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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 27 Feb 2020

Location: Palenque, Central America

MapWell the mood has certainly changed today.

Our beautiful resort is just a few minutes from the ancient ruins so a relatively easy day today.

We had an early rise to visit the World Heritage Site of Palenque, wonderful in its jungle setting. We had heavy rain overnight and the low prevailing mist was perfect to set the scene for this ancient site. Solemn and imposing and so well preserved.

Palenque is everything that an archaeological site should be. A remarkable treasure trove.

With grey stone being the dominant colour, it is difficult to envisage the vivid red walls and brightly coloured carvings of the original buildings. It is a marvel to ponder on the amazing stories and engineering skill of the people who built these sites. The discoverers years later could not believe that the local people could possibly have built such structures and huge complexes.

The Mayans first settled here in 100BC and society reached its height between 6-800 AD when it was the regional capital. Then it fell into a precipitous decline and by early tenth century it had been completely abandoned for the forest to reclaim it. The majority has been excavated, with discoveries of ruins emblazoned with fine sculptures and splendid stucco.

As with the other sites we have visited, these complexes were the domain of the royals and the wealthy. We were allowed to explore this palace which was quite challenging to get round on the steep slippy steps.
The royal place is distinguished by a four tier leaning tower which probably served a as watch tower. The building was the home of the royals and their immediate entourage and dominates the site. It is a complex of courtyards, corrodors and rooms.

The massive carved stones of the Temple of Inscriptions are most imposing. This is the tallest building and contains the funerary crypt of the ruler Pakal. Originally red and decorated with vivid colours, it must have been a sight to see.
Pakal was entombed at the bottom of the steep pyramid. His body as that of his wife in the adjacent tomb was bathed in red paint. Although the flesh has long disappeared, the skeleton is still stained and infused with red. Articles of jade and other expensive materials have been found in the tomb. There was also a sort of air duct leading from the tomb to the top of the Pyramid....apparently linking the souls with the outside world.

We followed the archaeological path leading from this complex down to the parking lot. It was a fabulous three quarter of an hour walk, through ruins where the ordinary people would have lived. One was a very clever sort of a spa. Very ingenious. The path passed by the river and a spectacular waterfall which would have supplied the palace and also removed the effluent! Has to go somewhere!

Once finished exploring here, we drove onto to visit the Cascade de Misotha Waterfall. We got soaked as the path lead us down and behind the cascade but it was great fun.

Overall another great day.