Bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Tuxtla, Chiapas
Minibuses are the main mode of transport between San Cristobal de las Casas to Tuxtla, the capital of Chiapas. The ride takes around 40 minutes and costs 40 pesos. More on this trip at San Cristobal to Tuxtla Wiki Vagabond guide.
The road out of San Cristobal de las Casas looked long and ominous as we stood at the exit gate of the city that had been our home for three months. Our bags were packed up, we left the Casa Madero behind, and began clogging our way through the streets towards the bus depot down where Ave. Insurgentes meets the Tuxtla/ Gutierrza highway. My wife wore a stuffed full rucksack upon her back, our daughter, Petra, in an Ergo on her front, and was pulling around a completely full dolly of our travel and living gear. I could not claim to be any less encumbered.
I am now traveling with an entire mobile home, as three months of acquiring “necessities” in San Cristobal was enough to swell our gear stock over our carrying capacity. We added a dolly cart to our assemblage, and stuffed a truck load of shit into it. I wondered to myself if we could even get on a bus with this much stuff, let alone carry it all.
“Of course they will let us on the bus!” Chaya exclaimed with finality, “just look at all the stuff the local people carry.”
She, once again, was correct: our mass of travel gear could not be compared with the boxes, bags, market goods, baskets of fruits, vegetables, chickens that the local people of Latin America take with them on the buses each day.
This was our first move as true maximalist travel packers — we can now set up a home anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. This was one of the major changes that incurred in the transition from wandering solo to traveling with a family.
But our excess of luggage was not our only concern — it was, in fact, hardly a passing blip in our minds. In point, our daughter had just learned to walk — and, hence, learned how to exert her independence with virility — during our stay in San Cristobal. In point, we had no idea how she would react to being thrown into a bus seat for the long journey to the coast of Oaxaca. Petra is no longer a mound of silly puddy that Chaya and I can smush into the desired shape, pack up, and lug around the world with the rest of our baggage: Petra is now a person.
But she was still stuffed into the Ergo, bobbing around tolerantly as we strode to the bus station. We were back on the road. Our friend, Cihan the Turk, intercepted us mid route, commandeered the dolly cart from Chaya — she found it more of a hassle than a help anyway — and walked us to the bus depot.
The sun was shining, I felt my wheels turning once again — there was a large smile plastered upon my face that I could not hide from my worrying wife. There is something about leaving a place that feels good; there is something essential packed into the human psyche that pulls our faces up into smiles, that makes our eyes sparkle bright in anticipation when setting off on a journey.
The discomfort, the trials, errors, frustrations, fears, and annoyances that come with travel does not come close to how good it feels to take those first few steps towards the horizon. All humans crave stimulation, and traveling is the epic shortcut towards this goal. Humans covered the planet by foot and by sea, and any traveler knows why they did it: it just feels right to travel.
I dropped 80 pesos for two tickets and boarded a minibus to Tuxtla. “We have a lot of bags, will they all fit on the bus?” I asked the ticket seller for the heck of it, not fully knowing what type of minibus we were going to be placed on. In point, I did not want to stash my bags on the roof — a truly stupid thing to do anywhere — as I have seen bags fall from bus roofs to be splattered all over the road more times than I care to count.
“How many bags do you have?” asked the ticket vendor.
I explained. I was told that there would be sufficient room inside of the bus.
The plan was to make this short run to the capital of Chiapas, hop a bus to the coastal town of Salina Cruz, and then take another bus to Pochutla, where we would take some form of local transport to the beaches of Oaxaca.
Our minibus pulled up to the station’s garage, and, after wishing Cihan the Turk farewell, we loaded our bags into the back and jumped in. We were riding first class, had comfortable seats in a roomy bus, though we were paying the same as the people piling into the crowded minibuses across the street.
The minibus pulled out of the garage and was on a smooth highway, quickly making way to Tuxtla. I looked out at the houses which completely covered the hill sides surrounding San Cristobal. It seemed as if these houses — assembled in tight conglomerations over the hills — seemed more the product of the soil eroding away and revealing them naked and bare than the product of being built upon the hillsides by humans. In point, these masses of houses smoothly covering the hills look as much a part of the geological makeup as the sparse stands of trees, the dirt, and the rock outcroppings.
The bus traveled on the smooth highway fast, perhaps too fast. This is the great irony of highway: the smoother and better made a highway is, the faster drivers will go on it. I have little fear riding on a rough road that had falling into complete disrepair, as I know that the traffic will travel slow over the bumps, rubble, and potholes, and will be more observative of other drivers. But on an open highway in Mexico, where there is little natural limitations to speed other than the driver’s personal discretion, I sometimes must clenched my teeth and close my eyes.
We spun fast around a bend that dropped off into a canyon below. I decided to stop worrying about the bus’s speed and to enjoy the ride. There was really nothing else that could be done.
Our minibus was soon flagged down by a police officer standing next to a truck on the side of the road. The cop opened the door and peered in at us passengers. He asked us no questions, he inspected no bags, he just looked at us. He then slid the door closed and told the driver to proceed. What could be the point of such a roadblock? To see if we were all good looking enough to pass on to Tuxtla? Perhaps. To look for people who appeared to be criminals or illegal aliens? It is possible. To show authority? More than likely.
The bus continued to slither through the hills and then straightened out to pass over a long bridge. I looked out the window only to find that everything below us was opaqued in fog. I was greeted by the view that passengers are more accustom to receiving from the windows of airplanes, and, although our mode of transport was definitely terrestrial, we were in the sky. The highlands of Chiapas are, for lack of a better word, high.
I looked out across the valley from the bridge, way, way out. I saw fields, a few trees, mostly beautiful nothing.
I was enjoying this bus ride, the natural show outside of the window was spectacular — mountains, valleys, fog, fields, and a horizon that was ever visible, laughing at my feeble attempts to give it chase. I was enjoying this bus ride so much that when we dropped out of the hills and began our descent to Tuxtla I found myself awash in disappointment. We were landing.
From above, the big city of Tuxtla looks like ten thousand white pigeons flapping their wings in unison, as the bright sun of southern Mexico sparkles magnificently off of the almost uniformly white roofs of the buildings of this city — given the entire place the appearance of movement. But from the surface, Tuxtla looks like almost any other modern city this region of the world has too offer: cube shaped buildings, cinder blocks, billboards, gridiron streets, a clown juggling balls at a crowded intersection. There was something futile about the juggler’s attempt at bringing a glimmer of entertainment to the streets of such a spiritless seeming place, though I appreciated the effect. I watched as his brightly colored balls flew into the air and his painted face bobbed back and forth, the contrast made Tuxtla seem even more indescribably ordinary and bleak.