About Us

Welcome to our blog, describing our voyage aboard Bravo, a Kelly Peterson 46 sailboat with homeport in Seattle, Washington. We headed south in 2010, destined for Mexico and beyond. Cheers, Adam and Cindi

"As for me, I am tormented by an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." -Herman Melville, 1844

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Bravo Crew meets Indiana Jones

Ever up for adventure, the Bravo crew, along with buddies from s/v Nanna and s/v Belle Star headed out on a road trip to explore the northern reaches of Chiapas.  After arranging the details with guide extraordinaire Arturo and his company Macaw Tours, we headed out by minivan at the crack of dawn for the town of San Cristobal, at an elevation of about 6300'.  The medium sized colonial city is in the heart of the traditional indigenous villages of the Tzotzil and Tzeltal people, and gave us a great base for exploration of the region.

After finding a suitable (read "cheap" and "reasonably clean") hotel for the night (the Hotel Buen Samaritan..."Good Samaritan"), were met by another guide to take us into a couple of the local villages.

Wonder which of the two shrines gets the most attention????
The first, Zinacantan, at 8300', included a stop to visit with a Tzotzil family in their home, where we watched the women weaving traditional fabrics with backstrap looms, and shared some freshly made tortillas cooked in their wood fired kitchen.  The family obviously makes a fair bit of income selling their (beautiful) shawls, blouses, and hangings, and in return tolerate tourist's intrusion into their daily lives.

Ears of corn symbolize the cardinal points

The people live much as they have for centuries, with few concessions to the modern world around them.  Largely through the successes of the Zapatista movement since the mid 90's, the people enjoy greater freedoms, educational opportunities, and healthcare, but the lifestyle continues much as it has for centuries

Leaving Zinacantan, we headed over to the small town of San Juan Chamula.  There was a bit of drama before being granted permission to visit Chamula, as there had been a shooting at a political demonstration in the town square earlier that day.  We couldn't grasp the subtleties of the politics, but after getting the "all clear" message, our guide drove us over to check things out.

Even more than Zinacantan, Chamula is a town with a culture very much as it has been for years.  The Tzotzil women in particular seem to have a difficult position in life, at least when viewed through our eyes. Allowed to marry at puberty, the girl is sold by her parents to a village man, who is allowed as many wives as he can afford.  Going rate is from 5,000 pesos ($370 USD) to 30,000 pesos ($2,200 USD), with the youngest girls fetching the highest price.

The predominant religion is called "Catholica Traditional" (traditional Catholicism), an interesting and unique mix of Catholicism with the traditional shaman based religion of the Mayan people.  We were able to visit a church to witness some of their religious rituals underway when we arrived.

The interior of the church (sorry, no photos allowed) had no pews, or chairs of any kind.  The floor was strewn with pine needles, and fresh flowers were everywhere.  Literally hundreds of candles of many sizes and colors were burning throughout the church, on tables and on the floor.  In the center of the floor, a shaman was performing her healing rituals on a man who had come for care.  The ritual included breaking a live chicken's neck, then waving the dead (though still flapping) bird over the guy's back.  Then she would take a big swig of Pepsi and belch loudly, which was supposed to send the unhealthy spirits away so the poor guy could get well.  We couldn't tell what was wrong with him in the first place, though the candles in front of them included black (death) and red (blood).  I guess we'd just have to return to see how well it all worked out!!!

The next morning we headed out for a winding 6 hour drive to the Mayan ruins of Palenque.  On the way we stopped at a couple of spectacular jungle waterfalls to stretch our legs.

One of many levels of the falls at Agua Azul

Cave behind the falls
We finally arrived at the Mayan ruins of Palenque.  One of the best examples of Maya architecture in Mexico, the ruins seem to rise right out of the surrounding jungle.  We hired a guide on the site.  Victor proved quite a character, with his own, well, unique interpretation of the origin of the Mayan culture.  We came to learn later from Arturo (himself a licensed Palenque guide prior to founding Macaw Tours) that, as in much of life, politics can be fairly intense in the world of archeological opinion and guiding.  In fact, there had been a large fight last year, with blood spilled on both sides, between the "official" guides and the other, unlicensed guides.  Victor (one of the latter), has been working at Palenque since 1965.  He's a scrappy character, and apparently had to be tied to a tree to subdue him!!!  Ahhhh...ya gotta love archeologists with passion!!!

Victor sharing his theories of the temples.
At any rate, Victor gave us an excellent tour.  His interpretation of the various styles of design and art on the site was unique, and had to do with influences from early Egypt, China, and Hebrew explorers, who brought their cultures to the Mayan world as they navigated the world's oceans.  Ohhhhhh.....kaaaaay ????????  He kept explaining that everything we read in Lonely Planet guides and on line is "garbage".  Whatever the actual truth is, Victor was a hoot and worth every penny of the 100 pesos that we each paid for his time.

And Palenque lived up to its billing as one of the top destinations of Chiapas.  The temples are spectacular, and the estimation is that only 10%-15% of the ruins have yet been excavated.  The rest await funding for archeological discoveries yet to come.  Great stuff!!!!!   (Watch out, Indiana Jones, more rolling balls await you!!!)

Isabelle rising from the inky depths.....

Women cleaning the temple stones with brushes....a never ending chore.....

This tomb robber from the 1800's carved his name into the temple wall!!!!  Cheeky bastard!
The next day we came back to explore the deeper jungle, with it's semi excavated treasures.  This was pretty cool, as it was easy to imagine the early archeological explorers coming upon the temples rising out of the dense jungle of the rain forest, unvisited for hundreds of years.  Clearly much discovery and many treasures await future explorers of Palenque.

Partially reconstructed thatched roof over jungle temple

After spending the day on the temple site, we took a hairball bus ride up the winding mountain roads back to San Cristobal for another night at the Buen Samaritan.

In the morning we had time to check out the city before meeting Arturo for the drive back to Marina Chiapas.  Glad we had the time to explore, as San Cristobal really is a pretty city, with it's very walkable streets and sights providing plenty of interest.  

One cop you don't want to mess with!!!!!  (actually a private machine.....)
A festival was taking place for the school kids from the remote Mayan villages.  Taught via satellite, the kids get together in the big city occasionally to share art and science projects, read poetry, and other performances.  Great to see their enthusiasm and pride in their works.

Projects to learn about engineering of suspension bridges.

Evidence of Mayan influence is everywhere in San Cristobal!
Exhibit of making religious candles.  Note various colors for different ailments.
We visited the Museum of Mayan Medicine.  Very interesting exhibits of their use of herbs and plants for healing the sick.

The museum also had an attached chapel for the shaman to heal his patients, same as we saw back in the church of Chamula with a dead chicken and Pepsi.  Buuuuuurp........

Not sure if these chickens in the hardware store were destined for the alter or the stewpot......or both!
Bootleg video store...burning more copies while you wait!!!

Finally it was time for the 6 hour drive back to the marina.  Arturo met us at the hotel, and we headed home after a very full 4 day road trip.  Arturo had suggested an excellent itinerary for us, with a mix of self guided touring and public transportation as well as time with guides.  We had no idea before this of the great travel opportunities in Chiapas, and really enjoyed our time spent in this part of Mexico often missed by cruisers.  All boats heading south should stop here, and look up Arturo for his hospitality and insight into the people, their politics and their culture.

Tres amigos....Arturo, Ernesto, y Adan
We also really enjoyed our last evening in Chiapas aboard Bravo with Arturo, his blues guitar, and friend Ernesto.  Cheers, guys!!!


  1. Great - thanks for sharing! Lynn mvTime2

  2. Great post, Adam and Cindi! I love that you won't get 'ripped off a lot'.

  3. Great post, Adam and Cindi! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!!! Oh, and glad to see that you won't be getting ripped off a lot!