San Cristobal and Oaxaca - Guerillas, Motion Sickness and Demonstrations
5 Aug 2006
|B: We had a long windy bus journey to San Cristobal into the mountains. San Cristobal is at about 2500m altitude which meant it was cooler and not humid (yeah!). For the journey, we had hired a private minibus so that we could break the journey by visiting 2 waterfalls along the way.
The first waterfall was Misol Ha and it was in the traditional style. The second was Agua Azul (blue water) which was brown due to the recent heavy rain washing up the soil. As we were leaving, one of the couples on the tour (who shall remain nameless) realised that they had left their passports behind and had to catch a bus back to get them then catch another to San Christobal to catch up with us.
San Cristobal was my favourite Mexican town. It has a beautiful setting in the mountains and has a nice feel about it. It is also less touristy than most places in Mexico so you get hassled less. It is famous for its jewellery - notably silver, turquoise and amber - so K got all excited. Apparently we're saving money by buying it here.
Our next stop was Oaxaca (strangely pronounced Wa-haka) which is famous for bitter chocolate and mezcal - tequila's more refined (no pun intended) cousin.
The presidential elections were held 3 weeks before and the result is being disputed by a significant minority who have decided to protest by blocking off the streets, camping out in the main square and graffiting all the government buildings. There were also lots of people with other gripes jumping on the bandwagon. Some of our group saw some rioting but we had no problems.
K: The same lucky two, of which one forgot but got back his passport the other x-rayed after a fall, saw the rioting - they were lovely but special in the luck department.
San Cristobal is the heartland of the Zapatistas, the guerillas who have been fighting for the independence of the Chiapas region. We had no hassle with these people but it's the only place in Mexico that I visited that the peddlars tried to get you to buy little knitted guerillas. They did have some cool looking t-shirts, but then if you wore them in the wrong place, in ignorance, you could be in trouble of the deportation kind.
San Cristobal was lovely and the jewellery was fantastic, I just wish we had bought more of it. Most of the girls in my family will be getting jewellery for Christmas if I can bear to part with them! You could also go and visit a local nearby canyon, but we had down plenty of that in Oz or you could go visit some nearby villages. These villages, however, had been described as some as a bit like human zoos and we decided against that as well. You have to be very sensitive when taking photos and never take any of the locals, especially kids, without permission as they believe you are walking away with their soul - unless you make a contribution ;)
We wandered around a bit and visited the house of the jaguars, not as scary as it sounds but a museum made from a bequeathed house of two philantropists who certainly led exciting lives while helping to conserve the indigenous tribes. Their house was very eclectic and you can even stay there or have dinner.
Mezcal is actually not too bad tasting. We went out for the night in San Cristobal and B and I even made it on to the dance floor, a rare occurance no doubt helped by free mezcal shots! It got too busy and smokey for us, not to mention the music took a turn for the worst - Daddy Yankee anyone?
While in Oxaca, on the way back from the restaurant where we tried mole, B took a photo of me beside some amusing graffiti. I doubt I would have stood there had I suspected that a riot and shooting where not long in coming. It was also a beautiful full moon and you could see how lovely the square had been before the town went a bit nuts. I hope they get it sorted out soon.
Mole (Moe-lay) sauce is a really rich savoury sauce made from chocolate and spices. We had it with chicken and it was really tasty but I couldn't eat it that often because its so rich, it reminded me of Christmas and mince pies. However, we also tried grasshopper which was crunchy and tasted of lemon and chilli - not an experience i'll be repeating as the legs get stuck in your teeth!