The Breakfast Buffet at the Cencali was an amazing way to start the first Mexico morning. Both American and Mexican dishes were included and we managed to enjoy some of each. I don't know the name of the incredible Mexican dish that started my day but I hope I find out before the end of the trip!! Then off to LaVenta for the treat I had always hoped it would be. Juan, our guide, was exceptional and knew a great deal about the Olmec history as well (we were later to find out) as having great expertise on the Maya ruins and their culture. One interesting fact that he shared at the beginning was the meaning of the 'ec' at the end of a word means as Olmec, Toltec, and Aztec.
The park includes a small zoo as well as the Olmec artifacts. We saw spider monkeys, jaguars, toucans, eagles, parrots and macaws. There was an albino jaguar. It was pure black.
Albino is lack of pigment and in this case the result was all black fur. What was most interesting is that, when the sun shone along the jaguar's back, you could see the black spots were still there. It looked like cut velvet.
The small museum at the entrance provided a short background to the Olmecs and their culture. All the items displayed there were replicas. Once we walked through the zoo area we were on our way to follow the story told by the authentic artifacts placed in the park. Many of the carvings showed juxtaposition of man with the jaguar and/or the snake. Many kingly figures were on display. These frequently show the figures appearing or emerging from a cave. The cave symbolized coming up from the underworld. The heavens or sky, earth and the underworld were important in both the Olmec and Maya civilizations. There are about 30 artifacts that include figures or heads and also some carved stela. Only two of the figures represent women.
Last year in Ireland we had visited The Giant's Causeway where amazing basalt columns surround the area. What a surprise to see basalt columns being used by the Olmecs here in MesoAmerica. Another small section had the broken pieces that had been recovered in there own small garden area. I loved the idea of this small Artifact Garden.
We left LaVenta and the state of Tabasco to start our journey to Palenque in the state of Chiapas and our stay at the beautiful Chan-Kah Hotel. We were going to lunch on the way. The only disappointment on the trip was the crowded van not bus for this fairly long drive. The air conditioning didn't work in the back and some of the group was quite uncomfortable. Susy expected Mario to be helpful in finding the place she had been to in the past but he was not. However, though later than expected, he did take us to a charming spot with great food. It was the first of wonderful grilled fish meals. Oh, I wish I could make fish at home as wonderful as this was!!
The rain began at about 1:30 shortly before we reached the hotel and it was going to stay with us a for a day or two but we didn't know that then. Before checking in we did drive up to see the entry to the Palenque grounds. It was like a tasty tidbit before the real thing. The Chan-Kah is a beautiful setting. Lush greenery and flowers everywhere you look. Each of the casitas has a porch to set and relax outside to view all the 'goodies' around you.