Sunday, April 28, 2013

Exploring the Mayan Jungle Ruins of Palenque

After traveling for a few days and nights through the state of Tabasco, we've arrived in the state of Chiapas.  We spent a stellar day on Friday visiting the great ruins of Palenque, one of my favorites in all the trip so far.  This archeological site marks the start of the Ruta Maya, and is located south of the Gulf of Mexico, only a few hours from the Guatemala border.  The ruins of Palenque are unique and powerful, dating back to 226 BC.  After the decline of the city in 1123 AD, the city was absorbed by the jungle, and is slowly being uncovered.  The weather is very hot and humid here, and it rains a lot, so everything is big and green!
The area to explore at this site covers about 1 square mile, and you should allow the whole day because there is a lot to see, with pyramids, ruins, and jungle trails, boasting beautiful and unusual trees, streams and flowers.  One of the finest examples of Mayan culture, it is believed that only 10% of the city has been explored so far, leaving 1,000 structures still unearthed!  Here are some examples of the ruins.  The Temple of the Count,
 and the tomb inside of the structure at the top.
The view from the courtyard.
The Temple of the Skull,
with one of the carvings at the top,
The Palace.
The Temple of the Inscriptions.
Mayan Carvings.
And some of the ruins you see along the trails. 
 The sidewalks were built to accomodate the huge roots of the trees.
And the paths just go around the trees altogether when they need to.
 There are fossilized rocks,
and clear, cool streams.
I chased a pretty big lizard for a bit until he finally decided to pose for me,
and saw one of my favorite jungle flowers, which one of the locals told me they call the flor de accordion.   I still couldn't tell you what the real name is, though!
 There were trees that looked like ropes,
plants growing out of trees,
and this tree with big fuzzy balls.
We spent the last half hour or so of our visit lying down on our backs at the top of the Temple of the Skull, watching the clouds above us, feeling the warm power of the stone beneath our backs, and listening to the roar of the monkeys that live in the trees a short distance from the ruins.  I will always remember and treasure those particular moments. 

We finished our day by driving about an hour or so to Agua Azul, a gorgeous waterfall with crystal blue water the color of a swimming poot, where we spent the night on Friday.
Saturday we made it to San Cristobal, which is where we are now, and where I will leave the story.  Today is Sunday, and I hope you are enjoying and making the most of your weekend!

Both Eduardo and I send you our best wishes for a beautiful day.

xoxo Linda

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Village Fishing Effort in La Barra de Sontecomapan, Veracruz

We arrived in the Barra late in the afternoon on Thursday, and found a small hotel with rooms right above the ocean for 200 pesos a night.  However, no phone service (in the whole town), no internet (in the whole town), and no hot water!  Since it's so hot in Veracruz, though, we decided the lack of hot water was not a problem.  We took a walk around the small village of only about 30 families, and headed down to the beach as the sun was getting low in the sky.  Along the way, I was excited to find sand dollars washed up on beach.  This is the first time I've ever found them in nature, and I picked up eight in less than an hour.  We also noticed that a lot of people were out running on the beach, and thought it was interesting to see so many people out exercising.
As people continued running past us, they would smile and shout "pescado" (fish)!  Aha!  As we got further down the beach, we discovered that everyone was running to help pull in the giant net that they used to catch fish.
Several fishermen were out in the water in a boat tossing the net,
which was then opened and dragged to shore by the men, women and children of the village.
Their efforts were greatly rewarded when then finally dragged the net to shore,
and everyone who helped got to take home a fish.  We'd never seen anything like it!  We walked home on the beach in the dark, surrounded by people toting home their big fishes.

The next morning, we woke to the sound of howling wind and light rain, as the weather had abruptly turned stormy. 
The ocean had changed from blue to gray.
We decided that we didn't want to drive in that kind of weather, and would stay another night.  Our host at the hotel, Amanda, was able to get us a fish from the night before, and cooked it for us for lunch, with rice, beans and tortillas.  It was delicious!
We sat outside her tiny kitchen and enjoyed our fresh fish, and I got a chance to hold her tiny baby chick, which followed her around the kitchen like a little dog.  So adorable.
Then we took a drive about 15 minutes down the road so that we could get a few bars on the phone and let everyone know we were okay!  The cows, along with their little friends the white egrets, watched with curiosity as we sat in the car and made our calls.
Later in the afternoon, around sunset, we took a walk and ended up visiting with some neighbors who sold fried bananas with cheese, topped with cream.  This is a specialty in Veracruz, and it was the first time I had this combination.  It was so good that we went back the next morning for more.
We also enjoyed a fresh mango that neighbor Gregorio cut for us in the shape of a flower.
It was after midnight and still rainy and windy when we took the short walk back to the hotel.  We were surprised to find that we had no electricity!  But in this quiet, relaxed village, it didn't seem to matter much, and we fell asleep to the sound of the wind and waves.

Visiting La Barra de Sontecomapan was quite an adventure, and I won't soon forget the group effort of the people, young and old, to bring in the fish for the town.  Like all towns, I know this one is growing, and I'm happy that we got to experience its simple charm while it was still small.

As we begin a new week, I wish you all the best, and Buenas Noches.

xoxo Linda

Alvarado, Tlacotalpan and Roca Partida in South Veracruz

After leaving the port of Veracruz, we drove through several small villages and towns here in the south of Veracruz state that I wanted to mention.  Of course there were many beautiful colorful plants to enjoy along the road.
The first noteworthy town was an antique fishing port and village called Alvarado.  Coming over the bridge into town, the first thing you notice is a huge seaside cemetery, which looks like a beautiful little city.
Heading on to the port, there were several antique style fishing boats docked along the waterfront,
and a very clean and picturesque zocalo, where we encountered yet another film crew shooting a scene for a Novela.
Getting back onto the main road, we continued on to another small, enchanting town with a population of about 8,600 called Tlacotalpan, which is situated on the banks of the Rio Paploapan.
There is a nice little waterfront area downtown,
and the streets are serene and immaculate, with all the houses painted in bright colors that have a real caribbean feel.  Charming and quiet, it is a favorite little get-away spot, with several nice hotels.  Decidedly tropical in this area, the weather is hot, hot, hot!
We spent the night there on Wednesday night, and then continued on our drive south in the morning.  The next interesting place that we stopped was a tiny town called Roca Partida, which is on the Gulf of Mexico.  We drove down to the waterfront, where we found several abandoned restaurants,
and a small warehouse with fishermen, who were happy to show us what they catch there.  What we noticed first were the three sharks on the floor!
And take a look at the jaws on this shark.
But they caught less foreboding fish there as well.
Continuing on down the road, we noticed a cow with her calf,
a turkey with her chicks,
a horse with her foal,
and a hen with her chicks.
It was a day for babies! 

Our last stop of the day was La Barra de Sontecomapan. 
A small remote village consisting of about 30 families, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico on the north and a lagoon on the south, there was no cell service and no internet.  It is there that we spent the next two nights.

It's almost 3 am here now, and it seems this is the time that I most often tell you my story!  I will leave it here for tonight, and of course I wish you all sweet dreams and Buenas Noches.

xoxo Linda