Yaxchilán

Soooo… I’m the history buff who is forcing her sister to visit all those horrible ruins and historic places, I am really sorry. As a compromise (or maybe punishment?) I now have to contribute to her blog. And I must say, it is so much easier to just send her the occasional photo, but I will try my best.

Before we made our way to Guatemala, we (well, let’s be honest… I did) decided to visit Yaxchilán, an almost forgotten Mayan city in the middle of the jungle and right next to the Usumacinta River. Well, it’s forgotten in certain parts of the world. The tribe of Lacandón, an indigenous people of this region still travel to Yaxchilán to honour their Mayan gods.

The ruins are only reachable by a 40min boat ride or a private airplane. Being on a budget, we opted for the first one.

My imagination ran wild. We were sure to see jaguars mauling a crocodile or the other way round. I’m fine either way, I might even throw a big snake into the mix. Monkeys would surely steal our cameras and take selfies and all the birds would just stop midflight for the perfect photo opportunity. Well…. no such luck. Though we did see crocodiles, howler monkeys and toucans, they weren’t really interacting with us and at least concerning the first one, I am actually quite glad they didn’t.

The jungle feeling on the other hand delivered. First of all, there are only a few tourists at Yaxchilán, because it is a bit harder to reach and although they have excavated quite a few buildings, most of them are still hidden away under hundred of years of forest growth. The great thing of lesser known Mayan ruins is that you get to play explorer. You can actually climb buildings, go into pyramids, get lost in labyrinths, only being able to find out by fleeing in terror from spooked bats flying out. So, that was pretty awesome. The jungle feeling lost a bit of its charm, when they started to mow the lawn, but hey, just tell yourself it’s a jaguar growling at you from the underwood.

Yaxchilán is famous for its hundreds of inscription filled sculptures. Apparently. But almost none of them are still at their original location. One didn’t make it to Mexico City, although they really tried very hard to. It is now described as followed at the site: „Following a failed attempt to take it to Mexico City […] and yet more misadventures on the Usumacinta River, it was returned“.

We had a few hours in the ruins and I would definitely recommend bringing a flashlight to discover hidden pathways and keep clear of giant spiders. We started with the little acropolis high upon a „mountain“, originally sporting a great view of the Great Plaza over a thousand years ago. Apparently Mayan acropoli never have to do with temples or religion, but are rather living quarters of the higher class. They are built above the rest of the town and since Mayans didn’t have horses or the wheel, we suspect that the nobles were carried up there in handheld palanquins, but we could only confirm that for a few of the kings in other cities. Unaware that the small Acropolis is linked to the great Acropolis, we went back down to the great Plaza, which is reached either boringly on top of or more excitingly through a maze of underground dark passages. And up, up, up we go to the great Acropolis, a huge building with an impressive roofcomb whose purpose we still haven’t found out.

My sister decided she didn’t get enough sun the last few weeks and went on to the temple of the sun further up the hill. I took advantage of the spare time and turned my eye to the tree tops and saw some easily identifiable toucans and some other birds.

Back on the boat we headed for Bonampak, a totally different experience, Mayan- and touristwise.

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