Travelling to the mountainous Chiapas (6-14 February)

March 4, 2006  
Topics: Mexico

After an exciting weekend with the Mennonites we wanted something new, something we have not seen in Yucatan peninsula. We decided to have a look to the mountains in Chiapas state – about 400-500 km away from where we were.

From Nueva Trinidad colony we took a small road to the South, direction Xpujil. There was almost no traffic, just 2-3 cars per hour. We managed to move slowly but surely! Our intention was to visit one Mayan pyramid – Becan – very near Xpujil. We arrived too late and asked for a permission to put our tent in the garden of one house nearby the pyramids.

We checked the price of Becan in the morning. It was 3$ – over our daily budget. We just used the chance to visit rest-rooms. They appeared to be biological toilets with a lot of nice installations to keep it clean.

Later on we got a ride by two young Israelis who live in US and came to Mexico for a two weeks holiday. We drove with them about 350 km and arrived to Palenque – a small town full of tourists, which come here to visit a big complex of Mayan pyramids and ruins. The archaeological zone is 8 km away from the town. It also has several campsites with affordable prices. It was too late to search for a free accommodation, so that’s what we did – we took a minibus to the archaeological zone and got a place under the roof for our tent for 2$ per person. Having a roof was a must that evening as it rained like crazy.

Our neighbours – young “alternative” Mexican people – all the night were enjoying soup of “special” mushrooms and smoking marijuana. At the beginning we thought of staying in this place for two nights, but in the morning we felt uncomfortable with this environment and decided to leave.

We were attracted by mountains going from Palenque towards Bonampak. A few rides and we reached the first villages in the beginning of a mountain range. It was a small village La Reforma where we stayed the next night. We asked people around for a place to camp. Everybody was referring to a man called Clemente, who takes care about the church, which was surrounded by grass possible to build a tent on. This man lived with his family in the last house of the village. It was not so easy to explain them why we came to them and how are we different from the ordinary tourists, which watch tourist attractions and leave without making a contact with locals. In contrary, we aim to meet people and see how they live day-by-day.

Clemente and two of his sons made a quick tour in the surrounding maize fields and forest with mountain stream. When we returned back to the house, the wife Maria Dolores already had an idea where they will accommodate us – on the floor in the children’s room.

The church communities in the region has just few responsible priests, that is why Clemente assists the priests and gives a church service for the village every Sunday. This man is an activist of the village. He is involved in a Palenque based and supported by Spain organisation that takes care about the health of poor people in the surrounding communities. Clemente is a responsible person for his village.

Next day we had intentions to travel deep to the mountains, visiting villages there. We also wanted to find the reserves of lacandones – indigenous people living in the mountain jungles and surviving from what gives the nature.

In the evening and in the morning our new hosts were telling us about the live in the mountains. There is no work over there. People are struggling to get income in order to support their families. We remembered that people in La Reforma village where looking very strange at us, sometimes ignoring to respond to our “Buenas tardes” (“good afternoon”) greetings. Moreover, lacandones got so much attention from the tourism industry, that now everybody, even Mexicans, entering their reserve is asked for money.

All these facts brought us the feeling that we would hardly enjoy the trip to the mountains. Besides, Clemente mentioned that tomorrow he is travelling to Palenque to attend the meeting of earlier mentioned organisation. He offered to come to Palenque tomorrow and participate in the meeting of his organisation, where we would have possibility to meet responsible men from different communities. This sounded interesting to us and we made a final decision not to travel to the mountains.

That day we travelled towards La Libertad (“the liberty” in English), which was about 40 km away from Palenque. Somewhere on the way locals mentioned the Mayan ruins called Pomona, which are free to enter. It was a hot day, and 2 km walking from the main road to Pomona located in the fields was a hard job. These ruins had only couple of tourists per day. You could see that from the book of visitors they ask you to fill in. The site had a simple pyramid and few other small ruins surrounded by green grass and few trees, which we used for enjoying the shadow. The site also had a one-room museum with basic information about Mayan people’s religion and culture.

Short before 5pm we reached cosy La Libertad village. The municipality was still open and we asked them for a place to camp. One of the municipality workers brought us near small river, where we could find plenty of places to camp. On the other side of the river we could see a jungle forest and hear certain type of monkeys making strange and loud noise.

We have arranged our tent, made nice food and where ready to fight with mosquitos attacking us. That moment a young couple approached us. The full of love, married 2 years ago Jorge and Guadalupe where living in a nearby house. They explained that in their small place they have an empty room and we are welcome to spend the night there. We were more than happy to accept their invitation.

Next early afternoon arrived to Palenque. When we arrived to the address given by Clemente, the meeting of people from communities was already over. Clemente introduced us to two other men, who made a short interview with us and finally allowed to stay for free in their organisation’s building. It was a small house with few rooms, where every day comes the doctor and the people from communities can get medical help. The building had 2 rooms for the guests, where we stayed for another 5 days. Unfortunately, during our stay we did not manage to meet people representing different communities. Instead, we had a small rest in the town full of tourists.