16.07.2007 - 22.07.2007 30 °C
I am devasted to say that tomorrow I must go back home. My last week here has been like the finale in firework show - packed with mesmerizing lights and fantastic designs. And monkeys! Sadly, though, these last few days I have been incredibly sick. Today is the first time that I have felt well enough to sit up for more than five minutes. Two days ago, walking the impressive grounds of Palenque, my usually very strong and able body began to fail me. My neck and back muscles got stiff and my legs hurt to move them. Since Palenque is a place I have been wanting to visit for the last ten years, and which I saved for last, I kept uttering the mantra "mind over matter, mind over matter." Somewhere inside me, I truly believed that I could will myself not to be sick - even when I spent an hour sprawled out on the lawn by Structure I and Structure II. But hey, if you have lie down anywhere, staring up at two ancients ruins isn´t half bad. I wish I could relate to you the impressiveness of Palenque, but sadly, I eventually became more aware of the muscle aches that, surprisingly, were second to the semi-truck driving backwards and forwards into each side of my skull leaving me, at times, slightly blinded. As I layed on the grass I couldn´t help but feel slighty sorry for myself and imagined that I was suffering from acute bacterial meningitis. I remembered that my sister was positive that I was going to die in Mexico and finally I agreed that maybe she was right. But I was not going to die some gruesome tourist, horror movie death like she had imagined, rather like the aliens in Steven Speilberg´s adaption of War of the Worlds I was done in by an invading strain of bacteria eating away at my system. That night after the fever and chills set in (and the semi-truck banging around my head mutiplied by two), I took a thirteen hour bus ride from Palenque to Cancún. Not realizing what I had I done, I bought a ticket on a second class bus rather than a first class bus. What this means is: no bathrooms, no air conditioning, no leg room, livestock on board, and all the body odor one could ask for. Needless to say, when I finally did make it to my hostel in Cancun I spent the day asleep. In the evening, my headache only a mere pickup truck, and just a few aches and pains, I walked to the store and bought vegetables, broth and made some soup. Today, I am able to write, ignoring how people discreetly shy away from me when I start in on one of my harsh coughing fits. How can I blame them when I would do the same? Sometime today, I will have to find the energy to walk to the beach...how I love that Caribbean Sea.
As for earlier in my week - what a great time! Frist of all, I didn´t realize that two of my planned stops were going to be in the state of Chiapas, otherwise I may not of gone hearing all the hype about the dangers of the state. But how I am glad I went. Chiapas was the most beautiful state I visited on this trip. From Campeche, I took a five hour bus ride to Palenque. Deciding that I wanted to save Palenque for last, I boarded another five hour bus to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and stayed there for three days. The ride down to San Cristóbal De Las Casas was possibly the most romantic ride for me. San Cristóbal is at a higher elevation which means we had to drive up into the mountains. As the road curved and swerved through mountainous, tropical forest it began to rain. Wiping the windows to see outside was pure joy - all I saw was endless green. What a change from the hot beaches and swaying palm trees - and equally impressive! Because San Cristóbal is at a higher elevation, the city was much cooler. And it rained everyday. For the first time in two weeks I wore pants, a sweater and took a hot shower. The latter being the impressive thing that had everyone talking. In San Cristóbal I met an array of people that I ended up either travelling with to Palenque, dancing with, shopping with, and, of course, laughing with - basically, a group of people that enriched my time in Chiapas. There was the beautiful young Scottish woman, Hilary, who I met on a tour bus when we went to swim under waterfalls. Since I was going to be in San Cristóbal a day before her, we arranged to stay in the same hostel. Hilary had just turned eighteen and I don´t know if was youth, but a special light burned bright in her. In San Cristóbal, I met an American woman, Bethany, who turned out to be a great dancing partner at a club one night but soon disappeared. I also met an American couple that I went met up again in Palenque and I want to visit one day in North Carolina. And then there was Yolanda, a school teacher from Holland with model quality good looks and a sense of humor that matched her beauty, who I shared a cabaña with in Palenque.
Outside of San Cristóbal De Las Casas , there is a village, San Juan Chamula, that has one of the impressive churches that I have ever encountered. To enter the church you need to obtain permission from the tourist office. And picture taking is strictly prohibited near or in the church - the people believe that when one takes their picture, they are taking a piece of their soul. The Chamulans who use this church still practice and maintain the beliefs and rituals of their ancestors. Entering the church is a powerful experience. When I walked through the door, for a second I had to adjust my eyes because all the candles and lit incense left the room smoky. Banners hung from the ceiling and hay laid on the floor. The walls were aligned with saints and mirrors, and people kneeled on the floor, lighting candles, chanting, offering drinks, eggs and chickens. From a distance all the candles together looked like rows of gold ribbon stretching across the church banding all sides together into one. Watching the faces of the people, observing the faith, I was taken back by how much spirtual energy I felt in that room. There were a few moments so strong, I almost cried. Being allowed the privilege of entering that church and observing people in some of their strongest, and most vulnerable, states is a gift that truly touched my soul.
There is so much more I would like to write about (i.e waterfalls, fire dancers, and, of course, monkeys that sound like huge silverback gorillas as you walk through the jungle at 3am to go to the bathroom) but, honestly, I am tired. I truly love this country and a part of me mourns that I must leave tomorrow. I recommend to anyone and everyone to let go of any preconceived notions that they have about México and come experience the country, the people, for themselves.