Getting the car back at midday, shopping done we hit the road at two in the afternoon, both pleased to be leaving and pleased that we’d met so many genuinely wonderful people. Cosamaloapan may not have the sights, though one massive commodity it does have are it’s loveable people, perhaps due to distinct lack of tourists that has kept them from being tainted somewhat.
Taking the back way this time to avoid the bastard tolls, Matt realises after 40kms off crap roads that the speedometer is no longer working. Having had a similar situation when we had the engine replaced in Montana, we turned around, only to find out that the mechanic knew the cable needed to be replaced, but as there was no way we were getting one in Mexico he didn’t bother to tell us. Not a huge problem except that the odometer is also our fuel guage!
Wasting too much time in the turnaround we took the ‘bastard toll’ this time to make head way down the 145D, which by the way had a massive amount of road works in Villa Hermosa. Trying to avoid this by taking the back roads we found that we only make up one kilometer or so in about the same time, as the backroads quickly become rough and muddy country lanes.
Jostled out of bed by the buffeting winds rocking the van back and forth and the persistent sound of waves of rain dancing overhead, we found ourselves at yet another free Pemex. The rain was desperately attempting (and occasionally succeeding) to penetrate Porkchops’s hide, so we knew it was gonna be a slow trudge to Palenque.
Just outside our destination, the dreadful knocking noise returned to the underside of the van. Pulling into the next mechanics and over the pit, we discovered that the support for the transmission wasn’t doing it’s job. An inserted rubber here and a wire there to secure it, the quick fix job was a good one. Whilst having the mechanics on hand, we’d noticed an intermittent screeching coming from what we thought was the rear end. Matt took the young mechanic for a drive, where he was soon hanging off the side of the van on the sidestep, as they moved towards a speed of 60 km/h.
In the meanwhile Sarah struck up a conversation with the owner who, after finding out that we lived in London, handed her an ice cold Heineken special ‘London’ edition, before taking here on a tour of his collection of animal skins (all personally shot by him). Having found that the issue was a broken park brake cable, another part we weren’t going to get in Mexico, Porkchop and us were back on track for Palenque only a couple of bucks lighter.
Hearing about the tranquility of the campsite Maya Bell, located at the foot of the road up to the ruins, there was no other choice but to relax in its jungle setting by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. For 200 pesos a night you get this, along with nice showers and a restaurant where the food looked tasty, though there’s no WiFi (with this location who needs it).
The place attracts all sorts of people, some with vans from as far away as German, and has accommodation for people with hammocks and tents as well as a number of cabins. Surrounded by exotic birds and the menacing sounding howler monkeys, it’s not long after dusk that the pesky mosquitos make their daily roll call in company with the welcome fireflys. At least the howler monkeys took their screeching elsewhere for the night, as the night before they’d kept the entire campground awake all night.
Palenque itself dates from 226BC, and was rediscovered in the 18th century after being abandoned to the jungles sometime after 800AD. You can walk to the ruins as it’s only a 500 meter walk from the campsite, 5 mins, max. Or so the read reviews go. Bullshit. It’s a good half an hour, UPHILL, with no path most of the way, only a slippery grassy shoulder. Making our way past the food stall, souvenir shops and guides for hire, we eventually found the entrance into the ruins. And what a setting they’re in. Arriving early (though not early enough) there where already hordes of other tourists there.
Blinkers on to avoid eye contact with the army of hawkers, we wove a path around the ruins, which quickly become one of the best we’ve seen. Climbing the steps and into the Temple of the Inscriptions for a look at the burial chambers, before heading up to the Temple of the Cross. This is where some of the best views are and it’s not climbed as much most likely owing to overgrown state of the staircase. There’s also some great views from the top of the Temple of the Sun but the stairs are pretty steep.
Having had our fill of the big temples, we made our way, along with nobody else, to Group C. This part of the ruins is so overgrown and yet to be fully excavated and we had the entire place to ourselves. Shady, cool and a little slippery due to the moss still growing on some of the rocks, this area has a vibe a little like Angkor Wat, with trees still sprouting from the stonework. As nobody seems to bother venturing this far, you can spend some time pretending you’re Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and nobody will be here to judge you.
Finishing up and making the downhill trek back to the campground, we took some time to take in the small but worthwhile museum (included in your ticket price), picked up Porkchop, before popping back into the mechanics for a quick check up on the new transmission mount. They were happy to see us and gave Porkchop a clean bill of health and all’s well. Bearings set for Campeche, we made it as far as Escarcega and Pemex (no.5694) number three, with the restaurant/whore house across the road pumping out shitty music and worst karaoke. Sarah braves the lot and comes back from said restaurant with to custard cream deserts.
Arriving in Escargomento at dusk to a Pemex (no.11804) swiftly filling with truckies for the night, the restaurant/whore house/karaoke bar was pumping out shitty music. Sarah braved the lot and came back from said restaurant with two homemade custard caramel deserts, before the wind rocked us gently into slumber.
Can’t get enough ruins? Check out the rest of our photos on Flickr!