Let’s rewind this day in reverse. This has probably been one of the most challenging days so far on both trips to Chiapas. We are in a hotel called “Hotel Ocosingo” which for $16 USD per night is probably one of the best mid-range hotels here. It is supposed to be $25 USD, but Linda talked the clerk into giving us the “matrimonial” discount by telling him we were budget backpackers. He agreed as long as we hide from the owner and leave before 8 AM.
It has one bed, cable t.v., and a private bath. Describing those amenities makes it sound better than it really is. In reality, it is about 2 steps up from the Bangkok hotel in the movie “The Beach,” which doesn’t say much. The two prior hotels we visited are how I know it is 2 steps up from that. The first one was exactly like “The Beach” hotel with a dingy room, stains on the wall and a bathroom from hell. The bathroom walls appeared to have blood stains on them. The second hotel, Las Palmas, had much better rooms, but the shared baths weren’t much better than the first. At least in Hotel Ocosingo, I think I can shower and actually feel clean afterward.
Ocosingo is a dirty town as I mentioned before with lots of pollution and no visible culture. It is as if we are in the middle of an Iraqi desert town. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to stay here. Fortunately, we leave first thing in the morning.
So, how did we get to Ocosingo and one day ahead of schedule you may ask? Well, it started with waking up at 6:30 AM to the sound of fireworks and drums. We wondered if it was some type of celebration or another Zapatista coop. We decided to get up and check it out after 20-30 minutes of lying in bed listening to it. So, there we were on the streets of San Cristobal at 6:30 AM with sleep in our eyes asking around if there was some type of celebration. After 10-15 minutes we decide there wasn’t and went back to the hostel to sleep.
We woke up again at 10 AM and rushed to get ready and be “productive.” The hostel owner had prepared egg sandwiches for us, which had likely been sitting on the table since 8 AM when she made them for everyone else. To be polite we took them, but threw them in the nearest trash bin outside the hostel, since getting sick was not my idea of fun. Especially since I woke up with a cold, finally getting it from Linda.
With laundry in tow to prepare for our trip to La Garrucha, we headed to the laundry facility we learned to trust on our last trip to San Cristobal. After eating breakfast at a restaurant that makes great tamales, we went to the zocalo to the internet/phone cafe to make some last calls home and send some emails. Linda tried to call her mom and couldn’t get through and I checked for an email response from my cousin with no luck. I sent another email to let them know I am safe.
We checked the bus ticket prices and the website for the Zapatista Encuentra for more information. While on their site, we discover that registration actually started today, one day earlier than we had originally thought. Thus, we began the 6 hour journey of panic. We had already paid for the night at the new hostel and were still waiting for our laundry to finish. So, we made a mad dash to the laundry and were told it would be done by 2 PM and we knew the bus was scheduled to leave at 2:30 PM. We decided to try and make the bus despite knowing that our chances of missing it were great.
Somehow, we managed to run back to the hostel, pack, explain our early departure, run to the laundry to discover it was not yet done, waited around for it to finish, and then made a mad dash to the bus station. After 4 or 5 blocks of running, we realize the traffic was actually moving OK (which is not normally the case) and a taxi would be a smarter idea. I had a pack on my front and on my back and was also sporting a nice fever/chill. Not a good combination! We made it to the bus station with about 10 minutes to spare and of course the bus was 15 minutes late. Oh well, we made it.
At around 5PM, we arrived in Ocosingo realizing that the sun was setting and we still had to buy 3-4 days worth of food and find a ride into the mountains of La Garrucha. After walking over a mile, we found a supermarket which would not allow us to take any bags inside. I refused to leave them up front considering we would be royally screwed if we lost any of our electronic equipment at this point. Instead, we took turns going inside to buy food. After spending about $10 USD each on canned food and water, we found the nearest taxi and asked to be taken to the collectivos.
The taxi driver insisted it was too late to head to the mountains and suggested we stay in a hotel instead. We heeded his words of caution and decided to crash in Ocosingo for the night. After he guided us to the two horrible hotels I mentioned earlier, we jumped out of his cab, found another cab and ended up here. Here, where I feel as if things are literally crawling on me. Here, where I see bugs crawling on the ground and see stains on the walls. Here, where we are forced to call it home for the night.
We ate bread, cheese and bean sandwiches and shall sleep like “Queens” (on top of the mattress cover). This definitely does not compare to the hostel we stayed in last night and the cheap mercado meal of guacamole, green chile salsa, black beans, and fresh tortillas we made. And, to think we had to throw out over half of our food in our rush to come here.
After finding this hotel, we were about to look at our room when two guys ran up to us and asked if we were headed to La Garrucha. They said they were journalists from “Free Speech Radio” in Los Angeles and wanted to know if we wanted to ride with them. Immediately, I felt uncomfortable and asked if anyone else was going with them, especially any other females. Once they said “No,” I knew it was not the smartest idea. Plus, it was already dark and the trip through the jungle-like mountains was at least a two hour drive. We decided to play it safe and stay until the morning.