Comida

Mérida, México
November 2016

Now the food is getting serious. The waiter at La Chaya Maya sets down the sizzling plate and says something about it being hot. I can feel the steam emanating from within the mound of banana leaves. Carefully, I slit them open and pull them apart.

Inside is pollo pibil, a half chicken roasted in banana leaves and served with steamed onions and tomatoes. I had a late lunch today, so I may not be hungry enough to finish this feast. But I’m going to try.

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Black Friday

Campeche, México
November 2016

For a while it looked as if I’d be stranded at the Edzná ruins. I waited more than an hour at the dusty crossroads before the combi finally arrived heading back to Campeche. That’s the problem with combis — they come when they come.

Combis leave when they leave, as well. I waited nearly an hour for the outbound combi to depart this morning.

The Edzná ruins are a fine display of Mayan architecture. Atop a long staircase, the Edificio de los Cinco Pisos (Five-story building) towers over a spacious acropolis. In the grassy field below, the grand plaza has another tall pyramid, a ball court, and a long stepped building that looks like stadium bleachers but was once a government building for the Maya. It’s nice, too, that the ruins are not as well-traveled as Chichen Itzá, Palenque, and Uxmal. But then, that explains the transportation problem.

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Thanksgiving

Campeche, México
November 2016

The last time I was away from my family at Thanksgiving, Karimé Alvarado and I pulled into Buenos Aires after a marathon overnight bus ride and headed straight to La Estancia restaurant in the microcentro. We feasted on lots of everything: empanadas, chorizo, steak, and mass quantities of wine. Two hours later, we were back on the streets of Congresso looking for pizza.

This time I’m on my own. I’ve been away on the holiday before, but it never hit me like this in Cambodia, Egypt, Italy, and Peru. In those places, the day passed without me noticing.

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Yaxchilán and Bonampak

México
November 2016

The three-hour van ride down a rutted, two-lane highway through the remote Lacandon region of Chiapas leads to the riverside. We board a long boat and head down a river of muddy, red water for another hour. Disembarking at a horseshoe bend, a brief hike through the jungle, to the sounds of monkey cries, ends in a sudden clearing: the Late Classic Mayan ruins at Yaxchilán.

Situated along the river bank on two sides of a long, open plaza, Yaxchilán is known for the fine stelae and lintels that adorned its buildings. In the main plaza, the buildings are mostly crumbled single-story structures, along with a ball court and displays of stelae. But climb up the steep hills on the edge of the jungle, and more impressive buildings with well-preserved roof combs await.

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Day Tour Etiquette for Solo Travelers

Yaxchilan and Bonampak, México
November 2016

The tall young man ambles onto the tour van and plops down on a long double seat, draping his backpack on the open space beside him. At the breakfast stop, he is missing when it is time to depart, and everyone has to wait several minutes while the driver goes searching for him. He turns out to be standing by the road in front of the restaurant.

At the Yaxchilan ruins, he is quick to ask me to take his picture in front of the first building. He offers to take my photo, as is customary. A couple minutes later, he asks me to take another one. And as we get separated, he soon approaches others who came with us in the van.

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Palenque

Palenque, México
November 2016

I took more than 400 pictures today. I burned through two batteries. The combination of a Mayan ruin, a digital camera, and me is inevitably going to result in photographic overkill.

Palenque is impressive — even if they won’t let me climb the Temple of the Inscriptions. A grand palace capped by a tower. Stelae and carvings set deep in the jungle. A temple once occupied by a Spanish count. A steep climb to an imposing view.

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A Bus Schedule Update

Between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Palenque, México
November 2016

I’ve got a bone to pick with Lonely Planet about the bus information in its Mexico guide. Most of the 15 five-hour bus trips it lists as traveling from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque actually take closer to eight hours. The route goes via Tuxtla Gutierrez and Villahermosa. Oddly, the bus I took never stopped in Villahermosa.

It was a grueling ride on a road strewn with potholes. At one point in a suburb of Villahermosa, the bus went several blocks out of its way to avoid a broad sinkhole that stretched across the main highway.

On the upside, I finally did see Rocky Balboa — Sylvester Stallone is a much better actor when dubbed in Spanish — and a Hungarian movie, Fehér Isten (White God), about a girl and her missing dog, which turns out terribly bloody.