Agua Azul & Palenque

Agua Azul

Saturday, 9 June 2007, Campeche, Campeche
Yesterday we arrived on the Yucatán Peninsular and have discovered what it is to be really hot again. Since leaving San Cristobal we have visited the impressive falls of Agua Azul, the ruins at Palenque, Yaxchilán and Bonampak, I've had a dose of "Montezuma's Revenge", and Juergen has discovered how to communicate with Mexicans after being involved in a motor vehicle accident. We have also been searched repeatedly in the last 2 days by police, military or quarantine posts for the first time since arriving in Mexico, over 4 months ago.
As reported in our last update, we left San Cristobal the day after a huge deluge. The rain had stopped in the morning, but the air was still very humid. The mountains we drove through were shrouded in mist and light rain fell from time to time. We came upon one particularly bad looking accident on a very sharp bend - a victim of someone's impatience or the weather, we are not sure. We hadn't rushed ourselves to get away early because we had planned to drive only to the ruin site at Toniná, 12 kilometres off the main highway from Ocosingo, which is only 100 kilometres from San Cristobal. These 12 kilometres from Ocosingo were right up there with the worst roads we have driven in Mexico. When we arrived at the site, the car park was empty and it seemed like a good place to stay. Unfortunately, the guard at the site had other ideas. She insisted to send us a 100 metres back along the road to a place we could camp - the owner wanted 100 Pesos for us to park on a saturated slope where we would probably have managed to get ourselves bogged - no electricity or water, but a toilet available. We didn't really feel like that was an attractive option so we skipped the idea of staying to see the ruins and drove on to Agua Azul, where we arrived just on dark. Soon after we were set up the rain came again and once again it sounded like a deluge.
At Agua Azul they charge 20 pesos and you are welcome to stay in the parking lot. There are bathrooms, but they are only open during the day and cost 3 Pesos - 5 for a cold shower. We thought it was a bargain. It was such a peaceful place to sleep - except that the waterfalls were a bit loud - that we stayed 2 nights before driving on to Palenque. The falls are amazing - they are not particularly high, but just seem to go on forever. It seems that the river (Rio Yax-Ha) goes over 500 individual falls in about 7 kilometres. The next morning we took a leisurely walk up as far as we realistically could and just stopped and admired the beautiful nature of the jungle surrounding us on the way. We spotted one tree with the largest leaves we have ever seen. There were also Philodendrons hanging like a curtain, masses of Bromeliads on any part of a tree they could stick to and a tree with flowers that just didn't seem to fit! The river itself goes from waterfall to whirlpools to rapids to still ponds. It is possible to swim in the ponds, but when Juergen decided to try it he found the water just too cold. There were quite a lot of stairs to climb and we were both once again thankful that Juergen's knee really seems to have made a total recovery.
On the way to Palenque we stopped in at Misol-Ha; which has just one waterfall. It is possible to walk behind the falls and even clamber over rocks to a cave - we left that bit for the more energetic types - it looked to be rather slippery and I'm not that enamoured of caves anyway. After Agua Azul, this place was not overly exciting and, including eating lunch, we were not there more than an hour. It is possible that it would be more impressive after the rain season when the volume of water coming over the falls should be much greater.
We arrived in Palenque and first took a drive through the town - it is really not a very attractive town at first sight, and we didn't change our mind over the ensuing days as we revisited it several time. However, once you leave the town and head out toward the ruins, the area is much more attractive. We chose to stay at the Mayabell and it is a pleasant place to spend some time. The grounds are grassed and there are cabañas as well as the trailer park, with a restaurant and a swimming pool. The pool looked a bit green to me, but most people seemed to be enjoying it. And I did see them cleaning it early in the mornings, so I guess it was just my perception that it looked a bit slimy! There seem to be a lot of westerners there who have 'got lost' in the jungle and aren't ready to go home yet. But it all adds to the colourful nature of the place. There are also howler monkeys in the jungle. I'd heard of them but assumed they would let out a howl, not unlike a wolf howling at the moon. They don't really howl, though - to me it sounds a bit more like an unhappy lion's roar. We heard plenty of them while in the campground and at the ruins.

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