After a long overnight bus trip we arrived in Tuxtla relatively well rested. Our goal as usual was accommodation and we made our way by colectivo to centro. First impressions of this city was that it was a bit dirty and definitely not very touristy. This impression didn’t actually go away at any point in the four nights we spent here and was compounded by our bad organisation. On the positive we found a nice hostel quite quickly and although we couldn’t go straight to our room (it was only about 9am) we were able to use the terrace café to relax in.
Settling into the café we ordered breakfast and loaded up the internet, the All Black’s were playing the Springboks at a time we could watch due to the game being played in South Africa rather than New Zealand. Our breakfast arrived and it was delicious café style eggs with a Mexican twist, I struggled not to inhale mine too fast. By the end of the game our room was ready and we could move our packs in. The hostel was more like a hotel as we had a private room with shower and the one night here was possibly one of the better things about our visit to Tuxtla. It’s unfortunate that they only had availability for that night in their cheaper private rooms.
With the afternoon to spare we asked the receptionist what things we should do in or around town, she was fantastic and gave us a heap of options. Taking her advice we set of to locate the colectivos to Chiapa de Corzo a small pueblo magico half an hour away. The reason for visiting this town was because it is where the tours up Sumidero Canyon start from. Our first unfortunate event was that once we got to the embarcadero (where the boats depart from) we were informed that there were no more tickets for that day. So we had wasted an afternoon getting to this town and would have to return in the morning. On the bright side we had a good explore around the town. At the church we were able to climb the bell tower for 10 peso. This was quite entertaining and snapped us out of a bit of a grumpy mood because bell towers equal heights and Tom is wary about heights to say the least. This tower had a metal grill under the bells and although I could walk over it fine many people, including Tom, were a bit freaked out by it. We finished up this first visit to Chiapa de Corzo with an icy treat. Tom had a mango popsicle with chamoy sauce (spicy and salty) and I had a raspado (grated ice beverage similar to a slushy) with fresh banana and vanilla custard sauce.
Arriving back in town we still had to find some new accommodation for the rest of our stay in Tuxtla because although we could hope that a room would become available it was unlikely. We set off around the same area which we were staying as it was relatively central and door-knocked at all the hotels we found. Without our packs this was great and so easy. We asked at about 15 hotels and ended up with a few easy options for the next day.
Still with the evening ahead we decided to walk to the Plaza de la Marimba. A marimba is a giant wooden xylophone and is traditional in Mexico. This plaza had marimba bands playing each night of the week and was a destination for tourists and locals alike to experience the music, dance, people watch and eat or shop at the many market stalls. After browsing all the things to see in the plaza we ate at a local restaurant which was OK but nothing to write home about. We enjoyed the plaza so much that we decided we would return on other nights as well.
The next morning after a good sleep in the really comfy beds of the hostel we had to pack up our things and check out. No other cheap private rooms had become available so we would have to leave our things in the luggage room while we headed out for the day. We were heading back to Chiapa de Corzo for another try at the canyon tour. We arrived in good time but were told that we would have to wait an hour before we could buy tickets. What was with this place?! So we settled in to wait while tour bus groups frequently boarded the boats and left downriver, so frustrating. Finally we were able to buy tickets only to wait probably another 45 minutes before being joined with a small tour group.
I have to say that the wait was worth while as we slowly cruised down river through the huge canyon. The canyon was very impressive and the steep vertical sides reach upwards as high as 1000m from the river. On our way into the canyon we saw a crocodile napping in the mud on the side of the river. Tom decided it wasn’t very big and you could wrestle it if needed. Locals swim, fish and wash clothes near the sand bars where the crocs live so they must cross paths occasionally… On the return we passed another and Tom quickly changed his mind about the possibility of wrestling this one due to the size. Certainly in Australia you would take much more caution with crocodiles this size than the locals did. The boat went as far as a large hydroelectric dam where the land opens up from the canyon into pretty green hills which almost reminded me a little of home. Our only dislike of the canyon was the amount of litter in the river. There were always bottles or rubbish floating by which sadly has been the case in most water attractions we have visited in Mexico. It is a shame that there isn’t more effort to keep the river clean/tidy up the litter given how much local tourism is reliant on the canyon.
Arriving back in the afternoon it was time to collect our packs and move to our new hotel. The one we decided on was only a few blocks away so not too far to lug our things although the four floor stair climb at the hotel with packs on wasn’t very fun. A plus side of four floors up though was a nice breeze and less road noise as we had a room on the road side to utilise the balcony.
That night we returned to the plaza to listen to the marimbas. This time we found the small museum dedicated to everything marimba. Browsing through it we were quite impressed at the size of the instruments, the history and the skill it must take to play them. We treated ourselves to a bag of fresh churros which had such a tempting smell we just couldn’t resist. Surprisingly this was our first churro experience in Mexico. It didn’t disappoint and I loved the cinnamon sugar but the greasy deep fried taste would prevent me from scoffing too many.
The next day our plan was to visit the Zoo but as I mentioned earlier in this post our organisation in Tuxtla was a bit lacking as arriving to the Zoo we realised that it was closed. The colectivo driver backed this up so we headed back into town disappointed. Feeling a bit cranky we settled ourselves back at the hotel with beers and the internet. Actually I think this is where I was last writing blogs from, so some time ago sorry readers. Being a Monday everything else touristy was shut so we had little else to do. Another unfortunate event happened during this afternoon as I somehow managed to bump the top of the toilet cistern and knock it off. As it was made of ceramic it promptly broke in half. What would you do in a situation like this? Tell the hotel or leave it? We decided honesty was our best option and told the lady at reception who would let us know the following morning how much it would cost us. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling very happy for the remainder of the day.
Pleasantly (heavy use of sarcasm…) we had another event in store for us that evening. We walked again to the plaza de marimba looking forward to a nice evening and maybe even getting up for a dance. We first stopped back at the museum with our camera this time as we had forgotten it the previous night. After this we sat at a stall in the plaza market for dinner. This stall was selling tlayudas mainly so Tom ordered one and I ordered a huarache, both are typical Oaxacan food so we had eaten a few in the past. The food was pleasant enough but we had both previously had better. The real shock came when we asked for the bill and it was almost 300 peso…for street food! We questioned the man who served us and were informed that there was no mistake so we basically threw the money at him, said some choice words and stomped off. It’s events like that which really sour your enjoyment of a place; it basically ruined our evening. We quickly decided to head back to the hotel and make plans for the next day.
Still wanting to see the Zoo but not wanting to pay for any further nights in Tuxtla we planned to get up early and be at the Zoo at their opening time of 8am. A silver lining of missing out of the Zoo on Monday meant we would be there on Tuesday which is their free entry day. Upon arrival we had the Zoo to ourselves and could browse the enclosures without fuss. We took as much time as we could without rushing around like crazy people as we had to be back at the hotel for check out at 12 noon. My stand out favourites were easily the two quetzal which were beautiful and delicate birds, I could have stared at them for much longer, and also the jaguars. We doubled back to look at the nocturnal house and bug house which weren’t open when we first passed by although overall we were very happy at the early hour of our visit. Being school holidays the Zoo had filled up with families and there were people everywhere. Heading in the opposite direction to the flow of people entering the zoo we easily found a colectivo back into town. The traffic was appalling and we ended up returning to the hotel at 12.30, whoops. But our things were ready to go so we lugged our bags downstairs and were soon on our way to a bus.