Friday 15 September 2023

1987 Travel Journal: San Cristobal de la Casas


I woke up way too early this morning, due to the repetitive clamor of loud church bells.  I don’t understand the persistence of them, they loudly clanged more than one hundred times.  As tired as I was, for some reason my brain couldn’t help but count them.  I made a futile attempt to go back to sleep, but my room was cold, and then my stomach began having some unwelcome rumblings that soon drove me to the bathroom.

Luckily, I had taken the precaution of buying some Lomotil tablets in Mexico City, in case I got “Tourista” during my travels, and it seemed as if that was what I had.  After a dose of Lomotil, I reenforced the  treatment with toast and Camomile tea for breakfast.  It all seemed to work because I made it through the day without any further desperate sprints to the bathroom.  

My morning preparations weren’t helped when I tried to take a shower.  Hotel Fray Bartholome de Casas only has hot water between 7:00 and 11:00 AM, but when I got under my shower, I got an ever changing mixture of the extremes.  First, very hot, which was then followed by very cold.  I expended a great deal of energy, by quickly manhandling the taps back and forth, trying to moderate the temperatures and having to jump out from under the water flowing from the shower head when the extremes suddenly appeared.

Once out of the hotel, my first chore of the day was to walk down to the bus station to buy a ticket for tomorrow’s 6:30 bus to the Guatemalan border.  While there, I ran into Anni, the Finnish girl, who was getting a ticket for the Mayan ruins of Palenque, a site which Joan and I had visited during 1981 trip to Mexico.

Anni, and I then went to explore the famous market in San Cristobal, which was full of the very colorful fiber crafts of the local Mayan Indians.  For someone like me, who loves color, the weavings on display were mind-blowing.  I had a lot of souvenirs to buy (mostly for Joan) and I bought a shawl for $6, a woven belt for $1, a woman’s “blousa” for $23, a finely woven net bag for $19,  a purse for $2, and for me; a pair of sandals in hopes that they would relieve my Athlete’s Foot that has been thriving, due to the daylong moist, warm, confinement of my feet in runners.) $9.25.  (All prices converted to Canadian dollars).

Visiting the San Cristobal food market was also a unique experience.  I was surprised at the range of the local produce that was being sold.  There were chickens, pineapples, chili peppers, bananas, and pigs.  The squalor of the place was frightening.  I saw a little kid being given a tortilla that had dropped on the filthy concrete floor.  Venders handed live chickens to customers, brushing them up against cut-up pieces of chicken that lay on top of the counter.

While at the market, Anni, got out her camera and took a photo of a little Mayan girl, and a man displeased at seeing her take the photo, threw a watermelon rind at her.  Anni had travelled all over the world, but this had been the first time something like that had happened to her. 

I met Anni again at 4:00 and we walked around town just looking at things.  One day in San Cristobal de la Casas was enough for me.  By 7:00, it was getting pretty familiar, so I bid Anni good luck in her travels to Palenque, and headed back to my hotel room.  I had to get up at 5:45 AM the next day for my bus ride to Guatemala, and I knew I probably wouldn’t sleep very well.

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