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A great name and a great hotel (we splashed out a smidge). What more could you want?
Well, unfortunately there were a couple of things that detracted from the enjoyment of this, not insignificantly sized, place. One thing that could not really be helped, due to it's location, was the 12 hour bus journey to get there. The roads were pretty good from what I remember of the overnight journey and once again the bus was very comfortable. (I should point out now that Universal Soldier: The Return is not a sequel that should ever have been made.) We arrived at our hotel at about 7:30am and adopted the same behaviour we did in Oaxaca by sleeping for a couple of hours before doing anything else. We were quite lucky really that our room was not occupied the night before so we were able to do that.
Refreshed and clean, we had a look around the hotel / museum that we were staying in. Casa Na Bolom is a museum dedicated to the Lacandon people in the nearby jungles of Mexico and the European explorers wo went looking for them earlier last century. The museum is not huge and not that much is available to read in English. However, there are lots of good displays and photos and it's worth a look. The hotel rooms and the rest of the property are furnished and decorated with more photos and antique furniture and it's like having a private extension to the museum.
Next we decided to explore the centre of San Cristobal and a few educated guesses and a twenty minute walk saw us there. This was when the second disappointment came. San Cristobal is nowhere near as clean as we had been used to in Oaxaca. There were many more stray dogs, lots of dogs' mess and more litter. The street vendors were much more pushy, often they would try to put something in your hands and make you buy it. The main square, whilst quite nice seemed like a pale imitation of Oaxaca's.
Once over the little things that weren't so nice about San Cristobal, we booked ourselves onto a day long tour to Palenque (known as The Lost City of The Jungle) and spent a while using the internet. When we were done, we found that the heavens had opened and being prepared as we were, we donned our waterproof coats and set out. Well, not only is navigating your way through an unfamiliar town in the rain difficult, if the streets were previously dusty but now flowing like rivers, it's rather treacherous. Both soaked, we finally made it back to the hotel as the thunderstorm really got going. Now is the time to mention again how nice the hotel rooms were, each complete with a cosy fireplace...
The following day was the day of our trip to Palenque. We had to get up really early (seriously, it was 5.30am) and walk into the town centre to catch a bus at 6.45am. I won't go into too many details of the bus ride as I'm saving that for my next update. Let's just say that it wasn't all that pleasant.
The first actual tour stop the bus made was at a series of water falls and rapids known as Aqua Azul. These could have been very, very nice were it not for the fact that it seemed to be a big campsite too. There were a large number of holidaying Mexicans there and a lot of rubbish lying around. Given the heat and the fact that we were getting into the jungle (hence high humidity), the smell was pretty bad. Still, we had an hour and a half there so we walked up the river rapids for a while and then went back to the bus. Whoever invented air-conditioning deserves a medal.
Our second scheduled tour stop was another waterfall, the name of which I can't remember. This was a lot cleaner than the first place and smaller too. There weren't any campers here which was a bonus. We only stayed for about half an hour. That was enough time to wander behind the waterfall and have a quick sandwich because we were hungry. Actually, as a sandwich it was rather nice. Basically there were three slices of bread and somewhere in the middle was some ham and some cheese, a little mayonnaise and some salad. The outsides of the sandwich were toasted slightly. Yummy.
The final tour stop was the lost jungle city of Palenque. Except of course, someone had obviously found it! This place is amazing! The other sites we had visited were amazing too but the whole jungle back-drop to Palenque gave it an extra dimension that the other sites lacked.
The real shame about our visit to Palenque was that because of the extreme heat and humidity, we felt in no condition to enjoy or appreciate the city. Apparently it is a lot more bearable in the morning. However, it is a great place, not to be missed from anyone's itinerary.
We finally got back to San Cristobal at about 11pm that night and I lit the fire again (because I could!).
The following day was Easter Sunday and we spent the day relaxing in the main square and writing postcards. All of the locals were well dressed and pretty much just out enjoying themselves. Most of them would already have been to mass. When I say 'already', we were late up and had a leisurely breakfast (it was excellent too) at the hotel before checking out at 1pm.
Our bus left at 7pm for Merida. This one was no frills and the first 5 hours were very, very familiar to us!
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