Chiapas & San Cristobal- Where Souls Cost $1.75
April 11, 2016
Let’s begin by saying Marina Chiapas was not our favorite stop. We’ve been spoiled up until Chiapas. We’re used to marinas that are located right in, or next to town. We’re used to clean air, being able to run our air conditioner (when needed at a marina), and having other kid boats around to keep our heathens entertained. Chiapas had none of the above.
I digress, I’ll start at the beginning. As we were nearing Chiapas (at least that’s what our charts said), we were stunned that we could not see the shore, land, trees, beaches…nothing. Never have we been within a mile of land, and not been able to see something…anything. At the time we didn’t realize it, but it was because Chiapas was covered in a thick blanket of smoke…but more on that later. We entered the Chiapas marina at 1 AM…that’s right 1:00 in the morning. After more than nearly two days at sea, we were ready to catch some z’s. Normally, entering a marina or an anchorage in the dead of night is a no-no for us, but we had a full moon, GPS way points for the entire entry into the marina, and we had emailed the Capitania in advance to let him know when we’d be arriving. Matt being the eternal Captain, did a flawless entrance into the maze that leads to Marina Chiapas.The marina is so well-organized, that they even had line handlers waiting for us on the dock. Enrique runs the marina here and he is fabulous.
After a good night’s sleep, we prepared for our inspection from the Navy. Even though we arrived from a Mexican port, an inspection is still required, due to the close proximity to the border of Guatemala (about 15 minutes down the road). Not quite sure if the reason is for drug smuggling or human trafficking? Nonetheless, the check-in inspection was easy. It was Semana Santa, and apparently the drug sniffing dog that they board your boat with was also on vacation. After the military left, Matt hosed the top decks and cleaned the boat off. We were doing great, until all of a sudden, the air conditioner tripped off! What, why, how….NOOOOOOOOO! Matt immediately took apart the filter and discovered a jelly fish was sucked up into the air conditioning pump. Son of a… So we cleaned the filter, flushed out the thru hull, disassembled the pump, reassembled the pump and thank little baby Jesus, Matt got it working again. A/C back on.
We had a great second night with A/C pumping, but when we woke up, my eyes were glued shut and the kids were both coughing and sneezing. There were black ashes ALL OVER THE BOAT and my pillow (we had left the hatch open for ventilation). The nearby instant coffee factory likes to burn at night and if the winds are blowing towards the marina, you’re s.o.l. I wasn’t going to let a few ashes ruin my day. Matt hosed the decks off AGAIN. I changed the sheets, took a puff of my inhaler and gave the kids some allergy medication. We continued about our day with the cold air kicking. We received an email from the El Salvador Rally hosts that the Bahia del Sol bar was being closed for at least the next 5-7 days due to extremely large swell. This prompted us to think about some inland travel. We finally decided on a city called San Cristobal in the high mountains of Chiapas. Later in the day, the A/C shut off again. Same issue…one less jelly fish in the world. After sucking up our fourth jelly fish, we had our motivation to book our rental car and Air BNB house online. San Cristobal de las Casas…here we come!
And our outlook on the world did a 180! San Cristobal de las Casas is a Spanish colonial town, settled in the early 1500’s by Spanish explorers, as a military fort. It still has very narrow cobblestone streets lined by stone homes and buildings. The city sits at 7200 feet in elevation, in a valley, surrounded by even higher mountains and lush forests. It was a stark contrast to Chiapas, with 72 degree daytime highs and lows in the 50s. Not only does it burst with Spanish/European flavor, but it still maintains its indigenous Mayan roots. The weather is…perfect. The food is eclectic and exquisite. My photography skills are zilch/zero, but I had the best time snapping pics here. The vibrant colors and old buildings beg to be photographed.
We can’t be certain if the boy (below) is praying for the sick and hungry or for a Nintendo 3DS with Super Smash Bros.
We rented a two bedroom “cabin”, just outside of town, for $30/day. It was a doll house. We were five minutes from town and two minutes from the biggest playground we had ever seen.
This barber opened THIS shop 60 years ago. He said there were 2 cars in the entire town.
In the 1920’s, the entire town flooded. You can still see the water line on some of the wooden doors.
On our last day we drove to San Juan Chamula. San Juan is a completely indigenous community that has survived on its own for centuries. The natives still farm and raise sheep as their ancestors did. We had heard that it was disrespectful to photograph them, as they believe that it steals their souls. Matt approached a group of women sewing some crafts in front of their stick hut and politely asked if he could snap a quick pic. They told him he could…for 300 pesos. Matt being the negotiator that he is, was able to get them down to 100 pesos, but $7 was more than we could afford for one photo. So I do not have a photo for this caption. Sorry. Apparently, their souls are for sale for a hefty $1.75/each.
Huatulco – Mexico Tourism Refined.
April 2, 2016
Upon arrival at Marina Chahue in Huatulco, we were greeted by some agro-lookin policemen. I looked at Court and wondered what we did (she did) to garner such a welcoming committee. It turns out they were simply there to catch our dock lines and give us a copy of the Marina rules…all in Spanish. Marina Chahue is another product of FONATUR, Mexico’s governmental tourist department. More interesting, the entire area was developed by FONATUR. This agency’s philosophy is to build it and they will come. Sometimes they don’t. But here, they came.
Marina Chahue is the place most cruisers use to begin the waiting game to cross the dreaded Tehuantepec Bay. This is a body of water that is not to be taken lightly. Every three days or so, a gap wind is accelerated from the Gulf of Mexico and blows stink out into the Pacific side. Large wind waves in excess of 20 feet are not uncommon with winds exceeding 40 knots. The challenge is that you need a solid 2-3 day weather window to get across before the cycle repeats itself.
The entire area surrounding the marina is really in its’ infancy of growth and development, maybe 7-10 years max. Most notable is the absolute lack of trash, garbage, litter. It is an amazingly clean place with beautifully landscaped areas, complete with flowing water fountains. They also planned that vacationers would be walking around quite a bit and thus built amazing walking paths.
I got into a routine of running in the morning while the weather was still reasonably cool. We did an epic tour up to some waterfalls where the kids had a blast on the rope swing. We also enjoyed a few nice meals out in the little town of La Crucecita.
Towards the end of our stay, we hired the services of a bottom cleaner to dive on our boat and clean up the marine growth that was starting to accumulate. Joel is a great resource for just about any of your boating needs. One thing to know, the harbor master does not allow bottom cleaning in the marina so you have to day-trip, with Joel, over to Bahia Santa Cruz to get the work done. We had no issues with the fuel dock either (at the Marina), even though it is ginormous and could handle a small cruise ship. Just be sure to let the Harbor Master now you are wanting to fuel up so he can make sure the guys are there. It was also the cheapest diesel we have paid for since we began cruising in 2014 at $2.45 gallon.
Our T-pecker weather window finally arrived and we slipped the dock lines around noon for our continued journey south!