Mexico page 5

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The forest seems to have won this battle. The overgrown look of the ruins give this Mayan city a very eerie feel. Apart from the very well manicured lawns surrounding the pyramids, one can easily be forgiven for thinking that one has stumbled upon a hitherto undiscovered city in the middle of the jungle when one walks around here.

The ruins at Palenque are spread out over an expansive area in the jungle. The site is made up of large pyramid structures as well as smaller buildings which were probably used as dwellings or burial sites.

Nick: my maths olympics training starts here!

If I had a dollar for every picture I took of a pyramid...

The supermarkets in Mexico are interesting. For a start, there aren't many of them, most Mexicans preferring to buy their produce at the markets instead. Here we have some interesting oddities (well, interesting to gringos like me). Corona in a can, strange sweet cakes called "submarines", box drinks that go "boing" and... the supermarket in Palenque was named after... well... you figure it out.

Our 8 hour bus ride from Palenque to Merida was a breeze after the mammoth journey from Oaxaca to Palenque. It was, however, quite eventful as we were stopped and searched for drugs. Nick felt quite left out because they didn't bother searching his bag. They only searched the top compartment of mine, and they weren't particularly thorough either. I guess I don't really fit the stereotype of the latin american drug mule.

Merida (20/2/07 - 24/2/07)

We ended up in Merida on the last day of their carnival... Nick doesn't stand out at all... Interestingly, when people saw him, apart from gawking, their first instinct was to look at his feet to check that he wasn't wearing stilts.

Our last Archeological stop was, of course, Chichen Itza, the famous Mayan complex with its observatorio. The name itself actually refers to the mouth of a well which held some sacred meaning for the ancient Maya. Lacking the necessary photographic equipment to take a proper panoramic shot to capture the entirety of the well, I have stitched three photos together to get a similar effect.

Surrounding the main pyramids were various buildings which probably held some ceremonial significance. Here we have a shot of the "hall of a thousand pillars". I'm not sure if there were actually a thousand pillars in all, but there were an awful lot. On each pillar was carved an intricate... carving depicting an aspect of the Mayan cosmology. In fact, the entire complex is basically a very large (and very accurate) stone calendar.

During their spare moments, the Maya played noughts and crosses. Here we observe a game where O clearly won against the X.

This pyramid was especially impressive. Firstly, one is taken by the beauty of the serpent carving which occurs on either side of the steps. If one were to wait around until either equinoxes (March 21st or September 21st) the sun falls on these stairs in such a way as to illuminate only the head of the serpents - now THAT is impressive. (Imagine stuffing it up... come March 15th or something and the guy carving the stone realises that he got the date wrong).

Especially impressive was the "observatory". It looks like an observatory doesn't it? Circular buildings are not very common in ancient Mayan architecture and neither are (almost) domes.

And, finally, the "tourist pamphlet" shot - the large pyramid at the centre of the complex. Until very recently, vistors were allowed to climb to the top of this pyramid.

Cancun (24/2/07 - 25/2/07)

After Merida, we made our way to Cancun, from which we would catch the plane to Havana, Cuba.

A parting shot... our Cuban visas. Obtained in Merida in a matter of hours requiring only photocopies of our passports...

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