After being in the city of Merida for a week I was ready for my bare feet to touch the earth again. Ready for perpetually damp hair and to be covered in streaks of mud. We bought a ticket out of the Yucatán, leaving at a quarter to midnight for the town Palenque in the state of Chiapas. Palenque, the magical town tucked away in the Mexican jungle. Before heading out we made a quick trip to Izamal, a town about a half hour away from Merida known for being entirely yellow. And entirely yellow it was – from the walls on every home, to the church, to the trash cans, the whole sleepy town was yellow. After a walk around the town center and through some of the quiet local streets, we made our way back to the main road and raised our thumbs to get back to Merida.
At a quarter to midnight we got on the bus heading to Palenque and settled in for the 8 hour ride, just enough time to sleep and wake up in a new dream.
About a half hour in to the drive I started feeling a slight ache in my lower abdomen. Having eaten street food that day, I figured I was just digesting and it would clear up soon. An hour into the drive and the pain was only getting worse. I then realized I was being gifted with my period a week early, stuck on a bus with 7 more hours to go and my period products and painkillers tucked away in my bag, currently stowed underneath the bus. Luckily we were about 20 minutes from the bus’ one stop in the town of Campeche, so I writhed in my seat until we stopped at the Campeche bus terminal and I was able to retrieve my painkillers from my bag. I popped a few (more than a few) and waited for the pills to kick in. For the next hour I experienced pain so excruciating that it nearly caused me to throw up several times, scaring my seat mates and frankly myself. Eventually, after groaning and thrashing wildly in my seat for an hour it subsided and, exhausted, I fell asleep until we reached Chiapas. When I got to the cheap hotel in town we decided to spend the first night at, I rinsed out my blood stained clothes and spent the rest of the day relaxing and recharging in a cheap hotel in town.
The next day we got up early and grabbed a local bus towards the jungle where we would spend our remaining nights. A bag of vegetables in hand and our packs on our backs, we drove through the lush greenery, air filled with howling monkeys. Mayabell greeted us with clean sheets and a large swimming pool. I pulled on my suit and sank into the blue water, allowing the bright sun to bring me to peace. Mayabell, where I spent the rest of my time in Palenque, sits on the road outside of town, heading out into the thick of the jungle towards the Palenque ruins. Our second day we met up with an English friend I knew from Merida and grabbed a colectivo to the Roberto Barrios waterfalls. Most tourists hit the two other waterfalls in the area, leaving Roberto Barrios untouched by tourists and construction, allowing it to avoid the same fate as many of the other natural attractions in Mexico that I’ve seen, turning them into theme parks for gringos. Roberto Barrios also lies in Zapatista territory, the leftist political group who work for peaceand sovereignty for the indigenous people that live in Chiapas. The bus passes villages of housing for the Zapatista and “rebel hospitals” for the locals, and many Zapatistas work at Roberto Barrios selling bags, jewelry, mangoes and empanadas to visitors.
I spent a lot of my time in Palenque wallowing in down time. Swimming in the pool, buying fresh vegetables, chia seeds and moringa at the markets, breathing in the thick jungle air. Swimming around and feeling my body’s strength helped me to forgive it’s vulnerabilities. Being in excruciating pain anywhere is disconcerting, but being on an overnight bus heading through the jungles of Mexico is enough to feel completely separated from any sense of security you have in your own skin. I had to let go and recognize that I was not some intrepid indestructible traveler, in the moment I was small, a speck amongst the mighty jungle forests that stretched seemingly forever, that I was just a girl, sometimes vulnerable and sometimes afraid. And sometimes I will need to slow down, maybe even stop, and simply be. Take the time to just nurture my spirit and sense of safety until I am ready to be a warrior again.