July 2015: In my quest to see all of Mexico and to experience its largest lowland rainforest, the Lacandón and the indigenous descendants of the Maya, the Lacandón people, I spent 5 days exploring southern Chiapas with my friend Kent. Our goal was to sleep on an island with an unexcavated Myan pyramid in the Lacanja Lagoon deep in the rainforest.

 

 

The route we took

We flew into Villahermosa and spent the night near the hotel before driving the next day to southern Chiapas stopping at a few notable sites along the way such as the impressive Mayan pyramid complex of Palenque and the Misol-Ha Waterfall.

 

 

Pelenque

 Misol-Ha Waterfall

Our next stop was the Lacandón village called Lacanjá village. It was here that I hoped to hike into the rainforest and spend the night on an island with an unexcavated Mayan Pyramid on an island in a remote jungle lake. After some research and word of mouth recommendation from a Mexican archeologist we were driving 100 miles to Lacanjá village to find a guide that could help us, but I didn’t have his contact info and all I had was some bizarre instructions on how to find him:  

“Across the main road from sayache camp, and a few meters towards the airstrip, there is a little restaurant which name I can’t recall. There, there is a Lacandón guy, kind of albino, very white skin, blue eyes, I also don’t remember his name. He can take you to the Lacanjá Lagoon for the lowest price and also, he is always available. All the other guides ask for a lot more and are not really wanting to go, the have money so they don’t need to work. The only thing with this guy is that he has a drinking problem but is a very nice person you should have no troubles.”  

Once we arrived in the remote jungle village that was down a dirt road, we went to the restaurant and i asked everyone in Spanish for an albino blue eyed Indian man, and no one had any idea what I was talking about. Eventually I found the man, but he didn’t appear albino or blue eyed, but he was confident that he knew where to take us and would do so for the agreed upon price.

We stayed our first night in the village in a guest house and explored the nearby Bonampak pyramid tucked away deep into the jungle. The small rural village was interesting to explore, and we met lots of friendly Lacandón people. During our entire stay in lacunji, we did not see another tourist which made the whole experience all the better. 

 

 

Lacandon woman in her hammock

The Lacandón people lived in isolation in the rainforest until recent decades when roads, loggers, ranchers and even leftist insurgents under Comandante Marcos began to encroach into their territories and use the cover of the jungles to fight the Mexican government. The Lacandón are known for the connection to nature and animistic deities and for their long potato sack like gowns.

 

 

Lacandon girl

Lacandon man

Lacandon woman

We walked over to Bonampak pyramid, and we were the only visitors and had it all to ourselves. We had to search to find the villager with the key to let us into the murals inside one of the tombs.

 

 

Bonampak pyramid

Nature Reclaiming Bonampak pyramid

Nature Reclaiming Bonampak pyramid

 Bonampak pyramid

Village runway carved from the jungle near the Bonampak pyramid

We had to locate a man with a key to let us into one of the temples to see the well-preserved murals that depicted the life of the maya and there were lots of depictions of war and human sacrifice.

 

 

Murals of sacrifice and War Inside Bonampak pyramid

Murals of sacrifice and War Inside Bonampak pyramid

The next day we set off on our trek into the jungle stopping to swim at some amazing waterfalls.

 

 

Kent relaxing in a waterfall

Waterfall along the jungle hike

Waterfall along the jungle hike

The rest of the hike became more intense, and we passed some jungle covered Myan pyramids and hears monkeys and parrots in the canopy and saw some pretty exotic insects.

 

 

Kent in the jungle

The jungle was well preserved and there were lots of huge trees. We walked all day until the lake where we found a small, concealed dugout canoe but a massive dark storm was approaching with lightning and thunder and the wind picked up. We decided it would be safer to wait to take the boat to the island the next morning instead of risking a capsize into the crocodile infested lake.

 

 

Tarantula

Caterpillar our guide warned was poisonous

Colorful grasshopper

Huge grasshopper

We put up our tents as fast as possible as a lightning storm rolled in and dumped rain, and wind sent giant trees crashing down around us. Kent had to sleep in a tent with no poles to hold up his canopy since his poles were seized by the Tijuana airport security officers because they were deemed too dangerous for his carryon. Mine were almost seized too so I left the line and went through security at a different line where the agent didn’t seem to care about tent poles. Nonetheless Kent had to jimmy rigging his tent to attach his canopy to a tree to keep it from collapsing on his head in the rain. Later in the night when the storm passed and the full moon peeked down at us through the forest canopy, we talked with our Lacandón guide, who only spoke in Spanish about his home and the beauty of the forest. He proclaimed his loved for his home and the jungle and he looked up at the moon and asked me if I can see the same moon in my home.

 

 

My tent in the jungle

The next morning, we woke up and saw all of the large trees that fell not far from where we slept and we walked to the lake’s edge and empties the water from our dugout canoe and canoed across the emerald, green lake to the island with a pyramid on it. The boat was flimsy, and we almost tipped a few times and we had to concentrate hard to maintain our balance. We knew the lake was full of crocodiles which didn’t make matters any better.

 

 

The canoe we took across the lake

Canoe trip across the lake

Clear water of the lake

At the island, we found the pyramid, a mound in the center covered by vegetation but we could see some of the exposed stone of the pyramid. Some of the stones had small holes providing a glimpse into small passageways that could lead into the mysterious depths of the pyramid, but a full excavation would be needed to see inside. We climbed around the pyramid, had lunch and even went for a quick swim, vigilante for any crocodiles but the lake water was so clear we could see everything in the water for hundreds of yards.

 

 

View of jungle lake from the island

kent looking at the jungle clad edge of the pyramid on the island we visited

Quick swim 

We hiked back to the village and stayed one more night before driving back to Villahermosa the next day and flying home.

 

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