Palenque ruins are beautiful and fascinating. My whole experience of staying in Palenque I didn´t much enjoy but it turned out to be a good learning experience for my traveling as a whole. The modern town of Palenque is a bit of a dump and I had heard that it was nicer to stay in one of the many campsites which offer hammocks and cabañas on the road to the ruins... particularly an area called El Panchan... the book also recommended to stay here... I´m learning not to take the advice of the book and to be discerning when taking advice from other travellers! I arrived with high hopes and found what I can only describe as a jungle Butlins for backpackers!!! For all my non British friends just think holiday camp for faux hippies! Despite the beautiful setting Trent and I both found it painfully tacky but it was late in the day and we didn't want to get another taxi back to Palenque town. We got ourselves a cabaña for the night and rested our weary selves.
In the morning we awoke to see how stunning the setting really was. Jungle Butlins is built over a beautiful creek running through the jungle... my ears were becoming accustomed to the hum of jungle life by now but I still loved it. The streams that wound and forked around the cabañas, cheesy restaurants and tat vendors were home to some fish... but the water looked slightly milky and I noticed a strange smell which I didn't want to believe was sewage! So I stuffed it away in the denial area of my brain along with my true feelings about helping to finance such a hole of an establishment! Then, as I made my way back to our cabaña Trent called out to me and pointed out the pipes from the toilets and bathrooms were broken and raw sewage was pouring directly into the beautiful stream that ran along next to our cabaña! I then noticed the laundry area where the pipes from the washing machines also ran directly into the water... We both looked on in disgust at how this place could dress itself up as a hippy retreat with reiki workshops and yoga classes and then happily pollute the river without even caring... we checked out sharpish and moved to a sleepy but pleasant campsite down the road... I was happy to be greeted by the friendly mexican owner and not some trustafarian with dreadlocks and fire poy!!!
So I visited the ruins and went on a tour to two nearby waterfalls - Misol Ha and Agua Azul. Both were beautiful but I just felt like a stupid tourist! There are no public buses to the falls so you have to go on a tour and you're carted around with other stupid tourists and I just didn't enjoy the whole experience! I can't really explain why. I know I sound ungrateful and it's probably because I was fresh from being spoiled with the amazing experience of Laguna Miramar.. the whole day just felt like a box ticking excercise. Right, done that then... got the pictures... can show the family when i get home and tell other travellers that I too went to Palenque and saw the waterfalls. I decided that from that point on I would do my utmost not to do box ticking things! It's hard, sometimes you don't know until you try but I think I'll be a bit more discerning from now on. Like I said, take the advice of the book with a pinch of salt!
So from here I parted ways with Trent and made my way to Tulum. My friend Karl from London had just arrived in Tulum with two of his friends. I was hoping to meet up with them for a day or two. The idea of some familiar faces was quite appealing after my rather unsatisfying trip to Palenque.
Nuff grumbles! Of course I feel like the luckiest thing alive right now! I'm just getting an idea of what I do and don't value about the whole travelling thing... If you're in Mexico I would say do visit Palenque ruins but just pass through and if you do stop for a night, stay in Palenque town. It might be sweaty and dirty but at least it's real.