26 February 2015
We have a fairly leisurely start for a long travel day ahead. We have to go the long route because a local Zapatista group have blocked off the main highway to San Cristobal de las Casas in protest at the proposal to put a major highway through the national park/forests. A protest is just getting started in Palenque as we leave. Apparently there have been burning tyres blockading the road. We discover later that our minibus has come from San Cristobal de las Casas that morning and the driver drove very fast through the road and was very scared. It is an interesting situation for us though because although ‘the rebel group’ is painted in a bad light, we are all sympathetic to the cause.
The trip should have been 5 hours by local bus but the detour (by local bus) would have made it 9-10 hours. We paid $100 pesos (NZ$10) each extra to have our own minivan which should be a lot quicker. Initially we head back out the way we came on major highways. We spend quite a bit of time on minor highways that all seem to be undergoing roadworks or in desperate need of them. Our driver weaves across the road seeking to avoid the potholes (and the overabundance of speed bumps). The scenery is breathtaking with masses of rolling hills. The land is very fertile and we see all manner of crops being grown, including massive plantations of foreign-owned oil palms – they have been buying up land very cheaply and cutting down the jungle to plant the oil palms.
We learn that Mexico is unusual amongst its neighbours in that it has its own oil refinery (for petroleum) and so petrol is fairly cheap. Neighbouring Central American countries export oil and reimport petrol at much higher prices.
We wait for ages at major roadworks to repair the Chiapas Bridge – it is over 1 km long and spans the Grijalva river (previously Tabasco River). The river is 480km long and supports 4 hydroelectric dams. We stop for lunch just after the bridge. Several of us have beef empanadas with freshly made tortillas and home-made cheese, but it is much too salty for us.
We eventually make it to the state capital of Chiapas – Tuxtla – and expect it to take about 45 minutes to climb the vertical 1500m to San Cristobal de las Casas. But unfortunately the van developed fuel pump issues and we got slower and slower up the hill and finally stopped all together. The driver called another van to come and pick us up but we had a “complimentary sunset” viewing over the mountains while we waited. It started to get quite cold and our fleeces came out.
We eventually got to our hotel at about 7.30pm: the very lovely Parador Margarita. It is very unassuming from the street but opens up into a lovely courtyard area inside.
We meet again at 8.00 for an orientation walk (except Gill and Jane). We are just 3 blocks away from the main Plaza which is full of life and has a band playing in the rotunda. Most are interested in the tours on offer, so we head to the Tour Office to look at brochures and find prices and times. Lily immediately books for a tour in the morning, but I am feeling too tired and starting feel quite unwell.
Lily, Anne and I find a lovely little café and just have drinks. We also walk around the square and stop to look at some lovely jewellery stores.
By the time I get back to the hotel, my stomach is very sore and I get no sleep trying to get comfortable. Painkillers don’t work and I am too scared to take a sleeping tablet in case I have to ‘let things out’.
For this and other similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures Deals for South & Central America (for 18 to 30s)
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