Agua Azul, Misol Ha, & Palenque
On Saturday, June 19, we left San Cristobal at 6am to travel the 150 odd miles to Palenque, visiting two waterfalls along the way. It was a long, but beautiful day as we returned back to San Cristibal 10:15pm. The road would be a motorcyclist's dream, if not for the many stray animals (horses, cows, and dogs), the crazy driving of Mexicans, hundreds of speedbumps (topes), and potholes. We left San Cristobal with the temperature in the low 50'sF and soon hit the 90F+ range with what felt like 100% humidity. It was hot!!!
All three places have a rich history, so follow the links provided if you want to know more, especially the link for Palenque.
The first thing that struck me was the heat, then you notice the green of the forest, and finally you hear the water cascading over numerous waterfalls. Venders along the banks sell crafts, fresh fruit (the girls loved the watermelon/"sandia") and food, while visitors cooled themselves in the clear, blue water. Jami and Michaela named this site as the best site of the day.
It looks as if it was a prehistoric cave that caved in and now you have water falling into the hole that was left. The girls went behind the falls and loved it. I watched as butterflies flew through the mist as if they want to cool themselves or have a drink. I preferred the shade and enjoyed taking these wide-angle images.
I enjoyed Palenque, a UNESCO World Heritage Site immensely, despite being drenched in sweat in the early afternoon heat. Within seconds of arriving, we were identified as "Bafana Bafana" and often some of the local vendors and guides would shout "Bafana" when they saw us. Who knew that the South African accent is so easily recognized. The Soccer World Cup sure does build bridges between people.
Palenque is rich in history so do follow the link above. Built by hand in the 7th century and abandoned a few hundred years later, the rain forest claimed the site until it was discovered by chance in 1567. We walked the ruins, part of the forest with age-old trees, some now reclaiming the stones that once were an important city-state of Palenque, and we were even surprized by a family of black howler monkeys ("monos"). The Maya people had a wealth of knowledge: astrological, mathemetics, and even medicine, and they kept good historical records.
Even though getting to Palenque from San Cristobal is not an easy ride, I highly recommend this site as a place to visit.
The ride back was horryfying as darkness set in and it started to rain. How our driver, Juan, got us back safe is surely a combination of an act of God and him doing the same route four days a week. Along the way, however, we had great conversations with the girls when they noticed that the vast majority of one room homes (mostly wooden shacks) have only one light bulb burning. The then continued counting the number of light bulbs they have in their rooms, each outnumbering the homes along the way many times.
Next to this temple, the Mayans funneled a stream underground with an acuaduct. You can see how they lined the banks of the Otulum River with stones.
Here they played an ancient mesoamerican ball-game, bouncing a rubber ball off the stone walls with their hips. It was not uncommon for the winners to be sacrificed.
The rain forest was beautiful, filled with heat and sound.
The girls loved the freedom to climb on and over the ruins.