Bonampak, Laxchilán and Rio Usumacinta
April 8th, 2010 by robert

At 6 AM I waited along with a few other people, for the van that was supposed to pick us up for a trip deeper into the rainforest. There were three Mexicans and a Dane, and we chatted now and then until the van arrived, fifty minutes late. Before we boarded I reserved a room at Jungle Palace for the following evening, when we would return after dark from the tour, and I locked my pack in a locker so I wouldn’t have to lug it with me.

The van was mostly full, about eleven of us who had paid M$1000 (about $80) for the tour, all Mexicans except the Dane and me. The driver had a lead foot and made some stupid passing moves on the twisty road that snaked through lush hills. On my iPod I listened to Congo’s seminal musician, Franco, letting the rumba lingala distract me from the crazy, stomach-turning driving. The young Mexican woman sitting next to me slept, I cannot imagine how. The terrain was hills and valleys, all green, green, though the only bits of forest remaining were on the steepest slopes. We stopped for breakfast at a diner in the middle of nowhere, but this was a diner built specifically to service these tours from Palenque. About six other vans were already there. Served cafeteria style, the food was great: fresh and delicious papaya and piña, fresh-squeezed orange juice, eggs, beans, bacon, tortillas, salsa and, thankfully, good strong coffee. If I had been wondering about the value of the tour before, I stopped when I filled my plate the second time.

After another hour on the road, we arrived at Bonampak. The driver came around, opened the door, and said “Bueno, una hora.” So much for birding around the ruins. Actually it was blisteringly hot, about 9:30, and most self-respecting birds were finished with their morning routines, so an hour or four would not make too much difference. I birded along the edge of the path to the ruins, and through the ruin grounds, finding a couple of interesting things. I cannot remember the ruins at all (although here is someone that does). It was hot.

Usumacinta River Bank

A quick drive took us to Frontera Corozal, on the banks of the Usumacinta River, which divides Mayan communities as well as Mexico and Quatemala. The driver pointed to the boats and said we would have two hours at the ruins, and lunch afterwards. I’m glad I carried water.

We found the correct boat and climbed aboard. There was one life jacket too few, and since I was the last to board (bird), I was happy not to have to wear the bulky jackets. We passed a beautiful gray-headed kite perched in a tree, just after we pushed off from shore. It was a delight to be on the water. The trip took about 45 minutes, passing patches of deep rainforest on both the Mexican and Guatemalan sides, but most of the land was devoid of trees. We reached Yaxchilán and stepped onto the scorching beach. The sun was intense. Have I mentioned it was hot? Everyone but me walked quickly the couple hundred meters to the long stairs up to the ruins. I was delayed by a pair of rare king vultures soaring high above.

We five fellow travelers from El Panchán walked the ruins together in an anarchic way, each going every which direction but somehow always meeting at junctions. I birded the edges, but still had time to take in the impressive ruins. There was a good trail steeply uphill to some ruins not yet excavated, with only the tops of temples showing, and I hiked it with relish because it was through the forest and there were a few birds. I drank all my water could have used more. Meeting a couple of park rangers on the trail, I asked if there were other trails and if it would be possible, traveling independently, to camp outside of the ruins area. Negative answers to both questions, which makes birding Laxchilán problematic. There was no time to hike anymore, anyway, for the two hours were nearly expended. I hustled back down the trail and just had time to buy an ice cold lemonade before getting on the boat.

The upstream ride back to Frontera Corozal took longer, of course, and by the time we arrived it was mid-afternoon and everyone was famished and probably dehydrated. We walked to the restaurant like zombies. I could not even bother to lift my binoculars to check out the sparrows.The late lunch was as good as our breakfast, and everyone tucked in. It’s amazing how quickly food and liquid can restore people’s spirits. Restored, we climbed into the van for the next stage of the tour adventure: a night in a Lacondon village and a long, guided walk through the rainforest.


2 Responses  
  • Jo writes:
    April 13th, 20102:33 amat

    hi Robert,
    It must be a visual treat to be surrounded by the color green. I’m enjoying your trip!

    con mucho amor,

  • Porter writes:
    April 14th, 20103:38 amat

    Ro (Short for Roberto): Continue to groooooove…..Cheers, D

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