21.-27.03.2005: Lagos de Montebello - San Cristóbal de Las Casas

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On Monday we packed up and got ready to drive. Our priority was to get back up the steep hill which is a gravel road with pot holes. Kirsten got out and went to the bend where the steep hill starts to let Helen know about any traffic. Then it was full speed ahead and don't bother about the pot holes!!! Winnie made it in first gear and poor old Kirsten had to walk!

Relieved, we drove the short 5 miles to Laguna Montebello - one of the larger lakes in the area. There are lots of small huts selling souvenirs and various restaurants. There is also a large grassy area right in front of the lake, where we parked - right slap bang in the middle!

We sat outside using Winnie's shade and got out our maps etc to plan the next stage. Two young girls came up and without saying a word, started flicking through our books!!! On Tuesday, we had to fill out a questionnaire about the area - not easy in Spanish! Then we went for a 2 hour walk around the lake.

On Wednesday, we headed back and stopped at a town called Comitán for lunch on the way. We arrived in San Cristóbal at 5pm and met up with Stuart and Sarah on a supermarket car park. We met them in Tamosopo over two months ago and thought they would be back in the States by now. But they are also enjoying Mexico too much and have extended their stay here.

We arranged to meet for lunch the following day, did some shopping and then drove to the same campground that we had stayed in before. We got there in the dark and the place was virtually full. But we still managed to find a spot.

On Thursday, we walked into town and met Stuart and Sarah. We chatted over lunch and caught up with what they've been doing and swapping stories. Then we all wandered around the huge market together. We really enjoyed chatting to them but they had to leave as they are due to stay with family.

We went back into the market and spent $4 on 30 lbs (13 kg) of fruit - which, of course, we had to carry all the way back to the campground. Then we started washing it and chopping it up to put into the fridge. Overdose of vitamin C!!

Later we walked back into town and listened to a youth orchestra with a choir, and then 2 guitarists playing classical music.

On Friday we got up early to walk into town for the Via Crusis. There was due to be a procession around the streets. But we got a full production, with soldiers and Pontius Pilot condemning Jesus and the two criminals to crucifixion. Then Jesus had to carry his cross through the streets for 3 hours, meeting his mother Mary on the way.

There were soldiers on horse back and guards with spears who accompanied them. We followed the procession for a while but then (irreverently) went to the internet in between! We got back to the cathedral to see the actual "crucifixion". It was very well done and not at all what we had expected.

On Saturday, we went into town to watch various traditional games being played. There was a version of hockey with home made sticks and a large ball. The public were also asked to join in. There were various games and then came one that was played with a ball that was set on fire. The players had to use the backs of their hands to pass the burning ball up towards the scoring area. There were no volunteers from the public!!! So they played with a non-burning ball!

On Sunday, we went to watch the coronation of the "Spring Queen" - a bit like Miss World for the southern part of Mexico. The main square was adorned with a cat walk and platform, that had been hand painted and decorated with extra large flowers. The surrounding colonial buildings were decorated with huge bouquets of fresh flowers that would cost a fortune in England or Germany.

Last years winner was there along with various other participants from this and last year. There was also a lady who was obviously "Miss Spring" from a very long time ago!! Behind the platform was a display of photos of each winner dating back to 1903. We only found two who we thought deserved the title! (Not that either of us would even make it to the first round!!)

San Cristóbal was absolutely packed. There must have been at least 20,000 people in the square and far more going to all the various performances and exhibitions taking place over the weekend.

Afterwards we waited for an hour and then the "Spring Procession" started, with all the participants sitting on various floats along with bands, dancers, clowns etc. We watched the start of the procession and then caught the last part of Mexico versus USA in the World Cup qualification (Mexico won 2-1). Then the procession came passed on its way back and we managed to catch quite a few sweets that were being thrown into the crowd.

Spring Procession in San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

That evening we spent a few hours chatting to Beth, one of the others campers whilst Kirsten downloaded Beth's photos onto two CDs as she needed space and was worried she wouldn't be able to take any more photos. It was after midnight by the time we got to bed - an exhausting day!