Mexico, before the Wall

Detailed Trip Report, Part 2: Chiapas

Day 5

On day 5 we spent the majority of our time driving (well, playing our version of “guess who” while the driver drove) thru the states of Campeche, Tabasco and Chiapas. Early in the afternoon we reached our last Maya site:

Palenque

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This ruin site is in Chiapas, you can smell the difference with the Yucatan/Q.Roo sites. The weather is more jungle-like. It’s an actual jungle, with howler monkeys! The ruins are amazing and you can climb some of them. Locals continuously sneak into the the site to try sell you everything. Not as annoying as Chichen Itza though.

After the site visit we were supposed to spend time in the city of Palenque. We were so tired we preferred to relax and chat a little bit while swimming in our hotel’s swimming pool. So I have no idea how Palenque (the city) is. Anyway, it’s Chiapas now. Everything look poorer, riskier and less attractive.

So Maya ruins are over now. Time for a:

Maya Ruins Ranking Game

Maya ruins are obviously worth a visit. We’ve visited Tulum on day 2, Chichen Itza on day 3, Uxmal on day 4 and Palenque on day 5. Our guide said “you should not rank them, they’re like children” and it’s partially true: each one has something special and unique. But still, I need to rank them 🙂

  1. Uxmal. As I said, a deep immersion in history and nature. Unique.
  2. Palenque. The oldest site visited. The jungle. The monkeys. Amazing.
  3. Tulum. Nice fusion between ocean and ruins. Maybe having been first site visited helped.
  4. Chichen Itza. I think it’s evil to rank Chichen in last position, I feel bad about it.

Day 6

Another day of long commute. Another 6 hours ride fragmented by few interesting but scary episodes. We’re crossing Chiapas now. The entire day. Highways are long gone, we’re driving on a frequently interrupted street with tons of small villages built along it. Villages with more or less 10 “houses”. Free roaming farm animals like chickens or pigs. Women at every road bumper selling you bananas or other things a same man should never consider eating.

We were instructed that along the street we could have been blocked by locals that simply locks down the street and ask for money (and you have to pay to keep going). This luckily didn’t happen.

Image: svgosling.blogspot.ch

Tough, we experienced families trying to stop cars with metallic chains that cross the whole street. If you don’t stop you may hurt someone or damage your car. If you do stop you’ll be cannibalized by dozens of people, probably hidden in the woods.

Scary.

Our driver knew how to handle it. Just don’t stop and shut “NO” few times and the women holding the chain will release it (at the very last second).

If you want to read other Chiapas experiences on other blogs read thisthis and this.

As planned, we reached our first destination of the day at 11am:

Agua Azul Falls

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We expected something more. It’s essentially yet another sheetty marketplace with a nice but not amazing waterfall. Maybe next time we’ll visit Misol-ha falls instead. The area where you can take a bath is limited and not so inviting. We bathed anyway.

Another 3 hours ride in scaryland, with a stop for lunch in an incredibly nice and clean small restaurant and we finally reached our final destination for this tour:

San Cristobal de las Casas

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San Cristobal is a pearl in an ocean of desperation. A clean, beautifully colored and apparently safe city totally worth a visit. We moved from sea level and 30 degrees to 2000 meter above the sea and less than 10 degrees. It looked very strange. It has 200K inhabitants but looks like a metropolis. Its territory is vast due to lack of “second floors”. All houses have a single floor. Just walking on the streets looks somewhat magical. It’s a place one may consider transferring to once FI. Food for thought.

Day 7

Plans for day 7 are: visiting 2 local communities in the morning and spend the afternoon in San Cristobal.

Zinacantan

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First local community we visited is Zinacantan. A small town, full of child beggars that will make your heart brake. Worst thing you can do, for their safety, is to start giving them something. If you really want to help, just donate to charities that operates in the area or buy local products at shops (like we did).

We visited a church, a textile shop and a bakery where I purchased a tasty sweet bread piece for 1 Peso (5 cents).

San Juan Chamula

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The second community visited was life changing. Chamula is a slightly richer town, where almost anyone dressed with the same coat.

The main square in Chamula is full of people doing any kind of job we are no more used to see around, like shoe cleaners and rope makers.

But the main attraction of the town is with no doubt the church. The church is… can’t be fully explained. It’s a community. Everything is happening inside at anytime. The floor is covered with an infinite amount of pine needles and candles (and I still don’t understand how they manage to keep the two worlds far enough to not set everything on fire). People inside are chatting, singing, performing “church stuff” and even some unconventional sorcery/which spells involving killing chickens. Not joking. Anyway, visiting this church has been an experience that alone would have made my trip worth its price.

Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to take picture inside. I’ve found this video on youtube though. Take a look!

Ah, you didn’t believe the chicken thing? take a look here! Few more links for those who want to know more about this place: here and here.

Back to San Cristobal

We spent the remaining of the day walking thru streets and markets and churches of San Cristobal. A magical place. Here you need so little to live. I’ve found a Hostel for 70 Pesos (3.5 USD) per night!

Day 8

It’s Saturday, we’re expected to be at our Isla Mujeres resort this evening. But our Chiapas adventure is not over yet. We’re waking up very early this morning to go to:

Sumidero Canyon

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This Canyon was… ok. Nothing special, no “wow”. In 2 hours we spotted 2 crocodiles who seemed to be there for tourists, annoyed by life, swimming in a river of thrash. There’s a nice bird-centric ecosystem though. And few landmarks, like the xmas tree, that moved the visit above the acceptability bar.

After this very last bite of Chiapas we headed to Tuxtla Gutierrez to take our internal flight back to Cancun, negotiated a taxi ride to Gran Puerto and crossed the sea to start the second week of leisure.

3 comments

  1. Hi RIP,
    did a similar trip 12 years ago (the first part, no island).
    At the time tourist were allowed to climb the temple at Chichen Itza (little bit scary – and dangerous – to climb down, though…).
    Drove a rented car without problems (in Chiapas too, where you’ll be a little scared the first time you see these chains strained in front of you, then you get used to…). Only problem we had driving up to San Cristobal, the car overheated and wasn’t able to climb anymore…luckily we were pulled along by a truck full loaded with water carboys… 🙂

    1. You brave for driving in Chiapas!
      And lucky too, I know til few years ago (in the order of… 2-3) you could climb the ruins 🙁

      Personal curiosity: how was the interaction with the Truck driver who escorted you to San Cristobal? Did he try to sell all his water reserve to you? 😀

      1. No problem at all with the truck driver ! At the beginning we were a little bit scared cause the car was connected to the truck with an old rope and we were concerned about safety…
        Generally we have had a really good experience with the people and didn’t get bothered at all (perhaps only some tenacious sellers in the 2 pueblos S. Juan Chamula and Zinacantan). From this point of view I think we had a better experience than you (I also don’t like being bothered too much while hanging around), maybe less tourists around ? We were there in February 2005.

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