Friday, July 19, 2013

Topes, Topes, and More


Leaving Huehuetenango, we immediately started encountering more topes. Between Huehuetenango and the border, we probably nearly doubled the number of topes we had passed over. Sadly, this was just a foreshadowing of what we would experience once we crossed the border.

When we got to the border, the longest and hardest part was weaving through the streets, trying to avoid people in the markets on the street. Other than that, we quickly passed through the inspections and cancelations of paperwork, crossed over into México, and got our new visas. We already a valid vehicle permit, so we were able to skip that step. Shortly, were cruising down the road and encountered our first 110km/hr (68mph) sign since the last time we were in México. We were excited. That didn’t last long, only about 2 km, before the speed decreased and we started in on the super tope run. Seriously, we encountered 310 topes (yes I counted them) in the 364km distance from the Mexican border to our campground in Palenque. Our average speed was even less than in Guatemala (43km/h versus the 45km/h in Guatemala over the tope region). Every small town had an average of 5 topes.

To top of the annoyance with the topes, the weather was almost instantly more hot and humid than it had been in Guatemala, where we had spent our time in the highlands. It really wasn’t that hot, but the humidity just made everything miserable. Between these things and overpriced, under-featured campgrounds, I remember why I wasn’t a huge fan of mainland México. But, at least the temperatures that night were reasonable, especially after a nice shower provided by the van.


By the time we arrived at Palenque at 8:15, the front parking lot was full, as well as most of the back parking lot. I was amazed about how busy the place was, especially with locals. So, when we got in, we decided to make our way “backwards” around the park, in the opposite way most people were going. This ended up being a good choice, allowing us to explore the residential groupings mostly on our own.


Palenque was a pretty cool site. While walking through the residential areas, you felt like you were one of the first people to find the ruins, as they left most of the trees up. The setting of the place is quite special too. It is at the beginning of the foothills into the mountains. There are several streams that the Mayans controlled and directed, for daily use and protection against floods, as the streams went right through the site.


DSC04968 One of the ancient aqueducts.

They had several inscriptions that had survived over the years and were really impressive to see. On some of the pieces, you could still see the blue and red colors they used.




One of my favorite buildings was the Palacio, where there were rooms in the base of the pyramid as well as whole another set of courtyards and buildings at its top in addition to several preserved inscriptions and decorations.


I highly recommend the site. While there, I finally found a hand fan that I liked. I had been looking for one since the last time we were in México, but had been unable to find (a suitable) one. This one was perfect! Doesn’t make up for my lack of hat, but it is a great addition to my collection.

Afterwards, we drove onto Villahermosa, where we camped again at Villahermosa. Since we had all day, I thought we might go to a movie. Besides, an air-conditioned movie was a great way to beat the humidity. I looked online and saw that they were playing Pacific Rim in 2D (we don’t like 3D), subtitled, at 5:20pm. I had originally thought it was 5:40pm, so when we finally caught my error, we were running late. We didn’t get to the theater until 5:30pm, and then I couldn’t find the subtitled 2D version of the movie in the listing. Since we were already there, we settled for The Lone Ranger at 6pm, and decided to grab some Subway for supper. While we were walking around, we spotted another theater—Cinépolis VIP—down the mall. This was the theater with the movie I saw online. Apparently for 100 pesos/ticket, there is a nicer, adult theater with a quiet bar lounge area with plush leather couches. I have no idea what the theater rooms are like, but I am picturing a large theater room in one’s house with leather recliners and such, just a guess though. I mean, I knew Villahermosa was rich—nice streets, three Walmarts, etc.—but I wasn’t expecting a VIP theater. The regular theater was nice enough with high-baked, rocking/reclining stadium seating with air conditioning and a crisp screen.

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