March 23, 2015 § 2 Comments
It’s been a while- momentum has been strong, and rests few inbetween. And, looking back at the past couple of weeks, I find it surprising that there have been more moments than usual that I have felt frustrated or ‘stuck’ in some place that I shouldn’t be, when, in fact, we have been on a quick and steady move eastward through Mexico. I suppose that there are other factors than physical movement to take into consideration when calculating restlessness, but it is still a slightly strange juxtaposition when I think about it logically.
After our hop through the beaches, we took a day to camp out at the Cascada el Aguacero in the Cañón Río La Venta (how many geographic features can you have in one name?):
It was a nice river to wade through, but we were expecting jungle (which, we later learned does not start until east of San Cristóbal), so we hopped in the back of a few more trucks and eventually made it to our next destination: San Cristóbal de las Casas.
This was our home for the next five days, with nightly accomodation ranging from fancy posadas with fireplaces and courtyards, to hostels dedicated to Corto Maltese, to colorful hostels where we (for the first time all trip) made use of the kitchen to create all sorts of fancy, international dishes. Food was never a shortage though; between all of the pastry shops and organic food markets and cafés, food was pretty much our main past-time.
That, and coffee.
And analyzed graffiti:
And climbed long series of steps to get the best view points of the town:
There were also some jazz sets and yoga classes, but nothing to rave about. The churches, however, were pretty cool, and seemed somehow warmer than in the other cities (but maybe it was just the clarity of the air at this elevation):
On one hand, I had higher hopes for our time in San Cristóbal de las Casas because I had envisioned something more similar to Oaxaca: classes and dancing and a stable base for a couple of days. But, in the end, a few days of checking out different types of lodgings and eating and making it a mission to try every espresso in town was a satisfying pastime.
However, the lack of dancing nooks and the presence of itchy feet spurred us onward. I think that we are both in a position in which we see the potential of and appreciate the places that we visit, but there is somewhere else that we feel like we should be. On one hand, I would have had a great time setting up base here for a couple of weeks and living of fresh croissants and getting in touch with my spiritual hippie side, but I felt torn between moving on and settling down for a longer period of time, in a different place, that wouldn’t be just a ‘stop’ before the continuing adventure.
So, it was time to bid farewell to San Cristóbal de las Casas, with all of its cozy charm and delicious nooks, and get back on the highway and find the next string of rides to flag down.
March 12, 2015 § 2 Comments
Continuing our travels south, we waited on the side of the ‘highway’ (where the mountain road from San Mateo joins back up to the main carretera) with a cardboard sign that said A LA PLAYA! It didn’t take long before a truck with a metal frame on the back (our favourite and most common pick-up) stopped and loaded us into the back. Our ride was a group of Christian guys who were going to Huatulco to play at some Christin beach festival. The air was fresh, the views were amazing, and we were giddy to get to lower elevations and seashores- perfection, almost. Except for the boy that kept throwing up over the side of the truck, and no matter how loud I turned up my Marc Anthony playlist, I couldn’t cover up the retching sounds.
So, when they dropped us up in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, we didn’t complain. The second truck that passed picked us up and took us all the way to Pochutla, from where we took a colectivo to Puerto Angel. We filled up on tacos on the street:
, and then hopped in the back of a French couple’s van that took us the remainder of the way to Zipolite. After so many months, finalmente! The ocean! Waves and sand and salty breezes and a full moon to usher us in. We set up our tent in the dark, next to a psychedelic reggae party. My first view of the beach when I woke up the next morning and peaked outside was that of a naked hippie taking down his tent- we picked a good spot, it seems.
But, not perfect, we felt. So, we rolled everything up again, put the backpacks on, and walked a few kilometers to the next seaside town- San Agustinillo. And, as we collapsed, sweaty and exhausted, into a café for breakfast and found an available room upstairs (the only one in San Agustinillo, it seemed), we didn’t hesitate. A delicious and cozy café downstairs and not-too-shabby of a view from the balcony?
Sold! And I really loved this beach.
Unfortunately, the red flag was up, so there wasn’t too much swimming that happened, but it was still fun to wade in the waves and jump around:
And walk the cove and admire all of the palapas:
And go for morning jogs:
My favourite part of the stay was hiking out to punta cometa for sunset; a small rocky peninsula that juts out from the shoreline in Mazunte (the adjacent town, about a kilometer west of San Agustinillo):
It almoooooost felt like I was back in Scotland, with waves pounding onto cliffs:
And there were a lot more people to keep us company in the sun-going-down ceremony than on secluded rock-tips on the Isle of Skye:
But, a little bit of similarity, no?
And it was all very beautiful, but also very hot. It had already been rather steamy in Oaxaca the past couple of weeks, but add the seaside humidity, and it was less-than-enjoyable. So, after less than 48 hours, we rolled everything up again and returned to the side of the road. The first van that passed us by was headed to Matías Romero, a city about five hours east of Mazunte. So, we told the kind sir to take us as far away as possible from the heat.
He dropped us off on the side of the highway, right outside of La Ventosa.
The name does not lie. It was the windiest place that I have ever been in; I couldn’t stand up by myself and our heavy backpacking bags were rolling around and into the ditches on the side of the road. We somehow inched along the highway until a run-down truck took pity on us and gave us a lift (windiest ride of my life, help!) to the next small town. There was nothing there, other than more wind, an empty bar with bachata music, and a bus stop.
By this point, it was getting dark, so we took the last bus to Tapanatepec, which was not any more inviting. So, another bus on to Arriaga. Not much better. One more bus, to Tonalá. Not any better, but is was midnight and we were kind of discouraged by our entry into Chiapas, so we checked into an overpriced and less-than-quaint hotel and turned up the AC so that it could lull us to sleep.
The next day, we moved (very slowly, as people in Chiapas do not pick up anywhere near as enthusiastically as in Oaxaca) to the coastline, for one more night on the sand before heading inland again. Our destination was Madre Sal, an isolated strand of beach about an hour (or, in our case, six hours) southeast of Tonalá.
It took a lot of walking on little dirt roads (Our last ride was holding on for dear life, hanging out of a watermelon truck. As a reward for surviving, we go at a watermelon. So, we got to carry one of those with us the last couple of kilometers):
And crossed a lagoon surrounded by mangrove trees on a lancha:
And then, voilà, paradise:
Madre Sal is an ecotourism project, working to conserve the land and provide a safe, isolated refuge to the turtles that come ashore in the fall to lay eggs. As now is not turtle season, we found the place utterly empty:
We wandered around the property and had fake mojitos with the sunset and felt like we were a hundred miles away (well, I guess that we were… so, maybe more like a lifetime and a thousand miles) from the beaches of Oaxaca we were lounging at slightly more then 24 hours ago.
I suppose that both the Oaxaca and Chiapas coastlines had their pro’s and con’s. But, the heat was similar in both. So, reluctantly (for I love the sound of the ocean waves so much) we put our backpacks on again and continued the journey inland, toward the highlands of Chiapas and away from the sandy horizon line: