Day 225: Acting a tourist

There is probably so much to do in San Cristobal as it is in any town, but there is limited things I do in a place and after a few days, I get bored and start to look forward to my travel. I guess I am not a destination traveller and destinations to me are more akin to pit stops. I’ve had my fill of this town and decided to just take one more day before heading out.

I’ve been staying at the room fernando has kindly given me and its bang in the centre of town. Its a fantastic place to stay, utterly private and quiet. I’ve been lucky to be able to spend a few days. I met fernando in town today and bid him farewell, Thanks mate, you help is much appreciated!

I decided to grab a bit of b’fast in the market and when I got there, there were a few touts pulling me to their food stall, I don’t like to be rushed, so decided to go to one of the stalls that was empty. After the grub, I decided I’d make my day doing a bit of walking around and checking out souvenir shops. Not that I was buying anything, but I figured I might as well get a feel of the artistic style around here. Though I had my mind of replacing my biking shirt.

See, my biking T has been ripped to shreds and every day a new hole emerges and an old one would become bigger. I tried stitching some of the holes to extend the life, but that just made me look a bit like Frankenstein. In the past week or so, I’d been getting patterned tanning thro the holes and though I’ve been looking for a replacement, I’ve never been happy with the choices. A generic cotton T is the best I have seen yet and I am being strongly averse to polyester, trust me, they smell terrible after a week of use.

I walked around the art market and after going thro a bunch of standard issue T’s, I found a lady selling a hand woven cotton shirt. It feels airy and at 60 pesos, I figured I might as well try it. If it doesn’t work out, I could use it as a city shirt or donate it further on. The wool they use here is pretty coarse and terrible and heavy as hell. So getting back to cotton now.

I was a bit bummed with the thought of tourism playing havoc with local economies. On one side there are the expensive bars and restaurants and on the other are the people who sell crapware on the streets to make a quick buck. So many children being forced to sell wares or jus follow people along as ask for some money. It’s sad to observe, but that’s a pretty common side effect of tourism, Pretty common all around the world I reckon.

I found the only Thai place in town for lunch, it was run by a Thai lady and the food was stunning. Been a while since I had a non-mexican food and was glad to find this one. I walked about town and stopped for a bit of hot chocolate and spent a few hours reading my book and walking up and down the streets peeking into many souvenir shops. They all sell the same stuff, I suppose more original artists might have galleries in some hidden side street. Haven’t really spotted them.

It’s been a few nice days in San C. The place surely is interesting and beautiful around, but the town itself leaves me with mixed feelings.
Route: San Cristobal
Distance: 0 km (yay!)
Ascent: 0 m
Descent: 0 m
Expenses: $ 30.50
Comment: Going to try Cotton for a change. Hope it works well on the bike

Day 224: Bike & Hike

I had a note yesterday from a fellow traveller and she was in town too. We made plans to catch up in the day and given I had enough time to kill, I figured I might as well seek out the hike at Moxviquil. I had a nice bit of b’fast at a local joint and the feller pointed me to the spot where the hike would start.

This place has a funny weather, its pretty warm in the mornings and gets down right hot by noon and kind of eases up and chills down in the evenings. So I started my ride in the heat and rode up to the private reserve of Moxviquil. The ride was nice, a bit hilly and I got to the place in no time. There was also an orchid garden there, but given I come from Singapore, it would be hard to beat the sheer varieties that grow in SE Asia. So I gave that a skip.

I supposed that there was an entrance fee to the private reserve, but there was no one manning the gate and so I parked my bike and started walking up. It was nice to be away from the city, the forest was dry, but so much more quieter and pretty to be in. Every time I get a chance to walk in a forest, I immensely enjoy it. Something about the chlorophyll I reckon :-p

The walk was short though and I’d have preferred to keep walking a while more, ah well. I got back and decided to loop around town and snoop on the neighborhoods. The route took me thro functional areas of the town, places where things aren’t displayed for tourism, but people living their lives, a few mechanics, a couple of stores, a boat load of houses, people going about their chores etc. Somehow the functional sections of towns interest me. No one wants to visit them, but they are what run a town. I remember riding thro the dingy bits of San Francisco, Nothing charming, but in its absence, SFO would be a big dump.

Anyhow, I ended up climbing some hills for no reason at all apart from seeing some domestic life and got back to town on an absolutely crazy 15% incline, straight down. Dang.

My new tires seem to be getting into place and I think they do a good job rolling on asphalt and a bit of rubble too. Mondial’s might be a smidgen better option than Dureme’s I think.

I got to the centre and waited up for Jenifeer. She showed up with her host and another traveller Anton, who I had met in San Jose del Pacifico! Its a small world around here. I had a nice hot chocolate somewhere in town and hung out at some house where the fellers were making jewellery with wires. Handicrafts are fascinating to watch.

Route: San Cristobal Loop
Distance: 17 km
Ascent: 970 m
Descent: 712 m
Expenses: $ 22.70
Comment: Enjoying the hikes, must do more.

Day 223: Hanging out in San Cristobal

I had not much of a clue on what to do apart from walking around town. However there was a popular village called San Juan Chamula in the neighbourhood and I decided to give it a visit. Firstly I walked up to a market around the corner for some food. This was a big one, but I had to kind of dig my way around to find something to eat.

Chamula was about 12 km away and I figured I could ride there. The route out of town was pretty as and I spotted a bunch of tourists here and there trying to negotiate with a tuk tuk or taxi to get them places. The pleasures of having a bike! awesome! There was a bit of a stiff hill along the way, but was an easy ride without panniers. I dropped into the village and immediately it felt strange. Later I would learn that this village is managed as an autonomous entity and they have their own rules and laws, separate from the Mexican system. Hmmm.

Anyhow, the things I noticed was that people were all dressed in traditional costume. Almost all of the population was indigenous, I reckon mayan, and they spoke a different language too. I have heard photography was not preferred and I chose not to take any pictured. Most of the houses had a small patch of land behind in which the locals grew a vareity of vegetables. I suppose there was a certain sense of organic living around and it was obvious even at a first glance.

I headed to the popular church, which is known for being very non-christian. The place was different, they had pine needles all over the floor and the entire church was filled with candles which have it a warm glow. People were making strange prayers with bottles of coke and mescal. I can see how this would look absolutely amazing for traditionalists and westerners, but as someone who grew up in India, the stuff looked pretty normal, heh. I somehow felt a bit sad when I saw the native people performing, what I consider, their traditional rituals, in a church, which is the only place available. May be the traditions have evolved with time, but It felt like people were holding on to one last thing that would keep their identity alive and that was a sad indeed.

Anyhow, I rode back into town and it was still early and I stopped for some hot chocolate. I rode around and found a small bike shop called Pura Bici. I have been meaning to switch my tires for a while, but wanted to donate my current set, which is still in fantastic shape (last puncture about 2 months back). I have ridden almost 20,000 Km on these tires and I figured I might switch tires and not worry for a couple more years. Also, The spare tires I am carrying take up space and weight and I might as well use them. I changed my tires and gave my used pair to Pura Bici. They were glad to have a fine pair of tires!

I was told of a nice bit of walk around town that would take me up to a river. I decided to walk that and along the way a bit of rain showed up. Been a while there. I met a couple of guys walking their dogs and we walked up the river for a while. I was nice to get out of the tourist belt and be in some quiet nature for a while. I decided to walk back this route again tomorrow and so headed into town for a bit of grub. I found tamales in the centre and after a nice bite headed back. Revolution tavern beckons at night!

Route: San Cristobal To Chamula loop
Distance: 24 km
Ascent: 292 m
Descent: 490 m
Expenses: 16.55
Comment: Dureme, you gave good service. Mondial, please do the same!

Day 222: San Cristobal, Here I come

I had been thinking about my ride to San Cristobal from Tuxtla. Eventually I decided to take a bus instead. Numerous reasons, the pretty good up hill is just one of them. Anyhow, I had quite a bit of time to get to San C and I did my b’fast and waited till Roberto was up. I bid farewell to Roberto and Adriana and its likely that I’d meet Jess again. Casa Cyclista in Tuxtla is a really nice spot. I was pretty pleased to see another bike action group fomenting and my best wishes goes out to them.

I rode up to the bus station and it was a matter of 50 pesos and 1 hour and I found myself up in the clouds in San C. I was looking out and the route did look stunning, I’d have enjoyed riding it, but there are lots of hills along the way anyway.

I had plans to meet up with Fernando, a friend of Marina, all the way back in Guadalajara. So first up was to find a cafe with wifi. I found a reggae bar which was a nice spot and I managed to get lunch too at 50 p. I contacted Fernando and we planned to sync up at 4 pm. I rode around the town to get a feel for the place. I should say the town is quaint. It’s got narrow streets and typical of tourist towns, many street vendors selling handicrafts. What was interesting to me was that there were many art shops and galleries. A bit hippish place this.

I met Fernando at 5 and he offered me his place in town which is a pretty comfortable room and literally a skip hop jump from the centro. It was really nice of him to give me a place to stay. He was in the process of moving his house and I suppose I wouldn’t be able to catch him too often. Anyhow, I walked around town in the evening and found a nice community run restaurant to eat dinner.

Feels like I might get to spend a few days here, the surrounding mountains are inviting me to take a hike.

Route: Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristobal
Distance: 0 km (yay!)
Ascent: 0 m
Descent: 0 m
Expenses: 25.70
Comment: An uncalled for bus ride, but who cares.

Days 219-221: Timeoff at the Playa

The past couple of days have been off the grid a bit. Jarod, a friend of Roberto dropped by and told me about a weekend plan to head to the beaches. Now I am not really a beach person, but the prospect of visiting a Chiapas beach, which is off of the tourist grid, was appealing. So I decided to join them. Jess, an English cyclist was in town too and we invited him to go along too.

Friday was a quiet day, I just spent the day lounging and catching up on some movies I’ve been trying to watch. In the evening we took a bus out to the meeting point where we’d sync up with the rest of the group. There were a bunch of pleasant people and a couple of doggies too and we headed into the night, southward to reach Puerto Arista.

Little did I know that one of the guys, Francisco, had a house in town and we were going to be camping out there. The place was wonderful, right up at the beach. The village was pretty quaint and the beach was absolutely quiet except for a few late night walkers. Some one mentioned that most tourists hit the beaches in Oaxaca and head out elsewhere and the beaches in Chiapas were mainly visited by locals and other mexican tourists. Being slightly off season, there were few of those and it was 2 days of bliss!

I suppose I was lucky to be invited with the nice group of people and appreciate Mexican Beaches in its pristine form. I still do think I am not a beach person, but in perfect beaches like these, I think I can make do.

Route: Tuxtla Gutierrez to Puerto Arista & back
Distance: 0 km (yay!)
Ascent: 0 m
Descent: 0 m
Expenses: 68.60
Comment: Perfect beaches of Chiapas.