Travel Journal: Central Mexico to Chiapas

While in Guadalajara we started to discuss our route and timing. We had originally planned to travel for 1-1.5 years but we don’t have a set end date. After some discussion we concluded that we wanted to spend more time in Central and South America. Consequently, parts of Mexico will have to be left to a future trip. It’s a funny thing traveling with no firm deadline or place you need to be. It’s easy to get caught trying to visit everything, however that quickly becomes exhausting. We are trying to hone in on what’s important to us and focus on spending more time in places we really enjoy. Given our reprioritized timeline and the goal of spending more time in Central and South America we began to plan our route towards Guatemala cutting over to Oaxaca and then on to Chiapas.

When we left Teotihuacán we drove over the mountains and into Oaxaca where we returned to the coastal heat. We stopped at a campground just outside of Oaxaca City with a distinct lack of shade and we likely would have all been melted puddles on the ground if it wasn’t for our pop-up canopy/tent. While the canopy is a little large we have appreciated having it as a sun shade on hot days! Roo is a big fan of hiding under the truck in the heat (or in general when there are scary people or dogs about) and she spent most of our time in Oaxaca doing this. Brenna was on a mission in Oaxaca and Chipas to find handmade crafts despite our lack of additional cargo space and was specifically on the hunt for handmade wool animals. Near the city of Oaxaca we stopped by an artisan town, Teotitlan del Valle and did a tour of a small wool weaving and dyeing shop. All the dyes used by the shop are from natural sources including a purple dye from an insect that lives in the prickly pear cactus. Mitchell got to extract some of this dye from the insect and experiment with how adding different ingredients (lye, lime juice, etc…) could significantly alter the colour.

Josefina Mdz. Artesanias y Tapetes. If you are in Teotitlan del Valle stop by for a tour!
Weaver in Teotitlan del Valle.
Weaver in Teotitlan del Valle.

While in Teotitlan del Valle we experienced some daytime wedding fire crackers, which Roo can definitely state are not cool for dogs and resulted in us leaving slightly earlier than expected as she vetoed the town tour and wanted to return to the safety of her truck. Mexican towns have a soundtrack composed of barking dogs, fire crackers, loud music, and roosters.

Our next destination was Hierve el Agua which is one of the only cold water carbonate cliff build-ups in the world. This was a cool experience and we got several great photos even though Roo had to be a stealth dog as they do not allow dogs on the trail to the springs. No one seemed to mind, in fact we heard she was a “bonito perrito.” We often get asked about traveling with a dog, our general philosophy is we try to take her most places and if someone tells us no we simply apologize and then come up with a new plan! In Mexico we found most restaurants and even some shops were dog friendly! Both Brenna and myself are more inclined to do outdoor activities which helps as they are often more dog friendly!

Hierve el Agua water pools.
A different view of Hierve el Agua! Here you can see the falls.

Looking for camp spots between Oaxaca and Chiapas we came across a natural pool that was filled with biting fish (similar to the fish they use to clean dead skin off your feet). This was a little off the beaten track and we ended up driving through a wind turbine plant when we were leaving, but we made it and got to experience being nibbled on by hundreds of small (and not so small) fish – this is more fun than it sounds.

Now that we were fully exfoliated we continued on to the city of Tuxtla. Our primary mission in Tuxtla was to get our tire fixed as it was still slowly leaking following to repair job done in Puerto Vallarta and another attempt at a repair in Guadalajara. We went to the GoodYear shop where they used a serious contraption to remove the tire and lift the vehicle, but once again they were unable to find any leak. This was the third shop we had visited that had no luck finding the slow leak so at this point we are committed to filling up this tire about once a week (our spare is not quite full size unfortunately). Good thing we have an on-board air system!

After camping at a hotel in Tuxtla (highly recommend – Hotel La Hacienda)  we completed the drive to San Cristobal which was another highlight of our trip. We’d love to go back! This is an amazing city/town with a beautiful historic downtown and a great food scene. We camped in the city and were close enough to an water purification (in Mexico there are small stores that sell purified water or you can fill your own jug) place that Mitchell decided to carry our water jugs over to avoid driving on the narrow streets. This was a mistake as although it didn’t seem that far away when the water jug was empty the distance seemed to increase exponentially when carrying 52L of water. Eventually he made it back, but he had gotten a serious work out along the way and had been spotted by several locals and other overlander’s who recommended water delivery services. We’ll try those next time!

Diocesis de San Cristobal de las Casas
Diocesis de San Cristobal de las Casas.
Exploring the colourful streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

In San Cristobal we prepared to cross the border into Guatemala and wanted to buy Malaria medication. While we were told we likely didn’t need it based on our travel plans we weren’t 100% sure where we would end up and wanted it on hand just in case. We found a pharmacist who directed us to a doctor for the prescription. The doctor’s services were free and you could simply tip the doctor. There is often lots of concern around medical services in Mexico, and we were pleasantly surprised to find affordable and efficient medical care right near the center of San Cristobal!

We enjoyed our time in Mexico immensely and have already discussed going back. Driving from Canada to Mexico no longer seems very far and Mexico was definitely worth the trip! After three months in Mexico we had a degree of comfort that came with knowing basic things such as where to get water, the best super markets, general road rules etc. and there once again was the uncertainty that comes with entering a new country, but despite all of that we were both excited to continue south to explore Guatemala!

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