This is the story of my 6 months of studying in Arizona in 2010 and subsequent travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Daytrippin' in the jungle - Day 24, 5/2

Way to early Saturday morning (5/2-11) we arrived with the night bus to Palenque an hour earlier than planned. Had slept surprisingly well during the 8 hours in the bus! The plan was to find a collectivo to take us to the Palenque ruins, but already in the parking lot of the bus we were contacted by various tourist agencies trying to sell their tours. Having just woken up we were unable to consider at that point, but we brought their brochures into the terminal where we freshened up. Then took another look at the offers and realised it would be a good opportunity: Instead of just seeing the ruins and the go back to the bus station to catch a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, some 5 hours away. With one of those agencies we could get a day-tour including the ruins and the two waterfalls Misol-Ha and Agua Azul plus transfer to San Cristobal for 350 pesos (bus to San Cristobal alone would have been almost 200 pesos). We “challenged” the two main agencies to get a lower price, but ended up with just 325 pr. person. The deal made at 6.30 AM gave us 1,5 hours before the van would leave to the ruins at 8.

We went around in Palenque to find a bit of breakfast and enjoy the city waking up. The town is surrounded by mountains, and their tops were covered with clouds – beautiful! Then back to the agency and into a minivan, leaving our luggage behind to be reunited with us after the visit to the ruins. No doubt the tour operators have made this deal with many others, but it still feels weird just leaving all your belongings with someone you don’t know… The weird little van-driver gave us a lot of instructions in Spanish, which even the Spanish speaking guests found a little hard to understand. Anyway, we got off the bus by the entrance to the ruins with instructions to meet the van again by the cafeteria 3.5 hours later.

The Palenque ruins are in the jungle, in contrast to the ruins we visited previously in Teotihuacan, Tulum, and Chichen Itza, so the environment is very different and much greener! Its an impressive city with well preserved buildings, and we took our time strolling through all of them. However, after the long bus ride and with Sofie’s knee hurting, we didn’t feel like climbing and exploring them all inside. Also it was raining a tiny bit – only suitable for the rainforest I guess! :) We got a lot of great pictures of the ruins and the surroundings, and also visited a museum with excavated items and stories from the area.

We met with the other passengers at the “Cafeteria”, which turned out to be not much but a couple of coffee vending machines and tables. The bus was 20 minutes late, and as it arrived, we realised that we were too many people plus Sofie's and my backpacks to fit in the car. Two passengers were moved to a van from another company, while our backpacks where tied to the roof top luggage rack... Sofie and I were sitting with two others on the back seat, I was next to the window... Not the best place in the car, as the road was through the mountains, and the driver rather aggressive, with the result that I hit my head against the window time and time again. 

After like an hour of bumpy ride we arrive at destination number 2: The waterfall Misol-Ha. Here we spent an hour admiring the impressive falls, and walking in a path behind it. The back in the van on the same horrible road, made even more horrible by the driver. Sofie and I were both taking anti-motion sickness medication, but it just wasn't enough, so arriving at destination 3, Agua Azul, neither of us were feeling particularly well. At least we had 3 hours to get better and explore the area, before heading off again. 

Agua Azul
Agua Azul, or "Blue water" is names so due to its color (!), with a long series of falls over red rocks. Of course, as everywhere else there is tourists, also a lot of vendors in little shops were present to attract our attention. And they did well, with smells and colors we hadn't seen before on our trip! Getting closer to the poorer state Chiapas might have had an effect as well, with lower prices and new items in the shops. Once the worst nausea had disappeared, we tasted empanadas from one of the little stands; pockets of fried dough with chicken, cheese, beans, or other little things inside. Uhh, they were too good... Also on the way up along the falls we had mango and grilled corn cobs, and also got to buy some of the nice souvenirs. That way we managed to spend the time around the falls, eating, shopping, and looking at the pretty waters!

Back at the van we learned that we would have to change to another bus after 10 km, as the van was going back to Palenque, while we were going to San Cristobal. Actually pretty happy that we didn't have to go with the same driver all the way to Palenque. However, the road to San Cristobal turned out to be not-so-nice, as it was also through the mountains. The temperature was rapidly dropping, and in the end we were freezing cold, though still trying to get some sleep during the 5 hour trip. FINALLY we arrived in San Cristobal at 10 PM, 1.5 hours later than the tour promised, so we jumped into a taxi and went to the hostel we had booked online. They had a nice room waiting for us, and after a hot shower each, we went straight to bed!

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