Saturday, April 03, 2010 9:20 AM
Road Trip 2010 - Day 3 The Ruins at Palenque
We awoke on day 3 of our adventure in Palenque on the edge of the biosphere. My plan had been to celebrate Cole’s 7th birthday with a fun trip to Aguas Azules and the magnificent waterfalls at Misol Ha. The weather cloudy, rainy and a chilly 54 degrees dictated otherwise. We had a great breakfast at Don Mucho and then headed off to see the famed archeological site.
The birthday boy!
Although we were not starting off until later morning, the cool temperatures and cloud cover kept us comfortable throughout the day. We parked our car in the lower lot by the exit and easily found (or rather were found by) a guide, Edgar, happy to show us the ruins with a full commentary in English for $600 pesos, an acceptable amount based on my research. Our money turns out to have been well spent. Edgar, born and raised in Palenque knew these ruins like the back of his hand. As a child, this was his playground, the ruins and the dense jungle fueling his young imagination, the streams throughout the site providing safe pools in which to learn to swim. He recalled the days when the guides and the guards played soccer matches on the field of the grand plaza, a heated competition that carried on for years before the games were no longer permitted. We carefully combed every inch of the property open for viewing and the kids happily climbed every structure in their path. All throughout the site, areas have been designated for vendors to sell their handcrafts and provide water and snacks for the visiting tourists making what could be a long hot day much more tolerable.
Edgar explaining the site map
Edgar deciphers the carvings on the walls
The structure in which Pakal's tomb and corpse was found
Birdie mimics the pose of the fallen king carved on the walls
We parted ways with our guide at the head of the long path that would take us back to our car, our heads now spinning with all the new information he had imparted to us throughout the day. The walk back was just as spectacular taking us past ball courts, the remains of small residential structures hidden in the jungle and several spectacular waterfalls. A hanging bridge carried us from one side of the rushing stream to the next, the perfect place to snap some photos of the scenery. The walk to the exit takes you down 300 steps, something to keep in mind for anyone who is mobility impaired in any way. These steps are also a great deterrent for accessing the site from the lower entrance unless you are looking for a challenge!
The ball court
It was now nearly mid afternoon and we were all quite hungry again. Rather than take in another meal at Don Mucho, we decided to drive into downtown Palenque and see what we could find to eat. Coincidentally we ran into our guide, Edgar, on his way home and he invited us back to his house to meet his wife and two children. We picked up some beer and soda and followed him to his neighborhood nearby, a cute new gated community just about 10 minutes from the ruin site. Our kids played with his kids while the grownups chatted in the living room about life in the US, life in Mexico and our families. At some point after our tour of the ruins, I had taken a moment to refer to the few notes I had taken when planning our trip to this region. I had gleaned some excellent information about Palenque from another traveler’s trip report, including the name of a guide to look for. That guide, very coincidentally, happened to be Edgar himself and both he and his wife were thrilled to know that he has been getting such good press for his tours. A few beers later we decided we all needed lunch. Edgar was eager to introduce us to his favorite spot for grilled meats, La Asadero “El Amigo”, a small open air restaurant, hidden away in a local neighborhood. This was a place we certainly would never find on our own and definitely a place worthy of the WWMD hall of fame. Regular “Life’s a Beach” readers will recall similar “What Would Mike Do” moments sprinkled throughout our previous adventures, dining experiences and locations that might make our dear friend Mike Lopiano turn green and run for the nearest 5 star in the area. We ordered the “Parillada” a giant platter of mixed meats grilled to perfection over “carbon”.
The smell of the raw meat hitting the hot grill only intensified our hunger and by the time the platter was set In front of us, I could barely wait long enough to snap a picture of our feast. We had grilled chicken, borega, chistorra, arrachera, cesina, Argentinean sausages and costellitos served with hot tortillas, pan con ajo, grilled onions and guacamole. Each meat was tender and flavorful and cooked to perfection. I think this was the first time I have ever had arrachera that was better than we get from Mandi back in Playa, high praise from me, indeed. I actually think our friend Mike would have approved of and enjoyed this meal (as long as he never had to use the restroom).
Birdie with Valeria, Edgar's daughter
Stuffed and fairly sleepy from our feast, we had one last chore to complete for the day: replacing the tire that we had blown out back in Calakmul. With a long drive still ahead of us, it would be unwise to travel further without a proper spare. Edgar guided us once again to a local store where we picked up two new tires then brought us to Bridgestone to have them fitted and balanced.
An hour or so later, we were back at El Panchan enjoying the music and the surroundings and toasting a fun and productive day with a few tequilas and spicy house-made sangrita. We stayed to dine on the famous pizza (which absolutely lived up to its reputation) and then turned in early. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to warm up and we will be spending the day at the famous Aguas Azules and Misol Ha.
Happy Birthday little man.