We stopped at a great little campground (Rancho Camping San Nicolas) in San Cristobal de Las Casas where we met Shannon and Josh from The Next Adventures and Wilson, Sarah, and Ace who we have been meeting throughout different parts of mainland Mexico. San Cristobal de Las Casas was our last little colonial town in Mexico with a really cool atmosphere. More time would have been spent at the markets and in the seemingly unlimited cafes, but Ash spent most of her time fighting off Montezuma and his revenge from the safety of the tent and campground. Luckily after 24 hours she was back in business and was excited to share some of Josh’s now famous Dutch Oven Curry Vegetable Soup.
Leaving San Cristobal we drove Highway 199 through the mountains. After spending 6+ weeks in the mountains and colonial towns, the drive from the state of Oaxaca to Chiapas was a big change in scenery. Oaxaca reminded us of home… mountains, pine forests, and moderate temperatures whereas almost immediately after you cross the border into Chiapas you’re looking at a blend of jungle and recognizable forests. This drive is absolutely stunning and definitely recommended… even with the 4.5 hour stop at a roadblock in Ocosingo (high school students were protesting against the government) which turned this into a 10+ hour drive, half of which was in the dark and the rain. Good thing Richard finally wired our Hella driving lights the day before in San Cristobal (this was a total fluke that paid off huge). This road is notorious for road blocks so when we left we were a bit apprehensive, but the gorgeous scenery and friendly faces quickly eased our worries.
By the time we made it to Palenque we were deep into the jungle. Vegetation is radically different, the humidity skyrockets, and the resulting mosquitos are relentless. Oh yeah, there are howler monkeys too.
This is the sound we woke up to our first morning in Palenque.
The Palenque ruins date back to 226 BC to around 799 AD and are a serious departure from the first ruins we saw in Teotihuacan. The only thing that was similar was the relatively small amount of tourists considering how awesome this place is. Instead of giant pyramids built on flat dry desert, the ruins are built on the sides of the mountain in the vegetation. They (Wikipedia) say that, “…it is estimated that less than 10% of the total area of the city is explored, leaving more than a thousand structures still covered by jungle.” Crazytown.
The Maya Bell Trailer park is a fantastic place to stay if you want to explore the ruins of Palenque. The howler monkeys will wake you up early and then a short 10 minute walk will bring you to the lower entrance of the ruins. #welcometothejungleLocation: GPS: 17°29’15.07″N 92° 2’18.81″W http://www.mayabell.com.mx/location.html