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Voyage to Chiapas – Day 2

06/02/2013

P1000681P1000683After breakfast at Hotel Misión Palenque, we visited the ruins of Palenque.  Both Marina, and our required guide, explained many facts about Palenque that you would otherwise not realize.  The required aspect of a local guide is a full employment program but, in reality, our guide was very knowledgeable and well worth the fee.

 

P1000700The name Palenque (Palisade) is Spanish and has no relation to the city’s ancient name, which may have been Lakamha (Big Water).  There is abundant rain and many streams there, so it was an ideal location for a city.  Palenque was first occupied around 226 B.C., and flourished from around A.D. 630 to around 740. The city rose to prominence under the ruler Pakal, who reigned from A.D. 615 to 683. He lived to the then incredible age of 80.  The city was finally abandoned around 1123 A.D.

 

P1000687There is much debate about why Palenque was abandoned.  Our guide believes that it was abandoned because of the excesses of the 1%.  As the rulers demanded grander and grander symbols of their power, the people had to move further and further away to get the resources needed to fulfill their desires.  There was a jade necklace uncovered there that had to take at least 100 man-years to make; talk about excess!  Eventually, the people moved far enough away that they were no longer subject to the whims of the rulers.  Without support of the people, the rulers and the city failed.

 

P1000695P1000693The Ceiba tree is the sacred World Tree of the Maya.  According to the mythology of the ancient Maya, the great Ceiba tree stood at the center of the earth, connecting our Earth world to the Spirit world in the heavens above.  The Ceiba descends 9 levels into the underworld, which is not considered hell, but a cold, damp, dark place called Xibalbá.  The bridge from the underworld to the heavens is middle Earth, our Earth.  The Ceiba then reaches upward 13 levels to the heavens where Hunab Ku, their Supreme Deity, resides at the top.  Modern Maya respectfully leave the Ceiba standing whenever they are harvesting forest timber.  The Ceiba tree is represented by a cross and can be seen in the Temple of the Cross Complex at Palenque.

 

P1000711P1000713From the ruins there is a path leading to the museum.  There are at least 200 "steps" as you walk the 2 kilometers to the exhibit.  Some of the "steps" are quite steep, so you need to be fairly able-bodied for this trek.  The sights along the path make the walk well worth the effort.  We saw gorgeous forest / jungle foliage and a beautiful stream and waterfall; the very things that attracted the Maya to Palenque.

 

MapFrom Palenque we took highway 199 to San Cristóbal de las Cases, our next stop.  San Cristóbal is 7,000 feet higher than Palenque so there are many twists and turns in the road as you climb through the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range.  This is a 244 km stretch, which takes about 4 hours by car and 5 hours by bus.  There are also at least 200 topes on this road; many seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Some on the tour needed Dramamine to get them through the ride to San Cristóbal, it is that curvy.

 

Map 2There is a distinct change in foliage as you climb from the jungle of Palenque into the clouds.  At altitude you begin to spot pine forests, something quite foreign to Méridanos.  Another sight you may see along the way is young children loosely holding ropes with flags stretched across the road.  This is Zapatista territory and they want you stop.  Different people tell different stories about why they are stopping you.  Some say it’s to get you to buy something from the roadside stands while others insist it’s to charge you a toll.  Neither applied to us as the bus slowed down, but did not stop for the frail barricade.

 

At about 7:00 p.m. we arrived in San Cristóbal, tired and a little woozy from the mountain ride.  We were all very ready to disembark the bus.  Autobuses are not allowed in San Cristóbal itself, so they had to park at the ADO station.  The station is was about 7 blocks from the hotel and was a wonderful leg stretching walk.  Some opted to cab it to the hotel as the cab fare was included in the tour price.

 

The hotel was downtown, just a few blocks from the Cathedral and zocolo.  After dropping off our luggage and bundling up a bit for the much cooler weather, we headed off for the first of many wonderful meals in this beautiful city.

 

Day 3 – San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/02/2013 21:43

    Wonderful report!! Thank you!

    Ron

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  1. Voyage to Chiapas – Day 1 « Nancy and Barry in Mérida

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