Leaving Oaxaca and arriving in Chiapas meant one thing – we were back in the hills again. The best thing about being in the hills was that it was cooler and there was always a view – something you don’t always get on the flat. That makes the sweat and energy spent getting to the top of the hill all the more worth it.
We stayed a couple of days in Tuxtla Gutierrez – a seething mass of humanity which didn’t have much to offer other than really cheap street food. Our hotel had a lovely garden and we used our time there to catch up on some rest. Right on the fringe of Tuxtla is Cańon Del Sumidero a 900m deep canyon. First we biked to the view-points on the top of the rim – an 850m climb. At the top we ran into a group of what looked like ‘bad ass’ motor bikers. They impressed me with their shiny Harley ‘Hogs’ and I offered to swap my bike for one of theirs which they politely declined (I wonder why)?? They looked like a really rough bunch, but were friendly and in awe at how far we had come on our ‘one human’ powered bikes.
The views from the top of the canyon were awesome, but I’d heard the boat ride up the canyon was well worth doing. Tony was a bit more skeptical, but we decided to go anyway. It turned out to be one of the best ‘touristy’ things we have ever done. We saw a lot of wild life including crocodiles, monkeys, many different birds and lots of cool rocks (not quite wildlife but still cool). The commentary from our driver was entirely in Spanish, but we picked up enough to have an idea what was being talked about and he appeared to be very enthusiastic.
After the gorge there was a big hill climbing day to San Christobel de las Casas – all in all 2300m of altitude gain. The road was a really good gradient and the metres clicked by relatively easily. The biggest thing we noticed along the route was the women from the villages collecting wood and going about their daily business still wore traditional Maya dress. They appeared to be hard doers up here, cropping on the sides of steep hills, growing what looked like passion fruit and chopping and carting lots of wood. Everything is done by hand and there were no fatties to be seen up here.
San Christobel was touristy, but had a really nice laid back feel to it – or maybe that was the hostel we stayed at? Each time we walked in the door our nostrils were assaulted by the strong smell of dope being smoked just outside our room. We spent a couple of days here and got out on our unloaded bikes to have a look around the area.
First we went to a town called San Juan Chamula where we had heard there was a really cool church to visit. The interesting thing about the church was that it combined Christianity with some local Maya traditions like sacrificing chickens. We were in luck (or not depending on your point of view). We paid our MX25 each to enter and were greeted by thousands of candles lit around the edges of the church. The floor was covered in pine needles and there were lots of statues of various saints aligning the sides of the church. This is a busy tourist destination which created a really strange contrast – tourists walking through the church looking around and locals deep in worship sharing the same space. The locals didn’t seem to mind and I witnessed one local family bless some members of the family by waiving a live chicken through the candle smoke then over them, before the chicken was deftly dispatched by another family member who broke its neck. I guess they will be having blessed chicken for dinner that night. This all made me feel a little uncomfortable. I felt like I was intruding in their private worship and for me it was time to leave.
We then biked to Acrotete which is where a river runs through a limestone cave. This was more like the type of attraction that we like. It was a beautiful area and the walk through the cave was very cool. We spent a good couple of hours there exploring.
After leaving San Christobel we travelled to Cascada El Chiflon. The ride to the falls involved an 1800m descent which made for a relatively easy day. The falls were spectacular and we got to camp right next to this beautiful river.
In Central America – what goes down must go back up and the next day we had a 1000m climb back up into the hills. We rode the MEX226 which I dubbed the ‘Road of discarded dirty nappies’ due to the filthy rubbish that was discarded on the side of the road (including bags and bags of soiled nappies). To add insult to injury we also battled a stinking head wind. We didn’t reach our destination of Lagunas De Montebello until 7.30pm when it was well dark. Fortunately we arranged to camp near the Maya ruins of Chinkultic at a really nice location next to a lake. The next day we checked out the ruins, then did a ride around the lakes in Laguna De Montebello before spending our last night in Mexico camped by a lake in the town of Tziscao. There we had a small celebration (any excuse to drink beer) before venturing into Guatemala the following day.
So we’ve spent a total of 3 1/2 months in Mexico and it’s been really good to us. The people have been great and the scenery amazing and diverse. We’d highly recommend it as a destination.
Where have we been: