The following images are from the Spring 2013 Destination Freedom Brand Boot Camp which took place March, April and May of 2013 in Cancun, Mexico. We took three members through the program and mentored them while they built their brands and websites. In mid-March we had a week-long adventure tour with Snail Adventures as a team-building exercise and to give the students a much-needed break from the Spanish and brand building classes five days a week. Don’t forget to check out the first leg of the journey from Cancun to Merida, as well as the second leg of the journey from Merida to Palenque.
We are currently accepting deposits for the Winter (November, December, January) program. Click here for more info.
Our time in Palenque was intense. We arrived in the afternoon, ate, slept, got up the next day, went on the jungle walk, hit the ruins and then came back for an afternoon nap, followed up by a slow evening and a hearty dinner before a good night’s sleep to prep for the adventures of the following day: the road trip to San Cristobal de las Casas.
During the planning of the tour we decided on private transportation for a couple of legs of the journey: from Cancun to Merida and then from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas. This is because there are stops along the way we wanted to make sure our students had a chance to see, places that you cannot access when you are doing the long haul on a bus.
In the case of our route to San Cristobal, this meant stopping off at Misol Ha and Agua Azul, two of the major sights on the road up through the mountains on the way out of the jungles of Chiapas. First up on the list was the waterfall of Misol Ha, made famous in the Predator movie with Arnold back in the day as the waterfall which he jumps off of in the movie. The water levels were a bit low (rainy season doesn’t start until May), but it was still an impressive vista and worth the stop.
There’s not a lot to see at Misol Ha other than the waterfall, so after a quick hour, just long enough to let everyone get out, walk through the caves, get some shots of the waterfall and get a little wet, it was time to get back in the van and head off to the main attraction for the day: Agua Azul.
Side note: the road out of Palenque up to San Cristobal de las Casas is windy as hell and known for its many topes, or speed bumps. While those don’t really come very often until after Agua Azul, it was still a pretty gnarly ride in from Palenque, and Jen as well as Sophie were popping motion sickness pills like they were going out of style. Thankfully it wasn’t a long haul from Palenque to our two primary stops for the day, so they didn’t have to suffer too much.
The water gets its blue content from the high mineral content, and when it comes into contact with rocks or fallen trees it literally encases them in a cocoon of limestone, which you can see throughout the photos. This is especially visible in the primary waterfall, with that cream-colored solid coating behind the water as it courses down the cascades.
The upper portions of the location aren’t really good for swimming as there are too many waterfalls going one right after the other, although there are a few places where the water collects in tiny pools (you can see this in the video at the bottom where Cris and I walked up to the top and took videos/pictures from the platforms) on its way down to the primary river section at the bottom.
After we got back from our own little outing, we found Sabina and Dave kicked back in the waters, enjoying a relaxing swim (also in the video).
After the swim and a bite to eat at one of the local taco vendors that line the river on the way up to the top, it was time to get back into our private van and prep for the several-hours-long ride up to San Cristobal de las Casas.
Sophie was feeling quite ill from the turns in the road, and while it’s technically the law for the tour leader to ride up front with the driver, Chimi let Sophie take the front seat. This is where the magic started to happen, as the driver, Alejandro, and she hit it off rather well. More details on their little romance to come in the next post about San Cristobal
Now, at this point we were supposed to be in for a quiet ride up the windy, zig-zag mountains passes, but fate conspired against us. Once we hit the town of Ocosingo we suddenly found a line of stopped traffic going up and down the road. Cars were literally packed so tight trying to get up the road that our driver was eventually forced to stop and we were at a stand-still.
Chimi and Alejandro took off to hike up the hill a bit to see what was the issue. Eventually what we found out was that the local workers (part of the Zapata movement; more on that to come in another post) had gone on strike earlier that morning to protest against corruption with the local union chiefs. They had blocked the mountain pass outside of Ocosingo and were refusing to let any vehicles pass.
This initially caused a bit of a panic with us, because we were seeing literal families walking back down the mountain with their suitcases and backpacks, tired of waiting after being stuck in their buses for 8 hours or more since the early morning. After some hurried conversations we found out that a resolution was possible within the next few hours but there were only two options: wait it out and see, or turn around and go back.
Note: this is the only route to San Cristobal de las Casas, so we were in a bit of a pickle because if we couldn’t make it our hotel reservations and onward bus tickets, which were already purchased, were up in smoke. Needless to say, I was starting to get a little worried, especially after seeing all the people hiking back down the mountain with their belongings after having been sitting in a bus for the entire day without a resolution. These protests can go on for three days to a week sometimes, and we had no idea.
Eventually, Chimi and Alejandro came back with news that there was a little hostel up the road where we could hang out and wait for awhile to see if maybe a resolution would happen by nightfall. If not, we were going to have to head back down the mountain and possibly cancel the next leg of our journey entirely.
For those who can’t read Spanish, the above sign is from one of the protesters. It basically says “Out with corrupt officials/chiefs of transport”. The primary blockade was still a few miles up the road through the mountain pass; this shot was taken just outside of the little hostel, which is that little pink gate you can see in the picture just above the one with the sign.
It was a cute little place and we were all able to sit down, have some tea and coffee, and Dave and I wandered around and got some photos out back of the valley below, as well as some of the wildlife running around the little farm the hostel owners had, which included this totally laid-back cat and the mother hen with her chicks…and a lot of other chickens as well.
Thankfully, after hanging out for about two hours drinking tea, nibbling on chocolate and enjoying a little bit of downtime from our journey and thinking about the story that would come about from the adventure, we got word from up the mountain that an agreement had been reached and the blockade had been taken down. Traffic was starting to crawl up the mountain, so we packed our gear and headed back to the road to wait for our driver to make it up the hill with his van from where he had been parked the last few hours watching our gear and waiting. From there, it was on to San Cristobal de las Casas and more adventures in Mexico!
Stay tuned for the next post in the series!