Las Guacamayas and Yaxchilan Ruins

Throughout the night the slightly we were awoken on several occasions by the screaming of the howler monkeys, a horrible noise which sounds particularly creepy in the dead of night despite the fact that we knew what it was. We couldn’t believe something that small, could sound so terrifying.

When the morning came, Kim and Chris left, being on a tighter time frame, while we decided to stay one more day. The campsite owner brought us cocoa beans to try and some of the fruit from the trees growing in the campsite. We also had a massive bunch of plantains to share out between us. 

We decided that we wanted to try and spot a howler monkey and some macaws that day. Gerald had been told that there was a particular tree the macaws roosted in, so we decided we would go there later. In the meantime, we went for a walk around the village. A pretty little place, that reminded me a little of The Shire from The Hobbit. While some roads are tarmac, some are bright green grassy paths and flowering trees and shrubs are everywhere. 

The day was insanely hot, a little stroll through the town left us dripping. We headed across to the other side where Kim had told us they had a some captive macaws. They had several of these magnificent birds in a large cage to the side of the road. While it is interesting to see them so close, it is really not the same as seeing one living in the wild and I hoped we would get to see some free ones flying around later. 

We started to head back to the river, planning to walk back to the campsite. A couple of ladies stood in the muddy water, washing clothes. We asked them if they weren’t worried about the crocodiles, but they weren’t even slightly bothered. “You can come in!” They shouted across, we politely declined and walked on towards the campers. 

As we walked along the grassy river bank, we heard the howler monkeys to the right of us in the trees, so we walked in for a closer look. The spider monkeys are distinguishable by their white chests, while the howler monkeys are completely black. We spotted some in the trees, and were pretty sure they were howler monkeys even though they had gone quiet. As we walked closer into the woods, one of the males leaned out of his tree and started to shout at us. It was an incredibly loud noise for such a relatively small animal. We stood on the floor below his tree and watched him for a while. 

There was also some pretty interesting trees in the wood too, including this giant. 

Lee was pretty happy now, his monkey sighting dreams a reality. I hadn’t seen my parrots though, it wasn’t quite the right time of year for there to be a lot of them. As they rest of the day passed, we kept checking ourselves for ticks. Last night Lee had been a host to about five, while I had two without knowing about it. We were clearly in an area that had a lot, and I decided as soon as we were back to civilisation I would need to invest in a tick tool. Fortunately, we hadn’t acquired anymore in our wanderings around town and soon enough it was late afternoon.

We wanted to get to the tree around an hour before sunset. It was supposedly a little walk out of the town. As we left, the lady from the campsite told us that there had been four macaws in the tree opposite her house that morning. At least there were definitely some around. It was a good half an hour walk out the tree, and it was not entirely clear which tree it was supposed to be. Geralds instructions were a little vague, but we knew it was on top of the hill. We wandered up and down the road a bit, looking for possible birds. Just as we are about the give up, Geralds caught our attention waving in the road. He had spotted a pair in the tree. We scaled the gate and went for a closer look. Unlike the monkeys, it wasn’t possible to get as close but we saw them high in the tree tops. Several other small green parrots also flew around near us. With the waning light, it was hard to get a decent photo and you certainly can’t appreciate their bright plumage, but it was great to finally see some. Now I could leave the campsite happy. 

We packed away the at a leisurely pace the following morning, spotting another two macaws flying high across the river as we did so. Our next stop in the jungle would be Yaxchilan, the ruins of a mayan civilisation in the jungle, accessible only by boat. Gerald wanted to accompany us, which sounded like a good plan to save some money as they seem to charge per boat. It was another few hours drive, on some quite questionable roads, to reach the nearest town and we pulled up late afternoon. 

Firstly, we paid to get into the town. Then they tried to charge us for something else to get to the car park, and then we had to pay for the boat tour. After some rather half hearted negotiating, the lady at the desk dropped the price from 1,800 pesos to 1000. We confirmed we could sleep in the car park for the night for free, our boat ride leaving at 9.30 the following morning. 

We headed over to the restaurant to use the wifi and drink the remaining five beers they had in stock. The wifi was somewhat hit and miss, as soon as it started raining, a regular occurrence, it seemed ro block the satellite and stop working.

In between showers we headed back to the campers. I bought a good luck bracelet, made from seeds, from one of the locals selling jewellery on the river bank and chatted to him for a while in my rather broken Spanish. Then the rain returned and we headed inside for the night amongst a plague of flying ants. 

After a peaceful night, we were happy to see that it din’t look too overcast that morning. Our tour guide insisted that we need to go and pay for another ticket for entrance to the site itself, one we had managed to avoid paying the day before. It seemed rather a complicated process to extract money from the tourist, and after half an hour or so delay, we were ready to go. We walked down to the boat with our lanchero and set off. He told us the trip was around 40 minutes there and an hour back. Once at the site we had two hours to explore. The boat sped off the the murky waters, stopping to look at a crocodile on the way. Once at the site, he let us off at a small jetty and parked his boat up next to it for a nap while he waited for our return. 

We walked up the steps and into the jungle, with one other couple. Once at the top, there is a map of the sight and a forest track to follow. We headed into the humid rainforest for a few hundred metres before we saw the first of the ruins. The day was a little gloomy, but it added to the atmosphere somewhat.

It was a large site, even more so when you realise that the section you can visit is only a small portion. There were many different buildings, most of them included a sign explaining their previous purpose and translations of the mayan carvings. 

Amongst the careful excavated buildings, giant trees stretched hundreds of feet above us, festooned with tropical plants. We spotted some more spider monkeys, and heard the distinctive noise of the howler monkeys in the distance.

The other end of the site had another small handful of people, but the place was pretty quiet. 

We climbed up a flight of stairs to one side of the main sight to another impressive building at the top. Inside it was still possible to see the remains of the colours which it had originally been painted. And as impressive as it still was, it must have been quite something to see this huge red structure rising amongst the jungle greenery. 

With our two hour timeframe coming to an end, and the sight beginning to get busier, we made our way back to the boat. There were now several boats parked up in a line on the shore, and we spotted ours number 23 in the middle. Back on the boat, we were glad of the cool breeze again as we headed back upriver. The stillness and humidity of the jungle in the sun had been warm to say the least. 

Back in the restaurant we contemplated our next move over some tacos. Deciding that we would move on towards the Roberto Barrios cascades. Another few hours away, we headed off. While we started together, we soon got split up. David and Katie pulled over when a surprise speed bump threw paprika all over the camper. They weren’t the only one who hit a surprise speed bump, as I went into one full speed that caused a lot of the stuff on our roof-rack to end up on the road. Fortunately we didn’t seem to have done any damage and we continued on after Gerald rescued saucepans from the road. We stopped again later on due to the torrential rain. We currently only had windscreen wipers that working on intermittent and that was not enough for a monsoon. The windows kept fogging up too, making it impossible to drive.

We pulled over in a lay-by and let the rain die down and the windows clear. It took a few more attempts like this as the rain was quite unrelenting but we were finally on the road to the waterfalls. Something made a slightly ominous rattling at the back of the van, but we were tired and soggy and just wanted to get there so we ploughed on. 

In the village, the sat nav took us to the wrong place and despite the fact that the person selling tickets on the roadside assured us there was a campsite and our friends were there, it didn’t take much time down the dead end road to the river to realise he was lying. Having wasted our money for nothing, we retraced our steps to the other side of the river and finally found everyone. We weren’t the only people have an eventful day. As we arrived and paid for camping, the owner pointed out Gerald. “Don’t go over there”, he told us. “The ground isn’t good because of the rain. He’s stuck.” It took David towing and all of us pushing to free the camper so he could relocate to hard ground. 

Fortunately the campsite had a large palapa with some tables and chairs, so we could socialise out of the rain for the evening. Often a rainy night leads to us all being shut up in our respective campers. We spent our evening chatting to some other travellers who were going in the opposite direction and had recently had a problem with their gearbox failing and got stuck in Tulum. We exchanged some good places to visit, before calling it a night. 

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