Returning to Palenque the same bloqueo now did stop us again but not long: a 30 seconds blow on the horn made them all rush to our Katamarano, heavily upset, but a wise man announced us we would be the first to be allowed onwards, and indeed 10 minutes later we continued to Palenque Ruins campingsite, surrounded by the barking of the howler monkeys, where local King Pakal reined 68 years over a huge city with +500 buildings painted bright red and was buried in his tomb with many treasures in a sarcophagus topped with a sun, and surrounded on the walls with the 9 lords of the underworld : didnt we see this earlier, in Egypt, Pharao-style?? Werent they, too, famous astrologists?? Didnt they, too, have a calendar, such as the famous Maya (3) calendars, and a sophisticated writing to safeguard their rich history, battles etc. for future generations:the Mayan used a complex pictorial/phonetic writing deciphered only in the 1980s.
Lots of reading to do, but lets firstly haveKing Palaks city speak for itself in a few pictures.
First to Bonampak: nice ruins set in tropical jungle with magnificent colored frescos, superb stelae, and no visitor to spoil the effect. Thanks to a blockade by all minibuses announced to last 15 days, on the major crossroad leading here travel agencies simply stopped sending tourists to Bonampak, so I had it all to my self.
A 5 year old chicita with big almond brown eyes shyly proposing us her tens of small Zapatista-puppets for 5 pesos each. While she nestled herself at our table she ended up with some coffee and a 10 pesos gift, in return for which she shyly gave a besito.
On our way to more historic sites, via the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha falls both exploited by and for the Zapatista-cause, to the real Maya-empire.
On the local markets local farmproduce, sheeps wool, household stuff, colorful masks, bric-a- brac but also magnificent scarfs and walltapistry is being sold by women and children, girls wearing black skirts of thick sheepwool and a blueish embroided tunic on top of a white or colored satin blouse. Men wear on sundays- their best top of white sheepskin or a whitish poncho on black and mostly very dirty trousers, for they work the land, and in case of the herbs needed for ceremonies and or rituals, or the many natural medicines do so in group. Dont forget to visit the small Museo del Medicino Chiapas, for it teaches you which colored candle is good for what disease: this is real Chiapas-country where the indigenas already ages ago fought willingly amongst themselves, then against the Spanish occupation, then and as recently as 1994as machinegunning Zapatistas the central government. Today they still loudly come up for more rights, more investment by central and provincial authorities, more rights also for women who still barefooted try to sell all day long with their youngest children handicraft and bric-a-brac to Mexican and foreign visitors who indulge the quiet San Cristobalss main plaza, visiting magnificent churches of Santo Domingo or the cathedral, or enjoying the local fiesta con musica, fireworks and firecrackers, local dishes and local tequila or metzcal.
The churchfloor of San Juan Chaluma is covered with pine needles, except there where the families come to kneel and pray, on the marblefloor, barefooted, in front of hundreds of candles, loudly praying in their native tongue with the hired in pagan priest and serving him metzcal for more and better prayers and eggs for healing purposes of both spirits and other evil (and believe it or not coca cola here is extremely useful, and each family brings a few bottles in church). Tens of families thus make up for a mysterious sphere, where tourists are allowed in but cameras forbidden. The welfare of the tens of Saints images is looked after by mayordomes, a committee of wise men yearly selected from amongst the richer, who wear special hats and cloaks to distinguish themselves, therefore are equally tierra prohibida for any camera (which is enforced by local police wearing typical white goatskin poncho, cowboyhats, orangebrown belts and the machete of power). And the local catholic priest? He may serve just to help baptizing the babies, and maybe offsetting where pagan rituals/herbs/prayers should be failing.
This is where (blue) colors abound, candle in all shapes survive, the shaman use their powers, where babies are born at home with the helping knees of the husband and the experience of the midwife with her herbal and pagan-sacred rituals to bless this new life (and to make sure the placenta is buried in the hut upside down or not whichever you want the next baby male or not). Where the priest is just another insurance
Via indigenas-country inland it is San Cristobal where we meet more splendors of Hispanic times around the Plaza, but also a real mix of indigenas pagan rituals combined with 'civilized' Catholicism.
Before however cruising to Palenque the Pacific kept begging for a visit to windy Salina Cruz at the edge of the Istmus, then laidback Santa Cruz Huatulco, with smaller and larger bays, white beaches, blue water and yet (still) not too crowded due to the economy. But ready for much and much more, even larger hotels, bigger resorts, more condos along the kilometerlong 4-lane, and thus the new Acapulco.
At last on the real Panamericana via Zapata's Chiapas province, and Porfirio Diaz' Oaxaca, into the (Classic) Maya-region
Remember we told you about old Acapulco; the real Acapulco lies behind the bend : a huge ovalshaped bay on the southern side, with big hotels and a number of highly priced condos and villas perched till above the blue bay. And all the promises of a real noisy beachcrowd and equally noisy nightlife.
But inland it was for us, via a scenic mountainroad (+200km in +6 hours) to Oaxacas treasures of Monte Alban, ceremonial city of Mixtec/Zapotec and its later many tombs of kings and wealthy families; and the main Zapotecs religious ceremonial centre of Mitla,with even more tombs and those special mosaic like freezes; or the town of Oaxaca with its superb Regional Museumfeaturing a.o. treasures of Monte Albans tomb7, next to an equally superb Church of Santo Domingo, or a few meters from the Municipal Theatre ( Porfirio-style,for after all, this President for 33 years was born here), where we witnessed the enthusiasm of some 300 Mexicans for a splendid jazz/rock performance by 5 outperforming guys from San Francisco.
Meanwhile in the laguna I can test the inflatable kayak for stability, before trying out the state-of-the-art, salt and environmental friendly cause full polycarbonate built small electric outboard with full digital control (good for 2HP and a few hours full speed/battery charge or soits US manufacturer claims).
But the weekend is approaching, so are many many visitors from Mexico city, time for us for famous Oaxaca, then the Isthmus of Yucatan in search of the Maya culture, and the new contestant to Acapulco, Puerto Escondido.
Continuing till goneby glamourcity Acapulco (in Elvis time it still was) where it is time for a few days of rest on the kilometerlong beach 10 km north of this hectic, dirty town, where only the marina, the clean cathedral, some new developments on the scenic southern Mex 200 and the famous cliff-divers can attract us somewhat. In front of 100s of admiring spectators they climb the 35 or 45 m high cliff, then gloriously await the applause before diving in a few meter wide and even less deep creek where the waves retreat and enter to add just enough water for them to survive the dive.
And further our Katamarano bringing us to the Pacific costas, till Acapulco (12.11.9): from isolated Faro de Bucerias and quite a few nice rocky bays strung by coconut palms on the one side of the Mex 200: the blue ocean on the white beaches from where hundreds of newborn Tortugas escape the hungry seagulls before committing their sea voyage. On the other side of serpenting Mex 200 a series of rivers and (salt) lagunas, teeming with muy rico fish and camarones, but also with crocodiles small and not so small. Thundering waves, majestic small coves and larger bays, kilometerlong white beaches and small not much visited fishers villages. And famous sunsets. Just 220 km before Acapulco its smaller, much more attractive sisterbay is also the place for quite a few millionaires, foreign or not. Far from hectic this Zihuatanejo beats Acapulco by far!
Apart for the occasional campground (+10 Euro/night, so it is 90 percent wildcamping for us) life remains cheap here: a haircut 1 or 2 euro, diesel 0,4/l, typical Mexican food (days menu) at 1,5 to 2 euro, beer (Corona or other Mexican nice beer) 1 a 1,3/bottle, a doctors visit from 1,1 (to 20 Euro including extensive echo ultrasound exam ) even for tourists. It is only where many (US) foreigners are spending dolares that prices tend to go up, but even then the cappuccino is 1,1 to 1,3 euro and a very nice lunch or dinner not more than 8 to 10 euro.
After another repair to the Ford engine (this time a leaking oilpump) beautiful Morelia is a very nice stop-over before the Pacific coast, where the tropical jungle brings humid heat after the passage of the last hurricane.
el DIA y la NOCHE de los Muertos: Catrina and Viejitos
el DIA y la NOCHE de los Muertos: F
In Erongaricuaro a black-clad Catrina with white mask impersonating death reads her poems and letter from the under/upperworlds to the gathered population. They eat local maize, tacos and tortillas, birrias and lots ofsugarskeletons and skulls or sugarcolored tombs or the special pan de muerto; they buy wooden or embroidered Catrinas of small statues of that other tradition, the dancing Viejitos, in which dance young masked adults are mocking live from grow-up till old crumbled man.
A very nice cemetery is in Tzintzuntzan the capital of this Phurhepecha country: also the French TV was there to witness this old culture where families, in the Noche de los Muertos, come together to honor, not so much to grieve their deceased with the specially preferred food of their beloved one, sitting the whole night at their well-flowered and adorned grave, telling tales and reminding themselves of the many happy stories when he/she was still among them, renewing all of their memories together with him/her on this day of the deceased, happily, sometimes with live music by mariachis to brings his/her beloved music live.With candles allover so everyone can share their joy of the re-visiting deceased.
La Noche de los Muertos sees us on the premises of the restored monastery of Tzintzuntzan where the nuns celebrate with us and share delicious ponch. Spectators sometimes even applaud the input by the famous dancers or musicians who come from various regions presenting their local music/dance, for instance the mask dance with splendid colorful costumes representingthe good (Indians) versus the bad (conquistadores).
In preparation and to come in the right mood, tens of festivals abound with special folklore dances, on a flowered podium in the local Plaza, often in front of the church. In Spanish and their Indian language the meaning of the dances and the music is explained to the younger locals (and to the few hundreds mainly Mexican tourists).
When pre-Hispanicpagan religious culture meet s devote Catholicism on el Dia de los Muertos
In this very special atmosphere on 1 and 2.11 the living happilyshare the good memories with the deceased, offering his/her preferred fruits, sweets, music, stories, dinner on this one day/night when they are convening with him/her as if he/she was there amongst them, alive. Once a year, recalling him/her from the grave and celebrating his/her 1-day return amongst them.