CHIAPAS. . . that land down south, south in México. Whispered so many times to me by strangers, eventually I just knew it would have to be part of this magical SOULA TRIP. After exploring Uxmal & the Ruta Puuc my very nice driver José dropped me off in Mérida, capital city of the Yucatán, which lots of people love because it’s a big city full of amenities and comforts (as big cities usually are). I was here just to catch that ADO bus and chose the overnight haul because it had to the be best way to travel 9+ hours (I think it was closer to 12 hours). At least they played a few movies on board and I recall watching a really good one with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin (Labor Day) dubbed in Español that made me cry for hours after. First of all, great acting and a great storyline. Secondly, LOVE?!! Hand me the box of tissues. . . I cried myself to sleep on that long and bumpy ride. I was in no way ready for the surge of emotion that came over me, something triggered in me. I have alluded a few times to the fact that this SOULA TRIP was one that was inspired after my near 2 year relationship ended. For months I had been experiencing all the stages of grief and THEN THE HEALING TOO, when I started honoring the Goddess/QU-EEN that I am. . . ongoing for months of 2015 before I decided to purchase a flight, pack some bags and say ADIOS CALIFORNIA y HOLA MEXICO’s Yucatán.
The point is, there was still residual stuff, there was still pain and more letting go that needed to happen in order for me to truly shine in my present moment. And there’s nothing wrong about feeling, releasing, honoring all emotions. . . Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
12 hours later give or take, the ADO bus pulled into Palenque’s station. It was dark as night outside, earlier than 6 am. I walked out to the first Taxi I saw and uttered two words: EL PANCHÁN? and was on my way. . . That insistent couple back in Izamal had told me that I had to stay here in this “hippy-like”, “anything goes”, “come as you are” community in the jungle not too far from the Mayan Ruins of Palenque. . . It was fate; it was my destiny to end up here (though I didn’t know it yet). The sun started peaking through the trees surrounding the property, allowing me to wander around El Panchán. . .
I came upon a kiosk inside the community and scored a room for the next few nights. . . The woman led me to my room and I’ll just tell you now that it’s utterly surrounded by rainforest, living up to its name: Jungle Palace. We had to cross a stream to get to my room, and there were spiderwebs with giant resident spiders and howler monkeys living up above in the trees; surely I was just a visitor here in their habitat. My room was spacious though simple, while bathrooms/showers were shared facilities. I was so tired from the journey that upon entering my room I fell asleep hard for the next few hours. When I woke up again around 10 am, I was feeling better of heart and mind and was hoping to see what Panchán was all about. It didn’t take long. . . While eating breakfast, someone came up and started chatting with me and said he was going to a nearby town to swim in these waterfalls. Another guy named KALIMBA soon came around to convince me to come along for a small fee and said he’d take us to this local site by private transportation. Local site sounded great, not so touristy he emphasized. Swimming and Waterfalls? Órale! Vamos!! He rounded up just a few people for the trip and bought CERVEZAS/BEERS too. We headed to: PLACE THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED (Sorry but I’d rather this place stay preserved. . . if you will actually be traveling here and want to know where this place is send me an email) It’s about a 30-35 minute drive from the town of Palenque and it’s where I started to get a taste of what Chiapas was all about.
The driver left us on the side of the small road and Kalimba led our little group toward the jungly landscape. That’s how I’d describe my first impression of Chiapas: Jungly! I finally was in a part of México that made me feel WILD, and feeling WILD MEANT I FIT IN with my environment. With permission from the locals, to whom Kalimba paid a small fee on our behalf, we began our little trek down into the CASCADAS/WATERFALLS. A few things I didn’t realize. . . I had no clue we’d be doing some serious hiking down into these parts through small and muddy paths (I was wearing my Havaianas sandals).
I also couldn’t possibly have known we’d be crossing over from one side to the other through water/on slippery rocks which literally emptied to form another waterfall and another. #dontlookdown
I couldn’t do it alone. I was terrified. Kalimba had graciously already begun carrying my backpack with my expensive camera inside because I was afraid of slipping and damaging it/and or of it becoming submerged IN THE GORGEOUS WATERFALLS OF CHIAPAS. Kalimba offered his hand and gave me his tips for crossing. Obviously one of them was something stupid like don’t worry. I just had to have a little faith, and I summoned the Universe’s help too. I was so very glad for him easing me through it, helping me all along the way, and I was relieved that no cameras were harmed this day. Now I’m sure you are all dying to know. . . how were the waters?
The waterfalls were a gift that day. There was no place I would rather be than there, bathing and healing all the same. For the Maya, HA / AGUA / WATER is life. They thank Cha’ac during the rainy season because they don’t lack water, it’s all around them. This place is protected and cared for by the locals which is why I respect that we were allowed to swim in their waters. In total, there are something like 12 levels of waterfalls. We started at the very top, swimming around and I got lost in that Natural World. When I heard Kalimba calling that we were moving onto the next level, I ran to catch up with the group. Each level had deep and shallow pools to enjoy. He even showed us where the safe spots were to jump and dive. . . but I didn’t mind not diving myself. As Kalimba dove and jumped as free as Tarzan in his jungle, I photographed whenever I wasn’t swimming. I love how he interacted too with the little kids who wanted to slide, jump and dive as he was doing. There was a little cave that could also be reached by passing through a small opening under a waterfall. I saw him take two from the group down in there. I wanted to as well, but when I was right there ready to swim under, I panicked. I’m not as adventurous in that sense. Jumping off waterfalls doesn’t excite me. Going down in caves with someone I just met this morning isn’t what makes me feel alive. In the end I said I couldn’t do it and although he tried to convince me and told me again don’t worry & offered to hold my hand and lead me, I said I’d rather just swim around. Put me in water and that’s enough, I’m an instant Sunshine Mermaid.
From Palenque most people talk about Agua Azul and Misol Ha, the two most impressive waterfall spots in the area, but I didn’t go see them for two reasons. Firstly, it was late September which is the RAINY season here in Chiapas. The Bluest Cerulean Blues that you will see all over the internet when you google Agual Azul are not what the waterfalls look like in this season. They are much more brown (Natural and still clean though) and Secondly, big tour buses and tour companies come from all over and drop off dozens of TOURISTS all at once here. So much for peace and tranquility while splashing around in the HA. Not my scene!
Relaxed and Rejuvenated, we headed back to Panchán. . . and the evening got even more MAGICAL. Remember those Monkeys I mentioned, the Howler Monkeys are the local residents of Panchán’s jungle and made themselves known from the first evening I was here. Their powerful operatic sounds turned full-on T-rex calls . . . Holy hell we were on alert!! Surely they wanted to remind us that we were the visitors afterall. A few of us in the Jungle Palace followed the bellows to get a better look. High above in the trees, they traveled as a family from what I could tell, the tiniest baby never too far behind from mother. I was in awe. Speechless truly.
I can say with full confidence that El Panchán was exactly what my soul needed. It was after a few days here, completely immersed in Panchán, meeting new people daily and becoming closer to some that I met in the first days like Kalimba, I became certain that I must change my return flight to California. . . and so I did. I extended it by one week (without any extra fees thankfully) and got completely and utterly swept up by the beauty of Chiapas and of the people here exchanging with me.