Friday, August 12, 2011

San Cristóbal de las Turistas

After our fantastic stay in Tuxtla, we headed on over to San Cristóbal de las Casas. The drive was enjoyable, as far as the road goes (sweeping mountain curves, not too much traffic), but downright scary as for the weather. Massive, dark greyness awaited us on top of the mountains above Tuxtla, with bright flashes of lightning that were luckily moving away from our direction of travel. Sadly, we weren´t able to capture the full effect, nor did we feel like stopping in the downpour, but here´s a glimpse.

after awhile the sky relaxed some for an enjoyable ride...

A noticeable change along the way was the shift to a much more indigenous feel in the area. People walking on the highway wore brightly colored traditional dress, all those working in the fields as well.  The towns and ejidos seemed more consistently impoverished than many we had passed up to this point. And I have never seen corn fields as difficult to farm as some that were visible along this route - literally quarter-acre patches on a 45 deg slope up at the top of a mountain with nothing but cliffs below some of them.

(Note: this picture is actually from the road to Palenque, but only decent example of a surprisingly located farm field we had)

San Cristóbal has a very nice center of town. It also has a rougher side around the edges, where the majority of inhabitants live that we passed through when entering/leaving town, as well as while walking a couple of days. Right near the plaza, we started asking around for rooms. Many small hotels were willing to come down in price, but we kept looking for cheaper. Eventually we found a nice hotel a few blocks away from the plaza that gave us a simple double room for M$X 200 a night. They even let us drive through their lobby to a parking spot, since the road to the garage had a massive trench in it. With a board set from the street to the top step (about 3 high), Mike pulled in from the street. WOW, that board flexed a lot! Sorry no photos of that shoddy ramp.

Food was easy to find throughout town, of all varieties. We chose to eat some Comida Ecónimica for M$X 30 a piece and it was fantastic! (However, our next comida ecónomica experience was far less successful...)

All throughout, we felt safe walking around, and enjoyed all parts of the city. Common sights included indigenous women carrying crafts and flowers for sale, brightly colored buildings, and, ya know, pigs waiting for phone calls. Pretty much all the usual.

One day we went to the Museum of Traditional Mayan medicine, which was really interesting, and sells medicines to the public. Worth a stop if you're into plants at all.

Due to our first stop of the morning, we were not welcome in this bar (uniforms, drugs, and guns prohibited for some reason)

There are some streets within town that feel European, in part for the nicely appointed cafes and shops, and also because the majority of people that we saw seemed to be European.

The market was bustling every day we walked through. It had a big mix of clothes, electronics, food, but not necessarily the best selection of any of those items.

(women selling live upside-down roosters by the handful)

(a little less lively form of poultry)

(Rambutan is a bright red fruit about the size of a racquetball, with soft spiky looking things that prevented Mike from wanting to bite into one for the longest time, with a large seed in the middle surrounded by a white jelly-like fruit that is quite tasty)

...and sometimes not so bustling around the market

For some reason, the nighttime market in front of the cathedral has the best selection of woven goods, carved wood, and other souvenirs. You've got to be willing to buy it based on how it looks in the light of a match (or battery powered equivalent).

Immediately before Mike's stomach turned into a black void of rejection (he will spare you any more details of the food poisoning acquired during our second comida ecónomica experience, which, by the way, was bad enough to keep us in San Cristóbal 2 more days than expected) we ate at a great little vegetarian restaurant.

But once rested and back to health, off to PALENQUE!!

(Pulling the TA out of it's spot. Rocks to support the ramp seemed like a much better idea than testing the somewhat low ground clearance.)

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