Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
32. San Cristobal de las Casas
I’m headed for San Cristobal de las Casas. I don’t know much about this place aside from that it’s about a days ride from where I’m at towards the Yucatan and that a German girl said “it’s really fucking cold”. With the morning happenings in Salina Cruz I wasn’t able to get onto the road until around 2pm. Not ideal for a days ride but I figured I could crank the wrist and get the click going.
The road out was more Yucatan-y, if that makes any sense. Maybe it was all in my head but it seemed as if I was obviously heading to a more historically grounded location. One where people dress more traditionally, the geography begins to turn more into rolling valley’s accented with the occasional steps, and the terrain becomes more jungle-y. I’m a scientist and these observations are solid.
I cranked out the miles throughout the afternoon and burned northeast towards San Cristobal. The road began to turn mountainous and I knew I was getting close.
The last 40 minutes was a solid grind uphill climbing higher into the thinner cooler air. I found Rossco’s Hostel in downtown San Cristobal rolled my bike in, and pulled out my cooler weather clothes. In the morning the brisk change in temperature between the oceanside town of Salina Cruz and this inland mountainous city was blunt. Another biker, Dan, from Canada pulled in the next day as well.
Rossco’s is well laid out and it has a lodge type feel to it. The staff are great, the space is nice and open, and they have an inner courtyard that you can bring your bike into.
In addition to the great staff I found two assholes here as well, Shaked and Russell. (Edit: these are my friends I met in Puerto, we hang shit on eachother, they aren’t real-life assholes. In fact, they are quite enjoyable blokes.)
We dropped back down into a warmer town to take a boat ride through a large canyon. The water in places is 200 meters deep. Mind boggling.
During the ride we saw a lot of stuff, including big crocs...
and two big assholes.
During the ride back our boat ran out of gas.
Shaked wasn’t amused.
We floated down the river for a bit until we saw another boat and we deployed the universal arm-waving and yelling distress call.
After several boats passed by we found one with extra fuel.
After the boat ride the three of us worked to thumb down a ride back into town. While doing so I met this guy. He had made a spear gun entirely out of spare parts and tinkered bits. I love seeing the ingenuity that goes into homemade pieces like this. He was pretty proud of it once he realized I was genuinely interested in the design. He worked through and showed me all the specifics of how he built it and what parts were difficult to make. Nice work man.
Once back in town we spent the day walking around and seeing what’s up. The town feels very laid back and similar to a ski-town. But there’s no skiing. There are lots of little shops and the air is brisk. Everyone seems to be moving about getting little tasks done as if they are prepping for the winter. Autumn is my favorite time of year and I haven’t been in a place until now that actually feels like Autumn weather. Mexico City was colder at times but there’s no nature in the city to watch change and shift into it’s winter state. Here though, the feeling of Autumn is very apparent and I’m loving walking around and soaking up the experience. I can’t place my finger on why I like autumn so much, maybe it’s the sleepy, pensive, and cozy feeling that is unavoidable this time of year. No other place has had this feeling though until San Cristobal, and here, with it’s crisp wispy afternoons, the presence of Autumn is almost palpable.
Strolling around through town we checked out some shops. Chocolate here is pretty popular and we found a good shop with all homemade bits for $.50 a pop.
These guys are so dry and boring to hang out with, really difficult to have fun with them.
Feeling victorious with our chocolate find we went looking for a vantage point to drink it from and scope out the rest of the city.
A group of kids were training for soccer/football by running up and down the stairs.
We sat, sipped our drinks, admired the city, and soaked in the cold nights air. It’s a freshening feeling after being in the sweaty heat for a few days. It’s a climate that I’m much more familiar with being from the Pacific Northwest and reminded me a lot of Autumn in Seattle.
When the sun comes out in the late morning things do heat up. The next day Russell and I headed out to a larger market on the outskirts of town where all the locals shop.
There’s lots of fruit to buy here and it’s super cheap, and super delicious. 4 oranges total up to 6 pesos (~$.50)
Items are usually weighed out by the kilo. The grapes are very sugary, almost too sugary if you aren’t used to how rich they are.
Lots of spices and other items for sale as well.
From the market we caught a bus to go to a small neighboring town that was supposed to be fairly untouched by tourists. Here we hoped we could find some more traditional dress and hopefully sample a local drink that we heard is made only here called Polsch.
The van was tight but this allowed us to shoot the shit with the locals and ask questions. Most were pretty untalkative as this is a more traditional area we were headed to and they seemed more cold or unfriendly towards the attention that us foreign travelers brought to their peaceful and traditional culture.
One mother and her son though were really open and we talked with them for the entire ride. The kid was 5 and really spry and definitely clicked on to the world around him. We asked him if he liked living in the small town where we were going and he said he loved it. He said that’s where all his friends are and that he has everything he needs in the town. We told him that his friends are important and he responded saying “Yeah they are, I don’t want to lose them”. For a 5 year old he’s very tuned in. The honesty that little kids have and the ease of thought that they bring with their answers is refreshing. As we get older we have so much more shit and experiences that we accrue throughout our lives tumbling around in our brains. Everytime we go to make a decision or respond to something we consult all of these experiences subconsciously, aggregate a conclusion and then respond or move forward with that idea. A child though has nothing to clutter up their thought process, it’s much more linear and direct. As an adult we like to hope that with our accumulated experiences we can make more educated decisions about the world around us, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes I prefer the straightforward simplicity of a kids thought process.
The center of town is pretty much all of town.
Of course there is a central plaza as well as a church.
We checked out the local market. It was pretty empty and dead as it only really serves the local community and it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. You aren’t supposed to take pictures of the traditionally dressed people here because apparently they really don’t like it. I felt a little guilty but I did unscrupulously snap a photo of one of the local women. The majority of the women I saw were dressed like this.
Back outside in the plaza I also ashamedly snapped a shot of a bunch of men walking through town. There was a rank system to who could wear what. It seemed like the elder men or more highly ranked men wore black skins (not sure what animal?) and the others wore white.
Next to the church we saw several of the traditionally dressed men sitting in a small tienda in the plaza sipping a clear liquid. We realized this was the Polsch that we had heard about and been in search of. We sat down at a table next to them, said the customary apologies for the intrusion, and ordered some of our own to drink. The guy poured us some crystal clear liquid out of a plastic bottle and we sat down to enjoy some afternoon R&R. The liquor smelt really strong. It had a unique smell, but one that I can’t really describe. Similar to Vodka or Mescal but maybe something in between the two. I liked it and we put back a few.
We had met some other travelers from Austria and France on the way into the town so we grabbed some tacos with them before heading back. The tacos were 3 pesos each. I ate 9, trying several of each kind they had.
We crammed 6 people into a 4 person taxi for the ride back to San Cristobal and chatted about the interesting day in this interesting pueblo. When back in town we checked out the main plaza to see what they had going on. Today is Hanukkah so they had a menorah and free donuts (sorry Shaked I forgot what you called them).
We rounded out the night in a small bar huddled around a fire, sipping mescal and listening to live music. San cristobal you have been a nice treat and I have really appreciated having a place that feels like autumn to enjoy for a couple days. Not sure where I’m going next, but I’m glad I got to feel a bit of the season before going back into the tropics.
SeanPNW screwed with this post 12-10-2013 at 05:50 AM