Jungle Ancients: Yaxchilan, Bonampak

We waited in the dark for our tour van, listening to the jungle awaken. Driving as the dawn breaks through the lush countryside was refreshing – until we came upon a terrible rollover accident and we walked near, to be reminded of how fleeting life is. Thankfully, no one died here, and we were only delayed an hour.

Our tour provided breakfast at a little roadside tour restaurant, and we were all ready to chow down before continuing on. Arriving in the area we had to stop and pay a little to the Frontera to pass to the boats. The launch ride of 55 minutes was a gorgeous trip between the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala.

First sighting a tall ruin from the river, the rest of the exploration trek did not disappoint, and we were serenaded by howler monkeys in the high canopy. I find that ruins are best enjoyed in solitude or with a friend, not in crowds, so that I can contemplate and discover in my imagination as well as with my senses. Yaxchilan is large, and we only encountered a couple of other small tour groups.

Our tour guide did not speak much English, so Loretta and I just broke off and went on our own. The signage was in English, a Mayan dialect, and Spanish, so we got a bit of explanation as we went. This site is known for the elaborate carved stone lintels over the main doorways in major buildings and the carved stone stelae containing hieroglyphic texts that describe the city’s history. (Be sure to check out the Mayan language in my pictures of the signs.)

Another 55 minute boat ride, and we got back on the bus to head for a much-anticipated lunch at a tour restaurant in the Frontera area before we headed to Bonampak.

Because of the delay at the accident scene, our visit to Bonampak was cut short so we did not get to climb to the higher temples. But the Temple of the Murals is the main attraction containing fabulous colorful frescos in three rooms. Wikipedia has a fascinating description of the site discovery and how a lucky accident preserved the murals for so long.

Five o’clock and the site closes down, so we hit the van for the very long ride back to Palenque looking forward to some good food and wine at Don Mucho’s before passing out. At dinner we decided to take an extra day – as indie travelers with no set itinerary we can do that! – just to rest and enjoy our jungle hotel area.

Compared to over-touristy sites like Teotihuacan outside Mexico City, these are a breath of literal fresh air. There are no vendors yelling at you to buy, and there are few people compared to the size of the site, so you can have some peace in your jungle explorations. If you are ever in Chiapas, Palenque or San Cristobal areas, I highly recommend you take a tour.

I hope you enjoy the photos!


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Court reporter turned internet bum