The past week has been an adventure-packed, back-to-back series of days as part of our adventure tour/travel blog boot camp here in Palenque, Mexico in the beautiful state of Chiapas. From the ancient Maya ruins of Palenque itself to the waterfalls at Misol Ha and Agua Azul, down the Usumacinta River to the ruins of Yaxchilan, back to the ruins of Bonampak and the jungle surrounding, it’s been an exciting time along with our most recent graduate, Amelia from The Everyday Journey.
From here, we’ve only got a few more days until we head to TBEX in Cancun on September 9th, where I’ll be presenting on advanced Facebook marketing and advertising solutions. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what we’ve been up to during our tour and class with an in-depth series of photos and videos.
This was the longest day of the whole event; our transport was waiting for us at 10 minutes before 6 a.m., which means we were out of bed and getting the packs ready by 5 a.m., and our expected return time was around 7 in the evening, which meant a jam-packed day of playing Indiana Jones in the jungles of Chiapas surrounding our headquarters in Palenque (it’s also my favorite video of the series so far!)
So, we got right to it. First off was an hour or so drive down the road to the breakfast meeting point, where we filled up with traditional Mexican fare from the buffet; eggs, beans, coffee, tortillas and fresh juice and fruits. From there, we had another hour and a half drive down the road until we reached the crossing point of the Usumacinta River.
This is also one of the places where you can cross to go to Guatemala if you are looking to take the ground route to Flores, and from there the Maya ruins of Tikal. The transport only costs around 30 dollars (as of 2014) and takes around six hours. But for our purposes, we were here to get the boat down the river to the hidden Maya ruins of Yaxchilan; one of the most remote ruins in the region, and the only way to get there is a 45 minute boat ride down the river.
The river ride was uneventful, although after the rains of the previous week the river was up several feet from its normal depths, and the currents were visibly surging. There were also plenty of floating logs and other debris our driver was navigating through on his way down the river, only hitting submerged items a couple of times. I’ll tell you, though; every time he had to pull the outboard motor up out of the river to check it for a piece of wood or other debris or damage, our boat would suddenly list and drift sideways and feel as though it was going to be tipped over by the current before he expertly dipped the motor back down into the river and off we went once again.
After about 40 minutes we reached the ruins of Yaxhilan. We were the first boat to arrive for the day, which means we had the ruins mostly to ourselves; perfect time for photos and video. But even so, this isn’t a major, massive ruin, and even during the high season there aren’t that many people who make their way down the river to view the majesty that this place provides. If you are someone who relishes off-the-beaten-path, this is one of the best places near Palenque.
We had almost two hours to explore before our transport headed back up the river for our lunch buffet, and we spent the time in photographic bliss; early morning is the best time to get here because it’s not too hot and the light shines perfectly through the trees to illuminate the ruins. This is hands-down one of my favorite places in the entire Palenque area of ruins.
From there, we headed back up the river to meet our driver for an hour-long lunch before we then drove down the road a bit longer to reach the Maya ruins of Bonampak. It’s a little trickier to get here, because they won’t allow the normal transports into the ruins, as they are protected and governed by the locals. A few kilometers before you actually get to the ruins, you have to disembark and use a transport driven by one of the locals down a dirt road to the entry point.
Bonampak might not be a major ruin, but it has one of the most well-preserved internal paintings within the primary pyramid, and the wildlife is abundant in the jungle surrounding; if you have an entire day to spend, it’s worth coming here before sunrise and getting the full exposure to the jaguars and monkeys and beyond. Even so, we saw dozens of different types of butterflies, birds and even a highway of industrious ants who were hauling plant life back to the home base! (check the video at the 6:15 mark or so to see the march of the ants!)
With so much time spent hiking the ruins and jungle, we didn’t have an actual class session in the evening, but instead spent our time on the boat + in the van and then again over dinner talking about sponsored travel and the pros/cons, as well as how to go about earning sponsorships, both at the local level and the commercial level as well.
Stay tuned for the next entry covering day five of our travel blog boot camp in Palenque, Mexico, where we spent the day taking it easy and covering the last elements of the course: press kits, pitching, resumes and the art of landing gigs, whether for clients and cash income or for the elusive sponsored travel that we talked about on night four…and hung out all night to catch the fire show at El Panchan at midnight.