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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Currency Conversion Site

We had a leisurely morning leaving Campeche, the pirate, buccaneer and slave trade center of the Yucatan in centuries past. And since we knew our bus travel would be an all day trip, Billy went out to purchase delicious lechon trancas, a local favorite of pulled pork sandwiches made with a baguette.

Jorge, the manager of our hotel and a real gem, called a taxi for us and for 30 Pesos we were taken to the ADO bus station. Even though we arrived at the station around 10 a.m., many seats were sold out on buses leaving Campeche.

If purchasing your tickets on a weekend, we would recommend to get them ahead of time. 266 Pesos each bought us the last two seats on our bus to Palenque.

 

Waterfalls at Palenque

We arrived in the town of Palenque about 5 p.m. and flagged a taxi which took us into el Centro for 20 Pesos.

As luck would have it, our first choice hotel was clean, painted bright tropical colors, had wifi in the room, a tiny balcony and a view to the quiet street below.

We found out that combis go to the ruins every 15 minutes and begin leaving at 6.a.m. We were all set and ready to leave the following morning.

 

Drizzly fog cast the ruins in mystery

We rose before sunrise to catch an early combi to the ruins because we read that it was "magic" watching the sun dissolve the mist surrounding the Maya structures and having them "pop" clearly into view.

This area of Mexico gets significant amounts of rain, so when when morning clouds were low and the mist was thick, we thought nothing of it. Locals directed us to the combi stop and for 10 Pesos each we took the 10 minute ride to the old Maya city. By the time we arrived, the heavy mist became a light rain, and vendors at the entrance to the ruins were selling thin plastic ponchos for 40 Pesos each.

 

Palenque still holds mystical charm

It was a real toss-up whether or not to purchase ponchos, as we kept thinking it was going to clear up any moment now... but the heavy mist changed to light rain and back again several times. Not enough for total cover but there were several tourists who brought umbrellas - a good idea!

 

Maya would paint their buildings deep red, dark blue and brilliant yellow. Can you imagine?

The admission office to the park does not open until 8 a.m. regardless of when you arrive. The 10 minute combi ride deposited us right outside the entrance where 20-30 people were waiting outside to obtain tickets. Inside, women are furiously stamping tickets ahead of time so that sales would be smoother when they opened up.

It didn't make sense to us why combi rides began at 6 a.m. to take tourists to the park and the advertising made a big deal about watching the sunrise over the ruins when anyone would just have to wait until 8 a.m. to enter. Private enterprise would have offered hot coffee and sweet rolls to people while they stamped their feet to get warm, or perhaps would have opened their gates earlier to begin with. But bureaucracy loves lines and there's no way to push it.   

There was no where to go and nothing to do other than to wait.

So wait we did.

 

Even through pea soup weather, the ruins were impressive

So much for the sunrise, but even in the heavy mist and rain, the ruins were pretty spectacular. 51 Pesos each bought us our entry fee, no discounts were allowed unless you were a local or could prove residency. Off to the ruins we went with no map in hand and none was available.

In Pre-classic times, a small tribe of Indians decided to make their home along the foothills of the Sierra de Palenque mountains. Even though this site dates back centuries, probably as early as 500 B.C., it did not receive much importance until about the mid-7th century A.D.

 

As with most Maya ruin sites, we are allowed to walk everywhere

There are several opinions as to why the great civilizations of the Maya disappeared. It could be a combination of factors including weather changes and increasing population. With water always at a premium and cyclical droughts being a climate challenge, it's possible large groups of Maya fled to other locations or disappeared into the jungle. Expansion of the Maya empire led to more warfare, which also led to more blood sacrifices and offering all types of their most valuable possessions to appease the gods or to gain favor with them.

 

Billy with pyramid in the background

When increasing population demanded forest to be cleared for more corn production, it led to less animals available to be hunted for food, a vital supplement to their corn diet.

Authoritarian structures of society were questioned when rain did not come, and when a balance of food became inaccessible. Since the Maya used their most valuable possessions in sacrifice to the gods, they eventually had less and less to trade. Blood sacrifices became out of control, doubts about the hierarchy increased, the amount of corruption of the system also rose and it all combined to collapse this great civilization.

 

Maya had cities lasting centuries

The peak of Maya glory was around 700 A.D. and their sophisticated city-states had massive populations with colorful pyramids, intricately carved temples and beautiful stone relief. Maya were famous for their complex calendar system, their proficiency in math and astronomy and had complicated governing system based upon their spiritual understanding of the cosmos.

The ruins were compact and much could be seen with little walking

As a tribal custom, the Maya practiced cranial deformation. They slanted the front of a young child's head by placing two flat boards around the soft bones of the skull and held them together with constricting bandages.

This resulted in a high forehead with a peak formation at the top of the head, all in a beautiful line with their aquiline noses; a look they cherished.

 

Restoration work to let you know what the old facades looked like

Bodies found in the tombs of Palenque showed that teeth were inlaid with jade, a semi-precious stone respected for its ability to help direct Maya through the confusing afterworld.

Today, we see modern day Maya with gold stars and other gold decorations placed in their front teeth as a sign of beauty, wealth and prestige.

 

Structures at Palenque were in remarkably good shape

The night before we arrived at the ruins, I heard the Maya myth of the talking cross. True or not, a cross appeared to the Maya and spoke to them, helping them win their battles against the Spanish. This is a Maya cross - not to be confused with the Catholic one - and is based on the form of the Maya Ceiba tree, considered to be the Tree of Life.

Apparently, the Spanish found this talking cross and took it from the Maya temples here at Palenque and put it into one of the Cathedrals in Mexico City.  

 

Maya calendar painted Maya Red on a piece of leather

On our way to the section of the Cruces, a Maya man and his wife were selling their Maya calendars hand painted on leather. Some of the leather pieces featured their myths and stories and they had amulets for sale as well.

Chok correctly guessed the month of my birth and then went to the calendar to point that month out to me. Those born in the UO (pronounced BOO-oh) period like to dance a lot and to exercise. I told Chok that I surely needed some exercise now, because I have been getting fat, and we both laughed about that.

I asked him in which month he was born and he told me June - under the sign that is slow but sure; dependable.

 

A Maya Calendar Wheel with Spanish translations

Billy was off taking photos, but when he joined me, he asked Chok about the "end of the world" in December, 2012. Chok clarified to us that the world will not end, it will change. There may be sickness or people might not get through the changes easily, but the world itself won't end.

"Don't worry," he said, "A new cycle will begin."

Billy joked with Chok saying we thought the world was for sure going to end, so we were spending all our money by December. Chok laughed with us, but advised us not to do that...

I then asked him about the talking cross. He did not bat an eye and said it was true -the Spanish stole it and took it to Mexico City. He then told us more Maya stories and legends. We gave him a tip for his time and went on to visit more of the ruins.

 

A more expansive view of Palenque

While Chok entertained us with folklore and facts, there were other Maya vendors with different approaches to making money.

One young Maya girl was a true vision of beauty.

With loooong black hair flowing over her shoulders and down to her waist, flirtatious eyes that twinkled and promised more, a low cut blouse which framed her ample bosom, an intricately made ankle length white skirt showing off a hand beaded anklet, this Princess-of-a-Maya was hard to miss. The  charismatic pull was palpable and it was even harder to get away once we began conversation. The young Maya woman sold quality items made of obsidian and onyx, along with bone inlaid with coral, turquoise or amber.

We were in the modern moment, but I felt I was having a glimpse into a regal past.

If I was bowled over by her charms, men had to have been putty in her presence.

 

Palenque keeps well maintained grounds

The park where the ruins are located also offered clean and well kept bathrooms. There are benches under trees to take a rest or have a snack, and trash cans were available throughout the park. Some signs said we were not to bring food and other signs say it would be fine. Our bags were not searched and we ate our snack without incident.

 

Beautiful, peaceful waterfalls at Palenque

After hiking the ruins, we continued on to the waterfalls which were lovely. One could easily listen to the water fall from above, hit the rocks below and to watch nature for extended time periods.

There were several tour groups at the park, so at points the walk to the waterfalls became crowded. Some of the tourists in the groups were pretty funny, pushing their way to get to the falls, taking a quick photo and immediately turning around and pushing their way on to the next location. This behavior seemed out of sync with where we were.

At the edge of the park there is a museum of Maya history, one of the better ones I have seen and worth your visit.

 

Here we are, sitting on centuries-old Maya walls

Drizzled on and bedraggled, we have soaked up the culture of the ancient Maya and have spoken with modern day descendants.

If you decide to visit the museum at the end of the walk through the ruins, bring your camera. Entrance to the museum is free if you show your Palenque park ticket. There was good information in the museum about this long-ago culture where the rulers claimed divine parentage in order to give them the right to rule.

With two classes of people, the nobility decreed and the common people were used as laborers for the needs of the aristocracy. Kept ignorant and not taught how to read or write, the common Maya only followed the rules laid down for them.

Claiming divine parentage has been used throughout history to control the masses and in some cultures is still used today.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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