A prehistoric town in the jungle
After my 3 day long stay in San Cristóbal de las Casas my journey took me deeper into the Mexican jungle, into the ancient city Palenque. The weather forecast predicted 40 °C. A drastic leap to the mild 20° C in San Cristóbal. The two cities are only 6 hours away by bus. In the late evening I arrived at the hotel together with my Mexican friend.
It was the first time I had booked a hotel in many years. I couldn't find any Airbnb apartments and the two hostels there didn't look so inviting either. In particular, they lacked the most important thing in Palenque: an air condition. To book a room in Palenque without this luxury device is like torture considering the fact that the temperature does not drop below 30° C even at night. I also visited the city just in May, the hottest month there.
I booked 2 nights at Hotel Cañada Internacional. The price was absolutely ok, the standard of the hotel was good and also the proximity to the bus terminal makes it very practical for backpackers.
tropical-humid pitiless heat
After checking in we booked a day trip to the ruins of Palenque for the next day. Already early at 7.00 o'clock the tour started. So early, simply because later the heat makes it unbearable to explore the area of the ruins. The prehistoric city is not far from the modern city of Palenque, which is not really worth seeing. Alternatively, you can book a guide here to show and explain the site, but we started on our own.
The former Maya-town near the Guatemalan border is around 2000 years old and had its prime in the 7th century. After its decline, the jungle with its cedar, mahogany and sapodilla trees absorbed the abandoned buildings. The fascinating thing about Palenque is, on the one hand, how man could create such gigantic buildings in the middle of the jungle, but on the other hand, how quickly nature reclaimed the place that was taken from her and devoured the buildings. If humanity becomes extinct at some point, the result will look like Palenque.
After extensive archaeological excavations, the extremely well-preserved temples and palace can be visited today. It is believed that only 10% of the city has yet been discovered. The found hieroglyphics reveal a lot about the history of the Maya: about alliances, trade, exchange, wars and even marriage between Mayan cities.
It's damn cool to walk through this area, surrounded by all these green trees, listening to the howler monkeys and letting the blazing sun roast you. After 2-3 hours we reached the exit, that's all you can endure there. This not only applied to me, but also to my Mexican friend. The body craves water. I've never drunk a two-litre bottle so fast. You sweat and sweat at this enormously high humidity. But since the ambient temperature is warmer than the body temperature, the sweating has absolutely no cooling effect. On the contrary, even the 2 liters were not enough and my head started hammering.
typically German behaviour
What is missing in Palenque are places where you can eat and drink something. One restaurant at the exit of the site was closed, the next one was a few minutes walk away. There we ate something and returned to the meeting point. We had to wait forever for the bus and could observe the ants building a small road. Or watching and hearing a German couple constantly arguing. That was a typical German situation for me. You'd have every reason to be happy in this beautiful place, but no. The mother of the son had to endure passively how her daughter-in-law repeatedly accused her son of some triviality. Maybe the heat just went to their heads.
Another typically German behaviour was later evident on the bus. The bus was on its way back and picked up a few more people. Because space on the bus became short as a result, another German did not hesitate for long and moved to a larger seat, thinking first and foremost of himself, in order to provide himself with more comfort and because he did not want to sit in such a confined space with others (he himself said so). After all, it was the Mexican who voluntarily changed to a narrow child seat so that the other persons could still get in.
Like the people in Teotihuacán or in Monte Albán the Mayas built step pyramids here. What is striking about all these step pyramids is the outstanding size of the steps. The people living here were supposed to humbly climb the pyramid and look down the stairs to avoid looking into the eyes of the gods who were in the upper part of the pyramid.
Cooling down at the waterfall
The tour finally led us to a beautiful waterfall called Misol Há. Below the 35 meter high waterfall there was a slippery path and you could walk directly under the waterfall and get sprayed.
shimmering blue waters in Agua Azul
The third and last station were the blue waters Agua Azul. Due to the high mineral content, the water shines very intensely, varying from pool to pool. During the dry season it shimmers azure blue to emerald green, in the rainy season brown. How wonderful that you could swim in it. However, you have to be careful here, numerous crosses of drowned people warn of the strong current.
Meanwhile, the flow of tourists has stopped. As a result of the terrible earthquake in Mexico in September 2017, the river bed shifted and the water dryed up. Work is currently underway to divert the water back there.
tormenting long return journey with Mexican folk music
The return journey went on for an agonizingly long time after this cramped day. From the loudspeakers of the bus boomed continuously Banda, a kind of Mexican brass band music. I was happy when we reached the hotel and all I had to hear was the pleasant sound of the air conditioning! Already at 7 pm I fell into the land of dreams. The alarm clock should sound at 6am the next day to reach the bus to Mérida in the Yucatán peninsula.
Mexican Banda music