Mexico, Chiapas

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
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Trip End Feb 28, 2009


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Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Thursday, October 2, 2008

After a little exploration of the west of Yucatan, I did a little bit of the east : Playa del Carmen, Cozumel island, Tulum and Chetumal before heading to Chiapas.
 
Playa del Carmen is just a smaller version of Cancun with big resort hotels, Starbucks coffee, McDonalds, Outback steakhouse and tourists souvenir shops all along fifth avenue (remember, the streets are laid out on a perfect grid with avenues and cross streets). Only interesting to get on the internet, get supplies of goodies and get the ferry to the beautiful island of Cozumel. Unfortunately, under heavy two-day non-stop rain, Cozumel is no longer that pretty. There is beautiful snorkelling around the island and amazing beaches, but under the rain, it all appears very grey. It did not prevent me from renting a motorbike to drive around the island, but it prevented me from enjoying the beautiful views which were greyed out by the rain. It made me completely soaked as well, from top to bottom, but because of the hot weather, this was not a problem at all.
 
After Cozumel, the rain followed me to Tulum. There are beautiful ruins there, not for the monument itself but for its location: the ruins are on the beach ! I could only imagine those pyramids under the sun on a beautiful day with the turquoise Caribbean sea background and a deep blue sky. Never mind, it did not prevent me from going diving in a "cenote" : system of caves and caverns naturally carved throughout the centuries. It was a very different feeling. Swimming with all those stalactites and stalagmites picking out all around you in a very dark caverny environment was definitely something.
 
Initially on my way to Belize, I stopped in the very industrial town of Chetumal which hosts a brilliant Maya museum. After all those very developed, industrial, expensive cities in Yucatan and Quintana Roo provinces, I did not feel I had a real impression of what Mexico was all about so instead, I took a night bus to Palenque in the Chiapas region. Unfortunately, the night bus is not a sleeping bus with "beds" like in Asia but simply a seating bus. 1st class reclining seats, yes, but they remain seats and sitting is not my favourite sleeping position. In Mexico, there are roads, paved roads, no loud honking but there are enormous and numerous speed bumps. I felt them all and counted them during my sleep. You can feel up to three speed bumps per minute and even in more quiet times it won't be long before a new one comes up. And with a big bus, when you are trying to sleep in a seat, you can feel them all. First you feel the sudden breaking, then you feel the bump under the front wheels and then under the back wheels, then you feel and hear the bus accelerating until it changes gear and gains speed until the next speed bump, never far away. And all this while you are in your seat trying to sleep!
  
Chiapas is more traditional, but still very touristy and kind of developed in a certain way. The ruins there are huge, in a 15 sq km jungle, streams and waterfalls background and still work in progress as far as the discoveries are concerned. They are still excavating and doing research on some of the buildings. Most of the latter are still covered by nature and you can walk in many of them to wander through a maze of corridors and vaulted galleries. Well preserved roof comb, history carvings and a jungle background made those ruins one of the most beautiful I have seen so far. Because of its popularity, you do have the vendors selling all the souvenir crap like at Chichen Itza but because my bus arrived very early in the morning, I made it to the ruins just as it opened and before all the vendors ...and the tourists, even woke up. A camera crew was there filming a movie under the morning light and for a second I had the impression that the entire ruins was from a movie. It is crazy to think that thee ruins had originally been occupied around 100 BC, developed during the 7th century and then abandoned around 900, then remained hidden in jungle until its discovery at the end of the 18th century!
 
In the afternoon, I took a bus out of Palenque all the way to San Cristobal de las Casas, in the mountains with a stop on the way at the Misol Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls. Misol Ha consists of one 35m drop waterfall, but unfortunately it had too much current for me to swim there. Nevertheless, I was able to swim at Agua Azul, which as its name indicates is normally deep blue water. During rainy season, the water tends to be chocolaty but it did not prevent me from going for a dip. Even in the brown troubled water it was good to feel "washed up" after the night bus, the diving in the cenotes and the sweating at the ruins...
 
Late at night, I finally arrived in San Cristobal where I literally crashed in the first place I found. San Cristobal is a lot more pleasant with a comfortable climate (at 2100 m, it actually gets chilly at night), more reasonable prices and Spanish colonial architecture. The town was made famous when the Zapatistas took control in 1994 and is now surrounded by Maya villages tucked away in the nearby hills.  Museums, markets, traditional art craft was the motto of my visit there. I also took a day trip to the Canyon del Sumidero, which I saw from a little motorboat. The canyon was very impressive with the highest point at 1000 metres above your head, nice waterfalls and a dense wildlife : owls, monkeys, herons, crocodiles, all hanging right next to you.
 
 
 
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Comments

bath mate on

As always an excellent posting.The
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.

Bathmate

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