Trip to Yaxchilan: Dec 26
I arranged to take a bus tour to Yaxchilan and Bonampak, sites located deep in the mountainous jungle of Chiapas state. The hotel arranged the tour for me and I had to be up and ready by 6:00 a.m. The bus was a large van that had seating for 12 people. It was full. The van came to the hotel and picked me up. We took off in the dark down the road toward Palenque site and continued beyond for 100 miles into the jungle. The road was recently finished and the travel was smooth and good. When it became light enough to see we were high in the mountains with the thick undergrowth hovering at the edge of the roadway seemingly looking for a way to crawl out and engulf it. The clouds had settled in and the morning was gray and damp. We stopped for breakfast at a Mayan café, where they prepared breakfast for us. It was family buffet style and we lined up to dish up our food. This was part of the pre-arranged tour features. We were going to have both breakfast and lunch that day. There were scrambled eggs, bacon or ham, tortillas, fresh fruit, juice, coffee. I was hungry and kind of chilly too. I wrapped my trusty poncho around me and dug into the good food. The kitchen part of the place was filled with women scurrying around preparing food. The building was a typical Mayan hut only bigger. It had a thatched roof and open-air sides on the dining part. The kitchen was enclosed with wooden planks.
We sat at large wooden tables, bunkhouse style with everyone sitting together. The place had a couple of resident parrots. Not friendly enough to touch, without getting your fingers bitten, but friendly enough to talk to without them flying away. I tucked a banana into my bag for later and climbed back into the van to continue to the site of Yaxchilan. We arrived in a small village and continued down to the river edge where the boats were located. We were going to be taken on the last leg of the trip up the Usumacinta River by boat. The boats were long and narrow with bench seats on each side. They were covered with a thatch roof and the boatman ran an outboard motor on the back of the boat. About 10 or 12 of us piled in the boat, while the other van in our party used another boat for their passengers. The trip up the river took about an hour. The boatman gave some information on the river, which was translated by a woman in our group that spoke Spanish. He even found an alligator basking in the winter sun and pulled up close to the shore for us to see. The clouds were yielding to the sun and the rest of the day was pleasantly warm. We arrived at the site and climbed some steep stairs to get to the site. It was amazing. We had only 3 hours so I had to run at break neck speed to take pictures of everything on the way. I didn't have time to explore very much so I would have to rely on the pictures to study later. I was told by Senor Marco where the good spots to see were so I made a bee line up the mountain steps to get to them. The place was set on a hillside and the going was steep and sometimes slippery. I found structure 39, 40 and 41. I climbed down and found the temple plaza of the South Acropolis that had the lintels in the doorways. I had to lie on my back to get the pictures. I did manage to look a little more closely at that temple, but soon the clock ticked away and I had to rush back to the boat. I almost slid down to the main plaza at the beginning of the site. I rushed down the path to the boat and jumped on. Wow! I was the first one on board. I couldn't believe it. Within a few minutes the rest of the group came and we were escorted down the river to the small village where the boats were docked. The tour company then took us to lunch at another Mayan café. This one too, was built out of wooden planks and had a tin roof. The kitchen was interesting and I asked if I could take a picture of the stove (fire pit/grill). The women giggled that I would want a picture. I was careful not to get them in the picture, as they didn't like to have their pictures taken. Lunch was served on a long family style table. We had huge pitchers of Coke, chips and plates of fresh fruit on the table. The women brought out plates from the kitchen with chicken and rice on them for each of us. Everything was excellent. There was not a scrap left over. We all piled back into the van for the short distance we had to ride to the site of Bonampak.
More later, Gay