Tag Archives: bus travel

From Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas: Preview

Palenque, photo by Roberta Christie

On Tuesday night January 31, I will be on the ADO-GL overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, set to arrive mid-morning on Wednesday, February 1.  This is at least a 12-hour bus trip, and I’ll be traveling with Fay, a Canadian woman from an island off the coast of Vancouver.  Since this is my first trip to Chiapas, my friend Roberta shared her photos of what I might expect.

I also rely on recommendations from friend Sheri Brautigam and her terrific website Living Textiles of Mexico for advice.  Sheri is passionate about the huipiles and other textiles of Chiapas and I want to experience some of what she has discovered there.  I’ve spent some time in Guatemala, have a few pieces I’ve collected, and attended related exhibitions at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca. So, I’m familiar with the type of brocade weaving on back strap looms that brings Chiapas recognition as one of the great textile centers of the world.

First, some bus ticket buying advice for foreigners (that’s people like me who don’t have a Mexican bank-issued credit card).  1)  Find a Mexican friend with a credit card to buy your ticket online and then pay him/her back.  2) Go in advance, in-person to the bus station (4-7 days before you want to go) and buy your ticket with a U.S. bank-issued credit card or cash.

From Oaxaca to SCDLC you have three options for class of service.

1) OCC (452 pesos one-way) leaves daily, is a first class bus with one toilet and can accommodate 44 passengers.  Seats do not fully recline.

2) ADO-GL (542 pesos, one-way) leaves several times a week, has 40 seats and two toilets, for women and men.

3) ADO Platino (726 pesos) is the highest level of service with 25 seats that fully recline, internet service, electrical outlets for PDAs/computers at each seat, and two toilets. According to the schedule, it gets there faster, too. ADO Platino is only in service Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Oaxaca city to San Cristobal de las Casas.

In my “freedom” mode, I bought a one-way ticket.  My plan is to also see two major Mayan archeological sites: first, Palenque and then Bonampak, where there are incredible murals, located near the Guatemala border.  I don’t really need to get back to Oaxaca until mid-February.  So, stay tuned for the next adventures!

Bonampak mural, courtesy of Roberta Christie

I traveled to the Yucatan to visit Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the early 1970’s along rough, pot-holed dirt roads.  The sites were spectacular.  It was a real treat to climb to the top of the pyramids and look out across the jungle.  My son, who recently went to Chichen Itza, says this is no longer possible.  Then, my dream was to get to all the major sites:  Tikal, Palenque and Copan. In the 90’s I climbed to the top of the highest Tikal temple on a hand-over-hand ladder attached vertically to the side of the building — two days in a row!  I loved it there.  Now, I’m getting closer to the early dream.

Four Days in Puebla: Part One

Carlos picked us up at 7:15 a.m. this morning to take us the 17 miles from Teotitlan del Valle to the ADO (Ah-Day-Oh) bus station in Oaxaca city for our trip to Puebla, departure time 9 a.m.  We made prepaid credit card reservations six days ago, a necessity for securing a ticket, by phoning the local Oaxaca bus station.  The roundtrip cost is 590 pesos on ADO GL.  I think this is the first class bus, though I’m not certain, since there was advertised the UNO bus for the 12 hour trip to San Cristobal de los Casas that has two toilets — one for hombres, on for mujeres.   Seems like if there are two toilets, then this would definitely mean premiere class travel.  The bus station is a pristine temple to fine travel, complete with ATM, a baggage check area, an espresso bar, and snack shop all under a modern metal and glass arched structure.  As we waited, a cleaning woman mopped under my feet with sweet smelling antiseptic.  The 3 pesos bathroom was tended by a helpful lady who directed me to the toilet paper dispenser next to the sinks.  I sipped latte and nibbled on a breakfast cheese sandwich waiting for the boarding call.  It was much more civilized than current air travel … more like waiting for the train at Penn Station.

As we cued up to board the bus, each of us was stopped for a security check — frisked with the metal detector and bags examined.  Then, much to our amazement, after all boarded, the woman went down the aisle with a video camera to capture each of our faces.  There must be a reason, we said to each other, as we settled into the plushy upholstered seats, reclined, and adjusted the foot rests.  As soon as we pulled out of the station, the James Bond movie started.  Sam warned me it would be some shoot ’em up action film, which is what she has experienced on bus rides all over Mexico.  Indeed, “Casino Royale” dubbed in Spanish was a loud, action-packed adventure that I wanted to sleep through but couldn’t.  We had spent Christmas Eve reveling with the extended Chavez family — four brothers, two sisters, their children and grandchildren, consuming great quantities of beer, wine, Tequila, champagne, roast chicken, tamales, gelatina and chocolate cake until well after midnight.

It wasn’t long after climbing out of the Oaxaca valley that the landscape turned desolate, high desert, scrub oak, brown grass, pine forested mountains in the distance.  Further along the highway, about halfway through the Bond film, the organ pipe cactus burst onto the scene.  After three and a half hours, as we approached Puebla, the land became more generous.  Farms were verdant and prosperous.  Sheep and goats grazed.  Dried corn stalks formed tall pyramids where they were gathered up from cleared fields.   At exactly four hours, we pulled into the huge Puebla bus depot and got a taxi to our hotel on the outskirts of town.  Sam got a deal online at a Best Western for $60 per night, about half the price of a Zocalo historic center location.  We deposited our bags, and hit the streets, first stopping at El Porton on Ave. Juarez for comida.  It’s a favorite chain with good quality food.  Today I discovered, much to my horror, that it is owned by Wal-Mart!  It took about 45 minutes to walk to where the action was, but the meandering was very satisfying as we stopped to take photos of ancient courtyards, Talavera tile covered 17th century buildings, brass studded pine wood doors that had to have been built 300 years ago.

Puebla de los Angeles was created by the Spanish and was NOT built upon a pre-existing indigenous village.  It’s architecture is like ordering a chocolate ice cream sundae with whipped cream, cherries and nuts on top.  The facades of the buildings are sheer delights … fanciful curly cues, brocades, and dripping embellishments.  Shops and houses are tints of peach, plum, cherry, and lime.  There are wide avenues devoted to pedestrian promenades.  The churches are magnificent structures of quarried stone exteriors and gold leaf interiors that would put any Di Medici to shame.  The tile work adds a splash of Baroque splendor that blends Moorish origins.  The interior wood carvings by local Indian artisans are masterful.  Tonight we visited Puebla’s Iglesia de Santo Domingo and spent considerable time in the Chapel of the Virgin of the Rosary — an extraordinary gilded and carved sanctuary lined with paintings and Talavera tile.  Tomorrow is 8 a.m. breakfast and then a shopping quest for Sam and Tom.  I’m along for the ride.