13.03.2011 - 21.03.2011 25 °C
We got to San Pedro de Atitlan after a few bus rides from Xela. San Pedro must have changed a lot on the last few years. It is a very pleasant place by a wonderful lake but the gringo area is set up a bit separate from where the locals live. Still San Pedro has a lovely vibe. Some cool bars, life music…I even got to see life belly dancing performance!
The next day we rented bikes and went exploring a bit around the lake and got up to San Marcos, well known by its hippie vibe and yoga and other zen practices. Yet San Marcos is an expensive retreat for posh hippies. There is an interesting place where you can jump from a giant rock about 10 meters high. Even though this trip was supposed to be a way of overcoming some of my fears, I was not still ready for these ones. Before the crowds came, Henrik did not hesitate and jumped. Afterwards, it was really funny to see people freaking out and jumping, even crazy drunk girls playing around…
Also, a funny thing in the lake is that each one of the small villages and communities living by the lake speak their own indigenous Mayan dialect, each one different from the other, so they can’t communicate among them as in a common Mayan language! Instead they use Spanish, which is not the first language and you can almost feel it right away. They speak Spanish with weird Mayan accent
We also wanted to hike up San Pedro Volcano. It was supposed to be a pretty stiff hike, but if you were like you could be rewarded with spectacular views of the lake. We started a bit late and hiked up from town, which delayed us 1 hour once we started at the entrance point. We made it up pretty fast though, but the clouds had already come when we got up to the top. We were kind of exhausted so we sat down and waited for the clouds to leave. We had some seconds when the clouds went away and could appreciate an incredible view of the lake and it was amazing.
The next day we wanted to head towards México. However, it seemed to be kind of a mission to get up there with normal buses, changes and times. So, for the very first and last time in our trip, and for convenient reasons, we took a shuttle bus up to San Cristobal. We would pay a bit more but we knew we would save time and that was definitely worth it.
However as soon as we got on the bus we realized that, even being so comfortable and convenient, this was not our thing. It is part of the experience to get on local buses, get lost, unreliable departing and arrival times, but definitely much more of a real experience. Sometimes I feel the concept of backpacker has radically changed. A traveler is that one who visits, but a backpacker is the one who watched, stays and share with the locals. That is the whole experience!
Anyway, we got to San Cristobal late eve and found a kind of cool hostel, recommended by a Canadian girl who we randomly run into while we were looking for hostels. San Cristobal is the main town in the state of Chiapas. Chiapas is probably the most fascinating state in México: it is the real México. Very attached culture, indigenous customs, beliefs… There are also many indigenous groups in the state. Tzotzil is one of the biggest in San Cristobal. We went visiting San Juan Chamula, a little town in the surroundings of San Cristobal, whose main attraction is its church. I have never seen anything like it in my life. As we entered the church we could see thousands of candles standing on the pine needled carpeted floor. Chamulans revere San Juan Bautista above Christ. We saw people praying while placing cents of candles, performing rituals with chickens and drinking straight pure alcohol. There was also curanderos rubbing eggs on people buddies as part of their treatment. It was shocking to see it…
In order learn more about Mayan medicine we visited Museo de la Medicina Maya, that has been created by Mayan communities and it has support from the government. You can see the different Mayan treatments, how the rituals are displayed, ingredients and animals they use to cure people, and some videos about baby delivering in the Maya culture.
They have good shops in México. I couldn’t resist buying a belly dancing long skirt. It was silk made and really unique, still very reasonable priced. Henrik, on the other hand, wanted to get read of some clothes, so he gave them away.
Another beautiful place around San Cristobal is Cañón de Sumidero, an impressive canyon surrounded by amazing rock formations in form of cliff walls. We took a boat along the canyon; the only drawback was all the litter we saw along the way. Aside environment reasons, this is a great tourist attraction that is making a lot of money, so I expected the water to be well maintained…