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Mexico Part 4: Naha, Mayan Village Stay

Mexico8 min read

April 15 - 18, 2010

While in San Cristobal, I became friends with Selva and she found out about a rural Mayan village deep in the jungle near Palenque, that outsiders could visit and stay with a local family. Mauricio had been there before and knew a family we could stay with. It sounded like a good plan, so I decided to tag along and push back crossing into Guatemala. Melady, a traveler from Wisconsin, would also be joining us. Since Naha wasn't on any map, I would just be following the transportation that the girls were taking. They of course wanted to come on the bike, but it's not setup to carry passengers.

I first followed the girls in this collectivo, a shared minibus offering services to smaller towns, to Ocosingo, about 100 kms southeast and down the mountain from San Cristobal towards Palenque.

The local market in Ocosingo. It's not much of a tourist attraction but it works for the locals.

The big red bananas are not a common variety and are super tasty. Can also find them in India.

Selva and Melady stocking up on supplies for the rough trip ahead to Naha and buying sweet bread as a gift to the host family.

The girls would be riding in the back of this camionetta, a pickup truck used for even more rural routes. It's also used partly for cargo as some of these villages don't have much else contact with the outside world.

Waiting at the camionetta station after having discussed with the driver that I would be following him and told him not to lose me. I told the girls, if I got lost, I was heading for Guatemala.

We were descending further down the mountain to about 2,000 ft and the humidity was picking up.

Stopping for a break once the route went gravel. It was about 30 kms of nice pavement from Ocosingo and then 50 kms of dirt road into the jungle to Naha, making it a 3 1/2 hour journey. I was adjusting tire pressures here for better feel on the loose surface.

And of course, whenever we stopped, the men who were traveling in the truck gathered around and asked all sort of questions about the bike and my trip. It was nice how we were all traveling together in a small convoy.

Zapatista wannabes. Once the route hit the gravel road, the girls tried to reduce the amount of dust that they were covered in.

Nice exposé of the other passengers in the truck.

Enjoying some off-road riding. The road was pretty mild with only a few hairy rocky-boulder sections. That's my Vision-X Solstice LED headlight. I have two of them and used them instead of the main headlight during the day as they're brighter and provide a bigger light footprint to oncoming traffic. They're skewed a bit off-center.

Ewww smelly biker, but they looked worse than me being covered in a fine layer of dust.

It was good riding and sanDRina was handling it well.

We had to dodge some rain here and there and it helped to reduce the amount of dust being kicked up.

3 hours in the back of a pickup truck and you become friendly with your fellow passengers.

The simple village of Naha. It was this one street that passed through the village and had a population of about 200. Most of the villagers just got by on subsistence living, growing what they could from the land and leading simple lives.

One of the local Mayan Lacondon boys taking me to the home where we would be staying. The Lacandon males characteristically have long black hair and wear white gowns as their main clothing.

Going for a hike through the jungle to get to a lake that Naha is known for.

Furry peapod.

Getting to the remote lake.

Selva taking it in.

It was serene and felt untouched.

Making beautiful music from a wooden flute.

Soaking our feet in the cool water.

This is Bor, he's a deaf Mayan man, part of the family we were staying with. He was very energetic and tagged along with us on our treks. He borrowed this dug-out canoe and offered to take us across the lake.

Melady went along with Bor as Selva and I wanted to head to the next village to buy some fresh produce as there was only canned food in the small stores in Naha. Selva is a vegetarian and doesn't enjoy canned food. It also rained regularly in the afternoon around 3 pm, so we wanted to get back before that.

Pictures from Melady on the canoe. Lotus flowers.

Lotus in the feet.

Melady enjoying her Mayan gondola experience.

A Lancondan man across the waters in his traditional clothes.

Walking back to the village.

Selva and I went two-up on the DR to the next town over to buy fresh produce. It was a tight squeeze but for a short distance, it was no problem.

We came across a coffee warehouse on the way back.

It's the local Naha coffee that they're exporting to Europe and the US.

While waiting for a freshly brewed sample, Selva found out more from the manager. They're using only sustainable practices and of course, employ the local Mayans to support the community.

The dirt road leading back to Naha.

Steep dirt switch-backs two-up on a fully loaded DR. No sweat.

Preparing dinner that night in the host family's kitchen. Melady stir-frying some onions. They were using just simple open-fire stoves with a grill on top. Besides having no chimney to direct the smoke outside, I thought about telling them how inefficient this was for cooking as lots of heat was going to waste on the sides, using up more of their precious firewood. However, Selva told me there were plans by NGOs to distribute better stoves to rural communities such as here.

Selva chopping up some cabbage.

Dinner of rice with lentils, tomatoes and cabbage with garlic and chillies. It was all we could find in the nearby stores and was quite tasty.

Trying to capture how much smoke was present in the kitchen area from the open fires. It got unbearable at times and we had to come outside for some fresh air.

They made tortillas everyday and stored them in gourds up on these baskets to keep it away from the animals. Lots of dogs, cats and chickens were wandering about.

Bor holding up one of his drawings. He's known a bit for his drawings and has sold a few to visitors and other interested people.

He was intrigued by the motorcycle and wanted to go for a ride!

He would sign and try to communicate with us a lot. He was telling all sorts of stories and we tried out best to figure out what they were. It was about going up on the ridge, going into a cave, seeing a jaguar and other things that we made up to go with his signs.

Relaxing in the hammocks after dinner.

Grinding up corn into flour to be made into tortillas.

One of the Mayan mothers making her family's tortillas in the morning. A few families were living together and each of them made their own tortillas. If they ran out, they could borrow from another family, but had to pay back. This was the essence of their diet. They said if they didn't eat tortillas with every meal, their stomachs would feel funny.

Heating up the tortilla on a big pan.

One of the little Mayan girls running around the kitchen. She was just smiling a moment ago.

The bathroom.

The shower. Nice refreshing cold jungle water.

They had a toilet that flushed but you had to use water or bring your own toilet paper. Water's cleaner :)

Running into Bor on his way back from clearing a boundary in the jungle. The neighboring village was encroaching on their land and clearing forest for growing corn, called milpas. So everyone in the community had to volunteer to go up and clearly mark a boundary and maintain it.

There was a hut in the village used for teaching art to the kids. That's an albino Lancondon boy working on part of a wall hanging. There were about three albinos in this small community.

Walking back to the lake and carrying the leftovers from last night for lunch.

Huge Elephant Ear plants in the jungle. Melady said people would pay huge sums of money for these leaves back in the States.

Nature's art show on the back of a butterfly wing.

Eating mangoes and relaxing in a thatched hut by the lake. It was a lazy afternoon of reading and napping.

The mom of another family making her share of tortillas. They were using a press, which is similar to ones in India, to make smaller tortillas.

Rising up like pita breads.

The kitchen sink with light pouring in after the usual afternoon rains.

Selva conversing with one of the ladies. She's fluent in Spanish as her mother is Peruvian. The Maya speak their own language and we tired to learn a few words. Some of the older women only spoke Mayan.

Nena, the bossiest of the little children around. She was missing all her front teeth and most of them had bad dental health. We saw lots of soda drinks being consumed and junk food being eaten by the kids. In the stores, bottled water was quite rare.

Clutching a tasty bag of chips.

Entrance to the kitchen.

The hut we stayed in.

Parking for the bike in the firewood shed.

Lots of chickens walking about freely, producing heaps of eggs for daily consumption.

Melady teaching one of the little girls how to write. She also wanted to try on her glasses.

One of the elder ladies washing clothes. Melady gave her camera to the kids and asked them to take photos and this one and the next two are from the kids' perspective.

Angelica, the smartest of the little kids.

Nena with a funny expression.

Dinner that night of lentils with rice and this time, potatoes.

Heading back to San Cristobal. Selva and Melady were taking a camionetta to Palenque and then returning home; Selva to Germany and Melady to Wisconsin. It was a good three days spent getting a glimpse of rural Mayan life and enjoying the jungle.

This was Zapatista country but we didn't see any more than this (it's a movement to increase indigenous rights and was strong in the 90s but has died down now).

Riding back up into the mountains.

The dirt road winding its way ahead.

Mini rapids on a passing river.

The bridges used pipes as their bed and it caused the front tire to wander a bit as I crossed.

Taking a lunch break.

Looking back at the valley where Naha is.

Pine trees as the elevation rose.

Hitting the new pavement after 50 kms of dirt. This road was quite remote and had very little traffic. Fun riding.

Climbing higher to 7,500 ft as I neared San Cristobal.

Washed out road. This is why you can't come flying around corners down here. This danger was signed, but not all of them are.

Cleaning my chain after that dirt riding with diesel and a tooth brush. The Pemex guys were nice and didn't even charge me for the 1 Peso of diesel.

Is that a clean chain or what? All ready to leave Mexico and head into Guatemala tomorrow.

Topes, speed bumps in Mexico and yes, some of them are thaaat big! There are just way too many of these all over Mexico. My left toe was starting to hurt after a few days of constantly having to brake and up shift - my bulky motocross boots put more torque on my foot when I shift. I was looking forward to having to deal with much less speed bumps south of Mexico. I know they're needed otherwise everyone would speed way too much through towns but some of them are in the middle of nowhere and not even marked, so you have to keep constantly scanning the road ahead for slight bumps. They are helpful though in overtaking other trucks and cars as they have to slow down much more.

The Mexican Peso. I'm going to try and get a picture of the different currencies I come across. P100 = $8.20._

Next: Guatemala, Part 1: Highlands

Previous: Mexico, Part 3: San Cristobal


Jammin thru the Global South was the 3+ year, 100,000+ km ride Jay did from the US to India via Latin America, Europe and Africa. Explore the photojournals at the Journey Posts tab.

Jammin Global Adventures is a tour company run by Jay Kannaiyan. He organizes small group, premium motorcycle adventures in Peru, Kenya, Mongolia, India and more.

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