Mexico – MC, Isla Mujeres and Tulum

The last few weeks have been non-stop and tomorrow I am going to the ICYE camp and then straight off to the states for 10 days so here is a quick recap over our last couple of weeks in Mexico and Guatemala… 

 

Mexico City

We had an amazing time in MC – Laura was especially excited to see the city and it definitely lived up to her expectations. The architecture was amazing, there was far too much to do and see AND it was safe. Our hostel was fine, a little on the pricey side but we thought the breakfast and dinner buffet included would make up for it… but the food wasn’t great (apart from pancakes on morning). But we did meet two great guys in the hostel, Christian and Cerca, who we ended up seeing some sights with and we had a lot of multicultural banter… 

In the centre we saw the Zocalo, the outside of the National Palace (it’s closed atm), the huge cathedral, a couple of random but free museums, Tenochtitlan (Laura’s favourite) and a genocide museum. Yes, we went all the way to Mexico to learn about genocide… but we are human rights geeks and it was really interesting, if not quite depressing. 

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The other days we went on some day trips with the guys to the pyramids at Teotihaucan (amazing!! It was boiling but we managed to climb up the 230ft Sun pyramid), the Xochimilco canals (we went along the canal with beers and more random banter) and Chapultepec park (which included a seriously boring museum and renting pedalos on one of the lakes). We really enjoyed spending time with the guys and spent most of our evening playing card games and occasionally watching Christian getting drunk off Mezcal (actually a worse light head than me!). What with us being British, Christian being American and Cerca being from Israel, we had some very random but very hilarious debates, like… George Bush, british politics (including the infamous Barbara Thatcher), the Israeli army, terrorists, George Bush, the royal family, drugs, porn, vietnam war, Guy Fawkes, James Bond, Christian’s heritage… and George Bush. We missed them a lot after we left!! But Cerca did turn up in Palenque with us later on… 🙂 

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Laura and I also had a day trip to Taxco which was maybe my favourite place during the trip… it’s a small town perched on a cliff and the views are amazing. The town even had a Swiss cable car to go up to a hotel where the view was stunning. The town is famous too for it’s silver jewelry so we both went way over our budget and bought some pretty things… Also, best thing ever was that all the taxis were VW beetles and the buses were VW camper vans!! 

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Isla Mujeres 

To get back to coast we ended up flying to Cancun, it was actually cheaper and a lot faster than buses, but we’d decided to skip it and go straight to a nearby island. Driving through Cancun felt like flying through Florida, everything was so American, but the sea did look amazingly blue… but we were glad we chose Mujeres as it was sooo pretty and relaxing. Our hostel was nice with a huge beach garden full of hammocks and it was right on the beach… so I could get up early and lie by the beach until Laura was up. Oh, and it had the cutest puppy EVER! We did plan to rent a golf buggy and explore the island but we ended up just relaxing on the two nearby beaches and chilling in the hammocks. 

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Tulum

After a few days we jumped back on the ferry and got a bus down to Tulum which has a beach… and ruins! So best of both worlds for me and Laura (we discovered we had very different travel needs…); however our first night was shaken up a bit by a random mexican guy we met who told us about turtles coming up to the beach at night. So we ended up hitchhiking down to the beach and looking for turtles… we did see some baby one and an amazing, huge lightening storm over the sea, but the guy turned out to be a little creepy (especially when he turned up at our hostel the next day looking for us!). 

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The next day we wandered around, buying souvenirs, before heading to the beach to catch some more rays. The day after we went to the Tulum ruins, which were quite small, but they looking amazing next to the sea… it was far too hot again though so we gave up pretty fast and spent the afternoon on a different beach… then we had to leave the coast and it was goodbye beaches!! 😦 

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Mexico – Puerto Escondido & Oaxaca

So I think I am quickly falling madly in love. With travelling, of course. It’s a really exhilirating feeling to not know who you’re going to meet that day or what you’re going to end up doing. When you’re having a pretty normal, or even bad day, something is bound to happen to turn your day around. Which has definitely happened over the last week…

 

Day 7

Last time I left off with me and Laura sitting in a hotel courtyard keeping ourselves busy until our overnight bus… 11 pm eventually came and we settled down in our comfy, 12 hour bus for a bit of sleep. However, it wasn’t meant to be. As we were travelling from the most Southern point of Mexico we had to pass through lots of border checks (despite already being past the border). First a man walked on the bus just looking at everyone, but not doing anything, until he saw the two gringas at the back of the bus and quickly asked for our passports. Then at about 12.30am and 2.30am we had to get off the bus, find our backpacks and put them through backage scanners. We were tired… but for some reason, most likely our lack of sleep, we found the whole experience hilarious and took bets on when we would next stop. Oh, and to top it off the guy in front of me leaned his chair back as far as he could so I was practically smelling his hair, and then proceeded to crack his fingers in my face. Lovely.

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Eventually we made our way to the hostel which was great with a pool, lots of hammocks and a bar. The only downside was it wasn’t the cleanest of hostels; particularly the flea ridden dog that lived there. Puerto Escondido was unbearably hot, and mixed with our exhaustion, we decided it was best just to chill in the hammocks for the day. We did venture our later on to find a place to get some proper mexican food… but as we quickly discovered, in downtown Puerto, you can go clothes shopping or get a haircut at 8 o’clock at night, you just can’t find anything to eat. Grr.

 

Day 8

The next day we decided, after not having been to a beach since my birthday, it was definitely time to hit the sand and sea again. After getting slightly lost, we eventually found ourselves at a gorgeous beach you could only reach by walking down 170 steps. It was an amazing beach… the only problem was the heat. As my friends and family know, I love a hot beach holiday, but it was just ridiculous and we ended up spending most of the day hiding in the shade. Despite our avoidance of being directly under the sun, Laura took a funny turn and ran to the toilets to cool off a bit. Little did I know, she never made it to the toilets and laid down in the shade outside of them. Of course, a few Mexican men were quick to crowd around her and help out… even bringing her a glass of water and putting her feet up on a chair (apparently it helps oxygen get to your brain??). We waited long enough for the sun to go down a bit and then (very slowly) made our way back to the hostel… which led us to go out with some other travellers to a local bar for salsa night.

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Day 9

We bravely ventured back to the beach again… although this time we made sure we were more sensible. For Laura, this was sitting in the shade… for me, it was floating around in the sea for the majority of the day. Apparently this is a great place to meet guys! One of them was determined in trying to get me to take a surf lesson with him (something I have never done before) and I was very tempted… but for now, I think I might leave it until another time.

That evening was… well it was an interesting one. I was in serious need of a cash machine before we went to eat so we had a taxi take us to the main beach where all of the restaurants are… but there were no banks. So we aimlessly wandered around trying to find a way for me to get money when we found a gas station. We hurried in hoping to find something useful, but nothing… although there did happen to be a couple of military guys in there so I figured I would ask them where the nearest ATM was. After some difficultly translating what I needed, the military guys decided that no, there was no ATM nearby. But they could show us where there were some… so I shouted over to Laura, ‘let’s go!’, and somehow, before we knew it were were climbing into the front of this huge military guns. Careful not to kick the guns lying on the floor of course. So somehow we ended up in a truck with about 15 military guys in the back and in the front a (very cute) guy driving, me, Laura and then the guy in charge. Now, this might sound quite convinient to get a free ride with some nice, friendly military guys… but actually we were pretty stupid to even consider getting in their truck. We know the military aren’t usually to be trusted in Honduras, and so would never ask them for help, but apparently now we are on ‘holiday’ we are throwing caution to the wind more oftern! Once we set off, in typical Mexican fashion, the first question military man asked us was if we had boyfriends, did we want them and if not, were we lesbians? All the while, he was stroking Laura’s arm and smelling her hair. Me and the guy driving found this hilarious at the time, but looking back it’s actually pretty disturbing! Anyway, in the end they dropped us at HSBC (yes, there is HSBC! Although they charge a bomb to take money out) and waved us off… to celebrate the fact we were still alive, we decided to go for a meal at a nice, relatively cheap restaurant. We were high on adreniline for quite a while after… When we finally made it back to the hostel, we played a big game of ring of fire with a mix of aussies, south africans, swiss and german travellers. All good fun!

 

Day 10

We were up at 6.30 this morning to get picked up for our dolphin and turtle tour… everyone we had met at the town reassured us that there was no way we were going to see dolphins at the time of year so we weren’t feeling too optimistic, but we thought it would be fun anyway. The guy in charge of the tour was actually one of the man that had helped Laura on the beach, he was a lovely guy but seemed to be convinced Laura was some deleicate flower and proceeded to look after her the entire boat ride, much to my amusement 🙂 every 5 minutes I would hear, “Laura, careful”, Laura, sit here”, “Laura, go swimming”, “Laura, Laura, Laura”; he was a sweetie though! And in the end we saw lots of dolphins… dozens of them. Swimming next to the boat, under the boat, in front of the boat and doing flips… it was amazing!! We even got in at one point to hear them singing underwater. And as we were heading home, we interrupted some turtles having fun time. Which is apparently very rare to see in the wild… so a trip worth every Peso!! Image

ImageImageWhen we got back to the hostel a couple of aussies and our friend Stacy, from London, were in the pool so we quickly joined them and all enjoyed some beers in the pool. It started raining though and instead of sensibly getting out and drying off, we stayed in the pool and carried on drinking while talking about travelling, partying and politics. At one point one fo the aussies, who seemed a bit of a player, asked us what our volunteering was in Honduras. Laura told him he wouldn’t like what her project was (a feminist organiation) but for some reason, he guessed she worked with vegetarians…?? Apparently, they are something to be offended about?! For some reason, while in the pool I wasn’t feeling the effects of my 4 beers… but as soon as I got out, in true me fashion, I was drunk. Seriously drunk, as anyone who has seen me on a night out will be able to mention. I ended up having to go to bed at 6pm. Oops.

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Day 11

Luckily the next day, possibly as I’d had such a stupidly early night, I wasn’t hungover and me and Laura went to get a collectivo bus to our next destination… Oaxaca. There are two ways from Puerto to Oaxaca – either a $40, 12 hour bus around the mountains or a $10, 6 hour spin through the mountains. We had heard a lot of bad things about the bus through the mountains and people being sick etc… but actually it was fine! The driver was a bit of a boy racer… but I saw a huge monkey sitting in a tree at one point, so I was happy 🙂

We happened to be in Oaxaca the same weekend as a big festival which was great as there was lots of things going on, and pretty costumes, and performances in the street. So that evening we happily wandered around getting our bearings. We got a bit confused going home and a lovely guy walked us to our hostel, those lovely Mexicans!!

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Day 12

Our first morning in Oaxaca was, unfortunately, not a good one. Because of the festival, the town thought it was a great idea to started celebrating at 6am with fireworks!! Not great… and Laura was ill from her pasta the night before 😦 As I’m a bit of a talker, especially when I’m bored, Laura sent me out to explore while she got some more rest. It was great, Oaxaca is beautiful, with so many colonial buildings and little squares. There was a gorgeous church around every corner too. And I quickly found a lovely little cafe to read a book in… where I also had the biggest, most delicious piece of chocolate cake.

ImageImageThe rest of the day was spent keeping Laura company in the hostel and then playing card games with a very lovely, and very drunk, couple from Sheffield. Eventually we retired to bed and our 8 bed dorm room was suddenly full… at some point in the night, one of the german guys in there, either awake or asleep, I’m not sure, shouted ‘motherfucker!’ which was quite entertaining at 3 in the morning.

Day 13

This morning started out a little better when me and a girl from the hostel wandered across to the little market opposite the hostel and found some delicious, freshly made orange juice, mmm! Me and Laura then retraced my steps from the day before so I could show her the cute cafe and the blinged up church I had found the day before. We also found an English bookshop, hooray!! On our way back to the hostel we were approached by a guy from the US who spent literally 15 minutes telling us this story about how his fiance was arriving the next day…but he had lost his bank card…and his hotel was going to kick him out…but he had 8 bags with him… it was a very long story, with lots of bits that didn’t make sense and he ended in asking us for money, of course. We tried to say no as nicely as possible… we still have no idea if he was genuine or not.

We went out again later on and found a nice restaurant next to the Zocalo, the main square, where we had some drinks and enjoyed some people watching. We were pestered constantly to buy souvineirs (I did give in to some very cute bookmarks for my new books) but it was lovely sitting back and watching all the locals and tourists. We have also concluded that maybe Laura and I spend too much time together… some salad looking food went past us on a tray and at the exact same time, we said “nah, too healthy”. At least we’re on the same wavelength… over some things at least. On our way home, we were happily strolling along when we heard a noise like a cat being kicked. And sure enough, in front of us there was a man kicking a black bin bag that was making noises like a cat in a lot of pain. We both had heart attacks for a second… until we realised there was a group of tourists standing around him looking delighted. It was a trick thing… hmm.

Overall, I really really enjoyed Oaxaca… there was no beach, but it is a really beautiful please. Walking through the main town, you could have been in Rome, Barcelona or any other pretty European town. You could walk everywhere and it was all just so pretty… the culture was so good too: the women wore traditional dress and everything you could buy was so colourful. It was actually somewhere I could see myself living one day…

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Day 14

Today… we are in Mexico City!!! Woohoooo at last; we have both been very excited to get here and we have so much to see. As usual, we’re being geeks and are very excited about a genocide museum (while the other travellers plan their trip to a tequilla museum) and pyramids and canals… for now though, it’s time for me to enjoy some Mexican beer and chill out. Saludos!!!

 

Ps. We have just discovered a vending machine in the hostel that includes all of the following:

  • chocolate
  • soft drinks
  • condoms
  • mini tequila bottle
  • gum
  • cigarettes
  • a padlock
  • and an adaptor

…you would definitely be having an interesting night if you managed to use all of them in one!!

 

Guatemala

I’m going to attempt to update on my travelling every few days as a mammoth blog at the end of a 40 day trip won’t be fun for anyone… so here is mine and Laura’s story from our first 5 days in Guatemala!! 

 

Day 1

Our day began at 4am when we got a lift to the Hedman Alas bus station. We then had a 16 hour bus trip via San Pedro Sula and Guatemala City to get to a colonial town in Guatemala, called Anitgua. As always we had some interesting travel companions… Laura was sat with a young guy who just STARED at her the entire way and I was sat next to a woman who was very lovely but also very chatty. Which would have been fine but a lot of her chatting was in very fast Spanish so I mostly just nodded my head, smiled and said ‘si’! I also learnt from the trip that changing currency at the border should be avoided as they charge you a silly amount. We eventually arrived in Antigua around 9.30 in the evening… we were in a mini van with just us two in and when the driver asked where we were staying, we promptly, accidentally deleted the email with the name and address of our hostel. Oops. The van driver clearly wanted to get home and so got us out of his van asap and left us standing in the middle of Antigua with no idea what to do. Luckily we found a friendly guy with wifi in his cafe who drew us a little map to where we wanted to go 🙂

 

Day 2

Something quite nice we’ve discovered about Guatemala is that most hostels offer a free breakfast – so that morning we tucked into omelets and fruit salad! We did already have a different hostel booked though so we set off to find it, and after getting a little lost, we found  El Hostal. It was lovely with comfy beds, hot showers and a lovely courtyard. After dumping our things, we went for a look around Antigua – it is very Spanish colonial style with lovely buildings and cobbled streets. This also means lots of tourists – which is fine but it is strange going from being so unique in Tegus to just being another couple of gringos! That evening we found a restaurant with fajitas (Laura was very disappointed to find that despite the menu saying it came with guacamole, it didn’t!) and a very shy waiter who repeatedly reassured us the food was coming… 

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Day 3

We went for another wander through the cobbled streets and were planning on another relaxing day discovering Antigua… but somehow we ended up on a trek up a nearby volcano (Volcano Pacaya… sadly, not active and no lava). We signed up to it not really thinking and didn’t actually anticipate walking up anything until we were in the mini bus, on our sandals, surrounded by people in their walking boots. It was a pretty tough walk up, especially near the top when all the volcanic rubble was getting into our shoes, but we made it!! And the views were AMAZING. We then ended up trekking back down the mountain by ourselves as it was getting dark, running past men with guns and machetes… all good fun! Our guide was a sweet girl who told us she had 9 brothers and sisters and she goes up the volcano twice a day for really bad pay, she was so lovely though we tipped her a few dollars. For food that evening we went back to somewhere we had seen the night before called ‘Potato and Beer’, just to see what it was. And it was sooo good… the potato bit was actually french fries covered in different choices of toppings: I had chili beans, sour cream and cheese and Laura had the same but with spices. Sooo yummy… but neither of us could even half finish it and we both felt ill the rest of the night, oops! That night we met a couple of people from Scotland, so as well as the Irish woman who was there, we nearly had the whole set! It’s so strange hearing British accents! 

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Day 4 

We started off with quite a stressful morning, running around Antigua, trying to activate my bank card to use in Mexico and trying to trace one of Laura’s jackets that had gone missing. It never showed up 😦 We then said goodbye to Antigua and set off for Guatemala City. Luckily, another girl was going to the same hostel as us so the shuttle bus dropped us off there and we were saved trying to get around this big city with our backpacks. The guy who runs the hostel was French, friendly but also slightly crazy. He did help us find the places we wanted to visit though so all good. We didn’t have much time to explore before it got dark so we decided to go straight to a mall we had heard about that had a restaurant with an aquarium inside! We are trying to stick to as tight a budget as possible, and with our Central American travel expertise from Honduras, we decided to jump right in and us the city chicken buses. The walk to the bus stop was through the parque central and it was really pretty, surrounded in huge, historical buildings. There were lots of benchs and trees… we were reminded of Amsterdam, Spain and Paris all in one. The walk was made even nicer by the huge lack of whistling, cat calls and staring from men… people barely looked at us which was a lovely change from Honduras! The bus was fine too and quite an adventure, it was a little different to Tegus in that you were meant to pay as you got on, not once you were sat. So the bus assistant came chasing after us, shouting ‘uno’ in our faces and we were a little confused… so a guy paid for us, so sweet!! We then got off the bus and began about a 30 minute walk to the mall… when it started throwing it down. Yes we decided to travel in rainy season, oops! So after hiding under an office shelter for 10 minutes we eventually got a taxi the rest of the way. We got to Oakland Mall and were impressed by how modern it is, the malls in Tegus are pretty good but this was a lot more swanky and american. It even had a carousel, fancy fountain and the aquarium restaurant.  The restaurant was a lot cheaper than we expected (I had a steak dinner for £8!!) so we had a lovely meal there while watching fish. Each table also had its own mini TV screening football… every man’s dream right?! So I was glad I was there with Laura hehe. We got a taxi home, which got a little lost, so the driver was stopping and asking people directions – another thing that would never happen in Tegus! 

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Day 5

Our room in this hostel was amazing – we managed to get a private room for just $7! It had one double and one single bed (we compromised on me getting the double and Laura having the extra pillow). The beds also had mosquito nets around them which basically make it look like you have a princess bed, I loved it!! We then had a yummy typical breakfast of juevos, frijoles and platano (eewwww!) and set off on our next day exploring Guatemala City. We walked through downtown, where we stopped for a while in a beautiful church. We actually took pictures as well which we would never, ever do in Tegus. We then managed to find the bus we wanted.. to the La Aurora Zoo. We were a bit apprehensive about visiting another Central American zoo, after our experience at the zoo in Tegus where all the animals were either depressed or demented, but after reading reviews and seeing a price of just $3.25, we decided to brave it. And we were sooo glad that we did… it was amazing, even better than any zoo I can remember going to in the UK. We saw every animal you would expect – giraffes, zebras, lions, penguins – and mostly amazingly, a hippo mum with its hippo baby, a Bengal tiger and a Siberian tiger (who almost had sex while we were there) and two brown bears playfighting! AMAZING!! All for £2… we also bought a new travel companion; Pacho the Pinguino. More on him later… 

There was a lot of rain again while we were at the zoo and we ended up having to rush home but still got pretty wet, but such a great day anyway! 

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Day 6

Yesterday was another long travel day, or it was meant to be. We firstly got a coach to Tapachula, via the Mexican border. The bus left at 2pm and was meant to arrive at 7pm… as it gets dark around 6.30, we were worried about the Mexican border but thought it’d be ok before dark. The coach ended up being super slow and we didn’t get to the border until 8ish, so we were quite apprehensive. It ended up being fine, a lovely church group showed us where to go… and when we got to the luggage checks, the guy asked if we had any bananas, we said no… and he told us to go right on through. Great security!! We arrived in Tapachula though and were relieved to see that we were in the same bus terminal as our next, overnight bus. The problem was though that the bus had sold out, damn! So we had no choice but to find the cheapest accommodation we could… which turned out to be $9 for a room with two double beds, fans and a TV. Not too bad! We then went on the hunt for food… I don’t know why or when this happened, but Laura and I have become quite brave in our approach to strange, dark places. We just wandered around this Mexican town at 9pm (which we later discovered it was actually 10pm due to the time difference across the border) and found some random place selling food. We would never do this in Honduras! We did go past a British pub though in our hunt for food which was quite surreal. In the end, we found somewhere selling some really yummy mushroom filled quesadillas for about $3… and ran into our lovely church friends! We then got tucked into bed and watched a very entertaining TV show which appeared to be something like Mexico’s Got Talent. It was, ermm, interesting, to say the least…

 

Day 7

Already a week into travelling… oh, and exactly half way through my year abroad!!

We did have the sense to buy our bus tickets for today, last night when we were a the bus station. Unfortunately the bus only goes at 10.45 at night so we are now waiting the whole day in Tapachula, where there is not much to do… especially with two large and heavy backpacks. Luckily the hotel we stayed in last night has let us sit in their courtyard for the day. So hopefully we will manage to get our bus tonight which will be 12 hours North-West (hey, Kayne’s baby!!) to the beach town of Puerto Escondido…

LOVE FROM MEXICO!!!! ❤ x