Chiapas is not one of my favorite places in the world. It is one of only a handful of places in the world that I did not feel welcome or safe thanks to the Zapatistas who live in the area. Yet not only did I go, I went thrice.
In case you were confused as to where you were.
I was in Chiapas with my dad. If you can imagine an American gringo sterotype, that was him. He spoke English much too loudly, made inappropriate eye contact with everyone, wore socks with sandals. He was the living, breathing embodiment of a Gringo. My stress level was at an all time high– with the police constantly boarding the busses searching for who know what. And my dad saying, much too loudly I might add, ‘why do you think the police took those tourists off the bus?’ Not for a guided tour, I can bet you that…now will you just pretend to read the magazine and SHUT UP.
I was at my wits ends, and really wanted to ship him back to Cancun, but he really wanted to spend time with me. I thought it best that we be out in nature rather than to try to explain the intricacies of Mayan history to him. And let’s be honest, for anyone not overly fascinated in art and architecture, what I do on a daily basis, is boring.
Chasing waterfalls at Misol-Ha
As waterfalls go, Misol-Ha is one of the more spectacular smaller waterfalls. It’s located smack in the middle of the Lancadon jungle and is a 115 foot waterfall. There are several other waterfalls in the area but Misol-Ha is one of the better ones. At its base is a huge plunge pool surrounded by lush vegetation; it’s perfect for swimming. [Movie note: It’s the waterfall in the Predator movie, or so I’m told. I’ve never actually seen the movie].
A wet, slippery path leads behind the falls to a cave. You can pay 10 or so pesos to explore it or wow the gatekeepers with your knowledge that 1. you are an American who happens to speak Mayan and 2. have blonde hair and speak damn-near perfect Spanish in a Castillo accent [at least according to the Mexicans I encounter on a daily basis.] Either way, I kept my pesos. At one time, a plank of wood was balanced precariously over the cliff edge. It looks like it could be a diving board or a lookout spot from which to view the falls, but it’s neither. It’s just an unsafe piece of wood hanging out over a cliff. If someone hasn’t already toppled off the edge, they will one day. Don’t be that person.
Cascadas de Agua Azul
About 40 or so miles from Palenque, the Cascadas de Agua Azul – exist. They originate in the municipality of Tumbalá, where the Shmulia, Otulun and Tulia rivers meet. And boy are they beautiful.
The turquoise water gathers in cool natural pools that are perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot day. Some areas are cordoned off and can only be admired from man-made boardwalks and viewing platforms. The swimming areas are clearly marked and easily located thanks to the shrieks of people flinging themselves from rope swings. Only swim in the designated areas. Don’t get over your head as the currents can be strong and people drown. Don’t be one of those people. Just enjoy the beauty.
And finally, in the far south of the state, near Comitan, you will find Cascadas de Chiflon. More spectacular than Misol-ha; more remote than Agua Azul, Chiflon is a collection of 5 much less visited waterfalls. The 5 waterfalls range in size and accessibility but they all give you ‘I’m alone in the world’ vibes. I threaten él Papá with a day-long, strenuous hike and was rewarded when he decided to hang back in Comitan.
Casadas de Chiflón
As a side note: the nature in Chiapas is raw and beautiful. I noticed that I used the phrase ‘don’t be that person’ twice. It’s a place where nature is so beautiful, so wild, you just want to touch everything. You want be as close as possible to everything, but seriously, be careful because otherwise, you might die. This isn’t the United States of America where there are warning signs every 5 steps warning you that water is wet. Heights are high. Jungles are dense, and wild animals are, in fact, wild.
The obvious musical companion to this post is TLC’s Don’t go chasing waterfalls.