Travel Journal: Mexico
Even when you’ve lived in a country and been immersed in its culture for two months, there are still things that surprise you on a daily basis. We’d been in Mérida for a little under eight weeks when we left on a trip to discover the southern dip of México—specifically, the states of Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca. Our tour guide planned a jam-packed itinerary for us: 10 days, 12 cities, 2 ancient ruins, 2 amazing cultural festivals, and 36 hours on a bus with 18 of our closest friends. As you can imagine, it was a whirlwind, but one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had!
We started out by travelling to Palenque, Chiapas, to visit the Mayan ruin by the same name—and I have to say, it was definitely one of my favorites. I’m a mountain guy, and these ruins were settled in the mountainous jungle region cuddled up to the border of Belize. You could hear howler monkeys in the distance, making the experience of being in the middle of the jungle that much more real. Inside one of the ruins, there was an ancient toilet—literally a piece of rock with a semi-circle cut into one of the sides, leading to a tunnel that ushered waste out of the temple, away from the living quarters to a creek downstream from the water-gathering station. The Mayans were ingenious to engineer a system that would both eliminate the waste produced by the thousands of people who inhabited the area, and protect their water supply from contamination—this from a civilization that began settling there before the modern era!
To complete our stay in the jungle, we stayed in an eco-lodge—complete with rustic cabins with hammocks on the porch, mosquito nets over the beds, and tarantulas and scorpions in the bathrooms. While it was not a place for a person with a fear of creepy crawlies, it was definitely one of the most “natural” experiences I’ve ever had. On the third day there, we woke up in the jungle (my cabin was right next to a river!) and donned lifejackets, helmets, and oars for a whitewater rafting trip. Not only did everyone have a blast, but after we reached the end of our rafting adventure, we hiked in the jungle to see a practically untouched ruin, covered with vines and populated with wild animals. After we toured the ruin, the guides led us to a waterfall where we had lunch and swam...and we may or may not have jumped off the top of the waterfall into the foamy water below...with lifejackets of course.
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