Road trip!

We could have spent the week at the marina, waiting for our engine parts to arrive. We could have gotten more and more upset, sweltering in the heat, cursing all things mechanical and hexing FedEx. We could have descended into petty sniping and anger, until the family collapsed. Instead, we went to the mountains. We figured that even if all we managed to do was eat really well, we’d still come out ahead.DSC_0158

Fortunately, we managed to do more than that. San Cristobal de las Casas is an old Spanish town, and one of the big tourism draws in Chiapas. Filled with pedestrian-friendly streets and good restaurants, it seemed like a good place to head for a break.DSC_0133

Being water-based, and considering the area we’ve been traveling, our kids have mostly escaped the requisite Gazing At Churches required in so many countries. Time to fix that deficit!

Detail from the Cathedral

Detail from the Cathedral

Another one of the churches of San Cristobal

Another one of the churches of San Cristobal

Mural on the fence surrounding the Cathedral

Mural on the fence surrounding the Cathedral

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DSC_0100The effects of the September 7 earthquake are still being felt in San Cristobal; most of the churches we visited were not open to the public as they were being repaired. Many of the buildings we did enter had posted signs assuring us that the damage we saw was superficial, and the structure had been declared safe. Still, even being able to see the exterior of some of these buildings was impressive—the ornate facades are nothing like the Catholic churches and cathedrals of Europe.

The textile museum is housed in the building attached to this church...

The textile museum is housed in the building attached to this church…

DSC_0170The area surrounding San Cristobal is filled with things to do, but we found enough going on in the city to occupy us. The Textile Museum had amazing example of traditional Mayan textile art—weaving and embroidery—in a tradition that has continued for thousands of years. F was fascinated. T was more interested in the Amber Museum; the pine forests that have surrounded the San Cristobal area for millennia have yielded huge amounts of amber, and both kids took home a piece as a souvenir. (Side note: we’ve studiously avoided most souvenirs on this trip, as we have not much money and even less space. As we come to the end of our trip, though, we seem to be loosening up some of those restrictions…)

Home of the Amber Museum

Home of the Amber Museum

DSC_0155We’d been excited to find an affordable and well-reviewed hostel in the center of the city that had yoga classes twice a day. Yoga and good food fitted in perfectly with our idea of a relaxing getaway. What we hadn’t counted on was the cold weather! Even more chilly than Xela, San Cristobal required all of our warm gear, and the hostel had no heat. We found ourselves unable to pry back the warm covers in favor of some Hatha yoga.

Hot chocolate and pastry while checking up on the engine parts

Hot chocolate and pastry while checking up on the engine parts

There may not be other boat kids around, but we still found some travelers! A family from Missouri invited us over so the kids could play in the treehouse at their hostel.

There may not be other boat kids around, but we still found some travelers! A family from Missouri invited us over so the kids could play in the treehouse at their hostel.

After a couple of days in San Cristobal, and a few emails back and forth with our friends at Trans Atlantic Diesel, we realized our parts were going to take longer to ship than originally anticipated. Things were out of stock, people were out of the office; we had more time than we thought. So why go back? We debated finding a hotel with heat in San Cristobal and sticking around for a few more days, but in the end, we decided to head even further inland and explore the Mayan ruins of Palenque.DSC_0275

DSC_0214On the advice of some fellow hostel-dwellers, we found a room at Margarita and Ed’s in Panchan, right on the edge of the park containing the ruins. Isolated from the main town of Palenque, this was a serious hippy backpacker spot, with different cabanas and hostels surrounding the social hub and main food source of Don Mucho’s restaurant. Despite the low-budget vibe, we were much more comfortable than in San Cristobal, with a private bathroom and the heat of the jungle to keep us from shivering. From there, it was an easy walk to the ruins.

Mural at Don Mucho's

Mural at Don Mucho’s

DSC_0258I’d been scheming to get to these ruins for months, ever since we’d picked up a Lonely Planet Mexico guide from the bookshelves in Shelter Bay, but logistically, I didn’t think we could make it up there. From the coast, it was about a 16-hour bus ride, and I wouldn’t call the whole expedition cheap; but with so much time on our hands, there was no reason not to make the effort. And our effort was absolutely rewarded!DSC_0229

DSC_0245Guides to the ruins were a little variable in quality—there didn’t seem to be a system for official, trained guides, and we overheard some pretty idiosyncratic theories from tours as we explored the ruins. (Viking visitors? Hindu religious influences? Really?) Fortunately, things were very well-marked, and most signs explained things in English as well as Spanish. The excavated part of the ruins at Palenque comprise only about five percent of the total site, but that five percent is enough.

Temple of the sun; the kids are waaaaaay at the bottom

Temple of the sun; the kids are waaaaaay at the bottom

Team Barroso starts their run up the steps at the Temple of the Sun. For the next two days, we kept running into folks who said, "oh, yeah, you're the guys who ran up the steps, right?"

Team Barroso starts their run up the steps at the Temple of the Sun. For the next two days, we kept running into folks who said, “oh, yeah, you’re the guys who ran up the steps, right?”

It's basically a moon of Yavin Four

It’s basically a moon of Yavin Four

The Jaguar Serpent Lord. Aka, a great name for a band.

Lord Serpent Jaguar, aka a great name for a band.

T-shaped room

T-shaped room

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Proof that I exist; picking up snacks on the way to the waterfall

Proof that I exist; picking up snacks on the way to the waterfall

Waterfalls are a big draw in Chiapas, and the most common tourist plan is a van trip between San Cristobal and Palenque, with a stop at the Agua Azul waterfalls. The ride is much faster than taking the bus, but it takes you through an area of civil unrest where motorists are stopped and asked to pay a fee to pass through Ocosingo. Normally, the driver pays and the car or bus goes on it’s way; but occasionally, there’s a massive delay or even violence. Friends from San Cristobal had run into trouble on that road, so we decided to take the long way around and do a waterfall expedition to Roberto Barrios instead.DSCF3458

DSCF3386The waterfalls at Roberto Barrios are a little less dramatic than some of the other falls; there is no one massive 500-foot cascade. Instead, there are five separate groups of falls, and visitors can climb up any of them. The pools are all open for swimming, and there are plenty of great spots for jumping; Michu even found the cave at the bottom that you have to swim underwater to access.

Michu, mid-falls

Michu, mid-falls

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DSCF3389The water was dramatically colder than those nice hot springs in Costa Rica, but we were all still game for some serious swimming, and everyone except T jumped off a waterfall into the pool below.DSCF3429

Ready for a less-dramatic jump

Ready for a less-dramatic jump

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We split up the bus ride back, declining the 16-hour return trip in favor of a quick overnight in Tuxtla. By the time we got back to the marina, our parts were waiting at Memo’s house, and the project on the motor could finally move forward again.

2 Comments on “Road trip!

  1. Holy smokes, what a fabulous detour!! Love these photos, Deb. By now your kids are intrepid travelers for life.

    • Let’s hope! They certainly got a taste of the global hostel scene last week…

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