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Old 09-25-2011   #1 (permalink)
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From Palenque to Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas

After rejoicing in the trip report to Chiapas by Susie, Sarah and Babaloo, now I have to share a bit from a trip in Feb2011, as I didn't want to drive the mountain road between Palenque and San Cristobal de las casas, but mainly because I wanted to visit the Lancandon jungle, I took the road to the East, the one that runs along the Usumacinta river and the border with Guatemala.



A solo trip in a Toyota Yaris, really smooth and no safety problem at all. I drove at night, in small dirt roads, in roads that didn't appear on the maps, etc. Slept at huts, really nice cabañas, eco-lodge and still alive.
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Old 09-25-2011   #2 (permalink)
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I'm starting with Lagunas de Montebello as the order really does not matter much, this portion of my trip is also out of place as I first visited Campeche (look for the Bat Volcano thread)

The area is called Lagunas or Lagos de Montebello, there are dozens of lagoons and lakes each with it's own charm, they claim that the colors are different but it depends on lots of factors, minerals disolved, angle of the Sun, point of view, etc.

This is one of my favorites, I visited for the first time in 1995, Laguna Pojoj has a little islet in the middle, and the locals said that a commercial for Bacardi was filmed in this lagoon.







you can have a guy take you in one of the very rustic rafts/canoes, the prices is not cheap, I payed 110 pesos for 30 minutes, but they have to make a living. You can also rent a kayak but is not the same thing.




It's really very, very, very relaxing, after several days driving, this changed my mindset completely, click on the next it's a very small video



they have a little orchid nursery in the middle of the islet



In the middle of the national park there are food stands, not the top of the notch meat but very tasty.





hand made tortillas


Coffee drinkers will not enjoy that the coffee is boiling in a pot for hours, but is cheap coffee with cinnamon and brown sugar, which fits nicely in the area, as it's a bit chilly being up in the mountains (1,500 meters)


the always present guardian dog


The largest lake in the area is Laguna de Tziscao, way above it's regular level due to heavy rains, wonderful for pics, but bad for business





I spent the night, very cozy in a cabin, 150 pesos as I was traveling alone and was the only guest out of 5 cabins.


3 beds, one huge downstairs and two regular on the top level


Very rustic bathroom, but the keeper offered to turn on the boiler to take a late shower, which I gladly accepted after a long day of driving and hiking (not like Susie's hotel in Teapa, ha)
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Old 09-25-2011   #3 (permalink)
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Great trip report Jesus!! Can't wait to read more and view your great pictures.
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Old 09-25-2011   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks NoisyOne, it's my pleasure and re-reading the Dangerous Natives... TR made me remember a lot.

The Border highway that run from Lagunas de Montebello to the the Usumacinta river is in fair good conditions as it's not heavily transited, being an area with very low population density. But of course that mean the usual pothole that gets bigger in the rainy season, and some "washing" of the side of the road in certain curves, but nothing to prevent me from driving with confidence.

Next stop if you are traveling to the East is Las Nubes (the Clouds)
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Old 09-25-2011   #5 (permalink)
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Las Nubes is a semi-eco lodge that is a bit far from the highway, the signs are few and at one point I missed one and took a road that took me uphill in a very curvy road that was not in the best condition and the inclination sometimes was very steep (a think 40º to 48º from the horizontal) after some kilometers of this I reached a small village in the middle of the hills, but not a trace of certain river and waterfalls which were my goal, I got the map out and realized I have passed a turn and backtracked, I was glad to have a small car and very stable.



The view was very nice most of the road, so I didn't complain too much, this area of Mexico is still pristine very few tourist and so, not much pressure to build more houses or plant more crops.








There are no gas stations, but I was not worried, the Yaris is very efficient and I never felt the need to buy at one of the multiple road side stands offering gas.





When I finally arrived at Las Nubes I got bad news, there was a crew filming a TV program or maybe an episode of a soap opera, but I couldn't visit all the complex, but no biggie, I wanted to climb to the top to see this:











A very long and tiring climb, weather was extremely hot even in February, but it was totally worth it.

My original plan was to sleep here but due to the filming there were not a single room and that's why I ended sleeping at the cabin in Montebello, not bad, but the bungalows here looked comfy


This area is very far from civilization, but that does not mean they are isolated.



The town to turn in the way to Las Nubes is Nuevo Jerusalem.
Heading East you find the river that originated the amazing waterfalls





Going East the road takes you between valleys and low mountains, and all looks pleasant and very green, unfortunately the original jungle was cut many years ago. There are a couple of military check points looking for drugs or illegal aliens from Guatemala, but they are very courteous and I spent several minutes chatting with the supervisors while the soldiers searched my car.

Next "episode" Las Guacamayas (the scarlet macaws)

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Old 09-25-2011   #6 (permalink)
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Well, you have me itching for another road trip now! Rob really wants to go back to Chiapas, specifically San Cristobal but he does not...I repeat NOT...want to take the mountain road from Palenque to San Cris EVER again!!

The Lancandon jungle is another pace we would like to see as well. After our visit to Na Bolom my husband gifted me with a wonderful book, a compilation of photographs taken by Gertrude Blom of the indigenous people in this remote region. So cool!! I have to see it for myself!
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Old 09-25-2011   #7 (permalink)
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Wow, Absolutely Beautiful !!! As you said, well worth the climb, thanks for doing so.
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Old 09-25-2011   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michele View Post
Well, you have me itching for another road trip now! Rob really wants to go back to Chiapas, specifically San Cristobal but he does not...I repeat NOT...want to take the mountain road from Palenque to San Cris EVER again!!

The Lancandon jungle is another pace we would like to see as well. After our visit to Na Bolom my husband gifted me with a wonderful book, a compilation of photographs taken by Gertrude Blom of the indigenous people in this remote region. So cool!! I have to see it for myself!
There is an alternative to go from Palenque to Tuxtla Gutierrez, a new toll highway that crosses Malpaso damn
Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico to Hotel Real Avenida - Google Maps



Yep, is a looooong detour, but mostly flat and fast. It has been highly publicized in Mexico city as a way to save time and fuel to reach Tuxtla, and on the way from DF to Veracruz and then to Villahermosa there are several large signs stating the distance to Tuxtla.

The trailer drivers were using that route when we were on tour with Shakira, we played in Villahermosa and then Tuxtla.


From Tuxtla to San Cristobal there is a toll highway, curvy and tailing along the hills, but much wider and safer.
http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=pa...101.76,,0,6.31



Between Las Guacamayas and Palenque I stayed one night at an eco-lodge run by a Lacandon, I was surprised to say the least.

So, when are you packing the van to start this new trip?
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Old 09-25-2011   #9 (permalink)
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Really enjoying this, Jesus! Your photos are awesome.
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Old 09-25-2011   #10 (permalink)
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Jesus,

Wonderful trip report!
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Old 09-25-2011   #11 (permalink)
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Very Nice
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Old 09-25-2011   #12 (permalink)
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Your pictures are beautiful, as always!
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Old 09-26-2011   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caramba View Post
Really enjoying this, Jesus! Your photos are awesome.
Thanks, I would love to have Thor along to check his technique,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sol View Post
Jesus,

Wonderful trip report!
Nahhh, I'm too lazy to make a real full trip report, just some notes,

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Originally Posted by roni View Post
Very Nice
When are you going to visit the area?

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Originally Posted by ga_pechs View Post
Your pictures are beautiful, as always!
Thanks, I just snap the button of the camera, it's mother nature we have to thank.
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Old 09-26-2011   #14 (permalink)
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Las Guacamayas is an eco-lodge that is so remote that they don't have a phone to make reservations.


The cabins were some of the best lodging options in the area, and not too expensive, I had a shared room for 240 pesos, but I was the only sleeper, so didn't share at all.





The bathroom and toilet are in a separate construction, very clean but a bit smallish for me, I don't imagine how a tall person would feel there.



These bungalows are around 600 pesos per night, with it's own porch would be really nice to spend a couple days with your couple or family. Notice they are build on pillars, as the hotel is very close to the river and it can overflow in the HEAVY rainy season.




The only option to eat is their restaurant, which is very decently priced even considering that all supplies have to come from very far, the hotel is in the most remote corner or Chiapas, hours away from large cities, and some of the food is not grown in the region.



My breakfast came to cost 115 pesos and was very tasty.




There are some conservation efforts going in this community to restore the habitat for the Red Macaw, they have created artificial nests -as the bird prefer to live in already made nests instead of carving one out of a tree- and also there are a few natural ones. I payed for a guided tour of the nesting area -bit expensive at 420 pesos- for a 1:30h walking tour around the area, the catch is that you have to enter private land and have to know the tracks, I was expecting a farther walk and more specialized guiding, but I had fun and saw what I wanted to visit otherwise I would have missed the nests.



Artificial nest





Natural nest


Captive guys in the hotel's gardens

I took a lot more pics, but it's just lots of the same colorful birds,


The little village is very quiet and sits by the river just in front of the amazing Reserva de Montes Azules, one of the last untouched jungles in the country. My guide told me that once in a boat tour they were able to spot a jaguar, which is getting more difficult day by day due to the lack of healthy and widespread jungles and forests in the country.

I didn't get good pictures of the reserve as I was driving and there are no shoulders to stop safely. I should have stayed in the area a couple days but wanted to keep going to explore the area.

One warning, the jungle is very healthy and so it is very noisy at night, all the different birds and mammals have a very active night life, I guess a jaguar could have been snacking around,
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Old 09-26-2011   #15 (permalink)
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What species of freshwater fish are in the lagoons and rivers pictured?
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