Reluctantly placing Puerto Angel in my rearview mirrors, I proceeded east along the Pacific Coast. The route is somewhat undulating but visually impotent only teasing with an occasional glimpse of surf and sand from time to time. Today the temperature went into the upper 90s, so I strapped my cycle jacket to my duffel bag and wore a long sleeve for UV protection. Though my hands were dripping with SPF-30, they still managed a pink glow by the end of the day. I passed through the dusty dead town of Santo Domingo Zanatepec about 90 minutes before sunset. Needing a room, I rolled into the lot of Hotel San Rafael and settled into a room with AC and a comfortable bed. Immediately after check-in I was approached by a young German man asking if I knew anything about a roadblock ahead. Earlier in the day, he and his girl were attempting to continue east but were turned back by a demonstration of teachers that had barricaded the road with buses and trucks. Great. No wonder there’s no traffic coming from the east. Around 7:00 PM, the highway became filled with a miles long caravan of vehicles – the barricade was down. Swirling hotel gossip suggested it would be back up at 8:00 the next morning. The Hell with that! I decided I’d be up and on my way at twilight – around 6:15 AM.
As usual, I had a street side room this night complete with horizontal louvred glass panels as windows. But a few panes were missing. With speed bumps directly adjacent to my face, massive semis would engine brake on their approach then majestically bounce their load over the asphalt mounds with a tremendous BOOM! Then accelerate like a Formula 1 racer. All, night, long. Wide awake at 5:30 AM, I was loaded and gone by 6:15.
This turned out to be a Godsend. With another day forecast to hit 99, I enjoyed dew on my seat and temperatures in the mid-70s. And no other vehicles on the road. Crossing over into the state of Chiapas, I’m cruising Mexico 190, another great road that almost rivals Mexico 120 ridden earlier. Climbing back into the mountains, sweeping sunrise vistas over sprawling green valleys are incredible. And though I’ve only seen a small portion, Chiapas is without question the most beautiful state I’ve seen so far. Previous states look like a faded Poloroid from the 60s – there’s color but it’s monochromatic. Chiapas is bright, fresh, alive. Brown grass two meters tall; 18 inch grass with tufts of pink seeds; fields of bright green grass waving in the morning breeze. Even the brown earth and rock formations have a dozen subtle hues and tints.
I arrived at the Puerta Vieja Hostel in San Cristóbal de Las Casas before 11:00 AM – another bonus of an early start. I got a bed in an upper bunk in the mixed dorm for $9.09 including breakfast. Hauling my stuff up to my locker, I was pretty beat. Damn trucks! Despite my bloodshot eyes, I set off to explore the city. Known for its amber jewelry (think Jurassic Park), there’s a shop right next to the hostel. But what sets San Christóbal apart from other Mexican cities I’ve visited are the number of hotels, hostels, restaurants, and wine bars all around the central plaza. By that, I mean hundreds. And these are nice restaurants with wooden tables and chairs set within open sky courtyards. There is also a large tourist contingent here. But the newsworthy horrors of Mexico must not have reached Europe or Canada as everyone I’ve met is definitely not from the United States. The foreign mass is a mixed bag made up of middle-age professionals or young backpackers.