Monday, February 25, 2013

And away we go ------->

 San Cristóbal, Chiapas, MX

Who would have thought that one could get a flight that was so much cheaper than anything else, simply by driving 6 hours to San Antonio? AirTran Airlines, a subsidiary of SouthWest Airlines, flies out of San Antonio to Mexico City, a flight of 1 hr and 43 minutes to be exact, at a cost of ~$250 round trip. So by traveling this way we will be able to make 2 complete trip for barely the price of one normally. And this is exactly what we did – on Thursday Feb 7, we drove to San Antonio and flew out to Mexico City Friday. We stayed in a hotel that, for the price of one night’s stay, we also got storage of the car for the duration of our trip.

Mexico City International Airport could be a nightmare, but for us, it was anything but. We arrived and then took a bus right out of the same terminal, with only  a short distance between the international arrival and the bus departure areas. How much simpler could it all be? This bus ride didn’t even come anywhere close to benign able to be compared to our now infamous bus ride David to Panama City. This bus even had functional free wifi. Security is strong both getting to and onto the bus: Even worse than that at the airport. When we made the second stop at the other terminal a security officer came on and took photos of all the passengers.

An uneventful trip to our first stop, Puebla, although we did pass some sort of pilgrimage on bicycles and foot as we drove down the highway. The cyclists weren’t faring too bad but the poor walkers looked terrible. Don’t know how far they had walked but it must have been some distance. We passed numerous pilgrims over a fairly long distance. Don’t know where they were going, don’t know where they cme from but all were peasant-type homespun white cotton outfits and sandals. Occasionally one of the cyclists would be carrying a flag with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. Once in Pueble we tried  to find a midpoint between Puebla and San Cristoóbal where we could reasonable stop for the night, an event that was not to happen without our having some knowledge of exactly where we wanted to stop. We ended up deciding on an overnight bus trip rather than arrive in some unknown city/town in the middle of the night without hotel reservations. The Ejecutivo bus, which we bought tickets on, should have been a luxury bus but the only thing going for it was that the seats reclined way back – not a footrest to be found and definitely no wifi. But then, why would anyone need wifi when you should be sleeping – “overnight” being the operative word.

And sleep we did, awaking to see a changed landscape; one of valleys and mountains, green trees and miles of ribbon highway. All too soon we arrived in San Cristobal, earlier than we had thought to arrive. 
The bus station is but a short distance from the zocolo (center plaza) and very walkable. A veritable tourist area, there is no shortage of restaurants and local craft stores as well as the inevitable street venders. How can one stick to ones guns of not buying from children who should be in school, when it is a Saturday?  The guide book that we have indicates that these street vendors are mainly displaced people from the outerlying villages who have come to the city looking for work/sustenance. These children are very respectful - when you say no they don’t continue to hassle you to buy something. I am impressed.
Walking around the area trying to decide on where to eat breakfast, we were reminded of Antigua, Guatemala  – a town nestled amidst the mountain backdrops. The colours, the quiet bustle, and the colours are all reminiscent of Antigua, right down to the yellow painted church. 
The plaza is being remodeled to decrease the traffic and parking and looks like it is going to be quite effective.
There are 2 walking streets radiating from the plaza which are a pleasure to walk, not having to worry about getting  in the way of the cars as you meander taking it all in - you and all the other hundreds of meanderers.

Finally stopping outside of a nondescript, brown carved door, we had arrived at Ann & John’s new hotel, La Joya Hotel San Cristóbal. No street number, no identifying features, just the description of the location from Ann’s emails. But once entering, there aren’t words adequate to describe the visions that played before us. John welcomed us, Ann toured us and then our room – comforting, welcoming, engulfing us with warmth.

And so started another wondrous journey, into a land filled with riches beyond our wildest dreams ...