San Cristóbal de las Casas: Horse Riding
Get There: Phone Esther on 967 100 9611 and she will meet you somewhere central.
Cost: 150 pesos ($15AUD)
Every child harbours secret dreams of galloping across the hills a la The Saddle Club. Well now, for just 150 pesos (less than $15AUD), you can. A bunch of companies in San Cristobal offer horse-riding for gringos, but Esther is the cheapest and the most legit. She’ll pick you up from your hostel and escort you to her stables in a colectivo, all the while jabbering in excited Spanish. From there, her stern cowboy husband will lead you down a winding road and through farmlands to the town of Chamula.
The hour-long ride is fascinating: farmers manually plough fields of corn, watermelon and other unidentifiable crops; dreadlocked sheep baa at you; entire families wash their clothing in the rivers. But once you arrive, it gets even cooler.
The centrepiece of the town is a giant church, which – from the outside – looks like any regular Mediterranean-influence Roman Catholic institution. But once you pay 20 pesos to step inside, you will be greeted with a scene so bizarre it could be from a (who directed kids) film. There are no pews: instead, the floor is coated in pine needles. Warped statues of saints and all Jesus’s pals line the walls in cabinets and roughly 17 million lit candles cover every surface.
Photos are strictly prohibited, which sucks because the people inside are doing all sorts of whack shit: drinking raw eggs through a straw, rubbing said raw eggs on themselves, performing medicinal rituals with glass bottles of coca cola and sacrificing live chickens. I don’t know exactly know what religion they’re practising, but it definitely has to be one of the more interesting interpretations of the bible I come have across.
So if you don’t mind a bit of saddle-soreness in exchange for one of the most authentic experiences you will ever undertake, give Esther a call (or get one of your Spanish-speaking compadres to). Oh – and don’t worry if your last equine experience was with a Shetland pony when you were five. Just tell Esther you have no experience and she’ll make sure your horse is muy tranquillo.