Posted by: glenswatman | February 16, 2009

200902-1-MEXICO Yucatan Chiapas Oaxaca



SUNDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2009 – On the road before
7.30am. We soon reach a military checkpoint then cross into TABASCO state and
shortly after CHIAPAS where we pay P32 (£1.60) bridge toll.  Further along the traffic is funnelled off
to the right for another check but we are waved through.  Sometime later I tell Steve I think we have
missed our turning and the name of the next village confirms this.  When we double back we find the turning
opposite the checkpoint and veer off towards Palenque.  Heading out to the ruins we must pay P22
(£1.10) pp admission to the national park. 
Maya Bell has a pleasant campsite and is the nearest to the ruins.  It is very early in the afternoon and
although I prefer to visit sites early in the morning Steve suggests we go there
straight away.  The museum is closed on
Mondays anyway so we head off up the road. 
Admission to the ruins and museum is P110 (£5.50) pp and we begin at the
museum.  There are some really
impressive artefacts and many of them still have colour.  We wait for the hourly opening of the
special area where just 30 people at a time are permitted to entry a recreated
tomb.  We watch video and can see the
replica stone slabs.  You have to walk
another 1 1/2km uphill to get to the site main entrance.  The first area we come to has 3 ruins on the
right.  You can enter the centre one and
go to where the tomb is.  The left hand
one is where the tomb shown in the museum was found but you can’t go in.  The Palace complex is a fascinating
collection of buildings as is another group high up on the hill.  It is a beautiful setting on the edge of the
jungle, not at all crowded and with just a few vendors lining the paths.  It is different enough to make it worthwhile
after all the other sites we have visited especially when we follow the stream
downhill back to the museum.  En route
we visit more excavations right in the jungle and see some really pretty
waterfalls.  We are back at camp by
3.30pm so I have time for a swim in the pool, a natural pool fed by the river
water.  Later on Sandra and Robert, from
Montreal, pull up next door and tells us they plan to go to Agua Azul
tomorrow.  We want to go as well but had
heard it was not safe to camp there alone so maybe we will go together.  The motorhome camping is by the restaurant
but higher up is the tent camping area and it is like a little back packers
village.  Surround a grassy square are
palapas with hammocks hanging and people take one over and either put their
tent underneath or just set up camp and sleep in the hammocks. 



MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY – Our Quebec neighbours
Sandra and Robert agree to go to Agua Azul together but first we want
Internet.  They have a tow car so I go
with Robert into town to the Super Che supermarket and find perfect wi-fi in
their car park and also fit in a bit of shopping.  Could not bring pork or eggs through Campeche so now I have
them.  We finally leave around 10.30am
and begin the notoriously bad road leading to San Cristobal over the mountains.
We take the lead and it seems pretty easy although we do have to cross to the
other lane for a broken stretch of road and twice due to fallen trees.  A sign warns us we are in “Zapatista” bandit
country but we’ve heard of no problems with tourists, recently!  The twisting narrow mountain road meanders
up and down then flattens out in places rewarding us with fantastic views.  We pass many rural villages where people all
seem to carry heavy loads on their backs supported by a strap around the foreheads.  Logs and crops seem to be the main
things.  There are numerous topes and
each one has multiple roadside sellers and we succumb to 4 corn on the cob at
P10 (50p).  This seems to be the main
crop here as hillsides are covered with them and many people are sat at the
roadside with sacks full to be collected. 
As always anyone over the ago of about 2 swings a machete.  A couple of times we are halted by people
raising a rope in front of us but we just keep driving slowly and smile at
them.  In some cases they are just
asking for money and other times trying to sell things.  After about 60km we turn right towards the
waterfalls and begin a steep 4km descent with hairpin bends.  The National Park fee is P50 (£2.50) per
vehicle and shortly after they charge P10 (50p) pp for the waterfalls.  At the bottom of the hill we reach a kind of
village area with a large grassy parking area surrounded by restaurants and
stalls.  Before we have even begun to
park children crowd round us trying to sell things but we just keep smiling and
saying “no gracias”.  2-hours driving
has brought us just 41 miles.  After a
quick lunch we set out with Robert & Sandra to explore the falls.  They are a fantastic blue colour and descend
into numerous beautiful pools.  Walking
up stream we cannot believe just how many falls there are.  Often the main flow splits into 3 different
sections.  In many places you can have a
swim and as it is a very hot afternoon we don’t take much inviting. The whole
area is incredibly beautiful with lots of lesser, but equally attractive falls,
higher up.  In the evening we visit
Sandra & Robert in their motorhome and play the domino game “Mexican




TUESDAY 3 FEBRUARY – It begins raining during
the night and by the time we get up there is a lake behind us.  We are ready for our early start but decide
to sit it out to see if the rain lessens and the visibility improves.  Finally get away after 9am and notice on the
road up that since arriving here yesterday someone has run off the road and
buckled the crash barrier.  Back on the
main highway over the mountains we have to work our way around fallen trees,
pigs ambling across the road, rock slides and people walking along the
roadside.  One good thing about the rain
is that there are no tope traders, no one holding us hostage with a rope across
the road and even the military can’t be bothered to emerge from their hut to
stop us at the checkpoint.  We pass
through many small farming communities and notice a difference in the way people
dress.  It is very slow going, misty
much of the time but even without it we can’t go fast.  Manage a 15-minute lunch stop in Oxchuc
before being moved on for parking where the “collectivos” should be.  Nearing San Cristobal the terrain changes
and we are now in pine forest and notice most of the homes are made from wooden
planks.  Pick up the Pan-American
Highway to pick up the busy traffic through San Cristobal.  Less than 100 miles has taken us
5-hours.  There’s a campsite by Bonampak
Hotel but we’ve also heard you can free camp at the supermarket Chedraui
opposite so that’s where we end up.  We
clear it with the security guard then Robert gets their car out and drives us
all into the city.  It’s pretty cold so
for the first time in months we dig out our jeans and thick jumpers.  The church in the Plaza is attractive from
the outside and from there we walk up towards Guadalupe on the hill for views
over the city.  On return we stop at
Santo Domingo and this has an extremely unusual and impressive façade and
inside is huge and gilded with an attractive pulpit.  Meet up with Sandra & Robert then stop for a delicious
cappuccino, P12 (60p) in the square where we also buy some freshly ground local
coffee.  Return to the vans and do a bit
of shopping before Sandra & Robert join us for another game of Mexican
Train.   Looking back on the journey it
was nowhere near as bad as people have made out and very easy compared to many
mountain roads we have done in other countries. 



WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY – Once the store closed
at 11pm it became a quiet night although somewhat chillier than we have been
used to necessitating a duvet and bedspread for extra warmth.  The store opens at 8am and I pop in for some
fresh bread but cannot believe the crowd of people in the fruit and veg
area.  Local women have trolleys full of
oranges and tomatoes.  I wonder if the
street sellers buy their produce here rather than growing it themselves!  In the morning we join Robert & Sandra
for a ride to the mountain villages. 
Ethnic (Indian) people still live here, daily dress varies with each
village and they have their own language depending on their tribe.  We arrive in San Juan Chamula and it is
bustling with people.  Along with a
local market there are many women in town with their children as they are
running an inoculation programme.  The
ladies are dressed in dark skirts with bright coloured, but mainly blue, wool
shawls whilst men have a kind of tabard with a belt.  P20 (£1) pp must be paid in the tourist office for a permit to
enter the church.  You can take photos
from outside, which is beautiful, but not within.  We’ve arrived early and the normally pine strewn floor is bare.  There are no seats so families are sat on
the floor in groups lighting small candles and sticking them onto the tiles
whilst drinking coca cola – they believe that each time you burp a bad spirit
leaves your body.  The men often mix it
with a spirit known as “posh” with the idea that when they get drunk they get a
warm feeling making them closer to the sun and God.  One man shouts and waves us over to them and chatters away in his
local language, we just smile but cannot understand a word.  Shortly after he keels over and is escorted
out of the church.  It is a really
beautiful scene enhanced by the hundreds of candles.  The sides of the church are lined with statues in clothing and
many have mirrors hanging around their necks. 
A group of men gather the sacks of pine needles and begin to scatter
them over the floor creating a fragrant carpet, they say they do this 3 times a
week.  It is a really moving and magical
experience and we are the only tourists around.  Leaving the church we see the tour groups arriving so after a
quick browse through the market and at the craft stalls we move ahead to
Zinacantan.  To enter the village there
is a tourist fee of P15 (75p) pp.  Here
there are 2 churches in the square, no pine needles but the altars are
completely covered with beautiful flowers. 
The village women all have purple patterned shawls and we see some
incredible large bundles of logs being carried by really old ladies.  At the bottom of the village we visit the
museum with examples of local costumes. 
The museum building is also of interest being the local wattle and daub
style construction.  There is a new toll
road towards Tuxtla Gutierrez and it is a fantastic and makes the drop of
almost 2,000 metres very easy, toll P67 (£3.45) and worth every penny.  We turn off for Chiapa De Corzo heading for
the main square.  A lad comes over to
greet us, gives us a leaflet about the boat trip and tells us to follow him for
free parking.  Reaching the end of the
square he tries to send us down a narrow side street but we are too wide.  Cars are backed up right behind us so we
must reverse up the wrong side of the dual carriageway to make the turn to go
around the square.  At this point a
motorhome comes up the one way street in front of us and we are amazed to see
it is Kevin & Ruth.  We manoeuvre
round the square to park and chat to them. 
They tell us Thomas will lead us to the parking spot and we can make it
in the motorhome, they are off to the zoo and will rendezvous with us further
on tomorrow.  We do make it down to the
boat ramp, harder for Robert & Sandra towing the car.  Within minutes of parking up we realise we
can get on the 2pm trip up the Sumidero Canyon so pay our P150 (£7.50) and hop
aboard the 16 seater boat.  Heading
under the high and wide road bridge we enter the gorge and see lots of birds
and crocodiles on the banks. The boatman only speaks Spanish but an Argentinean
couple sat next to us translate into English. 
It is a really attractive gorge with rock walls as high as 1000
metres.  En route there are some
interesting features including a waterfall that looks like a Christmas tree the
way it has fanned out and gone green. 
At the top of the gorge we emerge onto the lake, created by the 3rd
largest dam in the world.  We have a
fast boat ride back to complete the interesting 2-hour journey.   It is a lovely evening so we sit out by the
water enjoying some delicious pina colada’s made to Robert’s special
recipe.  I’ve cooked a huge pork curry,
hoping Kevin & Ruth would be joining us, and Sandra supplies the rice to
complete our meal.  Instead of Mexican
Train they have a version of the game sequence so that completes our
entertainment for the evening.




THURSDAY 5 FEBRUARY – Straight after breakfast
we drive up to the plaza before the streets get congested with traffic. In the
centre of the square is a magnificent fountain surrounded by a fancy Moorish
style arched building.  Once we have
used the free wi-fi signal we head off around Chiapas capital city of Tuxtla
Gutierrez.  Pulling up at traffic lights
we hear a car hooting and a hand waving out of the window, it’s the Argentinean
couple we met yesterday.  On the
outskirts of Ocozocoautla we drive to Hotel Infantil.  This is a children’s home with about 80 kids ranging from 6 – 22
years old.  You are welcome to camp for
up to 5 days free of charge but may be asked to help with English lessons.  We have come armed with educational games
and other things that may be of use.  
Kevin & Ruth are already parked up but have gone into town.  There are just 2 more places available and
we take them.  They are out for the day
with 2 other motorhome couples and return late afternoon.  We go off for a ride out with Sandra and
Robert to a tourist place just up the road. 
12km of dirt track leads us to Sima De Las Cotorras (chasm of parrots) a
kind of huge hole in the ground with steep sides and a forest in the
bottom.  You can walk around the rim and
this takes you to a restaurant where they take the P20 (£1) admission.  There is accommodation and you can camp
there (if you can get to it in the first place).  The lady points us to signs in English explaining about the rare
green parrots that live there and some ancient rock art on the walls of the
pit.  In the evening we enjoy a game of
Sequence with Robert & Sandra whilst Kevin & Ruth entertain their
German neighbours. 




FRIDAY 6 FEBRUARY – We’ve decided to stay one
more day to catch up on a few things. 
Robert & Sandra head off but a few minutes later Sandra comes back
for help.  Their tow car slipped of the ramp
and in their haste to sort it out they have got locked out of the motorhome
with the engine running.  Kevin &
Steve go to help, manage to get into the motorhome through a small window to
deal with the engine problem.  They get
the car back on the trailer but then find the motorhome won’t move.  After much research on the Internet and
reading our handbook (they have the same base vehicle) they find the trailer
coming unhitched blew a brake fuse and now the brakes are locked on.  With a new fuse in place they are ready to
roll.  Spend the day on the Internet,
doing laundry and odd jobs.  An evening
game of Euchre with Kevin & Ruth rounds of the day.



SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY – We had planned to move
on today but it is Kevin’s birthday and Ruth has invited us for supper.  It also means we can do loads on the
Internet including Steve getting his sports results and catch up with the
laundry.  This does not work out at all
as the Internet is not on and the water goes off just after I start doing the washing.  At least it comes back on later.  The children here have obviously all got
chores to do and we see many of the girl’s hand washing clothes.  We’ve tried to speak to someone in charge
here to donate some gifts but still haven’t been able to find anyone and no one
has come to see us.  In the evening we
are just finishing dinner and Ruth is preparing dessert when the ice cream man
calls.  Kevin buys a dish full for P10
(50p) to top off the fruit salad and brownies, yummy. 



SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY – We leave at 7am as we have
a long journey.  Still in the mountains
we have many more ups and downs to travel but also get fine views.  At La Venta there is a huge wind farm, not
surprising as the wind howls down through the valley and fairly wobbles the
motorhome.  Opt for the new toll road to
avoid Santa Cruz, two tolls P94 (£4.70) and P47 (£2.35) but well worth it as it
is a superb fast road and very quiet. 
There are a few military checkpoints but pretending we don’t understand
a word of Spanish they soon let us on our way. 
Cross into the state of OAXACA. 
We are both very pleased to get our glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and
this is where we join the Pan-Am and head north up the coast.  Just over 7-hours after we set out we arrive
at Tangolunda Beach where Robert & Sandra are parked up.  This is a purpose developed tourist area so
we are very surprised to find cheap camping right next to the golf course.  There are just a few sites but all are large
and there are toilets, cold showers and water so all that we need.  You walk through a forest to get to a lovely
beach that takes up the whole bay.  It
is backed by luxury all inclusive style hotels and behind them is a small
village with tourist shops and restaurants. 



MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY – We are trying to conclude
a deal selling Harry to a friend of a friend from England so walk to the nearby
Italian Coffee Shop to be sure of good Internet.  Keith & Louise agree to adopt Harry with a provisional plan
to hand him over in Houston on 1st May.  We return and head to the beach and walk all around the bay.  All-inclusive resorts back it and we see
people with their wristbands but at the last one “Dreams” people have no
bands.  We amble up the steps and watch
the procedure before ordering our drinks from the bar – thank you very
much.  It is very hot in the afternoon
so cooler near the motorhome, not easy to nap, as there are so many amazing
birds here with interesting calls.  We
are invited to the communal “happy hour” and meet Michelle & Jack and Dave
& Joyce with their dogs George and Gracie. 
Robert & Sandra join us for an evening meal followed by a game of



TUESDAY 10 FEBRUARY – Sandra takes me for a
ride up to the Super Che supermarket and then around the old town where I buy a
lovely fresh red snapper for P30 (£1.50). 
It is a purpose built town to house the locals who work in the hotels
here but looks just like any other traditional Mexican.  Driving back we get superb views over the
bays and also stop to explore a couple of others.  Sandra has suggested we go for a drive up to town in the evening
as it is all nicely lit up. 
Unfortunately late afternoon their car breaks down and they have to
leave at a garage.  During happy hour
Dave’s dogs begin barking and run off, they have spotted Whiskey who is with
Kevin & Ruth.  They arrived just
before dark and rather than pay P100 to park here tonight they are parked up in
the main car park.



WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY – Robert, Sandra & I
walk up to Kevin & Ruths for a ride up into town.  Robert needs to check on the car progress and I am going to do a
bit more shopping.  On return Kevin
& Ruth move onto the trailer park. 
We head down to the beach but return for lunch and a siesta.  Late afternoon we manage another visit to
the beach before holding “happy hour” at our place.



THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY – We are falling into a
nice routine now.  First thing I sit by
the shower block doing Internet, along with so many others it often looks like
an Internet café.  After breakfast I do
a bit of laundry in the showers whilst Steve does an odd job or two.  Kevin helps him, as today’s is a complicated
job fixing the top rear lights that were not working.  Turns out when we grounded we cut off the cable so it is an easy
fixed once they have worked it out.  I
cook a pork curry for lunch and invite Kevin & Ruth to join us.  Late afternoon we fit in a beach visit and
return to see a couple of huge rigs coming into the park.  They are both from Quebec (seems that 90% of
the Canadians in Mexico are from Quebec) and one has “just married” on the rear
windows.  Think they must be only French
speaking, as they don’t seem to want to talk. 
In the evening a truck drives through the trailer park with bug spray
and we just manage to shut the van windows before we get fumigated.  Round off the days with a movie at



FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY – Well it may be Friday 13th
and unlucky for some but it was lucky for us as we ambled to Dreams at the end
of the beach and spent the morning using their swimming pool.  Of course to blend in we had to accept a few
of the free drinks as well!  Having
agreed a sale of Harry Steve has decided to do some thorough cleaning a bit at
a time.  Today he catches his little
finger and this causes a huge problem. 
He broke it many years ago, then re broke a few years after that and it
is now permanently swollen with now cartilage. 
It looks like he has done the same thing again today and is in great
pain with it.  Luckily he can still
manage to play Sequence when Robert & Sandra join us for the evening.



SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY – Robert & Sandra
have had their car fixed and after lunch we join them for a ride out to
Copalita, 10km down the coast.  Bocano
Copalita is a beautiful beach backed by attractive rocks and with just a small
boutique hotel behind it.  A river
divides it and after a bit of a struggle wading across we settle on the banks.  It is great fun to float in the water and
let it carry you downstream like a lazy river. 
Some local lads are having fun jumping in on the bend from the high
rocks.  In another area people are in
kayaks and a white water rafting type dingy also floats past.  Unfortunately it is a very windy afternoon
so if you are not in the water it is very uncomfortable having the sand blast
at you so we don’t stay all that long. 
It is Valentines day so 4 couples have decided to go out to dinner in
Crucecita.  We get a ride with Robert
& Sandra and Kevin & Ruth goes with Dave & Joyce.  Park in the main square by church and head
to a fish restaurant in the back streets that Dave recommends.  Whilst waiting for our meal we get
complimentary tostadas (sort of big round corn crisps) and ceviche (raw fish
marinated in lemon juice and served with onions, hot peppers and olives) to put
on top.  I’m surprised to find it is
delicious.  I have orders shrimp salad
(what Glen eating salad!) and it is a huge plate of peeled prawns with a
mayonnaise dressing and onions and red peppers so not enough of a salad to
scare me off.  Steve has the fish soup
and gets an enormous bowl of broth with squid, massive prawns, a small red
snapper and other fishy things.  
Afterwards we head to the port at Santa Cruz where Sandra has sussed out
a gem of a bar hidden behind the Pemex station.  They are all geared up for Valentines with candles on the tables
and music playing in the background.   A
nice finish to a romantic evening.



SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY – We are leaving tomorrow
so I do a bit more washing and cleaning. 
Kevin & Ruth move off mid afternoon as they don’t want to pay for
tonight and will stay on the car park. 
We head down to the beach and Robert & Sandra joins us for a few
drinks and a swim at Dreams.



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