Misol-Ha’ Palenque Plus
So, you’ve escaped the heat of Mexico’s Yucatan or Gulf coast and reached Palenque. Now the extraordinary archeological zone’s world famous Mayan architecture awaits your exploration and enjoyment. Take time to speculate about the roof combs, the drainage system, and sculpture. What a fantastic, even alien, site with its cooler weather provided by the hills and tropical rain forest.
Many tourists achieve the dream and delight of visiting Palenque. Unfortunately, the majority never realize by traveling about thirty-five miles farther south on Highway 199, they can place an exclamation point on an already wonderful trip. Luckily, on most of my trips to Palenque, I’ve been heading to the Pacific allowing me the pleasure of discovering many additional spectacular, yet little-known tourist sites.
Highway 199 to Ocosingo is a narrow, curvy, blacktop climbing ever higher into tree-shrouded hills. There are few spots to stop along the road. However, just off the highway are several magical areas where nature mixes jungle, hills and flowing water into spectacular scenery. Signs indicate cars can safely pull off the road at these spots. One such setting is the waterfall Misol-Há.
Pulling off the blacktop, you wind downward to a parking area and pay a nominal fee to enter the park-like atmosphere. The afternoon sun can be broiling, but a step into the shade lowers the temperature a good twenty degrees F. The first full view of the 115 foot waterfall forces a “Wow.”
Although you’re some distance from the falls, you must be careful walking. During the rainy season, with the falls at their maximum, the mist and spray dampens every surface for seventy-five plus yards making the trek a bit slippery. Giant cedar, mahogany and sapodilla trees abound and enclose visitors and the waterfall.
If you leave the viewing spot and path to walk back beside the riverside for a better shot, be particularly careful. The already slick ramp becomes even slicker among the gleaming gray rocks.
An inviting trail continues through the drenching mist and meanders under the thunderous pouring water. Smiling tourists carefully stepped from behind the falls and waved to friends on the trail when not straining to look directly up at the tumbling water. As much as I desired to explore behind the falls to take pictures the spray was far too heavy, unless I was willing to soak my camera. Additionally, I almost took a bad fall slipping on the river rocks and didn’t want to repeat a stumble.
Besides native Mayans, a host of nationalities visit Misol-Há. The encompassing jungle and coolness from the mist must bring strangers together at the falls. Two young French women witnessed my embarrassing slip. They rushed toward me to ensure I’d not broken anything. It was a good feeling being reminded travelers keep an eye out for one another.
I’d already eaten and the afternoon was dying rapidly so I didn’t stop to enjoy a drink or meal when I left Misol-Há, On reflection, the park had such an inviting little European-looking restaurant and the stewards had done such an excellent job keeping Misol-Ha’ garden-like, I regretted not enjoying at least a snack there.
There are a few other falls and famous cascades in the area to visit for those that must return to Palenque and coastal Mexico. For me the trip was further west and into a lesser explored region. The narrow highway was perfect for several miles past Misol-Há but deteriorated rapidly. Ask about Highway 199’s road conditions if you go further. Also visit the falls earlier in the day than I did. My trip occurred after heavy rains had soaked the region and damaged the asphalt. Barely marked holes and road cave-ins became a common sight.
I’ve never heeded the warnings about driving through Mexico at night. This trip produced a ride that made me second guess my decision. I had a long dark ride after encountering the first wash-off. The travel was slow and I had to pass about a dozen badly caved-in sections of highway and drop off areas before reaching Ocosingo. Although, I still travel Mexico at night, I do check to be sure heavy rains haven’t damaged two-lane highways in previous weeks.
I don’t worry about missing the scenery by traveling at night. It’s a price I often pay for lingering longer than planned at one scenic or historic area. On this trip my objective was Ocosingo and Toniná. I’ll travel Highway 199 in the future and I expect other spectacular scenic and or archeological sites may be open by then, providing me yet more reasons to enjoy prolonging a visit once again.