I awoke fairly early on Wednesday morning and was at the AEXA station by 8 am, where I discovered that there were about 5 departures per day to San Cristobal de las Casas (as compared to one at the ADO station- thankfully I had complained to a collectivo driver the day before about ADO's 4:45 pm departure for San Cristobal and he had told me about AEXA, another second class bus line that services (at least this portion of) Mexico. I purchased a ticket for the 9:30 am bus and then returned to the Posada Nacha'n Ka'an to look for my lock. It was, unfortunately, nowhere to be found, however, the owner allowed me to use the kitchen to make some breakfast and I was able to check my email as well. At about 9:15 I got a message from Jonathan saying he was headed to Palenque that day! AARRRGGGG!!!!! Clearly the universe had been trying to tell me something all along and I just wasn't listening so apparently I needed a little slap in the face instead of the gentle nudges I had been getting! I didn't really have time to respond, nor was I particularly interested in doing so since it was pretty obvious by then that I just shouldn't be traveling with him!
It was another long bus ride but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that apparently the second class buses in Mexico also kick ass? Or at least the AEXA bus from Palenque to San Cristobal does! The seats recline, there is a bathroom on board and they show movies as well- I couldn't tell any difference between first and second class buses....
Again I had absolutely amazing views through the window. As the bus climbed up up up we passed through small villages where I saw a girl who couldn't have been much older than 5 walking down the highway with some groceries, three boys that weren't much older than her sweeping and cleaning the house, several girls around the age of 7 or 8 clearly tending stores and restaurants and boys around the same age carrying crops and machetes. I saw several games of football (soccer) or some similar equivalent played with a ball about the size of a softball, one of which was clearly a big deal as half the village was in attendance! A variety of livestock including pigs, sheep, cattle, turkeys and some of the largest chickens I've ever seen meandered to and fro, none of which appeared to be constrained in any way. Many of these villages were perched atop mountains with huge valleys spread out below them and the views were fantastic. As we climbed higher and higher the clouds rolled in until the landscape was obscured by the clouds and mist started to accumulate on the windows.
Eventually we made it to San Cristobal and I found my hostel, Rossco's Backpackers Hostel, at which I had booked a room at the last minute literally seconds before I had left Palenque. The hostel is cozy and inviting, with cute rooms, solid furniture, a well-stocked kitchen with a very nice, non-homicidal gas range that I like very much and a fire pit in the central courtyard, at which there are nightly bonfires so all of you who know me well know how much I appreciate that!
The first item of business was to purchase a lock, some groceries and something to eat. The lock was a bit of a hassle, made all the more difficult by the fact that I had neglected to look up the word for "lock" before leaving the hostel. However, after a sketch at one place, some directions to another place that was closed and two more conversations with random shop workers I found my way to a hardware store that had a variety of locks available and selected the only one of at least 20 locks that was a combination lock! It's a beast of a lock and I'm quite certain I could use it as a weapon if necessary, but it gets the job done. :o)
I ate dinner that night at a little taco stand where I was shocked to find that the tacos were 2.5 pesos each! I ordered 4 for a total of 10 pesos. They were pretty small so I ordered two more. There were about 4 girls who were also sitting there and they also each ordered 3-4, then ordered 2 more, then ordered 2 more, which made me feel ok about ordering ANOTHER 2 tacos. :D We all laughed about it, even though we couldn't really understand each other. The tacos were delicious and 20 pesos for 8 tacos is basically my idea of personal heaven... or at least a part of it!
There are many mayan people here selling things- knit hats, sweaters and blankets, shawls, bracelets, jewelry, all types of food (my favorites are the young boys walking around with sticks filled with bags of cotton candy)... so many things. There are many simply begging on the street though, and it's something many learn at a young age. It's not uncommon to be eating dinner and have a snot-nosed 3 or 4 year-old come up and stare at you with their hand held out expectantly. I find it very sad.
A large part of the reason I had decided to come to San Cristobal was that a girl named Marisa, who had worked at the ranch (Eatons' Ranch - the guest ranch my family owns in Wyoming) for 4 years and whom I had met and chatted with a handful of times over the years, was working there and I figured there was no sense in skipping it when it was so close to where I was. So, when I returned to the hostel I got in touch with her and we made plans to meet up and have some wine at her place. Then we went to a little club called Revolution that had a band playing some reggae. There were TONS of travelers there and it was amazing how strange it felt to once again be around so many other white people, even after only a short amount of time traveling in places where we are few and far between. The music was awesome so we hung out for a couple hours or so and then I called it a night.
The next morning I spent a bunch of time uploading photos to my Palenque post and ended up not being able to meet up with Marisa when we had planned to, at 1 pm. I thought she would check her email when I didn't show up but she didn't so I continued to work on my blog post until finally, feeling like a total heel, I finished uploading my photos and put my post online over 4 hours after I had meant to meet up with her. On the plus side I figured out how to re-size all my photos at once so now I can safe some much needed disk space, as well as make uploading pics to my blog less painful in the future.
I did end up meeting up with Marisa later that evening; we grabbed some tacos at another food cart similar to the one I had eaten at the previous night. We both tried brain for the first time- something I had said I would stay away from but then I figured, what the heck!? It might be delicious and I should at least try it. Well, I'm glad I tried it but I won't order it again- it was pretty mushy and not exceptionally tasty! We also tried tongue, which I've had before, and beef "head"- not really sure what all that means but it was better than the brain! I should also mention at this time that I tried tripe (stomach) for the first time several days ago in Palenque and actually really liked it!
After dinner we went back to La Casa del Pan, where Marisa works in the bakery, and I purchased some actual coffee (I've been drinking Nescafe and while it does the job it's not particularly delicious and Chiapas is known for its coffee so I thought I should get some coffee while I was here) and mexican chocolate. Back at my hostel we made mochas and sat around the campfire chatting with each other and a few fellow travelers.
The next morning I had planned to go on a tour of the surrounding villages but unfortunately that didn't happen, as I began to feel increasingly terrible the longer I was awake. I'm not sure if it was from the food I had eaten then night before or not (Marisa said her stomach felt a little weird once or twice during the day but she's also been here longer) but it's safe to say I won't be having brain again! If you don't want the gory details skip to the next paragraph. It started with diarrhea and progressed to nausea and vomiting pretty quickly. Before I left for this journey I got enough ciprofloxacin for me to get sick a whopping two times, and I had resolved to tough it out and only use the cipro if absolutely necessary. At about 10 am I had vomited three times in just over an hour and had diarrhea who knows how many times and my resolve to push through it and make my body acclimate to whatever it was I was fighting was gone. Not to mention that I was planning to take the bus into Guatemala in the morning and the last thing I wanted to do was feel like that when be on a variety of buses, collectivos and taxis all day, especially considering that only the first bus is likely to have a toilet! I popped a ciprofloxacin and laid down to try to sleep it off. I slept off and on for about the next 4-5 hours, steadfastly resolving NOT to throw up the cipro. I succeeded and actually started feeling better around 3. Left the hostel around 3:30, walked around the city a bunch, bought two oranges, took some pictures, ate one orange, caught a little show being put on my some local people (very cool), ate half of the second orange, started to feel ill, returned to the hostel, popped a cipro, managed to keep it down for 30 minutes, tried to eat some chicken broth, projectile vomited all over the kitchen. Awesome. Made more broth. Have managed to keep it down but not feeling at all hot and am not sure I will make it onto the bus tomorrow.
12:30 am December 10th.
I met some other travelers tonight who are leaving on the 7:45 bus to the boarder so unless I have any more difficulties in the bathroom I intend to be on that bus! At least one of them speaks Spanish and English so that's very reassuring. So, it's with a bit of a heavy heart that I pack my bags and prepare to leave San Cristobal de las Casas; I had hoped to see and do much more here than I have, not to mention to be able to hang with Marisa a bit more. But I also really don't like the idea of crossing the boarder on my own with my limited Spanish so the time has come to move on, ready or not!
I am due to start Spanish school on Monday, December 12th at a school in a small town outside of Xela called San Marcos. I'm not sure how much internet access I will have but I will post when I can!