Enchiladas verdes - Mexico 2005

Travel time: October / November 2005  |  by Daniela Dohmen

Jedi driving like a bat out of hell 17.10.05

Imagine the greenest green you can possibly imagine. Now add an extra layer of yet another shade of green to it and imagine the Rocky Mountains. This is how the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico looks like. Silke and I literally gasped often when we drove up the mountains because after each and every curve another panoramic view awaits you. I wish I could´ve taken a photo of it but it's impossible to stop on the roads. Still, this image of green will forever burn itself into my memory.

We arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas this morning, about 150 miles north of the border to Guatemala. As I mentioned the other day we decided to drive through the state of Chiapas as planned and not go the other way round. Lucky that we did because it is so very beautiful here. We did see a bit of the damage Hurricane Stan left here last week. The rivers are full of water and we saw a bit of flooding in one of the villages we drove by.

The people are not rich here but I would not call them "poor" either. It just a different life style and yet more different to European eyes I guess. However, I have to say that I´ve never valued clean, purified water as much as I do here. It´s indeed a commodity. Driving up to San Cristobal today was not only breath-takingly beautiful but also granted a tiny insight into the life in the villages. We saw dark-skinned women in colourful dresses walking by the road and carrying bundles of wood on their backs.

You might wonder about the strange subject line of this email. It came to me last night while lying in bed because the day had been rather stressful. We drove from Oaxaca to Tuxtla Guttierrez (the capital city of Chiapas). It´s a way of 350 miles (about 550 km) and it took us 10 hours to get here. We started fairly earlier from Oaxaca hoping we´d be here in the early afternoon but no way. The first part of the trip (down highway 190, almost all the way to the Pacific coast) turned out to be very curvy and driving was challenge. So, we took our time.

About one hour after we started our car indicated "oil service". Great. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. We stopped in a village (guarded by the military) and attracted immediate attention. Of course, 2 chicas y 1 coche, that was probably the highlight of the month. I admit, I should´ve practiced more Spanish before this trip - Silke had but she couldn´t really speak it. I asked an elderly woman about the next gas station and with an "oh, no problem, kiddo, it just around the next curve" she pushed us into the right direction. I don´t know if that was *really* what she had said but it sounded like it and, indeed, there was a gas station soon. By the way, all gas stations are service only. You cannot do it yourself but have to let the man or the woman do it. Payment is also only in cash. Much to our surprise the woman at the gas station wouldn´t give us a bottle of oil at first so we went into a small store which turned out to be the public telephone and grocery store. This time I consulted my little Spanish guide first, then tried to ask for oil and ended up pointing at the respective phrase in the book. We had our oil in no time. It turned out that our oil was fine after all and we guess that it is just an indication that, after a certain mileage, the car "should" get an oil change.

We continued our journey and I took my motion sickness pill because we kept going up and down the mountains. Round and round, up and down, round and round. About four and a half hours later we reached our first destination of the day. It was already afternoon and we had to hurry if we wanted to reach our final destination, Tuxtla Guttierrez, during daylight. Driving after night is not an option because the roads are tricky and there are many "reductors de velocidad", bumps in the road, which can damage our car if you don´t drive across them in snail speed. Driving is pure excitement here. The roads we took yesterday were toll-free and rather good (almost no pot-holes). Still, the sun kept traveling around us and we just adjusted to the traffic around us. I´m sure we broke quite some speed limits - but so did the others and it seemed alright. The highway got better and less curvy for a while and we really drove fast, but then the mountains came again and we had to slow down. When arriving in Tuxtla Guttierrez we stopped at the first bigger hotel, paid a lot of money for a loud room - but happy that we had made it we fell asleep.

I like the state of Chiapas. Yesterday evening we caught Star Wars II on TV in that expensive hotel and just a few minutes go we walked through the pedestrian precinct of San Cristobal when they suddenly played the Star Wars soundtrack .

When I say "expensive" it means that the hotel costs about $ 75 per night. Right now we have on for $ 40 and that is about the standard price. It is a rule that you can view the room and facilities before you decide. We checked out three different places today, two cheap ones and one more expensive. The latter was quite a sight but the staff was kind of snobbish so we went for the cheap & nice one. Despite my lack of Spanish, I have to say that I´ve already learned a lot. How to ask for a room with too beds. Ask for a quiet room, ask to see the room and how much it costs. The problem starts when somebody replies in Spanish <g>.

We will stay here for three nights (leaving Thursday morning) and then head to Palenque, deep into the tropics. The weather has been great so far. No rain and up here in the mountains it not as warm (but the sun is burning nonetheless).

More later when our Mexican adventure continues...

© Daniela Dohmen, 2007
You are here : Overview The Americas Mexico Jedi driving like a bat out of hell 17.10.05
The trip
2 girls, 1 car, 4 weeks and 5000 kilometres
Start of journey: Oct 09, 2005
Duration: 4 weeks
End of journey: Nov 05, 2005
Travelled countries: Mexico
The Author
Daniela Dohmen is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 14 years.