Well, we knew we had to say goodbye to the beach - more and bigger adventures waiting for us - so we took the 12 hour trip on the nightbus to San Cristobal de las Casas in the Chiapas Highlands.
When we arrived in the city of San Cristobal at 6 o clock in the morning though, it was frrrrreezing! We were so lucky we brought along big sweaters and jackets. Everyone running around was wearing hats and gloves and scarfs...so this is how a temperature drop from 28 down to 5 degrees feels, brrrrrrrrrr....we were so happy the first day when we found a fantastic little soup restaurant to warm us up, especially with the big chillies in our soups! San Cristobal is lying at an altitude of 2200m, so days are fine with 25 degrees and strong mountain sun, but nights are horribly cold. We rolled ourselves into sleeping bags, a regular blanket, and 2 woolen blankets to keep warm!
The city is really pretty, nice little churches, lots of cafes, a big crafts market and a big food market, some pretty squares and even the first true pedestrian zone we have seen so far! (no cars allowed? this cannot be Mexico!) But it is also a real tourist town, which here means indigenous people with their sad looking little kids selling crafts and begging at every time of the day. The city used to be the stage for the Zapatista rebel movement, and there are still lots of supporters who display their pride everywhere. You can even buy little rebel puppets, complete with guns and masks (which freak us out a tiny bit). We actually went to the cinema of a cultural center and watched an interesting documentary about the Zapatista movement which gave us a lot of insight into the issue.
On our second day we took a tour to the Canon del Sumidero, a 25km long canyon, at the highest point it is 1km deep. We took a 2h boat ride on the river that runs through the canyon and spotted some lazy crocodiles. Really impressive and magnificent landscape, and we got off the speedboat with funny hair ;-)
The next day we took a tour to some towns in the area where the indigenous Tzotzil people live. The towns are quite big, around 70.000 people living in these communities, but only 20% of them speak Spanish. Their main language is Tzotzil which is Maya. We visited a Spanish church that has been turned into a temple by the locals: They bring sacrifices to the altar like fruits, flowers, alive chicken (to kill there), and bottles of coca cola (!). They have masked and decorated the 62 Christian saint figures inside the church into the Maya gods. It was not allowed to take pictures there, but we can tell you it was quite a sight! This is the week when religious leaders are chosen, so it was superbusy - we could not get but a few metres inside the church, just masses of people crammed inside bringing sacrifices, smoke from incense being burned in the air. Afterwards we also visited a spooky graveyard (Maya religion also uses a cross and they bury people according to Maya tradition here, but it has different meanings) and a local family where they cooked us up some yummy tortillas.
When we returned we wanted to do some shopping at the local market, but there was a demonstration of indigenous people going on who refused to leave the market until January 1st (anniversary of the Zapatista uprising), masses of police marching there, and streets were blocked by townspeople who sympathize with the indigenous protest. It felt strange though, because we could not get any more information about what was happening and Mexican media do not show these things as it is a politically sensitive issue.
And then came our last day in San Cristobal: New Year´s Eve! We were looking forward to the celeberations in the streets and wondering what to expect (more demonstrations?). It was also the first time for both of us to celebrate New Years in a country far away from home. It turned out to be a fun night, a little quiet though, because most locals celebrate at home with their families. But there were still lots of people, mostly tourists, on the street (this year, most tourists are actually rich Mexicans from the North). We had a nice dinner and some drinks, listenend to really nice live music in a bar and celebrated the arrival of the 2011 on the plaza in front of the church with the crowd. No fireworks (too expensive for most people here) but lots of sparkling lights!
FELIZ ANO NUEVO A TODOS!