The Home Stretch
La Frontera

May 22, 2016

The absolutely amazing El Chiffon waterfalls and a kooky monkey were offset by the shitty, rocky road and wild camp behind Pemex. Poor, poor people and evil communist slogans.

What happened…

Andrew writes:We set off early from Pujilic and continued down the not-so-busy highway. Eventually up ahead on our left we could see the towering waterfalls of El Chiflon. I thought that it was just one big waterfall (as seen from the road) but there are several different falls, and various pools that you can swim in. The weather was muggy, but overcast, and the river formed by the falls was running pretty high from night-time rains, so we skipped the swimming part and just stuck to hiking the 1.5km to the top and then back down. I was hoping that Amanda would have agreed to doing the zip-line down, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

After the waterfalls the sun came out and everything started to cook. We stopped in a small pueblo somewhere to get a drink at a store when this lady pulls up in her truck to get gas. She had a tiny, black, spider monkey draped over her shoulder. This little guy, Pablo, was super cute, and now instead of getting a dog, I want a monkey. The monkey had fun with the little dog at the store, and even climbed up Amanda’s leg to get friendly with her. After getting a sugar snack from his owner, everyone set off in the truck and we headed down the road in search of adventure.

When the sign ahead read, “Pavimiento Rural” I should have clued in, except I didn’t. Essentially our lovely, vacant stretch of paved road turned into a shitty, marbly, rocky ride. We passed through several towns copiously decorated with placards, signs, and slogans for the Sandinista’s, which in the past have been an active “terrorist” group. It was pretty poor country, and these were pretty poor people as evidenced by the shacks that they were living in. It started to threaten to rain and we were in the middle of nowhere, plus it was getting late. We pushed on and arrived at the junction of this shitty road and the main highway and fortunately there was a Pemex there. I had heard it was possible to camp at gas stations in these parts, and sure enough, it was no big deal for us to put our tent behind the station away from the highway. The gas station closed up at 2200hrs anyways, leaving us alone. Thank goodness today is done!

Amanda writes: I was looking forward to today to see some pretty waterfalls. We skipped the waterfalls outside San Cristobal de Las Casas because it’s the rainy season and the waterfalls were likely murky. That combined with the huge climb to get there, the El Chiflon waterfalls seemed like a good compromise. And they didn’t disappoint. They were beautiful in colour, easy to get to and very refreshing with the current heat. We took a lovely hike up to the top of the falls and took some great photos and then headed back on the road. This is my kind of sightseeing; not too labour intensive, beautiful and short.

We started down the road again and then stopped for lunch near an intersection with lots of moto taxi drivers who were waiting for customers from buses. When we stop for breaks I take my arm covers off. For those non-cyclist readers of ours, they are essentially a piece of clothing that covers my arms from my wrists up to where my short-sleeved t-shirt ends to protect me from the sun. I noticed at lunch when I took the covers off that I had hives or a rash or something. It didn’t hurt or anything, just looked funny and I figured maybe it was heat rash since I was really struggling with the heat. Anyways, we chatted with the tax drivers for a bit. We asked them why there are no female taxi drivers and the guys didn’t hesitate to say it is customary for the women to be at home having children and doing laundry. Working was no place for a woman. I’ve just learned to smile, nod, and appreciate the simplicity of other cultures. Near the end of the conversation Andrew looked at his map and noticed that the side road that created the intersection appeared to be a shortcut to our route a day from now. If we went straight we’d go through Comitan (a larger city) and if we went right we could cut off quite a bit of mileage. He asked the taxi drivers about it and they agreed, it definitely was a short cut however they warned us it is pretty remote with not many villages along the way. Andrew decided he wanted to try it and I said I wanted to go to Comitan at which point he asked why. I told him I wanted to buy a few necessities we were low on like more sunscreen, bug spray and I can’t remember what else that we may not be able to get in Central America. His response made sense for a moment when he said ‘so you want to go there to go shopping?’. That just sounds silly so while my heart wanted to go to Comitan, I couldn’t quite articulate quickly enough to make sense and with that, we turned right.

What the taxi drivers failed to mention was that a large portion of the road was not paved and in fact was shitty dirt and gravel with very steep grades. I should have known something was up when they were laughing very loud as we rode off. Oh well, the secluded road with very little traffic was a nice break from heavy highway traffic. I was still feeling pretty sluggish and was becoming a bit worried about my hives thinking it was an allergic reaction to something. I wanted to be close to some type of civilization in case the hives got worse. Some of this fear likely stems from my Mom and the way her body responds to allergic reactions. She has been hospitalized after anaphylactic shock and subsequent intubation on more occasions than I can count. Based on this history I was nervous, agitated and bloody hot still. So while I wanted to be close to some town, I also wanted to stop. We stopped at a secluded pull-out and found shade. Normally I’m quick to set up our tent when we find a spot but I just wanted the shade. We sat down with our books and within about 30 minutes there were a lot of flies, or bees or I don’t even know what they were but they were pissing me off. Andrew was very patient with my mood and started to make dinner.

I tried to go into my pannier to get my utensils for dinner and I got bit/stung by one of the bugs. It hurt like hell! And I’m not sure if it was the shock of the pain or just the overall scenario of me wishing we had of gone straight to Comitan but it brought me to tears. My hives were scaring me and I couldn’t find any Benadryl in our emergency kit. Clearly I need to take another look at our stock of pills. The number of bugs tripled and so we decided to hit the road again and find somewhere else to sleep. We got back on our bikes and road until near sunset and finally reconnected with the highway after pushing up some steep gravel roads. We immediately pulled the plug after learning all the pharmacies in the small village were closed and slept behind the Pemex gas station. At least if things got worse, we could have someone call for help.

Living the dream folks, living the dream.

Today’s Photographs

The Home Stretch
La Frontera