Friday, October 10, 2008

Welcome to the Jungle

I went from sipping Oaxacan tejate (a cold maize and cocoa drink) from a bowl while a rainstorm whipped through the tarp-encrusted market to the middle of a nature reserve in 24 hours. My time at Sumidero Canyon was a boat ride full of birds, crocodiles, and even a couple spider monkeys. The canyon is massive. See that white thing on the water on the left? That's a boat full of people. Get the scale?

I was never much into bird watching, even if a lot of my middle and high school friends were. Now I'm starting to regret that. I'm seeing (and hearing) so many different kinds of birds, and I have no clue what they are. I can just report an assault of colors and calls everywhere I'm going. Same for the fish I'm seeing in rivers and creeks (is there such a thing as fish watching?).

I spent a night on the other side of the mountains from the canyon next to the ruins of Palenque. This was the jungle. I got half a cabin and spent more time than I'd care to admit evicting the previous occupant: a moth/roach critter about the size of my fist. But waking up to those noises the next morning was something else entirely. Everybody, four-legged, six-legged, two winged, or otherwise had something to say. Forget roosters, try waking up to dawn in the tropical rain forest.

I crossed swinging rope and wood bridges next to waterfalls to find that the ruins of Palenque themselves have been totally conquered by the the jungle. Fully-grown trees erupted out of stone steps and buildings. Vines had torn off limestone plaster and the rocks beneath. But the biggest buildings and pyramids had been preserved. The carvings of gods, kings, and heroes were still visible in places. I don't think this will be the last time I visit ruins like these, but this might be the most impressive setting for quite some time. You snake your way through trees and vines until a pyramid suddenly opens up in front of you. Amazing.

When I wasn't crashing through the jungle, I was mostly either chatting up or being chatted up by locals and fellow travelers (mostly Spaniards out here in Chiapas). I don't know if my Spanish is actually improving, but I know I'm getting more and more confident at least. Since I was a teenager, I've almost always had some song or other running through my head. Lately, I've been mentally translating the lyrics from some of the songs into Spanish without even thinking about it until I hit something I don't know how to say or that just won't scan right. When talking to people, I still constantly have to ask them to repeat themselves, but I'm getting better at it. People have been really excited to teach me localized spanish. Especially how to swear properly. Also learned where piropos/pìckup lines with "mamacita" come from (turns out it's not mother, it's maize). Useful stuff...?

I have about a week left until I meet up with my group in Guatemala. My next stop is the Yucatan. With any luck, I'll be there before sunrise tomorrow morning.

Check out this entry's Photos


  1. I am so insanely jealous of this amazing experience you are having. thanks for sharing it, at least, it's great reading this stuff even if it makes the travel bug-bites itch ;)

  2. I was looking at your pictures with the slide show and then realized that I was missing your captions. So am now looking one to one to get those. Oops on my part. Really enjoying all of them. Keep having a great time!

  3. Yeah those bug bites are driving me nuts too. Especially two on my left ankle right where my shoe keeps hitting it... eugh.

    Still. Totally worth it. Any way I Can Convince you to come risk a few more sometime?
    Good point about the photos, I might want to mention that in my next post. You get the fuill-size and with comments if you click the link for the full set.