An Abrupt Start

25th Sept. 2016

Looking up at the church on the hill“Right, we’re here. Get out.” That seemed to be the gist of the brutal announcement over the PA in the bus that woke me from my fitful sleep this morning. Sure enough, it was 7 o’clock and, peering out the curtains, the bus seemed to have pulled into the bus station. Hastily, we pack up headphones, Kindles and other detritus that we seem to have scattered around our seats – trying to do a double-check that we had collected everything.

We both managed to get some sleep on the bus – as much to escape the twists and turns of the mountain roads as anything. At least I managed to get some photos rated and sorted and that kept me sufficiently captivated that it was only when I finished that I saw the sweep of the bus headlights around the sharp mountain bends. There was no chance of being able to type up words for the blog. Despite having a pair of seats each, neither of us were that comfortable and sleep was intermittent – not helped by a 5am stop in another town on route. Ah well, at least we are here now.

Bus station at San CristobalFortunately, the bus station was not too far out of town and we agreed that a walk to the hotel would do us good and help with the whole waking up process. The receptionist was not exactly surprised to see us – but, equally, there was no chance of being able to check in just yet. Come back at 3, was the instruction. At least we were able to leave our backpacks in store so we didn’t have to lug those around with us all day.

The streets were not yet airedOur next priority was breakfast and, especially, coffee. We were worried that this might be a bit of a problem as the whole town seemed to be like us and only just waking up. However, we found the city centre and shortly after found a café that was just opening up. With sustenance and caffeine inside, we were starting to feel a little more human and ready for our next objective of exploring the town.

_DSF1642We carry on past the café and come across a church (surprise!) with what seems to be a market being set up along side it. I’m able to grab a quick (surreptitious) photo of some locals in costume of some sort (we never found out why) and then poked our nose into the church which was surprisingly drab (by Mexican standards).

It's art, Jim...Still in aimless mode, we walk back through town and down along the main tourist drag. This seems to comprise mostly of restaurants, cafés and tour agencies – all of which is fine by us as we will be needing each of these later. Looking down the length of the long, straight road we see a hill rising in the distance with a church on top of it. We have heard that there are a couple of hills providing viewpoints back over town and so, of course, this is completely irresistible to us (especially as we have the pedometer in our day-pack!).

The church on the hillAfter a mooch around, and a photo or two, we headed back and found a coffee-shop with WiFi – our two fundamental needs these days. We are happy to kill some time as the town is not that big and we essentially have three full days here. As well as making some plans as to what to do with our time here, we also need to catch up with the world (according to the Internet) and our blog. No one bats an eye as we make our coffee last and tap away on the computers.

Textile museum courtyard with church in backgroundSatisfying as it was, there is still more to do. Amongst the recommended attractions in town is the Textile Museum which, by coincidence was right beside the church that we went to first thing this morning. Feeling more awake, we head back there and look around. Textiles are not particularly my thing but the displays were well laid out and you were able to see not just the different types of garment traditionally worn, but also the different patterns whether embroidered or woven. As a bonus, there was a photography display with a theme of Mexicans. This was much more to our taste than the display in Oaxaca and even reminded us of some of the things that we had seen in our time here – the lucha libre wrestling, for example.

Our final ‘must do’ task of the day is to sort out our transfer to Guatemala for Wednesday – only a few days away now. We are being met at the border, as our itinerary (hotels and transfers) in Guatemala & Belize are all pre-booked. However, we do need to get to Guatemala and the main coach services don’t run early enough in the morning to get us there sufficiently promptly. The answer turns out to be to book places on one of the shuttle mini-buses that set out early in the morning. It was just a matter of picking a tour operator with a good rating on Trip Advisor and booking through them.

Love the colours & the texturesThe tour operators were also advertising day trips out to some of the nearby attractions. We  didn’t fancy the day trip to Palenque – though the Mayan / Aztec ruins are supposed to be fascinating – but the day trip left at 5am and didn’t return until 11pm. Much more our cup of tea, was a day trip to the El Chiflon waterfall combined with viewing (and perhaps) swimming in mountain lakes – a mere 12 hours but with a more reasonable 8am start.

Hive of activity in ZocaloHaving achieved all that we wanted, we could allow ourselves the luxury of having a lazy afternoon. We had a spell sitting in the Zocalo just watching the world go by and the locals go about their business, until the rain started up. By that time, it was close enough to our 3pm check-in deadline, so we headed over to our hotel to find that our room was ready.

There seems to be a lion guarding our hotelWe have found that Mexican food goes under a huge variety of names on menus – surprisingly so given that some base ingredients like tortilla or chilli are found in pretty much every dish. I think we are doing a fair job of working our way through this cornucopia and have had many more hits than misses. Sometimes though, you do just want something familiar, so when we ventured out looking for somewhere to have our supper and spotted an Italian restaurant advertising fresh pasta hecho en la casa, we just couldn’t resist. Good call – I had one of the best lasagnes that I’ve ever had (including our home made). A good way to end a long day that had a hurried start.

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