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San Cristobal de las Casas and around

S. Juan Chamula, Cañon del Sumidero, El Chiflon and Lagos de Montebello

sunny 15 °C

San Cristobal is a gorgeous colonial city - we dare say better than Antigua, which is quite a thing.

We stayed at Hotel Jovel
[/ihttp://www.mundochiapas.com/hotelposadajovel/] in the nice part of the building, which costs more than the hostel part but is much much better, with a lovely colonial garden and room furniture. The family owners there were really nice and welcoming, and invited us to join them for food and drinks many times. S Cristobal is set at 2,100 m above see level, which makes the nights quite cold. Fortunately we had a good hotel bed with blankets and duvet and we also had Gregory's trekking water bottle, which is termic, so we had a hot water bottle to warm the bed up and make the whole experience of going to bed bearable... The cold made it feel like it even more like Xmas. The town was nicely decorated with Xmas lights and trees etc, packed with people and in real holiday mood. Xmas obviously did not stop business in any way, as we found out that all travel agencies were open and you could book trips every day, including Xmas day!! The supermarket was open on Xmas day too, which is quite strange for a Catholic country. We decided to take the 25th "off" anyways, i. e. stay in town, not go on any excursion and enjoy the day in tranquillity. We had in fact a great Xmas day, wandering around the streets and the churches and checking out the artesania markets.

On the 24th we went on a half day trip to the local villages, Zicantan and S Juan Chamula. S Cristobal is in Chiapas, the most indigenous part of Mexico - as a matter of fact, it looks and feels more like Guatemala than Mexico. These villages were very very indigenous, particularly S Juan Chamula, which is self-governed and where they even have their own police. The people there don´t want to be photographed at all and Gregory got thrown tomatoes and even stones on two separate occasions for trying to take a panoramic shot of the town and the market!! They have a special church in the village and photography is prohibited inside: if you are caught taking a picture, the fine is of $500!!!! Despite the temptation, we didn't try to take any in there...

The mighty church
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Cemetery-coloured crosses signify occupant of grave

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These ladies were good friends of our guide, crazy Carlito, and possibly the only two souls in town not to be bothered about photography...
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My mighty zoom comes in handy once again...
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Chillies on sale at the local market... notice the woman in the background on the left, she is throwing a tomato at Gregory..!!!
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This is a link to an interesting report about S Juan Chamula, quite accurate - the part about the Coca Cola is all true by the way:

http://www.forteantimes.com/features/fortean_traveller/253/san_juan_chamula_mexico_a_church_out_of_time.html

On the 26th we went to the Cañon del Sumidero, which is a deep canyon where a river flows for some 43 km. You take a boat and they travel you up and down the canyon, pointing out crocodiles and monkeys and other points of interest like rock formations. At the highest point, its cliffs are 900 meters above sea level, which looked quite impressive from the little boat we were on.

Cañon del Sumidero
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They call this one the Xmas tree, in perfect season..
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The Xmas tree from below
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On the 27th we took a longer trip to the Lagos de Montebello, which lasted almost 12 hours and included a stop at the Cuevas de San Cristobal and the waterfalls of El Chiflon.
The caves were not very interesting or special, and even less when, at entering them, we were accompanied by a young children who were put to work there as guides and whom could not be understood at all, due to their far too young voices and the subsequent echo in the cave. The lakes were nice, though we had to visit them in a bit of the rush. There are 59 of them, all with different colors and shapes, and the trip included a visit to 6. They are located on the border with Guatemala, so perhaps 200+ km away from San Cristobal, which makes it a fairly long journey from where we started.

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Finally, we went to El Chiflon waterfall, which is a gorgeous waterfall which flows into a light emerald green river where it is possible to bathe, though the current is extremely strong. We got there fairly late and had no time to bathe nowhere, but it was fine.

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When we got back from the Montebello trip, we had about one hour and then we hopped on a night bus to Puerto Escondido, our next stop for New Year's. It took 12 hours and at 10 am we were checked in at our most expensive accomodation yet, and disappointed.
To cut the story short, Puerto Escondido is on the Pacific and quite popular at New Year's. Since we had decided not to leave it to chance to get there and not find somewhere nice to stay, we decided to book ahead. We emailed a lot of places and everybody was full, apart from one place where they had one last "bungalow" left, at the Tower Bridge Hostel. At $100 a night (5 times the normal price, due to highest season...), we thought about it for a bit and then decided that it was worth the money, given the website and the circumstances. Well well... will leave the moan for the next time!!

Posted by Flav-Greg 18:26 Archived in Mexico

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