The Mexico adventures continue…
After a few days of hanging out in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula, I headed out towards the Mexican state of Chiapas for a few days of fun in the jungle!
And I’m talking jungle, like wet, lush, tropical, green, buggy, prone-to-flooding jungle.
The state of Chiapas is located in the very south of Mexico, right by Guatemala. It’s well known for its political rebellions led by the Zapatistas, and for its strong indigenous population and identity.
But I didn’t go there to get politically involved, and sadly, I didn’t have time on this trip to visit the villages where the indigenous culture is most prevalent to observe (such as San Cristobal de las Casas and its surroundings).
I went to see the Mayan ruins of Palenque.
That moment when you go somewhere kinda far away simply because you’ve heard so many great things about it… uh yeah, so that happened. I don’t even like ruins that much! But it didn’t disappoint! Not only did I see Palenque, but I got to “experience” the Chiapas jungle. Win-win!
By “experience” the jungle, I mean:
1. Eat, drink, and be merry with new friends at Don Mucho’s
The restaurant to be in while hanging out in the backpacker-friendly El Panchan settlement located a few miles from the ruins.
2. Get trapped by a flood.
True story. On my first day, I awoke to a downpour, which turned all the paths in the vicinity into small creeks. Donning my quick-dry clothes and my Keen sandals, I braved the elements and made my way to Don Mucho’s for breakfast. I was soaked when I arrived, and the creek was still rising fast.
The road-side entrance to Don Mucho’s was not only flooded, but the swollen creek’s current had also taken a car with it and it was nearly submerged when I arrived. I felt bad for the owner of that car!
I had a few anxious moments when the water levels were at their highest, but more than anything, it was an entertaining c’est la vie moment once I got past my initial disappointment of my plans getting rained out.
Nope, not gonna wander around the ruins in a downpour. No thank you.
I settled in for a few hours, ate a few meals, and chatted with fellow travelers while waiting for the creek water to recede enough so that I could walk back to my room.
3. Listen to the sound of the raindrops falling on leaves outside my open window
It was so nice to relax in the comfort of my own room after 7 nights of shared dorm rooms. I’m telling ya, after all the go go going on the trip up to that point, it was pure bliss to lay on my bed with a good book and just chill. The rain was indeed a blessing in disguise.
4. Take a day tour to the two well-known waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul.
Despite getting car sick on the long drive back through the winding roads of the Chiapas foothills (and Mexico’s love affair with speed bumps certainly didn’t help!), it was a worthwhile trip. Again, one of those times where you see pictures of a place and just have to see it for yourself.
It was a cool day, weather-wise, so my pre-conceived notion of swimming in a refreshing waterfall in the middle of the lush jungle (like you see in those Hawaii advertisements) didn’t exactly materialize, but I don’t feel like I missed out either.
I’m not much of a ruins person. Learning about ancient history just doesn’t excite me in the same way than say, exploring a new park or finding wildflowers, does. Call me uncultured, but I’ll take nature geek anytime.
In any case, my morning of wandering around the Palenque ruins was indeed awesome.
Not that I paid ANY attention to the history. I’m a quick skimmer of those informational boards that you see around, detailing the history and the significance of what you’re seeing. Me, I prefer to physically explore. I climbed up and around the crumbling ruins and had a pretty damn good time looking for unique viewpoints over the jungle.
After wandering through the main complex of ruins, it was time to head back to the main entrance to catch the bus. Rather than backtrack through, we (my new Danish friends and I) headed down a very jungle-y path that led us to some waterfalls and a swing bridge first before spitting us back out on the main road. Just another jungle experience to add to the wonderful memories of Palenque.