Mexico 26, 28th April

I left Palenque reasonably early after stocking up with such things as ice. It was a fantastic journey south through lush green jungle with misty mountains lining up on the left and right and pyramid type hills all over the place, just as though someone had tipped out some big child's building blocks.

I reached Bonampak. You reach a parking spot, the ruins are 6 miles further on. Fortunately there is a bus service 70 pesos return but in my case, since there were no other tourists, they sent me by private car. Walking the rest of the way to the site I passed a parked Cessna 185 flying something like bunches of banana leaves from heaven knows where. The landing strip was even narrower than Sayache in Guatemala where Simon and I landed on our trip to Costa Rica, the jungle on either side was hardly wider than the plane's wingspan.

This is Bonampak.

The stele you can see in the middle is huge, 20 feet tall, and only about 1 ft thick. Must have been hard to carve without breaking it.

Even on the photo here you can just make out the king in the middle, wife on one side, Mum on the other. I don't know which is which. About AD 780.

There are some original paintings in the three sections of one of the temples. This lot appear to be playing musical instruments, apparently to celebrate.

Remarkable state of preservation, from about 750 AD.

It's maybe not a good idea to come to Bonampak when there are no tourists. I think my driver forgot to come back to collect me.

I managed to get a message back to him then continued to Yaxchilan. Here you need to take a boat, about an hour each way, minimum 3 passengers. It's late afternoon so I've settled down in the car park for the night, with permission, to wait for a couple more people in the morning.

It's hot. I've realised I can measure the temperature because I have a digital medical thermometer with me and blood temperature is the sort of number I am into here. It's 9 pm and I'm getting a reading of 35.7 degrees C ambient (96.3 F) inside the van. Earlier it was showing 41 degrees C (106F). And today has not been the hottest day by a long way. I don't have perspiration dripping off me.

I'm right by the river, the other side is Guatemala. Ready to go to Yaxchilan in the morning.

And the howler monkeys in the jungle are howling. I've knocked off a couple more large margaritas and I've opened a beer. Even if the freezer is not working I can keep the beers cold by dropping them in with the ice. However at this rate I soon won't care!

I've parked under a nut tree. Every now and then a nut drops off and hits my roof with a huge boing. No, I wouldn't be here if it was a coconut tree...............

It's an hour boat trip to the ruins at Yaxchilan, it's rather expensive to hire a boat on your own but some kindly French people from Tours allowed me to tag along. I was hoping to take part of their cost but not so. The driver wanted 200 pesos, paid to him! Here's structure 33, high above the main plaza. The roof comb here is only about half the original size.

Like many of the ruins, it is rather magical being set in the middle of the jungle with the background of the howler monkeys.

Here are the friends from Tours, in front of a building that houses a maze of tunnels.

In the tunnels there are bats of course.

Even spiders.

This rather handsome specimen is almost 4 inches (10 cm) tip to tip. The boat trip was good, jungle on each side. There's a thatched roof on the boat to keep the sun off the passengers.

We stopped for a few minutes on the Guatemalan side, so that we can say we have been there.

I transferred some pictures on to CD for Ann, they all looked at them on the computer, I had a shower, it was now a bit late to move on today so I'll go tomorrow. That seemed to suit Ann's son Greg who had spotted same games on my computer so I left the computer with him for a while. We all had dinner together very pleasant, I've been asked to call by when in Tours and I just might do that, I drive through there several times a year to say hello to my cat Tippex who is also on long holidays near Poitiers, just south of Tours.

After talking to Thierry and Alain I have decided to continue on south and then west along the Guatemalan border, I was previously wondering about returning via Palenque. They tell me it's a pretty route going south, I've since looked it up in a guide book, that says it's nice too! And generally higher so it should be a touch less hot.

It rained heavily during the night which cooled things down in the van. Made it bearable in fact. The drive along the border started out very pleasantly with jungle on either side. Lots of military checkpoints on the way with checks of papers and searches of the van. Not surprising really, we are only a couple of miles or so from the border and right on the main route for smuggling drugs into Mexico.

I noticed I was getting low on petrol, it's over 200 miles since I have passed a gas station, so I popped into a convenience store and bought 20 litres. I thought I would be ripped off but no, I paid only a touch more than pump prices. Going back to the van I noticed the propane tank had dropped at one end, the bracket had come unfixed. There was a mechanic's workshop just opposite, they chopped off a bit of angle iron and welded it on to support the bracket. On re-inspection they weren't happy with that and said they needed to put another support on another part of the bracket. They re dropped the tank, welded on another support for the bracket, and were happy. Then they made me crawl right under the van to insect their work. Then they charged me 100 pesos ($10, 5) for the best part of an hour of time, including some very skilled welding work, for the two of them. I gave them 120 pesos!

Then the scenery became superb. Into the mountains, climbing up to 3,000 feet and dropping again.

Then I got into the Montebello Lakes area. There are 59 lakes here in the National Park. Here's one of them, Lake Tziscano. The distant mountains are in Guatemala and actually so is a small part of the lake that you can't see, round to the right.

We're now at about 3,000 feet so it is much cooler, much more bearable than at Palenque or near Yaxchilan.

I drove into a car park by one of the lakes, asked a bored looking policeman "Ser possible estacionar aqui esta noche?", he said yes, so here I am. If you don't speak Spanish and can't work it out what I said it means, roughly, "Is it possible to park here for the night".

I am now going to try to get my route through Mexico marked on a map that I can send out so you can see where I've been. If I manage do it tonight you'll get it with this message. If not, later.

OK here it is. The route out is turquoise, the route back is pink. I've actually driven 10,000 Km (6,200 miles) since starting this journey on 21st February. This image of the map is fairly high quality and if you want to view the route more closely it can be doubled in size.

While playing with statistics, I have now myself driven the motor home 25,000 miles (40,000 km) out of it's total 102,000 miles(165,000 Km)

Best regards

David Barker

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