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.