Road Trippy: Palenque & San Cristobal

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Washing Day.

Day 1. Saturday, April 12. And We’re Off! + Hostel Yaxkin

Loaded up the car with our bags, Christy, Andrew, Clayton, and the Jackson clan. We took off for Palenque at 9:30, and had been driving for eight hours when our rental van broke down. We stopped at a mechanic in one of the twelve building villages, who gave the fuel pump the ol’ German kick in the belly and told us the car would make it the 80 kilometers to Palenque. The fuel pump overheats and doesn’t distribute gas to the car, causing us to dwindle from 80 kph to 40, from 40 to 0. The farmland is flat, undisturbed by brief clusters of cinder block huts in the marshy, spareness of the gangly, ribbed land. At 6:30 pm and many kilometers from Palenque, we are still in the middle of the crackling brush, humidity pressing through our clothes on the Mexico 186 highway. It smells of smokey grass fires, faint car fumes, and craggy animal. The car putters along the freeway in intervals all the rest of the way to Palenque- without cell service- as purple mountains formed on the sickly, blue-grey horizon.

We arrive at the Yaxkin Hostel at 7:50 pm much to our surprise and delight. The hostel is very nice, with a large lobby area, small kitchen, and open courtyard that leads to our room, a glamified hut crouching on stilts. Five beds are squished into the square, complete with a toilet and a barren corner that has a faucet hanging over it- the shower. The ceiling is 5’5” at its lowest point, save for the place where it slopes downward to a mere foot and a half from the floor, forming the roof. The hostel has a scattering of ants- unavoidable, really- but there is AC and even a television, all for only 864 pesos (70 US) for two rooms and eight beds.

So in total, we drove through Quintana Roo to Campeche to Tabasco to Chiapas, four states in one day! Whoo hoo!

Day 2. Sunday, April 13. Palenque Ruins, Guides & Car Wrecks

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Ruins in Palenque

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King Pakal’s Temple. There are 69 steps for the number of years he ruled.

The eleven of us eat a breakfast of espressos, tea, vegan tamales, and fruit from the Cafe Jade, an extension of the Yaxkin Hostel. We store our baggage in lockers behind the reception desk while we catch taxis to the ruins in Palenque.

The ruins are stoic and regal, weathering a 2,000 years test of time. Only 10% of the ruins have been uncovered, and the rest soar into the blue bowl of the wide Mexican sky as pseudo mountains, dotted with massive ceiba trees and knotted together with jungle vines and thicket.

The Mayans were forced to flee from their fortress in Palenque they built and inhabited during the Classical Period, from 100 BC to 900 AD, when drought struck the land and the Mayans’ precious maize would not grow. From there they migrated to Chichen-Itza and Tikal, constructing temples at those sites. Our guide for the ruins, Jose, led us informatively and engagingly throughout the gravesite of La Reina Roja, the temples of the royal family, and of King Pakal, expertly flowing into animated histories on the Mayan civilization, from their sacrificial ceremonies performed in an amphitheater, woman’s dominant role in society and painful piercing techniques, to the Mongolian origins of the Mayans, supernatural scientific and astronomical knowledge, and the incest that eventually drove the royal family to weakness. Jose humbly and happily explained to Mum that he had grown up alongside the ruins, spending his days toiling and sweating over the land until he went to university to study to become a guide there, an occupation he has successfully filled for over 27 years. If you are interested in acquiring a guide for the 1-2 hour hike through the incredible historical site, here is Jose’s number: (916) 109-2955. (He speaks English, too.)

When we returned from the ruins, our rental van pulled up from the mechanic, except there was on problem: a cavernous dent stretching from the passenger door to trunk had appeared on the side of the car. We contacted the rental company, American Rentals, about the issue but they refused to pay the 5,400 pesos the mechanic had overcharged to compensate for the dent they caused and knew we would deduct from their payment. Instead, after a forty-five minute delay with the noncompliant American Rentals about their faulty contract to secure us with a functioning car and to have them pay for the mechanics they hired, we leave Palenque and head for Misol-Ha, 21 clicks up the road from Hostel Yaxkin and in the direction of our destination: San Cristobal.

Although we stop off at the tempting Cascadas Misol-Ha for lunch, we skip the hike to the waterfall and eat lunch/dinner instead, since it is already too late to see the falls and make the drive to San Cristobal in daylight. After a couple cervezas and rice and beans, we continue our journey on the winding mountainous roads. Wild corn flourishes on the slender, rolling highway, periodically giving way to a deep valley and a majestic panorama of pastures far below. It is 7:50 pm and we are approximately 196 kilometers from San Cristobal. Just ten minutes ago we broke the picturesque monotony of mountains, valleys, and roadside villages into a full-blown town called Ocosingo that boasts actual paved streets and two Pemex gas stations. But now the sun has set and faint yellowing, buzzing street lights snap off around the creviced road as we reenter black jungle, fading into muddled inkiness sliced only by the glow of our headlights. Hundreds of homemade topes have riddled and pocked the road for miles, slowing our progress where indigenous mestizos and Mayans flaunt their wares; mostly embroidered clothing, artisan trinkets, and snacks reminiscent of an Oxxo. As I peer out the windshield into the dark abyss, I can count the firefly lights smudging the valley below, and can only hope that we arrive in San Cristobal without any more incidents…

Suddenly an odd sound horrifyingly similar to someone puking emanates from the back of the van, causing Christy and I to whip our heads around. Within the second we dissolve into fits of giggles, finding it only to be Papa digesting. Through our barely contained laughter we manage to spurt some funny-but-not-so-funny puking jokes. The reality is that a throw up case isn’t too far out of our realms, and I’m alternating between crossing my fingers that we won’t fall off the mountainside on a hairpin turn and that no chunks will be blown. Amen.

We reach Cushulja, on the Ruta Maya, Mexico 186, still over 100 kilometers outside of our destination. None of the “towns” we pass are fit for overnight stays, unless you are accustomed to sleeping on dirt floors in a room made of widely spaced wooden boards while you kneel next to a stick fire to stay warm in the middle of the jungle on a mountain in the poorest state in Mexico. Not to mention the fact that Chiapas is only twenty years out of a revolution and Zapatista signs (machetes and shotguns are a given) still frequent the houses. In the case that this situation is a walk in the park for you, then I’ll be sure to stand next to you during the zombie apocalypse.

We push on at 9:20 pm, in the car since Misol-Ha, through wild horse crossings and two minute drive-through villages with names like Cobach, Pueblo El Calvario, and Oxchuc, plus some clusters of shacks of wood, tin, and cement squares that don’t have a name. Routed with internet once more, our iPhone map says 90 kilometers from San Cristobal. A sign reads: Feliz Viaje y Pronto Returno as we leave a “town”, and Andrew remarks that he didn’t even know what we left that we could return to. Above a mile in altitude at 9:50 pm, San Cristobal in 28 kilometers away. Kira is sick with fever and the rest of the seven kids are subdued with doggedness and a movie. Two year old Clayton occasionally breaks out into show tunes. I yawn. Even the cows on the side of the road have settled down for the night.

At 10:40 pm we arrive in San Cristobal and are faced with the problem of locating our house. Christy contacts the owner and we wait to be led to the place. Down the narrow, uphill alleyway a black Renault with a fluffy haired man in his 60s named Raphael pulls up and leads us down a street bunched between the doors of the lightly graffiti splayed, 7 by 7 homes.

Day 3. Monday, April 14. Welcome to San Cristobal, Hemingway & Wine

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The house in San Cristobal
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Backyard

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Next door

It is now 12:30 am and I’m wearing two pairs of socks, insulated leggings, a tank top, and a hoodie under a woolen blanket. My toes curl to generate warmth as I gaze fixedly into the purple flames flickering in the brick hearth. It was a long day, I  think as I doze off…

I woke up this morning on the couch of a hacienda in the hilly land of San Cristobal. Last night, after the last five and a half hour leg of our trip, we all crashed in the three bedroom house in layers of blankets, exhaustion drawing us all into sluggish sleep, despite the briskness. Andrew woke early and went running this morning without me- apparently I looked too conked out to wake. (Hopefully I wasn’t drooling or something.) Following my breakfast of a cup of coffee and half a grapefruit Raphael provided, I finally explored the grounds.

To the right of the two story edifice is a public garden that is available to two other haciendas as well as ours. Surrounding the house, but specifically on the right, is a private garden which Raphael tends with great care and eco-friendly attention to artichokes, various fruit trees, assorted bean stalks, and innumerable flowering monocots and dicots. Coniferous trees are the icing on the cake of the region.

The entrance to the house is through a beautifully crafted, dark wooden door that gives way to the flourishing garden. From this point there is a central pathway that leads you in fifteen paces to a rectangular sunroom sprouting from the front face of the house. The threshold boasts a lovely Dutch door which opens straightway to the kitchen, which holds a washer, small refrigerator, a four burner stove, sink, and a cupboard with the bare basics of appliances. If you turn a hard left into an open doorframe at the end of the kitchen area, there is a steep iron and wood winding staircase that leads to a partially underground bedroom, just big enough to fit three beds and an armoire. Back up the stairs, the kitchen opens up to a quadratic dining room situated in a corner of the house with a four chair supper table. To the left is the downstairs parlor, the southern wall of this room narrowing into a short hallway on the far end that has a walk-in storage closet, bathroom, and bedroom with three beds and a closet.

Fourteen stairs up from the living room, the second story is situated like a large square with the middle cut out, which looks down on the sizable parlor that has a couch facing one of the two fireplaces. On the western wall of the second story is a master bedroom with a large closet and a bathroom, plus a connection to the balcony on the northern side. The eastern wall encompasses the upstairs living space which I walk seventeen (size seven) feet from the inside of the house to the outer wall, 30 steps from the southern side of the building to the northern wall. This side of the second story has two benches, a desk looking out on the green, scenic region with a lamp, a thick supporting pillar that doubles as a fireplace and bookshelves, a squat shelving unit that houses one of the two televisions, and access to the northern wall balcony.

The house has WiFi and a small collection of impressive literature including Elena Poniatowska, Hemingway, and Verne, mostly printed in Spanish. There is a hammock perfect for an afternoon siesta hanging in the center of the balcony and of course the sizable, winding garden space that encircles the entire property.

Raphael, our kind host, bought the land his houses rest on 25 years ago, constructing our hacienda around the same year. Fast forward five years, and Raphael erects the second, slightly smaller hacienda on the southern side of the house. And lastly, just a mere six months ago, he built a quaint casita directly overlooking his private garden.

This morning we took a quick jaunt to La Casa del Pan, an organic, vegetarian restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The skylight ceiling rockets forty feet above the spacious plaza that houses nine decorated, delegated tables. The atmosphere is tranquil, with the occasional clatter of china and the tinkling of teacups. After lunch we strolled throughout the marketplace in the center of town for a few hours before coming home to crash for the rest of the night, munching on a home cooked supper of pasta, bread, and wine.

Day 4. Tuesday, April 15. Workouts, Chicken-Neck Snapping, and Shisha

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Church of Chamula & site of chicken neck breaking. Inside, no photos are allowed.

Although most of us didn’t go to sleep until 1 am (trying and failing, in my case, to watch the eclipse) Andrew, Papa, and I still woke up at 7:20 and ran the quick mile and a half to the crossfit gym here in San Cristobal, which opened less than a year as crossfit’s popularity picks up speed. First we completed five rounds of jump roping for a minute each (an exercise which consisted of much tripping-over oneself and awkwardly readjusting as you look around the room and realize that first grade girls can jump better rope than you). Next was the strange wand sorcery techniques where a witches’ broomstick is waved mystically around your body and you are forced to stare at the nice man across from you to figure out how the heckistan you do the exercise without looking like a broken-necked chicken. Following the voodoo sticks, Andrew finished five rounds of: five squats with those 45 pound stick that crazy people put weights on the end of, 12 box jumps, and 15 burpees in a little over 13 minutes, the fastest in the class. I was supposed to be doing the same. I’ll just leave it at that. (But I really did put in my best effort, people.)

I’d like to spend a minute stereotypically assessing all the gym-goers, since it was my first time at a gym and a true learning experience. Of the women, I classified:

1. The Burly:

A tough, husky woman who falls in the middle of the class strength-wise, and although she isn’t revered by the men as a sexy beast, she has been affectionately accepted into the group as a man. She fist pumps me as I leave the class, and of all the women, she has my respect.

2. The Flimsy:

This woman completes the workouts for the most part, but falls at the bottom of the food chain. Her body type is slender, displaying no muscle. She wears nice workout clothes and chats with the men after class.

3. The Shifty:

This woman is very conscious about her thicker body and lack of muscular ability. She frequently watches her neighbors in her peripheral vision, slowly completing the workouts half-assedly and finishing when the others finish.

Now for the men gym-goers:

1. The Silent Sufferer:

This bulky chap was getting a little too bulky, so his domineering wife sent him to the gym. He frequently meditates on future couch-potatoing as he heavily breathes through the required squats.

2. The Kick Butt & His Rival:

Andrew falls into this category with his quick, quiet, and dedicated work. Watching this type, you kind of wilt in their presence and slowly scoot away, knowing that you don’t deserve to be in the same room as them, let alone working out with them. The Kick Butt’s rival isn’t too friendly with anyone really, and gives off a strained aura as he tries to surpass the seemingly effortless top dog, the Kick Butt himself.

3. The Motivator:

This man is always smiling, has phone conversations with the instructor, and invites his fellow crossfitters to drinks. He posts Instagram selfies with his latest gear, and tweets crossfit e-cards. He sweats through his rounds, but makes sure to always finish strong and to clap the less-able people to their finish.

Kira had been sick and moaning since the end of day 2, so Christy located a chiropractor to kick the fever once and for all. Around noon, Mum, Christy, Kira, and I drove down to a street with mainly medical clinics and visited the chiro, an older man from Mexico City who trained as an MD and completed his required social training in Chiapas, eventually deciding to stay. For nearly an hour he adjusted Kira, using various instruments, beds, a cream, and a red lamp. He did a thorough adjustment of her entire body, finishing off with a massage. He is well-educated, kind, and speaks English fluently. (A fact that was only revealed after Christy had said her whole speel in Spanish.)

Now we are on our way to the village Chamula an hour outside of San Cristobal, where the Mayans’ strange and completely independent religious practices- and the fact that no pictures are allowed because the people believe that would steal their souls- makes for a not-to-miss destination. We pile out of the van into an open plaza right in front of the centerpiece of Chamula: the church. We pay 160 pesos for all 11 of our family members to enter the massive edifice, built from 1522-1524. A towering wooden door leads us into the rectangular room, flanked on right and left by glass cases holding ceramic replicas of various saints, Juan Baptista, the Virgen Guadalupe, and friends. Chamulan women wear their black, greasy hair braided down their backs in a Rapunzel-esuqe fashion, and reveal the cracked and coarse soles of their feet as they kneel to line candles on the floor. They carry live, docile chickens in slings against their hip and dress in traditional wool skirts and embroidered camisas tucked into thick cloth belts. One women pulls out a to-go bottle of Coca Cola and begins to chug in front of one of the alters. They believe that burping releases bad spirits from ones’ body, hence the throne of Coca Cola in the town. One part of the native rituals I was sad to miss was the breaking of the chicken necks. Yes, that’s right, the chickens the women carry are doomed to a fate of brutal neck snapping to honor the saints.

Majority of the men are gathered in a left corner of the church, pouring each other their traditional alcoholic beverage- posh- along with an assortment of other beers. Since booze is an important asset of the Chamulan religion, by noon, the church goers are almost certainly drunk. I eyed a very wasted man rocking on his heels and whispering prayers to front of an alter, very nearly toppling into some of the thousands of candles that decorate the interior of the church, while his young son dutifully stood to his father’s right side and mouthed the parts of the prayer he recognized. Themes of loyalty, childhood, sacrifice, and cultural customs shot through my head like firecrackers with the one solitary image.

At one pm on a Tuesday, even though the building wasn’t too crowded, we did get a sufficient picture of the natives’ rituals. Apparently worshipping in the church is an every day ordeal, which adds up to a lot of chickens, coca cola, and booze. If you have the opportunity to visit this quirky town, I suggest forgoing your camera (unless you wish to be hustled by natives), eating beforehand (unless you enjoy grilled chicken and coke), and not pointing to any of the goods in the nearby market (unless you would like to be barraged by women who really want your business).

Finally we make it back into town and settle down in a Lebanese restaurant and shisha lounge. Our nitpicking, grumpy moods disappeared with the therapeutic Lebanese dishes: hummus and pita, lentil soup, warak einad (grape leaves), Baba Ganoush, spicy potatoes, falafel, and aubergine in a curry sauce. Characteristic of Middle Easterners/Mediterraneans, the restaurant owner doted on the kids, especially Kanon, Delilah, and Clayton, so we finished off our flavorful meal with free baklava for all.

Day 5. Wednesday, April 16. Na Bolom, Deforestation, & Margaritas

Two of the coolest women in my life, Mum & Christy
Two of the coolest women in my life, Mum & Christy. Oh and there’s Andrew. Photobombed
Courtyard of Na Bolom
Courtyard of Na Bolom
The library in Na Bolom
The library in Na Bolom.

A slow morning. I put on a kettle for tea, coffee is brewed, and pastries are heated on a skillet, since there is no microwave.

We set off to Na Bolom, or the House of the Jaguar, the Mayan museum in town, around 11 and spend over an hour wandering the ranch-style home turned hotel/library/supper spot. Explorers, preservation activists, and Mayan enthusiasts, Gertrude, a journalist and photographer as week, and Franz Blom founded the museum to shed awareness on the destruction “civilization” is wreaking on the beautiful, natural culture of the Lacandon jungle and its inhabitants.

“In the 1940s, the Mexican government realized that the Lacandon rainforest offered many valuable resources. To facilitate the extraction of these resources, and also to establish better political and social control, the government began a campaign to build roads into the forest which continues today.

“From the 1950s, the government opened the Lacandon rainforest to colonization as a solution to land scarcity in the highlands of Chiapas… Over 80% of the rainforest has been destroyed.

“For the Lacandons, the repercussions of deforestation are grave because the basis of their existence, both spiritually and physically, lies in the forest.”

There are 4 million Mayans living in the Yucatan today, mainitaing a culture rich in natural history and a true knowledge of the earth. Gertrud Blom’s astonishingly candid black and white representation of her adopted family, the Lacandons, is displayed in simple frames on every wall of the musem. Hand drawn maps document the diverse topography of each and every are the Bloms explored. A room dedicated to Franz holds handwritten journals, antique artifacts, and paraphenalia of the expeditions. The museum boasts an impressive library of every book written on the Mayans under the sun, plus the heartwarming nostaligia of card catalogs in a hand carved, wooden knickknack amrmoire. The room was a literal snapshot of a 1940s study, and I was in love.

To finish off the day, we ate a massively scrumptious meal of portobello burgers, vegan patties, onion soup, french fries, and the largest margaritas ever (they even had upside down Indios in the glass). The adults went out for drinks and rumored tales of karaoke that never actually happened. I watched the kids for the night and conked out around one am.

Day 6. Thursday, April 17. Sumadero Canyon, Cannibalistic Peeing Men & S’mores

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This photo wasn’t taken with zoom…
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Sumadero Canyon
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Mono

It is 8:40 am and we are in the van and on our way to Sumadero Canyon, specifically to a small town called Chapa de Corzo. Delilah had a little throw up incident this morning, a size-exaggerated spider was crushed, and there was some dissention in the Jackson ranks. However, we are entralled with San Cristobal and ready for any adventure that happens to drop onto our path.

An hour later we stop off the side of the road by a persimmon orchard. Delilah’s motion sickness was spiked by the languid, twisty, tope-filled mountain roads. We throw rocks down the road lading to a small jumble of buildings while the men realize that the map google provided for us took us the free “scenic” route. The map led us astray from the efficent, no-question-it’s-faster-and-better tolled road, in turn costing us hours of time and many headaches. Unless you are seriously interested in seeing more winding streets, leaves, and dilapidated shacks, DO NOT TAKE THIS ROAD. The only good that came out of it was that we really got to know every nook and cranny of Chiapas. We stop once more at some wooden boards and tarp paper boasting gasolina, totopos, beer, and beans. Andrew asks for directions from a truck heading down the steep alley into the valley. The driver tells us there is a bridge a few kilometers up that will connect us onto the freeway so we can get off the “scenic” route as soon as possible. To be sure of the man’s directions, we ask some more men on the side of the road their thoughts on the land bridge, and they tell us that one mile (they actually said mile) down to the left is the bridge to the freeway. We tentatively course around a few of the sloping left hand turns before continuing on our way. Taking our chances on another unnamed road a couple clicks up because it looked like an official type of paving, we run into the same truck we had asked for directions earlier in the extravaganza. Looking at google maps, Christy reports that we are in la-la land between the freeway at Tuxtla and the scenic route we had been cruising on. When the road forks, we ask a yet another native man peeing on the side of the road which way to go, who insists that the less-likely looking road is the correct direction. He senses our skepticality (someone remarks that he is probably a cannibal leading us to his village) and so we ask a taxi that was driving towards us on the the one-way road if that was the way to the freeway. He confirms the peeing man’s directions, and I think I catch a glimpse of a smug smile on the pee-er’s face. We drive up the one-way road and cross our fingers that no car head-butts us. As for our progress on google maps, we are moving around in a large white space (undocumented by google). Finally, somehow, we run into the freeway and press on towards Chiapa de Corzo, where we arrive two hours after we set out, at 10:40.

Once there, we are barraged by Mexicans who tell us to go on their boat across the river, the main attraction of Chiapa de Corzo. They let us know that the Eco Park that was supposed to have zip lines and cool things to see had closed down six months prior when we ask about it. To make sure we weren’t getting screwed, we ask more people who confirm that the park no longer exists. Our group decides to recharge and get some breakfast (although at that point, it was more like lunch) and we eat at Los Corredores, a typical Mexican restaurant.

Later, we head down to the docks in the heat of the day and prepare to board one of the skiffs, but end up being delayed by bad service, taking up thirty extra minutes. Once we are in the canyon, we pull up to massive crocodiles that hiss at us from a suspiciously close distance. I ponder on the 1,200 safety code violations that the tour would have been red-flagged on if we were in the States. I smile, glad we aren’t in the States- because if I had to choose between death by croc or death by a doctor overperscribing, I’d choose the croc any day of the week. The guide nonchalantly maneuvers the skiff a little to close for comfort up to the prehistoric lizards, evoking sneak-attack crocodile jokes from our quarter of the boat. At the most profound point, the river is 100 meters deep and the canyon rises a crippling 900 meters into the sky. After our two hour adventure, we stop back off at the same restaurant we had eaten at earlier for drinks and guacamole to compliment our street popsicles. At 6:30 pm we are back on the road to San Cristobal.

That night we roasted marshamllows in our open hearth, content in our incredible blessings and amazing friendship.

Day 7. Friday, April 18. Hiking, Basketball & Team Awesome

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Bridge
Aw! I'm such a good influence.
Aw! I’m such a good influence. (Delilah & Kanon wrote their names are on bottom right hand corner)
Hiking in san Cristobal
Hiking in san Cristobal

At five am this morning, the Schislers took off for a three and a half hour day trip to see some cool sites in another town. So the Jacksons, left to our devices, went out on an amazing hike through the locals’ picnic spot, spending two hours exploring the rocky mountain streams, lush coniferous jungle, and getting a taste of local culture. We made friends, very typical of our brood.

After that, we walked the same mile home that we had came on and ordered a delicious, 280 peso, 3:00 lunch of sushi. The fam went to the basketball court across the street with a ball we bought, shot some hoops with the local kids, and then left them with the ball, since the one they used to play with was basically held together with duct tape and mud. I curled up in the hammock on the balcony and started to jot down ideas for a poetry contest I’m entering. It was one of the most serene moments in my hectic life.

Later that night it rained, and Christy and I went to pick up our order of pizza from La Casa del Pan and we all spent our last night together in the house eating the triangular delicacies, laughing by the fire, and playing our boardgame Yamslam. (Go Team Fireside! Boo Team Awesome!) ((You’re welcome Christy))

Day 8. Saturday, April 19. Goodbyes, Aguas Azules & Palenque Revisited

Aguas Azules
Aguas Azules

This morning we woke up and said our goodbyes to our extended family: Christy, Andrew, and Clayton, who will continue to Mexico City by plane. Left the house around nine and drove five hours to Aguas Azules, the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. The natural falls are massively wide, and cascade from springs in the moutain. When we got there, we changed into bathing suits and sandals and lugged our drive-heavy bodies through the sticky humidity and slick, trodden jungle to a dock, slimey with years of muddy barefeet. 60 pesos pulled us across the river right in front of a large fall- so close, infact, that the mist sprayed ys at one poijnt. The boat was more like a floar that we had to stand on either side of to equalize the weight; two men standing in the center pulled a rope that was held on either side of the river and pulled us across.

For about two hours we explored that various branches of the falls, and Kalin, Aidan, and I even chanced a painful fall to climb up the waterfall. A couple things you can always count on Mexicans for is food, drink, and a party- wherever you go. Booming Spanish music drifted throughout the damp marketplace set up right at the bank of the river, distantly serenading our meal of frijoles, arroz, tortillas, y limonada (our typical meal) at one of the restaurants. Limonada ranked at about a 7.5.

We got back on the road and arrived at a hotel in Palenque a block from the Yaxkin Hostel we had stayed at only a week ago. The eight of us ate supper outside the hotel on the main drag of the city, then headed to bed.

Day 9. Easter Sunday, April 20. Bye-Bye Chiapas

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We just left Chiapas in the dust of our temperamental van, gaining mileage through Tabasco. Here the land is a flat plane of farmland; a sharp contrast to the mountainous region of Chiapas we experienced. The sky is an infinite periwinkle blue cradling grey tufts of cloud, and all that is in front of us is the carratera, ripping a superficial seam into the otherwise unbroken, Mayan universe.

The Jackson family arrived back in Playa Del Carmen late that night, a successful spring break behind them. I don’t know if I will ever return to Chiapas, the land of poverty that is only impoverished by way of money. No, the people of Chiapas are richer than anyone I ever knew in the States, because they know what’s important in life. And heck, they’ve got quite a view.

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