San Cristobal

by lwsaville

What started as a planned week stay in San Cristobal de Las Casas over the popular celebration week of Semana Santa turned into a month-long affair, a great deal of which Sarah, James and I spent sick and moping around. It was obvious things weren’t terrific in the health of our little crew with some of the most glaring evidence being James curled up in the fetal position on the side of the road on the long climb into San Cristobal. Things hadn’t been too well since Mexico City for Sarah and James and my troubles had started upon arrival to Oaxaca, Oaxaca. Although it was not planned the stay was a good one and one in which the illness troubles were finally confronted.

It was lovely to be back up in the highlands after the serious heat of the isthmus of Mexico. Nights in San Cristobal can get quite chilly and jackets and knit hats are seemingly a necessity.
Many things occurred over the seeming eternity spent in San Cris between the harsher days of sickness. I saddled up a couple of new shirts, bought a feast worth of food that I ended up abandoning part-way through due to illness and appetite issues, saw some caves, we celebrated James birthday, I stayed in four different locations ((El Hostalito, Casa Ruka Che, La Casa Di Gladys, and Spanish school Tierras Mayas) which I feel spanned the range of possible accommodation in San Cris), read some books, broke my beloved Kindle, gave an English conversation class, did poo samples, and started taking drugs.

The market in San Cristobal was everything a market should be, bustling with people and colors and mountains of food.

Beans.

Beans.

Beans.

Some earthy fresh potatoes you can be sure weren’t shipped half-way across the world.

Fresh Beans.

Chicken Row, also signifying I know where I am and can find my way out.

Green Tomatoes.

Covered open-air shops that transform the average streets that once were.

Mexico’s market places house an incredible diversity of plant life.

Boy pouring honey from a wheelbarrow honey pit at suspiciously low prices.

The rule of thumb is “the darker the honey the more pure it is”. The boy with a full spectrum. Unseen are a good quantity of live bees hanging around his “shop”.

The fabled “Posh” officially found and in a variety of flavors. The drink having a place in ceremonial church services. San Juan Chamula is famous for its Posh and also it’s church (no cameras permitted fortified with jailing as penalty) where the strange mix of Catholicism and original animist religions have it filled with live chickens, lots of candles, idols, alcohol, and coca-cola.

I visited San Juan Chamula twice, encountering posh (with certainty) the second time with Sarah, James, and Swinde (a German cyclist headed north). The first visit was really memorable for having accidentally joined the festivities of a house-warming party with a new Belgian friend, Lisbet, from the hostel where I was staying. Complete with the local dress of fuzzy wool skirts for the women and equally fuzzy wool long tunics for the men, full “grillz” style dentistry for the majority, dancing, drinking, pine-needles on the floor, fireworks, praying and a live band, the housewarming party was one of those unexpected “once in a lifetime” type experiences.

Roof-top party at the hostel “El Hostalito”. El Hostalito is my favorite place to stay in San Cris and super cyclist friendly. When I was building my bike with John at Velosoul he told me about a friend from a cross-U.S. cycle tour who kept going south at the California to end up in San Cris starting the hostel. The friend is Joaquin and is running bike-messaging in Mexico City as well El Hostalito. Joaquin walking through the smoke like a ranger from the hobbit at a roof-top party.

This is a small “anafre”, basically a simple bar-b-que pit over which is often placed a sheet of metal or earthware (a comal) to cook tortillas or a wide variety of other street food. It also serves to warm feet.

Some classic Mexican branding (Ciel, Sol, Indio, Dos Equis, Bimbo). One great thing about Mexico is the amount of plastic bottles that are first-hand recycled by filling them with something different, Ciel being bottled water by Coca-Cola but as shown in this photo containing flavored posh.

El Hostalito’s decorative scheme relies heavily on the bicycle as imagery. Definitely gives a homey feel. Cyclists arriving at El Hostalito receive the first night free and a discount thereafter (pre-arranged through e-mail).

El Hostalito.

El Hostalito.

El Hostalito.

Man walking down a side-street on my way home to Casa Ruka Che.

Semana Santa (Easter week) coming complete with a seriously put on reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that ranges across a large part of the city.

My backyard camp-home at La Casa Di Gladys. I was at this point loving my own personal garrafon (19 liter water jug, right background) and a bit of tranquility after having stayed some days with some hard partying craft-peddlers.

My corner at the school Tierras Mayas. We reached the all time low (apart from free camping) of 10 pesos in nightly rent later in our stay at the school by helping out with some English lessons and moving into the movie watching room.

James snapping shots of his birthday egg and bacon sandwich at the edge of the stunning full San Cris view at Tierras Mayas .

Surely the birthday wish has something to do with parasites? Happy B-day James!

The entrance to a cave at Las Grutas.

Me before my attempt at cutting my hair and beard with scissors using my fingers and a pencil as guides. Later in my frustration James came to the finish the job.

One of the pieces of “kit” that I’ve come to prize most highly, my kindle can hold a hundred books and weighs less than a can of tuna. One morning started off on the high-note of me neglecting to pay attention, climbing into my top bunk and putting my knee right to the screen of my beloved, hiding under my sleeping bag.

Enjoying a cookout with the English students from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, MX.

Victor conducting an interview with Sarah (surely headed straight for Facebook).

Carlos.

Alexis.

James chatting.

An enormous concrete slide. Armed with an empty two liter bottle or a piece of cardboard the cement slide is great fun for children and adults alike.

James trying not to lose his seat.

David.

Alexis crushing the competition.

Priceless face from Sarah as she slides into second place.

Me minus the beard and rocking the Comex hat.

I can’t keep my bottle under me as James makes a break… Sarah already having won.

More than pleased at the results of the race, Sarah has her game winning face on.

Losing my seat again.

The whole Coatzacoalcos group together with the “gringo show” minus Sarah.

Some beer drinking on the bus.

Carlos’ stylish hat.

At this point I’m going to steal a format from my friend Trinity of the Tres Chicas Locas, three friends who hiked a huge portion of South America from Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina northwards (if you don’t know about them and their trip you should check them out). The end of their blog entries consists of lists of high-points and low-points.

Highs:

– The poo tests that finally put to rest the doubts and took the shadows out of cyclical periods of feeling horrible. I have always wanted to do periodic full checks of my body. Insurance companies and many doctors are not in accord with my wishes and so this was my chance to give the poo test a go with sufficient reason (And it’s cheap. On a side-note if there is nothing wrong it may be wiser not to go looking for something.) I walked away from the experience with the consolation prizes of hook-worms and amoebas.

– The time lying around gave plenty of time for reading.

– More time gave me a chance to arrange for some new things to be shipped to me and received upon arrival in Quetzaltenango Guatemala, most notably a replacement Kindle.

– The hospitality at El Hostalito and Tierras Mayas. Including the opportunity to dabble in English teaching, a potential money-maker whilst traveling.

– The unlikely sharing of the housewarming party in San Juan Chamula.

– Hanging with the English students and trying out the huge concrete slide.

– Bike Polo. Why hadn’t I ever played before this trip? Got to give it a go again, my last chance being Vancouver.

Lows:

– The rowdy party crew and their plans to keep me unrested.

– Quantity of time spent feeling poorly. Never in my life been sick for so long (with myself to blame for hoping things would resolve without the aid of modern medicine.)

– Breaking my lovely companion the Kindle. Of all the kit I’ve been dragging around on a bike frame, one of my most cherished.

– Boredom.

– Sickness.