Day 189. Tuesday, 4th February. From Balneario Ojo De Agua to San Cristobal De Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Today was to be a long driving day. Up early for a swim in the pool at Balneario Ojo De Agua. When I arrived the only other people in the water were Tim, Sarah and the kids. I climbed in slowly, as the first few yards into the water were very rocky. I seem to have very delicate feet and can’t walk on any stones or sharp surfaces.

Standing at the edge I was surrounded by small fish giving my legs a good exfoliation. Some nipped quite hard, though. It reminded me of an experience in Crete a few years ago where I paid to sit with my feet in a bowl of piranhas for an aquatic pedicure. It seemed to be all the rage!

Another 4 Mexican ladies arrived and climbed in beside me. One asked me if I spoke Spanish. I advised her I didn’t and that I was English. She obviously thought I was old and doddery and took my hand and helped me out over the rocks. She was lovely. In the centre it was sandy on the bottom. The water is moving. Either a spring or a river. It is crystal clear and a beautiful temperature.

I swam around for few minutes before returning to Poki, just in time for porridge to be cooked. Dennis went for a swim later, while I tidied up and took down the tent.

Off we set, destination San Cristobal de las Casas. We started off on a toll road and the terrain was quite low lying and flat. It was a really windy area, hence hundreds of windmills on either side of the road. Poki’s windows were open and a particularly strong gust removed Dennis’s cap. Fortunately blowing it into the Land Rover and not out the window.

Turning off the toll road we climbed up a very winding road. Pretty scenery. Once past the winding section, we caught up with Tim and Sarah, in a small village. They had pulled over for a break. Opposite us was a stall selling bags of oranges. Too big for us, they must have contained at least 50 oranges. We did buy a kilo of some other fruit. Looking like oranges but with very gnarly skins. They taste very sweet, but are pithy and full of pips.

Sarah advised there was a beautiful waterfall close by which would be a good stopping place for lunch. We crawled down the very steep entrance road. Once at the bottom we were advised it was 38 Pesos per person to park. The falls were a further 700 steps down. Sarah and Tim thought it was too much to pay just for lunch time parking. We turned around and climbed up and out.

As we reached the main road a scrub fire had started on our left hand side. It was quite scary how quickly it travelled and how the flames grew. It made one think how absolutely terrifying the recent bush fires in Australia must have been.

We stopped a couple of kilometres up the road in the shade to have lunch and wait for Tim and Sarah. They didn’t turn up, so we thought they had doubled back for gas.

Deciding to continue we headed for the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez and the Walmart there. We both needed more provisions. Tuxtla Gutierrez is the main city in Chiapas. The Chiapas region is one of the poorest in Mexico, due to the large indigenous population.

Tuxtla Gutierrez is quite a modern city. After stocking up at Walmart, there was still no sign of Tim and Sarah. We decided to look for a Telcel store as we needed to top up our wifi. Having tried 2 places unsuccessfully, we thought we had better make tracks as we still had over 60 kms to go and it was getting late.

Heading out of town we were stopped by a road block. Some sort of demonstration was taking place. This held us up as all the traffic was being diverted around small roads. Eventually we made our way out of the city and came to a junction where we could either take a toll road, or a non-toll road to San Cristobal. As it was well after 5pm and dark by 6, we picked the toll road.

A good choice as we made fast progress and just outside San Cristobal caught up with Tim and Sarah. The camp site we were aiming for was on the far side of the town. Tim had some hairy moments driving the truck through the narrow streets. Dennis had to get out and direct him through narrow spaces where cars were parked.

By now it was dark and it was a very welcoming sight as we found the gates to Rancho San Nicolas. A very nice, secure campsite. Marked out parking spaces, clean toilets and hot showers. I had to go to the office to register. Names, address, passport details, car details. We have never had to do this before. It cost 300 Pesos per night too. More than we usually pay, but worth it.

Surrounding San Cristobal is an area called “Cinturon de Miseria” (Belt of Misery). Indigenous groups have settled here after being expelled from other communities as a result of internal politico-religious conflicts.

On January, 1st 1994 a previously unknown leftist guerrilla group emerged from the forests to occupy San Cristobal and other towns in Chiapas. The Zapatista National Liberation Army wanted to overturn the oligarch’s centuries hold on power, resources and land and improve the living standards of Mexico’s indigenous people. The Mexican army overthrew them within days.

Although many supporters have become disillusioned and left the movement, it still exists. There is still the occasional skirmish, but in a break with tradition, the Zapatista movement put forward a candidate for the 2018 presidential election. This ended their 20 year rejection of Mexican politics.

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