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San Cristobal de las Casas (final trip in Mexico)

MEXICO | Tuesday, 15 September 2009 | Views [913]

We'd really been looking forward to San Cristobal de las Casas having heard a lot about it and already having made plans of what we were going to do there.  It lived up to our expectations in many ways but it was also the turning point for the weather on our trip.  That is to say rainy season set in and we got drenched more than once!

We arrived there in the afternoon, found our hotel, which was actually a hostel offering private rooms and a very cute bohemian style one at that.  Our room was lovely, with 2 double bed, one on a platform hanging above the main room and the other safely on the floor.  It even had it's own brightly painted little bathroom with a warm shower!

We headed down into town for a look around and a coffee in a cafe on the main square.  We also picked up loads of leaflets about horse riding trips and things to do in town.  We also got caught in the rain for the first time and got drenched through.  We'd forgotten just how bad rainy season could be...  After heading back to the hostel and getting changed and into our wet weather gear we headed out for dinner at a lebanese restaurant which was really delicious.

The next day we awoke to clear skies and headed to the horse riding meeting point.  We were met by an old lady who took us to a farm miles away on the bus.  We arrived and waited quite some time for a group of american kids to arrive and then set off  on some highly strung ponies for the indigenous village of San Juan Chamula.  I'm not sure the horses were so well looked after and I did feel a bit guilty that I had given them my money, but other than some scary moments on the ride with ponies biting each other and getting overexcited the trip was enjoyable.

San Juan Chamula was interesting - a colourful market and a church carpeted with pine needles and hundreds of candles was a sight unlike any I'd seen before and facinating, if not completely off the well beaten tourist path.  Outside the church we were quickly surrounded by children and old grannies all selling little hand made friendship bracelets for a few pence each.  You feel obliged to buy something and end up feeling bad that you can only buy from one person - I guess that's part of the tourist bargain you strike when you decide to visit their village.  The people from San Juan Chamula wear really thick black furry woolen skirts and apparantly each indigenous group/area can be identified by their own style of dress.

In the afternoon, we relaxed, looked round the town and went to a cultural centre/restaurant/cinema and saw a film about the Zapatista movement which was thought provoking but left a lot of questions and doubts in my mind.

The next day we were supposed to be going mountain biking on a tour that we had booked a couple of months in advance.  However the weather was terrible and we decided to postpone it until the next day.  The weather was upposed to be much better outside the town and so we headed down into the valleys of Chiapas to the Canon del Sumidero.

It took us some time to decide that it was safe to leave the car on the square and go and find out about trips down the river.  We got a bit annoyed with all the people ahssling us and eventually decided on the quietest most out of the way tour company simply because they weren't pushy and not because they offered anything the others didn't or at a better price - there's rarely any real competition in these things at the end of the day in Mexico...

The tour was really great though and I'm glad we did it.  The Canon is stunning and it's height is truly spectacular especially from such a tiny boat.  We saw wild crocodiles and monkeys by the river and even some tiny baby crocs clustered on a rock as well as loads of birds and plants.  The only not so nice thing was the pollution at some points on the trip.  There was a huge amount of rubbish at one part that the boats had to plow through to get to the clean areas again which was shocking and quite unpleasant - we heard that it gets washed down the river form the cities in rainy season and they try to minimise it but there's so much that it's difficult for them to control - nasty.

Afterwads we were anxious to make sure the car was where we'd left it so we hurried back and as there didn't seem much else to detain us in the town we headed back up the mountain to San Cristobal where we went out for more international food at a indian style restaurant (not so easy to come across in mexico) and a relaxing evening after stopping off at the cafe museo cafe (coffee museum cafe) and learning about coffee production in the area.

The next day, despite the weather still not looking too promising we headed off on our mountain bike trip with a Swiss lady who organises fantastic trips around San Cristobal, Chiapas and even out to Guatemala for the more adventurous.  We just took the one day trip around the local area out to a limestone bridge and through indigenous areas.  It was fun and definitely hard work - especially for me as I wasn't that confident on a mountain bike but we did go to places that we would never have seen otherwise and it was so peaceful and quiet.  The rain spoilt it a little bit, mainly by turning the route we were meant to go into a mud bath, clogging up our wheels and meaning that we had to stop every few minutes to clean the wheels so they could actualy turn!  Unfortunately we were asked to leave our cameras at home so there are no pics of the trip.

On our last evening in San Cristobal we went back to the cultural centre and watched another film before going for dinner in a little cafe with live music and a bit of veggie food on their cheap set menu.

San Cristobal is probably the only city that could convince me to go back and live in Mexico - I could imagine spending a long time there and it's got such a laid back international feeling to it that is just sop different from opther Mexican towns.  It's also beautiful, close to the countryside and fun!  If I ever go back to Mexico I know I'll be passing through San Cristobal again.

However the next moring we got ourselves ready, took some snaps, bought some souvenirs and headed off to the Guatemalan border and the Lagos de Montebello.

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