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Thu Feb 07 2013: San Cristobal and Palenque Ruins

Leaving Oaxaca, we are heading further east by the southern coast. The road takes us through some fantastic winding mountain roads and we have a lot of fun throwing the bikes around the tight curves, while constantly vigilant for oncoming trucks that stray into our lanes. The temperature climbs past 30C and the humidity soars. We're having a lot of fun!

Taking in the awesome mountain roads and views

At over 600 kms, this is probably the longest ride we've done in a while, and we arrive in San Cristobal in the dark. Neda has been amazing finding us affordable accommodations, and she zeros in on a hotel not too far from the heart of the historic centre. The town is very pretty, more colonial-style architecture and plenty of cafes and restaurants to while away the day. We've spent quite some time in the Colonial Highlands of Mexico, so we treat San Cristobal as a temporary rest stop as we forge further ahead.

Walking the historic centre of San Cristobal

Colours in Mexico are so vibrant

Reminds me of Tibetan prayer flags in the Himalayas

Dancing in the streets!

Our next stop is in Palenque, a bit further north. Although only a couple hundred kms away, it winds through some fantastic jungle scenery. And it is very hot and humid!

View from the top of one of the mountain roads

Big leafy trees dominate the tropical scenery

Food cart in Palenque

Palenque is not as scenic or touristy as the Colonial Highlands, but the reason we've stopped here for the day is to visit the ruins just outside of town.

Lots of temples scattered throughout the site

In the time of the Mayas, Palenque was one of the largest cities with 6,000 inhabitants, but they abandoned the site in the 1100s because of overcrowding and depletion of resources in the area. Seems like this is quite a common theme throughout human history.

This one is called Temple of the Lost Ark

We liked the Palenque ruins because of the remoteness of the site. Nestled right in the heart of the jungle and surrounded by lush tropical trees, it reminded me of the old Indiana Jones movies. Minus all the vendors selling crafts and trinkets, of course...

Thulsa Doom!

Neda casts an odd shadow

Vendors selling clothing and trinkets

We've visited several ruins now and at every one, there are vendors selling a whistle that when blown, sounds like (or is supposed to sound like) a jaguar. It's a very annoying sound and the vendors use it all the time to catch your attention. I don't know why anyone would want to buy something like this...

Waiting for a giant ball to come crashing down on us
while being shot at by poisonous blow darts

Mayan Astronaut

The Mayan culture has really sparked a lot of old childhood memories of TV shows I used to watch. One of them was called Ancient Astronauts, and with such phenomenon like the Nazca Lines, proposed extra-terrestrial involvement with these old civilizations. One of the "proof points" was the cover of the tomb of Pacal, right here in Palenque. Inscribed on the tomb was what looked like an astronaut reclined in the launch position inside a space ship, all the complex instrumentation around him. Stars and constellations surround the tomb and plumes of flames underneath to signify propulsion. Neda is holding a reproduction of that inscription above, and I felt such a wave of nostalgia listening to the vendor recount the tale of the Mayan Astronaut.

No, we didn't buy the parchment...

Temple of Doom

Temple of the Holy Grail

These were Neda's favorite Mayan ruins

Sunlight filters through the jungle

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