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10702 kms: Misol-ha and Tonina - "Off with their heads"

Written on: Saturday May 10th, 2008

A journal entry from: North America in our Camper Van!

We decided to break up the drive from Roberto Barrios to San Cristobal by making a few stops along the way. Our first stopover was Misol-ha, a breathtaking 35 meter waterfall surrounded by jungle. We followed a walkway leading to a cave behind the waterfall for a magnificent view (and photo) of the falls and pool. The source of the water for these falls is actually the river that we bathed in near the Neem plantation and I imagined the little water particles having once flowed peacefully down that small creek now arriving at this thunderous free-fall.

Further down the highway, we decided to make a little side-trip to the little-visited ancient Tonin ruins. The military-focused rulers sought control over the entire region and their fortress-site became known as the ?Place for Celestial Captives? as their prison chambers held captured rulers of other Maya cities, destined to be ransomed or beheaded. One ruler of Tonin even bestowed himself the title ?He of Many Captives?. Tonin is also famous for having defeated Palenque, then capturing and likely beheading then-ruler K?an Joy Chitam II in AD 711. Their obsession with beheading was evident as we strolled through the brand-new museum at the entrance to the ruins? they even decapitated their sculptures!

The ruins themselves were very impressive. Compared to Palenque, which consists of numerous buildings spread out over a large area, Tonin is built into a hillside and consists of tightly-packed terraces and temples rising up 80 meters and overlooking a large valley. In addition, compared to the swarms of people in Palenque, we had the entire site to ourselves! Near the base of the hillside we found an entrance, decided to wander in and found ourselves in a cool, and very dark labyrinth of passages built into the ground. Rob wasn?t too pleased with me when I decided to hide around a corner and jump out at him, but my Mother thought is was funny. Back outside the labyrinth the stairs led imposingly upwards? considering the heat of the day I didn?t blame my mother for volunteering to stay at the bottom and take pictures. Rob and I however, eagerly set off to explore the site. We climbed up, terrace by terrace, exploring the interesting buildings, figures, carvings, temples and enjoying the panoramic views.