Monday, November 29, 2010

Teotihuacan, Puebla, The Mayan World-Days 6-10

Days 6-10 - Teotihuacan, Puebla, Palenque, Mayan World

Hello again, I apologize for the delay on the next blog update, as you can imagine I don’t have internet access all that time.

Last I left off was my visit to Hidalgo de Parral, probably the worst I’ve seen of the Narco-drug war related violence. For those of you who have never been to Mexico or are reading this blog to get ideas and Intel for your own trip, I have a few words. Do not get discouraged by the biased American media coverage of Mexico. As long as you stay on Cuota (toll) highways and don’t travel at night, and try to blend in well the people (not like the Europeans with bright colored clothes and carrying a Nikon camera on their next with fanny packs) you should be fine. Any deviation from major highways will land you in trouble with military and police check points as you will encounter them more often, and desolate areas that if you break down you might have some issues.

So moving on, my visit to Teotihuacan started off with running my gas gauge to zero and some how coasting to the gas station on fumes! for 20 miles on my .5 gallon reserve, lucky moment #5, viva Mexico!.  I arrived at 8am to beat the crowds and take some nice pictures. Needless to say it was a chaos of tour buses and a vast amount of street vendors that don’t take no for an answer. As I took a closer look at the pyramid of the sun I began to decipher and realize the extensive maintenance the pyramid has undergone. Heavy loads of concrete re-layering has ruined what I thought was an authentic Mayan pyramid (not such a bad thing as you’ll read later on). Besides the not so rugged and virgin pyramid, I took a nice jog through the square to visit every inch of the park, as riding a motorcycle has left me a little out of condition and needed to burn some of those tortas, mystery meat and cheese off.

Upon our departure, I got on my motorcycle, and started to go, as all of a sudden my back tire locks up and nearly throws me off the bike as I come to a skidding stop. Turns out a screw I had replaced earlier that fell off near the chain (from all the off-roading in Copper canyon) has dislodged itself from the frame and had gotten stuck on the chain. This nearly took out the sprockets, gears and almost ripped the chain right off. Thankfully it did not, that would have ruined the entire trip. So an hour or so later after much repair and second guessing myself that it was alright and it wouldn’t lock up on my while driving down the highway at 70mph, we were off.

As we left the cloud of smog, acid rain, pollution and horrible traffic, a.k.a Mexico City, I could once again begin to breathe somewhat normal tasting air. As we drove through Puebla, a giant snow capped mountain called Popocatepetl was my view for the next few hours.

As we passed Puebla, we entered the first part of the tropical region of Chiapas, the humidity and splendid view was a breath of fresh air compared to the freezing climate I’ve endured the past week through the freezing desert.

We proceeded to get to Villahermosa where I replenished my pesos at a gas station ATM and was greeted with the infamous Mexican traffic that was completely back up for miles. Unfortunately I did not film this part, but that best way I can describe it was, it was like playing playstation in a road race video game swerving through traffic, going off the road, offroading on the shoulder, dodging huge semi trucks and weaving in and out of traffic. Thank goodness for little mexican traffic laws I thought to myself speeding past the Federal police completely off the road on the dirt shoulder. Like Brett said to me, Mexican law dictates "if you can fit through the gap, its legal". I guess playing all those video games as a kid finally paid off! I estimate we saved ourselves a 2 hours traffic jam by driving like crazy Mexicans.

When in Rome right? You gotta roll like the Romans to survive

We found a good hotel with flaky internet, and some interesting neighborhood girls that apparently wanted to get my attention by whistling and shouting some compliments about the bike and my physical appearance.


The next morning we were on our way to Palenque National Park-shooting location for one of my favorite movies of all time ‘Predator” starting Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As we looked around for a place to sleep, we kept seeing rooms and bungalows for over $150 a night. I obviously said to myself, “yeah I don’t think so”. As I kept driving and going further into the jungle I luckily found a place that said camping. This jewel of a place cost me $25 pesos (US $2), this camp site was right in the middle of the jungle, absolutely awesome! As I toured around the place I met some nice German girls that were studying Spanish and spoke Spanish very well to my surprise with a cool German accent.  Upon visiting the bathroom I was greeted with a toilet without a seat, freezing cold water, anthills and spiders hanging from the shower head. Ok what do you want for $25 pesos right?

As I went to sleep, I was awakened by the playing of bongo drums at 12am from a hut at the camp site. At 1 am I was awakened by a crazy dude walking out of the bongo drum hut, drunk I assumed, that decided to have an entire conversation to himself outside for everyone to hear. At 2 am I was awakened to the sounds of jungle monkeys entering the camp site, quite the interesting noise they make when they wanted to mate. At 4 am I was again awakened but the guard dog barking at the monkeys. At 4:45am I was awakened by the roster at the site. At 5:15am I was awakened by a giant white turkey gobbling around the camp ground for the next hr. and at 5:30 am I was awakened by the dog attacking the roster and turkey along with the monkeys. Nothing like the sounds of the jungle to wake you up in the morning huh? Funny enough it was thanksgiving day that morning, the irony of being woken up by a wild white giant turkey is priceless.

In the morning, after jungle fever, I met the bongo banging dude that had an absolute identical resemblance of Chong, from Cheech and Chong, except with a sun eroded back fainted with tattoos that were also at the camp site. After refused his offer of wild hallucinogenic mushrooms he proceeded to ask where I was from and where I was going and how cool my bike was. He then went on about his own bike and how it was stolen in Guatemala a few years back. At this point in time, I remembered the previous night of his drunkenness; I figured the mushrooms were to blame for his bongo fiasco that night. Apparently this dude has lived in the jungle with the indios since the 80’s, and was apparently named a successor  shawman to a shaolin monk that was also living with the indoes in the jungle. He apparently took over the tribe and was their leader for some time.  Good stuff huh. Funny thing, after Brett heard this story he went to the jungle bathroom with no toilet seat or doors and was greeted by the shawmun taking a dump. I couldn’t stop laughing when he told me, that sounds too funny, “walked in on the shawman taking a dump” Regardless, on to the park!

Location of Shawman and dump

Upon entrance to the park I was confronted with same issue of not being allowed to enter with my tripod, a pain in the butt as I have to go all the way back to my moto and strap it down and hope nobody takes it. I also have to constantly explain that my mono-pod I use to take video of myself is not a tripod and can’t support a camera. Apparently they say it’s because they don’t want people to take perfect pictures of the places and sell them for profit. Sad thing is they believe that you need a tripod to take great pictures, obviously not!

The ruins are quite impressive; I loved how the entire location was right in the middle of the jungle.  For those of you that know me, I’m a bit crazy and will do what I need to do to get a picture I want, so I snuck into some places that were restricted and pretty dangerous to take  some awesome shots. Besides all the European tourists that kept getting in my way of pictures, and the over crowdedness of people and street vendors it was a great place I’m glad I visited and highly recommend to anyone else.

Vendors at the park

We then headed to Campeche in the Yucatan; we were greeted by the first sight of ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. We found a hotel and had some much needed hot water and quite from wild animals and shaolin monks.

The next day we were off to more ruins. I researched and found some nice Mayan ruins that aren’t visited by many tourists, so I created a route of the Mayan world through some great places.

So like I said earlier, Teotihuacan is heavily cemented to keep the structure in one piece which bummed me out. But upon seeing other Mayan pyramids and their conditions, I’m glad they cemented it. What I shame I kept thinking to myself to take so long to build and created such amazing structures and have to come to this.

Sites visited were Sygail, Uxmal, and 3 others I can’t remember the names to. I truly felt as I was walking with the Mayan's going to these uncrowded, remote and unspoiled places.

16 yr old dog at entrance to the ruins

Yes that's a picture of a male with a large...ummmm... procreation device


So I threw a rock at this ancient Mayan hoop game, and heard the hallow sound of wood. Apparently they like to have fake and false ruins around

Ancient Mayan laders

Arriving in Merida we were greeted by a Mexican night of dance and folklore on the streets. I proceeded to check out the local bar scene, where I found a $60 peso ($5 dollar) drink and drown, kinda of makes me wish I actually drank(not really lol)Besides all the cheap smelling beer and short and fat youth of Merida, it was a fun experience, made some friends and shared some stories.

The next day I basically road around trying to find a place to purchase a tire for my moto and oil as I was low on both. It didn’t help when down town was close off for a weekend festival. Besides getting pulled over by a cop for a "random" search, (yeah right, that motorcycle cop saw me and said, I'm going to go bug that stupid looking tourist), which literary had me taking everything out of my cases and putting on the street for the cop to see(once again my knife and pepper spray were in plain sight, and I don’t know how the cop didn’t see it-lucky moment #6 Viva Mexico!), calling in my license plate number, asking me hundreds of questions and taking up an hour of my time on the supposed “random” search. I knew he was looking for a bribe, but I played the"I have all my papers and nothing to hide" approach and he eventually gave up and let me go.

I found Merida to be a very romantic and amazing culture city with a great spirit, amazing street life, cool churches, amazing food, cobble stone roads and lots of fun. There are weekend festivals that fill the street with vendors, food and shuts down the entire down town area.

I made a daily almost bi-daily visit to my new favorite juice stand where I got fresh squeezed melon, watermelon, and amazing carrot juice in a huge 32oz cup for $1! Man I wished I lived here, I'd be at that juice stand every day.

Tomorrow Chichen Itza and Cancun for some amazing cave diving, adios!

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