Mexico Highway 199 From Palenque (Part 1 of 2)

Cascada de Misol-Há

Cascada de Misol-Há

On a map Mexico Highway 199 looks pretty tame. It is designated as a two lane, sometimes four , paved, relatively direct road up the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range beginning in the jungles near Palenque to the cloud shrouded pine forests near San Cristóbal de las Casas; a rise of nearly 7,000 feet. While planning our trip to San Cristobal we heard tales of cars sliding into chasms off of the winding road, mudslides, huge falling boulders, crazy bus drivers and perhaps most disconcerting of all – Zapatistas. We may be retired but we are definitely still up for adventure so we just decided to shrug it all off and see for ourselves.

199  roughly follows the beautiful Rio Tulija and has a number of waterfalls located along its winding path. Near Palenque the climate is warm and humid. There are forests of palm trees and thousands of butterflies in the air. Men with machetes labor daily to keep the jungle from reclaiming the road. In remote places you can hear Howler Monkeys crying out to each other across vast, steamy distances. At this point Highway 199 is relatively straight and wide. There are also numerous villages lining the road offering everything for sale from colorful handmade dresses to drinks of chilled coconut water.

Guidebooks describe the first waterfall we came to, Cascada de Misol-Há as a “beautiful one, falling some 30 meters from an overhanging semicircular cliff down into a broad shimmering pool.” Cooling off in the “gorgeous sight” that is “fantastic for swimming” sounded wonderful after spending our morning exploring the spectacular Mayan ruins at Palenque. Well, I guess the guidebook had been written in the dry season. Misol-Há was a torrent. Brown turbulent water filled with trees that had been ripped from the rivers banks exploded off of the one hundred foot cliff and crashed into the pool below. A soaking mist filled that air creating numerous rainbows in the jungley air. The flow was so fast and so loud we had to scream just to communicate. It was fun. It was refreshing but it definitely wasn’t a place to go swimming on that day.

After changing clothes in the car we got back onto the Highway 199. It was starting to become a bit more winding and a little steeper. As we gained elevation the air began to cool and the palm forests and jungle starting giving way to more open spaces. It wasn’t long before everything had a different feel. It was kind of subtle and indescribable but we were obviously moving to a different place – Zapatista country! I will write more about the rest of the drive soon.

Cascada de Misol-Há

Cascada de Misol-Há

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Jonathan Look

In 2011 Jonathan Look decided to change his life and pursue adventures instead of comfort and possessions. His goal is to travel the world solo; one country at a time, one year at a time. To accomplish this he got rid of most of his possessions, packed up what little he saw as necessities and headed out. His goal is to spend ten years discovering new places, meeting new people and taking the time to learn about them, their values and their place on this tiny planet. He embraces the philosophy that says a person is the sum of their experiences and rejects the fraud of modern consumerism that makes people into slaves of their consumption. He doesn't intend to be modern day ascetic, just more mindful of his place in the world and to make decisions according to that new standard.

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