5 am wasn’t the nicest time to be arriving into a new place but as we were a little disorganised it wasn’t a completely bad thing. We had travelled from Palenque to Villahermosa and quickly decided that it wasn’t going to be the nicest place to spend a few days so we jumped back onto an overnight bus to Campeche. So there we were, in town before a lot of things opened, well before the sun was up. Given the amount of day we had in front of us you would think that finding accommodation would be easy. Not so. A lot of the hotels were over our budget here and the ones which weren’t were unsure if they had private rooms available until midday when guests were due to check-out. So we detoured to eat breakfast at the only food place we could find. After re-energising with an eggy breakfast we found a hotel which looked good and were able to leave our packs at reception.
After some Google searching while in Tuxtla Gutierrez we had discovered some cheap apartments through a hotel in San Cristobal. We knew we would be spending a while here just to relax and see some of Chiapas so booking an apartment with kitchen seemed wise, and at $100 USD for the week it was also relatively cheap in a very touristy location. So after walking eight blocks to a main street in Tuxtla and waiting on the side of the road we easily found a second class bus which was a cheap way to get the hour and a half up into the heart of Chiapas. Arriving in San Cristobal we took a taxi (lazy unimaginative option I know, but sometimes it’s nice not to squeeze the packs into already crowded colectivos) to our hotel where we would be shown to our wee apartment.
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. Continue reading
The alarm woke us up at 3am. Not a nice time of
morning night to be getting up but we had booked a tour and couldn’t sleep through the pick up time. The tour we had booked was three days long, started in San Cristobal and ended in Palenque. At 2500 peso each this was by far the most expensive excursion we had been on in the last eight months and although enjoyable, looking back we are unsure if it was worth that amount of money.
The van driver picked us up and it was soon obvious that he was a crazy driver. This set off my motion sickness and throwing up into a bag I always keep close during transport I was glad of the darkness before managing to get some extra sleep. The whole van of tourists was abruptly woken en-route as the driver clipped another car while he was performing one of his many dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. Even worse was that he didn’t stop. I’m glad this mode of transport actually had working seatbelts which has been a rarity. Over the next three days we would be visiting the waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak archaeological sites and the final day would be a jungle walk in the Lacandon jungle. Continue reading
Our final destination on the coast we decided would be the more touristy town of Huatulco which is beside a large national park. We arrived after a relatively cheap collective taxi to Pochutla where we topped up our Peso at the Scotiabank before jumping on a cheap second class bus for an hour or so.
After arriving at the bus station it was immediately obvious that we had reached tourist country so we shouldered our packs and set of to hopefully find some cheap accommodation. During some internet research the previous day our initial impression of hotels in this town was that they would be at the upper limit of our budget. After stopping off at a few between the bus station and centro we were surprised to find that we had options. At about our fifth enquiry we came across a winner for 300 Peso per night. This got us a recently renovated room, en-suite, balcony and fan about four short blocks to the central plaza and less back to the bus station. This hotel ended up being super cute. When our room was cleaned each day they would arrange the towels as animals; we had a peacock, an elephant and kissing swans in a heart.
After leaving Mazunte in the heat of midday we arrived by colectivo ute within 30 minutes to Zipolite, another small coastal town renown for it’s great beach, which also happens to be one of the most well known nude beaches in Mexico. Never fear, you can keep reading because you won’t find any mention of us going starkers or any photos of naked people on the beach (I hope). Zipolite if possible felt smaller than Mazunte with one main road which loops around in a semicircle to rejoin with the main road.
We set of to locate the places we had found online which looked promising for our accommodation. Along our walk through town we found heaps of dirt cheap places to stay but they all looked a bit rough so we kept walking. Our goal was a place Tom had looked at online which was off the beach in a jungle setting. After arriving and getting no answer from the bell we hung around for a while investigating a huge stick insect on the gate. It was probably 30cm long! While we were amusing ourselves with this (I promise we only touched it once each so we weren’t being horrible to the wildlife) the owner showed up. Perfect timing. He showed us to an individual cabaña with a small outdoor kitchen and while we were thinking about it he let us leave our bags so we could investigate other places. So nice! It was great being able to explore without our packs but he must have known we would return and accept the place because it was a great price.
When we arrived in Mazunte we were a little disorganised, we didn’t have a great idea of where we wanted to stay and I hadn’t loaded Google maps of the area very well on my phone. We managed to find a cheapish but nice hotel right on the beach. But being the start of the school summer holidays in Mexico we were told that on the following Monday the price would increase. So we booked until Sunday night which gave us three nights to get to know Mazunte.
Heading out of Oaxaca at 10.30am in a shuttle we were off and away through some crazy, beautiful and rugged mountains on our way to Puerto Escondido on the Oaxacan coast. The trip was about six hours of roads winding their way up hills and down valleys in a bumpy van which my motion sickness just barely managed to tolerate. The trip seemed quite long but we eventually arrived to the hot and sticky temperatures of the coast. We were finally at the beach again. Finding a camioneta (more or less just a ute with bench seats in the tray and a tarp for a roof) we headed 20 minutes out of Puerto Escondido downtown to an area called Brisas de Zicatela where we would be staying for eight nights. Continue reading
So we were back in Oaxaca. I wasn’t particularly upset about having to return here even though it was such a long journey to make from Xela. I really enjoyed the ten days we had spent here over a month ago and was happy to see some more of the city and especially to eat some more excellent Oaxacan food. I think this state has been my favourite for food (and continues to be in future destinations, stay tuned) with mole, lots of delicious meats, queso, mezcal and I can’t forget the chocolate!
We had arrived by second class bus which left us at a smaller second class terminal on the south west side of the city rather than the north where the first class is. This was actually really convenient for us as the cheap hotels were all on this side of the city. We easily found a hotel which was a few blocks from the mercado and zocalo and settled in.
Our first stop was to pick up our camera. Finally it had been fixed. With that in my hands our next course of action was to find food so we ate across the road at a local comedor. Cheap and tasty food in our stomachs we relaxed and had an early night.
We stayed two nights back in Oaxaca. Really we could have just had one but we had no idea where we would head to next so wanted a day to relax and plan. After doing some internet research we had an airbnb cabaña booked in Puerto Escondido and were ready to go out for the day.
Tom had lost his sunnies a while back and we were determined to find some in another nearby market. We couldn’t actually find any there but we pretty much found everything else you could possibly need as we explored this huge mercado. The produce looked fantastic and the food stalls smelled awesome but we showed restraint and only purchased a couple of avocados to go with our planned lunch as well as some coconut agua frescas. Locating an exit we headed back to a vendor of pollo asado or roast chicken which Tom craves every week or so. With our chook and sides in hand we headed back to our hotel to scoff down a whole roast chicken, salad, tortillas, salsa and avocado. Needless to say we didn’t need dinner.
After digesting we decided to head out into centro. That night our (really my) goal was to FINALLY have a Oaxacan hot chocolate. Priorities right? Writing this it seems like this whole day was revolving around food but we did accomplish research on our next destination as well!
Entering the Majordomo store we stopped to take in the aroma, mmmm. There was eating chocolate, a few types of drinking chocolate for making at home or to drink now as well as mole. I was in heaven. We sampled a piece of chocolate, some chocolate frio (choc milkshake) and some fresh chocolate paste which had a variety of uses in Oaxacan cuisine. Purchasing my hot choc I happily took my time with drinking it as we walked towards the zocalo.
As we were walking around the zocalo the weather decided to turn on us and we were stuck out in the rain yet again in Oaxaca. This had happened a few times on our previous visit. So we wandered some covered market stalls before running back to our hotel for our final night here. The next morning we packed up and ate a quick and tasty breakfast next door at a comedor. We had booked shuttle tickets at a nearby company which would get us to Puerto Escondido quicker and cheaper than taking a bus.
We were headed to the Oaxacan coast for some eagerly awaited beach time!
Just before midday we set off from our guesthouse in Xela with a leisurely morning behind us and heaps of time to get to the border (or so we thought). We knew the route and what methods of transport we would need so it was going to be an easy journey to make.
First off was another colectivo back to Minerva bus station where we asked around until we found the right bus. We had thought we might have been able to get just one bus all the way to Malacatan but were told we would need to change at San Marcos like we did on our initial journey to Xela five weeks previous.
So off we set quite relaxed with taking the chicken buses by now and feeling comfortable with only the two of us on the seat. First bus done with no worries.
In San Marcos we boarded the next bus which took about 10 minutes before departure. It was soon after we set off that our sense of haste kicked in. Of course we had no control over the speed of our travel, unless we wanted to take a taxi which would have been expensive. Making matters worse our bus was in go-slow-mode due to overheating brakes. It was around this point in the trip that it suddenly dawned on us that we would be losing an hour upon arrival into Mexico because of daylight savings which Guatemala doesn’t have. I should mention that our reason for all this talk about time was because we knew there was an overnight bus to Oaxaca which would depart at 7.15pm, and due to the aforementioned brake problem we had begun to notice the time slipping by rather rapidly.
Just to add to the stress as we climbed our way through the mountains out of San Marcos a thick fog set in and stayed with us pretty much all the way to the border. Then the fog turned into torrential rain and our bags were on the roof in the usual chicken bus fashion. Extra stress! Neither of us liked the idea of our current worldly belongings being saturated and we hadn’t noticed if a tarpaulin had been used to cover them. There was a silver lining to the rain which was that it had obviously cooled the brakes as the bus was back into go-fast-mode.
Finally we arrived in Malacatan and if we were nail biters I think we would have chewed our poor nails to the skin by now. Luckily the bags had been covered and were only a little damp. Also our bags are made of a sturdy canvas and have a little waterproofing due to this so nothing inside them was actually wet. Squishing into a colectivo with our packs on the roof again, this time without a cover but luckily the rain had eased, we were on our way to the border.
As I mentioned in my post about our journey to Guatemala (check that out here) the border crossing is really easy on foot. We had our passports stamped on the Guatemalan side after ignoring the taxi drivers and headed across the bridge and back into Mexico. The Mexican side took a little longer as we had to pay for our visas and then have our bags checked. Overall it took less than an hour and I was (finally) able to use the bathroom.
Jumping into another colectivo which would hopefully get us to the bus station in Tapachula on time we set off. Unfortunately this colectivo didn’t take the route we expected and we made it by running to the counter at the ADO bus terminal at exactly 7.15pm, just as the first boarding call was being announced, only to be told that tickets to the bus we wanted were sold out. OH NO! Time to reassess our plans.
The lady behind the counter told us that there was another bus which could take us to Juchitan near the Oaxacan coast and from there we could get another bus to Oaxaca City. Well that sounded like it would work even though it was a little annoying and a few hours extra we would now have time for dinner and get into Oaxaca around mid-afternoon instead of early morning. We decided to grab dinner across the road at the restaurant we had eaten at on our previous stay in Tapachula before boarding the bus.
The bus was annoying to say the least as we were stopped at least two, maybe three, times and woken from our sleep as armed personal checked our bus. At the second of these stops we were required to get our bags and walk though a customs building. As we had to in the airport we pushed a button which would give us green or red lights signalling if our bags would be checked. Luckily it was all green lights and we were back in the bus trying to get back to sleep.
Juchitan at 6am in the morning wasn’t my favourite destination in the world but we managed by watching a few episodes of True Detective. Soon the time had passed and we were on another bus, this time second class, to Oaxaca. We drove through some very pretty mountain scenery on the six hours it took to get to Oaxaca though the windiness of the road wasn’t making me feel the best so I mostly dozed. When we made a food stop I was really happy as we hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. A torta with egg and chorizo really hit the spot and even made me feel a little better about the roads which is usually the opposite of how my motion sickness works.
Finally we neared Oaxaca and I was very ready to get out of a moving vehicle. We had been travelling for 26 hours and were exhausted. Of course we still had to find accommodation. We had decided to not return to our previous hotel because it was a little pricey for what it was and the mosquitoes annoyed us a lot. You can read about the first time we spent in Oaxaca here; go on have a look.
I’ll be back shortly with a post on our two nights in Oaxaca. It’s just a quick visit but we enjoyed it as Oaxaca city has been one of our favourite places.