Thursday, February 27, 2003

Bells, Bells, Bells from Hell - I defy anyone to sleep late in this town. Bells at 6:30, 6:45, and 7:00. And they're frantic, loud, arrhythmic bells, like someone told the bell ringer just ring these bells as loud as you can for at least a minute. Oh, yeah, just in case you're not up yet, bells again at 7:10. After the 7:10 bells I lay awake anticipating more bells, then it started to get noisy from activity on the street - Lord knows everyone in the city is up by now!

We ate breakfast and caught a combi to Chiapa de Corzo, the oldest Spanish settlement in Chiapas and the departure point for boat trips into the Sumidero Canyon. I failed to take Dramamine this morning, and after the hour and ten minute trip, I was extremely nauseous. The road was steep and dangerous coming down out of the mountains. I knew I was in trouble when we passed a sign almost immediately upon leaving that said "continuous curves." The driver dropped us off on the highway a couple miles from Chiapa outside the village of Cahuaré, and we walked across the highway and into town.

A waiter at a riverside restaurant called us a taxi which took us to Chiapa de Corzo for 30 pesos, where we secured a room at the Hotel Los Angeles. We again had to pay extra for air conditioning - well worth it - and it was hard to believe anyone ever passed it up. It was 170 pesos for the room and an additional 30 pesos for A/C, for a grand total of about $18 a night. Actually, there were other people staying there, and most of them did forego the A/C. Well, bully for them.

Entering the Sumidero

The nausea passed with a little time and cool air, and we were ready for a speedboat ride through the Cañon del Sumidero. The Sumidero is a huge seismic fault ranging from one to two kilometers wide, 20 kilometers long, and with walls over a kilometer high. The Grijalva River runs through the rift, but did not create it. Formerly filled with dangerous rapids, the Chicoasén dam was built at the north end of the canyon in the 1980s, making boat trips possible.

El Cañon del Sumidero

We walked down to the embarcadero and waited for enough people to arrive to fill a boat. They won't leave without 12, and Tom and I were passengers eight and nine. A few minutes later seven people showed up, allowing us to leave with a seriously overloaded group of 16. At least they handed out life jackets! The last seven to arrive all worked for Telmex, the Ma Bell of Mexico, and they were a lot of fun. The cost is 80 pesos each for a two-hour trip.

Rock formation Arbol de Navidad

The canyon is wonderful, with tons of wildlife - especially birds, storks and herons and others. We also saw more spider monkeys and another cocodrilo. We took tons of pictures, but it's impossible to capture the beauty and scope of the place in a photograph. Our driver took us in close for better views of caves and formations and of the crocodile. He took one of the Telmex guys to shore because he was dying to pee. (They'd brought along some beer!) The guy got back in the boat, and we hadn't gone 20 feet before the crocodile was spotted! And it was huge.

Cocodrilo

Our only complaint was the trash in the river - que lástima - primarily plastic bottles and for some reason a surprising number of shoes. In fact, our main complaint about Mexico in general is the amount of litter. I'm sure they'll come around though. We did. Think of the litter situation in the U.S. in the early '70s.

The embarcadero

We wound down after our breathtaking boat trip with a couple of cervezas at a riverside restaurant, La Pasadita, a pleasant little outdoor patio place, followed by dinner at the same restaurant.

Continue to Day 13

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