This morning I woke to the sound of rain pouring through the down spouts onto the tile at what I thought was 6:30. After checking email, etc. I came back to the room to wake Theresa, turned on the light, looked at my watch and … uh oh, it's only 6 am. Good thing she's wearing earplugs and an eye mask. I snuck back out, skyped Mike, cleaned out my email and resized some photos for uploading and went back an hour later.
After breakfast in the hotel as none of us felt like going out in the rain, we piled into taxis and then the ADO bus. It was a long, relaxing ride. The roads are really good. The rain let up and the scenery was nice. We drove through Campeche which was an interesting contrast to Merida. Merida is so old and quaint and Campeche seems very modern. We were allowed 15 minutes for lunch in Zapata and back on the bus. Rafa had described the bus ride as long and difficult but it was one of the most pleasant bus rides I've taken. I managed to read an entire book, my second in the 4 days I've been here. Not bad.
Another taxi ride landed us at the Maya Bell in Palanque. Our rooms are very basic but really cute and authentic. It's set in the jungle, with a porch and screen instead of a window. We weren't here an hour and I heard the howler monkeys. I pointed out the fireflies to Nicole who had never seen one before and was quite enthralled by them. After quickly washing some clothes and hanging them on my hippy dippy clothesline, I did a walk about and met Rafa and our guide for the ruins, Edgar, discussing plans for tomorrow. They talked about starting at 9 for the ruins tour and a jungle walk. I asked about starting earlier so there's a better chance of seeing animals so that was the plan they suggested to the group. I have no interest in sleeping in. The sun's up at 6 and down at 6 so why waste daylight hours sleeping?
I ordered tacos for dinner. I'm in Mexico and haven't had a taco yet. That's just wrong. They were really good :)
After listening to a talented singer who played a mini guitar and a flute at the same time, I headed back to the room for some alone time while some of he others hung out at the bar. The jungle sounds put me to sleep.
Palenque is awesome. We'd asked the kitchen to pack a sandwich for us and most of us were in the jungle shortly after 7 am. It started on a well maintained trail and then Edgar led us into places were I certainly couldn't see much of a trail. We saw one howler monkey way up in a tree and for the rest, just heard a lot of them as well as woodpeckers, toucans and parrots. We went up and down and around ruins not yet excavated and heard lots about Mayan history. At about 8 we took a break on the top of the forgotten temple and ate our sandwiches and the oreos Edgar provided. The jungle is dark, humid and cool and a wonderful place to spend a morning. Shortly after 9 the path suddenly opened up into full light and there were the excavated ruins of Palenque in all their glory. WOW! Edgar gave us so much more information about the history of the temple of skulls, the sun temple, the cross temple....and the tomb of Kadal. It's the only Mayan temple in which a skeleton has been found. As with most Mayan, Aztec and Incan ruins, they line up with the sun at the equinox and soltices. Here we were allowed to fully explore all the ruins so we climbed up and down MILLIONS of steps designed by tiny Mayan people yet the steps are huge and very scary to climb down. At one time there were 24 million Mayans in Central America and only about 10% of the ruins have been excavated. You can really see that here. Every little hill hides some kind of treasure.
Bruce and I ended up behind as we were constantly stopping to take goofy pictures. After a bit I realized he was counting on ME to know where we were going. Too funny. The blind leading the blind.
At the end of a beautiful path out that goes over a river and past waterfalls and more ruins is the museum is which there are exact replicas of some of the artwork that decorated the walls of the temples. There's also a replica of the sarcophagus and jade masks that covered the king and queen. The real ones are in Mexico city.
By this time it's 1:30pm and I've been walking since 7am. My knees were protesting and I was starving as were many others so we walked back to the hotel. The Maya Bell is at the edge of the jungle and an easy walk from the ruins. There we sat and had some lunch, a delicious coffee and then went to relax by the pool. It kept spitting off and on but not full rain and it wasn't cold.
I got tired of sitting and my knees had somewhat recovered so I took off by myself to find the orchid garden. Unfortunately it was closed so I found a gravel road and just started walking. I met a young man with a back pack and asked what was on this road. Apparently it's a new age commune. Cool. I took some photos of funny looking cows in a pasture with horses, goats and sheep and cacti climbing up fence posts and made my way back.. I happened upon an man selling drinks out of a cooler on the side of the road so bought a bottle of water. I was quite proud of myself for completing the entire transaction in Spanish. Yes, it's pretty simple but I'm happy with little things. :)
It seems it's too humid here to dry anything so I brought my laundry inside and turned a fan on it. Hopefully that dries it as we have to leave again tomorrow.
Dinner tonight was a funky Italian place with the usual live music. Theresa ordered chorizo pizza and I pesto pasta and we shared. We even had enough pizza left for lunch on the bus the next day.
I don't know what day it is. I guess that proves I'm in vacation mode.
Theresa and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Some of the partiers did without and we loaded up the luggage on a large van that was to be our transport for the day. The first stop was a beautiful waterfall where we wandered about for a half hour or so. As usual, I got wrapped up in taking photos and not paying attention to time. Rafa found me, said the others were gathered but would wait if I wanted to spend more time. Oh no, I hate having people wait for me so off to the van I hurried.
Next stop was another waterfall. Agua Azul is a huge series of beautiful waterfalls completely different from the previous one. The water cascades over limestone that is worn smooth and the water is bright blue. It was hot here and some went swimming. We had agreed to an hour and half but some wanted to stay longer so Rafa found the rest of us to consult. We have such a great, easy to get along with group. Everyone is pretty much game for anything and quite flexible. No whiners! Yay!
Back in the van we continued the drive up, into and around the Chiapas mountains. The views and scenery were spectacular. The road was windy with lots of hair pin turns. I definitely didn't read on this ride! Some took gravol and were quickly knocked out so it was a very quiet ride as well.
San Cristobal is set in valley between a bunch of mountains and the elevation is 2,300 metres above sea level. We've said good bye to palm trees and hello to pines. The first thing I did was to change to warmer clothes as the Mexicans are wearing winter coats.