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Despite the doubts raised by my visit to Bonampak, the following day at the river frontier between Mexico and Guatemala while I am trying to negotiate a boat to Bethel on the Guatemalan side of the river the following day I find myself attached to a group of twenty or so young Mexican university students making the forty-five minute trip down river to the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilan.

Earlier, I had resisted the approach of a tour tout urging me to join some foreigners on this trip at the exorbitant price of 700 pesos, a sum he announced shamelessly and then instantly converted into its equivalent in US dollars.

However, while I am talking to another man about the boat trip to Bethel he says that I can join the student group for eighty pesos. I decide that this is a good offer and more seduced by the idea of a boat ride than the ruins I run to get my things from my bike which is stashed nearby.

Unexpectedly I find myself part of an enthusiastic school group...

...on a boat to Yaxchilan.

Maybe it is simply the company of a group of exuberant and heedless youngsters that sweeps aside the feelings of melancholy and unease that assailed me the previous day at Bonampak but being part of a large group of Mexicans also protects me from the attentions of the countless throng that surrounds tourist attractions on the constant lookout for foreign wealth.

Yaxchilan is a large isolated site, assessable only by river, spread out in the deep jungle. Howler monkeys shriek and growl in the forest canopy, while the piles of ancient stone stand inscrutably on well tended green lawns. Hoards of workers hack and pluck at plant growth keeping the jungle at bay. Footpaths lead through the jungle thickets from one group of structures to the next and I spend the afternoon happily enough wandering the area trying to imagine how the world looked to an ancient Mayan.

More impressive piles of ancient stone...

... surrounded on all sides by incredible jungle.

Howler monkeys screaming in the trees.

The extent of it is astonishing...

... and I wonder if the ancient Mayans kept such beautiful lawns.

The jungle steadily encroaches where-ever it isn't persistently kept at bay.

Stairways to the gods...

...and stones...


...the ground.

River and sky on the boat trip back to Frontera Echeverria

{ 1 } Comments

  1. julie | June 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    i’ve been trying to catch up with your blogs since being away – so much is going on here, too, which I will write in an email. I like to post a comment on the website, because I can imagine the effort you must make to keep your journal going, and it must be good to know that people are following your journey. It is a wonderful read and the photos are extraordinarily beautiful – poetry! A pity you couldn’t get a shot of that great bird or the python, but your descriptions are so good you can almost see them. The forest (jungle?) must be wonderful – you are making up for not seeing it in Brazil (the Amazon). I wonder if you might still get there??? I agree with you about arriving by boat, it seems to mark the arrival more meaningfully. Keep safe and happy.

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