In this episode, we visit some sights in the state of Chiapas. This place was hit hard by an earthquake in September, but still has tons of natural and created beauty. Also during this time, my stomach attempted to reenact said earthquake.
Realtime update: I’m going to lead with this. I am all ready to hit the road tomorrow morning (umm…that’s maybe a poor choice of words). My plan is to ride to Comitan, stay one more night in Mexico, then cross over into Guatemala early on Monday morning. This post is pretty long, but I want “crash day” to have its own place. So much happened that day. Thanks again for all the prayers and support. The speed at which my ankle recovered really felt miraculous.
Tuesday, January 16th
A nice down day. My hotel was really nice, so I decided I would stay another day.
I did venture out into the city for a bit and see a few of the sights. As I mentioned in the last post, Tuxtla is not really tourist destination. I probably walked around for a couple of hours and did not see another gringo.
One of the things I have been trying to figure out is how to take better pictures of everyday life scenes. I feel like it is a bit rude to hold up my phone towards someone, so I generally try to avoid that. This day I experimented with taking pictures more stealthily, holding my phone at hip level.
One industry that is still alive and well all across Mexico is shoe shining.
Like many vendors I see, I have no idea how they make a living.
I climbed some stairs to a little family kitchen. They seemed a little surprised to see me. I asked if there was a menu, but Pollo Milanesa was all they were serving. This dish is kind of like a fried chicken fillet. It was really good.
Including the fresh pineapple juice, this meal cost 45 pesos, just a little over $2.
A nice boring day! Maybe not the best way to begin a new post. 🙂
Wednesday, January 17th
Time to get back on the road.
My next stop was the stunning Sumidero Canyon. It was only a short drive from Tuxtla. The canyon is really a spectacular sight. I must confess that I kind of hate my pictures of it. Not they are necessarily bad pictures, but they are so far from the actual sight.
Their are six overlook sights for viewing the canyon. The first one provides a good view of the Grijalva River, as it begins to cut through the canyon.
Then they start to get even more dramatic.
At this site I met a group of four cyclists who were working on a flat tire. I told them that I had a compressor if they needed. After they worked for a bit longer, they took me up on the offer. I learned that it was the fifth flat that they had had on their ride so far.
Getting the tire repaired ended up being quite an ordeal. The winning inner tube had already been patched two times. They were very thankful that I had a wide selection of tools and random items (like electrical tape).
Then they thought I should get on one of the bikes. 🙂
They also told me that they had seen another American on a motorcycle riding around.
The top overlook site was awesome.
At it’s deepest point, the walls of the canyon are over half of a mile high. Wow.
I got to meet the other “American on a motorcycle,” he ended up being a Canadian from Quebec. This is how I met my new friend Jocelyn.
He’s been on quite an adventure. He rode the full length of the Trans America Trail (a mostly off road path that runs nearly coast to coast) and has spent about 3 months exploring Mexico. He’s also traveled across Africa in a camper van. The man has some stories to tell! He’s also a talented photographer. I would invite you to check out his website: http://www.jnomade.org/en/.
We learned that we had our next destination in common, so we exchanged info. It was really nice to meet him and to have a long conversation in English.
On the way down from the canyon there were some nice views looking over the city of Tuxtla.
It was not terribly expensive to take a boat ride through the canyon, but I felt like I was running a bit short on daylight. I thought that I might return to take the trip from San Cristobal, but never found the time….Next trip!
An oversimplification of layout of Mexico would go something like this: All of the roads are through the mountains, all of the cities are down in valleys. This possibly explains why riding a motorcycle here is so much fun.
Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas.
I took the free road, which took a little more time but was much more scenic.
My destination in San Cristobal was a place called Hostal Marimba. It is not listed on many of the accommodation apps or websites, but it was recommended to me by my friend Mitch in New York.
I didn’t have a reservation, but I knocked on the door and was greeted by my host, Victor. I told him that I really needed a safe spot to park my bike, so he invited me to roll Annie right into the courtyard. My mirrors touched the door frame, but we were able to enter without too much trouble.
I very much liked what I saw upon my initial perusal. Given the copious use of fruit crates…..
…..and bailing wire…..
(that one is actually a latch for a latchless double door which can be operated from either side. Quite clever.)
…….I knew we were going to get along just fine. Victor would say, “Con alambre, se puede hacer todo.” (“With wire, you can do anything) 🙂
The price was a bit of a surprise, in a good way: A whopping 100 pesos per night (About $5.50) I even got the bed with the monarch on it.
After meeting some more nice people, I went walking around a little bit. San Cristobal is surprisingly cold, compared to the other Mexican cities I had visited. This is due to its elevation, around 6,600 ft (2,200m).
I found a row of Cocina Economicas (literally “budget kitchen”) and tried some mozole.
I found it really interesting to observe this row of businesses. They pretty much have the same menu at the same prices. When a person a group enters the area, each cocina has a representative who will approach them with a menu or just loudly announce their offerings and prices. They are in constant competition with each other. It makes me wonder: Do they hate each other? Or maybe they are all good friends since they are in the same business. I would be curious to know.
Businesses arranged in this manner would not last for long in the US. The cocina that made the best enchiladas would eventually buy out the people with the best flautas and the cycle would continue until there was only one mega-cocina. Things are a bit different down here.
Thursday, January 18th
I woke up and did not feel well. My gut felt like it was poised to devolve into full out rebellion. I did very little all day and ate very little all day. I don’t think I even left the hostel. This might be the shortest recording of a day on the trip so far.
Friday, January 19th
I felt great in the morning. All of my symptoms from the previous day seemed to have fully abated. I went out in the morning, had a big breakfast and did some walking around the city.
On September 7th, 2017, the state of Chiapas was rocked by a very intense earthquake off of the Pacific Coast. It was the strongest earthquake in Mexico since 1787 and the strongest worldwide in 2017. The city of San Cristobal is still recovering.
A lot of the buildings are still closed, barricaded off by festively painted walls.
To the north of the city center is the Church and former Convent of Santo Domingo. The whole grounds around the church are absolutely covered with vendor booths. It was hard to photograph them all.
(I’m getting better at the hip-level, “I’m not a creep,” impromptu photos. Sometimes I just capture my finger, but sometimes I get a great shot like the one above.)
The church is in a little rough shape, unfortunately. 😦
I had been in contact with my Canadian friend, Jocelyn (whom I had met at the canyon). We had scheduled to meet up for dinner this evening. On the way to see him, I got to see some sidewalk art being down in the square.
It was also a nice sunset.
We chatted briefly, then all of a sudden I had the strangest feeling. I got really hot and felt like I needed to sit down. My stomach growled, as if it was poised to rebel again. We strolled a short distance over to the main square, then I felt like I needed to sit again.
It was a perfect evening. There temperature was cool, but in a refreshing way. The square was bustling with families, groups of friends and artisans selling their wares. In the central gazebo, a marimba-led group played relaxing, welcoming tunes. And then, at one of the many little gardens in the square, a tall gringo doubled over the railing and began puking his guts out.
“Well, I guess I know you’re not faking,” Jocelyn told me. 🙂 He was really kind and got me some tissues to clean off the variety of formerly internal fluids streaming from my face. Unfortunately for him, he would have a similar issue a few days later. 😦
I returned to the hostel and they took good care of me. I went to bed pretty early, but did not get much sleep. I was running to the bathroom at least every hour.
I did have one shining moment in all of this misery: I knelt in front of the toilet, preparing for the next round of vomit. In just an instant, however, the illness decided to change its course of attack from my top end to my bottom end. I hardly had a second to spare. In one graceful motion I was able to complete an elevating 180 degree rotation while simultaneously lowering both the toilet seat and my pants, sticking the landing just in time. Had any gymnastics judges been present in that bathroom, I would have received full marks for both elegance and execution.
Saturday, January 20th
Ughhh…More of the same. I got very little sleep the night before and spent most of the day in bed. My trips to the bathroom did become more sparse as I gave my system no new ammunition. Throughout the day I began to feel better and in the evening my hosts, Victor and Ali, made me some food to try: A chicken breast, some rice and some easily digestible vegetables. It was nice to get out of my bed and be social for just a little bit.
(Victor, Chiara from Italy, Barbara from Spain and Ali. Chiara and Barbara were also super helpful and I had a great time getting to know them. They both spoke English too, which is always a plus.)
My night was interrupted a few times, but much better than the previous one.
Sunday, January 21st
Just a day to recuperate and watch football. I’d found out the previous day that Victor is a big fan of American football. We watched both of the conference championship games together. They kept offering me easy stomach food.
Monday, January 22nd
I woke up feeling almost one hundred percent. I was ready to get back on the road. I decided to take the day to get some business done and prepare for my departure. I took my clothes to a “lavanderia” (a place where they wash them for you).
In the afternoon, I had my first “real” meal since my episode, at a place called Pachamama’s, which Victor had recommended. I had some stuffed ravioli that were wonderfully well engineered, taste-wise. It was my most expensive solo meal of the chapter so far, over $7. I figured I had saved enough over the previous few days. 🙂
I walked to the Guadaloupe church on the east side of town and saw some more sights.
One last stroll through the Zocalo (main square). My vomit had sunk in by now. I checked. 🙂
Back at the hostel, Barbara was leaving, so she gave Annie a tattoo.
The first Spaniard to sign Annie, I believe.
Let’s leave it there for now. That was a lot of days in one go. I’m still being a bit more cautious with my food selection and am almost fully recovered. I just need to get a little weight back on! Thanks for reading! Next post will be much more exciting.
Stay healthy, everybody!