Upon arrival in Palenque (via my first solo overnight bus), I ran around trying to find accomodation. I first hoped to stay at El Pachan, a hippy and densely forested (actually densely jungled) area a kilometre or so outside of the township. I arrived, and soon saw that not only were there no dorms (so I wouldn’t meet people), all the cabanas were booked out! I finally happened upon a lovely relaxed hostel in the town.
I quickly met up with Harry (who I had met properly in Campeche) and then met Darcy, an Aussie travelling through Central. From there, the three of us spent our days in Palenque (many more than we had originally anticipated) swimming in waterfalls, hanging out in ruins, dancing in strange underground disco clubs and playing many hands of cards.
My only day by myself in Palenque was my first half day – where I made the trip out to Cascadas Roberto Barrios. The trip there was a bit of a mission- misunderstood directions led me astray. I finally found the collectivo – actually the back of a truck, with planks as seats along the sides, and a canvas top – to ride to the waterfalls. I loved this, as it felt very local – great sacks of corn were at our feet, a Mexican woman was returning home after selling her wares at the market, another Mexican man was skulling tequila and barely holding on while we travelled along winding roads.
When I finally arrived at the falls, I was absolutely stunned. There are few moments in ones life when you are speechless, and completely overjoyed – but this was one of them. I will never forget the complete freedom of climbing up and down these stunning cascades, completely alone, and so so happy.
(Even me slipping down one of the steep rocks and falling into the water, scraping my bottom and ripping a huge hole in my togs just adds to the memory!)
The next day, I returned to Roberto Barrios with Harry and Darcy. We bought sandwiches and ate mangoes and swam and explored even more.
Our visit to the Palenque ruins was hilarious and wonderful. We were slightly confused and spent some time organising to get in, but were finally greeted with stunning ruins in the middle of the jungle. We spend lots of time cooling off on the bridge over a waterfall in the national park, near the ruins, admiring the stunning beauty and landscape around us. We saw so much wildlife – iguanas, insects, birds, these weird Chiapan rat rodent things – that it was difficult to determine whether we were just imagining so much animal activity.
We went out to explore the clubbing scene in Palenque with some other people we had met in our hostel – asking a few Mexican girls for directions and being led into an underground disco club. Not in the mood for a boogie to Spain’s top house chart toppers, Harry and I sat for hours (but felt like mere minutes) surveying the crowd. It was the craziest scene – the man beside us, most definitely dancing to the beat of his own drum – gyrating on the bars, staring obviously at Harry and ignoring the women throwing themselves at him, other men watching women dance on the floor – a pit in the bottom of the tiered club, perfectly designed for onlookers to creepily watch in. Darcy was having the time of her life, and it was hilarious to watch swathes of Mexican men, dwarfed by her height, dance with her.
The next few days were spent lazily, wandering the small town. We played cards, ate pizza, and chatted. A really lovely few days.