Jungle Adventure – DAY 2: Yaxchilán and Bonampak

So, as I said, I started out this day wearing wet pants and being way overtired. Additionally, I was informed that we were taking the van to a place where we had to take a boat to get to one of the ruins we were going to see. I was thrilled; a zigzaggy van ride, followed by a boat ride. What’s not to love?

We were told to wait for our ride out on the main road where the original van had dropped us off. A car drove towards us and stopped to ask Huppy something. He just shook his head and said no and we continued on to the road. The car turned around and parked at the entrance about 20 feet from us. We were there for awhile, maybe 10 minutes before Pedro thought he should ask the guy if he knew about our van. Turns out, the guy had asked Huppy if we were with the tour, but Huppy thought he asked about a tour. One of many language nuances we are sure to get wrong. The car was our ride.

He drove us to our breakfast spot, not really saying very much, though Pedro tried. Pedro LOVES to talk to anybody and everybody. He’s shameless really. He’s lucky he’s so charming. The guy didn’t have much to say and we were having a hard time understanding if he was our ride all they way to Yaxchilán. We really didn’t have anything confirmed with him until the very last minute when we were actually in his car and on our way. I was very grateful to be in the car and not the van. WAY less nausea to be had in a car.

Shortly after leaving our breakfast place, maybe about 5 or 10 km out, traffic came to a stop. A truck’s trailer had overturned and they were in the process of pulling it out of a ditch and getting it upright.

See? They’re trying to pull it up with two tow trucks and a couple of winches.

The scene was incredible. This was the highlight of a lot of people’s day. Not only that, the whole thing was being orchestrated by people, not cops or the military.

Pedro of course used this opportunity to have his picture taken with our driver and some of the locals.

They righted the rig and then we found out what was in it: a whole load of cows. Poor things were mangled and frightened and in pain. Though, one cow was quite alright and when they opened the door to see the damage, the poor frightened thing took off.

Rox’s point of view:

I was standing with Pedro and Huppy near the truck. All of a sudden, everybody got really excited and there’s a big commotion behind the now upright trailer. The looks on everybody’s faces were part fear and part glee. Next thing I know, folks are screaming and running, tripping over each other. Some were hopping onto the trucks, others were diving into ditches. I ran behind the biggest Mexican I could find. He just looked at me cowering down behind him. Probably couldn’t figure what the hell I thought he could do for me as far as protection goes. Then I saw the cow, poor, frightened, emaciated thing, trying to make it’s way out of the crowd. I started to run down the street and made my first left behind a car figuring the thing wasn’t going to make any sharp turns. Huppy and Pedro are nowhere to be found. They split faster than I did. (Thanks for the protection, guys.) I heard the hooves on the pavement and then saw the sad thing running for dear life down the road, skinny legs flailing and slipping on the pavement. A bunch of guys with ropes were chasing after it. Everyone was laughing and yelling. For them, it was great fun. I could only think “Fly, little cow. Be free.” I found Pedro giggling behind a green truck about five feet from me and Huppy was off, way down the road. He ran the farthest of all of us. He yelled at his father, “Pop! You and I! We finally ran with the bulls!” To which, Pedro responded, “Yes! Yes we did!”

Huppy’s point of view:

At first, I saw the people getting excited who were standing near the trailer. I saw little heads bobbing up and down in the crowd. Then the crowd started to move towards me, screaming and yelling. It was like I was back in Pamplona, running with the bulls! I took off when the crowd caught up to me. I saw the bulls.  They were angry and huge. Steam was coming out of their nostrils. They came towards me and I challenged myself to run with them. I ran alongside the ferocious animals until they passed me. I was invigorated. The crowd cheered. The bulls ran free.

Pedro’s point of view:

We were all standing around, watching people crawl around the trailer when suddenly, everyone started to get very agitated. The crowd dispersed, screaming. There was terror in the air. Everyone was tripping over everyone else. Small children were being stepped on in the melee. As I saw the eight or nine bulls hurtling towards us, I grabbed two small children who were lying on the ground, bleeding and hurt and, carrying them over my head, one in each hand, I carried them to safety. The crowd cheered. The parents showered me with flowers. It was very satisfying.

Do ya’ see what I had to put up with?

Huppy adds: I resent that you said I left you all by yourself. You were nowhere around me. I didn’t feel your presence any where near me. I’m an experienced bull runner. I know how to do these things.

Anyway, most of the cows were dead or close to it. Folks began carting away the carcasses; first come, first serve. And the one little cow that got away? It got away.


Our driver took the opportunity of everyone claiming bits of cow to hop in the car and try to get through. He was honking the horn and waving at us. He barely slowed down enough for us to get into the car.

We got to our first stop, Yaxchilán. We had to take a boat down the Usumacinta River, which is on the border with Guatemala and Mexico.

That was our little boat and see the shore on the other side? That’s Guatemala.  I guess it’s really easy to get from Guatemala to Mexico. The river isn’t patrolled all that much, which is why we had to cross several military checkpoints along our route that day. The whole area is pretty much controlled by the Zapatistas, and the military that is stationed there is, for the most part, Zapatista friendly. They stop all the vehicles to check for drugs and illegals.

The boat ride was actually the least nauseating mode of transportation I experienced on this trip. Shocking. I know.

Most of those 20-somethings there were traveling together. In Mexico, and most of Latin America, kids travel in packs. They aren’t really allowed to exclusively date so the only way their parents will let them hang out is if it’s with a bunch of friends. They don’t have cars and they just don’t hang out alone. They do everything together and most of the friendships last a lifetime. This group of about five had one brother sister pair and one couple. They were the nicest, most polite bunch of kids you’d ever want to meet. Never loud or raucous. Just really pleasant and always smiling.

The boat ride took about 40 minutes or so.

See. That’s me not being sick!

It was a little treacherous because there was a lot of debris in the water that the guy who was steering in the back had to avoid. One good log and we would’ve been in the water which looked like it had a pretty strong current.

When we got there, our guide took us through the ruins.

He was a nice kid, saving up to go to college. Very knowledgable. Spanish wasn’t his first language though. He’s an indigenous Maya.

Yaxchilán was pretty neat.

The folks who lived there were more about the math and science. Very educated.

These little guys,

are the Maya equivalent of Leprechauns, though, I can’t for the life of me remember what they’re called. Starts with a D. Looks like one of them is passing gas at the other, huh?

There were also a lot of monkeys.

It was hot there. VERY hot.

That’s me. Draggin’ ass. Notice how I’m holding my pants up. It seems that because they were so wet, the weight made the pant legs stretch. From this point on, I was having to hold my pant legs up so they wouldn’t get all muddy and I wouldn’t trip. Thanks Old Navy for making such quality stuff. Also, please note that my pockets are loaded. I was carrying everything of value in them including and epi-pen for Huppy, just in case he had a run-in with some red ants. There were a lot of red ants and I was terrified he was going to have an issue with them. I had visions of having to use a knife and a pen to make a trach tube for him right there in the middle of the jungle. Fortunately, they stayed away from him.

Here’s where my pictures get a little confusing. After this ruin, we got back in the boat for our return trip, which was longer because we were going upstream, and, after lunch, we went to Bonampak. We saw two ruins in one day and, as Pedro said, it ruined us. We really didn’t want to see any more ruins. You would think something like that could never get old, but it does. Even if just a little. So here are some pictures of Bonampak… I think.

These are some frescos at Bonampak. They color is still in them.

As near as I could understand, Bonampak, which, if I understood our guide, was the artsy fartsy part of the empire.

If I were a real artist, I thought it would be totally awesome to research the types of dyes and colors they used and their methods and try to recreate at least some of the flavor of their art. But I am not. I leave that to the professionals.

The guys climbed one of the pyramids but I was too tired to try. This is what I missed:

Both places were suddenly abandoned I think around 800 AD or so. Nobody knows why and of the tens of thousands of inhabitants, very few bodies have been found.

After the ruins, we made our way to Lacandón for our last night in the jungle. The jungle is the last rainforest left in North America. By the time we got there however, I was less concerned with it’s status as a unique, biodiverse ecosystem as I was literally frantic with sweat and grime. Sadly, there was no hot water in the showers and I was running out of clothing.

See, I stupidly did not ask enough questions about what we were doing and how we were doing it. The most I had as far as information was “three days, two nights.” So that’s what I packed. It was not enough. Now, I was having to think very strategically about what I was going to wear. I knew I needed at least one clean set of clothes for the bus ride back to San Cris. Decisions would have to made, tantrums would need to be thrown.

This is what happens when you let the guys do all the planning. These two spent days traipsing all over San Cris, asking this tour guide this and that tour guide that, trying to find the cheapest way to the jungle and back. Mostly because Pedro is nothing if not frugal. Which of course was inherited by his son. They nitpicked over every little detail. Were entrance fees included? How many meals were included? Were the accommodations the least expensive possible? And with each new nugget of knowledge acquired, they patted each other on the back, congratulating themselves for sussing out more of the puzzle so they could make the best, and cheapest, choice possible. I unfortunately tuned it all out because it just seemed like so much, well, nitpicking. I shouldn’t have done that. There were a lot of things I didn’t understand like had I known we wouldn’t have to be traipsing through the jungle with our bags, I could’ve used a bigger bag and taken more clothes. I thought we were restricted so I brought as much as I could fit into a shoulder bag. Hence, the clothing issue.

You live, you learn.

The final installment of our Jungle Adventure is coming up next. It includes THE GREAT QUEST FOR BEER.

3 thoughts on “Jungle Adventure – DAY 2: Yaxchilán and Bonampak

  1. Love your Roshoman take on the crowd scene following the freed cows! Not used to your pre-occupation with “what SHALL I wear?” Nothing you’ve ever considered a huge problem in your life — although, I do see that in this situation it was a REAL problem!

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