San Cristobal de las Casa to Palenque

I woke early in San Cristobal in an effort to get a few pictures before it got too late in the day. I was out and shooting by 7:30 A.M., which is pretty early for me. I don’t have many pictures of San Cristobal, since there wasn’t anything to grab me. Very few nice pics, but I was glad to spend a little bit of time in the city.

I got back to the hotel 10ish, took a shower and started packing my stuff to go. As I was loading up my bike, some guy comes out and starts talking excitingly about my motorcycle. After a bit of fumbling, I find out he’s got a Yamaha 600, which is huge for Mexico (and fast everywhere.) As I was making the trek back from my room a second time, he’s got another guy out there. The third time he had his entire group of people he was dining with outside. I got a picture of him sitting on my bike, and he got a picture of me and everybody else around my bike. It was pretty fun.

After getting on the road, I went through some amazing scenery. San Cristobal and the surrounding areas are pretty high. I went through beautiful pine forest, and after eventually losing altitude back into the jungle like setting you expect. The pine forest made me think a lot of Seattle and surrounding areas – It was very, very beautiful. One of the more interesting things to me about this trip (and the rest of my Mexico Journey) is how people live everywhere. I saw corn growing on hills that I can’t imagine someone being able to get to, and houses that looked like they should fall down any minute. The road, like most of the ones I’ve been on, was fantastic, but very, very curvy. Of course that slows down the Journey. Both of the travel books I’ve had mentioned that there are occasional “stop and grab” blockades on this road, as early as last year. I don’t know if that’s because of, or in spite of, the Zapatista. I didn’t have that happen, but twice I had kids or young adults string a rope across the road at a speed bump, to get me to give money for some Catholic thing. Once I did, once I didn’t.

Slowly, I made my way some ruins at Tonina. I hadn’t heard much about it, but it was pretty cool. When I went got there, I was the only person in the entire place, other than workers. Having the place to myself was pretty amazing. The pictures I’ve taken don’t do this place justice. You walk about half a mile down the road and then take a right. You first enter a ballfields, which is a pretty amazing field, as those things go. As you exit, in the distance you see this huge city. It’s simply amazing. The ruins I’ve seen so far are usually spread over a wide area. This one was built up in one area, going higher and higher. It made it much more impressive. The trouble with the pictures was I had to be so far back to get the width, which hid the height. And of course it was in the early afternoon, which is the worst time for taking photos. One of the most remarkable things about this place was the incredible quiet. Occasionally you would hear a car go by, but otherwise it was dead quiet.

After spending a couple of strenuous hours exploring the ruins and climbing as high as I could I left. It was crazy hot while I was there, and I was wearing my motorcycle pants, and climbing. I was drenched when I left, hadn’t eaten all day, and had very little to drink (hard to do on a motorcycle.) The road got worse as you got closer to Palenque, which I think translates into “the middle of nowhere.” It started raining, which worried me a bit. As I was braking for speed bumps, my rear tire broke lose a few times. It worried me since that hasn’t happened before, and I started driving slower. I have plans to get new tires in San Jose, Costa Rica. My tires probably have miles left in them, but I don’t want to worry about anything else. Too bad worrying is in my nature. I probably rely on my rear brake too much, but it hasn’t started breaking loose until today. Maybe now is a good time to stop that habit.

Eventually I got to Palenque (the city, not the ruins.) I finally arrived about 7 P.M., which is later than I like to get into a room. I drove around for a while until I found a room with Air Conditioning. I got, probably, the most expensive room in Palenque, on the promise of being able to receive phone calls. After I checked in, I found out I couldn’t. Dammit!! At least there was cable television and air conditioning. By the time I’d walked around the city and found a place to eat, it was getting pretty late. I’d forgotten it was Monday, and most of Mexico has had Monday Night Football when I have cable, ableit in Spanish. I wish I’d have been able to see it – I’m not a huge football fan, but a little slice of home is always nice. To top things off, I’d also missed Beverly Hills Bordello. Can it get any worse :)

As far as the town of Palenque, there isn’t much to say. It’s pretty boring – just a normal Mexican town, but with a small tourist bent. Again, there were a bunch of Germans here, and the two Australians I ran into at the ruins. The hotel, while very expensive for Mexico, did have a nice pool, so I got some pool time in. Flipping channels, I came across the last half of “The Highlander” tv show, which was nice since I wasn’t feeling too well.

To get up early and see the ruins would take up a large part of the day, so I ended up staying two night. Grumble. I’m glad I did, since today, I’ve developed a pretty severe sore throat, and my back and neck are aching, which very well might mean I’m getting sick. Hopefully a somewhat easy day and plenty of sleep will keep me well, or at least stop getting any worse. I imagine it’s just a reaction to stress – of border crossing, of rear tires problems, of not being able to communicate to anyone, being lonely, etc. I expected to get sick at some point because of my body being under more stress than normal. If things get worse, it’s going to be my third time in three weeks.

My goal is to cross into Guatemala tomorrow (Thursday, September 2nd.) I’m not sure where to cross – the ideal place for me to cross is pretty close (3 hours) to where I am now. It’s a primitive crossing, and I’d have to hire a boat to get across the river, which worries me for two reasons. One is more primitive borders are a little more backwards, and can be sticklers for things they shouldn’t be, or try to get a bribe. The other worry is I get across the river, the bribe request increases, since I’m between a rock and a hard place. The preferable, but much further border crossing is La Mesilla, which is supposed to be a very efficient crossing, according to several sources who have made the journey. It would be a full day to get there, and I’d probably have to spend the night in Mexico again. I’ve heard you should cross the border in the morning, in case it ends up being a lengthy affair. It would be bad cross the border only to find yourself in a strange border town after dark.