After a long but sleepy 13h30 bus ride from Puerto Escondido, we finally arrived in San Cristobal de las Cases around 10:30am.
The bus station was just about walking distance to the hostel we were staying at, Puerta Vieja, so we were there for 11am. With check-in not till 2pm we walked out to explore the streets of this amazing town.
As we stepped foot out of the hostel we stumbled straight into a parade where adults and children were dressed as clowns, dancing babies, poo heads among other strange costumes. Some were dressed in traditional clothing and others on horses towards the end. It was quite impressive to watch.
Following this we walked up to the Gran Plaza and had a coffee and some food. By this time it was time to check-in to our room. When unpacking there was a pungent smell of mezcal, which we soon found had leaked through Niamh’s bag and been soaked up by all her clothes. The bottle which was full was now empty. Needless to say, clothes smelling of something similar to tequila is not the greatest smell in the world. As it was Sunday none of the laundry places were open so we looked for a shop selling detergent and hand washed a few essential items before bringing the rest to the laundry the following morning.
By the time we got all of this sorted we decided to have a chill in the hostel garden and play some foosball with a few chilled beers. The hostel organised really cheap food every night and that night was a BBQ. For 50 pesos we had a huge plate with 4 types of meat, vegetables, salad, salsa verde and guacamole. With not much happening we decided to have a night in to be ready for the following day.
We cashed in on our free breakfast included with our hostel. Niamh had crepes with fruit, Stu went for the Mexican option which was grated vegetables and cheese on crispy tortillas with a mole sauce. Both very nice.
At 9am we got picked up from the hostel for our tour to the Sumidero Canyon. The great thing about SCLC is its location. Not only is there plenty to do in the town but there are so many day tours to be done in the surrounding areas. So, back to our first tour, we got a minibus down to the canyon boat docks with people from other hostels / hotels and set off for 2 hours along the river. The cliffs either side of the canyon started off relatively small before reaching a high point of over 1km above the river level. It looked liked something out of Lord of the Rings (you all know the river scene in the Fellowship). Whether the photos manage to show this who knows but we hope they do. At one point we couldn’t get the water and the summits in the same frame. The cliffs were not the only cool thing about the tour. We also managed to see a crocodile, some spider monkeys (top photos from Niamh), vultures, a rock formation that looked like a Christmas tree, and also the inside of cave where the rocks had turned pink.
The next stop on the tour was 3 viewing points at the top of the cliffs overlooking the canyon. Its really from here that you realize just how high up you are compared to the river. The boats we were just on were just small specs making small waves on the river, too high up to discern people.
The final stop was in the oldest town of the Chiapa region called …. here all we did was get a bite to eat before getting the minibus back to San Cristobal.
That evening, along with Ellie and Jess, we went to a sick wine bar. The price per glass started at 20 pesos (less than £1) and you got some popcorn and pincho tapas with each glass. We finally managed to try some Mexican red wine and it was of extremely good quality. We had two different Mexican wines the first costing 25 pesos made from a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the second costing 40 pesos (pushing the boat out) made from Syrah gapes and was full bodied. We also tried a Chilean carmenere red which was very good too. En route back we stopped off for tacos and churros for a late dinner.
Ok so this tour was quite gruelling. Should we have had more time in Mexico we would have spent this day in San Cristobal and headed over to Palenque to stay the night there and start the tour from there. Unfortunately this was not possible so we had a 3:30AM start. The tour comprised of two waterfalls, Agua Azul and Misol-ha, followed by the Mayan Palenque ruins. If you do this tour from San cristobal it means leaving at 4am, doing waterfalls in the morning and then the ruins in the blazing afternoon heat. If starting from Palenque you do this in reverse therefore not walking up ruins at the hottest time of day and don’t leave until 8am as everything is much closer.
So anyway after being in a cramped minivan for over 4 hours we arrived at Agua Azul and we have to say it was worth the horrid van journey. These are the biggest waterfalls in Mexico and cascade down from 80 meters as the highest accessible point going down into 5 different pools of water at various heights. Once you get to the top you are rewarded by being able to swim in the top pool of water. Cold but refreshing and exactly what we needed. There was also a swing (see video below) that Stu had a good time on!
The next stop was the Misol-Ha waterfall about another hours drive. This was a different type of waterfall which had one fall dropping at least 50m into a single pool of water. The pool went 80m deep apparently. There was a footpath going behind the waterfall then we spent a good while swimming in the water. Loads of fishes, fresh and clean water in the basking sun. What more could you want?
The final stop was the Palenque ruins about 45 minute drive away. Arriving at the worst possible time of day 2pm, we embarked on a very hot walk around the site. We climbed to the highest point which had exceptional views of both the site and the whole surrounding area. After that we mainly walked in the jungle areas as there was shade so not quite as unbearably hot. The whole site was amazing despite the heat though and very different to other ruins we have seen so far. Been in the backdrop of the jungle with so much still covered up, beautiful trees and plants it is something to remember .
With the tour at its end we got dropped off in Palenque to get an overnight bus to Merida. We managed to get the last 4 spaces between us two, Jess and Ellie. So that was lucky. With a few hours to kill we went to the next door bar which tried their luck on charging us for 12 coronas instead of 5 which was soon rectified. We were all tired, hot and ready to sleep after a 17 hour day!
Finally at 9pm we boarded the bus to Merida.