March 23rd, 2008
We are camped by a beautiful green rolling river in the Lacandón jungle in Southern Chiapas. The name of the place is Campamento Lacandones . The river spreads out just upstream and has created a wide waterfall that you can climb up and jump off of. The falls come in from many different angles. It is truly beautiful. There are also some great trees that the young (and Chris) can climb up and leap from. A three meter crocodile has been seen up just river several months ago but hasn’t shown his chops here yet. As for the birds…..see Cassidy’s blog entry entitled: “ Euphonias, Tanagers, and Honey Creepers, Oh MY! “ (Cassidy’s and Teslin’s blogs are hyperlinked near the top of our blog).
Our fellow Vagabundos, Susan and Esteban, are here as well. Susan is an avid birder, and she, Cassidy and Chris have been getting up daily at daybreak to go birding. The rest of us have enjoyed the babble of the waterfall and the beautiful sound of bird song through our pillows.
Bonampak is near the Guatemalan border south of Palenque and is in a large preserve or protected area. The area around Bonampak is managed collectively by three distinct indigenous groups’ the Lacandones who previously inhabited the Lacandón Jungle, the Choles and the Tzeltales. There are places like this one popping up all around the area, offering cabañas, places for hammock dwellers and camping. This area is relatively new to tourism. Bonampak was accessible only by airstrip until 1997 when the Mexican government built a road in from Palenque. With the road came modernization and well…you know the rest. It is a very precious place still.
There is an internet hut a twenty minute walk from here. It is owned by a Lacandón family who also has a campamento. The place is a simple room with 5 computers, shelves of wood carvings, baskets, some clay figures, and seed necklaces. The family that runs it spans 3 generations and most still dress in the traditional Lacandón tunics which are long white cotton shifts worn by the men, women and children (the young girls were dressed in colored tunics). The older man explained how they get the fiber from the inner bark of a tree, while his daughter showed us how they make cordage by rubbing the fibers firmly between their palm and leg. Behind their shoulders I could see Internet Explorer home pages.
The Lacandón people seem very aware of the pressures on their jungle habitat. Although we ourselves pose a threat to this, the tourist trade is not the greatest of their challenges. The destruction of the rain forest is happening here just as it is in more well known areas such as the Amazon. The entire drive south from Palenque, there were large herds of cattle grazing on land that was once jungle. The trees are cut down for firewood, for grazing, for fields and to provide habitat for an ever expanding population. Many people have already migrated to the area from other parts in Mexico, and the pressure it places on the land will only continue. The Lacandón seem wise stewards of the earth and I only hope that this special culture has the strength to survive the political and social pressures that come with growth.
Campeando Estilo MéxicanoIt is Easter holidays here in Mexico and many are out and about. Two different times, both here and in Palenque, we were nestled down for the night when 2 tour buses arrived (around 9:30 pm) from Mexico City. They were packed to capacity with Mexicans with the best attitudes I have ever seen exhibited while setting up camp under less than optimal conditions. They piled out of the buses, searched for dry and level areas of ground, pitched small tents in the dark-all within a few feet of each other (and us)- waited without complaint at the 4 bathrooms sans TP that were too small for their numbers and not functioning well and then slept a short hot night after grabbing whatever they could eat from the kitchen. The next morning they hurriedly rolled up their wet tents and bags, lined up again at the bathrooms and then were all packed into the buses again, taken to the ruins for a visit and another long drive to their next destination. It was quite an odyssey….a little appalling at first sight, but you can appreciate it much more once you see that there were grandparents, grandchildren, city dwellers, small pueblo citizens…..all walks of life, happily going “camping” together. I would hate to hear the complaints from a bus of US tourists! These folks were all very good natured and seemed to be having a great time. Obviously, this is an affordable and accessible way for them to get out and about.