For my birthday in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, I decided I wanted us to walk to a local attraction, the orchid and botanical conservatory and nature trail. It was an adventure, starting with finding the place. Google maps showed it to be about a 15-minute walk from our apartment in San Cristobal. The exact location shown was off by about a half mile, but a quick question to a local helped us find it. It was a beautiful garden area with a lagoon and little benches and quaint decorative “hobbit” bridges over small runoff streams. As we began to walk around, we were intercepted by the caretaker, who was a friendly Mayan guy named “Shoon,” or in Spanish, Juan. He speaks three languages, his Mayan tongue, Spanish, and a good bit of English. He led us around and pointed out different plants and then to his “office” to sign in and pay our 30 pesos each to see the orchid greenhouse.
We followed him into the greenhouse, where it was quite tropical (read: hot and humid) and filled with ferns and bromeliads and orchids of all sizes. He led us down the paths and pointed out all the tiny Chiapas orchids we would have totally missed and told us things about all the plants. There was even a big orchid that smelled like flowers coated in chocolate. When we had sweat enough, he led us out and pointed out the trail and explained there’s a cave and some things we didn’t quite catch with our broken understanding of Spanish. I had heard there were some unexcavated ruins out there somewhere as well.
As usual, we didn’t quite come prepared for our adventure. The trail wound around the garden and then headed steeply up the mountain behind us with long switchbacks. We had no idea how long the trail would be but didn’t think it would be much, so off we went. There were more bromeliads and flowers along the trail and interesting plants. We started seeing great views over San Cristobal and the mountains, and I was wishing I’d brought my binoculars – and some bottles of water. But we took our time and enjoyed the hike through the mountainside oak forest. The trail was very well marked the entire way, but we had no idea if it was up and back down or if it was a loop. We finally started to anticipate the top of the mountain when we came to a big cave that dropped off into the ground. There were steps and a rail to go down a little and try to peer inside, which of course we did, but we couldn’t see the exact opening was located.
Tired and thirsty and not sure how much further the trail went before it either stopped or headed back, we decided to press on. If we go back, the trail is steep and a bit slick in places for going down, but going forward turned out to be just a nice descent around the back of the mountain and around and back to the beginning. There are side trails, but the trail markers are frequent and very clear, and the trail is very well maintained. When we got back to the main area, we took time to wander around and enjoy the beautiful day and idyllic garden before the sunny walk back home. We thought about catching a collective or taxi back, but walking won out since the easy walk down the mountain allowed us to refresh and enjoy the air. Whew, made it – guess I’m not as old as it sounds!
After a rest it was time to go party with our expat friends here, dinner at Cocoliche and then a few drinks at the local wine bar. Someone even brought little cakes and auto-relighting candles for the occasion!
Here are all the rest of the pictures from this long day!