Monday, 17 December 2007

Palanque and the Maya.

Hey, I actually took an excursion! Faced with a four to five hour ride each way, returning in the dark, I decided not to take the bike. At only $28 it's hardly an expensive cop out, even though it meant going to a number of other tourist sights on the way. As you can see they weren't exactly a burden; lovely cascades and a waterfall. I went in for a swim, while all the others complained how cold it was. How strange, me being the one swimming in a chilly river, whilst everyone stands outside complaining of the cold. I normally insist on a wetsuit, if not a dry suit! The water was mineral rich, all the rocks in the cascades were calcified. It even made my hair weird, maybe if I'd left it in I could have formed stone dreads!

As it turned out, it was a wise choice not to take the bike. Just as we left it started pouring with rain, do you think it's why they call it a rain forest? Seriously though, this was RAINING, as dense as I've ever seen! If I'd have been on the bike it would have reduced me to a crawl, dangerous in itself; with drivers like ours on the road. People aren't the best drivers in the world here, as I've pointed out, but his guy was exceptional. On any number of occasions he had the tyres squealing round corners, I was sitting up front, those in the back were gobsmacked. They couldn't believe how fast he was driving, I just sat back and relaxed, there was nothing I could do, so why stress about it! On the way back he was a touch slower, due to the solid sheet of water, raising mist off the hot tarmac, and of course the dense darkness of the highland forest roads. I was the only person who made the trip both ways, there were different passengers for the return trip; no, the others didn't chicken out, they were all continuing on from the site, rather than coming south again. It did become a touch worrying when he left he road at one stage, I think he'd gone into sleep mode, mind you, so would I if driving to the drivel he played on the CD player. I can accept fast driving, not bad or ignorant drivers, he was all three. Despite his hints at getting a tip, he got nowt from me; or the others!

Actually I love these tourist type excursions, I can see right through all the glitz, see every part of the scams. Our driver obviously had a few going! Arriving at each attraction, no tickets were bought; all the other minibuses had tickets for all passengers. I should have asked how much they paid, maybe ours was a cheaper option. It makes no difference to me in a way; but when money is going towards preservation work, I'd rather it went to the authorities. Being so much corruption in Mexico, even if going into the correct kitty, it would likely be depleted by private spending.

Once turning down the organised extra, a guide for the group, I got onto site by sweet talk, from guess who, rather than a ticket or wrist band; whatever, I was in. We only had two and a half hours, which was enough! I managed the ruins in about three quarters of an hour, after my own private trek through the rain forest. There was a faint trail, it wasn't completely reckless. Reaching the end of the stone walkway I could hear the howler Monkeys in the distance, what would any curious person do? Or course I had to follow the noise, I could have discovered some previously unknown part of the ruins! Who knows, I might have come across an Ocelot, a Puma, Toucan, Quetzalcoatl or even some lovely butterflies. At least I wasn't disappointed with the last species anyway! I did wonder if the empty Coca-cola bottles may have been the last request of some ancient sacrificial victim, but the imagination can only stretch so far. Bloody coca-cola!!

The current day Maya are a poor reflection of their past days of glory! Relegated to hassling tourists, for whatever pittance they can get. They provide limited varieties, of poor quality reproductions, of the amazing ancient art produced by their ancestors. Poor people, having to resort to this degradation; their main form of raising those all important dinaros. They still dress so colourfully, at least the women do, most the men wear only western clothes. The women can be seen in many different forms of dress, mainly conforming to which group of Mayans they belong to. As we passed through villages all the women would have the same style of clothes, with the same patterning. In San Cristobel you can see a huge variety, as women from mnay regions congregate to sell their own tat. Strange how many men I saw sat patiently at the side of the road, in the heavy rain with only thin shirts on. No, they weren't waiting for a bus, generally just sat talking. You'd see people walking in the heaviest part of the downpour, in no hurry what so ever, seemingly unconcerned. How nice to accept your allotted position in life with such serenity!

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