Saturday, August 16, 2014

El Cañón de Sumidero

Around the same time that the Grand Canyon began forming 35 million years ago, the Grijalva River started eroding the earth through southern Mexico, creating what’s now known as Sumidero Canyon. It’s one of the highlights in the state of Chiapas, with good reason, and we visited this region for the chance to ride a boat down the river that still runs through this incredible canyon today.

It’s a stunning site, with emerald green waters and vertical rock walls towering as high as 3,000 feet overhead. The small riverbanks within the canyon are full of crocodiles bathing in the sun. Waterfalls trickle from impossibly high overhead, rainbows glistening through them in the afternoon sunlight. And the canyon is surrounded by rainforest for miles around. It’s a truly breathtaking place.

 To visit the canyon, we had two choices:

1) Walk 10 blocks from our hotel to a collection of collectivos (shared passenger vans). Ask around to find out which one is bound for Chiapa de Corzo. Pile in, and pay roughly $1 each for the 45 minute ride to this nearby colonial town. Once in town, walk from the plaza to the riverside where the lanchas (motorboats) are docked and buy a ticket for about $12 each. Sit on the dock and wait for the boat to fill up (usually no more than 30 minutes, they say). Then off on the two-hour adventure! At the end of the tour, back to the plaza to catch the same collectivo back to Tuxtla Gutierrez, for the 10-block walk back to our hotel.

2) Pay $60 to make the trip with a tour company, who will handle all of the legwork and provide door-to-door service from our hotel.

Those who know me at all won’t be surprised to learn we chose Option 1. Was saving $30 bucks really worth all that hassle? Probably not. So, why do we almost always do things the harder/cheaper way?

Is it because we like the challenge of figuring things out for ourselves? Or cause we enjoy the freedom of not adhering to a specific schedule? Perhaps being herded around in a group of tourists makes us feel a little like a commodity. Maybe the independence of not needing a guide gives us a sense of accomplishment. Do we believe that traveling the way locals do gives us a more authentic experience of a place? Or, could we just use the exercise?

I’d say it’s a combination of all of the above. I’ll always pick the self-guided route over the packaged tour, be it for a day trip or a year around the world. Even if it’s a real pain in the ass sometimes. The adventure of getting from point A to B has resulted in some of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had traveling. And, it just feels right.

Not to mention, doing things for half price means all of our afternoon post-boat river-front cervecas are basically free. Which never hurts.

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