There is just no way around it. Anyone traveling to Chiapas from Merida must first get off our parched peninsula. The fat thumb of heat-stroked land jutting into Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea is large… approximately 182,000 sq. kilometres or 70,000 square miles. And it is diverse… tropical lowland jungle, arid scrub, saltwater coastline and wetlands. The members of MEL’s Women’s Tour to Chiapas took 10 hours (with several stops along the way) to drive the 560 kilometres from Merida to Villahermosa.
We were ecstatic to reach the Hotel Viva, a comfortable and welcoming property on the outskirts of Villahermosa. We had planned to have “Happy Hour” in Marion & Lori’s room (a glass or two of wine and some snacks) and we also wanted to sort the donations for the Children’s Day Center in San Cristobal de las Casas.
But when we saw the rooms and remembered how many suitcases of clothes, school supplies, toys, balls, and so forth that we had wedged into the luggage compartment, we realized we were just too much for that room! With more confidence than I felt, I announced:
“Sergio will find us a place where we can get together.”
In all the years we’ve worked together, Sergio Solis has never let me down. And this was no exception. He found us a covered outdoor patio with tables and chairs, and lots of space to sort our donations and get them into boxes and extra suitcases. Marion Bale and Lori Simek got busy laying out the “buffet” they brought from Merida. Lots of comments on the delicious food and not-bad-for-the-price wine. With so many pitching-in, everything was soon packed away.
I told Lori and Marion that their tireless efforts to organize this community service component of the tour had paid off in spades. They made special colour-coded luggage tags, compiled the spread sheet of names and necessary info. Lori came up with the initial concept of incorporating origami cranes and bought the book that explained the intricate paper folding… en español. Another book she bought told the story of “Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes.” I knew the children would be thrilled.
The three of us watched the bellboys ferry half the 14 bundles of donations to my room, and the other half into Edith’s, and I asked my exhausted helpers if they felt happy. “Definitely,” said Marion in her New Zealand accent, “But I wish the ladies had not found Lori’s personal bottle of Bubbly. I could use it about now” “An innocent mistake,” quipped Lori, “And I’m so tired, it would have been wasted on me.” Big yawns all ‘round, and we toddled off to bed.
The majority of the group slept well, and after a hearty breakfast that included the hotel’s famous fried plantains, we filed back on the bus… eager for the day’s adventure… driving through the Sierra Madre Mountains.