View Trip to Mexico in a larger map

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Palenque

The roads in Chiapas that lead to Palenque are not something for the faint hearted. Its a combination of the recent heavy rains which result in the road surfaces washing away, potholes that resemble asteroid craters and landslides that cause parts of the road to collapse down the sheer cliff faces that the roads often overlook. When leaving San Cristobal we decided to sit in the two front seats of the minibus beside the driver, with the view that it would be more spacious up font and we would be able to take in more of the views of the beautiful Chiapas countryside. The reality turned out to be that it just gave us a front seat view in the moment when we probably become one of the large number of road fatalities that occur frequently on the Chiapan roads. In retrospect sitting in the back we would have been blissfully unaware of what lay ahead and not been fearing for our lives. Sitting at the back would have also kept us away from the driver. On the way to Palenque, we talked quite a lot and he said that he was appreciative of someone who could speak Spanish, due to the fact the buses going to Palenque are usually filled with non Spanish speaking tourists. He shared a lot of insight into living in Chiapas etc ,as well as some of his more controversial opinions about how the 'foreign culture' coming over meant that a Mexican man couldn't keep his wife in check with a quick sharp slap any more. The more comfortable he felt the more outrageous his general behaviour became as well driving at breakneck speeds along the already quite treacherous mountainous roads while assuring us that he knew the roads so well we would be fine. On the trip back he spent the whole time shouting into his CB radio incessantly, which he and the other minibus drivers along the roads seemed to use to keep their boredom at bay. Most of the people in the minibus looked as though they didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It made for a pretty horrible bus journey! However despite all this , we did manage to arrive at Palenque , alive but somewhat traumatised.

In the Jungle of Chiapas, nestled on a thickly wooded ridge, are the ancient ruins of Palenque. It is situated near a town of the same name. It is close to the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, located about 130 km south of Ciudad del Carmen about 150 meters above sea-level.Palenque (Bàak' in Modern Maya) was a Maya city state in southern Mexico that flourished in the seventh century CE. In the period of the Mayans, the city is believed to be one of the most important in its time. The name Palenque was given to it by the Spanish; its original name, like so much of Mayan history, is shrouded in mystery.After its decline it was absorbed into the jungle, but has been excavated and restored and is now a famous archaeological site attracting thousands of visitors.
View of the Templo de la Cruz from the top of Templo del Sol

I expected the site to be interesting but it was far more impressive than I had imagined. It is a truly magical place. Both the location and the architecture itself are breathtaking. Buried deep into the jungle the giant structures are so intricately designed, and when you are there you can picture the ancient civilisations that once inhabited the area. What makes the site even more impressive is the fact that it was built without the use of metal tools, the horse or the wheel. It was created useing solely human labour.
Templo de las Inscripciones (Temple of Inscriptions)
Palenque consists of many different temples and tombs of ancient leaders and rulers. To this day there are many parts of the site that are still covered by the jungle. Excavations of the area are ogoing as archaeologists discover more of the mysteries that surround the ancient civilizations of the Maya. The site is big even though a relatively small number of the estimated 500+ buildings have been excavated.
Templo del Conde
On arrival at the site, we were offered the services of a guide to show us around. The bus that we were on had about 10 people on, so between all of us we shared the cost of the tour guide. It worked out at about 100pesos each(equivalent of about 5 pounds.) The guide that showed us around was really well informed on the history of the site and the current work that is being carried out. Paying for the guide was worth every penny, and made the trip so much more interesting than if we had walked around unaccompanied. I would advise anyone that goes to this type of site to go with a guide. It makes the trip really informative and there are so many things that we would have missed, and he was able to explain the logic behind all of the structures according to the research that had been carried out throughout the years as well as sharing the knowledge of how the structure were believed to be used. It really helped paint a picture of how the ancient civilisations would have utilised the area. The guide spoke to us in Spanish, but there are other bilingual guides available that can speak some English and French.

The main, and most attractive ruin is the Templo de las Inscripciones (Temple of Inscriptions). This is the first structure that we encountered when we climbed up the hill towards the old city.The whole area is quite big, so a lot of walking in the searing heat is required, as well as climbing to the top of all the pyramids to take advantage of the spectacular views.

Templo de las Inscripciones (Temple of Inscriptions)

Adjacent to the Temple of Inscriptions, we found the Templo XIII and Templo de las Calaveras (Temple of Skulls) - both are ancient burial temples; the former was only discovered as recently as 1993

Templo de la Calavera (Temple of the Skull)

Templo de la Calavera (Temple of the Skull)



View from Temple de la Calavera (Temple of the Skull)

Other Temples and structures of interest include Templo del Jaguar (Temple of Jaguar), Templo de la Cruz (Temple of the Cross), Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), Templo XIV, and Templo de la Cruz Foliada (Temple of the Foliated Cross).





Patio de los Cautivos (Patio of the Captives) - inside the Palacio

View of the Templo de la Cruz from the top of Templo del Sol

Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun)

Templo XVII

Templo XIV


Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun)

El Palacio (The Palace) is an interesting and intricate maze of courtyards and corridors leading into rooms and includes the distinctive Tower,which our guide informed us was once opened to visitors, but now closed off. There have been a few accidents in the last 20 years, varying from people jumping off the pyramids to kill themselves to other more unfortunate accidents such as people falling off. One famous incident which according to our guide occured in the tower in the picture below, was that a woman, supposedly tripping on acid(high on drugs for the old fogeys who don't understand that term) climbed to the top of the tower , stripped naked and jumped off in a possible attempt to fly. Needless to say she didn't quite manage to flap her arms fast enought to meet the required frequency needed to attain flight and unfortunately met her end. Due to incidents such as this two of the pyramids are closed to the public. The guide also pointed out that for the thousands of people that visit the site each year, very few people every get hurt, so closing parts to the public due to the carelessness of a few is a real shame.

View of El Palacio (The Palace) with its distinctive tower

View of El Palacio (The Palace) with its distinctive tower

Temple XX



The epicness of Palenque probably doesn't quite come across due to my limited or non existent photography skills. I would advise anyone that has the chance to visit Mexico to go and check it out, because it is epic and well worth the trip no matter where you are coming from.
Although the trip to Palenque brought an end to my time in Chiapas I plan to return there soon as the whole state is so beautiful and there are many more places that I hope to explore there. On leaving Chaipas I planned to travel to back to Oaxaca with Luz and move on to visit the ancient Zapotec ruins that exist outside of the city of Oaxaca . So until next time............

No comments:

Post a Comment