Because I love ruins and jungle, I jumped at the chance to take a two-day tour to the ruins of Yaxchilan and Bonampak, and a hike through the Lancandon Jungle.
Of course I forgot how these things go – long van rides, lots of waiting around for drivers, everyone trying to sell you something, crappy food, never delivering what they promise.
But still, we sign up for these tours because honestly, it’s the best way to do things sometimes.
Stacey, another backpacker who was in my dorm who I befriended my first day, agreed to come up, despite her fear of snakes. We saw none. No regrets there.
We left at 6am, well, we waited beginning at 6am and finally our bus came, 20 or 25 minutes late. We drove about two hours and stopped for breakfast at one of those tourist restaurants – the kind that really only cater to tour groups. We ate, got back in the van to sit some more. I read Outside magazine (thanks, V, for sending), Confederacy of Dunces on my Kindle, wrote, and slept.
Then we paid 15 pesos and popped out at a boat launch. We took a 30 minute boat ride on the river the separates Mexico and Guatemala, and got out and hiked around Yaxchilan. It was quite impressive. We had to enter through a dark ruin to get to the Gran Plaza to the main part of the ruins. We sat bats, not fun. After walking around, looking, taking photos, I sat in the shade for a bit and wrote, daydreaming, wondering what’s next. I climbed a lot of steps, which is what you do at these sort of ruins. I pitied anyone wearing flipflops.
I climbed the “Pequena Acropylysis” and after a 5 minute hike up windy, jungly stairs, was rewarded by being the only person at the top of a series of ruins. Incredible. I took photos, felt how powerful it all was. Pretty remarkable.
Then we hopped in the boat back, and went to lunch which actually wasn’t terrible (though it was cheese quesadillas, the standard for vegetarians). I drank a bunch of hibiscus tea, mmmmmm.
They had vendors in front, of course.
Next, we headed to Bonampak. The ruins were smaller but they had well-preserved painted murals inside some of the ruins. Very nice.
Next, they dropped us off at our accommodations –w e were promised private rooms with private bathrooms. Perhaps they meant “primitive” instead of “private”? We did have four walls and a roof and mosquito netting…but Stacey and I ended up sharing a room, and the bathroom ended up being a shared outdoor affair – and not only did we share it with many humans, but with lots and lots of insects. We all stopped hydrating early so we wouldn’t have to use it in the middle of the night.
There wasn’t much to do or many places to sit and chill out. There were two ripped smelly hammocks we all took turns sharing. I ended up chatting with a nice English couple about Zipolite and received some great recommendations.
After dinner (spaghetti), we hung out for a little while drinking chamomile tea. We went to bed fully clothed (It was a little chilly.) rather early – I think I fell asleep around nine.
I woke up early enough for a run. I hadn’t brought running clothes with me but I ended up running in the clothes I had worn the day before. Yes, I can run in a regular bra with a regular skirt and t-shirt. I did an hour, including plyometrics. Then I cleaned up and we ate breakfast (Mexican eggs and beans, again. Sigh.). We headed out to our jungle hike, which was more like a slow walk. Our guide was a middle aged Mexican woman who wore a purple and orange dress with flipflops and carried nothing else. We all had water and snacks and some of us even had towels.
We had to walk over a log over a river, which of course I suck at, and a nice Basque girl and Stacey held out their hands for me. We had a water crossing at one point, which was intimidating before we started, but actually quite incredible. Our guide sat on the other side, watching as we removed socks and shoes, tentatively stepping across the stones to the other side of the water.
Our guide only spoke Spanish and didn’t say much. I’ve been on several other jungle tours, and none was this low quality. But there were only 6 of us hiking, it was pretty chill, and still nice in the jungle.
Our final destination was a waterfall. We all crossed it, went swimming. It was just beautiful. It was cold, but nice. I thought of how my old running coach would’ve been proud to see me sitting in the spot where cold water rushed over my legs – how fantastically recovery-esque that was.
We got back to a pretty lousy lunch (quesadillas and black beans for me, the vegetarian; the others may have liked their food more) and then we were told we had over three hours until our vans came. Well, we weren’t told, I asked. We rotated usage on the hammocks, read, daydreamed, wrote letters. We had an interesting group – a Basque girl (Don’t say Spanish!), a German guy, a Mexican dad and his daughter, a Canadian (that’s Stacey), and me, the American girl.
We lazed around and finally the bus came. A long ride, and then, a shower and return to the real world felt wonderful.