Palenque & Chiapas
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
I drive south and immediately feel pangs of Indiana Jones when I see huge lush mountains with jagged peaks disappearing into the clouds. I cross into the state of Chiapas which I’ve heard great things about for my entire trip and am not disappointed in the least. There are strict fines here for dumping trash and the results are very obvious with not a single piece in sight. I turn off the main highway and soon find myself on an amazingly windy narrow mountain road making it’s way through tiny farming villages perched on crazy inclines. Initially the vegetation is almost all pine trees and I am strongly reminded of mountains in Canada, in fact all across North America. As I continue the pine trees fade away and before long it is extremely dense and jungle like.
I’ve never been able to put into words what I thought Central America would look like, and I’m really excited to find this is it and can’t stop grinning from ear to ear as I wind along the little road.
I roll into the town of Palenque and check into at a really cheap hotel before wandering around the very busy & touristy town. It’s nice to see about 95% of the tourists are Mexican and I enjoy a great dinner of chicken Fajitas after getting some assistance from locals to order. I hit the ruins at 9am the next morning and find it already amazingly busy with tour buses and people playing chicken in every direction. I ask a fellow driver and it seems we must park at the crowded museum and walk up the very steep hill to the ruins. Once at the top, I purchase my entrance ticket and wander into the park with a couple of Brits I meet standing in line.
The city of Palenque has evidence of habitation going back to 100 BC and from 600 – 900 AD it was the power center of this entire corner of what we today call Mexico. It’s regarded as the biggest ruins in Mexico and I’m not disappointed in the least.
The ruins themselves are enormous and stunning, with many buildings having been excavated and restored all surrounded by lush green grass. The entire area sits next to dense jungle and misty mountains. I don’t see any monkeys, although I feel certain they are hiding behind every tree
When I attempt to leave just before midday I find the Jeep is parked in, and only because it’s near the edge and some creating driving on my part I manage to get it out. The entire area is now unbelievably busy and apparently getting more so by the minute. My advice to anyone visiting Palenque is to arrive at the gate the very minute it opens to try and beat the crowd.
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