"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Honeymoon in Chiapas

Everyone should wait and have their honeymoon after they've been married several years. That's when you will need it. Think about it - before you get married, before you have kids, it's all honeymoon, all the time. A decade after the wedding, when you have two or three kids, a mortgage, jobs... when you have to squeeze making love in between putting the kids to bed and washing the dishes. In our case, we took our honeymoon for our tenth anniversary. It was supposed to be Hawaii, but well, here we are in Mexico again.

I don't miss Hawaii one bit. Someday I'll get there. For now, we had Chiapas. Alas, we only had three days. We could have easily spent a week. Ten years ago, Homero and I and then-seven-year-old Rowan took a week long car trip around parts of southern Mexico, including some of Chiapas. We went to Palenque, one of the largest and best excavated Mayan cities in Mexico. An amazing sight. On this trip, I had hoped to be able to visit another Mayan site, either Bonampak or Tonina. There just wasn't time. Even though new superhighways have sprung up all over Mexico, linking once remote places, the distances are just too great.

As a matter of fact, we spent most of our three day honeymoon driving. It took us eleven hours to get from Oaxaca to Chapa de Corzo, the small town on the banks of the river that runs through el canyon de sumidero. But we weren't hurrying. We stopped here and there to look at this and that, to eat, to take pictures. And we like driving, even on these incredibly mountainous, curvy roads, where every quarter mile there is a litle cross set up to show you where somebody plunged 500 feet to a grisly death. The views are awesome. Once again, I apologize for not having pictures up, but I still can't figure it out. When I get back home I'll put up all the photos at once.

One of the towns we passed, Matatlan, is famous as the world capitol of mescal. If you don't know what mescal is, the easiest way to describe it is as Tequila's countrified cousin. Both are distilled from fermented agave, but the name tequila is restricted to that produced from one species of agave and produced within a certain area, mostly, I think, the state of Jalisco. Oaxaca is where the greatest quantity and variety of mescal is made, and much of it is still made in small family run operations that produce mescal in small quantities, the old fashioned way. We stopped at one such operation, and watched the pit roasted agave hearts being crushed by a stone wheel driven by a donkey. The fermentation and the distillation all takes place on site. We bought a liter of mescal fresh from the still for 30 pesos, or about $2.50. Of course, the good stuff is aged in oak for three years or more, and we also bought a liter of that, for the rather more exorbitant price of 110 pesos, or about 9 bucks.

We packed a lot into our one full day of no driving. In the morning we took a tour through the canyon, which is narrow and very deep. At the deepest point, the walls tower 300 meters above the river. The walls are sheer, just about perfectly vertical, but nonetheless cactuses, aloes, orchids, and even trees grow out of the rock face. We saw four alligators. One of them was about three meters long.

After the tour, we jumped into the car and drove to San Cristobal de las Casas. This beautiful, colonial town has become too famous for it's own good. Fifteen years ago, it leapt onto the world stage as the home of the zapatistas, and ever since it has been inundated with tourists of every description, from well-meaning journalists and anthropologists to culture-vulture hippies and "extreme" adventure tourists. The houses, streets and churches are all as gorgeous as ever, but now you walk shoulder to shoulder with crowds of sightseers.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed it. The zolcalo was lit up for the holidays, and a marimba band was playing. We danced in the street alomg with several other couples. Homero bought us a ride in horse and carriage through the old streets, and the guide pointed out sights of interest. We ate pizza and bought a ridiculous number of tchatkes from tiny children in traditional clothing. It's hard to say no to a five year old selling painted clay animals for five pesos apiece, especially when said five year old has eyes the size of dessert plates.

Some ten miles outside of town there is a park, located in a pine forest (that tells you how high San Cristobal is, to have a pine forest in the tropics). In this park is the entrance to a limestone cave. It is a living cave, and there is a half mile long walkway built inside, with some few and far between lights strung up. They are nothing like the Oregon caves, for example, but still ´pretty impressive. I try never to miss a cave, wherever I am. I love caves. The entire lower half of Mexico is riddled with caves, and I'm sure this one goes on and on beyond the place where the walkway ends.

The next morning we drove back, again ambling along stopping here and there along the way. The children didn't miss us at all, says Mama. They had a wonderful time playing with their cousins and eating as much candy as they could stuff in their faces.They went to three posadas and broke three pinatas and stayed up till all hours. They are probably sad we are back.

Time flies. Less than a week left. Christmas is the day after tomorrow (they celebrate Christmas eve, not Christmas day). Then just a couple more days to pack, buy last minute gifts, and we,re off back home. I know Rowan has been taking excellent care of the place, but I´m still anxious. I want to see Rowan. I want to check out the animals. I want to cook in my own kitchen again. I'd even like some cold air - it's been above eighty every day here, and at night it cools down to about sixty.

More later.


www.FarmLifeLessons.blogspot.com said...

Awesome. We love Mexico...been there many times and it's topography is so varied that there is always a treat to see around the next corner.

Happy I-Already-Did Honeymoon!