Argh the sun has decided to do weird things to my pale English skin, I first noticed it in the Philippines in April, and it’s further intensified here.. I now have a few random darker patches in the centre of my forehead, and the worst bit… above my top lip which literally looks like a moustache shadow. I’ve been trying to ignore it, but the bright lights of the bus station bathroom at Chetumal while I was waiting for my overnight bus to Palenque highlighted it and sent me into a panic. I actually felt like crying it looks so bad, and I decided I needed to take action and buy some concealer to try and even it out. So off I went to a nearby supermarket to hunt out some concealer! In all honesty it actually makes it look worse and more patchy and stubble like – great!
So I returned to the bus station looking like a man in drag and spotted a Spanish guy I recognised from the hostel in Bacalar so I went to chat to him. Bless him, he wasn’t happy at all because he’d been sold a ticket for the second class bus instead of the nicer one “not comfortable” he kept saying. “I’ve had such bad luck in Mexico” he said looking really sad. “Why?” I asked, thinking gosh I wonder what terrible things have happened to him, must be something horrific- a bought of dengue fever perhaps, maybe he got held at gun point… “I lost my towel in the hostel and the receptionist didn’t even try to find it”…. I waited for the rest of the story…surely this trivial non event must have been the final straw that broke the camels back… nope that was the sole event, well that and the bus. I was thinking surely if that’s the worst that’s happened I’d say you’ve had pretty good luck to be honest!!! Not sure how he’d have coped if he got his entire rucksack stolen with ALL of his clothes, underwear and toiletries among various souvenirs etc like I did on a bus in Ecuador in 2013, or when my hostel set on fire and I had to run for my life and then all my possessions got looted including clothes and passport, and I had to apply for a new passport through the New Zealand embassy and change flights like happened to me in the Cook Islands in 2008…things happen it’s part of backpacking and if you’re going to get upset about a towel or a bus then you’re in for a rough ride- those are just everyday occurrences to be honest! I wouldn’t like to think how many things I’ve lost along the way (speaking of that somewhere between the hostel in Bacalar and Palenque I lost my favourite sun hat and sunglasses argh) but really as long as you are safe that is all that matters.
I arrived from the bus journey a bit achey and tired. I can’t sleep on buses no matter how much I try. We pulled into Palenque as the sun was rising and as I looked out of the window at the passing jungle environment I started to feel excited about my day ahead and my weariness dissipated. I hadn’t booked any accommodation for the night- I had heard that the best place to stay for a night or two are in some huts on the edge of the jungle near to the Palenque ruins but you can’t book them in advance as they aren’t on the usual booking websites- at a community called El Panchan.
I got a taxi there and about 15 minutes later I was dropped off at the entrance to El Panchan! The first thing that struck me was the noise- I could hear some wild animals making crazy amounts of noise. It honestly sounded like jaguars growling, but I later found out it’s monkeys. Pretty cool but also a bit apprehensive that I would be sleeping in a hut alone surrounded by various wild animals! I was more concerned about tarantulas which took me back to Colombia where I literally had a gigantic tarantula in my bathroom. I’ve stayed in rainforest environments before so had an idea of what to expect. In Bolivia I felt like I was in a scene from Jurassic Park when monkeys were jumping on our corrugated iron roof making such a clattering sound. If you haven’t been to a rainforest/jungle then imagine hearing incredibly loud sounds from all directions of birds tweeting and singing, insects chirping, leaves and berries falling from the trees above, the wind blowing branches, and as I experienced today monkeys howling and crashing through the trees. It’s not a quiet environment, but the noise is pleasant in the way that nature resonates with us, like when the ocean waves crash on the beach.
There are a few different groups of huts owned by different people, I chose the Jungle Palace- I had heard from other backpackers that it was simple but cheap which allowed me to get a private hut with my own bathroom- ah bliss. Waiting for the shower or toilet when you need it is always a pain in the arse- sometimes literally.
I checked in, well got my key from the lady, and as I walked I saw a creature like a ginormous rat but with longer legs trotting over the path happy as Larry, I’m guessing it was a baby capybara/ the worlds largest rodent. Once I dumped my stuff in my hut I immediately set off to see the Palenque Mayan ruins- these popular sites are always busy if you go after 10am and this one being in the jungle a lot hotter and more humid too. While I had energy at 8am I decided to get up and go. I took a collectivo (a small van kind of like a shared taxi) for 20 pesos. For me the coolest thing about the site was the jungle setting and the noises of the monkeys in the background. I spent time just sitting at the top of the ruins watching people, watching a documentary being filmed, watching insects, birds, the views and the temples themselves imagining what it must have looked like during the Mayan civilisation.
I didn’t spend too long at the ruins- maybe an hour and a half to two hours, and then went into town to buy my bus ticket for tomorrow. The ruins were amazing, but for me I think I preferred Coba, maybe because it was my first Mayan ruins, but also because the sites were quite far apart, not quite as perfect, and it felt more adventurous walking between sites. I also decided that one night in the jungle hut would be enough -I’ve already encountered a few spiders and a little gecko type lizard inside my living quarters. I was hoping the lizard would gobble up any insects and mozzies so i was quite pleased to see him/her and hope he stays. That afternoon I retreated back to my hut and had a little nap with the jungle noises as a tranquilliser.
That evening I knew I wanted to go to Don Muchos- basically the only restaurant for the people staying at El Panchan- it’s pretty famous in the area, and has all kinds of live music and gets rather lively. It’s maybe a five minute walk or so from my hut (and the paths aren’t all lit at night) so I set off around 7pm before the sunset taking my torch with me for the walk back. I went for the pesto pasta (its famous for its pizza and pasta despite being in Mexico!) and a few glasses of vino, where I was joined by a girl I met at the ruins earlier. She’s been travelling for two years!! Wow.
I started to think about how our lives are dictated by fear when we let them and it limits us so much when it comes to broadening our experiences. Coming travelling I can let go of all of these fears which aren’t mine, but have been stamped upon me by others, and mainly other people’s expectations of me- of how I should behave, of what I should do and who I should do it with. I personally like my own company (just as well really haha) but it’s other people who like to judge me for doing things alone- I haven’t got a problem with doing my own thing and what I want to do, not what others want me to do.
Travelling alone, many people are in the same boat. In fact if you’re travelling solo – lone wolf haha, you actually get an extra bit of street cred among the backpackers- a nod of approval when you state “I’m travelling on my own”. As a female alone you’re breaking so many rules and cultural norms in so many places, and it feels amazing to destroy those expectations. I was talking about this the other day to my German amiga Chrissie, and she said in Germany it’s actually the opposite to in Britain. In the UK if do something alone you get a raised eyebrow or a pitying look- in Germany individuality is embraced, and doing things alone or doing things different are encouraged and admired. Not sure why in England we are so worried about other people’s perceptions of us and allow societies rules to dictate how we should live our lives.
I’ve met so many people travelling alone, obviously it’s not for everyone but 90% of those who do love it and it’s their favourite way to travel. I’m the exact same. I genuinely prefer travelling by myself which I know to some people is unthinkable. But guess what- we’re not all the same! This makes me feel empowered that yes I can and should live life my way, in a way that makes me happy and not listening to others. Travelling alone you can do your own thing and you do and will meet people along the way when and if you want to. Trust me hostels can be the biggest parties and social environments going depending on where you stay. They can also be a little quiet haven after a long day. And when you want a quiet night on your own or a day in peace enjoying the beach or reading a book that’s fine too! And if you are the type of person who would hate that then that’s fine, but don’t judge me for not being that person. I need my recharge time alone every now and then- typical introvert! Travelling you realise how many people are living completely different lives to what we think is the norm, to what society expects of us, but who says what is normal and how many people living in the ‘norm’ are truly satisfied or happy anyway? I feel so energised and so happy when I’m travelling, I think it’s just a part of me now. And I want to do it while I still have the health and ability to do so.
And here I am- in Mexico allowing myself to have time with myself, with my own thoughts, doing exactly what I please. Sleeping in a little hut surrounded by rainforest noises one day and onto something completely different the next! Meeting people from all around the world and sharing our experiences. I love travelling so much!!
Next destination- San Cristobal de la casas- see you there!
Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.