Pay de coco, machucado de coco and camarones al coco in coconut Campeche
After seeing lovable flamingos in Celestun and pyramids in Uxmal, we arrive in Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico.
The city is very well preserved (it was established by the Spaniards in 1540) and very colourful, but also quiet and a bit sleepy. At least around centro historico. The square near the cathedral in the centre of the city is nothing compared to lively zocalo in Merida. Campeche seems like a city behind the Polish song with lyrics: “Come on and paint my world yellow and blue…”. The colours in the city are amazing!
Even though the city is situated at the Gulf, the seaside areas are quite deserted. When we took a walk down the promenade (malecon) we saw no signs of life except for pelicans and herons.
We spent one day in quiet Campeche. We walked through the city, admired colourful little houses, drank various coconut “inventions” (horchata de coco or machucado coco – a drink similar to a smoothie), peeped at fishermen lives and watched grey pelicans resting on fishermen boats.
As we got a bit disappointed with the calmness of the city, we began to search for something exciting to eat.
We visited three restaurants. Marganzo (www.marganzo.com) is worth recommending with its great quesadillas de jaiba (with crab meat) and stuffed hot peppers.
Casa Vieja de los Arcos, near the main square with a cathedral view, offers delicious fajitas mixtas –grilled bits of chicken and beef served with green peppers and onions. Obviously they taste best wrapped in a warm tortilla.
I got the impression that everything in Campeche has to be served with coconut i.e. cakes, horchata, cocktails and even shrimps. In Lisbon it was the same story but with a cod (bacalao) in the leading role.
Another beautiful thing about Mexico is its murals. Seems like Diego Rivera’s tradition is still alive. Look what we found on our way to malecon in Campeche:
Looking for Olmec heads…
Campeche is 374 km from Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state. This state relies on oil industry heavily.
Our destination: Parque Museo La Venta in Villahermosa and basalt Olmec colossal heads.
The result: unfortunately the museum was closed on New Year’s Day so instead of giant 18-ton heads we only saw little ones that you can take home with you. The souvenir stands in front of the museum were fully operational regardless of the holiday. They seemed to be waiting for naive ones like us, who decided to visit the museum on 1 January.
We also learned that you should always bargain with the Mexicans. Instead of 80 pesos for one head we paid 100 for two. And you know what they say: two heads are better that one.
As Villahermosa is not exactly full of attractions, we left for Tuxtla Gutierrez – the capital of mountainous Indian state of Chiapas…
We stayed in Tuxtla for the night and the next morning we travelled to nearby Sumidero Canyon on the Grijalva river. Tuxtla is a considerably big city (550 000 inhabitants) and an economic centre of a rather poor Chiapas state.
Find me a crocodile in Sumidero Canyon my love
The best place to go for a boat trip down the canyon is a small city of Chiapa de Corzo, a former pioneering Spanish village in Chiapas. Try to catch a boat there. The trip lasts 2 hours, the boat is fast and the wind dances in your hair. Our little one did not exactly like the wind, though.
We enjoyed local nature, especially long awaited crocodiles.
From Sumidero we went to San Cristobal de las Casas, which is an absolute must see for everyone travelling to Mexico.
Quesadillas in San Cristobal de las Casas
As shown in one of popular TV commercials – that’s probably the most beautiful city in Mexico thanks to its colonial buildings, colourful churches and traditionally dressed Indian women walking through the city and selling scarves, blouses and small knitted dolls.
There’s one drawback though – the weather. Especially after arriving from hot Yucatan (30 degrees) in a rainy city with temperatures around 10 degrees. We reached to our suitcases for warm clothing we took with us. And the locals? They preferred traditional clothing:
Why not try a nutritious meal as well? This time we decided to check what’s trendy in Mexico (although we prefer to use the Spanish phrase pijo which means luxurious, trendy and a bit snobbish at the same time). We went to a posh restaurant called Sensaciones de Chiapas in Plaza del 31 Marzo which specialises in regional cuisine. Quesadillas with Spanish chorizo served with salsa mexicana are perfect for bad weather and an energy boost.
Fortunately, the next day was sunny and we could see San Cristobal at its best. The streets were swarming with traditionally dressed Indian women who give the city it’s remarkable atmosphere.
Apart from Indian women and tourists, there’s lots of law enforcement representatives in the streets. And they seem to be respected much more than Polish law enforcement officers. Not only by kids. I guess that’s because of their equipment and attitude.
San Juan Chamula
That’s a landmark of the Chiapas state and one of the most magical places in Mexico. Also, it was a reminder for us not to trust old Indian women selling handicraft. It turned out that the change the nice lady (unfortunately I don’t have her picture) gave us was forged 200 pesos (PLN 50)…
Chamula is situated 10 km from San Cristobal in the mountains and seems to be the most frequently visited Indian village in Chiapas. At the parking lot we got surrounded by children asking for “un peso” (and also for one of our son’s toys – “para mi hermanito” meaning: for my little brother) and offering themselves as guides at the same time. Having in mind previous day’s experience (why did she get a 100 and I only got 50?) after giving away a few 10 peso coins (PLN 2.5 ), we politely said no and went our way.
Chamula is also quite chilly so we zipped our jackets and admired traditional clothing. Men’s wear this time:
The main street lead us between booths with various local products – colourful little dolls, Zapatistas woollen figures – to the market square and the local church.
A visit to this church was one of the most magical moments on this trip or maybe even in our lives. Photography was prohibited inside of the church so I’ll try to describe it to you…
The interior is a bit dark and the floor is covered with tens or even hundreds of candles with conifer needles spread around them… There are families kneeling and praying around those candles. During prayer there’s usually a few bottles placed around. They contain water, Fanta but most often Coca Cola (seems like the Indian ancestors spirits like Cola). After finishing the prayers, the families take back the bottles. Religion of Chamula Indians is a mix of Catholicism and old pagan beliefs that make the ceremonies look magical…
Also, check out the picturesque cemetery…
We then travelled to Zinacantan town that turned out to be quite deserted… We managed to find local models willing to pose for the camera though (for an obligatory 20 pesos)…
On the next day we left for Palenque. 220 km on the rocky mountain road wasn’t a piece of cake. To be honest, it was the worst part of our trip, especially for someone with motion sickness. And believe me, we had already travelled a lot – our Mexican trip was about 2,500 km!
It’s really worth a try! Even with a 7-month-old child!