Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last stop in Mexico - Chiapas


We are currently in Chiapas, our last Mexican port.  We have been here over a week now.  It’s crazy to think that we are only 10 miles from the Guatemalan border.  Our crossing of the Tpec was uneventful.  We stayed 3-5 miles off the beach until we reached Salina Cruz.  There was nothing of concern and we had a good weather window for the next five days, so we said goodbye to the “one foot on the beach” route and made a direct route to Puerto Chiapas.  Even the fishing pangas were comfortable enough with the weather to zoom back and forth with no land in sight.  We had smooth seas with a long rolling swell.  We sailed about one-third of the way and had to motor through the rest.  On the second night we dodged a couple of squalls and had a great lightening show.  I say that sarcastically, Jake is very paranoid about being underway with lightning around.  Rightfully so, we have a giant metal lightning rod sticking out of the boat.  During daylight, we were entertained by the dolphins, sea turtles, whales, rays, and birds.  All in all, it was a nice passage and it feels good to have it in our rearview mirror.
 
While at the dock at Marina Chiapas, we were approached by a tour guide by the name of Tony.  We had heard about Tony and his partner Miguel from other cruisers.  They have taken many boaters out to explore the sights of the state of Chiapas.  We signed up for a one day tour of the area.  Tony picked us up at 8am and drove us to the Guatemalan border, then up to the cooler climates of a nearby volcano.  Next we headed off to see a coffee plantation.  We learned that the coffee plant was originally introduced to the area by the Spanish, however, it was a German family that took interest in the cultivation of the coffee bean.  Tony told us all about the process of making coffee from bean to cup.  Coffee is one of Mexico's largest imports to the U.S. and it was interesting to see that it comes from such small plantations with such basic equipment and techniques. 


The Guatemalan border.


Overhead view of a large coffee processing plant.

We stopped at this cute little town for coffee.  The higher elevation offered a much needed break from the heat at the marina.





Coffee beans - 2 beans grow in each pod.  They turn red and look like cherries when they are ripe.

After visiting the coffee plantations it was time for some chocolate.  Another huge crop in Soconusco, Chiapas is cocoa.  We were taken to a local woman's house who showed us the process of making organic chocolate in her backyard.  The beans are actually covered in a white gooey pulp when they are pulled out of the pod.  We were able to suck the pulp off the bean which was very sweet and yummy, but the bean itself is very bitter.  After the pulp is removed, the beans are dried in the sun, then roasted over a large stove. Once roasted to an almost burnt tint, they are ground down, then rolled into chocolate.  They can add sugar, cinnamon, peanuts, almonds, etc. at that point. After showing us the chocolate process, the ladies of the house treated us to an amazing lunch.  We had homemade tamales, tortillas with queso fresco, fresh bread, and of course hot cocoa. 


Cocoa plant


Cocoa beans being pulled out of the pod.

Cocoa beans roasting



Hannah and I helped grind the beans down.




Yum!



With our tummies full, we headed to the ruins of Izapa.  It is estimated that the ruins were originally settled between 1500-1200 BC by the Olmecs.  It was later settled by the Mayans and lastly, the Aztecs.  It is one of the oldest ruin sites in Mexico.  






Our family with Tony the tour guide.


We also explored the city of Tapachula.  We saw some amazing stained glass artwork and learned more about the history of the region.  Tony was so knowledgeable and always pointing out interesting sights along the way.  The area is so lush and tropical.  We saw mango, banana, avocado, and many other fruit trees that I had never heard of. 



Fresh juices in a bag.









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