Highlights of Mexico (9): two aircraft, a boat, and a minibus

Day 6 (Easter Monday) was a travelling day and it was an early start: alarm at 5 am and departure from the hotel at 6 am.

The day kicked off with two flights: one from Oaxaca north-west back to Mexico City (just 50 minutes) and then straight away one from Mexico City south-east to Tuxtla Gutierrez (only 60 minutes) – an odd replication of some of the journey but presumably Mexico City acts as a hub for flights in the south of the country. Both flights were with the local airline AeroMexico on locally-built aircraft (the Embraer 190 and 170 respectively).

We were now in a different state Chiapas where Tuxtla Gutierrez is the state capital. In 1994, the state was convulsed by an uprising of the local indigenous populations through a movement that became the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). This guerrilla movement was opposed to the then government’s neo-liberal economic policies as exemplified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although the uprising was a military failure, it had important political consequences.

We were met by our local guide Alberto, the first of our guides with a sense of humour.

He immediately took us to a nearby jetty for a two-hour trip on the Grijalva River. We all donned bright orange life jackets and then boarded an open motor boat with around 30 passengers and a driver on a raised section at the rear. When we were zooming along, it was bumpy and windy; when we stopped to observe something, it was hot and humid; and much of the time, it was misty, but this rather added to the atmosphere.

The journey took us through the spectacular Sumidero Canyon which at the highest point is some 900 metres (3,000 feet) above the green water. When Diego de Mazariegos invaded the area in 1528, the local indigenous people the Chiapa threw themselves by the hundreds into the canyon rather than surrender to the Spanish invader.

Today the main feature of the canyon is a hydro-electric dam completed in 1981 and we sailed all the way to the dam before returning on the other side of the canyon. Along the way, we saw various interesting features such as the Cave Of The Colours with a statute of the Virgin Mary and The Christmas Tree with amazing moss-covered rock formations that looked just like branches of a festive tree. We even spotted some spider monkeys and sleeping crocodiles as well as various birds.

Back on land, we remained at the jetty to have a cooked lunch at a place called “Restaurante Rio Grande”. According to our official programme, at this point we should have headed straight to,our hotel, but Alberto surprised us with a visit to a nearby town called Chiapa de Corzo which “The Lonely Planet” guide to Mexico describes as – rightly we learned – “an overlooked jewel”. The main plaza is surrounded by artesan shops and dominated by a very large and immensely old ceiba tree called La Pochota and a brick fountain completed in 1852 in the Mudejar-Gothic style called La Pila. We also called into the largest local church, Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman, which was built by the Dominicans between 1554-1572.

After this pleasurable ‘extra’ we headed east and up into the highlands arriving at our destination of San Cristobal de las Casas at 6.45 pm. From our hotel this morning to our hotel this evening had been a journey of almost 13 hours.

Our accommodation was the Hotel Diego de Mazariegos, named after the founder of the city. Located in the centre of town, it consists of two colonial-style mansions with patios paved with stone slabs. Adobe walls, tile roofs, and typical Mexican decorations make for a traditional feel. But there is no air conditioning.


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