This is the tale of how we enthusiastically decided to go for a bush walk and then I ended up dragging the family on a 2km trek up a steep mountain without food or water supplies #mumfail.
The idea of visiting gardens was not high on our family’s list of things to do in San Cristobal De Las Casas. It was the need to get into nature after a few weeks of being city bound (if you can call San Cris a city with it’s population of around 180,000) that forced us out of the house. Although San Cristobal DLC is surrounded by mountain forests, and from almost any point you can see lush green, we often were staying in places within the historic centre, which is fully paved, with barely any grass or garden area in public spaces. We were fortunate enough to book one place for a few days that had a well-maintained grassy backyard, which is when we decided to visit the gardens. And perhaps it was being able to walk barefoot on the grass that prompted the desire to reconnect to nature.
Anyway, long story short – I’m so glad we visited these gardens and then went for the massive hike (without water or food supplies – oops!). It was a much needed hit of greenery for our family.
If there was one reason to put these gardens on your must-do list, other than the beautiful garden setting and wide range of orchids, it would be to fund the conservation effort.
The orchid gardens were created by an orchid enthusiast who began collecting different species of orchids that are native to the Chiapas region. This is the typical human story of us humans destroying our natural spaces, through ignorance or desperation or whatever else, and making plant species extinct. Fortunately we have people like Craig “Cisco” Dietz who started organisations and created spaces like Orquideas Moxviquil or OM where conservation efforts are the main driver.
OM has been created not only as a place to experience orchids through touch, smell, and sight, but also to meditate, picnic or just sit back and relax. As you meander it’s paths you’ll come across lots of places to sit and savour the surroundings. While we were there we spotted frogs, butterflies, and red dragon flies.
As a bonus, there is an orchid enthusiast (who only speaks Spanish) who loves showing everyone that comes through the variety of plants and where they exist in the Chiapas. There is a glass house for the species of the low lying areas like Tuxtla where the climate is much warmer. There is also a Maya medicinal garden and pond to rare fish of the area. It is well worth a visit.
The cost is only 50 pesos per person (In Mexico, generally under fives do not have to pay) and supports the upkeep and enhancement of the Orquideas Moxviquil gardens.
After we wandered through the Orquideas we were debating whether to do the hike. To be honest, I was convincing the fanau that we should do the hike. I managed to get Ajay on board easily since he could see the exercise benefits, in spite of having to carry Kenzo on his shoulders. San Cristobal De Las Casas is at an altitude of 2,200 metres. But still, the trek would take you higher into the mountain so that you could look down over the town. So convincing Carmelo and Giselle that they wanted to go up into the forest was no easy feat. Fortunately we used the power of parental authority and ordered them to march on – lol!
Along the way Giselle kept asking if we could turn back. But I kept responding that I was carrying a sleeping baby and I’m still able to keep going. Having said that there were times I thought about just heading back down the mountain – it was a steep climb! I didn’t even mention that the walk was going to be 2.4km – everyone would’ve demanded we head straight back down – HA! 🙂
We plodded along, resting often. Luckily I had a cheerleader in Kenzo who kept telling everyone to keep going up (possibly because he was sitting on his dad’s shoulders). It was only ten minutes in that we realised we had no food or water left in the backpack that was usually so well stocked – (slight fail).
I started getting breathless about fifteen minutes up and started going on about the altitude making me breathless and I was sure everyone else was noticing it – no-one knew what I was talking about so I kept quiet and kept walking 🙂 We spotted bromeliads and orchids in the forest which gave us good excuses to stop some more.
As we kept going the thirst really kicked in. The air began to feel really dry and we would stop every ten minutes. At this point I was question my fitness levels. All those walks in the Waitakere ranges or through rugged terrain to access those West Coast beaches I thought had prepared me. Was Lui heavier?! Was it that I was nearing 40?! Had I really lost that much fitness during my time at Isla Mujeres?! Still I kept pushing everyone one on. For the sake of my pride I’m going to claim that it was the altitude – and I won’t be convinced otherwise lol!
We reached a stream that was lined with limestone rocks. This was the first time I realised that we were probably near an old settlement. The rocks definitely didn’t look naturally placed by flooding. The rocks ended near an area that looked like a shallow pool had been dug into the side of the stream.
From this point I began looking for clues of an old settlement and saw rocks high up on the side of the mountain that had unnaturally flat walls or looked like a platform. Eventually we reached the peak of the journey and unfortunately it wasn’t a look out. Instead it was a clearing which looked like a well used campsite. Near it was a deep hole that looked like it might have been filled by a flowing river at one point. The sides of the hole were not naturally lined with rocks.
No-one else was interested. Although Carmelo had not complained once throughout the trek, I think he was definitely glad to see the descent at this point. Everyone seemed to be running down the steep slope, if that’s possible given the uneven terrain. I don’t think many people who pay for the trek actually make it this far. It seemed far less trodden.
We passed by more evidence of residential areas covered in forest leaves and overgrown with trees. We also saw a deep well. But the family were no longer in the mood to wait for me so I rushed to join them.
Once we were back in the Orquideas Moxquivil area we noticed some ropes that looked like they were part of a play area. This was like a reward to the kids after the hard trek they had completed. We all had a turn swinging on the rope.
This complex also had concrete slides. These were the most gentle ones and Kenzo kept using them by himself. He was loving his independence on them. All the other slides were so steep he needed someone to slide with him.
Orquideas Moxquivil is 50 pesos per person for anyone over five. It’s a lovely garden for the family to relax in and the money contributes to conservation efforts. It also has a nice play area for the kids.
Moxquivil Sendero is 50 pesos per person and not for the faint hearted. It has steep climbs for most of the walk. If you have little ones, expect to carry them most of the way. Other than that, this trek is refreshing and beautiful so I highly recommend it.
Orquideas Moxquivil is only a ten minute drive from the centre of San Cristobal De Las Casas. It is on the outskirts in a suburb called Ojo De Agua. It cost about 40 pesos for us to be dropped there but we were living on the other side of San Cris. You can catch a colectivo or walk as it’s about 2km from the centre.