September 23, 2014-Coffee Country
wingssail images-fredrick roswold
The State of Chiapas is mountainous and from our berth in Marina Chiapas we can see some of those mountains and even two volcanoes, weather permitting. One volcano we can usually see is in nearby Guatemala, and the other one, closer, visible even more often, towers over the town of Tapachula where we go to do our shopping. That volcano, Tacana, is only about 75 kilometers from us, and closer by far to the town of Tapachula than Mount St Helens is to Seattle, if that means anything to you (so maybe if we don’t have to worry about hurricanes, at least we should pay attention to seismic activity).
We thought that a nice Sunday drive would be to head up into the mountains and see if we could get some shots of the volcano, take a little hike or two in the cool mountain forests, and maybe buy some local coffee beans from one of the fincas for which Chiapas is well known.
It didn’t seem too hard; the roads are reported to be good, the Chrysler had a full tank of gas and seemed to be straining at the bit, and we had all day. Off we went. We took the bypass around Tapachula, stopped at the Izapa ruins to see what is left of one of the most important pre-Olmec, pre-Mayan and pre-Aztec cities in Mexico, dating from a few centuries before Christ, and found it interesting but steaming in the humid lowlands, then hopped back in the car and headed up hill towards the cool mountains.
Getting to the mountains from Marina Chiapas is pretty easy: it’s about a 50 mile drive from our dock up the slopes of Tacana, to the town of Union Juarez, where the hiking trails start, the coffee fincas abound, and a nice restaurant lies waiting to serve us lunch. Easy, as long as you stay on the main drag. We made the mistake of turning off the highway to visit a small town, Tuxtla Chica, on the way, which was nice, but at that point our Google Maps navigation program decided we wanted to take the local route and pretty soon we were on a one lane road paved with loose boulders. Five miles per hour was way too fast, we were bottoming out the car, and the locals were giving us funny looks. This can’t be right, we thought, let’s get back on the main highway, but the main highway seemed to have disappeared from the database. It wasn’t on the map anywhere. According to Google, this was THE ONLY route. Boy, was that fun. But anyway, we followed the donkey track, or river bed, whichever it was, and finally made it to the next town, Cacahoatan, where the highway mysteriously reappeared, and continued to Union Jaurez.
Tuxtla Chica Market
Problem number two, which wasn’t a problem really, but it did change our plans a little, is that Tacana was completely socked in on that day, and in fact the whole mountainside was drenched in steady rain. We never saw the mountain. Never took a hike. But the restaurant was nice, we had a great lunch and the damp mountain air was cool, chilly actually. While there we also enjoyed the work of a wonderful Mexican photographer, Dasha Hornita, which is on display in her mother’s restaurant, Donde Morayma, where we had lunch. Later, on the way back down, while we knew there must be a better route, Google again insisted that we take to the back roads. That we refused to do, instead followed some nice Mexican road signs, (who would have thunk?) and found our own way to the main road, which was smoother and faster. If you ever go to this place, for God’s sake don’t get off the road at Tuxtla Chico, or if you do, turn off Google Maps and ask a local for directions.
Oh, the coffee beans? It turns out you have to get them at the Walmart store in Tapachula.
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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Chiapas