Day 203: Palenque – Mexico – Jan 6th

Waking up in the dark at 5:30am, we got ready and were waiting for a shuttle to take us out to the ruins Yaxchitlan. The tours seem to be extremely popular, but one strange thing is everybody seems to be on the same tour bus/route/schedule regardless of who you booked with. The tours were very smoothly ruin, despite us not really knowing what’s going on or where we’re going next, just trust where people point you to and eventually you’ll arrive at the destination. Actually, it’s pretty scary if you think about it!

Yaxchitlan is actually in the middle of the jungle, and no roads have been paved to get there. The only way is to enter the national park area, and take a boat into the ruins! Sounds pretty adventurous doesn’t it? The national park area is pretty neat as it has resort-style lodgings outside for visitors who want to stay over night. Seems like a lot of local Mexicans prefer to travel this way! For us, we just endured the 40min boat ride and landed into the ruins of Yaxchitlan. Walking about 5mins through a jungle trail with thick vegetation on both sides, you get damp and wet without breaking a sweat.

Then, rising out of nowhere is the sight of a moss covered building, and you can’t help but imagine what it was like to have stumbled across these ruins a hundred years ago. Walking into the pitch dark ruin (it was the only way through), we were lucky to have brought a headlamp. Looking around inside were the typical Mayan arches, stone walls, and bats. Yes, bats. First time seeing bats in a ‘natural’ habitat, we were somewhat creeped out. It didn’t help that, as we were trying to make a turn into the next room, a bat comes out of nowhere and flies through the doorway, giving us a bit of a scare! Ha ha, creepy gross.

We won’t give too much details about the ruins, but it was well worth the visit. Being the first time in a jungle, we also got to see and hear some monkeys. The monkey species most prevalent here is the howler monkey, capable of making some REALLY awesome howls. It’s somewhat scary though, as you’re wandering around the ruins, and out of nowhere 10m away from you, this deafening howl comes and gives you a scare…haha. There were also many massive trees that dot the main plaza, with their canopies sheltering us from the rain, it was rather surreal as we’re not used to seeing trees about 5 stories tall!!

After lunch at the lodge, we were shuttled over to another site known as Bonampak. Much smaller in size, it had plenty of intricate stone carvings. The coolest part though was the murals inside a stone building, which dates back to 6th century AD. While we were there though, we saw a group of American tourists with a name tag stating “Yale Education Travel”. The tour looked professionally run, and the tour guide gave extremely knowledgeable speeches regarding all the pieces within the ruins. We tagged along and listened a bit and was really interesting. Later on, we found out that the tour guide was actually a world-leading expert in Mayan art, author of renowned Mayan books, and the Dean of Yale College…. Cool.

A tiring day, and getting back to town it was too late for us to shop for groceries and cook. So we grabbed an awesome meal….at Burger King! Good, exciting day!

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