A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico

Mexico - Palenque

Torrential downpours in the Mexican Jungle

storm 26 °C
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The heavens opened when we arrived into Palenque. We were here to see yet more ruins and enjoy the jungle of Mexico. We decided to head out to El Panchen which is outside of the town near to the ruins. In the jungle, you sleep in cabins with the sound of the Jungle to send you to sleep (Tanya – or bizarre techno music on a Friday night).

Arriving at the entry road to the jungle hideouts in the taxi we were greeted with a torrential river going over the road. After putting the raincovers on our backpacks we tried to wade across the newly formed river, only for me to step in a pothole and send the water up to my thighs. Tanya spotted a path which was required much less wading. When we got to the accommodations a girl was saying that two of the cabins were flooded out. We were a little worried what we had gotten into here.

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Once a road...

The lady showed us to our cabin which was a few centimetres above the flowing river behind it. She said to put our bags on the bed in case the water rose further... We were heading straight out to the ruins so we would see what carnage awaited us when we returned.

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Our rear balcony

The rain had stopped now luckily and when we got out to the ruins, it started to heat up a bit walking amongst them. Palenque ruins were unique as they are more intertwined with the jungle than we saw at the other ruins back in Yucatan.

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Walking down through the ruins to the exit, the path (now a river with the high water) took us past some waterfalls which were even more powerful thanks to the rain. After we exited, we stopped into the free museum which has a lot of the treasures recovered from the site, these were pretty impressive especially the large sarcophagus from the temple.

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High waters have turned the path to a river

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We got back to El Panchen and all the water that was around before was gone, the road that was a river, was back to a road. The water behind our cabin had dropped about a meter and a half and looked like a nice gentle little river.

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The road has returned

At the restaurant that night we chatted with some Aussie travellers all while a live band played and some dancers performed. At the same time, the heavens opened and the torrential rain started. At the end of the night Tan and I had to make a mad dash back to the cabin and got completely saturated. Its damp in the jungle and there was no chance of our clothes drying overnight!

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The following day we were taken out to an area called Agua Azul. We first stopped at a big waterfall which was really cranking some power with the water from yesterday. Armed just with my boardshorts and waterproof camera i went on the path behind the waterfall. It was crazy with the amount of spray that was being kicked up from it.

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After a change of clothes we headed off to Agua Azul which is a series of tiered waterfalls that have a brilliant blue colour to them. Unfortunately for us, all the rain had washed lots of sediment into the river and the bright blue waters were just a normal slightly brown colour instead. Oh well, its easy to see how they would be really picturesque in the right conditions.

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We got another night bus that evening (as the heavens opened up yet again) to head back to Mexico City where we passed another night before our flight out to Chicago. This was the end of 5 months in Latin America, and just like all the rest of the time, it was full of more great experiences.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The Palenque ruins were good being a bit unique compared the others we saw. The waterfalls were good though, but not as impressive thanks to the amazing amount of water that we saw fall from the sky in the few days there. The locals were well accustomed to it all though, and didn’t really seem to care too much.

Tanya – I have to say that the Palenque ruins were my favourite, even though the tower has been rebuilt to some degree. El Panchan was a good choice for a place to stay, its really cheap and the restaurant out there is fantastic (cheap too), apparently with different entertainment every night. It was a shame we didn’t have the best weather for the waterfalls, but they were very impressive none-the-less. Its so sad to say goodbye to the Latin America part of our journey – of course its gone way too fast! Adios!!

Posted by dbgomes 16:17 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico round_the_world Comments (0)

Mexico – Yucatán Peninsula

Almost Ruined by Mayan Ruins

sunny 27 °C
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The Yucatan peninsular is well known for its summer resorts for the Americans, but it is full of history and some pretty cool natural scenery with over 6000 Cenotes (natural sinkholes in the limestone land) dotted around the peninsular. We only had a short amount of time up our sleeves and a lot of stuff that we wanted to fit in.

Playa del Carmen
We arrived here off the bus from Cancun airport. We knew it was smaller and probably quieter than Cancun. Well we might as well have stepped off the bus into the USA! So we spent 2 nights enjoying Playa for what it was – a beach resort. We ate and did some shopping. We planned a nice relaxing day on the beach but as we headed out the door, it poured with rain.

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Instead we just opted for a Friday night out on the town. We luckily bumped into some Brits at a cool bar with swings up at the bar. Lauren and Joe were staying at an all inclusive hotel down the road and said about going back to their hotel to enjoy the free drinks. After some trouble with getting past the gate security, we finally got in to the sister resort across the road. Free drinks were awesome but also finished in a major hangover in the morning.

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Tulum
We were both looking forward to Tulum and not quite sure what to expect other than some ruins situated on the beach. The town centre where we were staying is not on the beach so we hired some bikes and headed out with some others from the hostel. Pete, a great cockney bloke from London knew Tulum well and showed us the way.

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Street side Tacos

We found the ruins to be very impressive. The site does not consist of the biggest buildings; however the situation of the ruins on the Caribbean coast is stunning! The iguanas also put on a good show.

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After leaving the ruins we headed for the beach for a much needed swim. The beach was nice with white sand and refreshingly cool water.

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Valladolid
We arrived here after 9pm so couldn’t see much on the bus ride in, however walking the 3 blocks to the hostel even in the dark, I (Tanya) already knew I would like it here. The town centre is very colonial with nice squares and pretty buildings.

The first port of call was the ancient Mayan ruins at Ek Balam These ruins are somewhat similar, although smaller than, Chichen Itza however are situated in the jungle and can still be climbed. The carvings on this site were made of limestone and added to the structures which is different from other sites where carvings are engraved into the stone.

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The name Ek Balam refers to black jaguar, you can see the mouth of the jaguar around the door.

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There is also a cenote on the site of the ruins (about 1.5km walk), Xchanche. This was the first cenote which we’ve seen. It is an impressive freshwater sink hole. There were a few additional activities you could buy (zip line, rappel, canoe) but we were happy to just jump in and enjoy a swim with the catfish!

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On the following day we hired some bikes to cycle out to some more cenotes. The one that we came to first was called X´keken which was different to the one from the day before as it is a cave cenote with a small hole in the roof. Tanya went for swim in this one amongst the massive stalactites and more catfish not to mention the bats fluttering about on the roof of the cave! After here, i was suffering from some food poisoning so we called it a day early.

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Chichen Itza
Now the most famous Mayan ruin of them all thanks to its inclusion as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, we stopped in from on our way from Valladolid to Merida. The first thing we saw when we walked in was the El Castillo pyramid. We did well to get there early in the morning before all the tour busses descended on the place at the point when we were leaving.

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The site of Chichen Itza is actually quite extensive. In its day it was effectively the Vatican City for the Mayan’s. They would come on pilgrimages to see the carvings, motifs and sacred temples and sacrifices held at Chichen Itza. We walked through a few areas that had ruins from some large buildings and lots of columns that once supported the roof. There were lots of carvings that we saw.

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The rest of the site had more sacrificial platforms, a sacred cenote and the most impressive thing for me (Daniel), the ball court. The game is called pik-pok from the sound of the 4kg rubber ball bouncing off the walls. The court was sacred as was the playing of the game. It was quite impressive standing at the end of it looking down the field with the rings hanging from both sides of the court. We headed off from Chichen Itza impressed with what we had seen. I did kind of wish that we had paid for a guide as there are lots of symbols around the place that we didn’t notice. We took the cheap method of standing within earshot of some other groups to hear what was being said.

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The Ball Court

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Uxmal
Another ruin south of Merida that we stopped in at, this has a uniquely rounded pyramid as well as being set in some more forested terrain. Again the site was a lot bigger than we were expecting with many different areas and temples in addition to the pyramids. There was lots of symbols and carvings here at Uxmal, and again i think we could have used a guide to better appreciate it all.

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We left Merida in the evening on a night bus down to the south and the town of Palenque not before getting some pictures of the Merida square

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Seeing all the Mayan ruins was great, but seeing a lot of them almost ruined us as a result. It is pretty cool stood there in the middle of them thinking about the amazing advances that the Mayans made with astrology and mathematics. I would recommend getting a guide to show you round one of the sites to get a better appreciation of them. Certainly something that i would do in hindsight.

Tanya – The ruins were amazing, and each of the sites were much bigger than I had expected with buildings hiding in the jungle. We did manage to fit in 3 ruins in 3 days (including our next visit) but they were all so impressive in different ways, it really was great to experience a great variety of the ruins. It is definitely worth seeing more than just Chichen Itza. The bats weren’t a problem, but once I got used to the idea with swimming with the catfish, the sinkholes were really cool.

Posted by dbgomes 06:36 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico round_the_world Comments (0)

Mexico – Mexico City

Disappearing lakes, Aztec civilisations and Nachos

sunny 23 °C
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Mexico City is a heaving monster of a city, the dusk landing approach with the city lights stretching for miles gave us an appreciation of this. The urban sprawl has swallowed up little villages along the way. Although all this isn’t a bad thing as we found a few some gems around the city. And I never knew it was sitting right on top of a lake either...

We had 2 full days in Mexico City just to get a taster and we started day one with doing something free, a self guided tour! Armed with downloaded information on our phones we set off and took ourselves to all the main city sights and got to know the city’s surprisingly good transport system while we were at it.

We started with a walk from the hostel to Plaza de la Constitucion. We took in the main buildings including the cathedral - Catedral y Sagrario Mertopolitano and the palace - Palacio Nacional. The flag in the middle of the square is massive! But on this occasion the sight of the flag was overwhelmed by Christmas cheer, it was almost European with an ice-skating rink, Christmas markets, snow ball fight arena alongside many more family entertainment stalls and decorations. Just behind the square is the Templo Mayor ruins which are the original foundations of the first city to stand on this islet in the waters of the now dried up Lake Texcoco.

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After exploring the square we wanted to head out to Xochimilco which was dubbed as the Venice of Mexico. Following the directions we were given, we found ourselves walking through the back streets of Xochimilco in search of some canals which are the remnants of the lake that existed here in the 1500’s. We found them eventually but decided not to go on an overpriced boatride even though it seemed to be the only way to see the canals hidden by the many many boats.

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Our next visit was to the lovely Coyoacan area of the city which is one of the oldest areas with cobblestone streets and a pretty plaza which we enjoyed wandering around before going into the greenery of the parklands. There were plenty of squirrels running around and they seemed a bit too friendly for potential ‘disease carrying mammals’

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The following day was dedicated to the Teotihuacan pyramids which were about an hour away on the train then bus. Unlike Chichen Itza we hadn’t really head anything about this site so we weren’t expecting too much, but when we pulled up to the gate and we could see the Sun Pyramid looming in the distance we were quite impressed. This site predates the Mayan and Aztec civilisations as it started around 100BC to 200AD

Starting off by spending some time walking amongst the ruins of an area called the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. We then walked up the Avenue of the Dead to the sun temple. At 75 metres high this is the third largest pyramid in the world after the great pyramids in Giza, and you can walk up it. We chilled at the top just sitting on the upper platform looking over towards the moon temple.

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Relaxing at the top of the sun pyramid

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We finished off the procession up the avenue of the dead at the Moon temple which was also impressive with the many smaller ceremonial pyramids surrounding the square below it.

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Dan is in the blue at the top of the pyramid on the left

We called it a day having spent a good few hours walking around in the intense sunshine and struggling to stay awake on the bus and metro on the way back. Some traditional Mexican tacos were all we needed for dinner then it was an early night for a flight in the morning.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – I was expecting Mexico City to be a massive city, but was not expecting to be blown away by the Teotihuacan ruins as much as i was. Having only seen information on the smaller Mayan pyramids, the bigger pyramids here were impressive.

Tanya – Mexico was a great city, but a city none the less. My favourite area was Coyoacan. It was great to go out to the Teotihuacan, the site kept going and going. You can climb most of the pyramids for great views very the rest of the site which is hard work under the hot sun. All in all a great few days, but looking forward to the beach and the jungle!

Posted by dbgomes 13:48 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico round_the_world Comments (1)

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