A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015

Guerrillas and graffiti...

San Cristobal is quiet, but not silenced

sunny 20 °C

We have friends who travelled in Chiapas during the time of the Zapatista uprising, and subsequent tensions in the 90s, and they all felt the same unease being in this area at that time. Twenty years later, the issues that caused the uprising have not changed, and while things appear calm on the surface through the eyes of a non-Spanish-speaking tourist, it is obvious that political unrest still runs very deep. The city is filled with political messages and street art; rallies and speeches in front of the Governor's Palace, and a palpable anger over the ongoing corruption and social injustice, especially toward the indigenous people. Mexicans may have a lot to fear over personal repurcussions from the government and military, but here, as in Oaxaca, we saw signs of rebellion and outspokenness from a population that has had enough.

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This reference to Zapata, and to continuing the fight, is painted on a wall by artist Cesar Corrizo, a professor, cartoonist, and social historian from Tucaman, Argentina. The date would indicate this was painted less than a month ago.

I became fascinated with graffiti and street art last year travelling in Italy with Imogene, who is an anthropology professor at VIU. Since then, it has become a thrill to discover the gems hidden between the bloated tags and profane scribbles. The following are some of my favourites - if they are political, their messages are lost on me, but I appreciate their value to the street.

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The ad on the truck below is from the Green Party, and those issues - environmental degradation, educational access, prison reform and circuses without animals - are not so different from the ones faced by many democratic countries .

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Politics aside, there is plenty of street art that is either decorative or whimsical.

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Art exists in San Cristobal in many forms, and these are some of my favourites:

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Twig wall sculpture (would like to try at home)

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Indigenous textiles in market


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inviting museum walkway

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Modern textiles in shop

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pastry shop - organic coffee, organic decor, great music, awesome pain au chocolat

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more modern textiles, and pretty shop entrance

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my favourite - patient husband waiting, with crumbling wall as photogenic background

Our last two days here have been chock-full. We visited an ecological reserve called Moxviquil on the edge of town, and took a 2.2. km. walk up into their forest reserve. Among the many interesting sights were "nurse" cactus and epiphytes, which are non-parasitic plants that attach themselves to trees for support, but derive their food and water from the air and rain. I had never seen anything like them before. The hike took us high above the town, and at times felt just like a walk in the woods back home - so peaceful.
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Composting toilets were a picturesque and welcome addition

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Many plants were identified in both Spanish and English. This one, stonecrop - promised to cure coldsores. I was tempted to sneak a piece. I've been plagued with coldsores (or sun blisters) for much of our trip.


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Since Chiapas has become an incredible coffee-producing area, (and the coffee is fantastic here), we were very interested in visiting the Museo del Cafe. Without getting into the many layers of complexity surrounding coffee growing and production, fair and direct trade, sun and shade grown, and the ongoing poor treatment of the mainly indigenous farmers that produce the majority of the beans - that would require pages of information about which I know very little. Whew! Our friend Dave, whose work with his tourism students with coffee producers in Costa Rica, knows all about this challenging issue, and I look forward to a more informed discussion with him at some point.

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This small museum was very informative, with an emphasis on how the early history of miserable working conditions has only slightly improved. While workers are no longer slaves, the financial return to them for their labours remains low.

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Plying workers with alcohol to make them compliant is no longer in practice.

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This haunting image tells a story of beatings, intimidation, hellish working conditions with little food and water and overcrowded sleeping barracks.

To sum up, San Cristobal wears its hurtful history and ongoing struggles just as prominently as it wears its natural beauty. This is a city that makes you think and feel deeply. Lots to digest with this one - I look forward to reading a great deal once we're home.

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One of the exhibits from the fabulous textile museum. These are very traditional examples, but the spinning, dying, and weaving remain of critical importance to the area. From the roots of the indigenous weaving comes a new generation of young weavers - same techniques and more modern patterns

We leave tomorrow and were heading to the ruins of Palenque, but the weather is about to take a turn for the next few days, so we're changing course and driving to Campeche, on the Gulf coast instead. We'll catch up with Palenque and the rest of Chiapas after we swing up the Yucatan and down again.

Posted by millerburr 13:46 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

What poverty looks like in Chiapas:

meeting Mexico's second-class citizens

semi-overcast 22 °C

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Me again - such a big day I had to write down all my thoughts and impressions and pass them along.

We booked a tour to visit two indigenous villages close to San Cristobal, and again, my preconceived ideas were blown out of the water. Based on indigenous villages we had visited near Oaxaca a few years ago, I imagined picturesque towns, filled with weaving studios, and markets and shops operated with dignity and self-possession. Our group included an American woman, a couple from the U.K., another from France, and two young Chinese women. We were extremely lucky to have Adolpho as our guide. He spoke passionately about his country's troubles - the government corruption, the appalling education system, the brutality of the police and military, the oppression of free speech, and the anguish of his people having to live with such social injustice. Adolpho was born in Mexico City, has lived in Europe and travelled throughout North America, and has returned with mixed emotions to live in his country.

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There are 68 languages in Mexico, and locally, 10 Mayan languages - each distinct from the other and from Spanish. We were to visit two indigenous villages, Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula - both populated by the Tzotzil people. Because of their proximity to San Cristobal, they receive a lot of tourists, and the government has applied a small entrance fee to both villages, and not one peso goes back to the community. Enroute to the first village, Adolpho told us about the criminal treatment of his country's indigenous people, not only by the government, which has intimidated and robbed them (hence the Zapatista uprising in the 90s), but by their own countrymen. Fellow Mexicans look down on them, considering them dirty and "sellers of chewing gum".

Adolpho explained that 55 million Mexicans live in poverty. The minimum wage is the equivalent of $5.18 US a day - what Stephen and I paid today for two coffees and pastries. Twenty-two million live in what is considered "extreme poverty", which means they don't have enough to eat. The indigenous Mexicans fall largely into the latter group. While school is considered mandatory in Mexico, attendance is not enforced. Further to that, families are required to buy uniforms and books in order for their children to attend, and these are luxuries that are beyond the reach for many Mexicans. As a result, many children stay home and work with their parents - selling trinkets on the street, or shining shoes, or selling Chiclets. The little girl in the top picture is one of millions of Mexican children whose future is bleak - at age 7 or 8, she already knows how to say "What's your name?", and " very good price". LIfe is earned one peso at a time, and it's never enough.

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As soon as our van landed in Zinacantan, we were beset by groups of kids saying,"photo", "photo". They pose with you for 10 pesos (less than 1 dollar), and if we felt uncomfortable with the contrived photo op, Adolpho set us straight - this is a profitable revenue stream for them. Their "costumes" are in fact not costumes at all - these are their traditional, everyday clothing and each indigenous group has variations. We were told that purple is the "in" colour this year. This family appeared to have a little more comfort than many of the other villagers we saw.

The protocol around taking photos is very unequivocal - If you take a photo inside a church in these villages, you will be put in jail (probably after you are first beaten).

Taking photos of the exterior of churches and of the towns is acceptable, and if people happen to be caught in the middle, that is fine too. But, as Adolpho pointed out, nobody appreciates having a camera pointed at them (unless you have asked, and possibly paid for that privilege) - it is as rude here as anywhere. Common sense and respect go a long way.

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The pristine white church in Zinacantan was simple inside - filled with flowers. This is a massive flower growing area, and no surprise - the calla lilies we pay a few dollars for at home earn the grower a few pennies a piece.

Next stop was a weaving cooperative where a number of women sell their wares. We watched this woman demonstrate how she weaves, with this simple hand-held loom.

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We were ushered into a back room for our lunch. Two girls made fresh tortillas in front of us, while another woman cooked them on the tortilla grill, and we were invited to eat as many as we liked - topped with fresh cheese, beans, sauce and a tasty powder made from pumpkin.

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From there, we drove to San Juan Chamula. Adolpho gave us a little background on these folks, whom he describes as "tough". Over the years, they have resisted both the Spanish invasion, and the "justice" of the Mexican police and government. Their religious practices are unique, their drinking habits prodigious, and as Adolpho said, "you don't want to mess with Chamulans." Duly noted. As we drove into town, it felt like we were going back in time by 200 years.

First stop - the church. Incredible inside - it is as much a healing centre as a church - the floor is covered in pine boughs, and families kneeling on the floor in front of candles - some silent, some chanting - all of them praying for a sick family member. Apparently, it is colour-coded - all white candles indicate nothing too serious; a number of coloured candles suggests more complications; and a great quantity of candles requires divine intervention. Candles on the floor are asking for favours from God - candles on the tables are giving thanks.

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Last stop - the graveyard. Chamulans don't go in for the extravagant cemeteries, nor for the Day of the Dead celebrations found in most of Mexico. This simple cemetery had sheep grazing on one side, and an abandoned church in the centre.

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Yesterday afternoon, we went over to the Na Bolom Museum, and as luck would have it, arrived in time for a guided tour. In this case, and in the case of our trip today, our guides made 1000 percent difference in our experience and understanding. This house belonged to Trudy and Frans Blom, whose combined archaeological, anthropological and photographic talents are showcased.

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Trudy spoke seven languages before leaving Europe, then learned six Mayan languages during her life here, and she took over 55,000 photos of the Mayan people - most of them entirely unique, as she developed a rare trust that few outsiders attained. She and Frans lived a bohemian life, counting Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Trotsky among their many friends. Frans died in his seventies; his bohemian life having caught up with him. Trudy lived into her early 90s - an activist until the end.

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portraits of Trudy and Frans

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One of Trudy's dear friends - the wife of Emilio Zapata

This couple lived in Chiapas for decades and devoted themselves to the protection of the Mayan people, in particular the Lacadon people. They were instrumental in helping to slow down rampant clear-cutting of the jungle, and although they are both deceased, their property exists to continue on with their work. Scholars and volunteers come from all over the world to study the Mayan culture and languages. Indigenous families are housed and fed free of charge while in San Cristobal for medical treatments. A massive garden surrounds the many buildings, and a library of thousands of books and papers is available for students. This appears over the door to the library: roughly translated: Knowledge is necessary for peace and dignity

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So much to think about - way too much to fit into a blog post. A few days ago, when Stephen and I were stopped at a light on our way to the canyon, I heard this death rattle beside me, and looked up to see an ancient old man with sightless eyes, begging for a few coins. For some reason, he scared me and I was paralyzed - I just stared at him, then the light changed, and we drove away. I can't stop thinking about him. At times the sheer number of people with their hands out is simply overwhelming. The level of truly dire poverty here is the worst we've encountered so far, and for every peso you give, you could be giving 100 more. We can only hope that the money we leave here is better than if we did not come here at all.

Much, much more to come in a couple of days...thanks for bearing witness with me.

Posted by millerburr 18:31 Archived in Mexico Comments (7)

San Cristobal: kicking my preconceived ideas to the curb

sunny 24 °C

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This is San Cristobal de las Casas. Graffiti by noted street artist Kram

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And so is this. Typical street view

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And so is this. Nescafe in Mexico is (almost) a thing of the past. Artesan coffee roaster using local beans

We came to San Cristobal with great anticipation and very little prior knowledge. Everyone we spoke to who has been here has LOVED it - this may be the only Mexican destination that is unanimously revered. Here's what I pictured in my mind:
a) largely indigenous people
b) no cameras allowed ( natives feel their souls will be stolen)
c) respectful attire only ( no shorts, tank tops, flip-flops)
d) hilly, chilly, photogenic
e) conservative - the "old" Mexico

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Here's what we've discovered so far:
a) indigenous yes (there are 10 distinct Mayan languages and cultures), but there is a broad mix of people who live and travel here.
b) cameras allowed everywhere but inside churches. If you wish to take a picture of someone, be respectful and ask first - it will likely be yours, for a fee.
c) tourists wear almost anything, but flip-flops can be dangerous on these streets and sidewalks.
d) it is hilly, a bit chilly (23 degrees during the day, 12 - 14 at night), and very photogenic
e) the "old" Mexico is being enhanced by a generation of savvy entrepreneurs

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An international beer shop that moves far beyond Corona and Modelo

One delightful development in San Cristobal over recent years has been an explosion of specialty food shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. For every tourist-trap restaurant with laminated menus and sidewalk hawkers, there are several more that have taken the local, organic, "your chicken's name is Colin" approach to a whole new level. Thanks to Tripadvisor's #1 suggestion, we headed to Frontera for lunch, and ordered coffee and sandwiches. The sandwiches arrived on wooden boards - house-baked bagels with our fillings, garnished with fresh cream cheese and julienned carrots. Coffee arrived with instructions - 2 white mugs, a French press and a card notifying us that our selection was "produced in Campesinos Ecologicos in the Sierre Madre de Chiapas at 1200 - 1700 feet, its origin Jaltenango, Siltepec, and with notes of citrus, nut, caramel and chocolate".

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Frontera is one of three businesses housed in an old farmhouse-style building - thick walls, heavy beams, interior courtyard.

Our first day here was spent wandering the city and trying not to have too much of an agenda. We're here for 6 days, so we have plenty of time to see the sights - sometimes the most memorable experiences are the serendipitous ones. It's possible I could have gone my whole life without holding a tarantula, but now that one's been scratched off the list. We walked by a young man who was letting people know about the insect museum around the corner, and he had a big, hairy Chilean Rose tarantula as his crowd-grabber. When I asked if I could touch it, he cautioned against trying to "pet" it, as it would get agitated, but he offered to put it on my flat palm. I can't tell you what it was like, as I had my eyes closed the entire time.

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It is possible to walk for hours - the city unfolds in front of you, and no matter what street you choose to walk down (or up), there will be lots to look at.
There are two pedestrian-only streets , and quite naturally, they have the biggest concentration of shops and restaurants.

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The streets here are unbelievably narrow, and most are one-way, with "UNO" at each intersection (each car slows down and takes their turn). The modus operandi for drivers in San Cris is to hurtle madly from intersection to intersection. The modus operandi for pedestrians is to stay alert and stay alive.
This is an example of a typical street - to make matters more challenging, people will pull their cars up on the sidewalks as temporary parking spots, allowing just enough space for another car to squeeze by.
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Chiapas has an incredibly varied and dramatic natural landscape, and there is so much to see within driving distance of San Cristobal, so we planned a couple of day trips, and will save the big sights like Palenque and some of the jungle tours for after we leave. Yesterday, we drove out to the Sumidero Canyon, about 45 minutes from here. The Sumidero Canyon is very narrow and dramatic, with some cliffs reaching over 1000 feet.

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Small boats take passengers up the 13-km. waterway, for a 2-hour trip that included sightings of many kinds of birds, howler monkeys and crocodiles. It was amazing - we saw them all. I tried to get photos of the monkeys, but they got lost in the trees. Our guide stopped the boat at a number of places, so we could observe them. The birds flapped and posed for us,and the crocodiles did very little, which I guess is a good thing. We saw a number of adults and a few youngsters, but they were so small, they didn't show up against the rocks in a photo.

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These birds are called zopilote - they are a type of vulture, and typically, they congregate in large groups. As bird life goes, this looks rather bleak - hanging out on a sun-baked river bank.

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We also saw a rock formation that is known as Arbol de Navidad (Christmas tree) - formed over time by an overhead waterfall. As our guide pulled us up close, we felt the light mist coming down from hundreds of feet above.

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We're off to a village tour today - this time we're going with an English-speaking guide, and we will have an opportunity to see a lot more and learn a lot more than if we just drove there on our own. So much more to tell you about - the churches, the markets, the museums, the textiles, the street art, the presence of the Zapatistas, the ongoing protests - so many stories. I'll get another blog about San Cristobal and area out in a couple of days.

While we have been in Mexico, we've had the great joy of seeing the crescent moon upside down, like a smile, rather than as we view it at home, on its side. It has something to do with our southern location - maybe one of you knows why? Stephen took this shot from the end of our street.
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Posted by millerburr 05:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (6)

Lifting the Curtain on Huatulco

sunny 34 °C

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This is the reason we needed to get off the road for a while. We're halfway through our travels, and had reached that point where we just had to stop. Stop driving, eat nice food, drink cold beer, float on our backs in the ocean and have afternoon naps in the shade. Huatulco has provided us with all of that and more. After our disappointing stay in Puerto Escondido, we splurged a tiny bit, and treated ourselves to 6 nights in a decent hotel. We had scoured the internet for options, and ended up "stalking" our friends who were staying here at Villa Blanca for a 2-week vacation. This place was just exactly what we needed - well-run with very friendly staff, spotlessly clean, each room the size of a Vancouver studio apartment, huge buffet breakfast, large pool and garden area, and access to a beach club about a 10-minute walk away. Super comfy bed, air-conditioning, equipped with a fridge and a coffee-maker - priceless.

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The pool area and dining room were natural meeting places for guests, and it was a very convivial place. Guests came from all over Canada and the U.S., but it was the French-Canadians who brought the party, with their "bais-oui's" and their cigarettes and their slightly disconcerting swimwear. Lots of fun.

When we were planning our trip, we set a daily budget of $100 that would cover accommodation, gas and food, and we have managed to stick to that number. The quality of our accommodation varies, depending upon where we are in Mexico, but we try to find places that are under $50 a night. This hotel is $65 a night, and was worth every extra peso. We are completely relaxed, and here are the shots of us at the beach club to prove it.

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Huatulco is hard to wrap your head around, because there isn't actually a town called Huatulco; rather it is a set of nine bays, centred around the small towns of La Crucecita, Santa Cruz and several new developments. Huatulco was a coffee-growing area and fishing village until it was selected in the mid-80s by the Mexican government sector called FONATUR for tourism development. And, similar to what happened in Cancun and Ixtapa, huge tracts of land were expropriated, existing communities relocated, and the building began. It cannot compare to the soulless development of those two places, but great swaths of it feel like the land of broken dreams.
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There is a long pier in Santa Cruz to accommodate the cruise ships that were slated to drop anchor here. In anticipation of the thousands of visitors these ships would bring in, a vast infrastructure project around the town began. FONATUR put up this sign announcing all the advantages the cruise ship industry would bring to the area, and this roadway was cleared to allow foot traffic between Santa Cruz and La Crucecita. Controversy with passenger and crew head taxes appear to have slowed the anticipated flow of cruise ship traffic, and as a result many other projects have slowed as well or ground to a halt. There must be other factors involved - fallout from 2008, the ongoing fear of travel in Mexico, challenges with international accessibility to this area, but there are very striking juxtapositions between extreme luxury and extreme hardship. This hotel below is typical of a number of almost-fisnished projects that sit boarded-up and empty.

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Even worse, the area is dotted with rubble-strewn vacant lots, and buildings that appear condemned. These buildings are inhabited by squatters - I caught a glimpse of a mother and small child before they disappeared into the shadows.

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In the area we are staying in, there are dozens of hotels, wide boulevards, and really beautiful parks. Much of this area is almost empty - so few people to enjoy the landscaping, the brick pathways and the gracious buildings.

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The really luxurious hotels, further down the road, with names like "Dreams" and "Secrets", are hidden behind winding driveways and guarded and gated booths.

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But...for all the disconnected sprawl, the huge disparity of wealth and poverty, and the queasy sense of "them-us", there is a warmth and friendliness here that is extremely welcoming. Many Mexicans speak English quite well. We stopped a young woman for directions, and she responded with," Oh sure - just keep going straight until you get to the plaza." Apparently, there is a real emphasis on learning English in the schools here.
Access to the town of La Crucecita from our hotel was easy and safe - a beautiful centre boulevard with benches and trees led us straight to the main plaza, the church and the very busy and vibrant evening scene. If there is a focal point in Huatulco, La Crucecita is it. People we talked to who have been coming to Huatulco for years absolutely love it - we would see glimpses of "their" Huatulco, and understand why.

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We met up with our friends Jim and MJ one night at this bar for a couple of margaritas, then on to a great little spot for "the best guacamole"and tacos.

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There are no shortage of great restaurants in town, and as much as we love our Mexican food, there are times when nothing but a big juicy hamburger will do. This lovely lady Elsa has had her stand for three years, and keeps it simple - burgers, fries and carrot cake - all homemade, all fabulous. She presides over the grill with a stately elegance.
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The beaches are spread out over about 20 kilometres and are so varied. Some are noisy, crowded with boats, people and restaurant hawkers. Some are almost deserted and accessible only by boat. Our favourite was La Entrega - it had the right mix of people-watching, some boats (but not too many), and perfect swimming - crystal-clear, calm - pure heaven. We brought our own chairs, shared a massive shade tree with a couple of Mexican families, bought jicama and watermelon from a vendor and spent hours today and yesterday reading, swimming and napping.

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Today, as we were parking at the beach, a man and his son approached us and offered to wash our car. I was overjoyed, as our car had not been washed in over a month and was so filthy people were writing things in the dust on our windows. They charged 50 pesos (about $4.50), which we paid and when we returned a few hours later, I felt like Cinderella - my pumpkin had turned into a golden carriage. Even the wheels had been washed and polished. It is so important to Mexicans to keep their cars clean, and it feels rude to drive around with Canadian plates on a dirty car - we're misrepresenting our country somehow.

The views from the hilltops are quite stunning - we drove around the bays and stopped for a couple of pictures. The letters H U A T U L C O are perched on one lookout - the choice was get in all the letters or fit me into the photo. The other photo is overlooking Santa Cruz and the pier.

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Aside from the pier, Santa Cruz has a marina, a market, some nice stores, a lovely beach and a very pretty square. We spent an enjoyable hour at this cafe.

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So, as we pack up tonight and hit the road tomorrow for a 9-hour (10?) to San Cristobal to las Casas in the Chiapas state, we are ready for a new adventure. Huatulco did what we needed it to do.

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Posted by millerburr 18:29 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

Three Fears Down; None to Go

sunny 33 °C

Before we left home to drive down to Mexico, I had three distinct fears about the trip. The first fear was crossing the border - so much had been written about border crossfire, tension and turmoil - to say nothing of having our car ripped apart and searched. The border crossing was a non-event.
The second fear was the actual driving itself - I envisioned poor roads, poor signage, and cops with their hands out every few miles. The poor roads are here (but so are the great ones), signage is terrific, and the only police officer we have had contact with so far wore braces (not partially funded by us).

We just passed the third fear milestone - driving the infamous mountain road between Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido on the coast. We'd heard the stories of buses veering off the road and down embankments - too far down to be rescued. A friend told us a harrowing tale of driving that road years ago after the rainy season, when the landslides and washouts had not yet been cleared. At several points, when the road was limited to one lane, drivers would take turns driving up over rubble to get around boulders, then back down the other side. Apparently things have improved, and so after much research and consulting with my Mexican travel forum folks, away we went. It began easily enough - an hour or so of gently curving roads, and pavement in reasonable condition. Note the driver of the truck is straddling the shoulder line. This is common practice for slower-moving vehicles in Mexico - if the road allows it. It creates a third lane for people to pass easily, and actually works very well.

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We drove through all sorts of landscapes, small villages, bigger towns, and still - nada. The road began to climb, and climb and climb - to 9000 feet. We had been warned to take Gravol to counter motion sickness, but we forgot, and luckily neither of us were affected. The scenery is simply stunning - one vista unfolds that takes your breath away, and then another, and another.

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Out of nowhere, a small village appears, and we wonder - What do they do when they run out of milk? What if they don't like their neighbours? Where are the children that sign is warning us about - there seem to be four houses.

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The road is twisty - endlessly so - turn left, turn right, turn left, turn right - repeat for hours. But the challenge was not the serpentine nature of the drive, it was the surface of the road itself - unbelievable potholes, chunks of pavement fallen away, loose gravel, road worn down in spots to the pre-asphalt level. The only reason it was not a hazard was because for most of the drive, we had the road almost to ourselves. If this same highway had been packed with the usual array of speeding trucks, buses, motorcycles and cars - all of us trying to dodge potholes - then I do believe that someone would have done a Thelma and Louise.

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The road quality began to improve when we saw this fellow. Within a few hundred meters, we came around a bend to see mountains of road building material, and several crews. Mexico is trying to fix its roads - it is just a Sisyphean task as the rainy season conspires to undo the improvements they try to make each year.
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About halfway through the drive, the town of San Jose del Pacifico appears like a mirage - a tidy, alpine village with lush green vegetation, wood-timbered houses, and a main street lined with restaurants, small inns and shops. Are we dreaming? As it turns out, San Jose has a thriving business in locally grown hallucinogenic mushrooms, so perhaps there is something in the air.

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We stopped for lunch in this restaurant, where wooden carved mushrooms are offered for sale ( we didn't inquire about the other), as well as a cute little display of cradle-to-grave beverage choices.

Finally - 9 hours later, just 4 1/2 hours longer than estimated, we arrived in Puerto Escondido. We found our place, went out for a bite to eat, and enjoyed our first sunset over the Pacific since we left Melaque.

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We did not click with Puerto Escondido for a lot of reasons, and our accommodation was no small part of our lack of comfort there. We booked our place on Air B&B, which is an online site offering rooms, units and entire houses that are privately owned. They are often very reasonably priced, and can be a great way to meet people. In this case, while the owners were very sweet and hospitable, they had a decidedly bohemian approach which did not include prompt communication, proper cleaning, or adequate kitchen supplies (no coffeemaker). Our glasses were dirty, our bed had sand in it, and during the three days and four nights we were there, they never picked up our garbage, or gave us fresh towels. And yet - we really liked them - they just needed to replace their thirty-year-old mattress and run their rental like a business. Still, we had a very pretty view from our balcony.

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Our place was a 10-minute walk to Puerto Escondido's most southern beach, Zicatela. This is one very long beach that attracts surfers from all over the world, for the monster waves called the Mexican Pipeline, which is aptly named - a huge, scary roll of water that rises up and crashes down and back out, sucking everyone that is not attached to a board, with it. Not remotely swimmable.

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The beach strip is lined with shops and restaurants and listless older gringos. German, Dutch, Italian and English are spoken - there was little cohesion and the overall feeling was not friendly.

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On our second day, we found a great little swimming area just the next beach over. We set up chairs, umbrella, our books and some snacks, and had two wonderful days there. The water had a soft wave, and swimming conditions were perfect.

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Wherever we go, we are always surprised to discover how many people have heard of Gabriola Island, and even more surprising, know people who live there. We spoke to the couple in the foreground of this photo. The woman is from Wisconsin, is currently in Mexico teaching ESL, but went to school in Victoria, and while there, she made friends with someone from Gabriola and visited the island a few times.

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Two final sunset shots.

We were ready to leave Puerto Escondido in search of other beach towns. We really wanted to have a break from travelling, driving and sightseeing, and Huatulco, just two hours south down the coastal highway beckoned. We splurged a bit ($65 a night) for a lovely hotel, air conditioning, and a comfy bed. We'll be here for 5 or 6 days - so far, it is checking off all the boxes. The fears are vanquished.

Posted by millerburr 20:22 Archived in Mexico Comments (8)

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