I traveled to the Mexican border with Guatemala this week to write a story. At the last minute, I decided to go to a border crossing called Frontera Corozal, which is about 150 kilometers southeast of Palenque, a town near famed Mayan ruins. It is in a remote area of Chiapas state.
It also turns out that about a half-hour boat ride downriver are the Yaxchilan Mayan ruins so I took a few hours off and visited. I can’t say I would recommend a similar visit to everyone. The security situation is somewhat dicey. But there were a few Mexican and foreign tourists.
That said, the ruins were really quite spectacular, partly because one is immersed in jungle and nothing else. The ranger there, an ethnic Chol, told me about an encounter his friend had had with a jaguar just a little further downriver. He was fishing on the bank when he heard a swooshing sound from something sliding down the embankment. Somehow the inkling arose in him that it might be a jaguar. He turned and looked about 20 yards away. The jaguar was licking his paws and alternately looking at the human before him. The fisherman, quivering no doubt, backed right into the waters of the Usumacinta and signaled to a friend in a motorized launch to get to him – FAST! The jaguar crept down the hill toward the wading fisherman but turned tail when the outboard motor roared to life on the launch. Close call.
The Usumacinta, by the way, is really beautiful. The waters were a sort of jade green and the outcroppings of limestone along side were really cool. Water levels are low at this time of year, which creates some eddies and slight whitewater. At some points, it’s only about 40 yards across. But swimming it might not be advisable. It’s said to contain crocodiles.