17. San Cristobal de las Casas
With little sleep and a long walk to our hostel at 8am, I was not a happy camper. We presumed that because we were arriving so early, we would only be able to dump our bags then have to find ways to pass the time until we could check-in. Nope - luck was on our side. We turned up at the most awesome hostel in town, who not only gave us a room straight away but also a huge breakfast of crepes with apples and bananas. The positive attitude was seeping back. With such a delicious breakfast in my belly, we decided (stupidly) that we didn't need sleep after all and headed into town.
San Cristobal was lovely. There were two main cobbled pedestrian streets, lined with single-storey decrepit but colourful old buildings. It was by far the most touristy town we had visited, with hippies outnumbering locals 5:1. Restaurants and bars were within arm's reach at all times, a few churches were scattered about, and a huge outdoor market under white tents overtook one block, selling local handicrafts. The beauty of the place only kept Danny going for an hour or two, before he went back to the hostel and crashed. I, on the other hand, was wide awake and wanted to see everything. There were churches on either side of town, up some steep stairs, so I climbed both. The views at the top were not at all worth the effort, though I was happy for the mini-workout.
Lunch was Lebanese food - bet you didn't see that coming. We felt it was time for a change, so instead of tacos, tortas and empanadas, it was falafels, hummus and pita. And it was fantastic. We didn't realise how much we would enjoy a change of cuisine. Who knew that you could have too much Mexican food?
Somehow I was still going strong and lunch only added to my energy stores, so we continued exploring. We caught a collectivo out to Grutas de Rancho Nuevo, a cave about 10km south of San Cristobal. It was located in a huge pine forest, with cabins and picnic tables dotted around. The cave itself was nothing special, just your usual assortment of stalactites and stalagmites, but that didn't worry me - there is something enticing about caves that draws me back again and again.
Guess what Danny did for dinner? COOKED! Hello healthy food! Local vegetables cooked up into a stew without loads of unnecessary oils and salt. Sooooooo good to have veggies again. I know I could cook occasionally too, but we both know how that would turn out. Half the veggies would be raw, it would somehow taste like sawdust, I'd probably spill half of it on the ground, causing me to become angry and end up tossing it away. Then we would both go hungry. It's just better if Danny cooks.
The next day, after a mammoth 10 hour sleep, we joined a tour heading out to Cañón del Sumidero. It was highlighted as a must-do in the area, so we piled on board our bus then boat with the other Spanish-speaking tourists to hear all about the amazingness of the canyon. In Spanish. The river trip down the canyon itself wasn't too bad, with the walls jutting up 800m above us. We saw many birds (don't ask me about species), a couple of monkeys swinging through the trees and one suspiciously motionless crocodile. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to see the place again.
Once we were back in town I thought the amber museum might hold my interest for a little while. It turned out that a little while was about 10 minutes. San Cristobal is apparently famous for amber, but I don't see the fascination. Some of the sculpted pieces were remarkable, but I only quickly glanced over them - amber really doesn't do it for me. By this time happy hour was calling my name, so I skipped right past the jewellery section and went to meet Danny.
The main street bars were catering solely for tourists, but when your cheap wine comes with free tapas AND free popcorn, who's complaining? By the time we had exhausted the variety of tapas on offer at two bars, we knew we should find some dinner. Using Lonely Planet as a guide, we found a restaurant that had no name, no signs and only sold quesadillas. But not just any quesadillas, the most amazing quesadillas in the entire world. At the front were numerous fillings, and all we had to do was find a translator (thank you random American girl) who could read the signs for us then write down our order. Today, all options were vegetarian (woohoo!). There were incredible combinations such as mushroom, peanut and chili, or broccoli and mushroom, as well as eggplant and cheese. We ordered two each, as well as a mixed nut atole (a drink that in this case tasted like melted peanut butter, a.k.a. heaven in a glass). At the end we felt like we would burst but it was worth it. By far the best food I had eaten in Mexico.
The streets of San Cristobal at night.