Today was fairly memorable. We went one of those day trips where you visit a few different places for a full day of fun. The tour guide was Edgar but more about him later. We began at some Mayan ruins, just round the corner from our hotel in the national park. While not as high as the pyramids of Teotihuacan, I probably preferred these due to the spectacular backdrop of the surrounding jungle. Edgar explained that this was essentially a large city until the 8th century when it became abandoned and has since become overgrown with forestation. Less than 10% of the original area has been cleared, with the rest still hidden beneath thick undergrowth. What’s on show though is some beautiful architecture, although as with most of these ruins, a fair bit of it has been restored with an authentic looking appearance. At one point I heard a bit of a commotion happening on one of the pyramids. From a distance it appeared that someone was proposing to his lady friend. Such public propositions are one of my pet peeves so I said something like, “Look at that idiot.” Someone then pointed out that is was in fact Belgian Kevin, from our tour, proposing to Lisa! She said yes, so congratulations to them. It’s a good job really as Lisa declining would have put a bit of a dampener on the rest of the trip!
The next part involved walking into the jungle which is not as adventurous as it perhaps sounds. There was no Indiana Jones-style stuff, with a good path to walk along. We saw plenty of beetles, some huge ants, large lizards and even a few of the screeching monkeys. It was also fascinating to see ruins sticking out of the landscape that had overgrown them. I wondered why the area wasn’t flooded with people yielding metal detectors but later discovered that Mayans weren’t big on jewels or treasures.
At midday and we were due to go to a barbecue at a Mayan family home. Edgar informed us that he’d finally managed to get hold of some tequila (in addition to the 120 beers also provided). When he attempted to get the tequila at 6am he was informed that he wasn’t allowed to make the purchase at that time the day. Therefore he sent someone one back at 8am. Apparently buying tequila at that time is absolutely fine though! It also happened to be the biggest bottle of tequila I’ve ever seen. So far, so good. Upon exiting the national park though the traffic was soon at a standstill with cars all over the road, as people tried to make some progress. Edgar was out of the van, running up and down the road to see what was happening. At this point he was sweating like the proverbial wild man. Nobody seems to be going anywhere. A few minutes later and Edgar’s back. It’s not a teachers protest this time but something to do with agriculture. A donation of 200 pesos to the cause, along with Edgar shouting some something to the protestors which seemed to get their approval ensured that our two minibuses were through the barricade and on the road to the barbecue.
We never get to meet the Mayan family whose garden we having a barbecue at the end of, although there were a few of the kids swimming in the rock pools of the river that flows through there. That was probably a good thing as I’m sure this excursion often attracts pissed up idiots filling their boots on the unlimited booze. Not that we behaved in any such way though. A few people were a bit under the weather and everyone was very civilised! Edgar was having a good go at getting the party going, liberally distributing the alcohol. The food was actually very good, much nicer than could be expected from such booze excursions. Next stop was some waterfalls just around the corner. There seemed to be an organised local resident/tourist partnership going on here. For some sort of payment, the local kids provided a service of looking after your stuff, carrying the crate of beers down to the river, and generally helping everyone to get down the waterfalls and through the caves safely. Yes we really went down waterfalls through a combination of clambering down ropes, jumping, and sliding down the rock face on our arses. When we got to the bottom I was slightly dubious whether our stuff would still be there when we arrived back to the starting point but of course it was! To be fair the kids seemed to be good pals with Edgar and were friendly and keen to help. They’ve obviously got some sort of good thing going on with tourism in their small village. Edgar seemed to be having more fun than anyone else as the life and soul of the party. The serious tour guide persona from this morning had turned into a Club 18-30 rep this afternoon and he can only be described as a cross between a lunatic and a nutcase. No offence to anyone who suffers from mental illness but I can’t think of a better description. At one point on the way back to Palenque, the minibus pulled over and before we realised what was happening, he’d jumped off a bridge into the river below. Someone asked Mark about Edgar’s credentials for being a tour guide. Mark sad that he’s perfectly safe and has been doing the waterfall trip for years without any issues. Apparently he puts on the crazy act for the younger people trips while for the more respectable tours all of this is toned down.
We then spent a few quiet hours back at the hotel prior to the 11pm night bus to Merida.