Adios Sun Cristobal – Part II

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San Cristobal is a very popular tourist destination and its population swells during Holy week (the week leading up to Easter). Navigating the pedestrian walkways becomes kind of like playing the game Frogger. But take your eyes off the path for one second and you get a shoulder into the abdomen by a young Mexican girl.

Not only does the visitor count go up, but it seems there are just as many indigenous people on the streets selling stuff. In fact they seem to be carrying at least twice as much stock as normal.

Some people let the excitement of it all go to their heads…

Some just like to sit back, relax and read a good book.

Others like to eat.

The big mercado isn’t quite as busy for some reason. Funny thing is that even though you’re at the market, there are ladies walking around trying to sell you the same things that are at the various booths.

The place is almost like a maze to me but Lori can literally spend hours walking around here. Somehow I don’t think it’s because she’s lost…

I become a basket case after about 10 min here…

Girl cops get to ride the fun toys around here.

We sat down on a park bench for a break and within moments this girl came up to us trying to sell us something.

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Rasta chia pet?

C’mon, just look at those eyes. Every day on our way down to school we walked past him and he would just stare at us with those incredibly sad eyes.

So we started to bring food for him everyday. Sometimes some left over chicken, other times some pepperoni. On the way home from school he would always follow us looking for more.

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We managed to catch up with yet another moto rider travelling around the world.

Anna Grechinshkina has been on the road on her own for the last 20 months and is also heading all the way to Argentina. Sorry about the blurry pic, the camera somehow ended up in manual focus mode without us noticing.

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Another boring sunset as our time here comes to a close. It’s been nice Sun Cristobal, we will miss you!

Tigger gets fixed up and goes for a ride

Wait! I almost forgot to mention that we went out for a walk the other day and ran into our friend Jorge from the Rossco hostel who was out for a stroll with his wife and their baby. After some chit chat, Jorge said his bike club is going out for a group ride in a few days and asked if I wanted to come. I had every intention of doing some rides around the area while we had all this time here but for some reason never did. In fact I’m still on the same tank of gas 6 weeks later (maybe I should have brought that fuel stabilizer after all). So of course I said yes.

But first I had to fix a couple of issues with the bike. 1. The engine had a very loud knocking noise at start up that eventually improved as the bike warmed up. It had been going on since before we arrived in San Cris but I was never able to figure out the cause. It reminded me of a car without a muffler somewhat, so I thought it might be related to the exhaust. However after checking the exhaust and coming up empty I began to worry that it was actually related to the head replacement that I had done under warranty last July.

So I posted a video online and within a few minutes someone noticed I was missing a nut on one of the bolts that attaches the exhaust to the front of the bike. Well DUH! Figures I’d have a loose nut, that would totally cause the problem. Not quite sure how I missed it but I did. Part of the problem is the weekly cleaning Tigger hasn’t been getting. I’ve been keeping the bike somewhat dirty intentionally down here just to try an make it look, well, dirty. I know it’s probably like keeping that red Ferrari dirty, meaning that it’s still going to be a red Ferrari. Regardless, I miss washing the bike every week as it gives me a chance to do a full inspection and possibly notice stuff like that. I also may have noticed that the centre stand was sitting much higher than normal, something Lori had tried to mention a couple of times before. “No honey, I think it’s fine,” I told her. DOH!

It would appear that all those big topes we encountered where we had bottomed out the bike, had actually been smacking the centre stand up which squished the little rubber stopper upwards bending the bracket the stopper is attached to. Now for some ridiculous reason, Triumph welded this bracket to a section of the exhaust pipe. So the centre stand was basically sitting against the swing arm/shaft drive and every time I rode over a bump of any kind it would bounce smacking the swing arm loudly. Luckily the only riding I had done over the last 6 weeks was to the supermarket and back. Of course I got the deserved “I told you so” from Lori when she found out.

The solution is to try and bend the bracket back or cut and re-weld the thing. I opted for door #1 at least for now, see how long it lasts. If it gets bent back, then I’ll deal with having it re-welded then. Jorge suggested a shop he takes his bike to might be able to help and sure enough they did. I was in and out within a few minutes, we actually spent more time talking about bikes and gear. Centre stand bracket fixed and Tigger has a new nut to hold the exhaust on, sounds much better!

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Just like the three amigos.

Now let’s go for a ride. We all met up the next morning at the mechanic shop and I discovered that this was actually a BMW club that was heading out for a ride.

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One of these things is not like the other…

A rose amongst thorns.

Oh and I think I finally discovered why the Weather Network always says it’s 30-somehting Celsius in San Cris. Not even 10 minutes outside of town and the temp just soared. It actually hit 37.5 Celcius (that’s 99.5 F) while moving!

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We did some off road, some crappy roads and some excellent twisty type roads. I brought the SPOT tracker so I could track where we went but according to the map, there are no roads here. But it looked something like that.

We stopped somewhere south of Chiapas de Corzo for some lunch only to discover the restaurant was all out of meat. So we rode across the street for something a little different.

The gang sitting down to lunch. I know what you’re wondering, what’s for lunch?

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Boy do I have a fish tale for you…

You might lose your head though…

After lunch/dinner (lupper) the big group (of 14 or so) split up and our group of four took the uber twisty 190 libre back home at a…very brisk pace let’s say. Got a chance to stretch Tiggers legs a bit after a long rest.

Adios Sun Cristobal – Part I

Drunk on one spectacular sunset after another our month rolled by faster than we wanted so we decided to stay another. We were really enjoying ourselves here and well, South America has been there for a while and will most likely still be there when we get there.

We kept up with the Spanish lessons for part of the second month before taking a break. We still really enjoyed learning the language but going to school every day was becoming a chore somehow, so we took the last two weeks off to you know, unwind.

Because we have far too many photos, here are some more sights from San Cris:

Meet Fiona, the Spanish school mascot? She was so excited to see us every morning as we arrived for class. Definitely well taken care of with that manicure. Lori promises she will stop shopping if we can bring her with us instead. I don’t think Luis and Silvana (her people) would like that much. On a side note, we really enjoyed our time with both our teachers, Luz and Lorena. They were both fantastic and we can’t recommend the school enough. If you’re ever thinking of taking some Spanish lessons and are in the area, definitely put San Cristobal Language School on your radar.

During our second month here, we managed to meet up with Roel and Azure from MyTicketToRide who were staying at the Rossco hostel. We first met them at the HU meeting in Ontario back in 2013, then again at the HU meeting in California in 2014, and now here.

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Not quite sure if this is a delivery vehicle or…

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Speaking of delivery, in a weird way Mexico is not unlike Canada or the US where you never have to leave your house if you don’t want to. Back home you can order almost anything online and have it delivered right to your door. Here, the agua-man, gas-man, even fruits and vegetables are delivered right to your door. For instance our 20L jug of Reverse Osmosis water was delivered right to our door within an hour of request, all for the crazy price of 19 pesos (or about $1.50).

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UGH! These topes are simply annoying. Now you can try and ride through these on an angle and avoid the pain of having to go over one of them but that always ends up with the rear end of the bike being squirted sideways as the rear tire doesn’t exactly fit in between them. Luckily we haven’t encountered these while raining, yet.

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The roads in town are anything from dirt to crap to smooth very well worn tile like surface that is slippery to walk on never mind ride on. Kind of reminds me of ice actually. For an added degree of difficulty….just add water.

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Even walking presents its own hazards in this town. It’s actually much easier to walk on the streets than it is on the sidewalks believe it or not.

Who’s an angry whopper?

Iglesia San Francisco. There are no less than a couple of dozen churches in SC, much like every other city in Mexico.

Probably my favourite restaurant in SC. They offer a variety of dishes from around the world and live music almost every night. I think Lori was tired of hearing me say “wanna go to Cocoliche for dinner?”

I got my Cocoliche once in a while as long as Lori could get what she wanted…SHOPPING!

Cool bus, these guys came all the way from Argentina and are heading up to Alaska.

What started out as a short post has somehow morphed into the biggest and most pic-heavy post yet. So I’ve decided to split it up into two separate entries. A never ending posts seems kind of appropriate though considering it took us over 2 months to leave town. Stay tuned for part dos.

Life in SUN Cristobal

This adventure of ours has gone from having a plan to go here and there in order to see as much as we can, to going somewhere on the spur of the moment. Either because someone suggested something or because we simply felt like it was the right thing to do according to our internal compass. When we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, we didn’t know how long we’d be staying for or where exactly we were going to next. We wanted to keep moving south and thought we’d be in somewhere in Guatemala within a few days. Our (very) broad plan was that we’d make it to South America sometime this spring, before possibly taking a break and flying home for the summer.

Suddenly we find ourselves residents of San Cristobal. Although the first order of business should be to re-name the place SUN & Hyde Cristobal. Why? Because it’s pure heaven here when the sun is out. The temp soars to around 30 Celsius with very little humidity, it’s absolutely perfect out. We find ourselves having morning coffee and playing cribbage on our balcony and working on our tans. Of course as I write this I’m buried deep under several layers of blankets because it’s cloudy. Cloudy here means the high is between 13-16 Celsius and unless you have a heater inside your all concrete house, it’s F-F-F-F-F-F-cold. According to the Weather network, it’s always 31C here – NOT!

I realize that our friends and family back home are experiencing a typical -30 Celsius winter, so this might all be falling on deaf ears. However, y’all have central heating – something that is seemingly unheard of here in Sun Cristobal even though night time lows are single digits. My new friend the parking lot attendant at the Chadraui told me it snowed the other night. SNOW! We finally broke down and bought a heater, even had to put on socks and start wearing a sweater. Ok I admit it, we’ve become soft

Some of our neighbours don’t even have windows. Ok I’ll stop whining about the cold now.

We’re going to school three hours a day, five days a week. Seems to be going well although I get a little frustrated sometimes. I guess I expected it to be a little easier considering I already had two other languages under my belt prior to English. Apparently I’m not a kid anymore though *sigh*.

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We change up the scenery once in a while and have our lessons in a cafe. Lori and Lorena studying hard at Cafe Yik.

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There are dozens of little cafes around here although we found ourselves coming back to cafe Yik often. Great coffee and atmosphere.

Another day, another cafe lesson. Lorena had to leave on some family business so Luz took over for a while.

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We’ve settled into a nice routine of school and rotating between exploring the town and lazying around our casa. Weekends are very busy in the centro and you can’t go more than a few feet without half a dozen indigenous women trying to sell you something. The weird thing is if you buy something from one, three others show up offering you the same thing.

Some of the views from our apartment:

A typical backyard in this neighbourhood. There is a constant chorus of chickens, roosters, ducks, turkeys and dogs singing “the song of their people” all around our place, not to mention the church bells and vehicles driving past our place that play some catchy tune to identify what service they provide – AGUA or gas or… I can’t believe people have all these animals in their backyards here. At first it was annoying but now it’s all part of the scenery. I have to say I never imagined myself living in a place like this, least of all totally loving it! Ok maybe not the rooster calls that go all through the night – I thought they only did that in the morning?

So sad, someone hung this guy out to dry.

Hey, where did everybody go?

I don’t think anyone clears their field here in Mexico, they simply burn it.

Man do we see some mesmerizing sunsets from our place. We have literally dozens of pics just of sunsets, so I’ll only bore you with a couple.

It’s typically the cloudy days that bring out the best sunsets here.

So one day I returned from picking up some groceries and while emptying the side cases I discovered this guy was no longer full – probably something to do with that hole above the 680ml. Hmmm!

Yup, found the iced tea. Somewhere along the way in Mexico I lost a couple of the rubber covers for the bolts protruding from the bottom of the case which apparently pierced the can.

You know since I have the case off the bike, might as well try and improve the shape since it still isn’t quite right from the accident.

Our apartment is located near the top of a very big hill so we’re definitely getting a good workout every time we leave the apartment. Even so I feel kind of guilty for being lazy at times and have started doing the stairs next to our place. If you’re picturing perfectly neat stairs like in a stadium or the Hamilton escarpment for example…don’t. Every step here is uneven, of various height and length and various degrees of angle downwards. Between the doggy treats, dogs themselves and the odd drunk guy laying on the stairs, it’s somewhat of an obstacle course. With visions of doing a few sets the first time out, I barely made it back alive after one, and had a few choice expletives once I caught my breath. 286 stairs round trip, 911 steps = just brutal. Yup, I’m definitely out of shape, Lori scolded me as I lay there on the couch recovering, “you know you’re not 20 anymore!” Although in all fairness we’re at 7200 feet and I kind of have one speed – GO!

I do have to say that it’s quite humbling seeing a man without a leg going up the same stairs with the help of some crutches. On another day I noticed an older man pulling an ice cream cart up those stairs, just going to work. What I do for exercise, these people do because they need to make a living. Really made me think of how much we take for granted back home and how much we complain about piddly stuff.

We’ve become foster parents!!

We’ve become foster parents!! We have temporarily adopted a young boy named Billy and his dog Bess from our friends Kim and Seb of Wandering Souls. Billy and Bess are the brainchild and braindog of two great people Beau and Trish from Australia. Billy and Bess are travelling the world and represent the faceless tragedy that are orphans/street kids and abandoned dogs. They represent hope. Check out their Facebook page here.

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At this rate we may never leave San Cristobal

Lately we’ve been changing direction quite a bit. I have to say that I absolutely love the freedom to be able to do that. No timelines or schedules to keep, it’s almost intoxicating. We definitely started out very driven to get to some of the places on our bucket list: from Newfoundland to Alaska, HU meeting in BC, then south to Ushuaia before it gets too cold. But that has changed somewhat. That destination is no longer the driving force being everything. Ever since the HU meeting in BC we decided to slow down and enjoy things more, putting that into practice almost immediately coming down the Pacific coast as we stuck around at various places that we liked, and then in California. I think this adventure was always about the journey in between those destinations and not the destination itself. Maybe it’s just that I have a better understanding of what those words mean now.

Our stay here in San Cristobal seems to have somehow dragged out from one day to another to another. We’re on Guatemala’s doorstep and had full intentions of being there already. First we stayed an extra day for Sumidero Canyon, then we realized that it was the weekend. Now this might seem strange to some, but we rarely have any clue what day of the week it is. Some people lose track of time, we lose track of days & weeks, I’ve even forgot what month it was recently. I blame it on our lack of schedule although to be honest, I kind of like it. What’s the weekend got to do with anything? Nothing really. But my understanding is that the borders are busier on weekends and typically understaffed. So we thought let’s wait till Monday. Continue reading

What’s a few more days in San Cristobal de las Casas?

After our Sumidero Canyon excursion we decided to stay another day or two in San Cristobal. We really liked what we had seen of the town so far and wanted to do some more exploring. As much as we really liked the Rosco hostel and the atmosphere there, their private room (without the discount) is as expensive as a nice hotel room so we decided to find some more cost effective accommodations. After checking on some more local hotels, we found one that fit the bill. Clean, secure parking for Tigger and walking distance to the centro, for under $30/night. Done!

So we got our key and began unloading, and this is where our adventure began. Lori left the door to our room unlocked (at least she swears she did) and we went back down to get the rest of our stuff. You might imagine what happened next. We got back upstairs and yup, the door to our room was locked. No problem, the nice young man at the front desk got the spare key and tried to unlock the door – tried! All together he and some of the other staff tried for about a half an hour to get the door open. Seems the door wasn’t locked after all. The room was on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the street and luckily we left the balcony door open. After climbing up a ladder and in to our room, the young man checked on the door from the inside only to discover it truly was broken!

Needless to say we ended up with a different room. Now to get our stuff. He began tossing all our gear down to me over the balcony, one item at a time.

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Sumidero Canyon

Although we had planned on hitting the road within a few days, our friends Seb and Kim talked us into checking out Sumidero Canyon before we left. When I discovered that the Rosco hostel had a tour bus departing right from the hostel, well that sealed the deal and we decided to stay another night.

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Sumidero Canyon is located just north of a town called Chiapa de Corzo, about a 60 min ride west of San Cristobal. The decently twisty and scenic mountain road made me wish we had come on the bike instead of the bus, although for a whopping $3 each we got to sit back and play passenger for a change, ok so it was a change for me. Besides, we would have spent more on gas and the toll had we come on the bike.

The canyon dates back to about the same time as the Grand Canyon in the states, 35 million years ago – give or take a few thousand years. It was formed by cracks in the earth’s crust and erosion by the Grijalva River which continues to flow here now. The river actually begins all the way in Guatemala, flowing for a total of 766 km. Sumidero Canyon is home to only 13 of those kilometres. Although our tour boat didn’t make it that far upstream, at the north end of the canyon is the Chicoasén Dam which provides 30% of Mexico’s hydroelectric energy.

Stunningly sexy orange vest…check – safety first after all. Oh and by the way, the woman over my left shoulder…is actually standing up. Seriously. Continue reading

If you love topes, boy do I have a road for you

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This guy was right next to the hotel entrance in Palenque.

Cool looking entrance.

Hotels and restaurants lining this beautiful stone road in the zona touristica. On our (rain delay) day off here, we took a stroll away from the hotel zone and into town. Wow, as soon as we crossed the bridge it was like a different country. That elegant serpentine stone road gave way to potholes, loud music and all kinds of tienditas (little stores). It’s amazing the contrast between the two areas. I wish we had taken some pics there but of course our small camera is on the fritz and it was raining just a wee bit much for the big one.

At least we managed to get the bike packed before the skies and flood gates opened on us. Rain, and lots of it. Our rain delay the day before last prompted us to try and recall the last time we rode in the rain. None in January so far, December? Nope. November? Nope. October? Think again. We rode through a very light shower on our way to Mariposa in late September but the last time it really rained was back on Vancouver island, September 3 – and it wasn’t what I would call rain. That stuff closer resembled a monsoon! Rumour is Christian Slater and Morgan Freeman were trying to film the sequel to Hard Rain on Vancouver Island that day but had to call it off because it was raining too hard. Continue reading

Palenque Ruins

With bellies still full from the previous two days, we packed up and left Cancun heading south towards Chetumal, which is essentially right on the border with Belize.

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While making a stop at the Scotiabank in Playa Del Carmen (yes there are Scotiabank branches all over Mexico by the way), this little boy walked past and did a WHOA! when he saw our bike. He looked at his mom and then back at the bike, so of course we offered for him to sit on it which got him super excited. After spending a frustrating hour + trying to change some money over at the bank (things in Mexico have one speed – slow), it was nice to put a huge smile on a child’s face. It totally washed away any frustration we had.

We stopped short of Chetumal in Bacalar and found a decent hotel right in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. For 350 pesos and secure parking, it was almost everything we needed. Continue reading