Tora Adventure

Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.

Mexico – San Cristobal de Las Casas & Palenque [Day 56]

San Cristobal de Las Casas

We took an overnight bus (OCC) from Oaxaca which took about 11 hours (9pm-8am) for the cost of MXN$480 (US$40) each. I slept fairly well with the bus being only about half full of passengers. There’s a good recline on the chairs and reasonable leg room if the person in front doesn’t fully recline onto you. The road was relatively smooth for the roads we have been on, but it had many bends as it went through the mountains. The altitude in San Cristobal is 2,200m and the travel guides suggest this is one of the wettest cities in all of Mexico. We have seen a number of afternoon thunderstorms since we’ve been here, but not much different to our other locations. Seemingly this is usual for September/October. The dark clouds seem to hang around forever threatening to rain, but takes hours until it unleashes it’s fury with grumbling thunder and flashes of lightning.

What was supposed to be a brief three day stop over ended up being a week. This was all thanks to meeting our new Mexican friends Arturo and Erica who run an awesome hostel. It is called Hostel Erni and we found it on Hostelworld 170MXN/$14 per night for a double including a simple breakfast with free drinking water and a simple kitchen to cook in if you wanted. The place only has 4 rooms and these are aimed at quieter people rather than the party hard tourists that frequent San Cristobal. It is a family run place with a husband and wife with their 4 year old daughter. The rooms are quite nice with a nice sized flat screen TV in ours with about 60 cable TV stations. There are even a couple of English speaking movie channels. There’s also a nice common area to stretch out in if you wanted. We felt like we were part of the family so we were sad when we eventually left.

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Hostel Erni – Us with the family on the last night

San Cristobal is a beautiful cobble stoned colorful town, where there is always something going on in the main square from shoe shinning, to selling many balloons. My favourite was the dora the explorer balloons of course. We visited two amazing churches with spectacular views below is a picture of the view.

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San Cristobal – A view from the church on the hill

 

San Cristobal Square

San Cristobal Square

 

San Juan Chamula

This is a little town around 6km from San Cristobal. It is famous for having a very unique church. To get there, I took what is known as a Collectivo. There are many different types, but the common form is a Volkswagon van from the 1970s/1980s. Typically the idea is to cram as many people in as possible. When I got into my van, there were 2 spare seats out of 12. People get on and off at different points along the road essentially like a public bus. At one point I counted 19 people in our van. It is definitely cheap though; as the one way trip was MXN$12 (US$1). A whole new way of meeting people.

Typical collectivo's in San Cristobal

Typical collectivo’s in San Cristobal

 

Back to the church; from what I’ve read online, this place has been a non-traditional church for the last 50 or so years. Essentially it doesn’t have a leader of the church. This seems to be more to do with the local people not believing in western medicine. The belief is that people come into the church as individuals or in small groups and pray for the health of their loved ones. The entrance to the church cost MXN$20 (US$2). As soon as you walk in, you see a whole lot of green pine needles spread across the floor. There is also a thick fog of smoke from all the burning candles and incense. There are no traditional pews/chairs in this church. People just form a small circle on the floor and start lining up rows of candles. They then start saying a range of prayers until the candles burn out. The story seems to continue where people will bring a live chicken into the church to sacrifice. I didn’t see any of this in the hour or so I spent in the church. I think this is a more unique kind of situation. I’d definitely recommend taking some time out of your travels to see this place.

San Juan Chamula - Church

San Juan Chamula – Church

 

Cañón del Sumidero

Cañón del Sumidero is a canyon now filled with water thanks to the construction of a hydro electric dam in the 1970’s. We went on a 2 hour boat tour through the magnificent high canyon and saw lots of wildlife along the way such as alligators, monkeys, iguanas and birds. It was absolutely beautiful however, there was a lot of rubbish in the water, which is such a shame because without this it would be perfect. Wikipedia talks about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumidero_Canyon. It is estimated that 5,000 tonnes of rubbish accumulate each year at that it is the 5th most polluted waterway in Mexico.

Sumidero Canyon

Cañón del Sumidero – Waterfall

Sumidero Canyon

Cañón del Sumidero – Alligator with butterflies around its face

 

Palenque

We also went on a day trip to Palenque. This was a super long journey as it involved 10 hours of driving and only 5 hours of sight seeing, stopping at Agua de Azul and Misol Ha Cascadas on the way. Agua de Azul is famous for the bright blue colour of the water; “Azul” meaning blue in Spanish. Sadly due to the heavy rain of previous days it was more agua “café” (brown). We walked along a 1km trail to different viewing platforms to see multiple waterfalls. Even though the water was brown, the up side was the rain had increased the intensity of the waterfalls. Normally you can swim in the pools but because the rapids were so fast due to the high water it was too dangerous to do so (and too cold also). We met someone on the tour also that had been travelling for the last year via bicycle (he started in Argentina – so the opposite direction to us). Toby and I were also the only non Spanish speaking tourists on the tour. The van also stopped for breakfast/lunch along the way, but of course they stop at super expensive (well in mexico terms) buffets. Luckily, Toby and I brought our own snacks from Toby’s favourite place “La Panaderia” (Bakery). Next we visited Misol Ha Cascadas. This is a large and beautiful waterfall. Unfortunately there was muchas lluvia (rain) and most of our tour group were stuck under shelter just before the waterfalls trying not to get wet.

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Toby in front of the huge Misol Ha waterfall

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Rainy day at Palenque ruins

The final stop – which is why we took the tour in the first place was Palenque. Palenque is a famous mayan ruin (226 BC to 799 BC). What makes this place even more spectacular is it’s in the jungle, and only 10% has been excavated with the rest still hidden in the jungle. As our whole bus was Spanish we ended up on a Spanish tour so the only thing I really understood in Spanish was the number of floors and what was the men’s toilet in the residential quarter. Lucky there were some Mexicans who could speak English and they translated for us. Below is a picture of us posing in the rain.

 

Roads in Mexico

There were some interesting road designs in Mexico. Here are a couple of examples from San Cristobal. The cobble stones really are brutal in a car and even to a certain degree on foot. Especially when it rains, you need to be paying attention wherever you walk just to make sure you don’t trip and fall over.

San Cristobal

Cobble stone road bumps to slow traffic next to the main plaza in San Cristobal

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Metallic speed bumps in San Cristobal

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Regular cobblestone streets in San Cristobal

 

Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/

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6 comments on “Mexico – San Cristobal de Las Casas & Palenque [Day 56]

  1. Lynette
    October 28, 2013

    I’ve been to Agua de Azul and Palenque!

  2. Uriah McIntosh
    October 29, 2013

    Oh to be young again….so glad you are doing this Rods. Isn’t the feeling different from just traveling to one place??? So much freedom….everyone should backpack if they can. Changes your whole perspective to how you wanna live your life.

    Can’t wait to read the next post:)

    • Tora Traveller
      January 7, 2014

      So true.. this has changed my whole perspective of buses in the past I used comfortable tours like gap but now realize its super easy on your own and you get to experience more culture this way. Im definitely enjoying the less touristy spots 🙂

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