We were supposed to catch a 7:00 am bus for a five-hour trip to San Cristóbal de las Casas yesterday, and the bus did indeed show up at 7:30 (Mexican time again). But the driver made an ominous announcement. It seems the road was not safe for the big coach to travel on; I could understand this, given the trip to two majestic waterfalls we had taken the day before. In several places, the narrow, two-lane, curvy road through the mountains had been washed out, leaving a single lane of loose gravel and sand for cars and tractor-trailers to travel over at a bone-jarring walking pace. It had rained during the night and perhaps the road was washed out again, or at least unstable. In any event, we had to detour all the way back to Villahermosa and then up a better highway into the mountains, coming into San Cristóbal the back way. We arrived at about 4:00 in the afternoon, only four and a half hours late.
Fortunately, Mexican first-class buses are both cheap and infinitely more comfortable than their Canadian counterparts. (Except, of course, that you’d get laughed out of the bus station if you asked for a first-class ticket in Canada.)
We slept most of the way into Villahermosa but before we fell into dreamland, we were stopped at a police checkpoint, where an officer boarded the bus and asked some passengers for their passports. For some reason, we didn’t get asked; perhaps it was my new haircut. (Come to think of it, we even got through US customs and security in Houston without a hassle; at least something in the world o’ transportation was going right for us!) Police also lined the roadway outside of Palenqué around the airport. Maybe a politician was flying in.
Ana watched a really bad movie in English called Lord of the Elves. They must have hired every midget in Indonesia (where it was filmed) and I did some writing while the boring scenery of the lowlands passed by outside the windows.
But it didn’t stay boring for long once we started climbing back into the jungle. And unlike around Palenqué, where it seemed the jungle had been mostly cleared for corn crops and grazing, this was impenetrably thick forest, which had only been cut back in a few isolated spots. Magnificent valleys of deep green were shrouded in mist as we climbed. Huge trees vied for the light, spreading their upper branches over wide areas to catch the sun and the rain.
And then it did start to rain; not just a shower, but an out-and-out jungle downpour. The valleys were hidden by clouds so thick that you couldn’t see past the vegetation that lined the road. The windows were so obscured by the rain that it was impossible to take photos.
We passed huge rivers and a monstrous lake in a mountain valley. It was so big that the bus had to pass over a causeway that was at least several kilometres long. I wondered if it was an artificial lake, created for hydroelectric power.
As we got higher and the rain started to taper off in spots, we could see huge electrical transmission towers and lines marching through the trees. The state of Chiapas evidently has 85% of Mexico’s water (most of which seemed to be falling on our highway) and supplies about three quarters of its electricity.
Highway workers hacked away at the tall grass beside the road with machetes. It looked like brutally hard work in the heat and humidity.
We reached a summit and suddenly we were in a world of dryness. The long grass was yellow-brown and the trees seemed stunted. Eventually we arrived at Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of Chiapas, a prosperous-looking place in comparison to a lot of Mexican cities and towns.
Finally we were able to get off the bus for a short break and buy an absolutely horrendous ham-and-cheese sandwich from one of the fast food places in the terminal.
After a short stop, our trip resumed and we travelled even higher into the mountains. The scenery was spectacular, as the road wound up the heights. Ana got nervous in the window seat, since there were virtually no guardrails along the side of the road and there was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet just outside the windows of our bus.
We finally arrived in San Cristóbal and our hotel, the Posada de Media Luna (Half Moon Inn). It’s a very modest place in an old building, but what it lacks in luxury it makes up for in friendliness. We seem to have picked a place where kindred spirits stay, as the small inn seems to be full of elderly tourists.
Unfortunately, the place also has an electrical system that can only be described as quaint. For some reason, Chiapas conforms to North American-type plugs where everywhere else we’ve visited in Mexico has European-style power points. And these plugs are old two-prongers.
I cheerfully changed my three-prong plug for a two-prong on my laptop’s power adaptor, plugged it in and started collecting my email. Suddenly, the lights flickered, my computer froze and would not restart. I thought I had fried a component, and the front-desk staff told me there was no Apple store in San Cristóbal. I figured my blogging was finished for the duration, and posted as much on Facebook.
Surges and urges
But as much as I curse Apple for its newer software, which seems to take more computer power to do less, I was able to recover from what seemed to be disaster by looking up the recovery process on the ancient, creaking laptop in the hotel’s lobby and running back and forth to our room to apply the various fixes that were recommended. It’s not fully up to speed yet, but maybe by tomorrow I’ll be able to get my notebook to start up while not in safe mode or recovery mode.
I complained to Ana that on our next trip, I was going to make sure I brought along a surge suppressor. Then I noticed that the plug adaptor I had bought at a drugstore did exactly that. Duh! Now the little beast is engaged in a total backup while in safe mode, chugging happily along through the adaptor/surge suppressor and its three-pronged plug.