Monday, August 1, 2011

Running from Dora

We decided to leave the coast after a couple of nights, largely because we had signed up for language school in Quetzaltenango, due to start in 3 weeks and we still had lots of stuff (too much, even!) we wanted to see in Chiapas. We also wanted to keep moving because we had been hearing various rumors that another hurricane was headed our way (Dora, but nobody we talk to really calls the storms by name, rather just mystic rumors that flutter around the streets).  She ended up missing the area, but we didn´t want to take our chances. Leaving the beach, we had about 10 pesos total in our pocket because there were no ATMs in the area. We decided to take a long day, stopping in Huatulco to try to find an ATM and some gas. As soon as we got close to the beach/port in Huatulco, we were literally chased after by several restaurant promoters competing for our gringo dollars. Although we found the race entertaining from the comfort of the TA, we were happy to find the bank and get the hell out of town. Mike calls it a seedier Puerto Vallarta, which is not saying much for the town, at least as far as our tastes go.

The ride was relatively uneventful with us originally thinking we would stop in Tehuantepec for the night but deciding to keep going to the next big city, Juchitán, where we also decided to move on after asking at a couple of hotels for rooms. They were either too expensive or too by-the-hour for our taste (and for reference, we will stay in auto-hotels again). After driving for what felt like forever, we happened upon the trucker´s mecca that is Zanatepec - good restaurants, beers, and a really nice hotel for 250 pesos with a TV and air conditioning (felt sooo good!). We were happy to finally be done driving for the day and had a really nice meal, some beers, some cable TV, and our clothes actually dried overnight, although Mike had to sacrifice a pair of socks to rainy season - they smelled so manky that we kept them closed in the bathroom and after how bad they made the bathroom smell, he decided to throw them away. Too bad google hasn´t crafted scratch-and-sniff blogging yet, or else we would gladly share that experience with you.  Here are some pictures of the ride.

(There was quite a bit of flooding in the area and all of the rivers were much fuller than normal)

(Flooding, erosion, and construction, oh my!)

(The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest area in Mexico and can produce some large trade winds, known as Tehuano. Windmills were present throughout the area)

(some of the friendlier clouds)

We had sent a last minute couchsurfing request to an American couple in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and we lucked out in being able to stay with them. We really enjoyed meeting Christie and Ryan, as well as their British friend Shane. Ryan is currently doing a project for grad school, working with an indigenous group near the Trifuno National Park in southern Chiapas to analyze soil samples to determine the effects of slash and burn agriculture, hoping to show improved soil conditions with less frequent burning. Christie is teaching English. Shane has been teaching English as a means to travel all over the world for the past several years and has just signed on to teach for two years in Tuxtla.

Ryan had to work both days we were there, but Christie was kind enough to show us around town. Tourists usually either skip over Chiapas´ state capital  or use it as a travel hub to go to San Cristobal or other Chiapan destinations.  Tuxtla seemed to us like a typical large, gritty, non-touristy city.  We enjoyed several sites in the city, including the market and the Marimba Garden Park where there is live music and dancing every night.  Although we missed the festivities, we enjoyed sitting and drinking a beer there.    We also took a river tour through the Sumidero Canyon, which was beautiful. Christie was a great cook and we really enjoyed having some delicious non-meat options.

(Christie, Ryan, Jill & Mike in front of the house)

(Chiapas is known for its coffee, and this place actually had some very good local coffee. We are not sure if Michelin tires are used in production.)

(University of Sciences and Arts)

(Christie showed us an amazing beer shop. They had a very large selection of beers from all over the world and from some of our favorite microbreweries in Colorado - Avery, Breckenridge, and a couple others.)

Sumidero Canyon is stunning, located just northeast of Tuxtla. Vertical walls reach over 3,000 feet high at points and began forming about 35 million years ago, about the same time the Grand Canyon began its formation.

(There a wide variety of birds, fish, and other animals, many of which are endangered, in the area. We were able to spot this crocodile and a monkey.)

(looking straight up the highest point of the canyon wall.  A better photographer probably coulda done something with this.  But you just have to trust us.  It´s tall.  Really tall.)

(The canyon is very important for tourism in the area and there were plenty of boats on the river with orange clad passengers)

(Logging and urban areas upstream have caused lots of pollution problems)

(There are up to 5000 tons of waste extracted from the river every year. Boats like these seem to be active on a daily basis, seperating trash from wood debris.)

(Shane and Christie enjoying the ride)

(Christmas tree waterfall)

(Jill with a beautiful view in the background.)

Tourist boats leave from Chiapa de Corzo. Here are some pics from the town.

(In front of the municipal buildings.)

(The market)

(The A church)

(The plaza near the river)

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