Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Mar 23rd, 2003.-- Mexico: Day 1,403 and over 87,400 miles

Credit to

Sites around Palenque & Villahermosa

-- Story by Erin --

Friday, March 21st: Set off for the Mayan ruins of Palenque, some 200 kilometers to the northeast. The ride is windy through mostly de-forested mountains, and there is a layer of what seems like smog. Perhaps its smoke from the fires the farmers use to clear their fields. By the time we descend in altitude around the town of Palenque the temperature is already above 90F and humid. Didn’t look too long for a hotel as we expected to be checking out the next day. As it turns out I get stomach problems the next day and we have to stay the extra night until I feel better. Luckily the hotel is not bad (would have been nice to have a/c and a TV but that would have cost loads more), clean and with attached bath. The hotel backed up to a small creek and forest. All we have to do is sit on the balcony outside our room and we can spot lots of interesting birds in the trees. This is what occupies much of Chris’ time on Saturday, waiting for me to feel better. By the evening I do feel somewhat better and ready to start eating some solid food.

Sunday, March 23rd: We arrive at the ruins, just outside of town at 8am, when it opens. Our guidebook says that it is free on Sundays, but when we arrive we are told that is only for locals. It’s not expensive anyway, US$3.50 pp, when compared to Copan in Honduras and Tikal in Guatemala (both were US$10 pp). The day is very overcast and misty so not good for picture taking or bird spotting. But we manage to see a toucan, woodpecker and bat falcon anyway. The site is very similar to Tikal but somewhat smaller and the jungle is not as dense here. Although the sun is not baking us it is still very humid and takes much effort to climb to the top of all the pyramids to get the impressive views.

After about 2 hours we leave to visit the associated museum with all of its impressive findings from the site. Here you can see better how the city of Palenque differs from the other Maya sites. Many interesting jade pieces were found along with ceramic bowls, incense holders and figurines. The best of the stelae tablets have been moved here too to protect them from further erosion.

We returned to our hotel, showered, changed and hopped on the bikes heading for the city of Villahermosa near the Atlantic coast, 200 kilometers to the northwest. The weather was just awful and rain poured down on us most of the way. The upside was that it cooled everything off, as this area is notoriously hot and steamy. We arrived around 2pm and decided to find the La Venta Park, which houses big stone heads from the Olmec culture as well as a zoo. Being Sunday it was packed with families when we arrived at the park, but at least the weather was far cooler than normal----- a real blessing. A famous Mexican poet named Carlos Pellicer founded the park in the 1950s. He discovered that the original site of the big stone carvings was going to be destroyed by some developers, so he arranged to have the majority of them moved to this park in Villahermosa. He designed the park so that the sculptures would be laid out in a jungle setting much the same way they were originally. He also included a good size zoo with animals from the Chiapas region. It is well displayed in a lovely setting with bilingual plaques describing the various animals and displays.

After about 2 hours we exited the park and began to look for accommodation for the night. At the park entrance there was a local family who were giving pony rides to all the little children. They were very friendly to us and suggested an economical place for us to stay in the town center. Before we left we were taking pictures with them and their ponies, even dawning sombreros and blankets to really look the part!

As it turns out, Villahermosa is an extremely expensive town to visit, due to the recent oil boom here. The place the family recommended was VERY basic (no windows and just a fan) and still cost us $15 for the night. However, Sunday nights are the best time visit because the whole town comes out for a stroll through the Zocolo (central plaza), shops stay open late, there were numerous food stalls and several open-air music venues to enjoy for free. We spent the rest of the evening, of course, taking it all in.


Guide shows rendering of what Palenque probably looked like


Here's what we saw

The sizing is quite impressive


Palenque caters to tourists, with merchants selling their wares below each of the structures


The famous stone heads at La Venta in Villahermosa


Carvings and Sculptures cut in the large stone


A young Jaguar, a dangerous predator


And the worst predator of all!


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