Sunday, May 29, 2011

Agua Azul

After our visit to Misol-Ha, we hopped back into the car and took off for Agua Azul.  I seemed to take forever, even though it was only about an hour.  We dodged a 3-foot iguana in the road, passed into official Zapatista territory (according to a hand painted sign) and saw what we choose to believe was a guy asleep on the side of the road.  After becoming convinced we were lost, and having the Mexican road signs tell us we were 28 km from Agua Azul over and over, we made it!

Our first look at the falls.  That water looks so clean, I want to swim!  For those who do not speak Spanish, Agua Azul means Blue Water, and I can see why they would name this place that.

The thick jungle around this huge falls system made it even more beautiful.

Time for swimming!

Here we are looking tired, but still determined to finish touristing at our last stop.

The liitle falls-knob on the right appears to defy gravity...

We climbed (you guessed it) about 500 more stairs to get up to this point, the top of the falls.

We got this pic looking down from the top.  Looks like something out of a travel mag!
I look into the jungle before we depart.

On our way back to Villahermosa, I took this pic of a Chiapas taxi.  This was the preferred mode of travel throughout the state of Chiapas.  Looks hot and dangerous.

We see this all over Mexico.  Here, the side of the highway is on fire, and there is no one around.  This was about halfway between Palenque and Villahermosa.

And finally, back to the modern world.  We had a whirlwind trip, but it was really fun with so much to see.  I hope to go back to Chiapas sometime before we leave Mexico to see more Mayan Ruins and more jungle!

Las Cascadas de Misol-Ha

We finished up at Palenque around noon and headed back to our hotel for cold showers and lunch before checkout.  It was crazy hot by noon, so the showers (number 2 of the day for each of us) were badly needed.  So, we said our goodbyes to the hotel employees that had been following us around since our arrival (a bit odd), and set off for more adventure in the jungle.  We were on our way to Agua Azul, pretty much the Niagara Falls of Mexico...or at least Chiapas, when we stumbled upon this pretty little waterfall and decided to have a look.

The falls were narrow this day, though internet pictures show a much more spectacular sight.  It was still very impressive though, as it was very very high up, so it was extra dramatic.

There was swimming allowed in the lagoon below the falls, and this warning sign lets would-be swimmers know that it is dangerous to swim in clothing and shoes, as the water is very deep.  So...what are you supposed to swim in?  Is a bathing suit not an article of clothing?  Perplexing...

A view of the falls from the side, very picturesque.

Here we are smiling through the sweat!  We found a little (paved) path leading into the side of the mountain, so we decided to follow it and see where it lead...

As we wound out way behind the waterfall, we saw our destination: ominous cave...

The story of how I ended up running around in the jungle in my pajamas is a woeful tale, but I rocked it anyway!  Look out!  The jungle appears to be creeping up behind me, even under a rock!

Yet another view of the falls...

These crazy jungle vines were growing through solid rock.  It feels like Tarzan could come swinging out at any minute!

Upon arrival to destination ominous cave, we encountered this rotten looking plank, and decided to turn back.  I am getting braver everyday (I think jumping in a gas-perfumed Mexican rental car and driving blind with no GPS into Zapatista territory is pretty brave!), but I am not stupid.  If that rotten plank is how one enters ominous cave, one can only imagine the horrors that might await inside.

Mini-waterfall spouting out of what appeared to be solid rock.  Water, water everywhere...

After the cave trail and paying 50 pesos to use a bathroom whose door was in fact nothing more than a tarp, we headed back to the car.  It was about 110 degrees by this time, and we were in need of some air conditioning for our trip deeper into Chiapas to see the wonders at Agua Azul...


After a an extremely hot night in the jungle (temperature wise!), we got up early to go to our main destination, the ruined Mayan city of Palenque.  We got there early enough that it was not sweltering yet, and we even found a free parking spot!  A local offered to wash and then "watch" our car for a small fee, which we passed on. In my best Spanish I told the guy that it was just a rental, so we really didn't care about it! That seemed to be a good enough answer for him... 

I was pretty sure the car would be gone when we came back, but anyway....

  After making our way through the hoards of unwashed hippies who congregate at places like this (no offense to anyone, but it is true), we walked through the gate and into the park.

Palenque, yet another piece of the Cultural Patrimony of Humanity.

Upon entering, we immediately found ourselves in downtown Mayan Palenque.

More buildings in the distance.  That foggy stuff is not smog, as we are accustomed to in el DF, but it is in fact pristine jungle steam.  It wasn't 120 out yet, but it was easily in the low 90s, and warming quickly.

We climbed the first building we came to, and posed for quick shot.  This would be the first of thousands of stairs we climbed this day.

A shot of the way down...steep stone stairs, as found at every Mesoamerican ruin least in Mexico.

Here we have el Sr. Lizard taking in the ruins too!

We couldn't climb this one, but it is stunning against the jungle backdrop, no?

This was probably the coolest part about Palenque.  The art!!!  It's so interesting!!  Last winter I had the awesome opportunity to visit Tikal in Guatemala.  Many say those are the most impressive Mayan ruins in existence, and yes they were really cool.  Tikal is a huge site with huge pyramids, etc...but what Tikal does not have a lot of (that I remember) is art.  I really enjoyed seeing all of the carvings really added to the ambiance.

This was inside the Palace maze.  Another cool thing about Palenque is that they let you climb the ruins *and* go inside.  We kept thinking about what it was like to live in this did they survive the heat?  Were their quads made of steel with all these stairs?  So much to ponder...

A view up the hill from the Palace.

The cross was a powerful symbol in Mayan art.  They believed they existed in the place where the Heavens met the Underworld, and they symbolized that with the cross shape.  Pretty interesting stuff for someone with a religion degree.  :)

This is a relief of the ruler (left) carting around his prisoners (the rest of the guys) on a classic Mexican "perp-walk," just like they do on the morning news here!  

It was inside the special space of the Palace where the ruler entertained foreign dignitaries and other VIPs.  Some of the best art was displayed here.  This concept still exists in the modern diplomatic corps...dress up the representational space in the coolest art you have, then invite your contacts over for a party.  I guess some things are eternal!

This was their aqueduct. Neat.

This is the phonetic Mayan syllabary.  There are over 800 symbol combinations representing different syllables. Thanks UW linguistics class! Fascinating and pretty to look at. 

This one says, "To avoid injury, no running or jumping on the pyramids" uhh...or something!

Though the ruins were the main attraction, the jungle was a close second. 

View of the Palace and beyond from on top of the tallest pyramid in the complex.
They could see their enemigos coming from miles away!

Of course, it wouldn't be a Mesoamerican ruin site without a ball court!  The center part seems narrower than other ball courts we've seen.  Maybe they were skinnier than your average death-sport participants. More research is definitely needed.

After wandering through the main part of the ruins, we followed a path down a steep hill / torturous set of stairs and into the jungle on a journey to find secret jungle ruins.  I guess they are not entirely secret, judging from the perfect preservation and the handicap-accessible path, but not a whole lot of people bothered to come down to this part, so it was very quiet, jungley and a bit spooky...exactly what we were looking for!


We thought we heard more Mexican Aardvarks in the trees, but maybe it was just enormous be the judge!

Exotic tropical jungle-scape.
More hidden temples...
and more STAIRS!!!

Jungle-ified tree.


And finally we reached the end of the jungle path...only to be met with these hundred million stairs running straight up this very steep hill.  Our legs will make us pay for this...don't worry.

Yet another guy with a fancy headdress and fabulous accessories!
He looks a little terrified or pissed off if you ask me!

Still smiling after all those stairs!  Cheers!

A last look at "downtown."

Is that a mountain or is that a yet undiscovered enormous pyramid??

Jungle flower.

And we're back in modern Mexico.  I browsed every single craparia here, and even bought a new runner for my dining room table.  History and souvenir fun!

 The monster shaped object on the right used to be a telephone pole...until the jungle came for it!!