Back on the road, I made my way to San Crisobal. Looking over the maps, my options were to take the free roads or the Autopista. Given the amount of difference in time, I decided to split it up. The first day I would take the Autopista, as there was nothing really of interest leaving Puebla, and it would get me about ½ way there.
Following a lead on Ioverlander, I aimed for a potential camping spot at a Pemex which has a park behind it. I arrived late in the afternoon. The location was just on the edge of the State of Tabasco. One of the poorest states, and it showed. Road side prostitutes hovered around informal truck stops, villages and roads are poorly maintained, and smiles were less that normal.
I found my Pemex station and inquired about camping. They seemed a little confused, but the full time security guard said I could camp behind the gas station on a grassy plot. I thought, good enough for me. It wasn’t quiet getting dark enough to warrant putting up the tent. When you bush camp around populated places you wait until it’s mostly dark before putting up your tent. This is good for your security and reduces looky-loos.
I was glad that I waited to set up camp because not too long after getting off the bike, the sky became ominously dark and it wasn’t the sun set. It was a very black rain cloud heading my way. Now, I enjoy camping, but not in the rain. Well at least not in the type of rain that was coming. I had seen there was a hotel in the town as I passed though. I got back on the bike and went for it. Nothing worse that having to get up, and pack while it’s raining. The hotel was able to accommodate me, but they wouldn’t budge on the price of 500 Pesos. Pretty high for the area, but considering the circumstances, they had me over a barrel. I paid up, they let me bring the bike into the lobby, not more than two minutes later the clouds let loose. It was like someone opened a zipper and the water just came down all at once. Only it would rain this way all night and into the morning. High Five Greg!
The next morning, I put on my rain gear and headed to San Cristobal. I had made arrangements with a Couch Surfing host and would spend three nights there. I took as many of the back-roads as time would allow, but I needed to be in San Cristobal for my host to receive me.
As I traveled further south, the clouds departed and the sun smiled on me and just before Tuxtila Gutierrez I was stopped at a military check point. Now I haven’t really seen a military check point since up north near the border. When I was in Baja last year, there was one almost every other day.
Smiling I greeted the Soldiers and allowed them to inspect my luggage. They were young and friendly, and when I explained that I had been in the Army for 26 years, they stopped inspecting and started asking questions about where I had been and what I did in the Army. We all became friends quickly and after a couple of selfies, I was back on the road. I think more often these guys get a poor reception because of their job, but I explained that I was thankful for their service and they were happy.
I arrived in San Cristobal with some time to kill as my host Marco was on his way home. Only having some juice and a muffin for breakfast, I was starving. I redirected my GPS to take me to the center of town where I know I would find a restaurant.
San Cristobal is a Pueblo Magico, and on a scale of 1-10, it’s an 11. Yes, San Cristobal goes to “11”. My favorite city so far in Mexico has been Guanajuato, but I think San Cristobal just bumped that down a notch. From the Centro, there are several pedestrian streets for walking. Every door is an artesanal restaurant, boutique or bar. There are street vendors selling art, and the city has more Hippies than any other city I’ve been to. Most are foreigners from Europe, hailing from Spain or France. You can’t throw a taco without hitting dreadlocks, but it brings something to the city that makes it more celebratory.
I met up with my host Marco. He had a nice room and secure parking for my bike. He took the time to show me around the city along with Philip, another couch surfer/traveler from the USA.
Spending only just a few days in San Cristobal would put me under some time pressure to see what I came for, Canyon del Sumidero. The canyon is located up a river and is an amazing spectacle of steep canyon walls that have been cut by the Sumidero river. I paid 300 pesos for the tour which included the boat ride and a stop at a local village.
The canon was amazing. Pictures cannot do it justice. The walls rise over 1000 meters in some places. It is reminiscent of something out of a JR Token book. Unfortunately, I could not direct the boat driver to stop more often for photos, and the fat guy next to me had the better advantage for pictures.
Back in San Cristobal I met some lovely people and spent the next two days having dinners and cocktails. I made friends with a lovey girl from Nova Scotia, along with a couple traveling from Argentina.
My meal high lite was a dining experience on my own. I was told about a fabulous restaurant called Lum which is in one of the best Hotels in town. I was also told that they had Duck (Pato in Spanish) and of course my rule of, “if there’s duck on the menu” order it was in full affect. Well, I must say that it was one of the best meals I’ve had on this trip. Not only was I treated to a wonderful meal, but the chef came and said hello.
My last night I spent with another Couch Surfing host, Laura. She was going to host me, but the couple from Argentina beat me to it. The great thing about couch surfing is, that you can still meet people. They have meet ups for travelers or you might meet up with a host even if you are not staying with them. It’s a great way to get to know a location.
On to Palenque. Only about 4 hours from San Cristobal, I made my way through Chiapas. Palenque has one of the more famous Mayan ruins. Some of the more elaborate architecture is there. Palenque was considered one of the small cities in the Mayan empire, but very significant.
On my way to Palenque, I was able to stop at one of the more famous waterfall attractions in Chiapas, Cascade Azul. The cascade were blue and white and the water temperature was perfect for being is such hot weather. San Cristobal was in the mountains and the temperature there was quite temperate. I guess that’s why it’s such a popular destination in Mexico. As with all the Geo attractions here in Mexico, the locations are inundated with cheap vendors selling trinkets and other doo dads. You have to be able to look past this or you will become frustrated and bitter towards all the attractions.
Back to Palenque. Taking information from the Argentine couple, I found a nice Cabana in the jungle near the entrance to the Palenque National Park, which was also on Ioverlander. The next morning I walked into the park to see the ruins. I woke early so I could beat the crowd. What I didn’t realize is that I had to walk about 4km to the ruins. Even at 7am the heat was strong. And, as I walked to the ruins several tour buses passed me by. Nice planning, Greg! Well, it was Monday and the crowd wasn’t too bad. Maybe 100 people early in the morning. I was able to get some great photos and spent the rest of the day writing and relaxing.
Tomorrow I ride again. I will meet my friend Dave and discover Central America together.