Mayan ruins and magical waterfalls

15 Sep

So off to Palenque… this time, all packed into a minibus with the luggage precariously perched on the roof.

A couple of hours out of San Cristobal we encountered our first delay – a roadblock by the local militant teachers (and out here, militant has a new meaning) asking for money. About an hour later, a small community of lorries had turned up by the side of he road.. The Zapatistas had blocked the road and weren’t letting any traffic through. No exceptions. Natalia tried her feminine charm and smiled a lot but even then… no go. So we slung on our backpacks in the midday heat, walked across the blockade and negotiated with one of the bus drivers stuck on the other side to take us to Palenque. We also negotiated for him to stop off at the beautiful waterfall at Agua Azul where we had time for a quick swim (and an ice cream) – we were somewhat bemused by the miniature road toll booths set up by each ejido (landholding) for us to cross their land.

And then to the equally beautiful falls at Misol-Ha, where a spur of the moment by Ellie and I to rush behind the falls left us breathless, giggling, and completely drenched for the final half hour into Palenque.

The towns are getting smaller and smaller, (but the moths are getting bigger and bigger – this one was about 7″ across)

but we set off to the hippy community outside town for dinner… at which point we were treated to a complete deluge of biblical proportions, with a son et lumiere show to accompany it… rendering all the previous storms I had seen insignificant as lightning lit up the whole of the sky. We had to make an early departure from the restaurant as the rain was threatening to wash the cars downstream. The next day saw us back on a minibus on the way to the Mayan ruins at Palenque.

These incredible ruins date back 2000 years, and there are an amazing 1400 buildings spread over a 15 square km area – although the jungle still holds most of the ruins in its grip. We took a walk in the jungle, avoiding being peed on by the Howler Monkeys and bitten by banana spiders, and after eating termites (they taste like peanuts) before scrambling over the major ruins… originally, these would have been painted blood red as a symbol of death (many of them are tombs of kings and queens). As I stood on top of the Temple of the Cross, the highest point, I had a sense of what the ruler must have felt, standing there looking out over his city – and felt a sense of what 2012 will bring. I scribbled notes down as something of what I know I need to write came to me… I walked on through the ruins, increasingly dragging behind the others as I felt my connection to the energy of the place increase, and as I felt my connection to the rest of the land and to the animals, birds and insects grow.

In the afternoon, after trying the prickly pear quesadillas (interesting experiment that I won’t bother repeating), we all rocked up at the waterfalls. And at that point I experienced one of the most amazing spiritual experiences of my life: I climbed the falls and stood under the cascade of water, looking out at the forest and at the others lounging in the pools below. As the water cascaded past me, crystallising into showers of diamonds and casting rainbows in the air, I became aware of the presence of God in a new way – and felt in a deeper way what I have been asked to bring to the world. I will write more of that another time, when it has truly sunk in… but for an hour I stood under the water, unable – or unwilling – to move. And so back to the hotel, damp, muddy… yet changed somehow by the ruins, by what I had learned… and what I had experienced.

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