A Travellerspoint blog

June 2015

Stomach Bugs, Ruins & a MASSIVE Electrical Storm In-Between

Our time in San Cristobal De Las Casas and Merida


View Central & South America on chellebelle's travel map.

We survived our first overnight bus. The driver drove like a maniac and took the corners way to tight but we managed to get us to San Cristobal an hour early…Which wasn’t so great for Lewis and his sore stomach but he made it ☺ We explored the streets at sunrise as we dawdled to our hostel where we had a private room waiting. The place was simple but great as it had everything we could possibly need and a decent breakfast. The first thing you notice when you start travelling for a bit on a budget is that free breakfasts are a luxury you try to look for at every place you stay. They also had an extremely old dog, which would bark when it got lonely every morning and needed a pat.

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We decided to go and see the indigenous villages for the day. I had done some research about them and had heard a lot of mixed reviews. I had also heard the guy that our hostel used was really respectful and full of information. Our guide was from a small village further up in the hills and knew a lot about the villages. We started at San Juan Chemual, a Mayan village famous for it’s church and the chicken sacrifices that occur in it. We started with exploring the streets and understanding how the town runs. Basically it runs like a collective…every villager has to play his or her part in some form. If they don’t they have a penalty (about 300 MXP (26NZD)), which they have to pay to the village. Unfortunately everyone playing a part includes the children, this means that children getting a education doesn’t really happen in Chiapas and the Mayan villages there. It is said when you consider this as there really is no way for the town to go forward and get themselves out of cycle they are in without it. The ladies of the village still wear there thick woolen skirts made from their pet sheep. Sheep are pets in the village and are considered valuable due to them giving wool and milk and so are not killed for meat but are considered highly prized by the family. As you maybe aware the Mayans don’t like their photos being taken as they believe that when a photo is taken a piece of their soul is taken with it.

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After walking around and seeing the altars in people’s houses where they pray three times a day we headed to the church in the main square. We walked in and the floor is covered in pine needles. The church was made at the time to combine Mayan beliefs with Catholic beliefs. It is an odd blend. There are saints all along the wall but at the same time there are also pine needles on the ground. One of the most famous rituals in the church involves sacrificing a chicken and drinking eggs. The ritual is done by an individual that is sick or the individual’s family over numerous days. The day we visited there was a family completing these prayers and the ritual but they were too poor to afford the chicken so just had eggs. It was lucky/unlucky for us we didn’t get to witness the sacrifice.
We sat in the square outside the church in our free time to observe other tourist groups in this area and how the Mayan’s interacted. Every time a group came in they ran over and forcefully tried to get them to purchase there wares (most were hand sewn bracelets and shawls). Somehow we blended in enough that they left us alone. The groups literally went into the church and then left they didn’t walk through the town and explore like we did.
We also saw a funeral procession on the way to the church. A band led them down and two trucks followed, full of pine, flowers and other things considered important to the rituals that occur with death. We also saw houses being built. They were full of timber holding up the concrete on the housing sites.

We left to our next village famous for flowers. We stopped at a small weavers studio and watched a lady weave, her hands knew how to complete the weave that she could complete this without focusing on what she was doing.
I also brought a scarf as they feed us tortilla’s for lunch with refried beans in their kitchen. A typical kitchen is a open fire with a plate on it. The plate has a limestone coating to stop things sticking. There were a couple urns filled with water and beans near the fire to keep them warm. The kitchen was smoky and dark even with the small window. Our guide explained that this would be most peoples lunch and that they would eat about 20 tortillas if they were a grown man.

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We visited the villages church here as well. There were flowers everywhere inside. The church compared to in San Juan was a lot less lavish and small in comparison.
We arrived back to our hostel and chilled, as Lewis was still exhausted from his stomach bug.

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The next day we had plans to visit the Sudimero Canyon. Sadly this did not come to fruition as I came down with a stomach bug and was stuck in our room all day. It was a long 24hours and to be honest even the next day I was weak and could only just make it down the road. On of the other guests had recommended that we eat Papaya seeds. The reasoning behind this was that they are known to kill parasites. Lewis and I, both desperate gave this a go the next morning. We both still had sensitive stomachs but had no reverse effects from the seeds. We did manage to look around a little of San Cristobal. The amount of children begging and selling there things was really sad. It really highlighted the problems in the community. The problem is that I don't really see how they will get out of this cycle as education is not encouraged at all in the region. It seems that there will have to be big changes to cause a social change in the region.

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We finally made it to Sudimero Canyon on our final day in San Cristobal. Once we were in the van the driver explained that the day before their had been protests and the van had been delayed for hours coming back home…not what we wanted to hear when we had a bust to catch in the early evening. We arrived at the Canyon…to be honest it was quite the touristy operation and got into a boat. Then we headed up the river for the next two hours. It was beautiful and definitely not something I expected to see in Mexico! We saw alligators, monkeys and numerous birds along the ways as we rode between the HUGE cliffs on either side. It really was beautiful. The further up we got the more we could see the results of humans. There was plastic bottles all through the river. Mexico really does have a problem with it’s rubbish; it is everywhere! Driving it is all over the road and even walking the street there is rubbish everywhere. It is really sad.

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Thankfully we got back in time as there were no protests on the main road that day. Our overnight bus was meant to be 12 hours..instead we were in for 16 hours straight on a bus! We ended up diverting as the road to Palenque was closed due to a protest. We also managed to go through the biggest electrical storm I have ever seen. The bus managed to go over landslips and fallen trees on a thin and extremely windy road. I have no idea how the driver managed to see as he continued to go through the downpour.
We arrived in Merida to 34degree heat and it was only 10am. We had organised to go on a tour with our host, Neal to the Mayapan Ruins, swimming in Kankirixche cenote and then a Hacienda Ochil for lunch.

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The ruins were hot! Lewis and I ended up hiding under a tree after about 30mins. We pretty much had the ruins to ourselves which was awesome to explore. Neal explained how the ruins would have been different at the time, brightly coloured and smooth. We then headed off to a cenote to cool off. You honestly wouldn’t notice it was a cenote when you looked for a distance. Neal explained that you can find them based on the area that has the best looking trees around. A large family was there for the day, which was pretty awesome. The water was cold and it was so dark going down the dodgy looking stairs. The water was refreshing and just perfect. I don’t think we could have asked for a better way to cool off. The birds were flying around above us, gathering to make there nests.

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We finished our day with a trip to the Hacienda Ochil to have lunch. We both opted for simple dishes of moletos (fried tacos stuffed with beans and covered with lettuce and chicken) and Lewis, thin pork with salad. After battling with the flies to see who could eat our meal first. They were everywhere! The ranch had an Amphitheatre built on top of a cenote which was awesome.

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That evening after watching the sunset from the roof of the house we sat in the main square of Merida eating ice cream and relaxing. It was a awesome place with the locals of all ages corrugating in the area and enjoying the evening…this varied from young people co-noodling to oldies playing games and the ladies gossiping.

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The next day we spent most of it in the pool and explored the famous Reforma in Merida. The street is full of old mansions from Merida’s hay-day. It was amazing to see. A lot of American’s are now buying these old properties and doing them up. You can see already the rise in American’s in the city. The reason being was that alcohol was not allowed to be purchased or served for the next 48 hours, as it was the election. The election had made the town quiet and somber, especially considering it was a weekend.
Merida was our first really hot city (34 degrees with high humidity), it had so many gorgeous run down houses. You can see it is definitely a American retirement area. Lets hope this doesn’t ruin the charm of the area and destroy the city as it currently is.

Posted by chellebelle 10:36 Archived in Mexico Tagged animals monkeys bus storm san cristobal merida delays sudimero Comments (1)

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