|San Cristobal de la Casas:
I left Palenque at 9:30 this morning. Marco Morales, the hotel owner gave me a ride to the bus station. He was so kind and considerate and I really appreciate all the things he did for me and the excellent tips and information on the site and what to see. I had to wait for the bus to pull into the station so I went out to the corner and found the juice vendor and bought a large orange. After I waited only a short time I was able to get on the bus. I was looking out the window and spotted the man I met at Tonina. He had come to say hello. I got off the bus and gave him a big hug. We were going in the opposite directions and he was just getting in town as I was leaving. Bummer. We said good-bye again and promised to keep in contact by e-mail, (which we did.) The road over the curvy mountains ran up one side and down the other all the while slowly descending to the valley floor. As we approached the town I could see women down at the river washing clothes on the rocks. There were signs with Zapatista advertisements written on the sides of building. This area has been the headquarters for a lot of rebellion activity in the past. I arrived in San Cristobal de la Casas at 3:00 pm, Dec 29. The taxi driver had a problem finding the hotel. I left my reservation paper at the Internet in Palenque and didn't have the address, but we searched every street and asked a lot of directions and finally made it after an hour of running around. I felt so bad about the run around I gave him 20 bucks for his time and he was happy. When we unloaded my bags I had to ring a bell to get into the hotel. I thought that was strange. It wasn't a hotel but a hostel. A young man opened the door. He was something out of the seventies, with dreg locks, a native wool poncho and sandals. That was strange too. He called for the hostel keeper. He did have my reservation, but there had been a mix up and he had given my room to another couple. He gave me a rate for one night in the dorm room with 8 others for 2.50. I couldn't beat a deal like that and paid him. I had made arrangements with the hostel owner by e-mail and he was away in Italy. The young man in charge was pleasant and helpful. He put my extra bags in a closet and I only kept out my backpack. The place had other rooms that were closed off with curtains, no doors. The kitchen had a long wooden table and I was welcome to cook for myself if I wanted. It was a little hard to find the table itself for the dishes, garbage, trash, junk, bags of leaves and seeds and roaches with a little smoke left in them laying around on the table. What had I ventured into? Everyone there was a young student from somewhere, mostly Europe and looked as if they were there for the social benefits. I was 40 years out of place. I had been in settings like that before, but not in a lodging. No wonder they kept the front door locked. I ventured out before it got too late and found an Internet and a pizza. The town was mostly one story houses or two story buildings with businesses on the first floor. The streets were cobblestone and the traffic was heavy with taxis. I walked back to the hostel and called it a night. The other 8 people, who by the way were both men and women, filtered into the bedroom at various times during the night. They were polite enough to not turn on a light to awaken the rest of the sleepers. Except for the noises from the street, the night went fairly well. The cot size bed, of course, was hard as a rock and the pillow must have seen at least four thousand heads in its time. The blanket was a warm woolen one and I had no problem with the crisp night temperature.
In the morning I tried to make myself a cup of cocoa from the bar of chocolate I bought in Ososingo, but it was bitter and didn't melt, making dregs in the bottom of the cup. I had to push the remnants of the party the night before aside to make room to sit at the table. Soon another couple came in. They were the ones that had been given my room. She was an Archaeologist teacher from Berkley, California. We chatted a short while and she told me she was interested in my trip and to e-mail her when I returned home. They had been down on a working vacation and were returning for the spring semester of school.
I finally gave up on the cocoa and went down to the end of the street where the bus station was located and found a restaurant and ordered scrambled eggs. They were served with rice and a big basket of tortillas. I asked for guacamole and was served some at no extra cost. I sat and ate my breakfast on the open-air patio of the restaurant and watched the people and cars come and go down the main street. Soon I was approached by some of the Mayan ladies that were selling the same goods as the ones in Palenque. I told them no. When the next one came by I put some of the rice on a tortilla and offered it to her. She took it and ate it. Soon I had a steady stream of ladies coming to the table. I served as many as I had rice to put on the tortillas and the last one I offered a dry tortilla. She took it and put it in her bag until she could find something to put on it. I felt so bad that they had to walk all over town trying to sell their craft goods just to get something to eat. Then most of them took the money home to give to their man, without eating. I didn't want to become so obvious to cause a scene and be mobbed by a throng of starving people but gave what I had left over to a few that I knew appreciated it. I still had the whole day to spend in San Cristobal as the bus to Oaxaca did not leave until 10 that evening. I spent most of the morning at one Internet and when I took a break to get a pizza, it had closed for the day. I walked up the street and found another one that shared its space with some sort of restaurant/bar. There were about 20 computers along one wall separated from the other room by a dividing wall. I spent the afternoon there. The Internet was slow, but I managed to get a good deal of pictures uploaded. I went back to the hostel and sat and watched a movie with some of the other guests. It was in Spanish, with no subtitles. When it was time to go the bus station I had them call a taxi and down to the station we went. I had to have my bags loaded on a big dolly just to get them into the bus station and I stood at the check in counter for over an hour until I could check them onto the bus. Needless to say, while I was in Palenque I repacked the bags and reduced the huge bag by half the size. I didn't have any more problems the rest of the trip with excess baggage until I reached McAllen, Texas. More later, Gay