PAN AMERICAN JOURNEY PART VII – MEXICO
The team rider Zuzana Salz and her boyfriend have been enjoying Mexico these days. Van odometer shows 64 254 km. Soon they'll reach Guatemala. Keep yourselves up to date and read about this adventurous Pan American Journey!
Odometer: 64 254km
Mexico City – Palenque Maya Ruins
And it’s off to the Bush we go! After getting a good dose of the city and the cops,we evacuated up into the mountains for a breath of fresh air! The first National Park we stayed in was La Malinche. This Volcanic peak sits at 4270m and is a pretty popular destination with a good view of the active Volcano Popocatepetl that is close to Mexico City. Since we came on the weekend, we literally met hundreds of kids scrambling up to the peak wearing just their street clothes and ordinary snickers! Anyway Trash is a common sight even in the parks, so since we’re SICK of TRASH we did our part in the Horsefeathers campaign and picked up garbage and made the world a cleaner place!
Our second stop was Pico de Orizaba. It’s the 3rd highest mountain in both Central and North America and the highest in Mexico! It’s peak reaches a decent 5 636m. From afar, Orizaba looks like a gentle sloping giant….until you start the ascent! The last 1.5km along the snow covered cap to the top was the most deceiving, from a leisurely hike it became a strenuous battle with every breath and every step. When we finally reached the top a humongous crater as steep as hell loomed open. Not the place to get dizzy! To avoid getting altitude sickness like dizziness and vomiting, we camped out just underneath the snowline at 4900m the night before the sublime clime and a night after but didn’t quite get away without getting a bit sick! No vomiting though! By the time we were descending we were both exhausted, sweaty, dirty, sleep deprived and hungry for Oh Henry! Fresh food never tasted so good! Oh yeah, we did have one funny incident on our way up though! Kamil’s “Heavy Duty” hiking boots suddenly gave out, and not one sole, but both soles of his boots deranged themselves at about the same time! The soles were literally hanging on by only one screw that was on the heal part of the boot! Kamil fixed them up into true heavy duty boots with some rusty wire and shoelaces and was told “You fix your boot like a Mexican” from the first Mexican we met!
So for the next few days we decided on enjoying the comforts of our Van! We drove to the Tehuacan-Cuicatlan park which is a huge body of land covered with tall toothpick shaped cactuses and trees that looked like they came from a Dr. Suess book! Anyway we parked on a side road not to far from the highway for the night and turned on the radio that was playing our old dance hero DJ Bobo! But before we knew it we were surrounded by five stern looking men who escorted us to the closest camping area. This was the first serious park, guess they don’t want anybody packing out special cactuses….
A little further south, the town of Tula claims on having the biggest tree in the world! So we dropped in to see this stout and thick 11m in diameter Montezuma Cypress! While we were there, we happened to get a tip on a Canadian mechanic. Calvin and Leanneare a couple who have traveled around for years in a huge ol’ renovated bus and ended up in Tula. The bus still serves as their main living quartersand is parked under a large roof that houses their airy kitchen and bathroom. After a lot of thinking and searching without any real answers to our intermittent motor problems, we finally replaced some old parts for new ones and hoped for the best! And off we were again, heading down the road to the cascading pools of Hierve de Agua. Beautiful mineral formations and pools set on ledges overlooking the mountains, mother nature never disappoints!
Another natural wonder on our way was the Sinkhole, Sima de Las Cotorras, which is the home to hundreds of screeching parrots. This gigantic hole is 160m wide and drops down a swift 140m. Considering it’s just a hole in the ground, it’s pretty amazing!
Eventually after a lot of driving through mountains and towns, over bridges and topas we were finally closing in on the Maya pyramid ruins of Palenque. The humid heat between June and October in these tropical countries can become unbearable so when we passed the sign to the Misol Ha Waterfalls we couldn’t resist! Good thing, because other than it being a refreshing stop, we found out that behind these 35m jungle waterfalls there’s a dark, but super cool bat cave with an underground waterfall!
So you know you’re in the jungle when: you look up and see a snake, you take a step backwards and almost step on a frog and as you put your hand on a nearby tree to stabilize yourself you squish a cockroach…..all this while ants are chomping away at your ankles! Other than the creepy crawlies though, the Jungle is a Divine place! And Palenque really is a Jewel. Long ago it was a large sophisticated civilization with towering temples all built without the use of any metal or machines! Why the Maya civilizations collapsed is a question that still lingers in the air. Scientists speculate that they had drained their natural resources….but who really knows? A lot of the art and other important artifacts that didn’t fall victim to the destruction of time or to thieves, arein the museum on display. The masks are quite impressive.
And now that we are reaching the southern part of Mexico, it’s time to cross the border into another country…..Guatemala!