Trip Start Jan 07, 2008
36Trip End Ongoing
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The drive from San Cristobal to Palenque might just have been my favorite leg of bus travel thus far. The mountains of Chiapas this time of the year are truly breathtaking. They are lush and green and trip really gives you an sense of what living in the villages of this area is like. I was amazed as I saw women wearing the local dress of Chiapas with babies strapped onto their backs, AND farming. We ascended and descended through amazing hairpin turns for a solid 5 hours up and down and around every mountain between the two cities. At the higher altitudes especially, the pine like trees played host to an amazing array of bromeliads that blew my mind
Keep in mind folks, that the jungle is a bit out of my comfort zone. I love greenery and humidity and all that good stuff, but I am terrified of snakes and tropical disease bearing mosquitoes. Almost enough so that I didnīt want to even consider the jungle because I couldnīt imagine being relaxed enough in this environment to enjoy it. How wrong I was.
When I arrived the first night I stayed in Palenque town and then the next morning took a collectivo to a little village located about halfway between the ruins and town called "Panchan" (Mayan for heaven on earth). It was described in my guidebook as having a bit of a Robinson Crusoe setting and I thought, what the heck, if I am going to do the jungle, I am going to do the jungle -- jump right in. I stayed at an AWESOME place called Margarita and Edīs that was sort of like the Four Seasons of cabaņa living....Okay a bit of an exageration, but really clean, really comfy, excellent screens and really hot water
The description of Panchan in my book was right on the money. This little area was founded in the late 70īs/early 80īs by a man named Moisčs Morales who just celebrated his 83 birthday last week. Meeting Don Moisčs and spending time with him for sure will end up being one of those defining moments in my life. He tells me that there are about 200 people living in Panchan, and probably about 50-60 of them are working in the village, and the rest are family members who live with those workers. There are a fistfull of restaurants and a handful of places to stay and thatīs about it. It is a tiny little blip on the radar but one of the few places where you can actually get a genuine jungle living experience.
My first day I visited the ruins of Palenque and was quite impressed. The park only encompasses the larger and more significant temples and can be seen in just a few hours. There is a walk from the main area through the jungle to the exit and museum that brings you past waterfalls and beautiful fauna and I enjoyed every single bit of it. The amazing thing is that the ruins of Palenque have almost 2000 building that are still buried deep in the jungle and exploration of all these sights can be quite amazing. I did go out on my last day with a local guide named Paco who is a specialist in medicinal plants, but knows all his birds, animals and fauna as well. It was quite a hike. He took me to some outerlying areas where I saw the aquaduct that the Mayanīs built to serve the larger temples (the water was so amazingly clear and clean) as well as a sight of another temple buried deep in the bush
Another day I took a bus trip to three different waterfalls that were exceptional as well. I wonīt bore you with all the details but Misol-Ha was the best and I have included a photo of it herein. I swam across the base of this falls and can tell you it was the best fresh water swimming I have done in my life. The way the walkways are set up for this place allows you to walk behind the falls for viewing towards the pool below it. Totally cool. I loved it. I could have skipped the other two locations and stayed there for the day. Outstanding.
Other notables during my trip....birds, birds and more birds. AWESOME viewing. I got to see two different types of toucans, parrots, woodpeckers, more hummingbirds than imaginable.....holy crap too many to name. I also got to see up close some howler monkeys which communicate in a very eerie way. They sound like something out of a Steven Speilberg movie, no lie. And lizards....some really cool ones that stand up on their back feet and run really fast. Also iguanas climbing in trees and these cool little ants that were very destructive but fun to watch as they carried bits and pieces of green leaves in a row through different parts of Panchan.
This entire part of my adventure was truly brought over the top by the time I spent with Don Moisčs. Someone had pointed him out to me after our return from the trip to the falls and told me I should talk with him if I got a chance, that he was an incredibly interesting guy and he had had an amazing life. The next day at breakfast I saw him with a few people at a table and asked the waitress about him
After introductions I said to him, "I really appreciate you giving me your time this morning". He said to me, "I am not giving you my time, I am investing my time." I knew from that point forward I was in for a treat. I ended up extending my stay there for a few more days to spend some quality hours with him, and I can say that I will be digesting the information he gave me for months to come. I cannot possibly cover all that transpired with us over the next two days, but I can tell you that I am going to write an entirely separate story about it and try to get it published somewhere. When it is finished, if you want to receive a copy of it, let me know and I will send it along. I will tell you that one of my favorite quotes he made during our discussions was "donīt look for the moment that doesnīt exist....provoke it." Ah....words to live by.
Lots of photos of me this week. Finally had some folks around to shoot me doing daring things like sitting on Tarzan like vines and standing next to huge jungle trees.
Yucatan Peninsula next.....Stay tuned.