JUNCHAVIN UPDATE – I have now had confirmation of armed robberies there. Do not go to Junchavin, apparently I was just lucky…now read on….
I lived in Comitan De Dominguez for several months in a very nice little house on a very nice street about four blocks away from the very nice town square. The whole town was actually…very nice. As far as I could tell we were the only gringos living there. Other gringos might have lived there, but in 4 months we only met one. The town has some nice and very economic hotels, some good typico type restaurants, a great little town square with free wireless internet and is only half an hour to 45 minutes away from some beautiful tourist destinations.
The ruins of Junchavin are a much lesser known destination right on the outskirts of town. When we first moved in I asked a neighbor if there are any ruins near the town. He responded by naming the two Mayan ruins near Comitan you can find in the guidebooks, Chinkultic and Tenam Puente. Then he said that there is one right on the other side of the hill we lived near, on top of the next hill 15 minutes walk away, called Junchavin. When he said the name he spoke with a hushed voice. He told us that Satanists live there and it’s very, very dangerous. In a later conversation with an ex-pat living near town, he said he didn’t know about Satanists, but he had heard of tourists being robbed over there. This was becoming too much of a curious mystery to me, ruins with bad guys and wild Satanists, I’m there!
We’re in the habit of taking long walks every day and we had walked virtually all of downtown Comitan, from end to end. After the first month we still hadn’t walked around the hill near us on the outskirts of town to the dark ruins of mystery. We had walked in that direction and we did ask a Mayan lady about Junchavin. She said if we bring our dog and go in the day, it “shouldn’t” be a problem. So we planned to go early on the next sunny warm day we had.
I have a theory about bad guys, banditos and dastardly types, they don’t do much before 11 in the morning. If you need to be someplace a little questionable while traveling, I recommend you do it between 9am-ish and 11am-ish. By 9 they have finally passed out from whatever cocaine and cheap liquor induced insanity they may have been in the grips of the night before, in the off chance that they made it to bed the night before, they generally can’t get their acts together enough to be dangerously out of control very much before noon.
So about 3 days later, the sun was up and we were ready to enter the great and dangerous neighborhood mystery of darkness and malevolent intent known as the ruins of Junchavin. We walked out of town on a winding road that passed by the base of the hill where the ruins sat waiting for us with all of their secrets and danger. As we hit what you might call the very edge of town we asked a couple of guys if they knew where the place was and if it was dangerous. They said it was just around the bend, on a little path that leaves the road on the left and heads up the hill. They also said they didn’t know if it would be dangerous and we should be very careful. As we walked up and around the bend we came across an older Mayan lady with a full basket of fruits on her head walking to sell them in town. We asked her if she knew where the path was, she laughed a bit and pointed behind us. “Right there, but if you go up there be very careful.” She smiled, waved goodbye and continued off towards town.
The sun was warm, you could hear the birds singing and the breeze was ever so gently rustling the trees. I was pretty sure that on this kind of a day the Satanists don’t even bothering crawling out from under their rocks, it was just far too pleasant out for bad people to be much more than mildly impolite that day. The trail led up the side of the hill on dirt pathways under the shade of medium sized trees, along ancient crumbling stone walls and up occasional cut stone stairs that seemed as if they had always been part of the hill.
We had our dog Lucy with us as is usual on our walks. Lucy was loving being able to run around off leash and chase falling leaves on the hillside. Earlier I explained to her that in the event of bad people she was to act very ferocious and snarly. It was becoming quite clear that she had completely forgotten our conversation by the way she was jumping around and being so carefree. We decided if Lucy wasn’t worried then why should we be and continued hiking on up the hill, having a fine morning of it, debating if various piles of rocks were the remains of old temples and peoples homes or if they were just piles of old rocks. The birds also seemed to be unaware of any threat from the dark side and the hill seemed quite welcoming and friendly.
Upon reaching the top we were met with a pleasant clearing in the trees where a small, but nice (like everything else in Comitan), temple sits on top of the grassy peak of the hill. You get a view out over Comitan and southern Chiapas. In the distance looking southwards you can see the mountains of Guatemala. We climbed to the top of the modest temple and thanked all of the appropriate Lords of the Underworld for permitting us to visit their crib. For this we were rewarded, because as we explored the hill top we found some steps hidden in undergrowth, down the backside of the hill. We followed them to a small landing where there was a cave whose interior headed into the hill directly towards the temple. Unfortunately upon further examination the cave ended just inside the mouth and appears to have never made it under the temple. My guess is that it was started by tomb raiders who decided digging through the rocks to reach whatever was under the temple was just too difficult. Maybe it did lead in and I was looking at it with the wrong kind of eyes, or under the wrong kind of lunar alignment. Anyways, on that bright sunny morning, it was just a short cave to nowhere.
We took some pictures and explored around a bit more in the undergrowth looking for whatever ancient mysteries decided to present themselves. We didn’t come across any more surprises, other than a little grove of stickly trees that had thorns like tiny barbed daggers. We didn’t go too far into them before turning around. We were quite content to let some other suburban adventure seeking amateur sleuth tomb raider discover the mysteries in the thorns. We strolled home and were at the front door of our house within twenty five minutes. I never did tell my neighbor we had been there. I didn’t want to take any chances of rumors starting that Kelly, Lucy and I were some kind of Satanists.