Subject: Mexico Travelogue VI Ed and Edith Gray
At the tariff free zone in Belize just across the border from Mexico there must be at least 100 stores. The best deals were on name brand clothes. I got 3 pairs of Dockers shorts with several pockets for 75 Peso's which is just over $7. Edith go some fancy table clothes for $5 eachand a top and shorts for $10 and I got a Belize T-shirt for $5. The drive to Palenque was 312 miles and will be the longest of the RV caravan trip. Palenque has been our favorite Mayan site. It is massive and spectacular and we seen things we have never seen before such as a crypt in the Temple of Inscriptions with a huge stone lid with wonderful sculpturing. We got a large colored leather wall hanging reproduction of it to hang at home. We seen a toilet and sewer system they had and we seen by far and away the best paintings we have seen with several different colors and we seen the most and best preserved sculpturing and the best museum of artifacts of the trip. Our guide Victor spoke excellent English and really showed and explained the site. It is a very old site and in Mexico the purist Mayan site there is After the tour of the site we went to the museum. Tikal in Guatamala is propably is impressive we are told and quite pure Mayan. I would say the two best sites to visit in Mexico for Mayan ruins are Chichen Itza and Palenque and the next best would be Uxmal but Edzna, Coba and the Sun Temple near Merida and Tulum are interesting and good. They others are not restored or preserved as well. For most the easiest would be to go to Cancun and take a bus trip out of Cancun to Chichen Itza. We tried to get passes for 4 pm to visit the crypt in the Temple of Inscriptions. Pakal II the great was buried in the tomb. They sent me to a building but all I found was bathrooms and they were teaching an art class. Becky on our tour staff started working on it and found out there was an office upstairs but the lady who gave out the passes was not there but would be back. When she came back later it was locked up so she went back to the site and talked to our guide Victor who was still around and he made arrangements with us at the front gate. We climbed the temple and then decended clear to the bottom through a tunnel that had ventilation shafts. The Mayans had filled it with ruble but in 1952 restoration workers took out the ruble and found the crypt. It is like an Indian Jones movie going down the stairs with the Mayan arch above you and there is a switchback on the stairs. The crypt has a huge lid that is sculptured and it is only about 4 feet away so you can see it plainly and they have it decently lighted for this period of time only and dark the rest of the time to preserve things. Flash pictures are not permitted in any of these places and a video camera costs from $4 to $6 per site. The rest of the time it is locked up. By 4 pm the buses have left and the crowds are small and there is little advertisement about being able to see the crypt so few really do see it. Edith made the climb down which is the hardest if you have knee problems. The trip out was easier but she did fine. It is a memorable experience. The lid weighs over 4 tons and is all one rock. The theory is that Pakal II planned his own funeral way ahead and had the crypt and lid made and then built the temple around it which must be at least 25 meters high and the stairs to it. When he died they put his body in the tomb along with the various expensive things they buried with him and then put the lid on. They then put tons and tons of rocks in the passage way from the top of the temple clear to the bottom where the crypt was
This is a tropical rain forest here and Chiapas is considered the most mountainous, beautiful state in Mexico with rivers and canyons and water falls. Chiapas is like no other state in Mexico, most consider it the prettiest state and it has quite a variety of scenery. To add to it the Indians here who are Mayan decendants have become upset with their poor status and has rebelled and protested against the Mexican government so there is a lot of tension and unrest from time to time with a big flair up a few years ago and then a recent one. Sometimes there are road blocks and other disruptions. Generally there is no problem for tourists other than inconvience but there has been some cases of robbery or damage to vehicles although not wide spread. There have been some Americans and Europeans who have had homes, CG, etc. and they have been run off by the locals and the Mexican government has looked the other way as they don't want to make anymore waves than what there are already so these people have lost what they had. One thing that makes Palenque so spectacular is the mountains around it, the rain forest setting and some of the temples are on hills and when you are up on the temples you can look out onto the plains or farther up in the mountains. It can be unbearably hot and humid at Palenque and the get a lot of rain with many areas in the rain forest getting 200 inches a year. It was cool getting down to around 60 at night while we were at Palenque and in the 80's during the day with low humidity. Our next trip in Chiapas was south into the mountains where some of the native indians in Chiapas. They have beautiful colored clothing and the tribes are distinguished from each other by their dress and languages which are different dialects of Mayan. It is said what happen to the Mayan as the cities were abandoned. Actually the Mayans never went anyplace but are still here. What happened is they abandoned their cities. Actually the ruling upper class disappeared and the lower class masses continued in small villages and with the lose of the upper class the amazing knowledge of the Mayans for the time in history was lost. Why the upper class disappeared is only theory but some of the most popular ones are drought, over-population and depletion of resources by the cities, warfare and incest as the upper class were upper class by birth in certain families.
Back to our trip south in Chiapas the We left in the vans at 9 am and headed south into the mountains and rain forest of Chiapas. It is lush and we seen some villages and some cattle. The main crop we seen was corn but there are pineapple, vegetables and fruit as well. Our first stop was Casada Misol Ha a breathtaking falls of 30 meters. You can take a path and go in behind the falls and you can also go under the falls and a little beyond and climb some steps into a cave where an underground river is coming out. You will get your feet wet. You can swim below the falls. About another 50 KM is Agua Axul which is a river pouring out of the mountains. You can walk up stream about mile and see waterfalls, rapids, small and large pools. What is really special is the water is a turquoise color and very clear. You can swim in many, many areas. As in most places in Mexico there are stands, stores and restaurants along the river. Both of these require a small fee to enter. There are a number of reports of stealing and robberies in this area and having to pay boys to watch your vehicle or it would sustain some minor damage. We seen absolutely none of that. I would not care to drive my 5th wheel up there although it could be done as we met 18 wheelers on the road. A better plan would be to stay in the CG near Palenque and drive up in your pickup or tote. If you are at these sights during the day time and at Agua Azul park by a restaurant and leave in time to get back to Palenque or go on to San Cristabal I absolutely see know problem. If there are kids around pay them a small amount. One could stay over night in San Cristabal and look around and drive back to Palenque or if you have lots of time explore more. Another way would be to take a tour to these locations which our Canadian friends we met in Veracruz did. Right now the last uprising was in November of 2003. Since them the militant leader a women has died and the other leader has taken over, she is also a lady but not nearly as militant and she has told the government that they were going to give the government a chance to make good on their promises. Since she took over there has been no uprisings. It is obvious that the tourists pumb a tremendous amount of money into the local economy so even during time of unrest the tourists are going to be fine as long as they don't become involved in the political side of things and use some common sense. On the way back we stopped at a tope and a young lad was selling some fresh sweet corn on the cob called elote. He sold his corn to one of our group and was grinning from ear to ear. As we pulled away he was yelling and shouting, and jumping up and down in glee that he had sold his corn and had some money
March 1, 2004 Monday Day 38 of RV Caravan and Day 55 of the trip. It was a travel day from Palenque to Villahermosa and was about 95 miles. It was an easy trip with a decent road but it did have some ups and down in it and a few unmarked topes. While still in Chiapas we seen lots of cattle and horses so it was cow country. In Tabasco you could see the mountains of Chiapas to the south. We were supposed to gather at a PEMEX just out of town where we would go in together. Unfortunately Dick could not make the turn so with traffic coming he though he could go across the grass but unfortunately there was a rock in it and he busted up the fiberglass on the right front of his rig. So far I believe 5 of the 19 rigs have some dings but I will say I would not blame any of them on Mexico other than maybe you get forced into tighter quarters than you normally would go in.
We got into the fairgounds in Villahermosa about 12:30 pm which is where we camped on the way down. I checked the GPS reading to be sure the previous one I got was at the gate and it was. I did upload our location to the Internet and let Ole and Chris know where we are and set up a radio schedule for tomorrow. We left for LaVenta Park where the Olmec heads are at 1:30 pm. The Olmec were about 1500-300 years before Christ and some of the oldest civilization in Mexico. The largest head we seen weighed 24 tons and where they were found was about 100 KM from where the raw stone rocks were so it is amazing how they got them so far. Likely they rolled them on logs and most of them had flat backs and loaded them on a raft and then used the gulf of Mexico and then come inland on a river and then again used logs to roll them on but still it seems and impossible feat. To my surprise there were many other stones they had sculptured. Most had to do with people, juagars eagles and owls and snakes. The features of the people seemed to be African and a few seemed to be oriental. There may be some Africa race in Mexico as some black Mexicans show up from time to time so there may be some of the african blood in the genes. The mosquitoes were bad in the park and they were bad last time where we were parked with the RV's. They were not there tonight but is was earlier so they still may come out at dark. This is the ONLY place in the WHOLE trip so far where mosquitoes have been a problem. Edith bought a great dress and I got a Olmec t-shirt. Tomorrow we go about 275 miles but it is narrow roads and lots of small towns and in the mountains so we are leaving at 7 AM and it is supposedly one of the more exhausting days of the trip. We are happy to get up and get going. We get pretty bored waiting around standing on one foot and then they other when we leave at 9:30 am since we are in the third group to leave. We do have a dinner and entertainment where we are staying which is an old hacienda. We are not far from the Pacific Coast at Tehuantepec in Oaxaca. The RV park is just an area under trees and has no hook ups. After LaVenta we went to the Super Wal-Mart along with lots of others and got some supplies. The problem we have is that we don't want to have to much fruit and meat on hand as it could be taken at the border. We have three nights in a row totally dry camping no hook ups which is no big deal for us but for some of the group it is a tough go. At Acapulco we are supposed to have full hookups and 50 amp service so those people are looking forward to that.
The road to Tehuantepec was the worst of the trip. We headed south toward Tehauntepec in Oaxaca and the first town was Sayula the road was beyond believe. It was just a jumbled mess of broken up oil with loose pieces, huge holes, ruts and all the trucks and we were just crawling along. I will have to say this June will be 3 years since we started our retirement travels this is the worst oil road we have ever been on bar none. It was about 4 miles Once we got south of town it got better but the next 30 miles were still very, terrible. The only place that was this bad was in Nova Scotia.
One thing we note is the Mexican flag people really do a good job with their flag telling you what they want you to do. USA flagman could definitely take lessons. The other thing we keep noticing is the use of manual labor shoveling hot mix, etc. In one area there must of been 12 people who rode out to the work site on bicycles and had machettes and were cutting the grass, etc. along the toll road. They were doing it rather than a mower. In fact I don't remember seeing a mower anyplace along any road but rather hand labor cutting the roadside or animals grazing it.
When we got into camp we found out Tom and Gwen's trailer which had 3 wheels on each side with tortion bars on the frame with a spindle that one of the spindles had bent and the tire was instantly ruined. The rough road had taken its toll. Tom though he heard a loud pop on the last detour I mentioned just previous to this. Since we are going to just be here over night it does not give much time to get things fixed and one night in Port Escondego and then on to Acapulco. The wagon master, tail gunner and a few of use discussed the situation. Contact was made with the CG owner who could speak English and he lined up a local mechanic to take a look at it but he did not have a way to straighten it. It was then decided to call the Green Angles and in about 1 hour the Green Angel truck and one fellow showed up. He could only speak Spanish but Irene interpreted and he said he would take it apart and then they would decide what to do. Meanwhile we had our supper and cultural entertainment for after our drivers meeting. After he got the drum and brake shoes off you could see the spindle broke out of the tortion bar and the bottom of the tortion bar was split. The plan was to bring in a acetylene torch, straighten it, get it as straight as possible and weld. He went to get the fellow but could not find him. Tomorrow is the Green Angles day off but he will come back and they will get it done and meanwhile our tailgunner will go with Tom and get a new tire mounted. He came back and by mid morning they were on the road.
We seen several oxen drawn carts with wooden wheels but a steel band to roll on come through our CG. We had a great fashion show after supper of local dress and a great breakfast by the CG owner.