CHIAPAS - THE PEARL OF MEXICO
CHIAPAS – THE PEARL OF MEXICO
We are in paradise, or at least close to it! Birds chirp everywhere in the lush green vegetation and we swim in one of the countless natural pools of this wonderful area in the southernmost state of Mexico with the sounding name Chiapas. Crystal-clear, turquoise water splashes in cascades over the sinter terraces which were formed over thousands of years. But unfortunately, paradise isn’t quite perfect here either…. If you don’t sit up to your neck in the cool water, it quickly gets hot and dull and, in the evening, we are attacked by all kinds of bloodsucking beasts. We are sure the devil himself released these stinging creatures into the world to spoil our paradise ?
CARRETERA FRONTERIZA – THE BORDER ROAD
Our journey takes us along the Guatemalan-Mexican border. We want to go to Palenque to visit the famous Mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle. In this remote area of Mexico and especially on the direct route from San Cristobal to Palenque there are often road blockades where road tolls are being blackmailed. The population here feels forgotten and abandoned by the government and tries to supplement their empty pockets and make themselves heard. Although we understand certain concerns, we don’t believe that this approach leads to a result and prefer to avoid the blockades and possible unrests with a detour along the border road.
We are not alone en route! The young Canadian couple Ken and Angie with their little daughter Keela and their dog Cash are with us. We already met the four of them while traveling in their self-built Delica van in Baja California and are more than happy to reunite with them for some new adventures.
To state it straight away: we don’t face any extortionate roadblocks and enjoy this part of our trip through tropical Mexico very much. Roughly two weeks we travel along the almost 500 kilometers of the “Carretera Fronteriza 307”. Since there is so much to discover, we take our time and sometimes we simply stay a second night in the same place just to swim again in one of the wonderful natural pools the next day or to take another walk to stunning waterfalls.
CANADA AND SWITZERLAND MEET MEXICO
Cute Keela with her blue eyes and blond hair not only wins our hearts, but also those of the local population. ? In droves they appear at our conspicuous campers and pick the little girl up and take a picture with her. Keela usually endures it calmly and proves that a smile connects people. Cash, the Pit Bull and German Shepherd mix also keeps getting a lot of attention. Although we constantly assure that he is not dangerous – “no es peligroso” – the admirers stay at a distance and only the bravest dare to pet him briefly over the head.
There are also a lot of wild animals to admire here, after all we are in the jungle for the first time since we left home! Howler and spider monkeys as well as wonderfully colorful macaws and toucans visit us at some of our overnight places and so we can observe them very closely. Even an otherwise very shy agouti, a rodent the size of a rabbit, runs with her offspring several times past our home-on-wheels and a hummingbird hatches its eggs directly in the bush next to our vehicle.
THE MAYA RUINS
Of course, culture must not be neglected either! We visit the remote Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán. The journey takes place via the border river of Guatemala and Mexico. One hour we sail deep into the jungle and we are lucky to explore the forgotten city almost alone in the cool morning hours. The eerie noise of the howler monkeys contributes to the authentic atmosphere.
Our next destination is Palenque. The ruins here are much better developed and therefore get a high number of visitors. The temples impress with their incredible size and the fact that many buildings have been excavated and extensively restored. Nevertheless, we almost liked the mystical atmosphere in the secluded temples of Yaxchilán better – not least because we had them to ourselves alone and therefore we decide to take another detour and visit the ruins of Calakmul. This Mayan city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located two hours’ drive on a bumpy road away from the main road. We spend the night at the gates of these largely unexplored temple remains in the middle of the jungle. Toucans fly over us and sit in the neighboring trees and the howler monkeys once again intone their evening concert. The next morning, we can observe the colorful feathered peacock turkeys at their courtship dance. With loud cackling, the males stretch their blue heads out of their shimmering plumage and compete for the favor of the hens.
Before the heat of the day becomes unbearable, we take a look at the ruins and actually have them virtually to ourselves again. The main pyramid is nearly 50 meters high and protrudes far beyond the roof of the jungle. After climbing perceived a thousand steps, a magnificent panoramic view opens up to us. Sitting at the top of the pyramid, we almost feel a little like Mayan kings and look in the direction of the also famous ruins of Tikal in Guatemala. We cannot see the city which is only 100 kilometers away, but we learn that the two centers already fought fierce battles for power and influence back then.
We can hardly imagine how people used to live in the middle of the forest at that time. They were at the mercy of climatic conditions for better or for worse. Too much rain meant floorings and too little droughts followed by famines. Thus, the Mayans created a world of gods and spirits to whom they paid homage and, if necessary, offered sacrifices to make them merciful. If jewelry and animal offerings have not shown the desired success, then men, virgins and even children have even been sacrificed! Those thoughts send a shiver down our spines and we are glad that customs are no longer that bloody today.
After so much Mayan ruins, culture, jungle and adventures, we head eastbound to the Caribbean coast where we hope to find a nice place with palm trees for our hammocks…