As a day trip from Palenque, I joined a half-day afternoon tour ($130 pesos transport plus $68 pesos entrance fees) to visit the nearby waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. It was a reminder of why I dislike giving up my independence to set tours and that I should ALWAYS bring a book. Twelve of us piled into a van and headed up a curvy highway into the mountains. The Misol-Ha waterfall was picturesque plunging from above and worth a photo, but my favorite part was behind the waterfall. Back there the water gushes so loudly that you can sing to yourself as loud as you want (my choice: Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”) and no one else notices.
Battling car sickness, we wove through the occasional small mountain village up to the Agua Azul waterfalls. Basic shops with children selling bananas and embroidered dresses peppered the roadside. Once at Agua Azul, the tour van held us there for three long hours. The falls were more horizontal than vertical, cascading in widescreen. Grand and nice, but not that nice. With not nearly enough to do there, the length of our visit seemed a coordinated ploy to trap tourists who then spend more money at restaurants and shops that densely line the path all the way to the top of the falls. Had I not been locked in, I would have left after 45 minutes max. And I didn’t skimp on hiking. The other people on the tour felt the same and we tried to negotiate an earlier departure with the driver, but he was on contract and wouldn’t budge. Foolishly, I left LOTR behind, as I had wanted to force myself to focus on where I was in the present instead of keeping my nose in a book. Never again!
On the way down, we encountered a fatal car crash just four cars ahead of us. We slowed to a halt and waited for the coroner to arrive to clear the body from the road. Locals from the nearby village ran along the shoulder and gathered to catch a glimpse. Once the wreckage was clear and now shortly after dusk, our delayed driver blasted down the windy two lane road, eager to end his day. I tightened my seatbelt.