Crisis in Tuxtla

by Venkatesh

After spending Friday morning on a boat navigating the Grijalva river beneath the towering walls that form the Sumidero Canyon, we were eager to experience the canyon from the top of the cliffs, looking down at the river.

The bus to Los Miradores with map of route and viewpoints

The most obvious option was to take the public bus that takes tourists up to the top of the cliffs on a tour of several view points (miradores). The bus leaves from the town square twice daily; at 9 am and at 1 pm. The charge was 60 pesoes per adult and the round trip will take about 3.5 hours. The only catch was that the tour would be canceled if there are less than 10 persons on board at departure time. We had checked the sign posted on the square and it directed us to the pharmacy opposite (Pharmacia del Ahorro in the sign above) for further enquiries.

Wishing to get to San Cristobal de las Casas on Saturday afternoon we were eager to catch the morning bus and duly boarded it. At 9 am, the driver announced that the trip was canceled due to a lack of quorum. We got off the bus and promptly hailed a taxi and started negotiating the cost of making the round trip to Los Miradores including stops at all the view points. The driver demanded 300 Mexican pesos and we spent a few minutes trying to bring it down to 250. The driver eventually agreed and we got inside.

As we settled down, I reached for my bag (with passport, green card etc.) to make sure it was with me. It turned out that this nervous habit of mine had actually not been as active as it should have been and had let me down in a strange town in a strange country. The bag was simply not there on my back as it should have been.

Realising that the most likely place I left it was on the public bus, we asked the taxi driver to stop and in frenzied broken Spanglish explained to him what had happened. The cabbie got as agitated as us and started sighing and shaking his head in great distress. It was a one way street and he could not around. He stopped at the curb and started looking at the footpath. We looked back and saw that the bus was no longer parked on the square. The cabbie started shaking his head very disapprovingly at us and kept looking at the footpath. After more agitated conversation, he caught on to the word "bus" that we were repeating and then exclaimed "In Bus?" pronouncing it in the Spanish way (boos). We said, "Si, si, In boos". He visibly relaxed, stopped shaking his head and walked over to the square to talk to some hangers on.

I ran across to the pharmacy and with much frenzied sign language explained about my missing bag that I was now quite sure was on the bus. I managed to interpret their response as "Wait till it gets back for the afternoon trip".

I returned back to the taxi. The driver, now looking very calm, started driving along the square. He responded to our queries with "One moment, please" in English. We figured that he had a plan and just let him drive. We started figuring our alternatives. If we couldn't get the bag back, it was going to be a bus ride back to Mexico City. Register police case. Then report to Indian consulate about the lost passport. What about the green card? Perhaps the US consulate will help. Or perhaps they will ask me to go home to India and await a replacement. Who knows.

Meanwhile, the cabbie drove past a few city streets and miraculously pulled up behind the bus. He had found out where it normally parked from someone on the square and had taken us there. The driver of the bus was standing outside. I ran over to him making gestures about my bag. He smiled, nodded and pointed to the front door of the bus. I opened the door and saw the bag that was resting on the driver's seat. After 15 long and anxious minutes, I was reunited with my passport and green card. What a ride!

The trip through the Miradores was made with much relief. The cabbie became very friendly and taught us a few Spanish words and demanded to know English words in return. We were back in Tuxtla before noon to catch a bus to San Cristobal. We paid the cabbie 500. He started to give back some of it when I told him to keep it all. He understood and nodded thanks. He went out of his way to help us on hearing about the passport. He knew how much trouble it would be to lose it.

At the final viewpoint - Resourceful cab driver who saved the whole Mexico trip and a whole lot of trouble for us

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