The language classes in San Cristobal were a success! After spending most of a week there, we headed “downhill” to Ocosingo and onward to Palenque. The trek took five days, although we could have easily done it in half the time. We saw two different Mayan ruin sites and made it past a road-block protest. However, Daisy took her turn at being sick.
The Spanish lessons were well worth the time and cost. In case you’re wondering, it is relatively inexpensive – for US standards. I signed up for 15 hours of group class over 5 days, and the total was M$1320, or US$90. I had a class size of 1 or 2, and had two very different but both knowledgeable instructors. I enjoyed the opportunity to practice speaking — and I’m sure Daisy enjoyed the break from giving the lessons herself!
So what did Daisy do during the week? Yes, she was busy too. The first couple days she took care of our hostel choice and related things while I was still sick. Then, she finished a final(?) draft of a paper. Impressive, no? All this while sipping coffee along the pedestrian streets and people-watching! It was strange to see the many, many tourists wandering around in hippy-style clothing. We called them the ‘raggedy-baggedies’ since they reminded us of the alternative-living-surfer-dudes that we saw in Tofino, British Columbia. The mornings were for studying and work, and the afternoons for recovering and wandering the streets or going to museums.
When it came time, we were very excited to get back on the bikes and out of town. However, it was then Daisy’s turn for gastrointestinal distress. On day 1 out of San Cristobal we made it about half way to our intended destination – through a lot of up hill, menacing dogs, and way way too many speed bumps! We stopped in a town of 40 thousand-plus people, which was (of course!) in the middle of a large fiesta. After a bit of asking around (and difficult navigation) we arrived at the other side of the fiesta and finally found the two small hotels. Unfortunately, there was only one room available. It had dirty sheets, no electricity, and no hot water in the shared bathroom. There wasn’t even space for the bikes! After an unintentional detour on a dirt track to get back to the highway, we collapsed at the local medical center and they allowed us to camp there. It was a night filled with typical fiesta sounds, but we were tucked away safely.
On day 2 we made it to Ocosingo (no uphill actually…) and got Daisy parked in a hotel to help her feel better. I spent a few hours in the afternoon taking a collective bus out to the ruins of Toniná. They were great – 7 terraces of buildings and pyramids built up and into a hillside. You were allowed to wander wherever you wanted. I even made a few Mexican friends!
On day 3 we thought we were going to leave Ocosingo, but soon found out we weren’t going to make it anywhere. We left our hotel and biked about a mile to a large grocery store. From there we went up a couple steep hills on our way to the edge of town. Daisy was really feeling the stomach pain, so we decided to stop. I checked out the nearby hotels, which were all more expensive than the one from the previous night. We limped back to our hotel and were happy to move back in before they got the chance to clean our room! The internet was functional there — until the power went out for the whole town. We spent all afternoon and evening reading our kindles in the dark.
On day 4 we successfully exited town. Part-way through the day’s ride we ran into a looong line of parked cars. Immediately we wondered if there was a road-block ahead, as there was when we left Oaxaca. Sure enough, there was! The reason for the protest was that the Mexican government has taken Agua Azul out of the hands of the locals, so they are no longer getting the tourist revenue. In any case, we were able to barely sneak through. As we walked through the barricade, one guy was stopping us but a few others told him to let us through. Whew. The good news was that the traffic was really light afterwards! We decided to skip Agua Azul, and head on to Misol-Ha, another waterfall in the area.
On Christmas Eve (day 5) we arrived in the tourist town of Palenque. It was bustling! We did our food shopping, and then went to the hippie-ish enclave of hotel/hostels called El Panchan on the road to the ruins. We got the last room at the Jungle Palace. Although we didn’t see any monkeys, we sure got our share of jungle rain! We spent that afternoon at Palenque viewing many, many pyramids and other structures. The tourist load was a bit lighter than usual, but the stone staircases were definitely a bit more treacherous! The sheer number of ruins (and Mexicans hawking their wares) was very impressive.
Next up: the rush to Merida and visiting there with Daisy’s parents for a week.