Sunday, August 03, 2014
The nightbus takes me to Palenque, in the south of Mexico- in the morning the army checked us on weapons and drugs.
I am pretty adament on sleeping on my own, but that night a scorpion wants to share my bed with me in the youth hostel. As much of a vegetarian I am, I cannot say I shed a tear when the receptionist killed it (and yes I did sleep in that same bed).
The two days excursion I take, turns out to be an excellent choice. It is shared with two Mexican couples, who cannot quite get my name, so Rosita it is. Most parts I am going to now are mostly visited by Mexican tourists, generally from the capital or the north (visibly a bit more affluent).
It is quite a drive to Bonampak where we are soon put on a small boat, going over a river, on which one side lies Guatemala, the other Mexico. We are let off at the Maya ruins of Yaxchilan. Yet another archeological site, yet again a new surprise, as found in the middle of the jungle with hardly any other people around. I thoroughly enjoy this visit. Our next visit is to the ruins of Bonampak, where we take a guide, which sheds some (but not a full) light on my curiosity. There are many many Maya sites, as it was a people that consisted of many different groups, that each had their own settlements-villages with their own leaders and typical hierarchy. Regularly they would fight with other Mayan groups. It was more about power than anything else, as their religion and language were often the same. However within that there were variations. Their religion was a combination of beliefs in nature and in a number of gods and included human sacrifice.
The next day we go on a long walk in the jungle (Selva Lacandonia), finding a deserted Maya ruin, as there are many more. Unfortunately animalwise not much more than insects and lizards, as the monkeys are too shy.
The night we stay in a cabana at a river in which we swim, which is lovely. The tours are run by the local indigenous people that live there and I am trying hard to understand how they live. The kids will join us at the table, taking breaks from their jobs as vendors of all kinds of bracelets, necklaces, drinks and food. Their Spanish was not always great, but they also do not seem too keen to answer too many questions and what I find odd is that they seem to lack the one quality I so appreciate in children: curiosity. Just get on with life without any questions. I lend them my pen and notebook to draw in, which they eagerly do, and when I ask they tell me they do not have pens at home. They live of agriculture for own consumption and the children are involved in work. Most of them seem to go to a bilingual (Maya and Spanish) school, but education has no priority. The government does seem to come up with projects, but not much is actually put into practise. Obviously the ones living in tourist areas are better off. In town I see small kids selling articles everywhere, I do not like buying from them, but sometimes I give them food - to which one lady remarks; "the government gives indigenous families money for each kid," to which I reply that it is obvious that this child is hungry. Apparently there is an alcohol problem within this culture as well. It is hard to get the right information without actually doing proper research or/and living with them. Those children are part of the streetview and actually easy to ignore as they don't seem to be suffering terribly and don't seem to have criminal tendencies. I prefer not to however.
The night I come back I decide to stay in la Panchan, a 'bohemian' part in the jungle of Palenque with restaurants and places to stay. I stay in a cheap but awful place, old mattrass, many people in one room, all concrete, incredibly loud music...No idea how, but I am so exhausted and I sleep like a log..
Time to do my own thing, I decide the next day. I hitchhike to the waterfalls of Misol-ha and Agua Azul, both very different and stunning, I slip at one point and fall straight forward with my massive backpack on (who would've thought it can be slippery with all that water...). One guy who has taken me on is a soldier, stationed in Michoacan, where currently there is a serious battle going on between drugdealers and the army. He shows me pictures of his weapons and him in a massive field of marihuana. I had already crossed this city off my list of visits...
In the city of San Cristobal I am shocked by the sudden drop of temperature; I find myself at about 2000 meters into the mountains and am not prepared for this. I am sharing a cold house with a Spanish brother and sister who I hang out with for a bit, but in some way are even less social than couples and I get fed up at just tagging along, rather than being part of the company. As I just chat away with anyone I meet, I soon make a friend on a local bus, who decides to spend the rest of an afternoon showing me around town; there are more churches than schools here. She is a lawyer and tells me they are just reforming the law, now people can testify orally in court. Mexicans work six days a week. A five day workweek is called ´semana Inglesa´ funnily enough.
Outside San Cristobal I visit the Canon del Sumidero, a breathtaking boattrip in between rockwalls, encountering crocodiles on the way (and yes they do eat humans). The trip that impresses me most, is the visit to San Juan de Chamula. At first nothing special, lots of little tourist shops, to finally reach a square with a church. The churches here are less decorated than the Italian ones. This one has a lot of life size dolls in glass cabinets, which represent the saints. On the floor there is hay and candles. People are sitting on the floor, praying out loud (not in Spanish) in an almost meditative state, sticking candles to the floor, subsequently holding and waving a chicken over it and then killing it with their hands. They have several plastic bottles around them and drink alcohol from them and some Coca Cola (the smallest, most remote village will have Coca Cola here). It is an odd and somewhat distressing sight. I know the bible often talks of animal sacrifice, but I have never seen it in modern times. It is however more likely to be a Mayan ritual mixed into Catholicism, than biblical.
I have been on the road non-stop and want to take a break, but suddenly realise that I have little time to lose, as I want to go to a folkloristic festival in Oaxaca, so I quickly sign up for the next tour: lakes near the border of Guatemala, before yet again traveling on another nightbus...