Friday, August 12, 2011

Brilliantly Hued

We had heard from a couple of friends that the Lagos de Montebello, on the border of Mexico and Guatemala, were gorgeous. After skimming a friend´s Lonely Planet and finding out just how brilliantly "hued" the were (I think "hued" was used like 83 times in the description), we were happy to spend our last day in Mexico there. The drive from Comitán was about an hour through typical Chiapas. As usual, several vehicles were as loaded as possible.

(hopefully no bridges coming up)

We arrived in the national park and paid our 25 pesos each to get in. We kept going straight and immediately found a small parking area and about 5 guys wanting to be our tour guide (if you were so inclined, you could tell the guards that you were just traveling towards Palenque and not pay anything here, but I wouldn´t recommend that.  It´s only 25 pesos. However, I do wish we would have actually traveled to Palenque along that road. Maybe on our way back north...).

Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy all day. Fortunately we didn´t get rained on until after we were done exploring the lakes.  Unfortunately (again), at this point (about 2 weeks after visiting the lakes) we can´t remember the names of all the lakes for certain. But, we parked the bike in the small parking space and walked about 500 meters to the 1st lake, possibly called Agua Tinta. A guy followed us there and explained that there are 56 lakes in the area.

After paying the guide 10 pesos for his explanations we walked on to the second and third lakes, we´ll call them Encantada and Ensueao. The parking lot there was huge with lots of tour buses, vendors and guides of all ages.

Across the street, sat the 3rd lake, which was most brilliantly hued. The sign says no swimming because the water is used for human consumption.

These were the only lakes right there, so we walked back to the bike and ended up paying another guy another 10 pesos for kindly watching our bike for us (without our asking).  We drove about 1-2 km further up the road to a lake where there was supposed to be a visitor center.  There was not.  There were, however, a massive quantity of children hoping to be our guide.  The lake near this parking lot didn´t seem all that spectacular, so we went back out towards the entrance station and turned left on the road that takes the long way to Palenque, along the border of Mexico.  Along this route there are 5 other lakes that you have to pay an additional 15 pesos to visit. The road was a lot more relaxed, with fewer tour guides, tours, people, etc.  If you are pressed for time, we would recommend skipping the first road we took and turning immediately.  These lakes along this road are certainly more beautifully hued, as well.

The first was Lake Montebello. This is apparantly the best lake to swim in, although we didn´t find out because it was way too cold that day. We enjoyed our view while drinking some fine Chiapan coffee.

Next on the road was 5 lakes. One of our favorite hues so far:

Across the street was either one of the 5 lakes, or a seperately named lake, not sure, but yet a different brilliant hue:

Further down the road, we hit Lake Pojoj, where plenty of people were taking the opportunity to take a balsa raft ride.

There were 2 vantage points of Lake Tziscao. From this side, things were a little more deserted (maybe because of an apparent rise in tide?):

You have to drive through the town of Tziscao to arrive at the other vantage point, which is where we ended up camping.  Before that, though, we had to catch a glimpse of International Lake. We hired a (very) young man to show us our last lake of the day, International Lake, since he offered to do it for M$X 5. He proudly led us up a hill and at the top of the hill was International Lake and the border between Mexico and Guatemala.

He took us over to Guatemala and led us through the market, which strangely seemed pretty similar to Mexico, except mariachis were replaced with marimbas. And that concluded our wonderful tour of International Lake and Guatemala. (Note-you really don´t need a guide for any of these lakes for any reason.  If you really want a guide, look for a cute kid and go with them.)  There is absolutely no border control at this crossing and anyone pretty much comes and goes as they please. We are not quite sure where the road in Guatemala leads to, but we decided to take a more legal crossing.

(Guatemala market)

There were some cabins and camping at Lake Tziscao. The cabins cost 700 pesos and we wanted to camp anyway. Camping was still 200 pesos (!!!), after talking him down. He did have a point that there were lights and a bathroom. Plus, the spot was absolutely beautiful and we had the camping to ourselves. I´m sure we could have found cheaper or poached a spot close to a lake, but we were tired and happy to be somewhere.

Once we got our site set up, the sky unloaded, so we ran back over to the Guatemala border and had our first Gallo (the national beer of Guatemala). We were a little disappointed with the flavor and only give it an average on our drinkability scale. But, that´s not going to keep us from it.

With our first pass at the Guatemalan border crossing already under our belt, it was about time for the real deal.

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