Friday, April 02, 2010 9:40 AM
Road Trip 2010 - Day 2 - Calakmul to Palenque
Birdie and I rose early this morning, roused by the cacophony of the sounds coming from the jungle around us. After a failed attempt to connect to the internet, we joined the boys for a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and omelets.
Cole and friend
Breakfast at Puerta Calakmul
Despite my desire to find lodging as close to the ruin site as possible, our hotel was still a good hour and a half from the archeological zone. We twisted and turned our way south, stopping only to snap a few photos of the flora and fauna. Upon reaching the ruins we entered into a good sized parking area which was nearly empty and an attractive reception center, also empty. We were unpleasantly surprised to find no water available for sale, nor were there any printed maps or guides for hire. We made a good mental note of the site map at the entrance and carried on down the path and into the jungle. Having arrived in the morning, we were there at the right time to see dozens of spider monkeys swinging and leaping from tree to tree over head. Near one of the first structures, we happened upon a peccary (a wild pig indigenous to the region) foraging for food in the underbrush and several resplendent oscillated turkeys.
There are three possible routes to take through the ruins, corta, larga and mediana. For the sake of the children and considering our lack of water we chose the short route, one that would take us past the most significant and dramatic plazas and temples. This is a large site, covering over 70 acres. Most of the area can be accessed one wide, smooth roads, all of which are marked with informative signs along the way.
Calakmul Ruins - Stellae
Structure No.2 in the Main Plaza
About an hour and a half into the tour, halfway up the largest structure, no. 2, Cole blew out a flip flop. This is when we realized that there are no signs for the “salida”, no way to determine which way was out! There are no site maps posted past the entrance, no markers to tell you “You are here”, so we went back out the way we came in, quite a hike for a little boy with no shoes.
In general, Calakmul is a beautiful archeological site whose significance cannot be disputed. If you are planning to visit these ruins, you will find limited information about how to best plan your trip. You may want to keep these tips in mind.
· The ruin site of Calakmul is one and a half hours from the nearest hotel and a full two hours from the nearest town, Xpujil.
· If coming from the east, be sure to gas up in Xpujil and buy plenty of water. The next Pemex is in Escarcega and no water is available for sale at the ruin site.
· Print up a map of the ruin site before you embark on your trip or take a photo of the site map at the entrance for reference.
· Anyone who is not fit or up for walking a distance may want to reconsider this site.
· There are no guides for hire onsite. Make the appropriate arrangements at your hotel.
Despite the flip flop debacle, we did manage to see and enjoy most of the site. On the drive back out to the highway, we blew out a tire. Thankfully, a nice family, also returning from the ruins, stopped to help us, a welcome helping hand in the heat of the now high midday sun. We backtracked to Xpujil to gas up, buy water and enjoy a quick and delicious lunch of pollo asado before continuing on to our next stop.
About a half hour before Escarcega, we slowed down to pass through a small village where an enormous crowd had gathered along the roadside. What appeared at first to be a festival of some kind, perhaps in celebration of Palm Sunday, turned out to be a horse race. Super chido! Of course, we stopped to join in the fun.
Heading for the starting line
Back on the road, night falling fast around us, we stocked up on cervezas for the night and headed southwest, through Tabasco, into Chiapas and finally to our resting place for the evening, El Panchan at the entrance to the archeological zone of Palenque. El Panchan is a lively compound with carious lodging options (none of which my husband found even remotely acceptable) and a wonderful bar and restaurant onsite, tucked into the lush, tropical jungle. The band was fired up and everyone was dancing up a storm when we arrived.
El Panchan Palenque
We had a fabulous and economical dinner and then tucked ourselves into bed, tired from a long day on the road and looking forward to the next leg of our adventure.