Monday, November 27, 2006


I’m a miserable failure at keeping travel journals. I always start with the best intentions but they dissolve into nothingness and blank pages by day three.

On recent trips I’ve tried to redeem myself by pulling together a list of bullet points at the tail end of the trip when the memories are still fresh. They're rough impressions and incomplete thoughts but, headed by the title “Don’t Forget”, they ensure that I don't. And they're remarkably effective at bringing it all back.

Getting ready for an upcoming trip I found one of those journals, and this point on the list stood out – it refers to Pacal’s Tomb in Palenque. At the time we saw it, it had been closed to tourists for at least ten years. I believe it’s been opened again, so the night I describe below couldn't happen now -- we'd wait in the queue in the daylight, and traipse down the staircase in one big line, just like everyone else.

But this night we were with one of Palenque's resident archaeologists, and the whole thing was magical.

Don't Forget: Hiding out in the Temple 19 waiting for the park to close; sneaking through Palenque at dusk; everyone else gone and the park all ours; the mist, the toucans; climbing the backside of Pacal’s tomb and skirting the apron; climbing through the net and descending, as guests of Alfonso Morales, into the interior; the soft ocher of the interior walls, velvet to the touch, a single bat flying up from below; the turn in the staircase, and then the tomb. The triangular door pulled back; the sarcophagus lid within.


heather lorin said...

The pictures really make this story. I'm going to have to try the bullet list next time. I usually run out of journaling steam after day 1.

anniemcq said...

Gorgeous pictures. I know that feeling - that desire to write it down and giving up to experience the ride. I do the bullet list too. I recently ran across a list of everything we ate at a romantic, pre-kid trip to a San Francisco tapas bar. It brought it all back, and was such a nice little middle of my day vacation. Beautiful tale well told, friend.

Lasse said...

I LOVE Mexico -especially Chiapas - it's so great.

Lasse said...

By the way did you know it was a Dane who excavated Palenque? Frans Blom was his name - a REAL Indiana Jones.

suttonhoo said...

hey lasse -- I do know about Blom -- but I didn't know he was a Dane -- very cool. Nick and Kathryn, who I've written about here before, knew him very well -- Nick studied with him as an undergrad -- and my husband and I were married in their home, La Casa Na Bolom, in San Cristobol de las Casas (well, kinda married there -- it's a long story ;)

Have you seen Trudy's photography of the Lacandon Maya? It's extraordinary and very rare -- she was one of the few -- maybe the only one -- who was able to win their trust.

Lasse said...

Oh yes! I - just like you I too have been at Na bolom in (hold on) 1994. As far as I remember she died in 1992 -what a shame! Well at 92 years old how can complain? Now I will read your post on Na Bolom.

.....oh and That's it I'm putting you on my links list!

Lasse said...

A bunch of mixed comments:
Sorry to read about Kathryn. She sounds like an impressive lady.
Congrats on your wedding on the other hand.
I would have liked to meet the Bloms in person unfortunately I was too young.

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