Tourist tantrums in the Sumidero Canyon



The adventure didn’t begin well.

I’d arranged a tour to Sumidero Canyon because, when in San Cristobál, one “does” the Sumidero Canyon.

I had been assured that it was vale la pena. Worth the effort. When I hear those words, I take them seriously, and I have rarely been lead astray.

Apparently, Sumidero Canyon is about the same age as our Grand Canyon and was formed the same way—with the Grijalva River cutting its way through towering cliffs.

I arrive at the meeting place in front of the tourist office at the appointed time…and wait…and wait. When the office finally opens, I accost the woman and ask about the van that was supposed to pick me up, oh, an hour or so ago.

Half hour later, a van pulls up. Inside are two guys from Miami, a Canadian lady, a French girl, a few Mexican tourists, and maybe some others I’ve forgotten. We drive for a while and eventually reach the place where we are loaded onto a boat with a bunch more tourists for a couple-hour ride into the canyon.

So far, so good. The river ride is refreshing on a hot day. The canyon is beautiful. I can’t quite keep up with the Spanish monologue, but I’m catching enough of it.

Towering cliffs and the G River below

Towering cliffs and the Grijalva River below. During seasonal flooding, mountains of trash from pueblos upstream fill the river. But when I visited, the only challenge was submerged tree parts.

Sumidero Canyon

The Christmas Tree waterfall, which must look lovely in the rainy season

The Christmas Tree waterfall, which must look lovely in the rainy season

Lunch! A lot of these guys live on the river. (American Alligator)

Waiting for lunch. A lot of these guys live on the river. (American Alligator)

Back in the van, apparently the next activity on the agenda was a stop in the nearby town of Chiapa de Corzo. Who knew? The town has a sweet, green square surrounded by shops and places to eat, so I wander, get a snack, and relax in the shade of a tree until it’s time to go. It’s been a nice day—let’s get back.

Once everyone is loaded, discussion ensues about the option of viewing the canyon from some overlooks. I don’t have an opinion; I’m not even sure this is the tour I contracted for, but the group apparently decides that we should go to the overlooks.

Yup. Awful purty.

Yup. Awful purty.


This takes some time. We wind up the mountain. We stop here. We stop there. The views are lovely, but it’s getting late in the afternoon.

Back in the van, the fault lines begin to crack.

The Canadian lady needs to get to the airport. Traffic is bad.

“I hope he isn’t going to let me out just anywhere,” the lady says to no one in particular.

The French girl assures her that the driver knows what she needs and will let her out where there are taxis.

Meanwhile, the Miami boys are starting to rumble. “We didn’t contract for the whole day. We have plans this evening. We have to be back.”

Canadian lady: “The brochure clearly states that the tour lasts till 5pm.”

Miami boys: “Not our tour. We were supposed to be back, and now we’re taking YOU all the way to the airport.”

Canadian lady blows her top. “NO YOU AREN’T! I’m paying extra to take a cab, so just calm down!”

All this is in English, so the driver only hears the angry voices. He stops the van to find out why the children are so upset. The Mexican lady tries to interpret. The French girl explains to Miami boys that the trip to the overlooks was discussed.

“Okay. So we don’t speak Spanish. We didn’t understand.”

Everyone settles in sulkily. The Canadian lady is let out on the busy street where there are taxis. The rest of us trundle back to San Cristobál to be let off at our various hotels. I sure don’t want to do that slog with this crabby bunch, so once I recognize where I am, I ask to be let off.

I hand the driver a nice tip. He’s earned it.

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4 Responses to Tourist tantrums in the Sumidero Canyon

  1. CherylJ 4 March, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    This was a riot to read and the pictures are spectacular!

    • Kate Convissor 4 March, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

      You know how those tours go. 😉

      Hey! Call me, girlfriend!

  2. Kate Convissor 20 February, 2016 at 6:58 pm #

    The number of tours, operators, and tourist offices in Cusco are completely overwhelming and bewildering. I didn’t take any there, but have gone on a bunch in other places. Sometimes, it’s the best/easiest/only way to see the highlights of a place. They can be fun or ho-hum or kind of unpleasant depending on the other tourists/the guide/the itinerary.

    You can’t do a lot about any of these in advance except the itinerary. I usually do the research ahead and wait till I get there to visit the office and make the reservation.

    Yeah, I think there’s a lot of combining of groups and resources in Cusco, which isn’t necessarily bad, I guess.

    I’m excited for your trip. Despite the crazy crowds, MP is vale la pena. Totally. You’ll love the experience.

  3. Hoz Holla 20 February, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    Hi Kate, thank you for another enjoyable read. Your “shorthand” style on this one matched the increasing desperation of the van full of tourists with their conflicting wants and needs. I don’t blame you for bugging out at first opportunity!

    In researching day tours for the Cusco area I have the feeling all those tour offices you see throughout the town are mostly independent bookers shipping their clients off to a consolidating transporter who supplies a guide. That would explain the wide range in prices for nearly identical services and the reason some wind up on tours that don’t necessarily match what they thought they were buying.