Monday, January 28, 2013

Leading a Tour

Our picnic before the cave explorations.
I now have 8 people with me in Mexico, on an adventure tour. They are all members of a club in Los Alamos, NM, called the Mountaineer's Club. People in the club lead trips and other members join in if they are so inclined.

I went on three Mountaineer's trips that were documented on this blog. One was a rock scrambling trip that turned technical: Rock Virgin. Another was a two week long trip into Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California to watch whales. The most exciting of that adventure is at this link: BatopilasCanyon. And a third was to an archeological ruin in Southern Colorado: Canyon of the Ancients

After the Mexican trip, Fearless Leader Dick Opsahl suggested that I organize a Mountaineer's trip to my part of Mexico: Chiapas. While in Spain and Turkey this past fall, I decided to go ahead, organize and advertise the trip. It filled within a day with a waiting list. Organizing from afar was much harder than I had imagined, but do-able with emails and an occasional Skype phone call. I found a good tour company in Palenque that would take us to several ruins and waterfalls, so that was the first reservation. After that, it was simply a matter of making out a good itinerary and getting hotels lined up.

After the Chihuahua trip, when it seemed that we ate ALL the time, I decided not to purchase food for anyone, unless it came with the packaged tour. So far that has been a great decision. Two people are vegans, one eats mostly meat and vegetables, and the others have a hodgepodge of eating styles. It has worked beautifully to have people go find their own meals from amongst the many excellent restaurants in San Cristobal. The only real problems have been for the vegans. Mexicans eat tons of cheese, milk products and meat. There are always rice and beans around but no guarantee that they weren't cooked in lard. And although soy milk is findable, it's not common. Getting the vegans their oatmeal without sugar, and made with soy milk at the hotel in Palenque proved impossible. In spite of detailed instructions, the kitchen staff bought soy milk that was half fruit puree and half milk with loads of sugar. And the oatmeal was the 1-minute variety that tastes an awful lot like wallpaper paste. So, the vegans ate rice and beans. For lunch and dinner too. For three days.

Joy making purchases from local girls at Palenque.
In addition to the Palenque trip, we have gone on some local tours to Zinacantan and Chamula. the nearby  MayanVillages. We hired a combi and driver to take us to Tonina, the Mayan city that took down mighty Palenque about the year 900 AD. We also went to Chiapa de Corzo to see the Parachicos Festival but it was a bust. The big January festivities apparently only happen on the weekends, we went on Friday. We did see some of the dancers but missed the parades which were small and happened while we climbed up the church's bell tower. But from up there we had spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and the Grijalva River. It was everyone's first day on the trip, so for them, just being in a real Mexican town with no other tourists was quite a unique experience.

By the time they leave on Thursday, we will have visited the Lagunas de Montebello and explored some caves with my friend Arnulfo, a German, passionate about preserving the wild areas of Chiapas. This coming week, we will go up the Grijalva River to see the Canyon del Sumidero. In two weeks time, those 8 people will have seen almost every tourist site in the state, and covered hundreds of miles of territory. They now have a greater appreciation for the Mayan people in their current culture as well as their unique history. And they have had a lot of fun, I think. I certainly have.

At a private costume museum with the owner.

Fishing bird at the cascades of Agua Azul,
no longer blue due to heavy recent rains.

The Roses and the Greens at Palenque

Heading into the caverns near San Cristobal.

From inside looking out.
Passing the observation tower
in the Royal Palace, Palenque

Beautiful light on ruins in Palenque

Waterfall at Misol Ha