Friday, May 13, 2011

Answer my phone? Girl, I live in the jungle! Palenque Part 1

So now for another blog written during our jungle-stay in Palenque, Mexico.  Our new friend Margarita (who rented us our room for our stay here) put it best.  She said a girl arrived to her front door and said "Margarita! Why have you not been answering your phone?!  I must have called fifteen times!" to which Margarita flippantly replied, "Answer my phone, girl?  I live in the jungle!"
The walkway to our jungle abode.

So, as to how we got here...we rode the motorcycle from Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos (one of the hardest cities to pronounce so far) and as soon as we rolled up, we came upon a familiar site.  Our hotel, which was very clean, simple and had a great breakfast buffet, overlooked huge sand dunes and...a Sears.  And not only was there a Sears, but there was an Applebees too! And a mall.   Looking out the window, we could have easily been back in the USA.  We relaxed and ate pizza in the food court in the mall next door, when we realized a difference between the US and here...people were looking at us like we were aliens.  People do not hold back with the is kinda funny at first, but can get old pretty fast.  There are definitely exceptions though.  The men who give Ty the thumbs up, fist pump or macho man sign never get old.  Neither do the kids who smile and wave like crazy when we drive by.  That kind of attention we never get tired of.  The blank stares though...

The next morning we planned to ride to Villahermosa, but were making good time, so we continued all the way on to Palenque (which we never would have even known about if it wouldn't have been for our friend Ryan...Thanks for the great tip, amigo! :) )

As we pulled through the town of Palenque, it looked pretty similar to many of the other small towns we have gone through.  There were a few hotels along the road and we thought about stopping, but instead decided to continue on down the road to see if there was anything closer to the Mayan Ruins located just outside of the city.  As we drove farther into the jungle hillside, we ran into the entrance gate to the ruins which happened to be right next to the "town" of El Panchan, the traveler's hub of Palenque.  We pulled in and found Margarita and Ed's cabanas, an amazing little gem of a hostel in the middle of the jungle about 50 meters from the entrance to the ruins.  It would be easy to miss, as the entire "town" is accessed by a one lane dirt road which, at first glance, appears to go nowhere. About a hundred yards up, though, it opens up into a unique permanent encampment, for lack of a better term. The sounds we heard as we got off the bike were almost deafening...every kind of bird, bug, and even monkeys (although we never spotted one...) surrounded us in the trees above, and certifiable jungle hippies were all around.  Our first shot, "Jungle Palace" looked like quite a scene, but definitely not ours.  Birds, bats bongos and beetles blaring, we settled into one of Margarita's bright and cheerful rooms in her home - as far from the bongos as possible- and followed her upstairs for a chat.  She told us she had owned this place for 14 years, and though her husband had passed away, she was happy meeting the constant stream of visitors to her jungle abode.  She invited us to have dinner with her at Don Muchos, a restaurant serving delicious local fare situated right next door to our hostel (where Margarita eats every night!)  Over a candlelit dinner and real Mexican margaritas, we enjoyed her stories while a band played jungle-themed music with a Mexicana twist late into the night.

The next morning, Ty mentioned a couple of waterfalls he saw on the map that were nearby.  We decided to head out on the bike and check them out.  They were a little farther away than we had originally thought, but were well worth the effort (not to mention the drive was fantastic!).  We arrived to the closer of the two, Misol-ha, to find it basically empty.  It was a very dramatic 35 meter drop, although it looked even higher than that, and a walkway had been built so that visitors could walk all the way around and underneath it.  We came up to a cave after reaching the end where a man was renting flashlights for 10 Pesos in order to see the hidden waterfall inside.  We went in, and it was pretty, although it was pretty dark and difficult to see.  There were bats hanging on the ceiling and they looked bothered by our flashlights, so we headed back outside for a swim.  The water was quite cold, but you got used to it almost immediately.  Other visitors had begun to arrive, and we struck up a conversation with two German guys that were taking professional photos of the waterfall.  They were on motorcyles too, and were headed up to Alaska.  They had recently gone though Central/South America on their bikes, so they offered up some very helpful travel tips, especially concerning crossing the Darien Gap.  They were also headed for Agua Azul Falls, our next waterfall stop, and asked us if we wanted to ride along with them. 
The view from inside the cave.
Misol-ha Falls
 The ride to Agua Azul was absolutely beautiful; winding roads through the jungle with rivers and trees and wildlife all around.  There were also giant fires that the farmers had set in their fields, which gave the sky an eerie glow.  But the drive had nothing on what we were about to see.  Agua Azul was an absolute paradise.  The falls start way up in the hills and cascade down into soft limestone terraced pools until the water reaches the river below.  The water is bright blue and is in stark contrast to the vibrant green jungle surrounding the falls.  Right as we entered, some women were selling fresh cut mango slices, which we couldn't pass up...and there are no words for how good they were!  Afterwards, we walked up to the top, which was quite a ways up, and stopped to swim for awhile in one of the natural pools.  I really do think we could have stayed forever, but it was late afternoon and we had a long drive back to Palenque.  We made a quick stop at the grocery store for $1 ham and cheese tortas (sandwiches) and made our way back into the jungle.

The best mango either of us has EVER had!

These pictures don't even do this place beautiful!
Mayan Ruins in Palenque blog to follow soon...


  1. absolutely breathtaking. One request, smaller paragraphs :) I LOVE YOU GUYS <3

  2. I think I stayed at that place in Palenque when I was ten! Did the path go over a natural pool to cabins with lime trees behind them? When I was there, they had a "pet" monkey. :-)

  3. absolutely breathtaking. One request, smaller paragraphs :) I LOVE YOU GUYS <3