Enchiladas verdes - Mexico 2005

Travel time: October / November 2005  |  by Daniela Dohmen

Stairway to heaven 20.10.05

Palenque, Chiapas

Remember my talking about the "greenest green" when we drove up to San Cristobal de las Casas a few days ago? Well, I lied. This, here in Palenque, is the most greenest green I`ve ever seen. *This* is the tropical rain forest.

However, I`m getting ahead of myself. We left San Cristobal de las Casas yesterday (Thursday) to drive to Palenque in the north. It was cloudy and actually rather chilly when we packed our car after breakfast. As I have mentioned before, driving in Mexico is a challenge because there are hardly any informative road signs. You would imagine that there is a sign to one of the most important archaeological sites in the country, but that would be too easy for the tourists, right? It was our luck that there was a military post at one of the crossroads and I asked them which way would lead to Palenque (the guys all looked yummy). Needless to say, a few miles *after* that crossroads there was a sign to Palenque. What a funny country!

After driving for maybe two hours we noticed a change in vegetation. The pine trees went and the banana trees came. At one point we were stopped by a "friendly" demonstration. Indigenous people had erected a road block in the shape of a rope going from one side of the road to the other. Police was there, too, to supervise everything. It turned out that they asked for a contribution of five pesos for collecting the waste by the road. For such a good task we happily gave the money and were then allowed to continue our journey. A bit later another rope blocked our way. This time a woman sold bananas and, hungry and all, we bought a few for very little money. Pulling down the window we noticed for the first time that the temperatures outside had considerably increased. As had the humidity.

Silke and I switched places after a while because the serpentines made me queasy again. We arrived in Palenque around four o`clock in the afternoon and... what an unpleasant town. I had read in my tour guide that the only reason it was famous was because of the pyramids nearby. Everything was above price and ... unpleasant. It was surely no comparison to the beautiful cities of Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. Of course, we were here because of the pyramids and nothing else.

We stopped at one of the hotels and when we got out of the car for the first time since San Cristobal, the humidity hit us like a sledge hammer! We had finally reached the tropics. The air is palpable, so humid, if you look closely enough you could actually see the moisture. We checked out four hotels (one very expensive one just for fun to see the rooms) and ended up in the Maya Tulipanes (http://www.mayatulipanes.com.mx/) . Very nice, very good staff (so far). The food though is different here. Still good but not as spicy as we are used to it.

Back to the beginning of this email: We book a guided tour into the tropical rain forest and this morning our night ended at 5 a.m. A van from the local travel agency collected us at 6 a.m. and took us into the darkness of the morning, which had not even dawned. We collected some more people from various hotels and after a breakfast "somewhere" we arrived around 10 a.m. at our first destination, the national park of Yaxchilán.

The park is only accessible by boat. Imagine a Venice gondola with an engine. That was our boat and I was very uncomfortable when we started to race across the river (much to the amusement of the other four passengers). The river, I keep forgetting its name, is the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala and I have to say that I have never seen such an impressive river. At least twice as wide as the Mississippi and full of water. Surrounded by tropical rain forest it looks just like in the movies and you expect Indiana Jones jumping into your boat any minute.

The special thing about Yaxchilán is that it is not only a national park but also host to pyramids, different than anything we had seen before. The structure itself was similar but there is nothing like the site of a pyramid covered with grass and moss. And the sounds! We heard howler monkeys nearby and even saw one real spider monkey climbing from tree to tree. At one point we even noticed a toucan high up in the air as well as parrots. Welcome to the jungle!

We stayed there for a few hours and then went to Bonampak, another pyramid site, different than the others but not less impressive. Here we would still see very colourful wall paintings - and hundreds of butterflies. A very blue one followed us around a bit but it wouldn`t sit still enough to take a photo.

Despite the fact that there were mosquitoes and other stuff buzzing around our heads, I did not get one bite thanks to my anti-mosquito lotion. That stuff really worked. (I`ll probably get hit now sitting here in the hotel).

The day ended way too soon, as so many days had ended too soon already. Tired, filthy but smiling we got home in style...

© Daniela Dohmen, 2007
You are here : Overview The Americas Mexico Stairway to heaven 20.10.05
The trip
2 girls, 1 car, 4 weeks and 5000 kilometres
Start of journey: Oct 09, 2005
Duration: 4 weeks
End of journey: Nov 05, 2005
Travelled countries: Mexico
The Author
Daniela Dohmen is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 14 years.