December 28, 2006 GMT
Ruinas @ Palenque

Nick and I left San Cristobal that day at 4pm thinking it would only take a couple hours to ride 250KM. We were wrong, it took more like 4-5 hours, so we spent the last two in complete darkness and dense fog on the windey, rock strewn road in the not-so-tourist-friendly Chiapas. First we stopped to gas up in San Cristobal just before the old colonial city turned into dense forest. In this photo you can see the forest in the background. I took the photo for my buddy VW bus-loving friend Renier...you can see a California-license plated bus on the left.

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Here´s some photos as we entered the beautifuly green, pine-tree forests of the Zapatista stronghold state of Chiapas.

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We wanted to take photos of the beautiful people, but they´re already pissed off enough, that we decided it might not be a great idea. The photos don´t do the scenery justice, I need a wide angle camera to capture the beauty that my eyes were seeing.

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At one point I stopped to take photos, just as the sun was setting. Nick went ahead and I told him I would catch up. Well I got stuck behind a big tour bus for the next 10 miles in a twisty section of mountain. I was right on his butt, trying to pass on every turn, without success. Finally I got my chance when the bus slowed down for a "tope," just as I passed there on the side of the road, re-securing his ridiculous amount of crap to his bike, was Nick. I had spent so much time trying to pass this guy that I couldn´t immediately pull over and stop for Nick. I flipped open the helmet and yelled something like "Fuck Nick, don´t stop!!" I kept going. Then it got dark and foggy. I was by myself in a scarey part of the world. I passed a homemade sign in someone´s yard that said something to the effect "bienviendos a territoria Zapatista". I was a little frightened. The fog was so thick you couldn´t see the road or the sheer cliff off to its´side. Luckily there were two cars in front of me to follow. Just like when I got off the ferry in Mexico I was following tailights. I was cursing Nick in my helmet. I had let myself break my own rule #1, Don´t Ride At Night! because Nick wanted to try to push it. This would be the first a few nights where we rode at night, each time we would be retaught the reasons not to ride at night. I was beginning to think it might be a bad idea to have a riding partner. I want to be able to blame myself for mistakes.
We got there, eventually Nick caught up with me, and I grymbled something to him through my helmet like "I told you we shouldn´t have left so late".
We stayed at a place called "El Panchon", a hippie refuge in the dense, wet jungle right next to the ruins of Palenque. We were recommended this place by fellow travellers at the hostel in San Cristobal. Maybe with sunny weather it would be a nice place to stay, but this is when the rains started (and didn´t stop for weeks) and our stay there was miserable. Everything got wet from the humidity, even the pages of our books and journals. There were huge roaches and ants all throughout our cabana. El Panchon is owned by 5 different hippies, each with their respective hippie dumps. The whole complex is connected by unlit pathways that cross streams with little wooden bridges. I´m sure on sunny days the place must be charming, but under constant rain, you curse yourself the whole time. We arrived at night and spent the next sweaty hour or so trying to find the correct hippie to pay for the room. Finally we were told to go to Don Muchos restaurant where we would find the lady to pay. We finally found the outdoor restaurant and when we arrived, bags in hand, no one waved us over to begin our check-in process. We asked at the bar. They nodded to the corner where an un ultra-cool, nose-pierced girl sat smoking a cigarette. We had passed her on the way into the bar and I´m sure she heard us ask for the check-in receptionist. She made us feel so uncool and stupid for not knowing the disorganized hippie system. She could have waved us over, but instead she let us flounder around with our bags, sweat pouring down our faces. I was already to leave before I had even put my bags down.
Here´s some shots of the hippie-commune known as El Panchon.

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We stayed in a private room with a bathroom, but we were told to stay at the "Jungle Village", an outdoor palapa-style house with places to hang your hammaca. Both of us decided that would not be fun in this rain.
The next morning we headed out for the ruins of Palenque. This was my first encounter with the ancient ruins of the mundo Maya. I had heard about the monkeys and the mist-enshrouded temples, but I didn´t comprehend why it was so cool until I actually saw it. We woke up early, like my mom and tourbook say, to catch the monkeys howling and the mist. The howler monkeys and toucans make the experience. You can really imagine what it must have been like to be a Mayan King standing on top of one of the templos.
Here´s a link to an audio file of the monkeys I made from my digital audio recorder:)

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(If this audio-thing works, I´m going to start putting more sounds on this blog! so cool. Ok, I know I´m not being as descriptive as I was when I started this blog, but I´m so far behind that I want to catch up to my present whereabouts so I can have more vivid memories of what I´m writing about.)
Here´s some photos of awesome Palenque. It´s unbelievable to think they built this 2000 years ago without metal tools, pack animals to carry the stones or the invention of the wheel! And supposedly there are hundreds more ruins hidden under the dense jungle canopy all over the Maya world in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, yet to excavated. Amazing! It makes one want to be an archeologist, or would that be anthropologist?....

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When we left Palenque after a long afternoon, the salida brings you by the beautiful waterfalls. You can picture the Mayas going there to cool off or fetch some drinking water. We all though that should have been the entrance, not the exit. The exit puts you a mile away from the entrance, where we parked the bikes. So we caught a "colectivo" back to the parking lot. In the photo is Isabelle, a French girl, who we knew from San Cristobal and again saw at Palenque. (This would turn out to be a common occurence in the next few cities - running into people we knew from San Cristobal).

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And of course there was a crowd of men gawking at my motorcycle when we returned. I am beginning to feel bad for Nick. Every time we go somewhere and leave the bikes, we return to find people all around my bike, while his is all alone, ignored. They all ask me the same questions. "How fast does it go?" "How much does it cost?" "How big is the engine?" "How much does it weigh?"...I try to deflect the attention towards Nick and his bike, but the people want none of it.

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Posted by Christian Burrows at December 28, 2006 09:10 PM GMT
 
 

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