A Travellerspoint blog

Epilogue

Back to the land of blue skies and white snow

sunny -5 °C

Well, it's been a little over a week now, and I thought I'd like to share what we've been up to since we returned home.

For one thing, the return itself was a little bit of a gong show. We left San Cristobal on the Sunday, a little sad to leave but it was necessary. We hailed a cab to the collectivo's, and the driver offered to take us right to the Tuxtla airport. We were in no hurry though, and declined his offer. Surprisingly enough, a collectivo was headed out to Tuxtla in five minutes, so we hopped on and went to town. Once we reached the town, we got off at a stop where taxi drivers took passengers to the airport, for considerably less than what the San Cristobal driver was offering. We hopped on, and chatted up the nice driver, who gave us a mango (a big yellow one) from his mango tree. In the airport, we spent our time looking over our bags, receiving our tickets, and meandering towards the main waiting area.

So, there we sat in the area, and Jay decided to look at our ticket. I was marvelling at the lack of people in the airport and the beautiful view ahead. Jay says, "Tess, what time is it?" It was 1:33. Jay shows me the ticket, which reads 13:40... not the 3:40pm I thought the flight was leaving at! Shocked, Jay and I look over to the one plane about to leave, and walk towards it and show the only woman in the terminal our tickets. She quickly ushers us into the plane, and we leave five minutes later! Our hearts begin to race, we were about to watch our flight take off with our luggage... and without us! We decided that that was our karma from the dog rescuing that allowed this kind of luck to occur.

By 6pm we were in Tijuana, after a layover in Mexico City. We took a taxi to a hotel listed in our guidebook, and rather uneventfully slept the night (all of our tequila that we packed away was unharmed from the first flight, too.)

The next morning we needed to make it to San Diego, since our flight left at 4pm for Edmonton. We checked and repacked our multitude of bags, being hampered down with souvenirs can be very taxing on the back! We had breakfast on Ave. Revolution (costing us far more than many days worth of food in the rest of Mexico), and returning to the hotel to check out and prepare to walk to the border. Eleven blocks, two screaming arms and two burning backs later, we were in a three block lineup to cross to the 'good ol' USA. At this point I felt very pissed off at the Americans, who treat the Mexicans like crap. We heard many interesting stories, and I think my favour lies with the colourful country I was leaving behind.

Anyway, an hour later we were in the States, and several hours, two planes and a wedding magazine later, we landed at 10:32 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We were the last to leave the plane, retrieve our gear, and pay our duty on the tequila that managed to make it through checked luggage intact (good packing, Jay!). Finally, we walked through the welcome doors to see Jay's Mom, brother + girlfriend, Dad, dog, and my Mom and Dad. Tearful welcomes and hugs followed, and we split up for the first time in two months to separate beds, in which I slept only for a fitful three and a half hours. We were home.

So, what has happened since? Well, probably due to the overwhelming stress of returning, lack of sleep and maybe some blueberry punch I immediately fell sick with the flu the next evening, and spent more time in the bathroom than my bed. The next day I was two pounds lighter, and I figured that at least I had jump started my 'bridal diet'.

My mother and Jay and I have also looked over a billion wedding locations, and we've decided on the MacDonald Hotel, which is only the classiest venue in town, albeit the most expensive. Still, we wanted a fall wedding where we had a fantastic view, and not only was the Mac the only venue of the sort available on the date we wanted (Oct 07), but it's also the one that fits the most people, the most beautiful venue, and has the bonus of a suite for the bride and groom overnight. Pretty nice, if you ask me!

Jay and I have also moved into a new apartment. It's really nice, it is a 2 bedroom with hardwood floors, ceramic tiles and new fixtures. Unfortunately it has a really small kitchen, but it's only temporary accommodations and the benefits to being here far outweigh the negatives. We're quite happy. I also have two job interviews that would use my degree coming up this week, wish me luck!

Anyways, this is the last blog entry, so I hope you've enjoyed our travels!

Love, Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 15:07 Archived in Canada Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

Kicking Chiapas

Here we are again, more mature, learned, and ready for more shopping!

semi-overcast 25 °C

We hopped the border. It wasn't fun, but it needed to be done. Now, we were back in Palenque, with two new American (San Diegan) friends, and I needed to find a way to convert my 20$ worth of Quetzals into Pesos, as there were no moneychangers on the Mexican side of the border and we had run out of time to get our money changed on the Guatemalan side because I was arguing with the border control officer. Anyway, no banks in Palenque would change Quetzals, only American Dollars and Pesos. I found that to be a. slightly reminiscent of Tijuana and b. a little weird considering we were only a few hours away from the border. Finally, I found a tour company willing to change, but only at a rate of 1:1. That was like, a 30% cut! I ditched out of there, frustrated and unhappy.

I joined Jay and our new, funny American buddies at the local Torta establishment. We sipped fruity licuados and compared travel plans. Eventually, since everybody who is anybody stays in El Panchan if they're a backpacker, we all shared a taxi ride to the establishment. Since we had heard (and then confirmed) by other travellers that El Panchan was experiencing sewage issues, Jay and I split and hopped back across the street to El Jaguar, and re-rented the Tulum cabin, where we had stayed when we visited Palenque and got engaged in Agua Azul. Awww, it seems so long ago! I had devised a good way to convert my Quetzals, too: After we settled and got our packs off, I crossed the street to El Panchan and the Don Muchos restaurant, and beginning at the back of the establishment, asked people if they were headed to Guatemala, since most backpackers have either just returned or are leaving for Tikal. Scoring on the first couple of German girls, I managed to get almost the same rate as the moneychangers were offering on the other side, and they in return received some advice from you-know-who on just about every place they were travelling to that I had visited. I feel so, well, experienced!

We had inquired before catching the taxi at a collectivo site about collectivo trips to San Cristobal de Las Casas, and they apparently left at 5 and 6am respectively. Well, Jay and I woke up at 5am, and packed quickly and were out on the road to catch a bus into town at 5:30. Unfortunately, because the ruins don't open until 6, no vans began travelling until five minutes to. Jay and I were a little concerned since we were a few kilometers from the collectivos with heavy backpacks on and didn't know about this nonservice. We were more than a little concerned when we finally caught the 5:55am van to town. We arrived at the collectivos at 6:05, and luckily they had not left yet, and as soon as we got into the van they left for Ocosingo, halfway to San Cristobal. When we got to Ocosingo, we got on another collectivo and by 11:30 we were back once again.

Jay and I have been staying in the Posada Mexico this time around, a HI international hostel. It's a beautiful Hostel, with gardens, a full breakfast included, free internet for 1/2 hour a day, hammocks, libraries, a kitchen, and many spaces and beanbag chairs to chill on. Did we chill, though? Maybe Jay for a bit, but not me. I shopped!

Shopping is so much fun in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Not only do they have many funky and interesting shops to peruse, but there's a covered artisans market (with sweets, too!) and the absolutely fantastic outdoors handicraft market, with Indigenas and dreadlocked hippies selling hammocks, stone daggers, handwoven tapestries, all sorts of clothing, jewelry, baskets, pottery, stuffed animals, leather briefcases, wooden masks, ceramic figures, woven dolls, and paintings, just to name a few. Everyday I would peruse the aisles of stalls and wares and sometimes I'd buy things, and other times I'd compare work and prices. Everything was open to haggling, but I didn't want to haggle too toughly - sometimes an item that took 10 hours to weave is worth the 5$CDN that they´re asking for. In any case, I had a purpose this time, to buy gifts for all my friends and family, as well as pick up any items I meant to have when I returned.

Sometimes I didn't even need to go to the markets - yesterday, as I was admiring Jay's packing abilities (he has bought some nice presents for his friends but needs to take good care of them since they will be in our checked luggage - I am NOT saying what he got!), and a Chamulan woman carrying loads of belts and bags entered our hostel and approached us, selling some adorable items at a price I couldn't refuse. I bought out almost her entire stock of the one item (not revealing what they are!), and had a nice conversation with the elderly lady, whose name was Maria. Unfortunately, I ran into her again today, and she said she didn't recognize me. I believe she may have a touch of the senility bug.

I could say that all I have done is shop (Jay may attest to that, he himself did a lot of reading, finishing his book, and sometimes he shopped too), but that would be lying. On Thursday Jay and I took a morning jaunt to the indigenous village of Tenejapa, where the women wear colourful ribbons in their braids and men wear long sheepskin tunics, and men of power also have a ribboned sombrero, a long rosary necklace adorned with coins, and a staff of power, in addition to hiking boots. All of them also wear a woven red purse worn diagonally across their bodies, and in the market I found a very nice one and picked up one for myself, of course. Jay found half a rotiserri chicken, and we found a spot to sit and let him eat it. As we were sitting, an amazingly skinny dog came up to us, no doubt lured by the smell of the chicken. It was very scared, deathly skinny, and had a thick wire tied tightly around its neck. It ate a small piece of chicken Jay passed to it, and we figured it wasn't starving because it was sick, but because it couldn't swallow food properly. Jay sacrificed half of his food trying to encourage the pretty faced dog to let him remove the wire. Finally, as I fed the pup small amounts, Jay was able to convince the dog to let him work on the wire and after some manipulating got it off the dog's neck. We hope that may have saved the dog's life, and Karma points to Jay!

Although the pickings other than the purse at the Tenejapa market were slim, we were very happy we had travelled there, as we were not only the only tourists in the area but had a chance to view the amazing outfits worn. Unfortunately, indigenas do not like to have their photos taken (they believe it steals their soul), and the one group of men who I asked to take their photo agreed only if I paid them 200 pesos, which was far too much. So I took no photos, but I did find an appropriate postcard to show when I arrive home.

This morning, Jay and I took another tour, this time an organized one to the Cañon de Sumidero, which is a large, deep canyon home to many birds and animals, including vultures, herons, monkeys and crocodiles. We set off in a lancha boat and the driver pointed out many and more of these creatures, including some of the largest crocs I have ever seen! There was a particular cliff face over a kilometer high, and a waterfall location where the rocks and lichens have formed the shape of a 'Christmas Tree', or spruce, a cave that contained a shrine to the Virgen of Guadalupe, and a large hydroelectric dam that supplies 25% of Mexico's power. Impressive. After the boat ride we stopped for lunch in Chiapa de Corzo, which features not only amazing heat (overwhelming, actually, it was probably 36 degrees out there compared to the comfortable 25 of the highland San Cristobal), but a unique moorish town square that contains a brick structure that looks like the crown of a castle, and a brick clocktower. We had a great lunch of beef stew in the market, and returned to San Cristobal tired. But, I was ready for more shopping, and that I did!

So, tomorrow at noon we are leaving San Cristobal for the Tuxtla Airport, to fly to Tijuana. We were going to sleep in San Diego, but it's half the price in TJ, so we'll remain there until Monday morning and cross the border then, saving us 25$ or so. Then it's home, and with that comes new jobs, a new apartment, and wedding planning! We will be more than a little busy!

And, perhaps the next post will be the last post. Or, maybe I'll post an epilogue. We'll see!

Much love, Tess (Please revisit the last few posts to see our photos, finally posted!)

Posted by JungleBlog 21:01 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

A Long Time Ago, in a Land Far, Far Away

Jedi landscapes, Sketchy Border Crossings, and Familiar Territory

rain 10 °C
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So, in the last week Jay and I have manipulated our way through three different countries. Three different currencies. Two Languages. In only a few days we´ll be headed to our fourth... mixed feelings! On one hand I´m extremely excited to be returning back to my family, friends and I´ll be bearing all these gifts and stories and I can´t wait to share everything in person. Not to mention, getting the wedding planned out and moving into new accomodations and looking for a good paying job (hopefully teaching positions too!)... things will be very busy, and very exciting.

On the other hand, we have done so much in our two months here, learned so much (I can speak four languages conversationally now! Hah! I even learned how to say Hello in Mayan!), experienced so much. I know that I´m going to be missing out on so many enriching experiences that I would have received from my time spent further in Belize, Guatemala, and any other country we may have reached. However, this does present the necessity to return to these countries, and hell, I´m not even 25 yet; I have lots of time.

What have we done so far? Let me recap the highlights:

1. The San Diego Zoo - checked off the lifelist!
2. High-fiving a wild adult Gray Whale in Guerrero Negro
3. Observed ancient cave paintings in the middle of the Desert
4. Watched Jay catch his first fish - and release it
5. Observed Jay consume his first donkey - and not release it
6. Slept overnight in a ferry and waking to watch the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez
7. Learn about the finer aspects of Soccer and how it can consume an entire populace, more than any NHL finals could
8. Eat filet mignon with my Uncle Bob in the Center of Mexico
9. Spend $6 on real silver and turquoise earrings
10. See a Dali Exhibit, and a Diego Rivera exhibit in one go
11. Witness thousands of butterflies in the middle of a high mountain pine forest float around me
12. Climb the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, and mourn as the Sun overwhelmed and scorched my neck
13. Be present in a mayan church where Jesus lies in a coffin and families sacrifice chickens and belch coca cola
14. Marvel at the jungle-enveloped ruins of Palenque and attempt to read ancient mayan inscriptions
15. Get ENGAGED! underneath a thousand waterfalls in Agua Azul
16. Participate in the exciting festivities that is Carnaval in Campeche
17. Explore rivers of Flamingos and gorge on stuffed squid on the beaches of Celestun
18. Explore rivers of Fat Americans and gorge on jam sandwiches on the beaches of Isla Mujeres
19. Delight in the all-inclusive snorkelling and food eating and hammock lying in Xel-Ha
20. GHOST RIDER in Chetumal!
21. Witnessing crocodiles and Jabiru storks and hiking up pyramids off the New River in Lamanai, Belize
22. Tikal.

Tikal... Well, before I get to Tikal, let me share the border crossing firstly. After leaving the internet cafe in San Ignacio, we hopped in a shared taxi cab to the border crossing, and once we got there we realized how we had forgotten to take out enough money in San Ignacio because we spend half of it on Rum instead. How dumb is that? Anyway, we had just enough to make it over the border (after paying the exit fees, etc.) to Guatemala. Immediately upon crossing the border we went to get our passport stamped for entry and the man behind the counter asked for 10 Quetzals (the Guatemalan currency) as a fee. My book said that there were no official fees but they tend to charge anyway, and I asked for a receipt. The man hesitated, and put the books in reach after stamping them. I grabbed them both and took off without paying the fare - what was he going to do? Immediately we were bombarded by 6 year old children hawking taxi rides for 40US to Flores... can these kids even be allowed to drive? Anyway, it was a ridiculous fare, so we told them no, many many times (they continued to follow us anyway) and we walked across a bridge over a beautiful river where it appeared the entire border town took to swimming in in the middle of the afternoons, it was full of people playing in the waters.

We were continuously offered rides to Flores from everybody, and we continued to ignore them, and began to resent border towns and the people who prey on the ignorant. Case in point - We finally found a collectivo that would take us to El Remate (halfway between Flores and Tikal, we were trying to get to Tikal to be in the site at the first opening of the gates) for 20 Quetzals each, which was all that we had left. They picked us up and a couple of other tourists and other Guatemalans and nicely let us hit an ATM as well, providing some well needed money. Jay and I sat in the front of the Collectivo, and good thing too, because in Guatemala the 1 seat 1 person rule doesn´t apply, they will stuff in as many people as there is volume in the minivan, regardless of whether people are hanging out the windows or on the roof or whatever.
We were finally dropped off in El Remate, and the other english speaking couple was too. They asked me how much we paid for the ride, and they told us they had been cheated, and paid 100 Quetzals. They tried to argue with the Collectivo guy but it was no use and the van sped off. Who knows, perhaps the locals only paid 10 Quetzals each?

Anyway, Jay didn´t want to stay in El Remate, he wanted to find a more expensive room right outside the gates of Tikal, except there were no more busses headed to Tikal (we missed the last one, according to the local trinket selling children). However, there was a woodcarving artisan shop right across the street from us that I wanted to check out, and I went and left Jay briefly, and was informed by the shopkeeper that there were 5am collectivos that travelled to the ruins site, that didn´t open until 6am anyway. I went back to inform Jay and meanwhile he had been discovered by a driver who was selling Jay a room in a nearby hotel for 50quetzals (approximately 7$). Jay was leery, but I insisted that rooms in Guatemala were cheaper than the $40US he wanted to spend in Tikal, and convinced him to let us check it out, to his dismay. Luckily for both of us though, the room was actually quite nice, so we agreed to take it, and we were then also informed about a sunrise tour to Tikal that allowed one to enter the gates before the official opening in order to watch the sunrise. After interviewing the guide directly in his home across the street, we agreed it would be a good idea.

That night was one of the colder nights we have experienced, and it rained and poured and we were convinced that the sunrise tour would be nixed due to the poor weather (we were supposed to be up and ready to go at 4am). At 3:30am we both got up to go across the street to let our guide know we were cancelling, and when we got out we realized the sound of the rain had been amplified by the roof, and it wasn´t that bad after all, and we actually did want to go. So, we made a mad dash, quickly got our gear packed, changed, brushed our teeth, and made it out in time to greet our guide who was none the wiser.

The tour was fantastic! The whole group (about 20 of us) made a mad dash to the other side of the site and the top of Pyramid 4 in order to watch the sun rise. Well, due to the precipitation there was no sunrise, but it was still awe-inspiring to watch the mists clear over the forests and the ruins that served as the backdrop to the landing in the Ewok planet in Return of the Jedi. We were surrounded by towering forest, pyramids, howler monkeys, toucans, parrots and our guide was excellent, giving us insider information regarding the history of the area, the local flora and fauna, and the excavation process. We spent over 4 hours there but that is definately a site we will need to return to, we did not get a chance to see enough, in my humble opinion.

Our guide nicely drove us to Flores (where we went to another ATM to pay him), and found a great hostel (again 50Qs) to sleep in. Flores, Guatemala is a beautiful little colonial town set in the middle of Lake Peten Itza, connected by a bridge to the dirtier and more commercial Santa Elena. We found a company that would take us to Mexico (Palenque) the next morning, and I enjoyed walking around the town and buying crafts and knickknacks. I always enjoy shopping.

The next morning at 5am we were picked up by a bus who promised an easy 8 hour journey by bus and boat across the border to Palenque. Well, it wasn´t that easy. The lancha boat driver apparently wasn´t paid, and the bus driver on the Mexican side hadn´t been paid either so the group was stranded at the border for over an hour, the man at the immigration office enforced an unofficial 45 quetzal exit fee, we didn´t have enough time to convert our quetzals into pesos so we were yet again with no money, and we arrived in Palenque exhausted and beaten. But we were back in Mexico! Hurrah!

Tomorrow, I will post up the pictures from the last few posts, and recount our final adventures in Mexico. Until then, Tess

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Posted by JungleBlog 16:45 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

You'd better Belize it!

Baboons, Strangling Heat, and Coool Creole

sunny 33 °C
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Well, we are in San Ignacio, Cayo District, Belize right now, and in a couple of hours we will be making a break for it to the border, and to Tikal. We have spent 4 nights in Belize, and definately will be returning.

Things are winding down to a close, now, too. Since Jay and I decided to get married, things have been going on at home and we want to go back to help with the planning. Also, Jay decided last week he was tired of travelling too, so we thought perhaps we'd shorten the timespan from 2 months to 2 weeks. Now, we have one week left. We leave on March 11, and I don't think we'll be missing out, if anything, this just gives us more of an excuse to return back to these fantastic countries.

So, anyway. We woke up from Tulum and caught an early (I mean, EARLY - 6:30am!) bus to Chetumal, 10km from the Belize border, the very bottom of Mexico. As we rolled into the pretty capitol of Quintana Roo, we passed by a shopping mall and a movie theatre. Jay looked out the window and saw a listing for "something Fantasma" and knew it was Ghost Rider. He wanted to go see it before we went to Belize really badly, but I didn't think we'd have enough time. I really overestimated the size of Belize, though, and it turned out that it would be 1 1/2 hours sooner to hit our destination of Orange Walk, than I thought. So, we did some calculations, discovered there was a bus that ran at 3pm to Orange Walk and that Ghost Rider played at 11am. We hopped into a taxi to the theatre, and with 5 minutes to spare, we were watching GHOST RIDER! It was great, air-conditioned (in 35 degree heat that was well welcomed!), and we were even able to enjoy some chinese food in the food court before heading back to the bus station. Fantastic!

We knew we were in for a change when we saw the bus that would take us to Belize. Remember when you were in elementary school and you took the yellow school bus to school? Well, it's the same bus that takes you to Belize, only now it's named "VENUS" and is bright purple and orange, and 20 years older. Awesome. It drove us and about 20 other tourists to the border with Marley crooning at full capacity, and we waited in the most chill border lineup for 45 minutes while they asked us the routine "where are you going/staying" and issued us a 30 day visa. The bus waited for us, obviously not in a rush (We've come to the conclusion that "GO SLOW" is the Country motto), and less than 2 hours later we were in Orange Walk, Belize.

Orange Walk is possibly the most international small town I've even seen. Mennonites, Creole, Chinese, Mestizo and Tourists spice up the life, if not the food. Actually, the food in Belize is not quite up to the Mexican standards, with the local dishes consisting of rice and beans, and chicken, and panades (which are like empanadas but greasier). We stayed in the best hotel we've stayed in yet, St. Christophers, which was like any fancy hotel at home, and the next day we took a riverboat ride down the New River to Lamanai with Jungle River tours.

Mom, Dad, remember Tortuguero, all the streams and jungle and herons and birds? Here I went again... only I saw crocodiles, a Jabiru Stork (12ft wingspan and an endangered species!), and at the end of the ride was the interesting mayan ruins of Lamanai, which was the longest occupied mayan site in the whole world, remaining there until the 1800's! Out of 750 structures only 5 were excavated, but they were impressive none the less and we were lucky enough to see howler monkeys and a toucan there as well! It all culminated in a great tour, and the next day we took the bus to Bermudian Landing.

Bermudian Landing is a small village which first received electricity 7 years ago, and a paved road only 4 years ago. They had only 1 hotel open, and no restaurants. What they did have, however, was the community Baboon Sanctuary, where a collective of there and other towns live in harmony with the rare Black Howler Monkey, protecting them and the land where they live. We stayed at the Howler Monkey lodge in a room and the originator of the sanctuary, Fallot, invited us over for lunch before we went to see the monkeys, since Jay was starving! He served us a mountain of rice and beans, and at 4pm we went on a tour with Juliet, who showed us various medicinal plants, a hummingbird nest, and finally, the howlers themselves.

Although there are over 1600 monkeys in the sanctuary, the particular group near the town is very tame and in fact we were able to touch them and feed them bananas and play with them! There were 9 members of the group, including 2 brand new babies. It was very special! We had plans to leave the next morning, but the hotel had a pool and the sounds of the jungle, the lack of any traffic and the calmness and remoteness of the place convinced us to spend another day here doing absolutely nothing but swimming, reading, visiting the babboons again and chilling. Our hostess at the hotel made dinners upon request as well, so we wouldn't go hungry.

That evening too I took a nighttime tour with another local guide. Jay stayed behind so it was just him and I, and we saw a prehensile tailed porcupine, nightjars, heard armadillos, and he taught me about all sorts of jungle wisdom and remedies. At the end of the 3 hour personal tour we went to the local bar and they gave us a drink, local rum and coke. Wow, potent! Everybody in there spoke creole and it was interesting to listen to, sometimes you thought that you could understand what they were saying and other times, not at all. They didn't ask us to pay either, I looked at my guide and he was like " no man! I'm local here, you don't have to pay!". Seriously, I have never been to as chill a location as Belize!

As foretold, the next day Jay and I did nothing but swim, play cards, revisit the monkeys and eat amazing meals prepared by our hostess. We discovered however that the only way to leave town on Sundays was to drive or hitch, and so since we don't have a car to drive, we would have to hitch a ride... so this morning we did just that. Amazingly this seems to be quite normal in Belize, and we left Bermudian landing on the back of a pickup truck with 6 other people at 8 thirty to Burrell Boom, caught a minivan with another Canadian to Belmopan by 10am, and Finally by ourselves on the back of another pickup truck by 10:30, and we were in San Ignacio, where we are now, at Eva's Restaurant. I can safely say we have travelled halfway across Belize on the back of pickup trucks, it's great!

So, tonight we will try to be in Tikal. Tomorrow it's the ruins, and we'll be home on the 11th or the 12th. Posting soon,

Tess

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Posted by JungleBlog 11:26 Archived in Belize Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Quintana Roohoo!

Beaches, fishies, and an American Invasion

sunny 33 °C
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Well, the island of women was not as angst-ridden as we expected, we actually had quite a decent time. Yes, there were more tourists. Yes, the prices were generally (and generously) more expensive. However, the beach contained some of the finest sand (and THAT don't cost a thing), the supermarket prices were virtually the same as the mainland (aside from the produce, which still did not compare to the costs at home), and we met an older couple from British Columbia with whom we could compare stories and share like-minded opinions of the other, more southern tourists. Also, we found a decent hotel room with a balcony for 250 pesos a night, which although was more expensive than we have become used to, was not that expensive.

The first full day we were there, after we discovered the hotel room and moved our gear from the dirty Urban Hostel to our new pad at the Suemi (the innkeeper was a very sweet woman and the place had a festive bubblegum pink interior and no hot water, which was not much of a big deal in the humidity. We found a location where you could buy a half rotisseri chicken for 40 pesos, Jay gorged, and then we headed to the beach and roasted ourselves. This time we prepared with the s-cream, though, and didn't burn at all! I was quite proud of myself.

Later on in the evening we went to the grocery store, and since Kahlua is made in Mexico, a 40 goes for about 11$ CDN, so Jay and I split on it, along with some pastries for breakfast, ice cream, bananas, watermelon, milk and bologna. We returned to our room and made milk/Kahlua/ice cream drinks and watched in amusement as a festively dressed procession of Holbox dancers stopped directly under our balcony for the shopkeepers across the street and performed for 15 minutes! It was explained to me that they were there for the celebration of Isla Holbox' carnaval, which is an island not too far away.

I slept very quickly that evening, which was a good thing because Jay had set up a snorkelling tour with the innkeeper's brother, who worked with the Fishermen's co-op for the next morning. We were given snorkle gear and they took us in the morning to an area near the lighthouse where they threw some bait to attract a slew of colourful fish who flickered and surrounded us, making us feel like we were swimming in Fish, not water. Afterwards, we went near a reef and again found ourselves covered in sparkling, multicoloured bodies. We were not impressed with a dutch girl on our tour who stood on the rocks, one should never even touch the reefs and she was extremely insensitive to the ecology. Thirdly, we passed by an area where people pay hundreds of dollars to swim with and manhandle dolphins penned in a large seaside enclosure. I would love to swim with dolphins who are in open waters, but not under those conditions. Lastly, they took us to a restaurant and while they made some amazing barbequed mackerel with pesto spaghetti and salad, we snuck off to the Turtle sanctuary next door and saw all sorts of turtles, who are raised there until they are large enough to survive in the wild without being eaten by a bird or a shark. We didn't realize we had to pay to enter though, and since we didn't have any money on hand we left soon after. All in all, though, we had a great day.

However, Jay is getting a little tired of travelling, but we decided that we would still pop into Belize and Guatemala for 2 weeks, head back up to San Cristobal, and fly out of Tuxtla Guiterrez. So, this blog will continue for a little while longer.

We left that afternoon for Tulum, but mistakenly my bikini did not. We checked in at the Weary Travellers hostel and met the 15th Israeli backpacker, which puts them at 2nd place for region representers (after Germany). We also met an American girl and an Italian, and we discovered an interesting thing about any American traveller that sets them apart from all the other nations: When asked about their homeland, most tourists will say "Argentina" or "Canada" or "Israel". Americans will say "New Hampshire" or "Washington State" or "Atlanta". It's as though they assume everybody knows about the whole geography of their country. Jay and I have plans next time they mention "Georgia" or "Rhode Island" to reply "Wow, all the way from Europe, eh?", just because. We think it'll be funny.

Anyway, at the hostel our new Israeli friend taught us a fantastic new card game called Yaniv. We're very excited to teach it to everybody back home, it's super fun!

The next day I discovered my bikini folly and so rather than beating the crowds to Xel-Ha, I had to wait until 10am for the bathing suit shop to open in Tulum and buy a sexy but expensive new suit. Luckily I like it better than the old one, and it's an Argentinean original! So, we made it to Xel-Ha by 11:30.

Xel-Ha is the opening of one of the underground rivers in the peninsula, and I believe the curators thought it was so beautiful when they discovered it that they knew they'd be able to sell its use at a high price to rich tourists staying at expensive resorts nearby. So, they charge unbelievably high prices (60 US!) but that includes free buffet food, free alcoholic drinks, inner tube use, other natural activities that would be free elsewhere such as snorkleing and cave exploration and hammock swinging, and is thriving with more people than the fishies, although there were a lot of fishes. However, with all that being said, we had a great time and snorkled for hours, and Jay's parents visited the place last year and it was neat to know we were in the very same location. Plus, it was quite clean, and stress free (except when we got lost from each other for an hour). We stayed an extra night at the hostel, and then left this morning for Belize.

I will begin the belize entry in the next post, but the internet cafe is closing! As was our Mexican Journey. Adios for now,

Love Tess

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Posted by JungleBlog 20:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Beach Combing and Sun Burns...

From the Gulf to the Caribbean

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Hey everyone,

Well, nothing is going to top last weeks post but the entries must go on...

So after the wonderful time in Palenque, we headed north to Campeche. I wasn´t expecting much out of this town as I was qutie ready to head to a beach town and this wasn´t it. Although it is situated right on the coast, it has no beaches, only long walkways. But as we got off the bus and found our way to the Centro Tess reminded me that the center of town is a Unesco World Heritage site. Good reason for it, the center of town is still within the original city walls (much like Quebec City), the stone streets are spotlessly clean, old fashioned lamps line the sidewalks, the building are all brightly painted and multi colored and the Zocalo (city center square) was beautiful and pleasant to sit in.

So we found a hostel that was right around the corner from the Zocalo that included breakfast in the price. The restaurant next door was owned by the hostel and the food was so good and soo fairly priced we ate their everyday :)

We didn´t stay long in Campeche, because we wanted to hit the beach in Celestun, but the highlight of our time there was the Carnaval. We happened to travel there at the exact time of their Carnaval parade. It was a three hour parade with floats and performers and what seemed like the entire city out along the coastline. I only managed two hours of watching the parade go by before I had to head back, but it was fun while we were there and the music lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

The next day we headed off to Celestun. A super tiny beach front town where everything seemed laid back and chill. We managed to snag a perfect room in one of the hotels directly on the beach for faily cheap. $18 per night for a decent room with a perfect ocean view and a balcony with the beach right outside the door.

Our first day there we walked down the costline and came across what looked to be a very expensive mini resort. Complete with a topless sunbather :) We ended up using their palapas and streched out under the sun, drinking Don Julio Margaritas for about 7 hours. The sun burn sucked :( but it was quite a relaxing day. The water of the Gulf is a gorgeous green shade and relatively easy to swim in. When the sun is beating down, the waters make a perfectly refreshing way to cool down.

After soaking in too much sun that first day, we opted for a nice boat trip around the entire peninsula. <Tess interjects - We thought that we would be able to get a better deal at the river than at the beach because I had a conversation on the bus with a nice local schoolteacher who instructed us to not pay more than 120 pesos. Unfortunately, the get up at the riverfront was an official Mexico CULTUR group and they charged 500 for one hour! As we stood perplexed and frustrated on the bridge overlooking the river, a man pulled up on his moped and after some negotiation informed us his friends ran a tour from the sea and he could ask them if we could go on the tour for 120 pesos, which we gladly accepted! We hopped on his moped and he took us down to the beach, where we climbed on a lancha and took off!> It took a couple of hours and we got to see the Flamingos up close, a petrified forest, and mangroves (basically, trees growing above the water in what looked like a super wicked swamp where fresh and salt water meet. Alligators supposedly live there but unfortunately we didn´t get to see them.

<Tess interjects: The next day Jay decided to go for a walk to the end of the beach a couple of kilometers away, and I took the opportunity to chill on the beach again for the morning, after going on the internet. After I had had my fill of the sun, I saw the same guy who took us on his moped and while chatting with him Jay showed up. The guy, Daniel, offered to take us to his friend's house for some shark meat and then to Real de Salinas, a colonial ruins site (not as old as the mayan ruins, but still 300 years old!). We popped on his moped again and went to his buddy's, where we sampled true mexican style eating, using tortillas as cutlery, grace before eating, and the most amazing shark stew! After thanking his buddies, we went through the nature reserve to Real de Salinas, which featured corrals, an overgrown church, and other colonial buildings. The area was originally built to house the mayans who were hired to mine the salt in the area. After a while they all moved to Celestun, and the area became a ghost town. When we returned to town we chilled in our hotel for a while, and then met up with Daniel again and he prepared for us some Poc Chuc style fish, grilled whole on top of glowing hot coals. We peeled back the skin and the meat slipped right off the bones, it was so amazing! We thanked him for his hospitality and returned to our oceanfront hotel, a steal with a balcony for 18 dollars a night!>

So we spent three full days there, and as normal, we found a perfect place for food. I think I ordered pizza everynight that we were there. It was impossible not to for the price. An extra large pizza was less than five bucks!!! They made for the best breakfasts I´ve had yet :)

So now, we have arrived in Piste, just outside Chichen Itza. It´s still debatable whether or not we are actually going to go see the ruins or go to see the underground caves the are nearby. Either way it should be fun tomorrow and since the comming weeks are going to be spent on the Caribbean coast it should be awesome.

<Tess interjects: so, we ended up not going to Chichen Itza. Jay was tired and so I let him sleep in, and instead I got up earlier and decided to visit some nearby grutas', which is a cavern, and cenotes, which are underground freshwater pools. I went to the taxis in the zocalo and inquired as to the price to visit 2 particular locations, Balancanche, and Ik Kil. The taxi driver stunned me with a return price of 200 pesos, and even after he lowered it to 150 I bid him adieu and hopped across the street to wait for a bus. I had brought the camera and made Jay and myself tunafish sandwiches (Jay eats tuna now, thanks Uncle Bob!), and within 10 minutes a bus came by. I asked him to drop me off at the furthest stop, Balancanche at 7km, and for 5(!) pesos I was there. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow fewer than 2 people into the caves at a time because of the cost of running the light show and the tour guide, and I was the only one there! Not too concerned (although resigned to waiting, this was 10am), I strolled the gardens surrounding the cave, ate my tuna sandwich, admired a passing iguana, and chatted with the workers. Finally, at 11, some American tourists came by and I joined them on the trip in.

Balankanche was very, very cool, or I should say it was neat but extremely humid and hot, which I found strange for a cave. The cavern continued for over 500 meters and had impressive stalagmites and stalagtites, original mayan pottery offerings, and a muffled voice through the speakers giving a historical account of 'his people' in perfect English. I thoughroughly enjoyed it, especially the water near the end that we couldn't believe was water until we tossed a pebble into it, I have never seen water so clear in my life. After I said goodbye to the Americans, I walked to the main road towards Ik Kil and an elderly taxi driver pulled up and offered to take me there for another 5 pesos. I relented and climbed in, paid the entrance fee to Ik Kil, and thanked the driver and left.
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Ik Kil reminded me of another location prop from a movie. A large azure circle of 40m deep water beckoning from a large hole in the ground. stairs, tree roots and gentle waterfalls descended to the little cutout of paradise, and lucky for me I had arrived just as the large tour bus left, leaving me alone again! This time, however, there was no problem of electricity to stop me, as the sun filtered in the hole and provided unbelievably heavenly light. I got into my bathing suit and jumped into the cool, fresh water, which was definately welcome after the stifling heat of the cave. Little black catfish swam lazily in the water too, and it was possible to get close enough to them to touch them before they darted away. I chilled and swam for about half an hour before I got out of the water and dried off, again at the perfect timing as a tour bus had just pulled up! I splurged on a tourist priced ice cream bar and headed back for the main road, just as another bus came by and picked me up to take me back to town for another 5 pesos! So there, expensive taxi, I got there and back for 10% of your price!
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I met up with Jay back in town, he had been lazy and chilled and took his time setting everything up, and he enjoyed his morning a lot too. We went to a chicken stand, where Jay bought half a roasted chicken with veggies and rice, tortillas and a pepsi for 25 pesos, and we caught a colectivo to Valladolid a half hour later. In Valladolid we got on a second class bus to Cancun, and we were there by 6:30. After a taxi to the dock and a water taxi later, we were in Tourist friendly Isla Mujeres, unable to find a place to sleep (everything was fully booked). We finally found a dive of a hostel (the Urban Hostel) for 80 pesos each, and this morning we resolved to move and upgrade for a hotel, which is more than we're used to at 250 pesos per night but at least it's private and has its own bathroom. We saw the beach this morning, it looks unbelievable! However, the prices here are astronomical, we are a little tourist shocked by all the Americans and the English that is everywhere (it's actually not comforting at all, we much prefer the more chill mexican haunts now.). Most of the people we see around us, even those running the stores, are all white and English speaking, and the prices here are not much cheaper than at home. It's a drag when you have to go to 3 different restaurants before you find eggs for less than 50 pesos. To think we just left a place where a 12 inch pizza cost 45 pesos! In any case, I think we won't be staying here too long, although that beach looked very enticing, and apparently the snorkeling here is unreal. I guess we'll just have to see if it makes up for the hustle and bustle on the shore!>

Until later (not as much later!), Tess and Jay
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Posted by JungleBlog 20:22 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Welcome to the Jungle

Indigenas, Waterfalls, Ruins, and Words to Change your Life

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Hooooooo boy! This is going to be quite the entry!

I will need to begin the story at the airport in Mexico City, the beginning of our second leg of the trip. Here we thought we´d arrive quite early in San Cristobal de Las Casas, but it turned out that our flight was an hour late (a wheel replacement), and it was dark when we arrived in Tuxtla Guiterrez. We met a nice man, Bill, on our flight and upon arrival I asked him if we wanted to split a cab to Tuxtla. In fact he was driving, and gave us a ride himself into town. He was extremely nice, and we had a great conversation where we learned about the Zapatista rebels, and his orphanage that he and his wife created in a small Chiapan coastal town. We parted ways in Tuxtla and Jay and I set off to find a bus to San Cristobal. We caught a taxi who dropped us off at a colectivo station, and 35 pesos and an hour later we were in San Cristobal.

As soon as we arrived, and after walking for five minutes towards the downtown core we happened upon a guy who said he had a hostel in town with rooms for 100 pesos. He offered to pay our cab fare there and we agreed, and the place was great. La Casa di Gladys, it was adorned with paper lanterns and paintings and plants and had a kitchen, free internet and a common movie area. Our room for the first two nights was cramped but decorated with all sorts of neat things, and the third night we moved to a slightly larger but more bare room.

San Cristobal was absolutely lovely. Of course, the streets were charming and reminiscent of the other colonial styled towns we had encountered, but the true beauty lay in the costumes and faces of the indigenas people who walked the streets within. Colourful huipiles and fuzzy black skirts, the girls and children were at times pervasive, walking into the restaurants and trying to sell you nylon woven belts and bracelets until the waiters told them repeatedly to leave. However, I understand that if they had more money this would not be a problem whatsoever and they wouldn´t resort to this kind of pushiness.

The first day we were there I went straight to the artisan market and had my first true SHOPPING SPREE!!! YAY!!! I bought sweaters, skirts, dolls, baskets, and Jay and I split on an unbelievable red woven tapestry, which must have taken a week to work on and cost us a whole 800 pesos (thats about 85 dollars canadian). I went way over budget, but I had so much fun doing it! A girl has GOT to shop, you know.
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On February 12 Jay and I signed up to go for a horseback ride tour of the nearby indigenas town of Chamula. We arrived on the back of a pickup truck to the horse stables, where we were outfitted with extremely uncomfortable wooden saddles and dog-sized horses. Our guide wasn´t interested in giving the backpackers (there was an international crew of young Germans, French, Canadians and Japanese) a nice, relaxing stroll through the hillsides. Oh no, he forced us into a continuous (and painfully uncomfortable) trot for most of the trip, causing bruising on multiple parts of my legs. We made the most of it, however, and in some parts we really had a fantastic time as we were able to get the horses to gallop in certain stretches which was not only more comfortable but SO MUCH FUN! By noon we were at the town of Chamula, and given an hour to investigate before we were set to return.

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Chamula is a small indigenas village that was unlike any town I´ve ever seen in my life. Firstly, upon entry near the town we passed farm plots that seemed to have missed the industrial revolution completely. Small, orderly hand-toiled rows of corn and watermelons and Chayote, a root native to Chiapas. We saw women leading herds of sheep, men breaking the soil with large awls, and cutting the corn with skythes. It was unbelievable. Finally, we entered the town itself and saw evidence of tourism in the storefronts leading up to the downtown Zocalo, which was home to the Chamulan Church. We were impressed with the festive green decorations lining the pretty white church, but were not allowed access unless we paid the tourist office across the street. We bought the tickets, showed the man at the front, and walked in.

You will never, ever, see a church like this unless you come to Chamula. No pews, no priest, no giant cross. The floor was devoid of seats and was littered in pine boughs, and families in fuzzy black skirts and vests sat in various spots on the floor and had laid thousands of lit candles all over the church floor and tables. In front of each family between them and the candles were bottles of coke, fanta, and other carbonated beverage (which we learned they drank so they would burp, as burping released bad air and cleaned their soul). A procession of musicians played slow accordians and guitar), and beside a couple of families sat bound chickens. Jay and I witnessed the sacrifice of one of the chickens, and were in awe the entire time. What a strange, magical area. Apparently the priest had been expelled a long time earlier, and the last catholic mass was held in the 50´s, and bishops are only allowed into the church once a month to perform baptismal services. We left feeling very fortunate.

We stayed another half day in San Cristobal, and took the bus to Palenque later on in the afternoon. After what seemed like forever, we were in the town of Palenque, and caught a taxi to El Panchan, a complex near the ruin site that is rumoured (according to the Let´s Go guide) to be legendary amongst backpackers. Indeed, it´s a very, VERY cool complex, and we have a cabaña right across the street from the main site with a big overhead fan (well needed in the heat and humidity here), and alongsite a beautiful stream for only 120 pesos a night! We found out from the guy who runs the place that they have 7 hour tours to three waterfall sites for 135 pesos, and we thought that would be great so we signed up for yesterday. Plus, we decided it would be a great backdrop on Valentines day. Awww.... how romantic. Back at the Cabaña we explored the wilderness that is their outdoor washrooms, counting geckos and getting scared by big spiders until we had our fill and crashed in our beds.

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The next morning we were in a van by 9am and heading towards Misol-Ha, the first of three water areas. We were surprised to see Erick, one of the Frenchmen that we met on our horseback ride to Chamula. Later on we would realize how much of a tourist trail we were on as we encountered not just one or two but MANY of the backpackers we had met in San Cristobal. According to the guidebooks we are on the Ruta Maya, which for us ends in Palenque as we are going north into the Yucatan rather than into Guatemala. Anyway, onwards to Misol-Ha!

Misol-Ha was the site of an absolutely breathtaking large waterfall, which they gave us half an hour to revel in. Jay and Erick got into their bathing suits and dived into the water, swimming beneath the fall and meeting me on the other side, which I would have tried to do as well except for the fact that I didn´t feel like rushing with my clothes off and on only to swim for 10 minutes. It was gorgeous, though, and had a cave in the back where you could walk behind the waterfall. Cooooool.

The second area we went to was Agua Clara, which had no waterfalls but did have a beautiful calm river with bright turquoise waters and many little indigenas children selling tiny little bananas. It also included a rickety suspension bridged that swung dangerously and would not meet up to any Canadian standards. We enjoyed this place too for a half hour before we hopped back in the van and drove to Agua Azul, or Blue Water in English.

Agua Azul, the name we´ll never forget. Here we were allowed 3 hours to frolic, and we certainly did! Agua Azul is the home of hundreds upon hundreds of stunning teal waterfalls against sandy cliffsides, and in contrast with the robin´s egg blue sky appeared no less magnificent than as though we were in a movie. We swam in an out and amongst the falls, found more, browsed souvenir stands, and enjoyed what was turning out to be the most perfect day ever.

As we sat on the edge of one of the falls I turned over to Jay and said "You know, here I am, sitting underneath a thousand falls, blue sky everywhere, in the middle of the rainforest with my boyfriend. This day could not get any better."

And it did. Five minutes later, after receiving many nervous smiles and the loudest silence ever between us, Jay turned to face me and asked for my hand in marriage. I burst into tears and of course, I said yes!

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I think I have never smiled for so long on a long ride back. We celebrated with our new French friends (Erick and his Quebec friend and her son Manu) and had a great dinner of Pizza and tortellini at Don Muchos in the complex. We wanted to get to bed early but realized we had to call our parents, and there were no telephones in the complex. We splurged on a taxi into town, found a payphone, and broke the news to firstly my parents (Jay had to ask permission, Mom replies with "Holy Shit! That's Great!!!" and of course they said of course) and then to Jay's, who were overjoyed as well (I hope!). We taxied back to the Cabañas and had a great sleep.

This morning we woke up EARLY, and hoofed it to the ruins of Palenque, supposedly the most romantic ruins in all of Mexico. Set in amongst the rainforest and detailed with some of the most important inscriptions of all the sites, it certainly captivated us. We entered through the back side thinking that we had escaped paying an entrance fee, but were 'caught' by a bored looking guy who didn't seem to care too much and walked us to the front to pay the 45 pesos each entrance fee, which wasnt such a big deal. The ruins themselves are out of this world, white pyramids jutting out of a green floor embraced by the wild and surrounded by lizards and smothered by humidity. I certainly needed a lot of water as even without the sun the heat was almost unbearable. We spent the entire morning and early afternoon exploring, climbing and admiring the artship and the majesty that it was and was it used to be. We took a colectivo back to town to have lunch, and buy our bus ticket out of here. Along the way we became unsure of whether to continue as we have been on the itinerary, or to go somewhere else. We (Jay) still don´t know where we want to go next, so we´ll let you know next post where we ended up!

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Hasta Luego,

Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 14:17 Archived in Mexico Tagged events Comments (3)

The Second Phase Begins

Ancient Ruins!!!

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OK, so I didn't get a chance to finish the blog post that I started in Mexico City so I'll finish it now. But first, an update...we are now on the second leg of the Mexico part of our trip. We have entirely cleared out of the desert and are now as close as we can get to Guatemala without actually going there...Soon enough though. Anyways, we have now visited 18 different cities throughout Mexico and are running a smidge over bugdget with todays rather large and extraordinary purchases. Apparently $30 per day does not work so well within Mexico itself. I'm still mighty confident that $30 will be more then enough when we actually reach Central America. But o well, we have been eating well, seeing and experiencing great things and having a wonderful time. I'm not even getting swindled by the vendors or artists in the markets...well, not too much at least...umm I think. :)

So, back to the tale. After our journey to get the camera fixed we had a dinner invitation to attend. Stephanie (from way back in San Ignacio) and Jonathan her boyfriend, asked us over for Fondu. (See picture below) She gave us great directions, but since Mexico is so damn big it took us over an hour to get over there. We had an awesome time having a nice meal, drinking a bit too much wine and talking up a storm. Stephanie is heading back to Germany in April to finish her last year of school and Jonathan is a budding stock broker. A junior broker if im not mistaken. So cool! Great people and hopefully we will see them both again.

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So the next day was Teotihuancan. The giant pyramids just outside Mexico City. The most interesting thing we learned about the Teotihuacan was that it wasn't the Aztecs or Mayans that built it. As far as we could find out, the Aztecs that inhabited the area and used Tenochitlan as their main city actually used this site soley for ceremonial purposes as they believe that the people who built it were gods. So even the ancient civilization of the Aztecs were unware of the even more ancient civilization that built it. The fortunate thing for this site was that when the Spanish came through, they were unaware of Teotihuacan and the site was saved from destruction. So anyways, we managed to arrive their at a fairly decent time as there weren't that many people their. Or at least not nearly as many as we had expected. I only spotted three old age tour groups and one elementary school field trip. Not bad. So as you enter the Teotihuacan ground the first area is an enclosed courtyard that seems about a kilometer square, and is surrounded by mini flat top pyramids. This area as we found out was basically an exclusive members only area back in ancient times. The area would have been used for political and administrative purposes only and the common class was not allow to enter. At the back of this area was a small pyramid that was currently being reconstructed. It was amazing to see how much destruction and degredation occurs over time and how much restoration must sometimes be done. The bottom half of the pyramid was almost completely restored with the most amazing works of giant sculptures that adorn the entire front face. And in direct contrast, the top half was almost entirely eroded away. It will be truly amazing to return when this part has been completely restored.

On to the main attractions...two giant step pyramids. Admist both pyramids was a massive ancient city carefully laid out and with a purpose to each area. The first pyramid we visited was the Sun Pyramid. The name for this one is apparently now in dispute, as new evidence of worship towards water or the water gods has been uncovered. This one I believe was also the bigger of the two, I could be wrong but it seemed a much longer climb then the second one. I could just be me though. The nice thing about these step pyramids is that they have outer terraces that ring around the entire structure...hence step pyramid. The beauty of this is that their is no real need to get to the top fast in order to enjoy the experience. There were so many people at the peak but the most enjoyable time was just sitting on the edge of one of the lower terraces and gazing towards the city and the Moon Pyramid. Simply an awesome sight! Although being directly at the top point was cool :) From up above ground we were able to see a ton of interesting mounds that surrounded the grounds and we realized that the majority of the city is still underground and unexcavated. It is a shame really that this is no longer a priority of the government or the whomever has control over the site. It doesn't take anything away from the experience though and actually makes it interesting to use your imagination to try to invision how big this place really was!

So on to the Moon Pyramid. After about twenty minutes of walking straight to it, we finally got to the steps. As I said, this site is massive and definetly take an entire day to properly explore it. The beauty of this one is the absolutely unmatched view. Their is no better spot to gaze at the ancient city then from the steps of this massive structure. (You can see the picture below) We even saw a woman meditating off to the side on one of the terraces. Maybe I'll start reading my Buddism book and look into trying that at the next ruins we visit :)

So this day was absolutley awesome but utterly exhausting at the same time! It was about 30 degrees outside and we were climbing steps all day. lol! So after visiting our first ancient ruins, both of us can't wait to see more. Good thing this phase is the ancient ruin phase. :)

Hopefully this gives some insight to our day at Teotihuacan. Im probably missing a bunch of good stuff like the amazing Indian Food restuarant that we tracked down that evenig. But I'm pretty sure Tess will catch you up on that and anything else that I missed with her next post. By the way, were in San Cristobal de Las Casas right now, just incase you were wondering.

Until next time,

Jay

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Posted by JungleBlog 20:14 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

It´s Baaaaaaack...

The Chronicles of Canon the Camera-ian

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Hello people,

Well first things first, our camera is up and running. I'll be posting some pictures Mexico City later on tonight after we arrive in San Cristobal. Ok, I'll start at the beginning, after the Butterflies.

So we arrived in Mexico City with Cliff on Wednesday afternoon. He was such a nice guy and were going to send him a postcard that will hopefully be waiting for him by the time he arrives home. Anyways, after he showed us the best located hostel in town we parted ways. This hostel is a Hostelling International one, so although it costs a bit more, you know its going to be a wicked place. Its got five floors and were on the top. The rooms all open into a huge courtyard that you can see all the way to the bottom and right close to our room is the rooftop patio. Since were staying right behind the monster Cathedral in the middle of downtown, the view is just spectacular. And we get a birds eye view of the crazy Mexican drivers. Good god...they are nuts. Driving here is still on my list of things to do in my life time tough :)

Our first night here we didn't do much. It took us about 2 hours to do our laundry here and the rest of the evening was spent watching a soccer game. Since the bottom of the hostel is a bar, it was pumpin with people and everyone cheering for the Mexicans. It was Mexico vs USA. It was so fun to watch with a big crowd, but the Mexicans lost 2-0.

The next day was the journey to find a camera. And since we started at about 10:00 and didn't finish until well after 4:00, it was quite the journey. An epic...or...quest, if you will. Since our camera was broken and junk was rattling around inside of it, we had pretty much resigned ourselves to shipping the thing back home and buying a new one here. So we started at the small local stores, and found nothing. We then went to the bigger mall and there we found a nice Panasonic with a 10X zoom. Not as good as ours and definitely didn't look as cool, but it would do the trick, since we needed something with good zoom and we weren't about to buy the same camera that we already had. So after about 3 hours of debating and looking around, we were just about to purchase it when we realized that the week long gaurantee that they offer does not include a refund...only an exchange...we werent about to do that incase we found a better one later on that day. So we went back to the hostel and used the internet to find authorized Canon dealers and we came across an address for THE CANON CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS which happened to be located somewhere in Mexico City. Little did we know that it would be located about 2 hours away...still in Mexico City...haha.

So anyways, we got off the Metro somewhere near the adress and started walking in the direction of where we thought it might be. As we were walking along, we looked up at the haze that is the Mexico City sky and out of the fog appeared a sign that said "CANON"...which happened to be anchored to a 30 story office building a couple of kilometers away. Anyways, when we finally reached it we walked inside and were about to head up to the top floors where the Canon Offices were, but then to our right was a little shop that looked like it might be a repair shop. the first guy couldn't help us much and insisted that it would take about a week to have a look at our camera, but he went and got another guy from the back who just looked like a really nice, kinda shorter, tech guy. He said the earliest that they could even look at it would be Monday of next week. But then.... he heard me talk to Tess in english and sure enough...he spoke english. So we explained the whole story of the camera and our trip to him and he finally said. "Let me look at it, and perhaps I could at least tell you whats wrong with it. Come back in an hour." So we went across the street to MacDonalds and planned out our next day. By the way MacDonalds is freeky weird here. Same prices as back home and same look, but inside were only super tall Mexicans in suits and business attire...some even having meetings. Very odd. Anyways we went back to the shop after an hour and the tech guy came walking out, asked us for our batteries, then turned on the camera. Appearantly it was a blown fuse and a loose screw. Tess and I were practically jumping up and down in excitement and he didn't even charge us a thing. We thanked him about as muchas we could and then he ran to the back before we could get a picture of him :) So were going to send a hand written letter to that office thanking the tech guy for what he did for us.

And now our Camera is back.

Im almost out of internet time here, so I think I'm going to post another entry later tonight when we arrive in San Cristobal. We went to Teotihuacan yesterday...so plenty to talk about and plenty of pictures to come!!!}}

Asta La Veista...Baby

Jay

Posted by JungleBlog 09:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Angangueo and the Royal Procession

Frigid weather and Magnificent Monarchs

sunny 6 °C
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Jay´s being nice to me, usually we switch up the writing per post but I felt rather disappointed that I only had about ten minutes to write my previous post so I´m allowed to do this one too!

Anyway, my finger crossing paid off, as we have had possibly the best luck these last two days! Firstly, after writing my previous post on Patzcuaro I ran back to the hotel Valmen (where we´d been staying), and Cliff and Jay were there, chatting and waiting. I quickly packed and we set out to look for the combi that would take us to the central bus station. I called out to one across the street "Estacion de autobus?" and he nodded Si! Si! and we popped into the back of the van and he sped off, in the opposite direction of the bus station.

Finally he stopped the combi, nowhere near the bus station, but right in front of a bus, and let us out. Taxi drivers were yelling at us from across the street "Morelia! Morelia!" but the bus was going there too and for 30 pesos (about 3 dollars) we were off in a 2nd class bus, which may not be as posh but is still pretty comfortable for everybody except Jay, who has not been doing too well motion - sickness wise (we´ve loaded up on the Pepto).

Anyway, an hour later we were in Morelia, the Capitol of Michoacan. I went to the ticket counter, as I guess I´m the official translator for the tour, and as luck would have it there was a bus headed for Zitacuaro (closer to the butterflies) leaving in 15 minutes. Perfecto! So, we were on the bus for Zitacuaro, 3 hours away.

At this moment I should mention the difference between the Michoacan scenery and the landscape of the rest of the country thus far. Drastically different! Whereas Baja was spectacular cliffs and amazing Saguaro cacti and every other imaginable cacti, and Jalisco had Agave farms everywhere, and Guanajuato state had rolling hills and farmland throughout, Michoacan is all about the trees. It feels reminiscent of British Columbia, full of mountains and pine and spruce, although the houses look *slightly* different. I sat transfixed and feeling pretty comfortable in the lush surroundings. We´re definately out of the North.

Finally, we made it to Zitacuaro, which seemed pretty enough, but I had heard from the Lonely Planet message boards that the place to go was a little silver mining town north of Zitacuaro called Angangueo, which was not even listed in our guide, but I threw caution to the wind and asked for the next bus there. Again! 5 minutes later, we were sitting on the back of an old yellow school b us with broken windows full of Mexicans, and the bumpiest ride later we were there. And boy, this little town is PURDY, but COLD!!! We are about 3000 meters above sea level, and my fingers are numbing as I write, added to the fact that all Mexican buildings are made of concrete so they basically act as cold conductors. Everybody here has a winter Jacket.

We also had nervous spirits upon arrival as the locals mentioned that it snowed a couple of days before. Great. So, we found a hotel with a queen sized bed for 150 pesos (in this hotel they charge per bed, not per room, so if we used the twin in the same room it would have been an additional 100 pesos), but it had a nice hot shower and they fed us breakfast this morning (nescafe with hot milk and a pan dulce with strawberry jam). Luckily for us they had thick wool blankets on top so we were warm as soon as we dove under the covers. Before we did so, however, we found a fantastic restaurant in the downtown (which consists of two competing cathedrals, a snack shop, a taco stand and 2 competing restaurants) where we were served a generous bowl of fresh guacamole, pasta soup and while the men had beef soup I had a great chicken mole, which was less chocolate and more bbq than the one I had in San Miguel. Cliff, our St. Louis retired travelling companion, insisted on footing the bill, and we got him back today. He´s a great guy who has travelled all over Mexico and Central America, and we´re really enjoying his company.

Well, it was raining in the day, raining in the evening, and we crossed our fingers for the morning. We woke up this morning and didn´t want to get out of the warm bed, but sailor´s delight - not a darn cloud in the sky! Hallelujah!!!

In fact, it was the best luck and the absolute best day to go see the butterflies. We didn´t go to the most popular spot, El Rosario, as the man in the tourist office explained another spot, Chinqua, was less busy, affected by logging, and closer to reach by Taxi. In any case, we found a cab that would take us there and back for 250 pesos, and when we got there we paid the entrance fee and received our guide, a nice girl named Patricia. We waited for Jay to buy some Quesadillas for lunch, and by 11:45 we were off for the butterflies.

It took us about 1 1/2 hours through mud, snow patches and dirt path to reach the site of the butterflies, and the altitude at that level (which must have been at least another 1000 meters or so) made Jay and I quite lightheaded for the duration of the journey. It was worth it though, as we arrived to the most incredible sight and amazing views.

Imagine: On a slope with valleys, hills, faraway towns and little wispy puffs of clowd in the distance, surrounded by spruce and firs, and the sun shines down and the trees, sky and forest floor awash in orange and floating palm-sized butterflies, awkwardly floating in the air, landing on your clothes, weighing down the branching, glimmering in the sunlight. We soaked it in for almost an hour, revelling in the beauty and the magic of it all. Aside from the occasional jet sound there was no other human noises, birds chirped and you couldn´t believe a sight was like this. And all this without our Canon! We were thankful that Uncle Bob lent us the 35mm, and I hope the pictures turn out because it was truly, truly amazing.

We returned to the town in the best of moods, had spicy tacos and tasty ice cream, and hung out on the steps of the church and chatted with other travellers who walked by. A young couple from Germany, Maizel and Corinna, who had taken the same rickety bus from Zitacuaro to Angangueo as us, joined us for dinner at the same place as we had the night before, only this night the only item on the menu was Chicken Adobo, which was tasty but considerably spicier than what you make, Mom. We all shared stories and chatted for a couple of hours, this international crew, before we swapped contact information and agreed it was far too cold to continue to talk.

We rushed back to the hotels and Jay and I hopped across the street to this internet cafe, where I write now. Tomorrow we head to the big City. Mexico City. We will buy or repair a new or our camera, and plan our trip to Teotihicuan, and have new tales to tell.

Until then, Love Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 21:07 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Patzcuaro

The great Masquerade

overcast 14 °C
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Well, I might keep this as a short entry since I need to leave in 10 minutes or so.

Anyway, we left for Patzcuaro in Michoacan state 2 days ago, and Jay immediately wasn´t impressed with the town upon entering. Coming from the gorgeous towns of San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato though, this is quite understandeable, although Patzcuaro we have discovered is beautiful in its own right. All the buildings in the town are painted white on the top half and a muddy red on the bottom half, and I thought this would be a good place to stay because it is reknowned for its artesanias and indigenous crafts. Well, we didn´t see too many differences in craft quality between here and anywhere else we visited, and were turned off by the busy traffic and congestion.

We carried our backpacks all over town at first trying to find a relatively inexpensive hotel. All the prices in our Let´s Go guide were wrong, and all the hotels apparently raised their prices by at least 100 pesos in each place, save the very last one on our list for 240. Luckily we felt fortunate in finding the place, as it had perhaps the best shower in our entire trip! So, we spent Saturday in our room, with takeout pizza and watching movies and eating in Bed.

Yesterday morning we woke up and caught a cambio (it´s a 'bus', but actually a converted minivan) to the Lake, and a peaceful lancha ride later we were on the island of Janitzio, which apparently was supposed to have the best prices on crafts and we discovered hosted an enormous monument. The weather picked up slightly as well, with sun breaking through the spitting rain. As we arrived to the island we witnessed a show with traditionally dressed fishermen using butterfly nets in a circle. It was quite a spectable, but obviously planned for the ferry as they finished the show and boated over to collect tips! This set the stage for Janitzio, as it became apparent that the only crafts we would find there would be cheap knick knacks and tourist items, nothing worthwhile.

The trip to the island was worthwhile, however, as the sun came out for much of the day, and we walked up to the giant statue, ate ice cream bars in the sun, walked along the edge of the lake, and enjoyed the water and the weather. A perfect way to spend an afternoon.

We returned to the mainland, and went to the craft stands at a nearby plaza where we indeed found some fantastic wooden masks at great prices (22 dollars for 10 of them!), and met a man who we had walked by on numerous occassions throughout the day. A 2 hour conversation and my dinner later, the sun had gone down and it began to rain, and our retired friend Cliff and us parted ways, although we´ll be meeting him again in about 10 minutes as he was too headed to the butterflies today as well, so we´re teaming up. My only concern: It hailed hard last night, and although the butterflies are 5 hours by bus away, I hope they didn´t receive the nasty weather too!

Crossing our fingers,

Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 09:39 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

On The Road Again...

From San Miguel to Guanajuato

overcast 15 °C
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Hola people. So right now were in Guanajuato. I should actually update the travel map because we´ve switched our plans a little. On the advice of Tess´ Uncle Bob we headed to Guanajuato. The capital city of the state...what a great recommedation. Anyways, before getting to that, I should start with our final day in San Miguel. Tess and I split off for the day and got a chance to explore the city on our own. Good move...I was getting sick of looking for skirts :) San Miguel is such a beautiful city and its just fun to walk through and explore the endless streets of artisan shops. The only downside to it was that for us, everything we wanted to buy was just too damn expensive. In about 10 years I´ll be comming back for revenge and I´ll buy that 300 year old door. Until then, I´ll just have to wait and maybe buy a house to put the door in would be a good first step, lol. Anyways, that night we ended up trying to ship a bunch of things home but we forgot our passports in the villa (why you need a passport to ship a package, I just don´t know) and thanks to some smooth talking by Bob the shipping lady sent the package off the next day...fewf. Dinner was also great that night. We ordered pizza and drank an entire jug of margaritas. Great time. And thank you Bob for making this week of our trip so great. We honestly can´t thank you enough and we are so fortunate to have been able to spend that time with you.

So on too Guanajuato. This is definitely a place that both Tess and could live. Next to San Miguel it´s the most comfortable city for us by far and that may have something to do with the fact that it is a University Town. The University centers the city and for a capital it only has about 125,000 people and they all seem to be young students. The city itself reminds us of Quebec City, with narrow little streets, old buildings, plazas and monuments everywhere. The city itself is built into a deep valley, so the view from anywhere on the outskirts is absolutley phenominal. Tess and I walked up to a giant momument yesterday that overlooks the city, and there we sat for about an hour playing chess. This monument was about 50 feet tall and of a Guanajuato hero who single handedy breached a Spaniard stronghold by carrying a giant stone slab on his back to protect him from the barrage of arrows, which then allowed the Mexicans to storm the place and expell the Spaniards. Cool stuff. And there are monuments like this everywhere in this city. We didn´t know how long we were going to stay here but as it turns out, we have spent two full days exploring all the cool sites and museums and for today, we are just going to take it easy and enjoy the atmosphere of this place. Teaching here is not out of the question by the way :)

So far we have got to explore three different musuems/exhibits. First of which was Diego Rivera house. He was an enormously famous artist that lived here in Guanajuato. They converted his old house into a giant tribute to his art work. So imagine four floors of wall to wall paintings. Although I think the coolest part of the place was an additional tribute section to another famous artist...Salvador Dali. Two floors full of only original work from Dali. This guy is by far my favorite artist. Some stuff gets pretty wierd though. The next was that Don Quijote museum. So this mansion of a place had works from Mexico´s most famous artists portraying their rendition of Don Quite and his sidekick Sancho. Very cool place and now I have to read the novel. All I know is that Don Quijote´s character was a one of a crazy skinny nobleman on a quest against windmills. Sounds exciting I know...haha. Maybe one day. But the next musuem takes the cake for the creepiest of all time. It was a mummy museum. So basically it had people in it that were buried about a hundred years ago but do to the area that they were burried and the gases present, they all mummified. Anyways, needless to say, I could forget everything I saw in there and be completely happy. The next cool adventure was to Calle de la Beso. The Alley of Kiss. It´s a super narrow street with only about 3 feet that seperates the buildings on both sides. It is said that two people can lean out their respective windows and be so close that they can kiss. Also it is said that if you visit this alley, you must kiss on the third step or face years of bad luck. So amongst a crowd of people me and Tess ventured forth and even got someone to take a picture of us on the steps. It was very cool :)

Anyways, I´m pretty sure I covered everything and now im off to one of the many plaza´s to simply read a book and write in my journal. Tomorrow were heading to a town that I can´t spell, so I´ll leave that for the next post :) By the way Chad, the journal´s were a perfect gift. I´m on track to have the entire thing full by about the end of the trip.

Asta Luego,

Jay

Posted by JungleBlog 09:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Ranchito Deluxe

Tlaquepaque, Camera Issues, San Miguel De Allende

semi-overcast 17 °C
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Well, it is a new morning, and yet again we had an overnight rainstorm. We thought the rain had passed, but apparently it got wise and realized we weren´t running away anymore and decided to turn back around. Bah.

Anyways, back to Guadalajara. I´ll reiterate that Carlos and his family were muy fantastico, and the evening that we returned stressed and frustrated he took Jay and I out to Casa Bariachi, which was a cool bar/restaurant with a massive house Mariachi band. Jalisco state, in which Guadalajara is the capitol, is the founder of Mexican delights such as Tequila, Mariachi music, and the Mexican Hat Dance. As it were, there were roughly 20 costumed musicians serenading paying guests before they arose to a stage Chuck E Cheese style and performed in booming voices and at full throttle. I thoroughly enjoyed my Tequila Sunrise cocktail and Jay discovered he wasn´t a full fan of the selection of Mexican beers he tried, although he downed them with dignity. We all had a good sleep that night.

The next day we lazed around Carlos´ house, updating our entries for this blog and learning about the Mexican´s passion for Football. We decided we´d had enough of the big city and the suggestion was to head to Tlaquepaque, the St. Albert of Guadalajara and supposedly a better place to find Artesania. After a bite of mini tacos and an hour long bus ride later, we found ourselves in Art Shopping Paradise.

Tlaquepaque is quaint, clean and beyond gentrified. All the old colonial houses were revamped and converted into studios and galleries, and we felt bad that we didn´t come here earlier. It was quite enjoyable to peruse gallery after craft store, although we realized that the prices here were quite gentrified as well - nothing seemed less expensive than what we´d find at home. I did find a sweet little doll that some indigenas were making on the street, it is costumed in traditional dress with braided and ribboned pigtails. The first store, however, proved to be our undoing, as we discovered exactly what Jay was looking for: A Big Stone Head. We ended up splitting the cost (550 pesos, which is roughly 58 dollars), and the main concern we have now is the cost of shipping it home, as there is no way that we´re lugging this thing around for the next 3 months.

Anyway, we came back to Carlos´at around 9, after our first taste of Tamales (soft corn pastry wrapped and steamed in a corn husk and filled frittata style with meats or veggies or fruit) and Barbequed Corn on a Stick. Carlos took us to the movies, and we saw " A Night at the Museum" which was subtitled in Spanish but English language, so we could all enjoy. Great Movie!

The next morning we took an early bus, after saying our good-byes, to San Miguel De Allende. 'The Craft' was playing on the bus again, what is it with that movie? This bus was like no other bus that we´d been on before though - this was Primera Plus, which served us snacks before loading, and had a panel that folded down on the seat and allowed you to prop your legs up recliner style for the duration of the trip. Very fancy.

The Country side en route to San Miguel was breathtaking. Through mist and fog we saw the countrylife of mainland Mexico: Agave farms (for Tequila), being toiled by hand, Burros and Sheep herds, hills upon rolling hills. Jay fell asleep again, and I did too for a brief while, but it was difficult to keep your eyes off the view from the window. We passed through the City of Leon, then Guanajuato, and Finally, San Miguel herself. As we pulled into the bus station, I saw my Uncle Bob leaving his car and was extremely relieved as I hadn´t spoken to my Mom directly and worried that she hadn´t received the message. Thanks Mom!

Well. Uncle Bob picked us up in his Volkswagon Pointer and we immediately left San Miguel for his Ranchito in the hills. He took us right to Paradise, and even though the weather was crummy, we found ourselves exactly where we wanted to be.

The Ranchito is spectacular. 2 horses, 4 dogs, a black kitty, 12 acres, Cacti, fireplaces, dominoes, scrabble, and gourmet meals. We thoroughly enjoyed Filet Mignon, Crab Cakes, Barbequed Chicken, Empanadas, Pasta, Mushroom Soups, Margheritas and Tuna Sandwiches. Of particular note was a concert that Uncle Bob took us to that Mom would have loved: A string quartet with a percussionist, a banjo player, a Guitarist who strongly resembled Uncle Lorne, an upright bassist and an amazing violinist. We followed that event at a restaurant with the best view of San Miguel´s famous cathedral where I tryed my first Mole, Chicken with a sort of Chocolate and Chile sauce. My favorite moments were the horseback rides that Uncle Bob and I took, up and down the countryside, chatting about the future and reminiscing about the past. I have never been able to spend this much time with Uncle Bob before, and it´s been nice just to hear his version of well known tales. We ended our 4 days in the Ranchito with some Don Julio tequila in front of the upstairs fireplace and we drove into San Miguel yesterday morning refreshed and ready to take on the world.

San Miguel is the prettiest town we´ve been in so far. Although there is a huge glut of aging, fashion-deprived American retirees that frequent every event and restaurant and bench, it´s easy to see why they´d choose to be here rather than say, Ensenada. The cobblestone streets are lined with colourfully painted facades, inside of which are immaculate and richly decorated homes and stores. The food is delicious, the people polite, and the cathedral the most equisite that we´ve seen so far. It is a rich salmon orange and gothic in style with Spires that flare like a bonfire. It is easy to see why this is a site of Pilgrimage for Mexicans all over the country. Although we have not had too much time to enjoy the streets, we know we will need to return here. Of interesting note is that Uncle Bob´s villa is 2 doors down from the Casa that belonged to El Pipilo, whose story and how he almost singlehandedly defeated the Spaniards during the war of independence is quite amazing.

Just when we thought we had our purse strings under control, we discovered the market at San Miguel and I was hooped. I purchased some pink coral earrings, an alpaca shawl (only 70 pesos!), a baby-blue leather change purse, and a hairband. Today I am on Skirt Patrol, although I believe that with San Miguel prices (which are gringofied as well), I may just wait until we hit Guanajuato tomorrow. We changed our mind about Queretaro, and instead of Morelia we will be shopping our hearts out in Patzcuaro, home of the famous Michoacan handicrafts. Jay and I have decided to split up for the day, we´re meeting back up at 12:30 for lunch and have found a Lebanese restaurant that we think we´ll try out. Uncle Bob went back to the Ranchito and he´s staying there until this afternoon, we´re going to chill out tonight with Pizza and Ice Cream rather than go out for dinner. Yesterday we ate at a very classic Bullfight themed restaurant called Ole Ole!, I had shrimp fajitas with carmelized onions and guacamole.

By the way, there may not be any photos on the site for a while. The second day at the Ranchito Jay and I set out to take some photos of the puppies, and for some reason our Camera would not turn on! Concerned, we changed the batteries, checked the terminals, removed the photo card, and still, nada. We went to Office Depot in town and they didn´t know what to do either, and there is a rattle in the Camera that didn´t exist before. We have no idea what caused this, but our Camera is toast. Luckily and thankfully, we still have the photos from Everything before Uncle Bob, and Uncle Bob lent us a 35mm pentax to use until we hit a real camera repair shop, or buy a new camera. Thankfully too our camera is under warranty, as we only picked it up after boxing day. We were ultra careful with it, but I suppose there were just too many buttons and doohickeys on it, and that just meant more things to go wrong. The best case scenario will be that it´s an easy fix in Guanajuato or Mexico city. The worst, that we´ll need to buy a new camera.

Anyway, Tomorrow it´s Guanajuato, and today I´m going to do more shopping!

Love, Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 10:11 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Ipods and the Big City

Guadalajara,

overcast 16 °C
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Well, we are in San Miguel De Allende, and no, I wouldn´t have posted sooner - we have spent the last four days in heaven on a hill and there was no internet. More on this to follow.

I have recently had the worst luck with personal items and electronic devices. Firstly, and because we no longer wish to be conscious during 8 hour bus rides, we took a night bus from Mazatlan to Guadalajara. It really wasn´t that bad; I brought along my sleeping back and travel pillow, and I snoozed over a couple of seats with my Nano playing softly and blocking out any street and bussy type sounds. We arrived in the Guadalajara (pop. 8+ million) bus terminal, and I packed up and got ready to leave. We walked over to the first bus terminal (we were at the third), and as I rifled through my backpack to get some change to use the restroom I realized that I left my Ipod on the bus seat. I charged back, and none of them could help me without my bus number, so I had to run the 3 blocks again to where Jay was sitting, grab my ticket, return and try to explain that I left my Ipod on the bus. Finally they understood, and by that time the Nano was on a free ride to Mexico city. Well, they gave me a phone number to call and so and so, but I misplaced THAT too. My 1% chance that it made it to Mexico city not in somebody else´s possession will be a miracle in itself, and I´m just thankful that we purchased travel insurance with some personal effects coverage.

Anyways. Guadalajara is big. REAL big. We were certain that we´d be able to purchase some cheap crafts in the 2nd largest market in the Americas, and while we may have been able to buy some cheap junk, there was nothing there that we really wanted. In fact, the place was disorienting, frustrating and prisonlike. We were quite happy to leave the Mercado Libertad. More impressive was the architecture and large churches and government buildings that graced the entire downtown core. While most of the other locations we had been travelling to were quaint and calming, Guadalajara was a giant on speed - moving fast and imposing in its magnitude. We found solace in a Subway, and later on discovered the only calming area in the entire downtown core which was a giant promenade featuring Lala Cows on Parade, wedding dress shops, frozen yoghourts and Art Displays. We returned to Carlos´ empty handed and tired.

Our couch surfer friend, Carlos, was absolutely fantastic, as was his family. Eggs for breakfast, Drinking Tequila (consider this - we were in Jalisco, where tequila is manufactured!) in a Mariachi bar, and movies, and generally just great company all around. His Bichon dog was adorable, and he introduced us to the best tacos in Zapopan (the suburb where his family lived.). We were very lucky.

Tomorrow: Tlaquepaque, Ranchito Deluxe, and San Miguel De Allende. I´d write more now, but the internet cafe is closing.

Love, Tess

Posted by JungleBlog 20:05 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bye Bye Cortez, Hello Mainland

A little over due post...

overcast 18 °C
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Well, its been a while since our last post. We´ve been so busy every day but finally we have about an hour of down time. So...where´d we end off. O yes, a stormy, cold La Paz. Well the next day it turned out to be beautiful with the sun shining and no clouds anywhere in sight. Luckily our ferrry didn´t leave until late afternoon, so we got the chance to enjoy La Paz in full sun. We stayed primarily in the downtown core and loved it. We found great spots to eat and cool spots to hang out. Definately a great little city to wander.

So our next stop was Mazatlan. But first, the 18 hour ferry ride. Not as bad as you´d think...haha. Since it was so nice out we got to spend the evening on the deck reading and enjoying he sun and the great sunset over the sea. Then, sleeeeeeeep. We made sure to get up early the next morning and were able to catch the spectacular sunrise. Check out the picture!

After we arrived in Mazatlan, we tried to call Arody Garcia. The couch surfer we were suppose to stay with. It was still early in the morning and we couldn´t figure out how to use the phone cards. Lucky for us we had his address and spent an hour walking through Old Mazatlan which turned out to be exactly where he lived. I think we may have woke him up when we got to his apartment, but he was really cool. He gave us a set of keys to the place and basically made his home ours. Such a nice guy, and a really cool pad. Since he´s an artist, I guess you should expect alot of interesting things. As it turns out, he and Tess have a ridiculous amount of things in common. Aside from being a little older then us, we listened to the same music, watches the same movies as Tess (ie. Kevin Smith movies), is a Star Wars fan with a sweet Darth Vader replica mask and has art everywhere.

The first day there was so awesome. We got to walk around Old Mazatlan, which is the artistic end of town. So many cool art shops and hand made crafts and gorgeous streets and squares everywhere. I think I could very easily get use to living in Old Mazatlan. Not the same for gringo central New Mazatlan. I haven´t seen so many Americans since we were in San Diego. Anyhow, we ended up pretending to be part of an expensive resort so we could access the really nice beaches. Mission accomplished! We found a great beach with a phenominal view of three coastal islands and relaxed for the entire afternoon. I spent about three hours rewiring a cool puka shell necklace I bought and Tess spent her time reading a book. It was the perfect way to spend a day!

The next day, not so perfect. We woke up to overcast and cold...AGAIN!!! We made the best of it, and took the time to do laundry, send post cards, buy bus tickets, and walk along the entire Mazatlan promenade. The difference between the new expensive areas and the middle parts was so drastic. The easiest way to explain it is...on the expensive end to the north there were soft huge beaches with great views and no vehicles or city noise because of the massive hotels. The middle part of Mazatlan, well...no people on the beach because the main street was right next to it and it was loud and......giant rats!!! We did happen to see the most adorable little girls feeding the birds. Check out the picture. It was so cute!

When we got back to Arody´s place we got to look at some of his art work, but most of his stuff was at his studio so we didn´t get to see those pieces. Tess spotted a great work of his and took a liking to it. Amazingly, he signed it and gave it too her!!! You´ll love it, we do :) Thanks Arody!!!

Anyways, we are in Guadalajara how and staying with a really cool guy named Carlos. More on this in the next post!

Gotta go, hasta luego.

Jay
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Posted by JungleBlog 12:23 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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