Yes yes, palenque is technically still Chiapas but since we’re in a new place (with a completely different vibe and climate), it deserved its own blog post.
To get to Palenque from San Cristóbal, we took a tour which would also visit some sites on the way. San Cristóbal is full to the brim with tour operators, so getting a tour was really easy – the shops were even open on Xmas day! We paid 450 pesos (the going rate) for ours, travelling with explorando Chiapas. We were picked up at our hostel at 5am (ew) and set off on our way.
We stopped for breakfast at about 8am at this buffet where all of the tour operators stop (clearly they have a deal going), although Rom and I, listas as ever had a packed breakfast ready instead.
We carried on a while more, but at about 9am, it all went a bit topsy turvy. There was a protest blocking the narrow mountain road, they were using two coaches as barricades. They were protesting the local election results, but it was a peaceful protest. There was even a woman selling snacks (any opportunity). After about 45 minutes of wandering around and discussing with the other tours, our group decided to go it solo and walk across the barricade, then make our own way to our first destination, Agua azul, where hopefully our guide would meet us again, with our luggage. It was a risk, but hey ho, when in Mexico.
We all ended up getting in the back of a pick up truck, in total there were 18 of us in the truck (makes the metro seem comfy in comparison eh). Rom built a very close relationship with Ana, a Mexican girl who sat on her lap for the 45 minute journey.
Luckily we made it alive to Agua Azul, although we had to fork out loads of cash for the pick up truck driver (like 50 pesos each), and then also pay the 40 peso entrance charge as our guide had our tickets. Thankfully it was all worth it though, and Agua azul was breathtaking! The water was so blue, and you could swim in the pool at the bottom. The waterfalls go on for ages, we didn’t have time to see them all in the two hours we were there.
However there were so many tourists the whole thing was so busy and hectic – the side of the waterfall was just a huge tat market.
We also want to thank Dorothy and Bill, a lovely American couple who looked after all our stuff while we swam!
We went to the meeting point at 1, and Yaaaay our driver had made it! So we carried on for 2 more hours until we reached the palenque ruins (unfortunately we didn’t have time for misol ha).
The ruins were really impressive and we learnt a lot about mayan culture. However we didn’t have much time there, and the tour was really slow (waiting for many elderly couples to climb the pyramids did not seem like good use of our time), so we split off from the tour for a bit to explore for ourselves.
It was like a film, both in terms of what we saw and what we heard. Die you know the Mayas put mercury sulphide in the tombs of their kings and Queens, so if anyone entered they would also die? How crazy is that! Luckily the archaeologists found this out quite quickly, so many tombs here were successfully excavated, revealing hundreds of jade ornaments, from jewelry to masks. The whole experience of visiting ancient civil atonal was really thought provoking. The Mayas were so powerful and intelligent and advanced, yet they partly caused their own downfall (they had to abandon the city of palenque after they deforested all the trees and they had no resources left, sound familiar?). The same could very easily happen to us, the in 1000 years some space tourists will be oogling our derelict cities. (woah that got deep oops)
Just as we were leaving palenque ruins at 5pm, it started to chuck it down: a real tropical rainstorm. We are now in tropical territory, it’s hot and humid all the time. Very different to San Cristóbal!
Finally our driver dropped us off at our hostel in palenque town, and we settled in. This hostel is definitely not cosy, they even have a sign saying they only offer bed and shower, no social facilities. Lovely.
We did fortunately meet a German girl, Karlotte, who recommended the Roberto Barrio waterfall nearby, although she hadn’t actually been herself. The next day we decided to give it a go, and looked for a collective in the town centre. In the end, a man from the village offered to take us in his car (with a windscreen so smashed I’m not sure how he could see out), for 50 pesos each each way. He was called Manuel and was really friendly. When we got there (about an hours drive with amazing views) he walked us around all the waterfalls and told us where was and wasn’t safe to swim. What a legend. We agreed he’d pick us up at 2pm, giving us 4 hours in our own personal paradise.
I’m so glad we got there early, as the temperature was perfect and we had pools to ourselves. We spent the day swimming and reading, it was so chilled! As we were leaving a load of tourists started arriving, so definitely go early! I think these waterfalls were so much better than Agua azul, such a secret treasure!
In the afternoon we chilled at the hostel and then got cocktails at a local bar in the centre of palenque. The town itself is very different to the others we’ve seen so far. It’s not colonial, and is built to house the tourists and the guides for the nearby sites, so there’s not a lot going on, and it’s not very photogenic. But it is authentic, and cheap!
On our last day in palenque, as there wasn’t much else to do, we decided to go visit the ruins one more time as we didn’t get to see everything the first time. We went with a Mexican guy called Gil who also wanted to go. We took a collective from the centre (there are loads around shouting “ruinasruinas”) and paid 20 pesos each. En trace to the ruins was 31 pesos for the park and 65 pesos for the ruins. We spent a few hours wandering around, I read from my guide book #guidakristin and finally we also explored the selva and some waterfalls, the Northern area is like something out of Lara croft!
My day was made when I saw monkeys and toucans, dreams come true! I finally saw a wild toucan! 😊
We got back to palenque at about 2pm, and realised we needed to kill another 8 hours before our night bus. In palenque. Oh dear. We went to a bar for beers and guacamole, then carried on to a coffee shop in the main plaza which unfortunately had run out of coffee, but it did have friends wifi #winsomelosesome. We spent the rest of the evening reading our books, then wandered around the market before heading to our bus.