Making our way to San Cristóbal de las Casas
Palenque to Toniná
We had been warned that Highway 199 south of Palenque was pretty rough. I suppose if we were driving our Jeep it wouldn't have been that bad. But our motorhome rolled, rocked, lurched and crunched over the unavoidable potholes, bazillion topes (speed bumps), and pavement that dropped unexpectedly to the side or in the middle or completely across the road. It took us over 5 hours to go 120 km. The topes here are also not the rolling kind. They are the straight up, concrete, break your axle kind.
These topes require a full stop, slow speed over the front tires and a full stop again before the back axle makes it over. What else does this mean?? This also means that any entrepreneurial man, woman or child will likely be standing right in the middle of the road, on the tope, trying to sell: bananas, pineapples, peeled oranges, popcorn, shirts, shawls, CocaCola ... you name it and they sell it. Occasionally you'll also see a small makeshift tienda (store) or little cookery grilling chicken. Right on the side of the road, hoping people slow down long enough to see what they are selling. We've bought bananas, pineapples, popcorn and a few other things along the way. Such service!!
After an intense drive, we were happy to see a massive rainbow greeting us as we rolled in to the campsite at the Toniná ruins. These ruins were, once again, very different from of the others that we had seen. Instead of a complex of buildings separated by grassy areas, this ruin was one huge, interconnected pyramid that rose up like a mountain. What is unique about Toniná are the intact plaster murals depicting various events of the time. We had the site to ourselves for almost an hour; however, this site is not nearly as visited as many others. Too bad as it is in a beatiful setting with wonderful views of the valley below.
Toniná to San Cristóbal de las Casas
As with the drive to Toniná, Highway 199 proved to be another day of white knuckling. But, the payoff was arriving in San Cristóbal to reconnect with our travelling mates, Jan and Dave. They have been in SCdlC since December 17 and have had a series of chest colds and other ailments that have laid them low. Fortunately they were feeling much better and awaited our arrival; they treated us to a lovely reunion dinner that evening in town.
San Cristóbal de las Casas, affectionately called just San Cristóbal, is at over 7000 feet in elevation. Since we were recently at almost sea level and 30+C, we've had mostly hot and very humid weather. Until now. San Cristóbal is cool, clear, crisp. Ok, it's cold, not cool. Our rig was 9C in the morning ... yes, we did fire up the furnace and put on our woollies. We are not the roughing it kinda campers. And, somehow showering in a building with no heat loses its charm, even with a tank full of wonderfully hot water.
Since it was cold, drizzly and generally a climate that was much like home, we decided to cut short our time here. I got a chance to visit a number of museums (Amber, Cocao, and Fabric) while Victor stayed back at the rig playing music with Dave and Jan. This town is full of young people from all over the world. We heard a great deal of Italian being spoken and were surprised by the number of tourists walking the two pedestrian streets. It is a beautiful city and I'd like to return someday when the city's temperatures are a bit warmer and stay in the centre of the city. There is just too much to see to not come back!
Emails from home asked us about recent protests and roadblocks on Highway 199. There have been protests in Chiapas for quite a few years and they are legitimate. The people in the southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca are very, very poor, and the living standards are terrible. We were already warned about the possibility of a blockade, like the one that we were stopped at before, but didn't see anything at all. They are protesting intermittently and mostly want the media attention
Instead of protests, we had a cute experience recently at an army checkpoint. They look for drugs, guns etc., and they occur frequently along the roadways. We are quite used to them now. The young guy who flagged us out of the line and pulled us over must have been all of 17 years. He had a great big smile and was REALLY curious about our rig. Apparently there haven't been many rigs our size through Chiapas or Oaxaca states for some time. Most people are in VW vans and similar. So, he wanted a good look and kept saying how beautiful it was ... poor kid likely lives in a 2-room house with 20 family members ... outdoor plumbing. And here we are travelling with our own toilet, fridge, stove ... all of the comforts of home. He was most impressed and patted Victor on the back and wished us a safe and good trip. We are so very blessed in Canada in terms of comfort, aren't we.