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Published: October 22nd 2016
We had a difficult time procuring a ride to Ocosingo; it took a while but finally in the late afternoon a sedan-type car with two friendly looking Mexican men pulled up and said they were going as far as 20KM before Ocosingo. We had been trying for an hour and grabbed the opportunity to get closer to our goal for the night.
The men dropped us off in a Podunk town exactly two hours after we had started. We were 20KM from Ocosingo, just as they had said.
With our next ride we reached the big town of Ocosingo. The driver of this small car was a young college kid from Tuxtla heading back home alone. He was yet another nice, if quiet, young man. We only had to walk a few blocks from the highway where we had been dropped off through town until we found a hospedaje that only charged 100P per room; this was the first one we tried and we took it. We checked in to Hospedaje Las Palmas and then took our bags upstairs to our room. Our room consisted of one bed, a large window open to the street
below, a clean new “sheet” (or rather, just a piece of fabric) on the bed, a table and a chair. It was perfect and no frills, just the way I like it.
The next morning we checked out of our room, put our belongings in the store room downstairs and walked over to the collectivo stand to find transport to Tonina, a pre-Columbian archeological site about 14 kilometers from Ocosingo. The collectivo dropped us at the entrance kiosk to the ruins and we were assured the transport comes back throughout the day every 20 minutes or so for the return trip to town. We stayed at the ruins for 6.5 hours, completely enthralled and taking in every last corner of the grounds.
A short walk down a dewy path led us to the impressive ruins. All of a sudden, there she was, in all her imposing glory, the majestic Tonina, right in front of us. We were first in and quite a while were the only ones in the park. We climbed immediately to the top of the top and were afforded an amazing and unobstructed view of the green rolling hills, home and
farmsteads, Ocosingo off to the right, and the green verdant open land space directly below the massive seven-tiered structure.
At one point, we looked up and saw an incredible, almost spooky “rainbow ring” around the sun. Maybe it was a symbol from the Mayan Gods or something – after all, this is the year (2012) the Mayans thought would be the beginning of a change, a new era. Or...The End Of The World As We Know It.
On our walk down, at the bottom tier or level, of this ruin, a guy passed by me and we started chatting. Of all places, he was from San Geronimo Valley in west Marin and most recently had been living in Guerneville, all relatively close to the city in which I grew up. Sometimes the world proves to be quite small.
Back in Ocosingo I became quite parched and needed a drink, having a sudden hankering for fresh juice. One shop was charging 25P for an OJ but Iliana thought that was too expensive. We soon found a lady with a large thermos of agua de piña (pineapple juice) set up on a makeshift
table by the park and I ended up getting a drink for 5P. It was so good and went down the hatch so easily I refilled my cup for an additional 5P. Now that’s a bargain if I ever took advantage of one. I was soon very full. And very happy.
After a meager breakfast we found ourselves looking for a good place to stand to try and hitch our last ride, this time to the big city of San Cristobal de las Casas.
About 10:30, a beater of a Nissan car stopped and the smiley driver offered us a lift to San Cristobal, where he too was headed. He was a young middle-age guy who had spent four years in Tennessee working in landscaping, driving trucks, shuttling people; doing everything possible to make good money and learning English along the way. He was known amongst friends and business contacts in the states as “Smiley Man,” and how appropriate a name! His smile was infectious – and cute to boot!
Smiley Man said he was driving from Ocosingo to San Cristobal (a 2-hour drive) and then to Comitan (another 1.5 hours)
and then back to Ocosingo (another 1.5-2 hours) all today, looking for and picking up car/truck parts for his boss. Because he drove so much for his job in the USA and now here, he was a fabulous and conscientious driver. I sat up front and with the amazing scenery to gaze at and good conversation (finally, mostly in English so I could understand and also contribute), the two hours went by in a flash. Augusto spoke English with a southern accent, which made me laugh every time he spoke. That was the first time I had heard a Mexican speak in a southern accent, but hey, when you learn English in Tennessee, of course you’ll speak like the natives! It makes perfect sense.
His motor parts shop was on the edge of town so we got out and bid each other safe journeys and then Iliana and I caught onward transport to the Mercado, in a central enough location of the city.
It was a nice half-hour, 15-block walk in the cool weather, until we reached the hostel in which I wanted to stay, Posada Leon de Jovel. Thankfully there was a bed
available in the 4-bed dorm so I snagged one for 80P a night. Fabulous. I was happy as a clam. A single room here could be rented on a monthly basis for 1500P, about $80. Not a bad deal, really, considering there is a well-equipped and large kitchen to use, free WIFI and the hostel seems like an easy place to meet other travelers. I will think hard about the possibility of staying for a month.
After I checked in, we headed back out, this time to the bus station so Iliana could get a ticket to Mexico City. The station was about 8 blocks away, and as soon as we left the hostel, it started to sprinkle. The rains came as soon as we got around the corner from the posada. We ducked into a nearby Chinese eatery when it started to pour - it was a cold rain up there at 2100 meters. This restaurant tauted itself as serving real “authentic Chinese food,” so we got an order of pot sticker-like things. They were called "raviolis," arrived cold and were served with soy sauce and Thousand Island dressing. Hm.
We soon said
our goodbyes and made promises to keep in touch; she headed to her bus and I set off back to my new hostel, ready to begin a new chapter yet again.
A few days later I was off to Comitan by collectivo to retrieve the bags I had left behind nearly two weeks before. It was an easy journey, just under two hours, the road was good, smooth and thankfully with not too many curves. I arrived in Comitan and walked the seven blocks to Jacqueline’s mom’s house to pick up the belongings I had left behind. Ricardo, Jacqueline’s brother, remembered me, as did the housecleaner, and I was greeted with smiles and hugs. I retrieved my two untouched bags, thanked the family over and over, and within eight minutes I was walking back up the hill to catch another collectivo back to San Cristobal. I stayed in San Cristobal just over three weeks before pressing onwards again.
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