we will already have passed through Guatemala City in a few days time. We may be in Nicaragua by the beginning of Sept, depends on whether we travel through Honduras or El Salvador we think. We'll keep you posted and I have my mobile here too (+44-7904037176) so easy to be in touch. Glad you are enjoying the blog!

From Andy on Aug 16th, 2009

Hi guys, glad you are reading it - all in one go? .... things must be slow onboard. Yes the sharks were very scared of us, but we were fine :) Actually we had lots of party hats, but we've already worn them out! We'll keep our eyes peeled for one for Lisa