Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas – a Mexican mountain town oozing with culture. We traded our bikinis for jumpers and prepared to squeeze as many museums, markets and monuments as we could into just 3 days. I think we did a pretty good job…
Now, prepare yourselves, because I am about to tell you a very important story. It concerns something that is all too common when backpacking and something that I’ve been lucky enough to avoid up until now:
We got our valuables stolen. On a night bus.
I know, I know – this happens ALL the time but, just like everyone else, ‘we didn’t think it would happen to us’. To save the suspense, I’ll tell you that this story has a happy ending but it could have turned out very differently. Here’s what happened:
We decided to take a night bus from Tulum to San Cristobal. Anyone that is clued up on Mexican geography will know that this is an insanely long journey and that people usually opt to fly. We didn’t have $100 each to splash out on airfare so we decided to pay for a ‘luxury bus’ instead (turns out that luxury just meant reclining seats and a bottle of water…)
We were excited to see that there were a lot of empty seats on the bus, so we all split up, bagsied 2 seats each and fell asleep in a heartbeat. I had a really vivid dream about being on a beach in the ocean watching someone steal my GoPro from my bag and not being able to reach the shore in time to stop them – I woke up in a panic and, I know this is going to sound ridiculous but I just knew my GoPro had been taken out of my bag. I ripped the zip open (and ripped the jumpsuit I was wearing at the same time, not ideal) emptied my bag onto the chair and my worst fears were confirmed.
I leaned over to Alice and shook her to wake her up:
“What. do. you. want”
“I can’t find my GoPro, it’s been stolen!”
“Tara, you always do this, it’ll be in your bag or something”
In her defence, I DO always do this. If you ask any of my best friends to do an impression of me they’ll start frantically patting their body and emptying their bag screaming ‘GUYS, GUYS, I’VE LOST MY…. never mind I found it’…
I’m not particularly proud of this trait but it didn’t take long for Alice to realise that I wasn’t messing around this time. I was half naked too because of my ripped jumpsuit (hahaha, only me). Instead of jumping to the conclusion that it had been stolen, she suggested that I may have left it at our hostel in Tulum. I knew deep down that I’d had it with me at the bus station but still called the hostel anyway for them to tell me that it wasn’t there.
I didn’t really know what to do at that point but I remember slowly starting to calm down – probably just because I was retracing my steps in my head and thinking of every possible thing that could have happened and also starting to accept the fact that it was just a material object and it would have been 10x worse to lose a passport or something. It just sucked that we’d lost 2 months worth of photos and videos – memories like that are irreplaceable.
We had to make a security stop to have our passports and bags checked (it’s almost like when you cross a border but instead it’s just when you cross a state line). Abbie opened her bag to grab her passport when we heard the words ‘Guys… all my money is gone‘.
At this point, we all KNEW that we’d been robbed. We checked all of our other belongings and there was nothing major missing apart from my camera and the money. These were the only two valuable things that hadn’t been kept on our person. 110% our own fault – it was the first time I hadn’t put my GoPro in my pocket and the first time Abbie had slept without her fanny pack around her waist. We put too much trust in the ‘luxury bus’ and we learnt our lesson the hard way.
When you get robbed on a night bus, you have 2 choices – deal with it or say something. The fact that the 3 of us are Spanish language graduates meant that we were more inclined towards the second option. We did struggle at times though, so I can only imagine how hard it would be if you didn’t understand a word of what was going on.
We explained to the driver of the bus what had happened and he told us; ‘No, no, that’s impossible. I would have seen it’. His story soon changed to ‘Actually, I did see someone rummaging around at one point but I didn’t think it was anything suspicious until now’. He agreed to call a police officer over who then got on the bus and inspected a few of the bags (it’s only legal to conduct a search if you’re a member of the police force). There were about 20 people on the bus and he only checked 6 bags before apologising that he didn’t find anything and walking away.
We were so unsatisfied with this search that we begged the driver to let us speak to a different policeman. He refused because we were already behind time and we drove away. The three of us sat together in a huddle and, instead of giving up, became more determined to get all of our stuff back. We’ve been called Charlie’s Angels about 548757949032 times on this trip but suddenly we started to live up to this title and put plan ‘GIVE US OUR PICTURES AND VIDEOS BACK, YOU MOTHERF***ER’ into action.
We knew that my GoPro was somewhere on the bus – it HAD to be – so we started just asking for the memory card to be returned. We spoke to the driver and his assistant for about 30 minutes asking them to let us do another search and we even started chatting to the other passengers on the bus. There was one guy that was acting ridiculously suspicious 1) he was a lone, male traveller who couldn’t seem to sit back and relax 2) he was the closest person to us and therefore had the easiest access to our stuff 3) he was being overly helpful to the point where it was weird. Naturally, I decided to befriend him – keep your enemies close, eh! I gave a massive speech about how much the photos on the camera meant to me and how I’d be willing to give the thief the GoPro charger in exchange for the memory card. He told me that at the next stop (which was 20 minutes away) we should get everyone off the bus, locate a police officer and search people individually – pockets, bags, coats, everything. I thought this was a reasonable idea, so I agreed and went back to join the girls.
I started to think he was innocent because of how kind he was being but the girls still thought we should keep our wits about us. Alice also suspected a young boy, who must have been about 12 years old and interrogated him (quite terrifyingly) until we realised that he really had no clue what we were talking about. This whole kerfuffle really brought out our dark sides! ‘TRUST NO-ONE’ actually became our motto…
We arrived at Palenque, where we were told we would be stopping for 30 minutes and there would be another bag search. I’m pretty sure the passengers were getting sick of us at this point but we called a police officer over and hoped for the best. The first person off the bus was our original suspect, the guy who had come up with this idea to get everyone off one-by-one. He emptied his bag, let me search his pockets and then shook my hand and RAN out of the station.
I didn’t really have time to pay much attention to that because I was too busy searching everybody else. Eventually, the last person zipped their bag back up and my heart SANK. The GoPro was nowhere in sight and I realised that the first guy probably did have it and ran because he was trying not to get caught.
The policeman told me he would go and search the bus when suddenly I heard Alice (who had already been searching the bus) scream ‘TARA, YOUR GOPRO, IT’S HERE!!! SOMEONE’S DITCHED IT AT THE BACK OF THE BUS’. Before I could even hug her, the police officer took the GoPro and grabbed Alice, asking her exactly why she was the only person on the bus and why she was holding my camera. We quickly explained that she was my friend (although we do joke that she was the culprit all along and just stole it for lols) but they still wouldn’t let us have the GoPro until we had been questioned. The questioning involved a man with a jotter pad who wrote down the words ‘Tara. 22. Inglaterra. GoPro.’ (🤔) and then handed us the camera. He told me that we were lucky we spoke Spanish, otherwise our chances of getting the robber to ditch the GoPro would have been pretty slim.
We were all elated and felt like we’d won the war – minus the fact that Abbie lost all of her pesos, of course. In retrospect, this post should not be called San Cristo-ballers because we were the furthest thing from ballers – we were, in fact, £50 down and in desperate need of an ATM. Abbie is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met, though, and the first thing she said was ‘I don’t care about the money because it made us realise that your GoPro had been stolen instead of thinking you’d just lost it in Tulum’… so this is my public declaration of gratitude for having such considerate friends. We really are the dream team and now our memories are safe again – this blog will have pictures on it after all!
Unfortunately, we still had about 10 hours left on the bus (it was a 21 hour journey – grim) but spent every second of those 10 hours patting each other on the back, laughing and chatting to other passengers about who they thought did it. Everyone was 99.9% sure the guy that ran away was our culprit but we don’t have sufficient evidence so I’ll just have to file this case as ‘unsolved’. We realised that we didn’t even eat anything the whole time we were on the bus because we were so consumed with the drama! Aaaaaaaand there you have it – the story of how we got robbed but then scared the robber enough to get our camera back (I’m working on a catchier title).
After that absolute ESSAY (no really, I just wrote 1700 words about my GoPro going missing), I would like to get to the point of this blog post which is: San Cristobal de las Casas!
A true taste of Mexican culture in the mountains – we stayed at a hostel called ‘Posada del Abuelito’ and it was honestly one of the most adorable places ever! The rooms were cosy (enough duvets to keep you warm through the freezing cold nights), there was free breakfast included that wasn’t just pancakes and the owner was super cool and informative.
We had a 4-bed dorm between the 3 of us and thought we’d scored an unintentional private room until one night, at 10pm, when another girl moved in…. So close, yet so far. I’m aware this makes us sound really unfriendly and cliquey, which we certainly aren’t – we’ll talk to anyone and everyone in the common areas and in the town. We just like private rooms so that we can plait each others hair, ask gross ‘would you rather’ questions and sing country music really loudly in strong Texan accents….
We spent both of our days here just wandering around the town. There isn’t really much to say, so I’m just going to let these pictures do the talking:
One afternoon we decided to visit two different churches on two different hills. Once again, I’m going to be useless and tell you that I don’t know the exact names of these churches and when I look at my photos, I can’t even tell which church is which (sorry). All I know is that there were a lot of stairs and the views were good. Is that sufficient enough information? No, of course it’s not but if you’re desperate to know more then I guess you’ll have to book flights to San Cristobal and experience them for yourselves (or just find a more competent and observant travel blogger to follow). Either or.
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I can (just about) handle uphill walks because I zone out and just power through but for some reason, when I go downhill my body forgets how to function. It’s like my brain and legs don’t cooperate with each other so I end up doing this weird wide-legged run, which Abbie and Alice think is hilarious. They made me do it for a video, which I’ll embed below:
Right, let’s talk about food. We ate really well here – delicious Mexican burritos and tacos and not-so-Mexican massive burgers that came with a gazillion sides and toppings. There were so many vegan restaurants in the town too, so obviously we gave them a try. Mexico in general has been more vegan-friendly than any other country so far and I love the fact that Abbie and Alice are keen to try everything. For the first time since January, I haven’t felt like an alien for wanting to avoid animal products. FRIENDS AT HOME WHO TAKE THE PISS OUT OF ME 24/7, TAKE NOTE.
We also enjoyed plenty of coffees and hot chocolates, bought amber bracelets from the markets and visited a Mayan medicine museum. Museum is a pretty strong word – it was more like a crumbly building in the middle of nowhere with a tiny TV, some plaques on the wall and a medicine man who would pat you with leaves and rub oil on you if you gave him some money. We watched a clip about Mayan medicine and childbirth – apparently you’re more likely to have a risk-free, safe pregnancy if you rub a chicken and a Coca-Cola on your body beforehand. Great, thanks for the tip! I’ll make sure to give this a go if I ever decide to have a child of my own…
That’s all, folks. Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it… We’re heading back to the beach again now – more stories coming soon….