When we left San Cristobal de las Casas, we made a giant circle back to it. First, Palenque. Then a route along the Mexico / Guatemalan border, stopping briefly at Yaxchilan for ruins, Las Nubes for the bluest river we've seen since Canada and El Chilfon to see a magnificent set of waterfalls. And finally back to San Cristobal.
At Yaxchilan, you're supposed to take a boat up the river to the ruins, but since we had just been at Palenque, we were all ruin-ed out. Instead, we had a few beers and snacks (In addition to awful pizza anywhere other than on the Oaxacan coast, Mexico has the worst french fries...go figure), hung out with some howler monkeys, made camp in a grass patch behind a hotel, and called it an early night.
Howler Monkey in a tree at Yaxchilan
In the morning we headed for Las Nubes. Carley entered the coordinates into the Garmin and we were off! Except, sometimes our GPS takes us on the strangest routes. For example, the road to the Sima de las Cotorras (Sinkhole of Parrots from our last post) is well marked and paved. No GPS necessary, really. But we're slaves to it. GPS sent us zig-zagging though farmland on dirt roads, in the middle of nowhere, before finally meeting back up with said paved road. The route to Las Nubes was no different. We drove down and down a long, unpaved road, waiting out cattle, and catching confused looks from farmhands before reaching a dead end, just across the river from our destination. No bridge. Not for the Jeep anyway. Just a walking bridge, held up by a few ropes. The next hour was spent driving in circles trying to find a bridge that crossed the rushing blue river we were on the wrong side of. So we turned off the Garmin and got out a paper map (We know, wild).
Finally, we made it to the Nubes (pronounced like NEW-biss, we think) It's a really nice cabana rental resort that allows camping. The blue river rushing along side the resort (the main attraction) commanded respect. One slip up and you're going downhill fast. As we mentioned earlier, there's a swinging bridge, which leads to a few unofficial trails out to the small but powerful falls (in the US, you wouldn't be able to get anywhere near a river this dangerous, but it's Mexico, so of course we hiked out).
Wild rushing river at Las Nubes
Panoramic view of the falls at Las Nubes
Later, we hiked a more official trail, laid out by the resort, up to an observation deck to see where the river spilled out. Along the way we found a few structures that looked like they were supposed to be rental cabanas, but they had stopped construction mid-build and simply left them.(there seems to be a lot of this in Mexico) And it's easy to see how ruins get buried and become unrecognizable mounds of tropical dirt. In this environment, everything grows so quickly and is so lush, these structures, no more than a decade old, looked like modern ruins.
View from the observation deck where the water from Las Nubes spills out the other side
Almost stepped on this little caterpillar
Oh, and we saw one of these things.
Mexican Agouti - not our photo
The cabanas at the resort seemed really nice and they all have hot water. The camping area for truck campers is pretty non-existant, so we ended up in a small gravel area that smelled a bit like onions. We're guessing there was a compost pile near by. But the tent camping area is a lovely grassy lawn, and, since it's the off-season, completely empty. At night, the field of grass was lit up with fireflies and we sat and watched them for a while and talked about magic.
Next stop...El Chiflon!
At any other point of our travels, in any other part of the world, El Chiflon probably would have been a highlight, and don't misunderstand, it was absolutely stunning. But after days of amazing jungle scenery, ruins, monkeys, and more waterfalls than you can count, a place like El Chiflon can almost become "just another waterfall". Which is unfortunate, really.
The falls are situated on an amazingly blue river, that winds it's way through the jungle, dumping itself over several cliffs, each one more impressive than the last. As you make your way up the well-manicured path that follows the river, you begin to catch glimpses of El Chiflon. Once it comes into full view, you realize just how massive these falls are. Dropping an impressive 70+ meters over the sheer cliff above, the water turns into a windy mist as it hits the rocks below. So windy, that as you stand on the viewing platform near the base of the falls, it's hard to breathe in, it literally takes your breath away.
El Chiflon from the viewing platform. No way to get a decent picture - the mist soaks you!
Perhaps, a bit of the magic of El Chiflon is lost in the tourism of the place. By most standards it's not overdeveloped, but in a place where things are so wild, so ancient and mysterious, a little development goes a long way in damaging the feel. Or, perhaps, the previous week or so of amazing, wild scenery had spoiled us. Either way, don't skip it; the place is truly amazing.
Then back to San Cris (as we've heard other folks call it) for another week of pozole verde, the best croissants we've ever had and just enough of rapid environment change for Carley to get a wicked sinus infection. We can't say enough about San Cristobal. Not that we need to. Its charm can only be found by experiencing it. Go there.
Since it gets cold at night in the mountains, and Carley is a giant baby when she's sick, we decided to head back to the beach. Zipolite was just too good and we couldn't resist the urge to dig our toes in the sand once more before heading back to the states. So after a week in San Cristobal, we packed up and headed west!
Almost forgot! First turtle rescue in roughly six months! While in the jungle, just this side of Guatemala, we found a turtle in the middle of the road and snached him up. After narrowly escaping death (there was a big truck right behind us who just missed running him over), he was a bit camera shy.
Turtles Rescued - 31 and counting!