After another trip up the cascades (now with dark green water in the shade) and some breakfast we drove a little over an hour to get to Palenque, mostly a drop from about 5000 feet to about 1000 feet, the altitude at Palenque, but with major changes in the vegetation as a result. We quickly found our campground, just inside the main gate to the archeological site, famous among the camping community and principally occupied by Europeans when we arrived. There were two French couples in motor homes, one with children they intend to home school for the next two years as they travel south to Argentina. Our Polish friends from San Cristobal were there as well with their two-year-old son Jaku. Also resident was a German couple, Hans and Bente, who have a wonderfully off road equipped Toyota Land Cruiser and have been traveling for the last five years in South America. The real surprise was to learn that they are sailmakers and had the Hood Sails concession in Netsel Marina in Marmaris, Turkey. This is one of our favorite places in the Mediterranean and where we blissfully kept our catamaran for two winters.
And then there are the ruins of Palenque itself. Occupied from about 100BC but flourishing from about 630 to 740AD, it is set within the rather mountainous jungle instead of on the flat Yucatan plain. With the mountainside as background, the ruins are just so beautifully lush, green, and gracious with their stately buildings sitting on the grassy lawns now as they did in Mayan times, though without the brightly painted stucco which covered them when occupied. But pictures and video present them best:
Dave was here in 1965 and had to follow a bulldozer part of the way as the road was only then being built from Villahermosa to the northwest. And of all the Mayan sites he visited that summer, it was always Palenque that had the greatest impact because it was the one which gave him his first real encounter with the rainforest jungle, impenetrable, painted in dense green mystery, and presided over by the screams of the howler monkeys. This is the temple which has always shaped his memories of Palenque.