13 August 2008

La Gran Siesta

I'm sitting on the veranda of a 200 year-old house, with creaky wooden floors, cracked and musty stone walls and a faint smell of damp around me. The veranda faces into a walled garden, with trees populated with butterflies and feeding hummingbirds. The crackle of lightning can be heard from the other side of the mountain, and dark clouds rush towards us with yet another downpour destined for this most unusual of towns, San Cristobal de las Casas, 2,000 meters up in the highlands of Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico.

This is our third day here, arriving on Monday afternoon after a weekend spent visiting the ruins of Teotihuacan and the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City, possibly the best museum in the world. The cooler climate comes as a relief after the baking heat of Teotihuacan, though I am starting to believe I am cursed to spend my life traveling from place to place in a perpetual rainy season. Its also nice to be doing nothing for a while, we're staying until Friday before starting our overland trip to Belize.

Its an unusual town because its the type of backpacker town I've only encountered in India and Nepal. It thrives on a small but constant stream of predominantly European (British and French) couples who come for the history, the vegetarian food, the indigenous population descended from the Maya, the temple of Genesh, the organic coffee and the chance to see a real life Zapatista. I haven't felt this much of a demographic since Google Reader suggested I subscribe to my friend's RSS feed.

I haven't been part of a backpacker trail since the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I went to India and Nepal ten years ago, and its amazing to see how nothing has changed. The uniform is the same (one part Northface, one part woolen hats/hoodie/trousers bought in a local market and destined to be worn for the next eight weeks without washing and to become a source of much mockery and amusement for your friends upon your return home), the conversations are the same ("I ate X in Y and was sick for Z days, you should have seen my poo"), and the overwhelming feeling of guilt and exploitation that engulfs you every time you wave away a 5 year-old child pulling at your sleeve to sell you trinkets or gum.

Still, the appreciation of life moving at a different speed and the rest and relaxation the comes from being forced to abandon most elements of your day to day life (email, phones, tv etc, though it must be pointed out that I have been able to 'borrow' two separate open wifi networks from the veranda to upload photos and blog) is undeniable and most welcome. We have done nothing worth reporting since we got here, and probably won't until we arrive at Palenque on Saturday, home of some of the most amazing Maya ruins in Central America.

By way of apology for such a non-eventful post, and in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Palenque, here are some photos taken on Sunday at Teotihuacan near Mexico City, an experience that words can't describe, but went considerably far in satisfying my inner Indiana Jones fetish.

(Image courtesy of the Very Understanding Girlfriend)

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