For Jacqui and I the evil, imaginary metronome that represents time was ticking. Last year after the Dolphin crashed and we purchased the then-unnamed PennyWagon, we got ourselves a one year Mexican Car Insurance plan, and now that year is drawing to a close.
So, being that we stingily refuse to purchase any extension on our plan it’s time to get our butts to Guatemala. But as anyone who’s been following our journey for a while would guess, we’re just not fast at these things. It would seem our adventures are going to lead us right up to the final hours.
So back to where our story left off: San Cristobal, Jacqui finishing her freelance design job, me being a Housewife, new friends made - all that sunshine and buttercups.
Our tentative plan was to drive to Palenque, then backtrack to a southern Mexico-Guatemala border crossing. However, the fear-mongering was in full swing. Left and right the bad stories of the road to Palenque were rolling in: hundreds of topes (speedbumps), masked vigilantes and unofficial tolls. In fact, one poor fellow rolled into our campsite with the side of his van spray-painted after he tried to play dumb at one of these vigilante tollbooths.
The most complete rundown of the situation we could get was this: the locals were setting up vigilante roadblocks and demanding trick-or-treat style tolls to pass. We’ve heard of strings blocking the road, masses of people wearing masks, spike strips and people banging on your car with sticks all until you cough up the 50-300 pesos to pass.
Jacqui and I were rapidly losing interest in visiting this landmark, however….
Gregor and Janice of Live Travel Play and George and Janine of Traveling the Americas came rolling through our little campsite in San Cristobal headed on the same path. So like any brave hero I told them if they survived, send us an email and let us know how it went.
The reports were divided. Our two sets of friends departed one day apart. Gregor and Janice reported absolutely no problems other than the inconceivable amount of topes. George and Janine were delayed nearly 4 hours by the traffic the impromptu toll generated, but since they paid the toll without argument they passed without issue.
So there was a clear message that could be gleaned from all this information. No physical injuries, and no damage to your vehicle if you’re cooperative. With our confidence boosted by this info we packed a little red bag with coins and small bills for tolls and decided we’d count every single tope on the road to Palenque to help distract from how annoying they are.
At last we arrived in the city known for it’s ruins. After the crisp, light, cool air of San Cristobal we were now wearing the thick, wet air that hung on us as crippling as wearing a winter jacket in a sauna. Luckily I had my free Mezcal-tour hat for jungle exploration and there was a swimming pool!
The ruins of Palenque were something grander than my words can give due credit. I’m not one to be awed by old rocks, but these old rocks were huge, and the jungle surrounding was constantly roaring with the inhuman sounds of howler monkeys. The inconceivably large howl of these tiny monkeys sounds like you’re on the set of Jurassic Park.
Exploring the Palenque ruins
With the ruins explored, it was time to hug the border on our roundabout path for crossing into Guatemala. We were pulling some regular camp-hopping.
Our first night deserved no photos and therefore received none. It was a blisteringly hot evening that didn’t let up till 3 in the morning. We spent a lot of time sitting in the river that divides Mexico from Guatemala simply trying to cool down and were just too damn hot to snap a photo of even this epic scene.
Early the next morning, before the sun could attack us, we were on the road and swinging through the Macaw Parrot sanctuary. This place left me uncharacteristically quiet. It was as if we’d stepped into some make-believe paradise. The rich thick greenery, the perfect un-manicured grass, exotic wildlife and hundreds of butterflies all nestled on the edge of a river that I couldn’t even wait to grab my swim-trunks to get in. It just didn’t feel real.
Coming from California where grass, crops, flowers, trees and decorative plants are all carefully tended to and watered into existance…they just live here. Mangos, avocados, exotic flowers and even pineapples are wild and thriving. The insects are deafeningly loud, the exotic animals are shrieking and playing. Life is here in volumes that are simply astounding, and we’re not even close to the equator yet.
Guacamayas (parrots) sanctuary and impatiently jumping in the river
When we finally arrived at our evenings campsite of Las Nubes the overwhelming feeling of awe was all the more set into both Jacqui and I. The beyond-belief blue waters and waterfalls of Las Nubes just don't look real.
The drive to Las Nubes then when the color of the water changes...you know where it is