Saturday, August 16, 2008

Autobuses de Turismo

One of the most amazing things that I observed at the site are the number and variety of large tour buses, the majority of which are road worthy, air conditioned and comfortable. They usually seat about 40 to 50 people.
Here is another one that is trying to turn around in the tight parking area that is also used by the vendors, the guides, the tourists as well as other buses.
I love the ones that have the bright colors and that look like they have bug antlers. Those appendages are actually their rear view mirrors. These two buses are trying to squeeze by on the narrow two lane road that leads into the park.
Here I am sitting by the roadway counting each kind of vehicle that comes into the park (bus, car, taxi, etc.). I was a transportation planner in a previous life, so I felt very comfortable taking one hour traffic counts by mode. I did this on various days at various times throughout one week and estimated that there are an average of 4 large tour buses that come into the park every hour - during the SUMMER SEASON. If you multiply that out, it comes to an average of 50 buses each day during vacation season. Un-averaged counts would reflect that, there are more of these buses on Sundays, since Mexican nationals do not pay a park fee on Sundays and there are less buses on some of the weekdays.
There has been a increasing trend in the use of these large coaches over the years that local people have noticed. Their use impacts the local economy, sometimes in a negative way. The tour operator, knowing that he/she has promised the group that they would visit several cities and several sites in X number of days, funnels the people into a local hotel for one day and then the next, takes them up to Lakamha' (Palenque) for a few hours, puts them back into the bus and then they are on their way to the next location, without even seeing or spending their money in the little pueblo of Palenque.I placed the "tourist circuit" on a map to help you see how the people are taken by bus to the park entrance at the top of the hill and then they are lead (or self lead) through the circuit which is a distance of 1.2 miles or 1.9 kilometers downhill. They are given a set amount of time to make it through the site - to be back at the bus that is waiting either at the museum parking lot or the informal lot where it is being washed. Then they put them back into the bus and they are off again to the next destination.
And yes, some make it through the site faster than others and are happy to be able to relax after such a stimulating and very sweaty walk.

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