I arrive into San Christobal de la Casas– a gorgeous little village high in the mountains...first thing in the morning. It is such a pretty little place. Back home – the UK is going into Union Jack bunting overdrive for the Jubilee weekend.
Here the Mexican village has strung a dainty, peach coloured doily cut bunting that criss crosses the cobbled streets and laces between the pastel painted houses. In the main square there is a Sweets market that Willy Wonka would be proud of.
Tables are piled high with sticky marzipan fruits, lollipops and syrupy sponges – all thickly dotted by a moving blanket of wasps. In the background are the dark green smoky hills. In the Zocolo are stalls selling carved wood animals, embroidered clothes corn on the cob and churros – all manned by women in traditional dress - long black furry skirts and rainbow striped shawls . There are modern shops too, I find a place that does amazing hot chocolate and an arts centre teaching pilates and yoga. I try and schedule a date with pilates. I fail miserably by getting time wrong and console myself by eating deep fried churros in chocolate sauce - yum.
The main churches are in the Zocolo. San Francisco church is a peach coloured building with terracotta vines and laurel leaves decorating a rusty door. San Juan Pablo however is quite possibly the prettiest church i've ever seen. Its a huge white wedding cake of a building -trimmed in forget me knot blue. It has a light and twinkling interior lit up with crystal chandeliers and candles.
Kiki Suarez is a German artist that now lives in San Christobal and she has her own shop - Kikiworld – devoted to her. Although her big, bold primary coloured art is something I'd usually consider a bit too “greeting card” for my taste usually – I feel drawn to her sentiments. One in particular – "The Path to a Happy life" resonates with where I am at the moment. Nearing forty – i've handed in my notice in the middle of an economic downturn to travel the world and then who knows what. I'm not blind to the fact i'm having a rather fabulous sort of mid life crisis.
Do you remember that Honda advert – hate something...change something. It featured bunnies in little earphones drilling things. Rabbits are my favourite animal so it recommended itself to me. Anyway. That is what I'm doing with my life.
Hate something...then Change Something.
The next day I decide to do an excursion to Palenque (famous Mayan ruins.) Its a five hour bus ride there and back. I get terrible motion sickness so ask to sit up front. I have to sit in the hard middle seat which – being bony of bottom – is incredibly painful but slightly more preferable to abject nausea. We journey up into the winding hills – shreds of cloud are still hanging low on thegreen and wooly slopes not yet burntoff by the morning sun. We stop first at some waterfalls (more water than Iguassu) and then arrive into Palenque around midday. Here the weather is hot and sticky, there are huge jungly heart shaped leavves that hang from vines.,mos covered stones and leaves the sizes of armchaires that I could sit in. Mexicans lounge in the grounds in wide brimmed hats, selling little figurines made of quartz and strange gimp masks constructed out of shell. Here the Jaguar King reigns. I meet a British girl and a kiwi and we join together to walk around. The Brit talks animatedly about the three Australians she's shagged that week – how average the sex is how her vagina is making friends all over the world.
We climb up one of the temples remarking on how large the stone steps are considering how small the mayans were and sit at the top in companiable silence.
The next day and I feel exhausted. I have ignored my instinct to go to the local village San Chuemala and try and discover more about the energy healing rituals – and have taken the tourist route of visitng Palenque instead. I realise that I don't need to try and do and see everything. I need to give as much time and credence to the journey within as to the one without. Ths isn't just about ticking off sights.
I sit in the main square and have a huge breakfast of granola, fruit, yoghurt and hot chocolate. I think how lucky I am i've avoided traveller's tummy so far....little do I know...i have a little wander around town and then finish in the evening in a small local restaurat eating Mole – a traditional mexican casserole of beef,with carrots, courgette, and corn. Little children in raggedy clothes come around selling wooden toys.
In the square there is petitioning for the forthcoming elections/ Reds versus Whites. The Reds have erected a bandstand and are playing loud rock music. When you dont understand the language and can just hear the frenzied hyperbole and the hype you can see how politics becomes like football – just whipping the masses into a frenzied, excitable crowd.
It feels cold up in the mountains. Time to head South for Guatemala.