After the LONGEST day of travel EVER, I finally arrived in San Cristóbal, Chiapas, México, last night!
I started the morning off in the lakeside of town Panajachel on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, where I attempted to catch the 7am direct bus to the market town of Chichicastenango. I soon realized that there was no 7am bus to be found, so I hopped on a bus bound for Xela, and got off at a junction where I was able to cram myself and my backpack onto THE most crowded bus I have ever been on (and that´s saying a lot!!). I arrived in Chichicastenango about an hour later, and after peeling a few sleeping Guatemaltecos off my shoulders, I was able to disembark just in time to watch the bus driving away with my backpack still tied on top. I panicked and shrieked and sprinted after the bus and pounded on the windows until it stopped and someone hopped on top and threw my bag down for me.
Out of all the days for that to happen, that was possibly the worst, as I always keep my camera in my daypack or purse with me, and my USB stick with all my photos on it in my backpack, so if one gets stolen, I still have all my photos backed up. Unfortunately, I had stayed at a sketchy place the night before and had hidden my camera deep in my backpack and forgot to pull it out before leaving in the morning! All I could think of as the bus was driving away with all my belongings was my photos…I was SO relieved when I was able to stop the bus!!
Anyways, I found a hotel in Chichi that would let me stow my backpack for Q10 for a couple of hours, and spent a little while wandering around the outskirts of town, as it was still a bit too early for the market. The cemetary was one of the nicest I have ever seen - bright, vibrant tombs perched on a sunny hillside overlooking the town site.
The town´s main church was also gorgeous, but the main part was temporarily closed for renovations. However, a lot of the ritual activity had simply relocated to the steps outside the church, which made for a beautiful scene as the Mayan elders made small sacrifices and offerings of flowers, burned candles and copal incense, and spent time meditating in the morning sun in front of the white-washed church.
The market itself was definitely not as good as I was expecting! The prices were insanely high, and although there was a lot of hand-made and hand-embroidered work, I was surprised by how much mass-produced items were for sale. I had been expecting to find some really special pieces, but overall I really wasn´t blown away. I spent about half an hour bargaining over a hand-embroidered Mayan calendar (a wall hanging), and only managed to get it down to Q260 from Q350…and after all that I didn´t even really want it anymore, but I felt like I had to buy it! Other than some street food, that was pretty much the only thing I purchased.
After a couple of hours, tour groups started arriving en masse, and I decided that I had seen enough of the market (it also wasn´t as big as I was expecting). I retrieved my backpack and got on the next chicken bus heading to Santa Cruz del Quiché, where I transferred to a microbus that was heading to Huehuetenango. I still hadn´t decided whether I would spend the night in Huehue, or keep pushing on towards the border, but seeing how it was still fairly early in the afternoon, I decided to hop on a bus from Huehuetenango to La Mesilla - the border with Mexico. I got off the bus in La Mesilla, walked about a kilometer to the Guatemalan migration offices, then hopped in a colectivo to get to the Mexican migration at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, about a 15-minute drive away. Once I got through the Mexican migration post, I walked across the street and bought a ticket for the next bus to San Cristóbal, which was leaving about two hours later.ç
I was sitting in the terminal debating getting some dinner, when an Australian guy came by and we found out we were heading the same direction. We walked over to a taco stand down the street for dinner, and sat there for quite a while killing time before the bus left. Eventually we decided to head back to the terminal, but not before stopping to get popsicles at a corner store…which was a terrible, terrible decision. We got super distracted by all the delicious Mexican snack foods (far superior to anything else in Central America), and took about 10 minutes in the store. When we walked back outside towards the terminal, the ticket agent came running at us, super agitated and yelling that the bus had just left…
Turns out there is a time change of one hour when you cross the border!! We had no idea that it was actually an hour later in Mexico :( The bus driver and the ticket agent had been nice enough to make the bus wait almost half an hour for us, but eventually it had to be on its way, and we missed it by about ten minutes.
We quickly debated over what to do next, and after checking out the prices at the one hotel in town, we realized that the best thing to do would be to take a taxi to the next town the bus stops in, and hope that we could catch up to it. The only thing was that the next stop was 75 minutes away! We had to pay the awful price of M$350 to get to Comitán, and we pretty much hopped out of the cab as he was pulling up to a stop, sprinted through the terminal, and caught the bus just as the driver was getting ready to back out!! Luckily, they honoured our tickets from Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, and we managed to make it to San Cristóbal without any more issues by about 11pm.
We had to take a taxi from the bus station, but were able to check into a super nice hostel for not too bad of a price. It´s definitely a shock adjusting to Mexican prices though, after so much time in dirt-cheap Central America!!
San Cristóbal is as beautiful as I remember it, and after visiting the artisan market here in town, I wish I hadn´t even bothered with Chichicastenango!
Either tomorrow or the following day, I´m off to Palenque, finally! I´ve been wanting to visit it for years now :)