Another Ruinous Experience

4 09 2010

After spending a bit of time updating my blog, I checked out; bought a bus ticket to Tulum for later in the day and then caught a collectivo to the Palenque ruins. At the ruins entrance I elected to join a guided tour with David (Israeli), Nadia (Swedish) and Aniadne (Spanish, I think that was her name). The two girls were both living in London and travelling together; they’d picked up David somewhere along the way. I spent a lot of the tour trying to work out which of the two girls (if either) he was actually with.

I found the tour quite dull. Most of the stories about Mayans I’d already heard in Tikal: the ruins themselves didn’t seem as interesting as previous ones and the girls took an absolute age taking photographs of the most mundane things (I guess I may have done that at the start of my trip but after a while you’ve seen most of what a jungle has to offer). We spent ages trudging around the jungle surrounding the ruins without actually seeing anything exciting (we did do yet another Tarzan swing on a vine) before we finally wandered entered the palaces and walked around.

Palenque Ruins

After the tour finished and we were free to go and view the remaining sites and visit the museum. One of the girls got a phone call at this point and I couldn’t be bothered to wait for them and their laggardly progress; so I left them to it and headed off to the remaining ruins on my own. I didn’t manage to find the museum as I exited the park (although I must have walked right past it) so I just got another collectivo back into town.

Once again I camped out in the bar and ordered some fusion cuisine of prawn burritos. It was hardly authentic Mexican food but it looked and tasted amazing. After whiling a few hours away on my blog I set off to the bus station to get my night-bus to Tulum

Prawn burritos

It was the first night-bus I’d been on since South America and I wasn’t used to sleeping on buses and the Arctic temperature of the air-conditioning. As such, I slept quite badly and tried to watch the Shrek (dubbed in Spanish of course) and High School Musical: el desafío: a spin-off set in Mexico. Having fortunately been spared from the series up till now, I didn’t actually find it as bad as I expected: this may be because the Mexican version included upbeat reggaeton numbers or because I was amused at the fact the high school was called High School Mexico; which they could abbreviate to HSM on all the basketball courts etc. It was also bloody annoying that the lead protagonists never actually kissed. Eventually I did manage to get some sleep before I arrived early in the morning in Tulum.

The Final Frontier

3 09 2010

Another early start and another border crossing: the last of my Latin America adventures. There were quite a few Dutch on the shuttle bus with us: so I was able to practise my rusty tongue a bit. The shuttle dropped us off by a river where we caught a boat for a tiny journey across the Rio Usumacinta where we passed through immigration and then got on another bus.

Sabine on our boat border crossing

Our destination that day was the town of Palenque, famed for the eponymously-named Mayan ruins just outside of town and not much else really. Had I realised it at the time I could probably have visited the ruins in the afternoon (we arrived at around 2pm) and got a night-bus out of Palenque that day. Instead I planned to stay out in the jungle just outside the ruins in the small town of El Panchán as advised by the Lousy Planet. I’m not sure if this advice is based on the fact that it’s better out there or because when the four-year-old guidebook was written there were no good hostels in Palenque. At the same time though I didn’t really want to leave Sabine on her own for hours waiting for her night-bus to Puebla so, after we stopped for some lunch, I decided to check into Hostel Yaxkin. At least then we’d have somewhere to hang out for a few hours.

The hostel was really nice. Modern, clean and the dorm was spacious. I was quite impressed, but less so with the price (although this was more because the $5 dorm rates that were the norm in Guatemala are $10+ in Mexico). So as it turned out, the price was quite normal. The downside was that the hostel was dead (whether this was because of the season; because everyone was reading the Lonely Planet and staying in El Panchán; or because everyone was visiting the ruins in the day and getting the night-bus straight out of town I don’t know). Neither Sabine nor I had any cards so we actually sat down and drew 54 cards on some paper. I think they were actually quite good — some of the royals that we drew were inspired — but the downside was that the “cards” were a bit transparent. You could actually plot your next move in Janiv based on the partially visible card that you might be picking up from the deck.

After tiring of cards, we played ping-pong for a bit. As could be expected from my sporting prowess I got utterly thrashed by Sabine. In the evening I said goodbye to Sabine at the bus station; although we’d only been travelling together for a couple of days I’d had a great time. She was a very relaxed travel buddy and easy to chat to. I was going to miss her.

Back at the hostel I ran into my only dorm mate, Nathaniel. He was a nice enough English guy but seemed very quiet. We went out to dinner down the road and both ordered a regional speciality without actually knowing what we were ordering. I think we were both a bit disappointed. After dinner Nathaniel went to bed so I just went up to the bar (empty) and updated my blog for a few hours. There was a live band on in the background but I didn’t really pay them much attention.