The Oaxacan heat had left us hankering for some beach action and that’s what Puerto Escondido had on offer. Rolling into the bus station early morn after an overnighter, the list of pressing priorities included sand, surf and breakfast. A painful wait for hombre to finish sweeping and to open the cafe for breakfast leads us to conclude that running on Mexican time is a real thing. To his credit though, those floors were spotless. The heavy morning warmth and comforting scent of tortillas cooking over an open fire eased us through our next mission to what would be our arrival to the vortex.
When you book your hostel online Forest will tell ya that you never know watcha gon’ get. We’ve had a few doozys, but Vivo Escondido turned out to be a bloody fantastic HQ – incidentally writhing with Australians – but they turned out to be bloody good sorts too. And that’s about when we fell into a strict routine of pooling, beaching, reading, cerveza-ing, pancaking and beach movie-ing. Given the amount of pool time it’s a real surprise that Kim never worked out how to balance on that inflatable croc. Just down the road from Vivo was the spectacular Playa Carrizalillo, which failed to serve up any decent swell but dished us plenty playful exfoliating bodysurfing rides – leaving the lads floundering on white sands in front of an amphitheater of thatched umbrellas sheltering Americanos and Piña Coladas. We were far from the living life of working a 9-5. The sense of real, actual holiday times had sunken in and tasted muy bueno, much like the salt on the rim of our Margaritas.
Chedraui, the Mexican Walmart, deserves a special mention, first stumbling upon this beauty in Escondido. A beautiful big building full of sweet, sweet air conditioning and every kind of supermercado treat you might imagine, plus too much other stuff – you can buy a TV, Mezcal, diapers, motorbikes, quads, or tyres for your Nissan Tsuru taxi here too if you need em. I know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes, we got a loyalty card.
We took a night tour of Manieltepec Lagoon where the bioluminescent plankton are plentiful and more magical than your average Harry Potter read. Swimming in the warm, mangrove water amongst these guys produces a blue electric shimmer of light with any movement. After a 30 min boat trip in pitch black with 20 other anticipating foreigners, nothing can prepare you for the moment you see tiny mullet fishys darting in all directions, leaving trails like neon shooting stars. Flipping beautiful. The odd high jumping mullet sparking yelps from the posse of tween Danes. Even more so when the plankton get caught in the copious body hairs of Jim, lit up like a laserforce ginger christmas tree.
Clawing our way out of the vortex of Vivo we taxied past Zicatela to spend a few nights down the far end of the beach at La Punta, getting to know the Mojitos and sunsets over the ocean – both of which were excellent. Row upon row of surfy shacks and palm trees. Locals throwing shakas and silhouettes of families riding bareback horses amongst sleepy stray dogs. Fish tacos gulped as often as advertised on each chalkboard sign.
Our accomm at Casamar Suites also housed a couple of monks who spoke (wisely?) in between their sessions of pool aerobics, morning yoga, fasting and juice cleansing. The owner (an ex-organiser of NZ Outward Bound) nicknamed them Data 1 and Data 2 due to the unpronounceable length of their names. We were entertained with beach time, pool time, monk antics, hummingbirds and workers climbing and chopping the palms, retreating to our luxurious aircon when we’d had enough of the heat. That heat turned out to be even more brutal than Oaxaca and there were some stinking, sweaty nights. A shakey wakeup during our second night, a 5.4mag Mexiquake centred 20kms from us was an exciting (?) reminder we were still connected to Pacific Ring of Fire. It was time for a jaunt inland to the mountainous valleys.
Thirteen hours riding on another overnight ADO bus and our wishes had been granted. As we stepped off the bus we were welcomed with a crisp 25degC drop in temp to the cool San Cristobal de Las Casas air. A hasty unpacking of layers to cover up bare skin and jandalled toes ensued.
The yellow and terracotta hued colonial town was beautiful. Sat amidst the hills, the cobbly streets neatly packed with old Spanish buildings, bars, restaurants, and artsy craftsy spots. Our hostel, Posada Mirador (lookout) was a perfect perch overlooking the town and dangerously close to the best hole-in-the-wall rotisserie chicken and tortillas your peso can buy. The hostel put on an epic, varied, cooked, spread for us each morning to ensure we were well fuelled. Roaming around town we checked out the top sights, a refreshing collection of humble, low-key spots untainted by postcards and keyrings. Climbing too many stairs up to the San Cristobal church for another prime view. The Na Bolom Museo, a former home to a Swiss and Dane that spent their lives supporting and preserving local indigenous culture. Plus that incredible French bakery with the blue cheese pastries and apple turnovers. And then, as luck would have it, reuniting with our Aussie comrades for yarn swapping and cervezas!
Our hostel man Santiago put us onto a day trip down through the Cañón del Sumidero. Racing down the Grijalvan river in speedboats, we listened intently to our Spanish guide, picking out familiar words in our growing Español vocab banks to decipher where we were and what the heck we were looking at (a bridge, old road, 42 kilometres somewhere, big black birds??). Not any the wiser but the enormous stetches of canyon (at certain points the cliffs reach over 1000m above the river surface) spoke for themselves! As did the monkeys monkeying, the birdys perching and the big old crocs wallowing ominously in the shallows looking peckish. If our Spanish was any better we might’ve filled in chico in seat just in front on what was going on, he spent the trip looking barrel-down a selfie cam. On the return trip back to SCdLCs we stopped in at the sweltering town of Chiapa de Corzo, the state of Chiapas’ oldest colonial town. Kim played miramba with a concrete Zeferino Nandayapa and Jim got business ideas from the locals who place strips of cardboard on car windscreens to keep the interiors cool and assist in parallel parking for tips – genius.
On our return, San Cristobal put on the first fat drops of rain we’d seen in a while. Coupled with booming thunder and a dollop of lightening, it made for a welcome day inside save for a sludgy trudge to our new fave burrito haunt. Alarms set, packed and ready for a 5.00am pickup, the Immys were going jungle!
San Cristobal de Las Casas
Cañón del Sumidero