A Travellerspoint blog

April 2007

Guatemala

Tikal and Antigua

sunny 25 °C
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On the 27th we boarded a minibus early in the morning, which took us to the border between Mexico and Guatemala in a few hours. Here we had our exit stamp. Then we got onto a little river boat, which took us upriver to the Guatemalan border town of Bethel, where we got our entry card and paid entry fee to Guatemala. We then got on a bus, which drove us along dusty gravel roads for several more hours, to hte Guatemalan town of Flores, located on an island in a lake here. We checked in to hotel San Pedro, and had a nice dinner on the lake.

On the 28th we got up very early again, in order to get to the ruins at Tikal before the heat got unbearable - its extremely hot and humid here as well. Tikal was worth the early rise, wow, its amazing. Alan has been here before a few years ago, but for me its was a first - and I was blown away. The ruins here are spread out, with overgrown jungle paths connecting them. They are not at all as rebuilt as the ones at Palenque. You walk through shady green jungle, meeting all sorst of bugs and birds on your way, and we even saw a toucan and a large group of spider monkeys. Then the jungle opens up, and you suddenly see huge tall pyramids, open stone couryards or ruins of ancient palaces. Unique. As the finale we climbed pyramid IV - the tallest building at 64m. At the top, you have an undisturbed view across jungle as far as you can see, with birds soraing high above it all. The canopy is only broken here and there by other of Tikals pyramids, who also rise above it.

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After this, we went back to Flores and chilled out, and bokked a bus onwards to Antigua.

On the 29th, we boarded the bus for the 10 hour trip to Antigua. It was a large, comfortable bus, so the ride was not too bad. Because the trip was in the daytime, we got to see lots of the countryside in Guatemala, with mountains, cattle ranches, villages, rivers. In one village there was apparantly a rodeo going on, and we saw all the cowboys in the best gear, parading around. In the evening, we made it to Antigua, and checked into a hotel.

Today, the 30th, we have just spent the day walking around town. Antigua is lovely, and because we spent quite a lot of time here about four years ago, when we first met, it feels almost like home. It has gotten even more touristy and busy, but still manages to maintain its own character and charm, at least to me, with its cobblestone streets and colonial architecture. Also, the climate here is pleasant all year - warm without being hot, and not humid at all. From all over the city, you get beautiful views of the surrounding volcanoes - one of them is currently erupting a bit, so now and again you see a plume of smoke rise up from it. There are hiking tours out to see the lava flows, but we are gonna give that a miss. I don't much fancy melting the soles of my walking boots. We plan on staying here till wednesday, and then heading on to Honduras and Roatan, again on a long bus ride. Again, don't forget to look at Flickr, for pictures from Tikal, and soon from Antigua as well.

Posted by monkyhands 13:28 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Ruins of Palenque

Mayan ruins in a lush jungle setting

sunny 33 °C
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Today we went out to the ruins here in Palenque. They were built by Mayans, who first occupied the area around 100 BC. The prime period for the city fell between 600-700 AD, under the reign of King Pakal. He is buried in the largest excavated building, known as Templo de las Inscripciones, which you can see here:

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The whole of the city lies over an area of appr. 15 sq km, and consist of 1453 buildings (found so far). Only a smaller central area is excavated, including 500 or so of the buldings. We spent most of the day walking around them, and climbing up them for better views. Here I am looking over part of the city:

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In this tropical heat and humidity, you quickly get covered in a film of sweat and water, and you feel like you're in a shower all day. Knowing this, we dressed as comfortably as possible, in shorts, boots and t-shirts. Unfortunately, this, combined with the backpack containing camera and water, makes you look like quite a fool - here I am in my Dora the Explorer getup:

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Comical. But hey, comfort beats vanity in a place like this, at least for me it does. Tomorrow we head for Flores and Tikal in Guatemala, on a combined bus/boat/minibus tour - should take 8-10 hours. We'll be picked up at the hotel at 6am, so its early to bed today. Look out for more info and pics from Tikal - an even larger Mayan ruin city.

Posted by monkyhands 18:29 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

Arrived in Palenque

Tropical heat and cool drinks

sunny 32 °C
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We arrived well in Palenque this morning, but the bus ride was quite rough, as we both suffer from leaky arses, caused by a restaurant in Mexico City. I had it twice already while we were there, and both times we had eaten in this place the night before. Al has only ever had belly issues once before, in Calcutta, which says a lot about the poison they must be serving up in there - so to anyone coming to Mexico City: don't eat in Cafe La Blanca (should be called Cafe The Leaky Arse).

Anyway, Palenque is quite pleasant. Its a lot hotter than Mexico City, and a lot more humid, but luckily there are lots of cheap cafes serving up cool drinks under spinning fans. We have spotted our first pair of parrots already, and a number of strange bugs - ah, the jungle life :) We just hope to be able to keep the creepy-crawlies out of our bed at night.

We have now uploaded the last set of pictures from Mexico City, including the ruins a Teotihuacan to Flickr, so have a look. Hopefully tomorrow we can upload some good shots of the ruins here in Palenque, including the two of us in Dora the Explorer gear ;)

Posted by monkyhands 04:08 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Last few days in Mexico City

Ruins, Lucha Libre and markets

sunny 29 °C
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On friday the 20thn of april, we put on our walking boots once more, and strolled around in the city. We saw a few more mural by Diego Rivera - the guy is everywhere. Friday night we went to a Mexican wresting show, they call it Lucha Libre, and it is really fun! The wrestlers/performers are extremely talented, and they fly through the air etc. The special thing about Mexican wrestling, is that the wrestlers wear crazy spandex costumes, including fantastic hoods in leather, latex sequins or feathers. They also have very exotic names, such as Danger, Molotov, Nosferatu, Satanico, Blue Panther, Ultimo Dragon, Tarzan Boy, Blue Demon Junior, and everyone`s apparant favorite: Mistico. Excellent show.
On saturday the 21st we took a day trip out to the ruins of an ancient city called Teotihuacan, 50 km north of Mexico City. It contains two major pyramids, plus a large area of smaller ruins and roads. The largest pyramid - Pyramid of the Sun - really blows you away. It is the third largest pyramid in the world, only surpassed by Cholula and Cheops. It is currently 70m tall, and was built from 100 AD, a millenium or so before the Aztecs! It is constructed from 3 million tons of stone and brick, by a culture which had netiher metal tools, pack animals, nor the wheel. We took great pictures here, and even though I should know better by now, I got really sunburnt (the first of many, I`m sure).
On the 22nd we spent a lazy day walking aroubnd Mexico`s markets and department stores, which really underlined the huge divide between rich and poor here.
On the 23rd we went back to the tattoo parlour, to get Al`s tattoo finished. Unfortunately, it is still not healed completely, so the guy did most of it, and the rest will have to wait for another country, because now we really are out of here!
Today, the 24th, we checked out of hotel Buenos Aires, and headed for the TAPO bus station, to catch an all night bus to Palenque, an ancient Mayan ruin city. More from there soon!

Posted by monkyhands 17:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Exploring the city

Aztec culture, art and museums

sunny 28 °C
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On tuesday, we went to Mexico City's huge park - Bosque de Chapultepec. It was established originally by the aztecs. Today it contains various museums, a lake and lots of food stalls, balloon sellers, face painting stalls, cotton candy and other entertainment. We visited the National Anthropology Museum, which has some great exhibitions on the Aztecz, the Mayans, the Olmecs, and various other ancient Mexican cultures. Very interesting.
Apparantly, the site where Mexico City's Centro Historico is today, (and where our hotel is located), used to be a huge Aztec city, on an island in a lake that has since dried up. In fact, the cathedral on the central square here, is built on top of an Aztec pyramid. The Spanish conquistadores tore the whole city down, to make space for their capital of Nueva Espana.
The Aztecs were, like apparantly most ancient cultures in Central America, a warring culture, who were constantly in conflict with other groups, and who sacrificed humans to apeace their gods, and preserve the world - they believed that the world would otherwise seize to exist.
On wednesday, we moved out of Hostal Moneda, which is way overpriced and has shitty service. Instead we moved into Hotel Buenos Aires, which is the same standard, but at half the price. Then, we went back out to Coyoacan, and visited Frida Kahlo┬┤s house, which is now a museum.
Today, thursday, we visited the Aztec Templo Mayor in the center of town - really gives you an idea of how much more Aztec stuff must be buried underneath Mexico City`s colonial and moderne architecture. We also went to see Diego Rivera`s murals in varous places in town. One of them was originally started in Rockefeller Center in New York, but the Rockefeller family disliked the anticapitalist theme, and had it destroyed. Rivera remade it in the Palacio de Bellas Artes here in town.
Other than that, we are getting a bit tired of the City, as we wait for the tattoo to heal - we are ready to get out of here now. The city has the worst air in the world, and the pollution is really giving me a sore throat. Alan too is getting antsy, and paces round the room in the evening - he just wants to go diving. The city, as any large city, is crowded and busy. Street vendors, musicians, Aztec dancers, police officers on foot and on horseback, goth teenagers, men in suits, traditional peasants, shoeshiners, food vendors - all swarm around you. Traffic, smelly sewers, pollution, dirty alleyways and worn-down sidewalks, mix with churches, museums, colonial architeture, leafy parks and wide boulevards. Its got everything you could want, and yet its not exactly the kind of place you fall in love with and want to stay in. Anyway, we will have to kill a few more days here - should be manageable.
Look at www.flickr.com/photos/divingdog5 for more of our pictures of this chaotic city.

Posted by monkyhands 16:51 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

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