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North America » Mexico » Chiapas » Palenque
November 18th 2018
Published: November 19th 2018
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Roberto Barrios


This morning we are a bit late getting going. We were very tired after yesterday’s journey and then there was a lot of noise in the hotel making for a disturbed nights sleep. We drop our laundry off and buy provisions for a picnic lunch at the waterfalls.

The area we are visiting today is called Roberto Barrios - a jungle area with waterfalls and swimming holes. We are told that the waterfall area is recently developed and that there will be no vendors there for food or drink, so we need to go prepared. We set off in search of picnic food, and then a colectivo to take us there.

After a bit of searching we find the right place. There are several colectivo places in town but different roads serve their own particular destinations. We find a row of empty pick up trucks - it’s slightly early for any of them to be full. After some discussion between the drivers, we are told to get into a particular van. I indicate that we’d like to sit in the cab rather than the benched flat bed back of the truck. It would appear that it’s acceptable, so Ian and I clamber into the back seat of the double row cab.

We are aware that this truck will be going nowhere until it is full. How long shall we give it before we give up and hail a private taxi, we ask ourselves? Half an hour, we decide.

There is someone tapping on the window...it’s another driver trying to poach us for his truck. If he is going now then we will jump ship. There is a bit of a row going on between the two drivers and now the latest prospect has shuffled off to the other side of the road. But, we are in demand it seems. We are now out of the van and another guy from a minivan now appears to be making an alternative bid for us! We agree the price and jump in his van...noting that we are still the only passengers!

Our minivan circles the block, so that we are now driving down the same road and past the same original colectivo...which is now annoyingly starting to fill up! Will we be here all day, we wonder. Our van does not park up, however, but circles a few more streets and then leaves town with just us and the guy at the front who poached us. We had assumed he was the fare collector but it turns out that he is just another passenger who wanted to get going, hence his determination to lure us away from our original colectivo!

Once out of town we gather speed. Our destination, Roberto Barrios Waterfalls, is 30km away and should take 40 minutes. I’m slightly concerned that there are no other passengers and wonder if we might be stung for a private taxi fare. Meanwhile, the guy at the front is happily chatting with our driver and downing his second can of lager.

We have now managed to pick up a few more passengers although most of them are only travelling short distances. We were quoted 50 pesos each and the locals appear to be paying around 10 pesos each for a much shorter distance, so we think it’s probably about right.

We leave the main highway and head off into the mountains. Here there are a few more stops - a couple of pickups plus a stop for a man selling pineapple turnovers. Yum, 20 pesos - he hands our bag through the window. Now, do we want water? No, sorry...we bought it with us.

We arrive at the village of Roberto Barrios and pay our entrance fee. Now we walk down a rubble road towards the falls. The entire road is lined with people selling things plus a few chicken restaurants...who said there was no food or water to buy here? We should have known better!

We decide to buy a BBQ chicken to add to our picnic. It’s the first thing I have seen that might be vaguely healthy! The lady pops inside and we hear loud chopping noises coming from the kitchen. Our lunch appears in a carrier bag, all cut up into small pieces and wrapped...along with four tortillas and various smaller bags of other stuff: rice, salad and chilli sauce!

We continue down the track, now being followed by a dog who has smelt the contents of our carrier bag and is hopeful for a free lunch. No amount of clapping or shooing will discourage it.

We arrive at the falls. They are very pretty and also ferocious. Once again it looks like my swimming gear will be relegated. We follow the muddy pathway alongside the river, hoping to find a pool that will offer safe swimming. It’s not very easy as I am wearing my midi cut off trousers and sandals - both pairs of long trousers really did have to go to the laundry today!

We see a number of pools with ropes strung across, obviously out there for the swimmers. None meet with our approval in terms of safety and we note that no one else has taken the plunge! We content ourselves with the walk and the views.

It’s a bit early for lunch but we didn’t have breakfast and we are keen to dispose of our carrier bag and, then hopefully, the dogs (there is another one following us now). We find a wooden table with a bench and settle down for a quick gobble - whilst we, ourselves, are being bitten to bits! Suddenly two guys appear demanding 50 pesos. We finally work out that it’s for sitting at the table! A bit steep, given that we have already paid to enter the park. We gather up our belongings and head back to the cafe where we bought the chicken - they have proper tables and chairs and we won’t be attacked by midges or worried by dogs there...they even bring us plates and cutlery.

It’s extremely humid and we are both feeling it. We head back to the entrance where a minivan has just arrived. We grab the front seats and sit back whilst the guy circles the village honking his horn for more customers. We note the simple breeze block construction of the village houses...complete with satellite dishes!

It’s so hot that I fall asleep on the return journey. I am rudely awoken to be informed we have reached the Mayan Head - that’s the statue on the outskirts of town. Our van is not going to the centre so we must alight here. We hail a private taxi to return to the hotel.

I am shattered. Air-con on and siesta time, I think! Unfortunately I oversleep and Ian forgot...so the laundry has closed. They close at 3pm on a Sunday. We will need to be over there at 7am opening time tomorrow as I need my long trousers and we are leaving for a day trip at 8am.

This evening we return to the main square for our meal. Tonight’s entertainment is a small band which includes a giant xylophone. We choose a popular Mexican restaurant with tables overlooking the zócalo. We both order steak meals with papaya to drink. Ian has a slightly more spicy variety dish than me. Both taste good. Now it’s back to the hotel for an early night.

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