San Christobal, Chiapa De Corzo, and the Sumidero Canyon

“Yeah man, but it’s a DRY heat!” – Private William Hudson

Actually, its anything but a dry heat. Many towns in Mexico (most that I’ve seen) have a very run-down feel to them. There’s a lack of care and maintenance to houses, streets, and yards. If something doesn’t HAVE to be done, it doesn’t get done. I’m pretty sure I know the reason for this.

It’s the heat.

After living for more than a month in the heat and humidity, I’m keenly aware that it saps your motivation and basically leaves you strung out in a chair with a fan relentlessly yet futilely blowing more warm air over you, a drink clenched in your hand that moments ago was ice cold but now has reached “tepid” on it’s way rapidly to “room temperature” (see: “boiling”). The plans formed in the morning will be all but forgotten since your brain is now moving about as fast as soup. Ever seen soup be productive? I rest my case.

However, San Christobal is very different. This is a town in the hills, 2200 meters above see level. The trees are pine, the temperature actually changes from day to night, and there is even regular misty rain here.  I’m able to finally sleep with a blanket over me, instead of sweating on top of the bedsheets.  There are nearly 200,000 people here, with a lively tourist business as well as good businesses in textiles and Amber.  As a result, the town is ridiculously quaint and beautiful.

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The town is filled with beautiful buildings like this one
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This is city hall, for example. What does your city hall look like?
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Their city hall has purple trees. Does yours? Didn’t think so.
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A winding staircase to a church on the hill
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The church. Legs = angry with me.
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Behind the church. Looks like we missed the fiesta.
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View from the top, looking down into town.
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Hey look! Another church! And massive flight of stairs! Why not?
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Get ready quads…
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Hmm, halfway up. Maybe pause for a picture to hide the fact that my legs are rebelling against me.
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The top! What a beautiful church! Except…
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The interior has a multi-colored neon sign at the front? First Church of Vegas, perhaps?
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Still pretty from outside though.
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And the view is rather fabulous
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Since the church is the top of the hill, the view around back is splendid as well.
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The other side of San Christobal
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The long walk back to the hostel.
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Even graffiti is uplifting. Translation: look at the sky and don’t ask why.
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They even try to use their trash. To build a… trash house?

So, San Christobal is fabulous.  The buildings are “Spanish Colonial” which means red-brick roofs and fabulous facades.  Streets are narrow and cobbled instead of paved, many of them near the center are pedestrian-only.  You could spend days walking around, admiring buildings, meandering the cobblestone streets, taking in the views, and probably a month alone just sampling the restaurants.

But instead we decided to jump on boat and tour the Sumidero Canyon.

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Located near the center. In that blue line thingy. River. Yeah, that thing.

So, we hop on the boat, and head up river. My camera was not up to the task of capturing all the wildlife, but we saw crocs, lemur-type things, spider monkeys, and too many types of birds to count.

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A bridge. Not too exciting. Not much of a canyon yet either.
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Ah, now we are getting some canyon awesomeness.
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Epic entry. This view is the centerpiece of much of the travel advertisements for this area.
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Cliffs that reach 1000 meters are their highest point.
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Starkly beautiful.
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This odd formation is “Arbol Navidad” or “Christmas Tree”. During the rainy season the water cascades off this to make a shape like a tree.
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Would love to see this in the rainy season.
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But I probably wouldn’t get this close.
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Freaky weird shapes for this thing!
Sorry, just can’t get enough of this bizarre formation.
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Not a great picture, but for some reason they set up a statue of “The Virgin of Guadalupe” in a cave here.
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Bird. Chillin’ under the Arbol Navidad.
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More birds. In Spanish: “aves”. Now you know.

Not pictured because the pictures sucked: monkeys in the trees, crocodiles hanging out looking like logs, and a large man-made dam that generates enough hydro-electric power to provide 25% of the state’s needs. Good stuff.

After the boat tour, we got to explore the little town of Chiapa De Corzo. Now, this is down out of the mountains, so once again we were subjected to sweat-inducing heat and humidity. The driver advised we should try a local drink: Pozol. “Es my refrescante!” he enthused. Refreshing? I’m sweating out all liquid from my body, refreshing is just what I need.

For those of you who haven’t tried Pozol, I will attempt to describe: take powered chocolate milk mix, and instead of mixing with milk, just add water so you get a nice, bland, watery flavor. Next, grind in some corn. That’s right; corn. Chunks and grainy grit from corn. After that, scoop up whatever is laying around on the kitchen floor. Little black peppercorns or indeterminate bits of shmutz should be just fine. Put all this in a pot along with large blocks of ice to keep cool. When unsuspecting tourists purchase this, serve it in a plastic bag with a straw.

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Can you see the texture? It clogs the straw so you have to blow it out every few sips.
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Let’s pose like good tourists with our Pozol. Pretend you like it!
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That’s a lovely buildin- oh, god, what am I drinking? And why?

The rest of the town is quite quaint, but not on the same level as San Cristobal. So just a few pictures to give you a taste.

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Street of vendors
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Beautiful church
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Bonus: also beautiful on the inside. One up on San Christobal.
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A place where you can buy organ meats hanging from metal poles. Awesome.
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Pretty. Definitely the main tourist path.

  Whew.  So there you have it.  Quick summary:

  • Visit San Christobal.  It is fantastic, beautiful, quaint, and welcoming.
  • Do some stair exercises.  It’s good for you.  Stop whining.
  • If you take the canyon tour, bring sunscreen.
  • Try the pozol.  Let me know if I was right or not.  This stuff is everywhere, it can’t really be that bad, right?

Next up: Mexico City.  Then back to Playa Del Carmen for my final week of Spanish classes before heading to Spain.

8 thoughts on “San Christobal, Chiapa De Corzo, and the Sumidero Canyon

  1. That’s hilarious, Mr. K. Pozol is actually just the real drink name spelled backwards – Lozop. It’s a gag drink served in several Eastern European countries to unsuspecting Mexican tourists (Lozop actually means “the drink that makes one gag” in Latvian I think, but I cannot remember right now. Apparently, someone from Chiapa De Corzo went on a holiday in Europe, encountered Lozop, thought it was a great “gag” and brought the idea home with some subtle re-branding. Much like Evian water. I think I’ll go sweep the floors and make some myself.

  2. Sorry to be a naysayer, but that drink sounds fabulous (sans the sweepings). Chocolate and corn? You mean Ms. Old Favorite and Ms. New Favorite foodstuff? Perhaps the concoction you drank was a poor touristy excuse for the real thing. I’m inspired to come up with something tasty with quality ingredients.

    1. No, no no. First, make yourself some “chocolate water”. No milk, water. Drink that. If you are not dissuaded after that, feel free to binge on all kinds of watery-maize concoctions, but don’t wave your foul brew in my direction.

  3. Ah, heat. That is why the Nordic countries are so clean – people have to keep themselves busy just to stay warm. “I’m freezing! I think I’ll go repair that gate! And mop everything!”

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