Our final day in San Cristobal, rain soaked as it was, we spent at Na Bolom, now a museum but long the home and base for Frans and Gertrude Blom. From the 1930s Franz, Danish and trained at Harvard, and later Gertrude as well were the first anthropologists and photographers to explore the Mayan plain, the Lacandon jungle and to contact the indigenous living there.  Na Bolom contains their collected artifacts, native clothing, and particularly Gertrude’s photographs of the people of this until then unexplored region.  It was a great introduction to the area we were about to explore and still operates as a research center with probably the largest collection of information on the Lacandones including over 9000 books.

The next day, Sunday, we left San Cristobal and headed for the Chiapas jungle and lowlands of the Maya.  The road across the Chiapas mountains was spectacular and appeared to be just nailed to the mountainside with spectacular views down and across the verdant and lush valleys.

At closer range we were struck by the women walking beside the road in so many different variations of the native clothing.

A woman along the roadside adorned in her best finery

A woman along the roadside adorned in her best finery

 

An older woman in another town

An older woman in another town

 

A woman of another village with her son

A woman of another village with her son

When we stopped to have a look down the side of the mountain beyond the immediate jungle, we could see the rural life far down in the valleys.

Far below us a woman washes clothes in the stream

Far below us a woman washes clothes in the stream

We also passed a group of village leaders and shamans performing a ceremony at a farm at roadside, very unusual for outsiders to see at all.

Shamans performing a ceremony at a roadside farm

Shamans performing a ceremony at a roadside farm

But most striking of all was the incredible lushness of the jungle as it climbed the mountainsides.

We made a stop late in the afternoon at Aqua Azul, a set of cascades famous for its milky turquoise water but unfortunately not what we found. The cascades were wonderful but the water was dark, almost brown, probably from recent rainfall and the sediment it dislodges.  We walked the falls and then had dinner, though by dark we were almost the only tourists in attendance.

Aqua Azul in the late afternoon

Aqua Azul in the late afternoon

We had heard a lot about crime, particularly theft, at Aqua Azul.  Even the “Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico” said that you were not safe camping anywhere but in the big parking lot and in the company of a group of ‘big rigs.’  We are a ‘little rig’ and were alone, so it was a bit tricky to find a place were we would be able to sleep and feel safe in Dan the Van.  We spent some time trying to figure out where the best spot might be and finally found our way over by some bungalows that came equipped with a young watchman who for $4.00 U.S. would watch our van.  We gave him $8 U.S., popped the top, and slept without interruption to the sound of the water pouring down the cascades a hundred feet away.