Sunday, May 22, 2011

5/8/11: Bethel, GA to Palenque, MX. 105 miles, 8 hours.

Around 10 in the morning, I get my things together and head out. I go back to the migration office, where most of the family who's house I just left is hanging out at, doing the money changing thing. I change a 20 into pesos and say goodbye to everybody, thanking them for everything and exchanging email and other info. I head back down the 10km rough and rocky dirt road to LA Tecnica. I go to where the boat guys are, with a sweet view down a short cliff to the slow lazy River Usumancinta down below. A guy comes up to me immediately and is kind of not cool. There are about 8 teenage kids just hanging out surrounding me as well, touching my bike and my stuff and just generally being in the way which is kind of annoying. I still have not hit an ATM since Nicaragua, and my fundage is both low and consists of confusing amounts of 4 different currencies. One goos thing I wasn't expecting is that my pile of Honduran lempiras counts for something here, and a money changer comes over and gives me a horrible rate at about 2o bucks in pesos for 30 bucks worth of lempiras. Although I knew I was getting screwed, I didnt realize quite how badly at the time. Still, I was ok with it, as it was worthless to me now at this point in the trip. The money changer was an asshole though, he started going into how it was a fair trade from his point of view, blah, blah blah. I was like " Dude, the deal is done, you have the money, you dont need to feed me a ton of bullshit about how good of a deal I got." Its kind of a bad vibe here, and I just want to get across the river. The river is just a few hundred feet across, but the boat guys here have a monopoly on a necessary service, so I settle at about 30 bucks to take me and my bike on the 5 minute ride across. I head down to a beach where I am supposed to meet the guy and his boat, but nobody is there. I go back and meet up with the guy, who has now found the key to his motorcycle and starts to lead me back down to the riverbank. As we are leaving, the brother of the guy who's house I stayed at last night shows up. Oh yeah, I forgot that I was supposed to deal with him and give him my business. I am just now seeing him though, and I have already handed money over and been here over an hour now. The brother and the guy I have paid start having a semi-heated discussion, and other people start getting involved as well. I feel a little bad, but at this point I am sick of being here and just want to get across the damn river. I head off with the guy down to the beach and 10 minutes later a kid shows up in a canoe. Its got an outboard motor, its really long, like 30 feet and really shallow and close to the water. I unload all the stuff off my bike and using a plank of wood, the 3 of us manage to manhandle my bike onto the canoe. There is water in the bottom of the boat. I start off with the kid, standing precariously next to my bike and moving very slowly, I try to stay as steady as possible and hope for the best. 5 minutes later I am on the other side of the river, my bike and stuff laid out all over the river bank. Im just glad to finally be in Mexico. I head up the river bank and go to the immigration office and the guy working there calls up a cop who shows up and stamps me back into Mexico.

I'm now headed for the ruins at Bonampak, a pretty remote Mayan site deep in the Chiapas jungle and located on a Lancandon Indian reserve. The highway is well paved and scenic, a lot of rolling hills and green jungle. I arrive at the turnoff for Bonampak 45 minutes later. Im stopped by a group of Lancandon Indians, and I need to pay a few bucks to enter their land. They live and dress much the way they always have, the men wear their hair long and have on traditional long white robes, kind of like Hare Krishnas. My fee includes a shuttle to the ruins and Im dropped off there at the entrance where I buy a ticket. It is hot and pretty empty. The ruins are small and can be seen in about an hour. The highlight are wall painting in some of the temples which have remained intact and show scenes of war and the victories and coronations of the rulers here. The only other tourists there are a couple from Guadalajara, who had seen me on the riverbank earlier when I was downloading stuff into my computer before I took off, and they thought I was some kind of scientist or something. I head back to the entrance after an hour and am picked up by the same Indian guy in a shuttle. Back at the reserve entrance, I hop back on the bike and ride a couple of hours through the same cool scenery of green rolling jungle and hills until I hit Palenque, where I plan on spending the night.

The ruins here in Palenque are some of the most spectacular in Mexico, but I have seen them before and I am still in going-home-mode, big time. I go to an internet cafe, find a nice hotel around the corner where I get a great deal, walk to a Santander ATM where I finally take out $ without paying any kind of fee, walk around the touristy-but-nice town and eat a chicken dinner. I grab my computer and find an Italian Coffee Company near the town square, which is like a Mexican equivalent of Starbucks. AC, wifi, and an espresso and I'm in heaven. Back at the hotel I am planning on getting at least as far as Poza Rica tomorrow, halfway up the coast of Veracruz, and then hopefully making it to Monterrey in the north the following day, my last stop in Mexico before crossing back into the goo ol' U.S. of A.

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