|Ruins in Yaxchilan|
We had no time to stop here, we immediately took a bus to Palenque and walked from the bus station to our hotel in the tiny town. Guide books do not rate the town highly, advising people to stay outside in the lush forest guest houses and hotels. But we liked the town, with its tiny lanes - some green, shaded and quiet and some bustling with people and sounds of loud speakers and generators interspersed with small, interesting shops.
We stayed in hotel Chablis, a 'standard hotel' which we found very clean, comfortable and friendly. It had a courtyard filled with beautiful plants and walls painted in warm shades of off white, yellow and orange. The food was good and the service friendly.
|Flowers in the hotel courtyard|
We ate in an elegant restaurant close to the hotel, that served a fixed price, three course meal. It was a delicious dinner that began with glasses of house wine, tacos and salsa and continued till we were too full to move.
|Maya Canada restaurant|
|Tacos and salsa|
|Soup made of local greens|
|Fish in cilantro sauce|
|Grilled pork, banana and beans with tortillas|
|Fresh mango ice cream|
Continued, rather sleepily, towards the valley of the river Usumancinta, where Yaxchilan is located. Yaxchilan, rediscovered in 1881, was an important classic Mayan city, built strategically to control river commerce in the area. Many of the large structures were gradually taken over by forests but it is still an impressive sight and a very scenic location. The surviving monuments include stelae, altars and lintels with elaborate relief carvings and also distinctive 'roofcombs' that decorate the tops of the buildings. The reliefs and some inscribed texts tell us that Yaxchilan was ruled by kings of a single dynasty (and peaked in power between the 7th and 9th centuries A.D.); some important figures depicted are the rulers "Bird Jaguar" and "Shield Jaguar" and "Lady Xoc", the wife of Shield Jaguar.
|Along the river Usmancinta|
|Roofcombs of Yaxchilan|
|A surviving relief|
After a substantial meal, we headed southwards, to the valley of the Rio Lacanha, a tributary of the Usmancinta, to see the ruins of Bonampak. This city of 'Painted Walls' (as the name indicates) also dates to the same period as Yaxchilan. There was apparently a significant alliance between the two cities in the Classic Mayan period. Bonampak was more deeply hidden by the forest and came to light only in 1946.
Bonampak is in a reserved area so we could only use the reservation vehicles (which were rickety and completely airless) to the entrance. After that, it was a pleasant walk, past rows of small stalls where locals sold crafts and bead jewellery, to the actual ruins. Along the way I saw what seemed like small leaves scurrying along rapidly. It looked surreal but a closer glance revealed a row of ants carrying bits of leaves larger than themselves, across our path!
|Walking leaves of Bonampak!|
|More frescoes, in fragile condition|