From the hostel it is only 20 minutes to Palanque. Once in the park, we pass a pricey looking hotel, cafeteria and a spectacular museum. Unlike Tikal or Yaxchilán the drop off is only a few blocks from the temple doors rather than a half an hour trudge the bushes. Everything about this magnificent park compares favorably to the more rugged, underfunded Tikal. The paths are even flat and freshly graveled.
There was still a fog when I entered the grand plaza. The short lived mist added a spiritual patina to the grandeur of the key structures. After a cursory look at a dim room on the south acropolis, I climbed into the more distant grand Palace. It has a tiered tower (perhaps used as an observatory) that is proportioned as if it were designed in 15th century Florence. This castle is pierced by “T” shaped windows looking into small rooms or hallways. From the top you can look back towards south acropolis and absorb the long spread of that high stepping confection –steeped in the style of Bonampak. From here, a long section of the working aqueduct can be seen containing a stream in reversed Mayan arches – 3’ deep; flat bottomed troughs; canted at 30 degrees. Water moves fast through the re-enforced but natural course and it will ultimately flow to falls near the lower groups. Down there spectacular Red Queen’s house cants over the luxurious cascade. (POSTED: No toe dipping allowed.)
Palanque’s ball court seems be the most perfectly located of any site; the space uniquely fulfills this mythological purpose: “Ball courts were conceived as entrances to the underworld, places of death and resurrection. They were ritual spaces where games necessary for life were performed… Celestial bodies were thought to descend at dusk to the underworld, the region of skeletal beings where they fought and vanquished forces of darkness.” Looking north across the courts from one of the stumpy older temples (400 AD) it is easy to imagine the site building up around this fulcrum between the Palace group and the mystic falls.
After three hours I raced through the museum and was glad to ride to Agua Azul. We would stop long enough to catch the spray before moving on to the swimming hole at Misol-Ha.
No one seemed invited by the rocky pool downstream from the gorgeous falls. But, I was. It was the perfect space to relax. Aside from the battalion of automatic totting soldiers in camo, it could have been any Sunday in the park. Families and lovers played in the water and ate at the picnic tables or in small, open restaurants. I was almost out of Pesos so I nursed a beer and dunked in and out. Upriver, the short falls were a delight – bubbling soda on the rocks since eternity began.
It was a short drive and a little wait to connect with the San Cristobal de las Casas fancy bus; two movies and a few stops later, we arrived at 10PM.
Return to Chiapas Quartette
Chiapas – romping, stomping and chomping
Mexican Ruins – Chiapas – Yaxchilán and Bonampak
Colectivo hopping from San Cristobal de las Casas