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Hound Dog

Sep 24, 2009, 7:11 PM

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Re: [Carron] Any Chiapas backroad driving experts?

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Carron you are right the Chamula Indians are no piece of cake. You are safe as long as you stay where other people are.
The inhabitants of the Chamula municipality (which has a very large population are not friendly as a rule. The village appears to be small but most people live out in the country near their milpa in small communities.
They are the merchants of all the tribes. They make some nice pottery that you will not find in the town of Chamula some ceremonial huipiles and good faja as well as cheapos they sell at the tourists posts. The good fajas are found at the municiapal market in San Cristobal and are not cheap. The cheap ones for tourists are found around Santo Domingo convent.
As Carron says the village is not friendly but tolerates tourists. You should see the church and get out of there. A lot of the stuff they sell is from Guatemala and you will not find good huipiles there. The best ones are made by women´s coop and are sold in San Cristobal.
A friendlier but not as interesting village is Zinacantan. The municipalty is full of greenhouses where a huge amount of flowers are grown. The costumes of the women there is all in the blues and mauve and are very attractive. People there are also friendlier than in Chamula.The childen are better educated more open to strangers and way cleaner than in Chamula. The Chamulas think that the people of Zinacantan are like peacocks , very vain. The people from Zinacantan think that the Chamulas are dirty and nasty. There are only a few kms from each other and could not be more different. Same here ask before taking pictures but you will often be told yes.

My advice to you if yo want to see an attractive countryside is to go to Palenque stay the night in the jungle at one of the cheap cabins or at a fancy hotel depending on your budget. Take the time to go into the jungle around the Palenque ruins from there you can go to San Cristobal via Ocosingo. A most beautiful ride from low land to the clouds and above the clouds. The tonina ruins near Ocosingo are worth seeing. Agua Azul is beautiful but go early. as there has been attacks after 5pm.
The road is about 5 hours , probably 2 or 3 hours to Ocosingo. and a little less to San Cristobal. The countryside is stunning and I do not think you will have any problems there taking pictures of the countryside.
From Palenque you can also take the long drive (900km) all the way to Comitan via the jungle and Marques de Comillas. There are problems sometimes in that area between groups but as a rule the people are way nicer than in the highlands near San Cristobal. If you go that way go to Bonampak and stay in one of the Lancandon cabins. The Lancandon are also friendlier and will let you take pictures if you ask. The Bonampak murals in the tombs are beautiful.
Do not miss going to Yaxilan either via the river. Afer that make sure you get gas where ever you see it. as there are two gas stations . I think there is gas in Frontera Corazol and then in Benitos las Americas, a favorite spot for the narcs to land their small planes on the road. After that the next gas station is in Comitan. Some people sell gas in the villages but make sure you fill up at the two gas stations.
Keep going and go to the Guacamayas Lodge, Half of the area is in the Marques de Comillas area where you would think you are somewhere in the Pyrenees , not a tree left. The other part is heavy jungle. The lodge that is on the river is great and you can take excursions from there, it is also the way to take a short cut and not to take the Fronteriza road all the way. You get stopped by the army on a regular basis but as a rule they are friendly, so are the other agencies like customs and Drug enforcement agent. You show your passport and visa and if you hear "revision" you all get out of the car and wait while they do their search for drugs and weapons.
After the lodge the next stop would be the lakes of Montebello that are an artist dream, before you get there you will go through a misty cloud forest, also something to experience. You can visit 5 lakes, each lake has a different color and are in a pine forest covered with bromeliads. On the way out of the lakes you have a nice small ruins called Chincultic that comes along with its cenote and a view of the lakes. Unless you stay in cabins do not hang around late in the area. It is on the border and the nights there are not safe.
On the way to Comitan you will pass el Parador Santa Maria, a beautiful hacienda where you can stay or have breakfast or lunch.
You can also stay on the plaza in Comitan for much less money, From there you can also visit the waterfall park called el Chifflon (there are cabins)and loop toward Aquacatenango and Amatenango. The first village is Zapatista, friendly. You cannot take pictures of the church inside but it is ok from the outside.
The church is wonderful in its simpicity and is closed from 12 to 2pm. If you do not feel comfortable ask for Don Carlos(Perez) he makes rugs and his wife sell blouses. He probably will have nothing to sell but seeing him work is something else. He knows us well and visit in San Cristobal for breakfast or lunch . If you speak Spanish he is quite entertaining. If you do not find him, it does not matter, the fact that you ask for a familiar name will give you a pass in the streets.

The next village is Amatenango wher the main occupation beside agriculture is pottery. All the villages are Tzeltal villages and are friendlier than the Tsotsil villages. In Amatenango the women will tolerate that you take pictures especially if you buy something. I know the 3 top potter women in the village and if you are interested I can give you directions into the village.
after that you can have lunch on the plaza in the mestizo town of Teopisca. Try their meats, sausages and do not miss the tostadas. They are pure lard and the beat I ever had. They at them with fresh cream on top and with the sausages. They also serve heart of palms salad. Before the meal do not forget to take a lipitor pill!Then onto San Cristobal.

You can also get to Tuxtla and Chiapa de Corzo where the cañon de Sumidero is and go to San Cristobal via the new road. It goes from 500 meters to 3000 meters, It is spectacular. The old road is even more beautiful but scary as hell and much longer.
Chiapa de Corzo has a lot of lacquer makers.. The lacquer there is made with the lac insect also known as cochinilla.. The insects are harvested in Venustiano Carranza and a paste is made with them which is used to make the lacquer in Chiapa de Corzo. There is a nice ex convent and a nice lacquer museum.
There are lots of wonderful road to take if you do not go via Simojovel. The good ambar is already in Tuxtla or San Cristobal.

I would go from Palenque to Comitan via the jungle any time rather than via Simojovel .

Unless you are used to visit indigenous villages in the Highlands you will feel pretty out of place. You are tolerated at best.

Villages to visit because of the church (no tourists) and of the beautiful weavings, San Andres Larrainzar (Tzotzil pro Zapatista).
Other beautiful weavings are done in Tenejapa(Tzeltal). Any of these villages careful with the camera. Good bakery in the village.

Another beautiful drive is the drive to Chenalho and beyond, Ask the office of tourism on the plaza if it is ok to go. The municipality there is separated in Zapatistas, Abejas and regular villages. If you want to visit Acteal the Abejas village where a massacre took place you must get a permit in San Cristobal.
The country is coffee growing country shaded by almandras trees and is beautiful as well. If you go to Pentelho go to a store to buy a jar and ask where you can buy honey. The honey is wonderful and it is an ice breaker. They also have a coffee coop and a decent restaurant on the plaza. Watch out for drunks passes out on the road in time of Fiesta.

There is lots to do on the regular roads without getting to the small backroads. The main roads are good and beautiful no point going back on the dirt roads and very isolated roads.
Chiapas is a treat to the eyes so enjoy!

There is a new road that opened in 2006 from Villahermosa to Tuxtla. It is a good road going along tropical villages at first and then with a view of mountains that are also spectacular because of their shape.

(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Sep 24, 2009, 7:21 PM)

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Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 24, 2009, 7:16 PM
Post edited by Hound Dog (Veteran) on Sep 24, 2009, 7:21 PM

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