In the steely dark of 4am, high up in the mountains of Chiapas, our bus crept out of San Cristobal de las Casas and we inched towards Palenque.
We’d set off so early due to the likelihood of road blocks further along our route by locals. Our guide explained there had been some fairly ugly incidents at such blocks in the past and so drivers preferred to get going early and try to avoid them where possible.
So for the first few hours of the drive those of us who could, slept. The rest of us remained wide awake and tried our best to avoid the nauseous feeling each of the very many speed bumps the Mexicans seem to love so much tried their best to cause.
As the sun rose we watched the fields roll by and tried not to see the missing corners of the road, long since dropped down the cliff below. We saw farmers herding cattle and school children no more than 10 years old carrying machetes on their walks to school, quizzing our poor tired guide on how this society worked and what resources they might have.
Around 8am we pulled in to Cascadas de Agua Azul (the blue waterfalls). We paid our entrance fee and I hopped off the bus with him to explore as far as my limp would allow, before I settled in to one of the small cafes on site with a cup of coffee and he strolled off with his camera to capture the sights I couldn’t reach.
After a basic breakfast we piled back in to our bus and continued our journey. An hour or so later we stopped at another waterfall, paid another entrance fee and set off to explore the view and listen to the howler monkeys who were making sure we were all truly awake by now. I determinedly made it a little further this time, but unsurprisingly (and if I’m honest, quite thankfully) wasn’t able to join the members of our group who braved an early morning dip in the falls.
Each of these areas of natural beauty are owned and run by the local Chiapas communities, so all of the (really very reasonable) entry fees are invested in maintenance and local projects – such a brilliant set-up. If you’re ever in the area, we recommend a visit!
Our early start wasn’t without merit, in our last hour of driving before reaching Palenque, we did meet a local road block. We needn’t have worried, though, the men holding it accepted a few coins from our guide and let us peacefully by. Much as I’d have loved to jump out and quiz them on the reasons behind their action, neither my Spanglish, nerves or guide would allow it.