February 16, 2006 GMT
Via Chiapas to the Pacific Coast

I really liked Mérida and the tranquil accomodation (a rare thing in Mexico) but Mexico is huge and I have only two months. So after two nights I hit the road again, heading southwest, passing by Campeche and entering Chiapas at Palenque.

There were 3 military checkpoints on the road but only one stopped me and kind of searched my luggage. However, these were very young guys (with German G-3 rifles) and I was about to ask them why they stop me - is it because European motorcycle tourists are notorious for arms smuggling? Well, I didn't ask - better run no risks.. ;-)

Crossing the Yucatan peninsula is as thrilling as crossing Paraguay: It's above all green, hot and humid. Before you enter Chiapas, you have to cross a small strech of the state of Tabasco. It was not as spicy as I expected.

Chiapas had been notorious for fights between the Zapatistas (an indigenous rebel movement) and the mexican army. Currently there are no fights but the conflict has not been settled. However, the Zapatistas fight for their cause with modern means like the internet. Quite an interesting organization, look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National_Liberation for details.

Entering Chiapas is entering a mountain landscape of intensely green jungle-covered hills and mountains up to little less than 3000 meters. Like in southern Chile, reaching Palenque I quickly learned why the landscape is so green: The evening I arrived, thick clouds hung threatening over the city - and minutes after I had checked in at the hotel, the rain started. It rained heavily all thru the night and the next morning still it wouldn't stop. Palenque has one of Mexico's most important archeological sites and three (supposedly) very beautiful waterfalls - but I decided to simply ignore them and just escape from the rain. On my way back I'd still have a chance to visit these touristic highlights.

As so often on my Latin America trip I was completely wrong with regards to clothing. Since it had been quite hot the last days, I guessed that it would be just as hot and additionally wet on the road and therefore just wore a shirt under my Goretex gear. Bad idea. Climbing the Chiapas mountains on a narrow and twisted road through the green jungle, it got more and more freezing - and I got more and more drenched. So finally I had to stop in the rain and put on a winter pullover and waterproof winter gloves. I was a little less cold but still freezing enough when I finally reached San Cristobal de las Casas at an altitude of some 2200m. San Cristobal is one center of the Zapatista uprising and funnily in the crafts markets you can buy Zapatista t-shirts, zapatista postcards and so on, usually showing men or women masked with balaclavas (Sturmhauben), so you can only see their eyes - and indicating their pseudonyms like "Subcomandante Marcos".
San Cristobal is a nice, genuine and coloured place in the middle of the "Sierra Madre de Chiapas" - but IMHO it's not worth staying longer than an afternoon. So the next day I continued my ride towards the west, heading for the hot and sunny pacific coast.

Of course this time I was dressed very well, with termo underwear, long underpants and a warm pullover. And of course, after little less than two hours, I was so hot that I had to remove a couple of clothes. The special challenge is to take off the long underpants at a public lookout point at the "Sumidero" canyon near Tuxtla Gutrierrez - without being arrested. But I succeeded in doing so since it was early morning (at least in Mexican terms) and there was almost nobody in that park.

Finally I reached the pacific coast and spent the night in the very authentic and almost (apart from myself) gringo-free town of Tehuantepec. Actually I did not want to stay there but it was almost 5 pm and continuing would most probably mean traveling in the dark. As my Cancun hotel manager had warned me particularly of this road - especially at night - I had decided to look for accomodation here. I liked the city - since it was lively and really looked like you imagine original Mexico. I liked especially the three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, driven by men and always with two women standing full of dignity on the back with their hair and skirts waving in the wind.

From Tehuantepec I took a nicely twisted road along the pacific coast, through a hot land of hills and dry bushes - a really enjoyable motorcycle road - and finally arrived at "Bahias de Huatulco" - a rather new and upcoming tourist resort center, a lot calmer and a lot more exclusive than Cancun. However I was very lucky and found a nice and comparatively cheap place (25 USD per night) in a very tiny village directly at the beach. Here I spent most of the time on the beach, in the beach bar or in my room, bathing, sunbathing, reading, relaxing, eating delicious seafood, drinking beer, taking showers... But also this paradise was not perfect, since - typical for Mexico - noise prevented me from sleeping well. This time it wasn't the traffic or city noise, but a dog barking for hours in the middle of the night in front of my window and a cock starting to scream at 5 in the morning - in front of my other window. It could just have been Orscholz (insider joke ;-)).

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at February 16, 2006 01:01 AM GMT

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