Rio Lacanja

Tags: Chiapas, Maya ruins, Mexico, Rio Lacanja

Date: March 21, 2019

We were in Lacanja Chansayab for three days and stayed at a family run "jungle camp" with quite luxurious individual cabins and a simple but nice on-site restaurant. The area around the "camp" has several short and long hiking trails through the woods. Most of them require that you bring a local guide on the hike but on one of the shorter ones we were allowed to walk by ourselves. It followed one of the many small rivers that are in the area:

Signs had been put on by the trail, explaining about the different plants we passed. Here is the trunk of a balsa tree:

Felicie is standing between two parts of the trunk of a fallen tree:

What's interesting about this tree is that it started out a as parasite on another tree and then grew to completely engulf and strangle the original tree. If you look inside the fallen trunk you can see that it is hollow because the original engulfed tree rotted away when it was strangled. Here is a picture of the inside of the fallen trunk where the hollow left by the original tree is visible:

This picture shows a plant with some yellow hanging leaves. The yellow leaves are not wilting or dying leaves, but rather new leaves that have just unfolded but are still fragile and limp:

The little trail also passed through a garden patch, showing some of the plants traditionally grown by the Mayan people living around the Lacanja river. Here is a pineapple plant:

Thea and Felicie looking at a Ceiba tree also known as a Kapok tree. This tree, called ya'axche by the Mayans, was the tree of life and was sacred. It was believed to connect the terrestrial world with the world of the gods above through its top branches which are among the tallest in the forests of the area and with the underworld through it roots:

During our stay at Rio Lacanja, we went on a river rafting and hiking trip with a guide. We have no pictures from the rafting part because everything got wet so we had to keep the camera in its waterproof box. However, as we walked back towards the camp through the jungle, we could take some photos. Here are photos of the Maya ruin we passed on the way:

The ruin is the only standing structure of the Mayan city of Lacanja (might be derived from ya'ax kaano' ja' which means green water snake in Mayan). It was discovered by archaeologists in the 1930's but never excavated. The temple sits alone in the middle of the forest and only a few undefined overgrown mounds around it indicate that a larger city was once situated here.

According to our guide the building, called "Temple of the Swallows", has not been reconstructed but was found as it stands today:

A moth resting on the wall of the temple:

After leaving the temple behind we arrived at a lovely waterfall:

I think the guide had expected us to jump in the water but as our clothes were just starting to dry after the rafting trip, none of us felt the urge to go into the water again. We made do with admiring the pretty view instead:

Thea with her rafting gear, helmet, oar and life jacket: