Page 10: The End of our Cycling
Tour, February 16 - 18
On February 16, early in the the
morning after our arrival near Bonompak, Wally lay awake brooding
about our next move. We were in agreement that we should not ride
the bikes farther along our planned route. The failure of our
blown-out, patched tire was certain, with no replacement at all,
and we might be stranded in areas with sketchy public transportation.
Barbara did not want to skip Las
Guacamayas and Las Nubes in the Lacondon jungle. However, Wally
was worried that it might be difficult, and would certainly be
a lot of hassle, to travel for several days with bikes we couldn't
ride four big panniers and 2 more rack bags.
Finally we agreed (amicably) to
give up and return to Palenque by van. We were able to cycle a
few kilometers back to the main road and flag down a combi. The
bikes went on the roof (left).
The ride back to Palenque in a
van with the driver, 12 adults and two children, was really wild;
the driver was a speed demon. We made it back safely in time to
catch a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas.
The road from Palenque to San Cristobal
is incredibly hilly, twisty, and stunningly beautiful. Our bus
ride was marked by one long drawn-out event. Just before Agua
Azul, we ran into a Zapatista roadblock. Actually we ran into
a very long line of buses, cars and trucks and were stuck for
nearly an hour. None of the Mexicans seemed the least bit concerned.
We saw a few Zapatistas in non-descript, vaguely military uniforms
strolling up and down the long line of vehicles, mostly smiling
and chatting. Eventually we walked up the line ourselves to see
the actual roadblock. As we approached, we noticed lots of chickens
being grilled by the side of the road. Just as we passed the Agua
Azul turnoff, everyone started rushing back to their vehicles.
The roadblock was being lifted, and we were moving on.
I had wanted to photograph the
roadblock. I don't think the Zapatistas mind a little publicity,
but I was able to get only one vague shot out the dirty window
of the bus (right). At the roadblock, we saw just one Zapatista
man with a gun all the others were unarmed, but we suppose
someone needed a gun in order to stop traffic in the first place!
We went by too fast for a photo of him, which may have been just
as well. As we passed through, we noticed that all the grilled
chickens were gone. Perhaps when the food ran out, the Zapatistas
decided it was time to call it a day.
Before dark we arrived in San Cristobal
de las Casas. It's a beautiful town, popular with travelers, high
enough in the mountains to be chilly at night, and sometimes even
in the daytime in winter. It's a wonderful town for walking. One
day we got quite far away from the main tourist areas, and we
were pleasantly surprised to see that San Cristobal, everywhere,
is one of the neatest, cleanest towns we have ever visited.
Left, heading away from the historic
center. Below left, Avenida Real Guadelupe, in the heart
of the popular tourist area. We stayed at the inexpensive
Posada San Antonio on this street basic but clean,
with a nice staff, wireless internet, and the best shower
we've enjoyed in weeks! Below right, the same street on
the night of the full moon.
We called on Rod Alfonso
and his wife Hileana, the son and daughter-in-law of a
friend from Woodstock, Vermont. They operate The Kitsch
& Bagel, a popular restaurant, and La Posada del Abuelito,
a little hotel.
In fact, we'd aimed to stay at their posada
when we arrived in town, but we had only the address of their
restaurant, and it happened to be closed and getting dark. Anyway,
we met Hileana at the Kitsch & Bagel the next day, and she
and Rod kindly agreed to store our bikes until April.
We had a day to kill, waiting for our overnight
bus, and Barbara went on one of her very infrequent shopping
sprees. It was the right thing to do, because San Cristobal has
wonderful arts and crafts. Below left, Barbara prowling through
the famous crafts market at Ex Convento Santo Domingo.
Right, a woman in the market works on
the beautiful embroidery for which Chiapas is known.
We enjoyed San Cristobal so much that we'll
try to spend a little time there when we come back for the bikes,
and we hope next time to stay at Rod and Hileana's posada. Below,
the cathedral at San Cristobal in the evening.
As a bike tour, this was only partly successful,
because the tour ended about a one week and a couple of hundred
miles sooner than we had planned. However, we saw some wonderful
places. And the end of our cycling was by no means the end of
our trip. We left San Cristobal on Friday evening, February 18,
on the overnight bus to Pochutla, Oaxaca. Arriving a week early
at the beach consoled us for the things we missed.
On the next few pages, we'll show our favorite
hangout on the Oaxaca coast, then some more traveling around San Cristobal, and finally a visit to Isla Mujeres, just off the
coast by Cancun.
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