Encounters of ruins and ants
Trip Start Sep 28, 2007
91Trip End Jun 25, 2008
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The first was called Agua Azul or blue water but a more fitting name for it would have been Agua Maroon or brown water, as it was the end of the wet season and the water was very high and very murky. It was awesome though.
The second stop was called Misol-Ha. In contrast this was a high waterfall. The neat thing about this waterfall was there was a path so you could stand underneath it, getting misted from the spray.
The highlight was walking up some steps that had water racing down them to get into a cave that also had water gushing out of it, but not as much as the main falls. With Mark's headlamp and our GAP tour leader showing the way, we went right to the back of the cave where we saw hundreds of cute little bats, hanging off the ceiling in bunches and flying around. They looked like grapes, especially when one opened its wings out, which looked like vine leaves.There are normally albino fish in the cave but the water was too agitated to see anything.
We then swam from the bottom of the staircase to the cave across the pool from the main waterfall. The current was pretty strong so I was pleased to see the ropes going from side to side to haul myself in on. An awesome experience.
About 40 minutes from the second waterfalls we reached the gates of the Palenque park and turned into El Panchan, the cool jungle lodge and hippie hangout. The group agreed that the calzone in the restaurant was excellent, but finding an angry scorpion in the bed wasn't, which happened to one couple in the group. After that there was a lot of bed checking by the group and false alarms.
The next day we went to the famous Palenque ruins. Deep in a lush jungle only 5% of the buildings have been excavated, with over 1,000 uncovered. Palenque was a Mayan settlement from 100 BC to 900 AD.
The most famous rulers were King Palak and his son, whose name means Jaguar-serpent. The most famous building is the Temple of Inscriptions, where King Palak's tomb was found with the famous jade mask and other jewels.
Next to that is the Temple of the red queen where a women's skeleton was found believed to be Palak´s mother, who had been the ruling queen before him, or his wife.
Opposite is the palace where they lived. We were impressed with evidence of the water works with toilets and a steam bath with drains. Also the buildings were built with high ceilings and ventilation, stone beds with legs and a huge hinged door.
Next to that was a giant ceiba tree. It has branches that come out as a cross and are the origins of the use of the cross representing a sacred tree in Mayan culture.
We had an excellent guide and he told us about Mayan beliefs. They believed they came from corn. It takes nine days for planted corn to break the surface so the Mayans believed the underworld has nine levels that must be overcome to be reborn. The wealthy people even bound two planks on babies heads so they would get elongated foreheads to look like corn cobs.
Great astronomers, even the cardinal points related to the four colours of corn: red, white, yellow and black. Their great astronomical ability was showed by how they built buildings so that on a particular day, such as a solstice, the sun would come through the tiny holes in the building and cone roof and illuminate features of the building, such as the staircase leading to the tomb. They had two calendars that align every 52 years. Only lasting five suns, they believed the world started in 3,014 BC and will end in 2011. Funny how this is close to the date Nostradamus predicted for the big finale.
It was a beautiful spot with all the mature trees and canopy on the hills rising around, even before considering the ruins. Being the end of the rainy season everything was so green and lush.
More info on the ruins projects: www.mesoweb.com/pari
On our way back to the jungle lodge we came across some farmer or leaf cutter ants and were transfixed watching them chew off bits of leaf and then carry it to their nest. When you started looking, there was a string of them for 50 metres. So impressive.
Where I stayed