Doomsday is Not in the Jungle
By Luis Alvarez
Twenty-twelve is a great year for travel in Mexico, specially the southeast, because of the whole ‘end of the world’ Mayan prediction and a bunch of people going all bananas about it.
Palenque, in the state of Chiapas, is one of the most impressive sites. Therefore, it is very mainstream and touristy but the truth is there’s just something that makes it so interesting, regardless of it being that famous. Maybe because it’s buried in the jungle, or maybe because of the fact that what can be seen today is barely some 10% of the ancient city’s real extension.
What ever that reason may be, it is very easy to just sit to stare at the Temple of Inscriptions and lose track of time deciding if King Pakal’s sarcophagus depicts him as an astronaut (remember the bunch of people going bananas?), if he is just descending to the underworld and which one of those is a more logical theory… or some other random thing.
There are qualified guides all over the place that can explain all this and more and take guided visits to the temples, but there are also local people hunting for clueless tourists with no guidebooks to charge them whatever they want for unofficial, but very tempting, tours. I was there on a budget, so I refused to take one into the jungle to see buried structures and some waterfall hidden there. But I was feeling adventurous, since I woke up to howler monkeys at six in the morning, so I went by myself in spite of these guys warning me not to do so.
Life Lesson: listen to the locals. Life Lesson 2: you don’t mess with jungles; not even if you’re steps away from a huge pyramid and you think Hansel and Gretel were dumb enough to leave a bread track behind them. My good sense of location was proven wrong that day in the most stressful four hours (about ten minutes, really) of my life.
Everyone knows freaking out is never the way to go, so when I couldn’t find that waterfall nor my way back, I remembered having read a very interesting article a long time ago. I recalled something about the weight of the heart being responsible for humans to steer left or right when lost, hence walking in circles, I just didn’t remember which of the two. With that in mind, I consciously walked making a big circle that would take me back to the open in a heartbeat; after all I had to literally follow my heart.
After a while of getting nowhere, I considered making a Man vs. Wild version of my situation and thought eating bugs would help, but then I saw a really big, colorful spider and gasped. I think the ‘colorful’ was scarier than the ‘big’ or the ‘spider’, so I just kept walking in whatever direction the trees and mud let me until I could find someway out.
The rest could have been very embarrassing if anyone saw, but it can be reduced to two easy words: parking, lot. I don’t know how or why, and I really don’t care, but I suddenly found myself in a parking lot that I didn’t see when I got to the site. I felt great, though! I had just pulled a Bear Grylls and got out of the jungle alive, and without eating any bugs.
I really hope those tours will get official or cheaper very soon, because people wouldn’t want to change doomsday or learning about its theories for ten minutes of alone-time in the jungle. I wouldn’t. I would have rather stayed losing track of time sitting on that pyramid thinking about kings, astronauts, Doomsday and going all bananas about it.
About the Author
Luis Alvarez is from Central Mexico and is a graphic designer and an aspiring foodie. He has traveled extensively throughout Mexico and has also spent time in Spain and Russia both working and studying. Luis, like all of us at Vagabundo Magazine, truly believes that travel can cure what troubles the world. Travel has a way of bringing people together and giving one an other a better understanding of different cultures and ideas.