I have been dreaming about the Ruta Maya Trip for quiet a few years now. After visiting Peru and came to contact with the world of the Incas, I wanted to see and learn more about the Mayan world.
I booked my tour through Trek America a reputable and expert company in this field. I will refer to my trip as the “trek”. Originally my intenary was supposed to take me through Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. But because Guatemala will not allow commercial vehicles through its borders the itenary was changed. So now the trek will only stay in Mexico. It is a shame but there is nothing I can do about it! Also may be it is better as I will see more in depth the Mayan sites in Mexico. I can also go back and see Guatemala, Honduras and Belize on another trip and take more time to visit it in depth as well!
The original trip lasted for 21 days, but I wanted some time of my own so I came early and stay for a few days on the Isla Mujeres at the shores of Cancun. At the end my boyfriend joined me in Cancun for a few nights as well.
In this blog I will try to depict the fascinating world of the Mayan through the ruins I visited, the life of Mexicans, the joys and tears of my travelling experience. I decided to name each day by a title that resume that day.
Now follow me on my great Mexican trip…….
Day 1: Wednesday 25 March 2009
My bags are ready since yesterday…! I packed all the usual as well as my sense of humour, tolerance and good spirits! I phoned my mum one more time and she asked me how much money I had on me, and I remembered that I forgot to take some cash out. I was planning to exchange this cash once in Mexico at a better rate of the one I had in London (I got 1£ for 19 Mpesos) Thanks mum, I went straight to the bank! I gave one last kiss to my furry ball of friend Onyx my cat.
I left the house with Gary at 06.30 am. Traffic was slightly heavier than we first thought but we made it by 08.25 at Heathrow airport!
The check-in on line did worked despite the error message we had and I made a on the spot decision : an upgrade to Premium Economy for 149GBP. I went through the airport security check making sure I put my deodorant bottle in a separate plastic bag. The queue at security was very long (yeah!! And some passengers I know will complain if they had to wait 1/10th of that time!!!!). The upgrade was classy! Well worth it!
I would have truly enjoyed it more if I would not have felt totally sick on board, I think this was due to the ice cream I ate.
I manage to exit the immigration and nearly puke by the customs hall, I just reach the toilets in good time! I exited the airport after struggling to find where the shuttle buses were. I found the bus to my hotel and check-in with no problems still feeling like shit.
It is now 19.30 local time. I went to the hotel shop to buy a bottle of Pecto-Bismol for my stomach. I later went to the restaurant even if I did not feel like eating at all. But I had to try to eat something but even the soup will not come down. A kind waiter said that I would waste my 30$ voucher, so I asked if I could get a bowl of just plain rice. It went down a bit okay. After that I went straight to bed!
Day 2: Thursday 26 March 2009
I left the hotel in Miami at 07.00, I took the mini bus directly to the airport. I was at least feeling better than yesterday. I went to check in at the counter of Mexicana, but I forgot that the flight was operated my American Airline, so I was re-directed to their counter. I checked in with no problems. I went through security and everything. There was nothing much pass security and the airport was freezing cold. I sat in quiet area of the lounge were I slept for a bit. Later an old Japanese man started to chat me up as it was nearly my boarding time I sais my excuses and I moved away.
I arrived in Cancun at about 10.10 local time. I paid 200 Mexican Pesos for a collectivo to Puerto Juarez. Collectivos are this types of share mini buses that can hold up to 14 people. They stops when ever someone wants. They will go when full. Of course the collectivo went along the hotel strip to droff off other passengers. Man, it looks so ugly! After being dropped at the Ferry of Puerto Juarez, I boarded the ferry to Isla Mujeres, the crossing lasted 30 minutes for the cost of 70 Pesos one way at the official selling booth. On the contrary of what my guide book said you have to buy the ticket before boarding the ferry. It was very pleasant as we were in the open air. A band came to play some music. It is lucky I had some small coins to give them as tips.
The island is about 8KM long and means the Island of Women. The island economy has been based on the fishing trade but now is reliaing on the tourism to survive. The island was used by the Mayan people as a sanctuary dedicated to Ixchel, the godess of love and fertilitty. According to the legend when the Spannish arrived they found a large number of women statues and that’s from here it gets its name. Another less credible version is claiming that the island’s name derives from the 17th century pirates who kept their women sequestred here.
I found my hotel, with a bit of luck I admit shortly after stepping off the boat. It was Casa Espagna, only 5 mins from the ferry dock. The island looks very small anyway, at least the downtown area. The hotel is a real gem! There is a small courtyard with seats and tables under the shade with a small swimming pool by my front door! My room has got an ensuite bathroom plus a sink and a small fridge.
After a break in the hotel I went out for a walk around the town, it was very nice. Isla Mujeres looks more sleeppy than Cancun, you feel more in Mexico than in the concrete hotels of Cancun! I went also to book a tour to Isla Contoy which is a nature reserve not far from Isla Mujeres. The tour also included snorkelling time. I an hardly wait! The town as I first though is pretty small but very pleasant to walk around. The small painted houses were beautiful! I stopped for a beer at a nice bar, the waitress was very friendly. There was mainly locals drinking here, no tourists!
A lot of people were going around the island on mini golf carts or scooters, later I will rent a bike to go on the other side of the island.
Later in the evening I went to a small restaurant to have dinner, it was okay, but I have seen better, I ordered a Pizza.
Day 3: Friday 27 March 2009
The weather was not at his best today and the boat tour to Isla Contoy was cancelled. The sea was too bad and boats were not allowed to dock on the island.
So after getting my money back I made my way to the cycle shop to rent a bike and tour the island. I paid 120 MPesos for 24 hours. It was a good ride, I stopped further a field at half way to stop for a quick snack and a beer.
I continue my ride to the Turtle farm, the entrance was 30 MPesos. It is an official turtle breeding centre. There were few tanks with some turtles inside it, but funny enough I was more fascinated by another tank…! In this tank there was a seahorse giving birth, it was absolutely captivating!
I left the turtles behind me and carried on. The Hacienda Mundaca was closed, so I will do it later. I continued toward the eastern tip of the island, it was a bit hilly! I passed in front off the El Garrafon nature Park, where I saw a cycling tour which I saw advertised for an over price on the internet.
I reached the end of the island by reaching the Mayan ruins of Ixchel. There was a small lighthouse, from the top you could overview the island. The entrance to the ruins and the park was 30 MPesos. Along the path there were sculptures of various artists. I sat down and took my time to admire the ocean, I even saw some Iguanas as well. The ruins were just a small wall; the rest was blown away by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Ixchell is a main figure in the Mayan gods. She is the goddess of childbirth, fertility and healing. She controls the tides and all water on earth. Although she gives mankind the continual gift of water, the most essential element of life, according to the Mayan myth, Ixchel also sent floods to cleanse the earth of wicked men who had stopped thanking the gods.
I walked down the steps to stay under the cliff of the dawn, the most Eastern point in Mexico.
I left the ruins and stopped at the ice cream shop to have a sit down in the shade. I also took the opportunity to spend a penny which cost me 5 MPesos.
Then I decided to ride back down town, it was so easy, all the way down I went straight through! It was very quick!
I stopped in downtown at my usual beer place, “My Local” bar was called “Hemmingway“. Later 3 funny Canadians came in. I took the opportunity to book another snorkelling tour for tomorrow.
I went back to the hotel, get changed and went for a swim in Playa Caribe. The sea was a bit heavy but it was okay. I left 45 mins later as it was becoming too windy. I am seriously wondering if my tour will run tomorrow?
In the evening I went for a Pizza, and back to my local for a beer. I was listening to the local music and watching the natives having fun. It is only now I really feel in Mexico!
In the evening on the way back to my room, I took the opportunity to send a few emails.
Day 4: Saturday 28 March 2009
” I have lost my pedal!”
I was awake very early by a rooster blowing a giantgantic “Cocoricooooooo!” at 04.30 in the morning!!!
I left for my snorkelling tour fearing the worst as the guy kept us waiting. Well… Guess what?? It is cancelled! The wind was even worse! I felt really disappointed! The guy could not even refund us now, as did not have the cash on him and asked us to come back later tonight. I hope he will be there!
So, here I go again, I rented a bike, as it was the only thing to do on the island. This time I paid only 80 Pesos to the end of the afternoon.
I decided to go to the Dolphinarium to get the “Royal Swim”. It is one thing to do! I felt I could not leave Mexico without having done it.
It cost me 149$, pricey! But it is a lifetime experience I think!
Well I am just out of my experience with the dolphins, on one side I enjoyed it (Dolphin Kiss, Tow, push…), but with all the other people taking their turn, I barely touch the dolphins. I think it is a total rip-off especially with the photos and DVD sold at the end. I bought it as I would have kicked myself if did not do it. The names of the Dolphins were Marina, and Daniela.
The Victory for the slot of the excitement goes to…… when I took my bike leaving the Dolphins, I was doing very well until 100 metres down the road… my pedal came off, I could not believe that I have lost my pedal!!! Then my bike fell over me knocking my knee as well. After bursting out of laugher for 10 mins I tried to fix it, but it kept falling off. So I walk pushing my bike to the Hacienda Mundaca. I could not believe what happened! I can not see myself pushing the bike for the 8 KM back to downtown!!!
Well, I entered the Hacienda leaving my one pedal bike by the entrance. The Hacienda dates from the 19th century, it was built by slaved who turned into a pirate. He built the hacienda to impress a local beautiful girl but she married another mad, legends said that Macienda went mad while he was waiting for her to change her mind. Now the hacienda is a pile of ruins. But there is a small cage with some monkeys in it. The garden shamely neglected but still nice in itself is the worth the visit.
Leaving the Hacienda I started to push my bike again hopping to get a lift with one of these mini golf carts, but all of them were full. Later a taxi driver gave me a lift for 50 Pesos downtown.
I went for a beer to recover from my emotions of the day at my local with a bloody and bruise knee. I also brought back the bike to the cycle shop. The face of the girl when she saw me with bike in one hand and the pedal in the other!
I went back to the hotel where I listen to the birds of the garden. I left for a long walk along the beach, no sunset tonight again as it is very cloudy WHY?????
I went back to the hotel to send a few emails. I later went for dinner in a nice restaurant, the lady was very nice. I went back to get my refund of tour as well, the guy was there and gave me my money back. It was good!
Day 5: Sunday 29 March 2009
“Saving up my batteries!”
The roosters woke me up again very early this morning, it was 04.00 am ! Well at least the batteries of my alarm clock will last longer! The weather was the same as yesterday so I cross the tour to Isla Contoy out of my mind. I went for a small walk on the beach; it was my last day on Isla Mujeres. I decided to leave early in the afternoon. I walk back to Casa Espagna to send a few emails before leaving. At 12.00 I left the hotel and I walked to the ferry terminal to catch the 12.30 boat back to Cancun.
The boat on the way back was a bit less busy, that the way in.
When I arrived in Puerto Juarez I wanted to take a taxi to the Hotel Margaritas where the all group was staying. It was funny as the drivers were fighting to get my business! The ride cost me 70 Pesos.
It felt weird to have left Isla Mujeres! After resting; I went for walk in the area. There was a large piazza with a small market and the locals hanging around small eateries stands. It was very pleasant!
I went back to the hotel, as I was a bit hungry, I ordered a soup. Next to me was sitting Martin a member of the group but at that time I did not know! I also enjoyed a nice Sol beer! El Sol means the sun in Spanish, the beer factory was founded in 1899. Pure malted barley! It is made by the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery.
There was an initial Trek America group meeting at 08.00 PM, at the reception, here there was 5 of us. Martin who leaves near Manchester, I actually sat near him earlier on the terrace of the hotel. Linda from Australia, Nicola and Siobahn who are two nurses in Milton Keynes and Juan Carlos who will our tour leader. The official meeting will take place tomorrow when every one will be in. Tonight was just for an informal chat. Shortly after the meeting started another girl, Susan joined us. With the small group (without Susan) we left the hotel to go to a very nice restaurant a few minutes away. It was very….Mexican. The guide left us to it. There was a live band playing music as well. Then we went to the plaza where I was earlier then we went to a bar to sample a few cocktails.
The half of the group I met sounded really nice, I think it is going to be a good trip!
Helen my room mate arrived at 00.30, her flight was delayed for a while due to some problems in New York. Well she made that’s what counts!
Day 6: Monday 30 March 2009
“Welcome to Mexico”
I arrived at reception at 07.25 with Helen to officially meet the group. We were all there, so the rest of the group consisted of Susan, who arrived yesterday, Sarah, Cath, and the two Danes Tobias and Jonas. Juan Carlos introduced himself and said “Welcome to Mexico”! Our group was international, but mostly Brits! After enjoying breakfast, we finally left the hotel to start our adventure by loading our bags up the roof of the van. It was good fun! I think that the van is a bit small for all of us, but I am sure we will manage!
We left Cancun behind us and starting the drive to Merida where will spend the night. Our first stop was near the Maya site of El Bakham at the Cenote of X’Canche for a swim. The Cenotes are depressions on the ground, formed as the result of a sinking oh the cave or cavern ceilings which then reveal running water. The Cenotes can be found above the ground or remain under the earth. This structure is formed by chalky layers which are extremely permeable. This allows all the rain water to slip down the slope creating a power over the rock and creating underground galleries. The Maya thought that the Cenotes were the doors to another world of happiness and eternity. That it was a window to communicate with the underworld. The Cenotes represent unique values because they are considered windows of knowledge, namely biological, geological, hydrological, archaeological and historical.
From the car park we had to take some bikes, as the cenote was about 1.5 KM away. We got changed and were ready to experience our first activity together. The swim was very nice! It was very weird to swim in a Cenote. A few members of the group jumped from a rope into the Cenotes, good for them but not for me! When leaving the Cenote I was the last one leaving as I got slow in changing back, my bicycle chain broke!! I could not believe it! I walk off the rest of the past. Juan Carlos went to look for me as well, how embarrassing!!
We jump back in to the van, and a short while later, we reach one of newly voted 7th Wonder of the World: Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is the most extensively excavated and the most famous of all the great Mayan cities. Chichen Itza means “On the Edge of the well of the Itza”. Itza is the name of the tribe that settled here. It was founded in the 5th century but the city’s peak was reached in 950 AD.
Juan Carlos bought the tickets for us and gave us 1 hour and 30 mins to visit the site. The most sticking structure is the giant pyramid of Kukulcan or El Castillo. This 24 metres high pyramid represents the Mayan calendar, with 91 steps staircases plus a single step at the main entrance (the one at the top) adding up to 365. 18 terraces divide the 9 levels which represent the eighteen 20 -day months. The 9 terraces symbolize the 9 underground worlds. Each side has 52 panels representing the 52 year cosmic cycle, the point at which their 2 calendars, the religious and the secular, coincided and they considered that cycle ended, only to begin a new one.
The site was very busy at the heat was extreme with the sun reflecting on the stones. I went to have a look at the ball games (which I will explain later). I walk as well to the Sacred Cenote , it was a well into which offerings and human sacrifice were thrown in honour of the aquatic gods of the Underworld.
I continued my visit to the other structures including the Temple of Warriors where saw Chac-Mool a messenger of the gods and provider of rain. It is here where human sacrifice happened. I continue to watch the observatory before rushing back to the van. It is amazing to think that only 10% of the whole site has been discovered!
It was so hot, it was almost unbearable! We left Chichen Itza and continue our drive to the city of Merida.
We arrive late afternoon in the hotel colonial, there was no air con in our room, I was sharing with Linda and Helen.
Later we went for walk in the main square. The Cathedral was partially built whith some stones that the Spaniards took from Mayan Temples. elater; we went for dinner and we also had a drinking session sampling Tequila!
Day7: Tuesday 31 March 2009
After eating breakfast and loading the van, we left Merida to Palenque which is about 8 hours driving time. Today I was sitting in the middle in the front row seat. We drove along the Golf of Mexico, the water is a bit mucky as it is due because there are no waves in this part. As we were driving we had a lot of Topes, a Tope is a speed bump most of the time unforeseen on the road to slow cars down. Carlos miss one and shouted “TOPE!”, and gave us this explanation what a Tope was! Minutes later we road kill a poor little Iguana… Carlos was feeling really bad about it despite not being his fault.
We came across a few police check points; they were looking for drugs, weapons…
We had good fun using my phrasebook, especially the naughty words, and sex related phrases, it was really hilarious!
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road which came out of the food kitty. Carlos told us to avoid seafood with shelves as there is virus around, and it can be deadly…!
We arrived at Palenque at about 15.00, at the entrance of the National Park, Carlos put on “Welcome to the jungle” song, it was good, and I am really excited now.
We stayed at the Hotel Maya bell, the swimming-pool is huge and the bar looks good as well. We played a ball game in the pool, it was a map of the world and each player and to nominate a country and through the ball to another player who had to pinpoint it on the map, and start again. Well it kept us busy for a while! I enjoyed drinking a beer by the pool, Carlos went to get it for us, and we could not be bothered to get out!
In the room we did not get air con, they kept telling us they will come, eventually it was okay, as it was only our remote control missing. I shared the room with Sarah.
In the evening, we went for dinner and stayed at the bar for a few drinks………
I drank a Maya Bell cocktail, with some Tequila and another cocktail, by 20.30; I was completely drunk apparently puking everywhere………
The girls put me in bed! See tomorrow for the end….
Day 8: Wednesday 01 April 2009
Today, the start was difficult! This morning I heard the Howler Monkeys being really noisy, I know I was drunk, but at one stage I felt waking up in the middle of Jurassic Park!
Yesterday after drinking cocktails ”Maya Bell” and “Poseidon” with a shot of Tequila, I got really drunk! The girls took me back to the bedroom at 08.30!
At 04.30 this morning, we heard banging on the door, Sarah got up to open it and we saw one of the girl (which will remain anonymous to protect the guilty!) with the security staff of the hotel. They wanted to make sure that she belonged to our group. Apparently she was brought back by the local police!
She was tears saying she got kidnap by 3 men. At the end it worked out that she left the bar really drunk but took the wrong turn and ended up on the road in the middle of the jungle where she got picked up by 3 nice Mexican men, who took her for her own safety back to the police station. She though she was kidnap and tried to jump out of the truck, so the men had to hold her down. Eventually the police worked out where she was staying and brought her back in. She was very lucky!
Carlos was woken up at 07.30 by the security manager who told him what happened, he must have thought ” My god!!!! It is going to be a looong Trek!” He went knocking on our door to find our more what happened. The other girls did not worry when they did not see her as they though she was still with the boys at the bar…!
Eventually we left for the ruins of Palenque at 10.00. I was still feeling hang over! I was unable to eat breakfast!
Palenque is a Spanish word for fence, and it comes from the name of the town, the original name of the city was Lacam-ha meaning Big Water. Palenque was a growing settlement through the Pre-classic era, but is associated above all with the great flourishing of Classic Mayan civilisation in the Usumacinta region during the centuries from about 300 AD to 800. Serious excavations began in 1923 as the city was buried in the jungle and work continued until 1952 when the tomb of the 7th century ruler Pakal was discovered beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions. Th fall of the city was due to the lack of water and the unbalance between nature and human need, as the Mayan overused the jungle resources.
We were welcome at the entrance of the ruins by Ernesto our local guide, he was really nice! First you don’t see the ruins as it is surrounded by the jungle, then you stumble upon it. My first site was the Templo de la Calavera, or skull temple, where you could see a carving of a skull on the temple. Next to it was another Temple. But the most interesting was the last building. The Temple of the Inscriptions, with 26 metres high, it is one of the biggest Temple. This temple is dedicated to Pakal, unfortunately, visitors can no longer climb on the top of the Temple. It contains the tomb of Pakal who was buried in 683 AD. The nine platforms of the pyramid refer to the nine levels of the underground world was divided into according to the Mayan cosmology.
We Ernesto we climbed a few steps to the Palacio complex where we rested for a few minutes and played a role play in order to understand the Mayan cultur better. Nicky was the Queen, the Danes were in charged of the food and water, can you really trust them, I was an architect with Susan. Ernesto and poor Martin where the slaves and had to obey us, we were seen as gods as they did not have education at all. The Palacio was the seat of the reigning dynasties of the city. The buildings were made of small courtyards and galleries, but the most astonishing were stone tablets carved showing the coronation of Pacal! We saw over carvings showing different Mayan rulers of the city, it was like visiting the National Gallery! It was so amazing how well preserved it was. We saw the first toilet as well. The three storey tower was also impressive; it is built on three levels to represent the tree levels of the universe as well as the movement of the stars. It might have been an astronomical observatory from which the rulers of Palenque watched the heavens. Astronomical events were often skilfuly manipulated for purposes of political propaganda. We reached a small beautiful courtyard which was used for private ceremonies.
Ernesto left us to have some free time after showing us a reproduction on a leather page of the sarcophagus lid with the figure of Pakal climbing down the trunk of the cosmic tree.
During our free time I walk to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Cross where I saw more carvings depicting the Mayan’s life. There was a group of kids, the little girls wanted to pause and take photos of them with the big Danes, it was really funny. One of the children fainted because of the heat.
I bought a Mayan Calendar on a leather page and a small bracelet. Took the opportunity for a bathroom stop, and walk past other temples as well.
We rejoined Ernesto ready for our Jungle tour! A real Mayan descendant walk with us as well, apparently he is an expert at spotting snakes! It was amazing, even still today a lot of the Palenque site still lays undiscovered buried in the Jungle as we saw a lot of ruins buried in the vegetation. We only saw about 10% of what the Mayan city was once. Unfortunately most of the money is invested on the Riveria Maya, where all the tourists with money goes. A lot less is left for smaller sites such as Palenque.
We saw a massive tree where Tobias played Indiana Jones and climb on it. We saw a family of Howler Monkeys; I don’t think they were happy to see us as they were throwing branches at us! Naughty Monkeys!!! At one stage I picked up a kind of small fruit call Ash in Maya, it was tasty! We saw a small water hole where we refreshed ourselves; it is good to know in case we get lost! We continue our walk, as it was my turn to play Tarzan as I was singing on a tree branch; I wonder who the real Monkey is?
Our jungle tour was good fun! My hang over was now gone.
Palenque was a true jewel! I really love this site, it was extremely amazing!
We went back to the hotel for lunch. Susan could not find her room key! They were unable to go back to the room as they could not find a spare key!
We left the hotel to go to the 35 metres waterfall of Misol-Ha. The water was a bit cold, but it was okay, it was very nice. Doing this as an independent traveller would have been impossible unless I book a tour with a local travel agent. I really enjoyed my swim at the waterfall, it was really great!
In the afternoon, I went back to the hotel swimming pool, a little Mayan girl was trying to speak to me but due to the language barrier, we did not go very far! There were also lots of Hippies in our hotel and around.
Eventually the lost key was found inside Susan’s book!
In the evening we heard Jurassic park again, it was amazing to hear how loud these monkeys were!
Juan Carlos advised us to rest tonight as we have a long drive tomorrow. Rest what does it means?? I wonder….
We had a nice evening without getting drunk and went to bed at still descent time! I paid 3500Pesos for the Food-kitty to Juan Carlos.
Day 9: Thursday 2 April 2009
At 07.00 the boys were still not here, so us the girls decided to load the van. Carlos at first said that we should not do it as it was a job for the boys, but we insisted under the Girl Power rules! We were passing the bags too quickly for him and he asked us to stop, he was impressed as well, he was laughing!
We left the lodge just before 08.00. At one stage we stopped at an army check point, they asked us to get out of the van as they wanted to search it. They were looking for drugs, weapons, explosives….! We carried on our way.
We were using mainly the highway “Carrestas de Cuota” were we had to stop once in while in order to pay a toll fee. Carlos had a basket next to him will all the paper work and receipts. In Mexico if a driver is stopped and does not have his driving liscence and papers of the vehicule; the police has got the power to inpound the vehicule on the spot…and they do. In order to get the vehicule back the owner must pay a fee that will vary according to the type of vehicule it is.
We stopped at lunch time where Carlos bought us picnic food, half an hour later; we were back inside the van to hit the roads again!
We crossed 4 states: Chiapas, Tabasco, Verraruz and Oaxaca. I also found out the condiment Tabasco, does not come from the state of Tabasco in Mexico. The guy who makes it has got a house in this state and he fell in love with it, hence the name of Tabasco. So Tabasco is purely 100% American!
Susan kept asking Martin who was sitting at the front seat (the DJ’s seat) to skip some songs, poor Martin could not sleep!
We had a few bathroom stops along the way of 10 minutes each. We took a road that climb up a mountain, it was lovely, we saw cactus along the way. The sun was starting to go down, it was really beautiful. A saw a truck with pigs stacked up on the top of each others, the poor pigs, it was appalling!
At one stage we decided to name the van Jose, we told Carlos, but at first he did not understand, fearing an emergency; he started to pull over. We told him not to as we were explaining what was happening. Poor Carlos was tired! Some of the drivers were really mad!
Just before arriving, I turned around and said: “Hey beautiful people, do you have some rubbish?”; they thought I was mad!
We drove 970 Kilometres!
At last we pulled into Oaxaca, where we stopped at a really nice restaurant. I had beef with a sauce made of worm sauce marinated in Mezcal (see explanation later), it was very tasty actually!
Later we left for the restaurant to our hotel, after settling down, we left again for a drink to “La Casa Mezcal”. It was a bar dedicated to the spirit of Mezcal. Juan Carlos bought us a bottle on the company’s money as we were a good group and did not complain or moan during the 12 hours drive. I insisted without any resistance to eat the worm inside the bottle of Mezcal. It was nice actually!
We had a great evening, I left before the others as I was tired. I was sharing the room with Linda. A few people got pissed! Carlos was having a well deserved fun evening. Shortly after comming back, Sarah found some cockroaches inside her room saw we went to tell the night guard to change the bedroom for us, to which he did.
Day10: Friday 3 April 2009
“Your trek has gone fishing…!”
It was our free day today. I did not sleep very well as the others woke me up coming back late, but it is okay, as long as they had a good time! After all we are on holiday!
Carlos was running late meeting us for breakfast and our market tour which he kindly offered to show us yesterday. So Susan decided to write him a note “Carlos, your trek has gone fishing….! Enjoy your sleep.” But as we were leaving Carlos came out out his room; his alarm clock did not ring! The Danes could not make it to breakfast as they were tired and hang over.
We eventually made it to the market. I tasted dried grasshoppers called Chapulines. Carlos were showing us a few souvenirs stalls, and told us it was the best place for shopping for souvenirs as the prices here are very low. He showed us a sanctuary in a shop dedicated Santa Muerta the best loved Saint in the area. He also played with a “dick” revolver!
Carlos left us and went back to catch up on some paperwork (sleep!!!). We went first to the Zocalo where all the locals hand out and gossip, then we went to the Cathedral. There were a kind of small music festival and Mariachis bands playing on the plaza by the Cathedral it was a bit busy but very pleasant. I saw a poodle dog wearing a “hello Kitty” coat, it was cute! We continue our way to go to the Santo Domingo convent. The interior was in the Baroque style and dates from the 17th Century.
Later we went uphill to a stadium where we have a view of the city. After coming back down to the centre we stopped for lunch, I was very hungry so I did not order anything. A lot of souvenir and junk sellers were hassling us. At one stage we saw Carlos and the Danes who came to join us.
I came back to the hotel making a detour to the market to buy grasshoppers. I wanted to lie down for a bit, Linda was in the room she did not feel really well either and wanted a nap. Later I did my washing and put it outside to dry.
I left the hotel again to try to change my money but the banks will not take Pounds Sterling’s, so I had no choice but to use the ATM machine. I went to an internet cafe to send a few email, it was cheap! 5 pesos for 30 mins!
I came back to the hotel, and came back out with Linda to do some shopping. I bought a hammock, leather bracelets (of course!!!). I also bought bracelets of Santa Muerta bearing images of different Saints as well. I also found a T-Shirt for Eliot.
The Danes found a date with Mexican girls, good for them! In the evening we went out for dinner. In the Zocalo, there was a Mariachi type of band playing Mexican music.
Some went out again to another bar. I went back to the hotel.
Day 11: Saturday 4 April 2009
“Viva Mexico Cabrones!”
I went to the market to buy mangos for breakfast, 1 peso each! So I bought 2!
We left on board of the van to go to Monte Alban. Monte Alban is the largest pre-Hispanic city in the region of Oaxaca. It represents the first urban plan on the American continent. Its continuous human occupation (mainly Zapotecs) spans for more than 13 centuries (500 BC to 850 AD) when its gradual abandonment began for reasons still unknown. The city of Monte Alban is at 1900 metres high and rest 300 metres above the city of Oaxaca.
It was characterised by having developped a true state as his system of government, led by the priestly class. A large part of its economy was base on tributes paid by the communities of the Valley of Oaxaca. It was also complemented by the cultivation of corn, bean, squash, and other rain-fed products gown on a system of terraces built on the slopes of the surrounded hills.
After the abandonment of the city, it was always regarded as a sacred site by the Zapotecs who built it and the Miztecs who arrived in the valley at a later date. In 1987 Monte Alban was classified a World Heritage site.
We found a guide for our visit; the style was so different comparing to Palenque and Chichen Itza! The plaza was huge! The most impressive area of Monte Alban was the Galeria de Los Dazantes (the Dancer’s Gallery). The Building of the Danzantes was so named because it was thought that carvings associated with it depicted individuals engaged in ritual dances; others have argued that they represent individuals with deformities who, in ancient Mesoamerica, were thought to possess special powers; still others suggest that they represent slain and mutilated captives, a suggestion that now seems most plausible.
The figures are all nude males and obese with thick lips, features that might have been attributed to the influence of the Olmecs culture. The Danzante stones were originally considered depictions of “Dancers”. But a more likely interpretation is that the “dancing” men are in fact sacrificial victims. The scrolls which eminate from their bowels and genitalia are probably depictions of ritual mutilation. Some stones tablets also recorded the medical knowledge of the Zapotecs showing a women giving birth, broken limbs….it even show different races including a Mongolian.
During the visit 2 Americans girls kept following us and listen to OUR guided tour. I told Carlos that we should charge them! Our guide left us by the South Platform; on the top we wanted a group photo so we asked the girls to join us; embarrassed they could only offer to take the photos for us!
After we had a quick look in the small museum before getting back into the van. We went to Santa Maria Del Tule to see a massive tree known as El Tule. It is an impressive cypress tree thought to be more than 2000 years old. It is one of the world largest trees. It s roots are buried more than 20 metres into the ground. The tree is 42 metres high. It weights 640000 tons and has a diametre of over 14 metres! It will take 35 adults to embrace the trunk. If he could talk he will be able to tell us lots of stories about Mexico! A little kid gave us a guided tour about the figures we could see on the trunk, a lion, the house of the 7 dwarfs, a snake….. as long as you have imagination”! It kept asking “Did you seeeeee it?” It will later become the catchphrase of our trek!
After the tree we walk to restaurant to have a buffet lunch, some reasons, I was feeling a bit crap at that time, but it passed. After lunch we went to the village of Teotilan Del Baye to see a weaving factory. We had a small tour in the village, the Templo de la Preciaso Sangre de Christo was really nice. Some parts of the facade have been scrapped away to reveal stones carved with Zapotec designs that were used during the building of the church. Carlos told us that a lot of the houses have built on the top of old Mayan sites and/or with stones coming from such sites.
Then we went to a more interesting part of the trip, the Mezcal factory! The Chagoya factory was located near the village of Tiacolula. Mezcal originates from language of the Aztecs meaning ‘cooked pineapple’. Mezcal is made from the Maguey (agave) plant. Mezcal is typical from the Oaxaca region. By Mexican law the agave spirit called Tequila can be made only from the blue agave and can be produced only in specifically designated geographic areas, primarily the state of Jalisco in west-central Mexico. Mezcal is made from the fermented juice of other species of agave. It is produced throughout most of Mexico.
The agave plant will be cultivated some six to twelve years before harvest. When the plant reaches maturity, the leaves will be cut off with a machete, and the roots are cut as well. The core will then look like an enormous pineapple (therefore its name ‘pina’ – meaning a pineapple) weighing 30 to 50 Kilos and it is cut from the plant leaving only a stump behind. The ‘pina’ will be cut with an axe lengthways into halves, and thrown into a clay oven which effectively is an eight foot wide hole dug in the ground, made with fireproof bricks and preheated with wood. The whole will be covered with Maguey leaves, fireproof stones and clay and then left alone to braise for two to three days. This braising gives Mezcal its particular smoky taste and flavour.
Finally, a stone wheel is drawn round and round by a donkey which grinds the cooked fibres of the Maguey in order to separate the pulp from the fibre. This is then macerated in pure water, and with the help of the local airborne yeasts, the fermentation begins and lasts several days producing a beer like juice known as ‘mosto’, similar to the production of the Indian alcoholic drink ‘Pulque’ produced directly from the Agave sap.
The fermented liquid is then distilled through a double copper, coming over at 43% – 46% and then broken down with de-ionised water to 40% normally. Most domestic Mezcal (unlike Tequila) is distilled twice and for export markets where a higher quality is required, Mezcal Lajita is distilled three times to eliminate any impurities, especially methanol and excesses of copper which are commonly found in some Mezcal! The Mezcal is then left to mature for a minimum of 3 months to over a year.
The famous “worm” (“gusano”) that is found in some bottles of Mezcal is actually the larva of one of two moths that live on the agave plant. The reason for adding the worm to the bottle of Mezcal is obscure. But one story, that at least has the appeal of logic to back it up, is that the worm serves as proof of high proof, which is to say that if the worm remains intact in the bottle, the percentage of alcohol in the spirit is high enough to preserve the pickled worm. Consuming the worm, which can be done without harm has served as a rite of passage for generations of fraternity boys. As a rule; top-quality Mezcals do not include a worm in the bottle.
The tour was very interesting; we even had some samples at the end. I bought a bottle as a souvenir, and I think it is probably cheaper than in town.
We jump back on the van half drunk to stop a few kilometres away in the small Zapotec ruins of Dainzu. Dainzu means “hill of the ccatus plant”. The site was habited from around 600 BC to 1200 AD. We had the ruins to ourselves! It was really nice. Some stones carvings similar to the ones in Monte Alban, these designs were depicting a ball game, so I guess the Zapotecs, did have “Sky sports” after all! The ball court was impressive as well.
Late me talk to you about the Mayan “Ball Game” (Pelota) : The Ball Court is in the shape of an I , dimensions varied depending the size of the city. There are 2 stone rings set vertically contrary to horizontally like a basket ball hoop on the top of two parrallel walls with runs the Ball Court lenght. Players had to pass a ball through the rings to score points. There was two teams of seven players each. Players were only allowed to use their hips, elbows or knees but never their hands or feets. The ball was made from the sap of local trees and were like rubber. The games did not have a sporting purpose, they were rituals associated with the workship of the Sun. Spectators were only priests and nobles. Its said that at the end of each games the captain of one of the team was sacrified. I have heard different versions, some said it was the winning team, some said it was the looser!
I told Carlos that this tour is really great as if I was travelling independently, there is no way I will have done that a third of what we have done already, or it will have cost me a few pesos with a local agent!
Driving back to Oaxaca we listen to the modern version of “Viva Mexico Cabrones”. Viva Mexico Cabrones is a say to celebrate the Mexican independence from the Spanish since the 19 of September 1810. (Cabrones means Mother fuc**ers)
In the evening I bough some more bracelets, a nice top and stock up on Chipolines- fried grasshoppers.
In the evening I went to have dinner at the market it was good fun. On my way back at the hotel Carlos gave me some of its magic pills to prevent me of being sick. He also advised us that the clocks went forward as well.
Day 12: Sunday 05 April 2008
“Crazy Mountain Drive”
We left the hotel at 05.45 new time as the clocks went forward during the night. I was on the co-pilot seat as Susan changed her mind and was okay to sit behind me. The sunrise was developing slowly.
Then the crazy mountain drive started, bends over bends over bends! Non stop! Poor Susan was very sick, we had a few puke and toilets stops along the way. Susan was still sick, so we swap seats, Carlos was saying “if we are late it is not my fault!” It was almost 256 KM of bendy roads!
We arrived in Zipolite just after 12.00. We were sleeping in a Mango Ranch as we were driving in lots of Mangos fell on the roof , Carlos was saying “any one for Mangos???”". It was like my dream come true!! We had a house to ourselves but had to share beds, so I spotted a great opportunity to take my hammock for a test drive on the roof!
After stuffing my face with mangoes, I went for swim on the beach, my first swim on the Pacific Ocean! Zipolite is very small as a resort and famous for its hippies and sometimes nudists.
I stayed near the shore while swimming as the current was pretty strong, later I went to join the girls for drink in a restaurant next to the beach: Restaurant Posada Mexico; the atmosphere was really good and very pleasant. Next to it was the hut for the lifeguards.
We later went for a walk along the beach, then we went back to the hotel and played in the pool.
For dinner we went back to restaurant Possada on the beach where we were earlier; it was “Happy Hour” on cocktails, 2 for 1!!!! After dinner, Carlos took us clubbing on the beach, it was weird to dance on the beach! It was very nice, even a dog was there in the middle of the people dancing!
Day 13: Monday 06 April 2008
“I do not recommend it!”
It is one week already we are together. Today was our free day until 17.30.
I had an okay sleep in the hammock but it was a bit cold! In the morning I went to beach and swim a bit Zipolite is very pleasant. At 12.30 I went back to the hotel for a nap, Carlos gave me a quick lift as the hotel was 5 min walk.
After a quick nap, I was back on the beach at 14.30.
I got ready for our crocodile tour that Carlos said many times “I do not recommend it!” It is because the tour is very scary. It was very impressive; the crocodiles were at least 3 metres long and could have flipped the boat at any time if they wanted to. The tour manager told us to keep our hands inside boast! Well of course we will! The boat went through first the white mangrove where we saw lots of birds, the noise was unbelievable! They were getting ready for the night and calling each others! Then we went through the red mangrove, it is red because the colour of the water. It was much darker and here was very silent. The red of the water is due to the tannin of the strong roots of the mangrove. The boys even climb over it.
After the boat tour the sun was starting to go down, we run to the beach where we saw some baby turtles being released at sea… It was very impressive to see how fast they were running on the sand to join the waters of the Ocean. Most of them will not survive their first week. We were not allowed to touch them or help them regardless what happens, ie a bird eating them.
Then after that; we race to Playa Mazunte which is apparently the most Western point in Mexico to see the end of the sunset. By the time we walk there it was almost finished. The problem that we wasted time waiting in Zipolite for the guy of the croc tour, he arrived late. Well I guess we are in Mexico, and he is on Mexican time!!! (it is very similar to Jomo’s time!…joke at work!) We walked back in pitch darkness to go back to the van and then back to Zipolite taking the opportunity to go the cash point machine along the way.
It was 21.00 by the time we arrived on the beach, our restaurant was full, so we went next door. Then it was back to the hotel and bed time. Yesterday we decided to meet again In Zipolite on the 01 of April 2013!!!
Day 14: Tuesday 7 April 2009
“Back to the stables!”
In the morning we left at around 09.30 for a snorkelling tour at the cost of 35 pesos. We waited again for the bloke to arrive. We eventually reach our destination near Mazunte. After putting our life vest on, we spotted a fisherman with 2 big tuna fish. I held one up, it was a bit heavy! Shortly after we climbed one board of the boat and soon after we spotted cachalot wales, it was amazing especially as we were not far from the coast. All the family was there! The whales were on their way up to Alaska. The adults were teaching a baby how to feed.The whales were about 15 metres long, Itook greak pleasure observing them, I remember seing some in St Pierre and Miquelon.
Our snorkelling tour was turning more into a wildlife tour when we saw more marine species including a bark fish which looks dead in the waterm, but it is alive! Then later we saw a couple of turtles making love. Apparently it last for 2 days! But did not stay for long in order not to disturb them. Eventually we reach our snorkelling point, once in the water I discovered that my mask was actually really smelly, I could not see anything at all, the water was a bit mucky. Martin spotted something so I gave him my camera to take a photo, he was really good at diving! Some girls went to a small beach as they did not want to snorkel. To get back to the boat, the bloke had to lift from under the arms, it was funny!
Later we went to a small restaurant, it was very pleasant as there was no crowds. I went for a quick swim before lunch. I tried Octopus, it was very yummy! I went for a quick snorkel as well after lunch the water was much better this time. Barely after coming back to the boat and leaving the restaurant behind us, I realised that I that I forgot my wallet on the beach, so 5 minutes later we were back! I have to say that Mexicans are very honest as it was left untouched!
A short while later, we stopped at a small rock where people could jump into the sea from it. Not me thanks! martin and Linda had a really nice dive!
Later we were back on dry land in the ranch to relax for a little bit, we had 1 hour before getting ready for our horseriding tour. I could hardly wait!
Carlos decided to drive us there after all, which turn out to be great idea after all…! When we arrived we waited for a long time for our horses to arrive our tour cost 250 Pesos per head. In the meantime I was stuffing my face with Tamrin, it was a sour but delicious! The sand on beach here is much darker, this is due because as it rich in Iron.
Eventually the horses arrived, but there was only 8 and not 11. An argument started with Carlos and the owner as he booked 11 horses, luckyly Sarah, Cath, and Susan pulled out. Carlos was still debating hard. The people of the horses told us “do not guide the horses they know were to go” and send us on our way. My horse was tall comparing to the others, but had really bad sunburn on his face.
The guide told us to go, so my horse was at the front and started, I tried to pull him to slow him down a bit, but then he turn left towards the road, I tried to pulled him away but the horse did not want to. I did not want to upset the horse by pulling him to hard, as I was scarred that he will throw me out so I let him go. When he reached the road, I knoew something was wrong and tried to stopped the horse but he started trotting instead. I could not stopped him! Even a taxi driver try to help me! After 10 mins I eventually reach the stables and could not see the others anywhere…! A guy came out wondering what I was doing here, well, he was not the only one, and try to explained that I was trully lost! Eventually the ranch owner arrived on his horse and said in Spanish on his radio “I found the other horse!!!”. By that time I was finding the experience totally hillarious! He had a go at me for not pulling the horse away. Yes!!! What do you want me to do man?? I am not an experienced rider, and I don’t want the horse to quick me out!!! The guy took me back to the beach the same way I came.
This horseriding tour was getting really crazy, it was so disorganised, I try to tell the guy that my hour was not up yet and wanted to continue that when we reach the beach I saw the all group waiting for……..me!
It turned out that their ride was even shorter than mine as barely 3 minutes after leaving the horse of one of the Dane started a fight with Lindi’s one, Tobias had to jump off and Lindi stayed on, it was very impressive I have been told. By that time Carlos called the tour off. He refused to pay due to the lack of horses and organistaion. It was really a crazy horse ride! Carlos kept appologising for the experience, but it was not his fault, he could not have guest! But it was lucky that none of us get armed.
Putting this emotion behind us, we went to back the the beach at our favourite restaurant. We had a really great dinner. The guys doing the fire show were still there, it was really lovely.
I enjoyed staying at the Rancho Del Mangos, it was pleasant to sleep in my hammock. The roof became my makeshift bedroom for 3 days. It is shame that the shower was crapt.
Day 15: Wednesday 8 April 2009
The boys found a small brown and yellow scorpion in their room!!! We left Zipolite a little while later. We had to drive on the bendy road again but it was not as bad as the way in! We stopped at the Pemex station because Jose was thirsty again ad his windscreen need a wash. At the station, there are still guys filling up the petrol for you! PEMEX ( Petróleos Mexicanos) is Mexico’s state-owned oil company. It is the sole supplier in all Mexico.
The Danes plugged their Ipod, it was rude rap, on of their song was “I love you, I love you… I freaking fuck..ng love you…”, even Carlos was shocked! But it was very funny! A bit loud! But funny!
Just before lunch we had to drive on a road and it was very windy! We saw electric wind mills as well. The army stopped us at a check point and ordered us to step outside, after that Carlos by mistake slip the gear and started to drive off leaving Martin and Toby on the side of the road! It was hilarious, poor Martin and Toby; we almost drove off without them! We stopped for lunch as another Pemex station; it was like a self service. It was okay, but I had better!
Then we got stuck behind a big truck and the drive was very slow! No more than 10 miles per hour I think!
Martin was a bit sick and asked for a bathroom stop. Carlos stopped on the side my a small shop, as we were waiting for Martin, we heard a horn behind us, it was another Trek America leader with the emergency van coming with a new motor and camping equipment from Los Angeles. Carlos was very glad to see him, as they were only supposed to meet up in San Christobal. Mike spotted Carlos van on the side of the road and therefore stopped for him.
We eventually made it to Tuxtla Gutierrez late afternoon. It was just a stop over for us, the town itself is not that interesting. Later we went to a shopping Mall, it was called Liverpool! We grabbed some food there. later some of the group went to the cinema, but suddenly I did not feel that good, so I decided not to go. With Carlos, Cath, and Sarah we went back to the hotel. We stopped for a drink near the hotel, I stick to pineapple juice. During the evening some guys came in with an electric-shock game, the aim is to stay as long as possible. It was really a Mexican evening! The bathrooms even had swing doors!
I was sharing my bedroom with Helen, who came back later while I was fast asleep!
Day 16: Thursday 9 Aril 2009
We left Tuxtla at around 09.00 for a short drive to Chiapa de Corzo to visit the Sumidero Canyon. The Canyon is 35 Km long and up to 1067 metres deep. On arrival we put our safety jackets on and jump on a speed boat ready for a ride along the Rio Grijalva. We were given wristbands to show at check point. The boat passed under a big bridge that we crossed earlier with the van. We arrived at the checkpoint where we had to lift our arms and show our wristbands. I was lucky as most of the sights were on my side! We saw vultures, other river birds and a monkey. We saw a rock formation looking like a seahorse, it was very pretty! The canyon is very deep, in the Mayan time local indigenous (the Chiapanecas) will jump to their death from the highest point rather than work as slaves for the Spaniards. The cliff we saw was over 900 metres high. We saw a small cave with a statue of the Virgin Mary and the rocks were bearing different colours. This cave was previously used by the local Mayans. Later we reach the Christmas Tree Falls; it consists of unusual rock tiers. During the wet season when the rain fall is heavy, the fall’s water looks like snow falling from the bows of a Christmas tree.
On the way back we saw a big crocodile, it was very impressive! The guy was driving crazy, it was a bit backbreaking!
I enjoyed my visit to the Canyon, it was very impressive! On the way back to the van Carlos explained us the story of Marco, one of the Zapatistas rebel. In the van Carlos had a donkey with 2 masked rebels carrying wooden guns on it and we asked him what it meant.
The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) is an armed revolutionary group based in one of the poorest area of Mexico: Chiapas. They chose the name of Emiliano Zapata, the hero of the Mexican revolution who lead pheasants from the south of Mexico in a cuisade to gain more land and freedom. Since 1994, they have been in a declared war “against the Mexican state.” In the early hours of January the first in 1994, the EZLN captured San Christobal de las Casas and several surrounding towns, demanding land retribution and equal rights for Chiapa’s indigenous peoples. Most of the rebels are indigenous; descendants of the Mayas. Their main spokesperson is “Marcos”. According to Wilkipedia and other similar sources: “The EZLN opposes corporate globalisation in the neoliberalist sense, arguing that it severely and negatively affects the peasant way of life of its indigenous support base and oppressed people worldwide. Another key element of the Zapatista ideology is their aspiration to do politics in a new, truly participatory way, from the “bottom-up” instead of “top-down.” The Zapatistas view the contemporary political system of Mexico as one that is inherently flawed due to what they claim is its purely representative nature and obvious disconnection from the people and their needs. The EZLN claims, in contrast, to reinforce the idea of participatory democracy or radical democracy by limiting public servants’ terms to only two weeks a term, not using visible organization leaders, and constantly referring to the people they are governing for major decisions, strategies and conceptual visions. As Marcos reiterates time and time again, “my real commander is the people.” In accordance with this principle, the Zapatistas are not a political party: they do not seek office throughout the state and wish to reconceptualize the entire Mexican political system rather than perpetuating it by attempting to gain power within its ranks.”
Many of the villages around are run by the Zapatistas, the army is not allowed to come here. The villagers will hide and protect them. It is said that they don’t fight with real guns.
While driving we saw warning signs at the entrance of their village: “You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the
people give the orders and the government obeys.”- “North Zone- Council of Good Government. Trafficking in weapons, planting of drugs, drug use, alcoholic beverages, and illegal sales of wood are strictly prohibited. No to the destruction of nature.”
After this interesting explanation, we boarded the van for the two hour drive to San Christobal De Las Casas.
The traffic in town for some reasons, was heavy, may because it Easter was in a few days time. We settled in the Parador hotel. Soon after we went to a Cantina for lunch. The restaurant was decorated with bull fighting memories. The food was very nice; meat, lots of it! It only cost us 76 Pesos with the drinks.
Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk in town. It was very pleasant.
In the evening,; we went to a Tequila bar, where I tried a Sombrero. On it was written the famous slogan “Viva Mexico Cabrones”! I nearly set it on fire when I ordered a flaming cocktail to drink in one go! (Tequila and Cointreau). It was very funny! We carried one with other stupid drinking games. such as that one poor some its drink and the next person poor some of his/hers and had to flip coin and say heads or tail, if that person wins he or she pass the glass to the next person and so on. If she loses she had to drink what’s in the glass!
Later we left and went to a disco bar where I tried the “Mayan Sacrifice”, it was deadly! I am not sue what inside it, but one thing for sure is to consume it with Moderation! The party was really nice, and yes, I got drunk again but not as bad as in Palenque! I left the others and went back on my own in the hotel, they really like party animals! I later found out the receipe for the Mayan Sacrifice: Pour Armarreto, add Bacardi and tequila, and top with vodka. Ignite the top on fire, and allow to burn for a few seconds. Extinguish, quickly and drink!
Day 17: Friday 10 April 2009- (Good Friday)
Today is good Friday! At 09.00 the locals started the Easter festivities by sacrfying a chicken in front of the Cathedral, I miss it as I was still sleeping!
During the days there lots of processecions to take place all around the city.
With the girls we went for Breakfast to Namadi (called Normandy by us!), it was very nice! I treated myself with a pancake with chocolate!
Then we started our make yourself tour, our first call was the San Christobal church. Before climbing the zigzag stairs we formed “TREK” with our bodies, I was the appointed photographer for that one. Once we arrived at the top we found out that the church was…closed! At least the view was very nice! On the way down, some locals kids wanted us to write oiur name and the country that we came from as well as money!
We continue our way to Santa Lucia, the church was painted in light blue shy, it was very pretty. The church was built in 1819. We were lucky enough to witness a procession on the way, we continue to San Francisco church.
We then walk to the other side of town to Guadalupe, yet again we had to climb some steps to reach the temple. The church was built in 1884 and host a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, one of the most important figure in the Mexican’s Christianity.
We walk back to town admiring the colonial architecture with its colourful facades, the town was really pretty indeed! I stopped at the shop tocollect the Mayan Bracelet I ordered yesterday. It was designed with my date of birth, and is almost unique as only people having the same birthday as me will have it!
We stopped to see the San Christobal Cathedral, there were indegenous woman wearing colourful shawl with babies tied on their baxks selling souvenirs. The Cathedral is dedicated to St Christopher the Martyr. The Cathedral was built in 1528, demolished and rebuilt in 1693. It was painted in yellow and red. It was busy to the Easter festivities!
We went for lunch near the Zocalo, the centre square. I was feeling really tires, so I went for a nap after lunch leaving the girls. I saw the “Love Bug – Herbie” car! After my beauty sleep I went to visit the Santo Domingo Covent. It houses a church and a former Monastery now a museum. The museum was really interesting showing the city after the arrival of the Spaniards but also hosting relics from the Mayas (bowls, statues…). I walked around the market sampling the atmosphere. Then I went to the Templo del Cerrillo, the church dates from 1550. I continued my way and visited the Garden of Jaguars. Then I walked further down and saw another church called the Templo of Mexicanos.
After that I deceided to walk to the Museum of Mayan Medicine, it was further away than I was expecting, but after asking my way, I eventually made it. It was interresting once I got explanations in French from the keeper! It tells of how Mayans used the plants and animals to cure people, how they used candles to pray with differrent colours.
I walked back to the hotel, I was absolutely nackered!
For dinner we went to the Bar of Revolution: it was lovely! After dinner they show an absolute boring “court-metrage”, I left and went to look at the jewelty stalls nearby!
After dinner we went to a Karaoke bar singing our asses off:
During this we saw a procession anad we all ran off to watch it. The locals were having fun with us as well watching us singing! Lots of Pina Colada cocktails went pass in front of me me on that night!
Day 18: Saturday 11 April 2009
We woke up early, the girls went out for breakfast I passed on that one today. I went for a quick stroll around town. We were meeting up at 09.30 by the cross to visit Mayan villages around San Christobal. We found our tour guide as well as many other tourists.
We had a mini bus our own which was cool, it was like riding Jose’s twin! (Jose being the name of Carlos’ van!).
Our first stop was in the village of Chamula. The village is about 12 Km from San Christobal and counts around 45000 habitants. The village is in the highlands at an altitude of 2200 metres. All the habitants are Tzotzils indeginous. The Tzoztzils are part of the Mayan Culture and were specifics from this highland region. Tzotzil means “people of bat”. The Tzotzils were exploited for long time Europeans as labourers.
The town enjoys unique autonomous status within Mexico. No outside police or military are allowed in the village. Chamulas have their own police force.
Shortly after entering the village, we visited the “Mayordomo”, a religious authority to see the colourful altar of the saint that he’s responsible for looking after. The floor was covered with pines needles and there were flowers against the wall as well. He lives mainly from donations as it costs him a lot of money to buy the special candles and renew the pines and flowers.
Then we reached the main attraction of the village the market square and the church. Before we could visit the church we saw the local prison a cell within full view of the street, the occupants were starred at by the locals all day. They usually committed small offence and stayed here only for a few days.
Then came the exciting part: San Juan of Chamula church. The outside was painted white with the door and windows frame painted green with coloured flowers and other motifs. The church is special as it is not part of the Docese it is a mixture of Pre-Columbian beliefs and Catholism. The locals don’t want any priests in the church. They expelled the Spanish priest and adapted their beliefs with some of their Pre-Columbian traditions.
Photos were not allowed inside and any one caught taking photos will be banned from the village and their cameras smashed. The inside was extraordinary; the floor was covered with pine needle and multicoloured candles. The colours of the candles and the way it is arranged will have a different meaning, black candles are to get rid of evil spirits, green is to have good crop… There are no chairs in church either. There are no masses but individuals praying independently with the help of a Curanderos which is like a special doctor who conduct the ceremony for that small group of individual. Most of them will also drink sodas suck as Pepsi or Coca Cola to expel the bad spirits and energy when they burp. The statues of the Saints all wear dresses and mirrors in order to deflect evil spirits. As part of certain rituals chickens are also sacrificed inside the church.
After leaving the church I wondered off in the village and stroll on the market. After a little peepeee pause I bought some tamarind to eat on the van.
The women were all wearing black woollen skirts. Men, the leaders were wearing black shirts with a woollen white coat and what looked like a Texan hat.
Each village wear their own clothing, so you can tell from which village an individual belong by its clothing. The communities respect each others and will not force another one into their believes.
Our visit to Chamula was now ended and we made our way to another village called Zinacantan, it was about 5 Km away from Chamula. Here the church of San Lorenzo is part of the Docese and I could see Judas hanging out ready to be burn for the Easter facilities tonight. In this village the local dress was a lot more colourful, the women were bright dresses (purple, blue, green and pink) with flowers embroided on it. Like Chamula the locals speaks Tzotzil as a language.
The locals grow mainly flowers such as geraniums and carnations to sell on the local markets. I found the locals a lot less aggressive in their selling than in Chamula and children were not begging. Zinacantan means “land of bat” in Tzotzil language. The village counts around 30000 habitants.
The church was a bright and like any other Mexican churches, after we went to the Temple of San Sebastian, the altar was very nicely decorated with fresh flowers, and the most funny part is that a bird song was playing from somewhere, it was amazing! It is said that the Temple was built by the Saint himself and not by the men from the village.
We stop at a local house where saw some women weaving, everything is hand made, it was really nice, a bought a small blanket and some table mats. The locals are really friendly and with permission I was allowed to take photos of them.
I noticed that on almost every garnement and a special wedding dress fears where embroided on the cloth. The guide gave us a special explanation: The clothing being part of their culture also has religious and mystical functions. A ceremonial dress used exclusively for weddings in Zinacantan called “k’uk’umal chilil” or “feathered huipil”. During the pre-Hispanic era, the art of weaving feathers into garments was common; but now Zinacantan is the only place where this tradition is kept alive. The feathered huipil is known as such because it has white hen feathers inserted as decoration; it used for clear cultural reasons. The locals takes that a hen is a domestic animal that has feathers but can not fly, walks on two legs just like humans, and is dependent on them for its nourishment and is always near the house even when it runs loose. So the feathers that women weave into the garment represent the attitude of the hen, which the bride is expected to adopt that she will not leave the household, although capable of doing so, and that she will shape a relationship of interdependence with her future husband.
Our visit continues to a local’s home where we saw how traditional was applied, Linda who was a volunteered was wacked with basil by the doctor, I hope that her hangover will be cured! It was funny to watch. We tasted the local brew as well, one of them reminded me of the Raki from Crete. The alcohol and eggs will also be applied on the patient.
After that the lady of the house invited us to taste tortillas made of black maize. It was very nice and interesting. The tortillas made of black maize flour was now looking a bit purple. I was delighted to have tasted this speciality!
Our tour was ended and back we were in San Christobal, in the evening we went to a Thai-Indou restaurant, where we saw Ana Carlo’s girlsfriend and his twin Brother.
At 22.00 we went to see the “Burning of Judas”, it is a puppet with other hated politicians made of papier mache full of fireworks that are burned and blow them up as part of the Easter celebrations. They burn Judas because he was traitor to Jesus. It all started well, but suddenly fireworks started to go in every directions, the locals were ducking out and running away from the scene, it was unreal! But very impressive! With most of the locals dashing for cover I suddenly found myself near the front.
I was happy to have witness this tradition, it was much better than “Feux de ST Jean!”
Day 19: Sunday 12 April 2009
“Over the Rainbow”
With Susan we woke up early and for some obscure reasons we decided to play Tennis for a while, it was the crapiest game on earth; we will never make it to Wimbledon that’s for sure! But mind you, we still have a good chance to beat Tim Hennman.
We were about to load the bags on the roof of the van when we noticed that it was stinking like hell. Following the smell we discovered that it was the cheese from picnic earlier on in the trek (2nd of April!) that Carlos forgot to throw away. The smell was so bad we left the cooler on the pavement!
After loading the bags we were on way, the Ipod was plugged in we each have our turn in plugging our Ipod!
We reached the entrance of Agua Azull waterfall, at the start we had to pay en entrance “fee” to the rebels and further down the official entrance fee which was double than the rebels’ one. Carlos was starting to be argumentative. As mentioned before some villages and areas are own by the rebels and will display a red star at the entrance. The entrance was heaving, it was Easter Sunday and the locals were out and about. Carlos never saw it so crowded like that before. He promised us to take us for a swim at another place and gave us 30 minutes to see the waterfall. I guess that the Agua Azul was the local “Brighton” for Londoners as it is for habitants of Chiapias.
The waterfall of Agua Azul (Blue Water) is in fact a series of waterfalls with crystal blue water pools which are interconnected. It was really busy so we were quick to back to the van after taking a few photos. It is a shame it was so crowded if not it will have been very nice. A while later we stoppted at the less busy waterfall of Agua Clara (Clear Water) , the guy in the bathroom wanted to charge 3 Pesos to get changed! After a nice swim and throwing each other a fruit in the water we left. The swim here was hard as the current was strong as we were up the waterfall so you had to be careful not be carried away by the current. To avoid paying the 3 pesos again we got changed in the bushes behind the toilets building; it was funny! The swim was so refreshing, it was really good!
We continue our drive and stopped to pick up Mike from somewhere and continue our drive to Corozal. The Ipod was still playing and a chose the song “Over the Rainbow” as I like it and I saw a small rainbow in Agua Azul.
We arrived at Frontera de Corozal, our lodge was very nice, the best thing is that we can see Guatemala on the side of the Rio Usumacinta; the river marking the border!
I went for a swim in the river soon followed by Martin. We saw the sunset and started debating if it was worth to go back to get the camera. I could not be bothered to go all the way back. I will regret it later as the day after the sunset was not a great as tonight. But never mind, at least I enjoyed my time in the river, I nearly made it to Guatemala, by the current was too strong, I discovered that the small island in front of the Hotel belonged to Mexico and not to Guatemala… never mind!
In the evening the nurses and the Danes played drinking games with Mike, mine was bit quieter I played “Backpacker” with some other girls. I still managed to get a bit drunk anyway! I will be sharing my room with Cath.
It was weird as we will sleep under mosquito nets!
Day 20: Monday 13 April 2009
This morning we took a small water boat to the ruins of Yaxchilan. We boarded the boat and went along the Rio Usumacinta with Guatemala one one side and Mexico on the other.The boat ride lasted for 30 minutes and it was leasant, we even saw the remain of an old Mayan bridge, that use to link Yaxchilan to Tikal in Guatemala.
Yaxchilan means the the “place of green stones”. I can see why now as we are in the middle of the jungle! This Mayan city dates from 320 AD when Yat Balam (“Penis-Jaguar!”) was crowned. It becamed one of the most important city in the Mayan world. After 400 years on ongoing activity the sites counts today 120 constructions arranged in 3 large groups: Th Great Plaza located in the lower part beeing parallel to the river, The Grand Acropolis and The Small Acropolis folloing the contours of the limestones hills. The city was abandoned in the 9th century and the end of the last king Shield Jaguar III (Chel-Te).
Our local guide was a descendant from the Lacandon. The Lacandon where Mayans leaving in the Jungle of the Chiapias areas. At the entrance we soon noticed that the site was much quieter than Chichen Itza and Palenque as we were the only one there for the time being and one small boat. We are trully in the middle of the jungle! We first saw Building 19 otherwise known as the “Laberinto”. After entering with building and exiting we arrived in the main plaza. We saw a huge ceba tree, in the Mayan world it was a sacred tree. Along the main plaza there were alos other buildings. We saw the small ball court as well as a stone depicting a scene from a game. The buildings are full of carvings, it is almost like reading an open book! The Mayans in Yaxchilan were involved in a ritual of self sacrife in which they passed a string tied with agave spines through their tongue and/or penis. The blood that flood out was collected in a bowl.
We eventually climbed to Temble 33 (Central Acropolis) which was the most important. On the top of the steps we saw nicely preserved carvings, it was beautifull! It is a scene where Bird Jaguar is playing a ball game. The building itself was very impressive with its well preserved and intact roof-comb. Inside the Temple was a headless bust of Shielsd Jaguar II. It is revered by the Lacandon as an image of their creator-god Hachakyum, and there is legend saying that when its head returns to its body the worlsd will end. Its head a few metres away.
I was amazed by the splendor of Yaxchilan, after a small trek in the Jungle we reach other buildings. While we were there we form TREK as well as MEXICO with our bodies, the locals must have took us for crazy foreigners (which we were!). We did not see any jaguars while we where in Yaxchilan but it is not unsual to see some.
We rejoined our boat as I was talking to Carlos that is a shame our group could not go to Guatemala. To which he reply “may be one day…”
A few minutes later the boat stop on the Guatemalan side of the river and we were ordered of the boats, take a photo a few minutes later we were back in. I can not beleive I “entered” Guatemala illegaly! he he he he!
We were back on the boat and soon arrived just in time for lunch at the hotel. Yaxchilan is now my number one of the best things we visited so far, it was trully amazing!
Later we went for a swin at Las Goaondrina waterfall, it was very nice! We wanted to visit Bonampak, but for some reasons (I think there was a problem with the local shuttles) we could not get in. Instead we went to some friends of our guide who own a private part of river with a mini waterfall. So set out in the jungle with one of them arm with a machetis to cut through the ongoing growing vegetation. It was unreal, we had the waterfall to ourselves! It was really great! It was called Xucan Verde. On my way out I bought… yes you guess it!!! Another bracelet!!! If in 100 years some anthroplologists search my house they will wonder why I had so many! Well at leat they will have some taste from all around the world (Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Peruvian Amazon rainforrest, Peruvian Andes, Mexico…!)
The sunset was not as nice as yesterday I am now kicking myself mad!
In the evening the dinner was nice but they closed at 08.30 I went to round up a few people before they shut totally! The boys managed too buy some booze and gave a money to a special Booze Kitty. We had about 3 big bottles of Baccardi and some coke, Carlos added a bottle of Mezcal. After dinner we played some silly games, the “Circle of thruth” where a player has to pick up a card and according to the card has to perform a trick or do something silly such as wearing sunglasses until the opposite card arrive (ie you picked up the red 7 diamonds, you had to wait for some one to pick the black 7 of diamonds to cancell your trick).
Invented by Nicky we played also Eble Deble. ” I am Eble Deble numeber with no Eble Deble calling Eble Number 3 with one Eble Deble” if you got it wrong you will have a Eble Deble (a spot on yout face made with coffee and vaseline) and drink a sip of your drink.
We had another drinking game with the “Old MacDonald had a farm” and we had to replace the animal by saying a name of animal and stick to it but had “Bullshit” at the end…sad! If you got it wrong…DRINK!!!
Day 21: Tuesday 14 April 2009
This morning we left for the ruins of Bonampak near the site we had to take the site mini bus as they will not allow any other form of transport. A few locals join us as well, the more the merier! Our local Lacandon guide was still with us. The ruins are not impressive in itself but the most important things to see are the mural paintings.
The site reach its peak glory around 776 AD under the reing of Chan Muan II ( Sky-Harpy Eagle). The paintings dates from 790-792 AD.
The site was very small compating to Palenque, Chicen Itza and Yaxchilan. we started our visit my the main plaza. At the centre a huge stelae was dominating it. It is one of the most important and holiest in the Mayan world (20 feet heigh) It was made for Chan-Muaan II . It represent the ruler at the heigt of his reign dressed for batlle. The steale was broken into 8 pieces but details can still be seen. At the bottom you can see the maize god. It was still impressive it.
Our visit continued to stelae 2 where Chan-Muaan II was shown with 2 ladies on beleive to be his mother a blood ritual which consisted of piercing his penis. The other was women was his wife.
At one stage Calos who standing next to the stelae to explained us the story was told of by one of the guard, ooops! A bit embarrassing.
W saw another stelae before reaching the Acropolis were the paintings were. Only 3 persons were allowed in each room at any one time, so I waited patiently.
Room 1 shows life of the Mayan court before a battle. At the bottom I could see a procesion of musicians in a blue background and on the top were some noble people beeing seated. A infant was presented to them. (yellow background)
Room 2 depicts life during a battle. The wariors are wearing differrent costumes. The ruler can be senn holding a prisoner’s hair. It truly depicts the power over the enemies of the rulers of Bonampak.
Room 3 is about life after the battle, depicting the following celebrations.
We left Bonampak behind us and drove towards Palenque crossing a few more villages owned by the rebels. Mike was still with us but not for long as were dropping him off at the next stop which was the well awaited for Welib-Ja waterfall. The swim was as nice as the water fall! Martin and Mike were displaying their diving skills for the pleasure of everyone. Then Mike left us at the car park of the waterfall whilst we went to Palenque.
We arrived at 15.00 at the Maya Bell in Palenque I could not be bothered to see the museum and just wanted to relax by the pool.
After a while I invented a new game called Aqua-baseball. Simple: One person (A) goes to the diving board with a stick; another person (B) throw the ball at him/her then when A has to hot the ball within the pool and then dive and swim across the pool whilst a person C cath the ball and throw it back to B who has to hit the diving board before A cath the ball before C. At one stage the locals kids joined us including a “big” kid. Shame that communication was difficult!
It was a nice and easy afternoon sipping the beer by the pool.
I was sharing the bedroom with the two nurses and at one stage a dog went inside our bedroom it was hillarious. Nicky was not feeling too well. To be honnest a few of us felt a bit rough as well.
In the evening we still drank at the bar in a more sensitive manner than last time!!!
Day 22: Wednesday 15 April 2009
“Dónde está la tienda de cerveza?”
We left Palenque (Jurassic Park) very early at 06.30 in order to arrive early at the Bacalar lagoon. The drive was very nice as I was seating at the front.
At one check pont Carlos ask us to pretend to be asleep in order not to be stopped and it worked!! Well to be honest I got a lot more time here than during my trip in Tibet!
We arrived at Bacalar lagoon at 14.30 just for lunchtime, I had some Octopus, it was absolutely delicious! We had lunch next to another Cenote, the “crocodile Cenote”, I chose not to go for a swim!
Then serious things started as we had the hotel to ourselves we decided to have a party as we got out of the hotel we saw Mike who changed his mind and stayed 1 night with us. Some of the gils (Lindy and Susan) pitch a tent as Mike was there as well. I pitch my hammock on a small pier as well as Martin. Carlos set out to buy the supplies and as the locals where we could find a booze shop “Dónde está la tienda de cerveza?
Then we went swimming in the lagoon in front of the hotel, the blue colours were amazing. It was between bright turquoise and opal depending of the areas. The lagoon is also call the 7 colours lagoon.
The Belize border was only a few miles away, shame than we can’t go there!
In the evening we out in the city for a quick dinner.
Mike let us borrow one tent, I deceided to sleep in my hammock on the patio for the night.
The party started, what a party!!! At one time I left to watch the moon light over the lagoon it was beautifull!
Day 23: Thursday 16 April 2009
“From both ends!”
I woke up watching the sunrise over the Bacalar lagoon, it was really beautiful! I took the time to observe the local birds hunting for their breakfast. At every minute the colours were changing it was fascinating! The pinkish sky was reflecting on the turquoise water, it was fabulous!
I decided to get up and use the bathrooms in the boy’s room as it was the only one available, passing through the patio; I saw the remains of the party of yesterday. I was wondering if there only the 12 of us, because by looking at the empty bottles it looked more a party of 30 persons!
Later the other left for breakfast, I gave it a pass as I wanted to continue to observe the changing colours of the lagoon, and I felt a bit rougt as well.
At 09.30 we boarded our boat to have a tour of the lagoon. The others felt a bit rougt as well . Then we were allowed to jump into the water only once we were equipped with the life jackets. The boat left us and continued further down. It was fantastic; the stream will carry us for a long way, it was really nice to be carried by the stream, an effort less swim!
Unfortunately after a while it was time to jump back on the boat and leave the lagoon behind us. Carlos was starting to feel really bad. Yes, you are probably thinking that beer is partially to blame, but to be honest it started a bit since we left Palenque, and all of us were sober!
We started to our drive to Playa Del Carmen, we had a few toilets stops, and our poor Carlos was feeling really bad. He told us it was coming from both ends, we told him that did not mind if he park the van on car park and sleep for a bit but would rather drive and get over it.
We stopped in a small village for a pizza. A common decision was made not to stop at the ruins of Tulum as none of us were in the state to visit it anyway. So we drove pass it and stop a while later at a small beach name Xpu-ha. We will go to the ruins on Saturday instead. The beach was marvellous it is one of the 10 best beached in the world! It was very relaxing; we suggested it will nice to camp on the beach tomorrow as we saw Mike again on the beach!
Decision was made tonight in the hotel as we are a bit sick tomorrow on the beach!!! I could see that we reach the Riviera Maya; the roads were better; it is where all the money is, because the area is very touristy with the rich Americans coming here for a break.
In the evening we went for dinner in Playa del Carmen at a bagel place. In the evening we went to a night club, but I did not stay for long as I did not like the music.
Day 24: Friday 17 April 2009
” I am so excited!”
The hotel in Playa was nice, but tonight we won’t be there as we are going to sleep on the beach!!! Playa Del Carmen used to be a small fishing village now it is a devellopped town that is similar to a town in the states with a more laid back athmosphere. A pedestrian shopping street is called the 5th Avenue! (Playa 5 Avenida) In the morning we left the hotel for an expedition to Wall-Mart, it is almost like being in the states! The shop was huge! Carlos and Susan went shopping for food. Susan is experienced with camping trips and she took charge of the food for the barbecue of tonight. The rest of us shop for the booze and other “essential” items. Carlos told us he was very excited about tonight, so I am!
One the back Carlos slam on the breaks and said “”of look, they have a branch of the” alcoholic anonymous” in English, do you want me to drop you in??”" It was hilarious, come on I am sure we are not that bad!
Soon after apart from the Danes who stayed in Playa, we were on our way to Xpu-ha!!!!
On the beach we rented 2 cabanas: 1 for food one to sleep and put our hammocks in. While I was hanging my hammock a guy asked me for money. I tried to explained that it was paid for but we had communication problems so I went to get which I spotted on the beach and the problem was solved
It was very lucky that Mike was here with the emergency van and the brand new camping equipment, thanks to that we are able to stay on the beach! We spend the afternoon on the beach playing water games and beach volley, Susan being a star bought a beach volley ball in Playa. The volley ball game was a bit shitty I have to say!
Mike tried the Kite surf and s Kite surfing school was next to us. I would I love to try it but it was a bit too pricey for me!
In the evening, we started to prepare the food for the barbecue, Susan organised teams of people. I chopped some veggies. Martin and Mike were in charge of the cooking!
The barbecue was fantastic the guys from the kite surfing school joined us as we cooked for the 5000! We continued by grilling marshmallows it was so nice!!!! It was like being kids again.
After we continued with some usual drinking games such as the Danish “Schmeeeill”:
- “I present you a schmeeeill” (you have to hold an object such as a lighter)
- A what?
- A schmeeeill!
- Waow!!!! A schmeeeill and pass the object to the next person and so on. Who ever got it wrong has to drink up!
Then you have the Old McDonald farm:
It is the child song but say “shit” after each animal. (I was jaguar’s shit by the way!) Members call each other by their shit name, if you miss your turn, or dont’ respond to quickly you drink!
A few other games as well involving screams and funny noises! For some reasons the circle was getting bigger some people joined us.
I went for a quick walk on the beach in the dark, it was really weird!
Eventually I managed to jump into my hammock and went to sleep.
Day 25: Saturday 18 April 2009
“You will never eat in place like this again!”
The sound of the crashing waves woke me up at about 06.30, but I went back to sleep until 10.00! Martin was up already and already done his daily jog and Carlos was gone to Playa del Carmen to pick up the Danes. I went for a swim, the beach was deserted the others were still asleep. After again around we left Xpu-ha behind us and drove to the ruins of Tulum. At the entrance they had trains (tractors) to take the lazy tourist to from the car park to the entrance of the ruins. I rather walk! It was only about 700 metres anyway. Carlos left us at the entrance and gave us an hour and a half.
Tulum ruins are well known because it is located in a touristy area. Tulum is one of the Maya sites that were still inhabited when the Conquistadores arrived in 1518. But the city was never conquered; it was abondoned only 75 years after the invasion of the Spaniards. It is believed that the site was founded around 1200 AD, but really developed in around 1441 AD
Personally I found the ruins of Tulum boring especially after seeing sites such as Palenque or Yaxchillan. Tulum is only good if it is the first contact with the Mayan World. Tulum did not have the splendour of Yaxchilan! The place is also popular because next to the main building: the Castillo, visitors can access a beach. The place was heaving with tourists it was even worst than Chichen Itza. I also saw a huge Iguana, which I found more exciting than the ruins themselves. I am glad I did not pay the 149$ excursion advertised from Cancun!! If Tulum is only ruins than tourist will see; I guess it is okay, but it is more a tourist attraction in my eyes than a historical site. Tulum is very commercial and is for the masses. Also you cannot get closed to the ruins touch the stones…. I wish we would have gone to Coba instead…! Mexico has a lot more interesting ruins to visit than Tulum. I am glad I saw it but I will not go back there. Well Carlos did warn us! One sight which was worth to see was the Temple of Frescoes…but it is closed to tourists!
An hour later we were all out and waiting by the van. Carlos got us some sandwiches for Lunch. We started our drive towards Playa again.
Still on the highway 307, WW drove past Xel-Ha a famous “Eco-Park”, Carlos told us not to spend our money here as it is purely for tourists. It was also the same for Xcaret.
We continue to another beach called X-Cacel, it is also a turtle-breeding beach. Apparently they love the type of sand on that beach Mexican authorities blocked plans to develop huge hotel complex here, but the locals fear that eventually it might be turned into another eco-park such as Xcaret or Xel-ha. I went for a swim but it was a mistake the waves were huge, while getting out a big one swallowed me back to the see, I almost drown! The beach was really nice as well, here you are not allowed to camp.
Later I walk to the Cenote which was about 5 minutes, I was barefoot and had to walk through a mini jungle, but I was okay. The water was perfectly clear I glad that Carlos brought snorkelling equipment as I left mine in the van. It was amazing to see all the fishes; the bottom was at about 3-4 metres below!!! I managed to get sunburn on my back it will teach me to put sun cream properly!
Later we were back in Playa Del Carmen, I went shopping for a while, and it is better than still not really great I wonder what people love about that place. It is like being in America, everything is price in US$. I don’t feel in Mexico anymore!
Later we went to choose or equipment for our snorkelling tour tomorrow.
Then the long awaited time to go to the restaurant arrived, we all made an effort to dress up! We had 270 Pesos left each from the food kitty, it was good. When we entered the El Alux restaurant it was amazing it was like being in a cave! I was surrounded by stalactites and stalacmites! A waiter took us through a labyrinth and eventually reaches our table, we were in a corner, just us around! Carlos was right; we will never eat in a place like this again! It was truly unique! We all order cocktails as well as our meal. It was pricey, it is lucky that we had money left from the food kitty, it was well worth it! After ordering a waiter gave us a tour of the place, it was mind blowing!
This what the board in the restaurant says: “ The unique geologic conditions and atmospheric changes happened since the glacial age gave origin to the creation of an interconnected system of caverns, cenotes (deep underground water reservoirs) and subterranean rivers. These caverns were used by the ancient Mayas as a refuge from atmospheric phenomena and, above all, for their connection with the underworld. One of these mystical places is the ALUX, home of small magic beings called ‘Aluxes’, great guardians who form a part of this fantastic culture. After years of restoration and planning of low ecological impact, we present to the public these humanity’s heritage that waited thousands of years for your visit. In these surroundings of true subterranean palaces, decorated with real singular stalactites and stalagmites, you will be able to enjoy a natural spectacle accompanied of a selection of regional and international cuisine, in an environment of music and pre-Hispanic dance.”
It was our last official night together! Later some “Mayan warriors” dancers came and perform dances in front of us. The meal was really good, worth the price we paid. I chose the duck magrets with no regrets (250 Pesos!) I added 190 Pesos on the top of the money from the food kitty.
I had a fantastic evening! It was really amazing!
I am really glad that I styed on the Isla Mujeres rather than here or Cancun on my first three days. Playa is okay but nothing to write home about. It is bareable for a night or may be 2 but no more than that.
Day 26: Sunday 19 April 2009……Last day with the Trek…!
We left our bags at the reception of the hotel. We drove to our first snorkelling tour in the cave of “Dos Ojos” (the 2 eyes) located not far from Playa Del Carmen. Well it more like a lake connected with underwater tunnels. It is said that it is the most extensive in the world! We saw a funny little old guy as the entrance; as it was pretty far to walk from the highway, Carlos was kind enough to give him a lift.
When we arrived we put our snorkelling gear on and off we went to explore this caving system! I was even given a lamp torch to guide my fellow team members. The order of the day was to put our hand on our head before coming out of the water as it will avoid banging it on the sharp rocks!
The water was really clear, there were stalagmites and stalactites under the water it was truly amazing! I am glad that I am wearing the wet suit as the water is bit cold after a while, apparently the water is around 23C, but it feels colder to me! The depth is an average 8 metres below. It was so unreal! At one stage we had to squeeze between two rocks it was a very tiny passage. You definitely need a guide in here if you do not want to get lost! The water looked like a mirror…! The rock formations were unbelievable!
At one stage we reach the Bat Cave, and yes as the name suggests; there were bats inside! We saw a group of divers as well. We had a rest and a group photo. I am so glad I was given the opportunity to explore this underworld! Our planet is really beautiful! Shame that I don’t have any photos! It was so beautifull!
After coming out of the cave we had a quick lunch and then made our way to Akumal for a sea snorkelling tour. Akumal is at 100KM from Cancun. We were briefed not to touch the animals. The excitement really was when we saw some turtles, one of them went between my legs, and she came straight at me and went away. We saw a small stingray and lots of other fishes. It was nice and interesting!
Coming out patrons had to pay for the toilets, so I went in the bushes as I did not had cash on me… as we went swimming!
We left to go back to Playa del Carmen to pick up Kate and Sarah as did not come as well as our luggage. First we stopped at the diving shop to give our equipment back.
For the last time we loaded the van, in less than tour will be over! We listen to music as well as singing along on the way back.
At 18.45 Carlos pulled the van in the Westin, I could not find Gary as he was not in his room after reception called him, the only place he could be was the beach, and so we all came running screaming his name! Eventually he was found. We had one last group photo and off they went. I was the first one to leave, I going to miss this bunch of happy people. I felt really weird!
Carlos asked me what I liked best it is difficult to say, but I will say:
- 1) The ruins of Yaxchilan
- 2) Illegal entry to Guatemala
- 3) Palenque
However the Bacalar lagoon was absolutley wonderful as well as Dos Ojos Cave.
*****The gold medal for the funniest moment goes to the crazy horse ride in Zipolite! ******
I enjoyed my trip because I travelled with great people that also made that trip.
First: big thanks to our driver/tour leader of Trek America Juan Carlos. Secondly another big thank you to my fellow travelling companions: Martin who is still going around the world, Tobias and Jonas from Denmark, Lindy from Australia, the two nurses from Milton Keynes which I hope I never have to meet in their work environment Nicky and Siobhan. As well as Susan, Cat (now in Mexico), Sarah and Helen.
Gary and I had a room service in the evening as I felt naked from the trip and all the swimming. The can of Sol beer was 50 Pesos, it was a rip-off!
I was sad to have left the group but glad to found my over half!
Day 27: Monday 20 April 2009
“Meeting up with locals!”
I got up really late. With Gary we went for a walk around the hotel and the Nichupte Lagoon. We saw some tours with Jet Ski ‘s and speed boats. I wonder how these things are allowed it s really NOT eco-friendly. The wildlife of the lagoon must be almost detsroyed by all these motorised waters ports activities. We also spotted a shop where we can but cheap drinks and take it back to the room as we have a mini-bar. I have to say Cancun is boring and tours are overpriced. We stopped at the reception to buy a snorkelling tour for tomorrow. The Riviera Maya is well known for the beautiful marine life.
I spend the afternoon by the beach and the pool being bored; after a while I went back to the room to watch TV.
In the evening we went to small seafood restaurant called Captain’s Cove. I ordered a Lobster as a treat here’s goes 250 Pesos of mine but it was really tasty. The sunset was absolutely fantaastic! At one stage we had a surprised guest at our table, it was a local celebrity!
Yes, I first heard him coming in before seeing him, it was a huge 4 metres long Crocodile!!! It was massive; it was obviously not its first visit as the waiters fed him.
Thinking about it I wonder if some Dumb and Dumber tourists tried to swim in the lagoon???
Day 28: Tuesday 21 April 2009
Today the van of “Best Day” picked us up from the hotel’s lobby. Inside were two XXXX American’s tourists. More people joined along the way. We went near Akumal; this part was quieter than the part that we went with Juan Carlos. We had a briefing and took a boat further away than the beach. It was obvious, but we were told not touch the little that remains of the orals and the fishes. We put our life vests on. (It was actually much better with it!)
The first reef was amazing the marine eco-system is really surprising! It really fascinating, the turtles and other tropical fishes were at the rendez-vous! We re-boarded the boat to continue to another reef, this one was deeper and the scenery changed but it was still amazing! I am killing myself for having broken my underwater camera. (I let some water in it!). Anyway it would have been difficult to take the photos properly.
It was worth seeing but I realised the impact tourism has got on this fragile environment and think the local authorities should seriously consider limiting by numbers the access to the coral reef. Some people will respect to their best abilities this environment but some other inconsiderate people, with the attitude “I don’t really care I am only here for 1 week!” will inevitably cause further damage to the existing eco-system.
We later had lunch by the beach in a small restaurant and later went back to the hotel. I spend the remainder of the afternoon doing nothing. Now I can not wait to leave Cancun and go back home.
We went back to Captain’s Cove for the evening meal but no Mr Crocodile tonight!
Day 29: Wednesday 22 April 2009
We are packing and ready to go to the airport. There’s some king of a flue link with pigs going on.
We arrived at the airport and check-in okay, the flight back was uneventful. Home Sweet Home!
I later learn that this Flu in question will made a lot of headlines around the world for a while!
Well that’s it; I have completed my trip. I entered the world of the Mayas. Three weeks are very short to learn about this wonderful civilisation but it gave me a gasp of it! As I mentioned before Chichen Itza might be classified as one of the 7 Wonders of the World, but because it is the most well known and visited site in Mexico. If I have to classified what Mayan ruins I enjoyed visiting the best: 1) The ruins of Yaxchilan by far, 2) Palenque, and then 3) Chichen Itza.
The snorkelling in the cave was unforgettable as well as the sunrise over the Bacalar lagoon.
I will never forget the crazy horse ride in Zipolite!
Mexican food and drink were also worth the trip (especially Mezcal!)!
The tunes that we listen during our trip:
Afrodita: La cumbia del pasoncito
Jaguares: Te lo pido porfavor
Ida Maria: I like u so much better when you’re naked
Pericos: Buenos dias
Molotov: Gimme the power
My trip went really quick! I took memorable photos, but some things can not be taken with your camera. The fun! As written before; I enjoyed my trip because I travelled with great people that also made that trip. First: big thanks to our driver/tour leader of Trek America Juan Carlos. Secondly another big thank you to my fellow travelling companions: Martin who is still going around the world, Tobias and Jonas from Denmark, Lindy from Australia, the two nurses from Milton Keynes which I hope I never have to meet in their work environment Nicky and Siobhan. As well as Susan, Cat (now in Mexico), Sarah and Helen. Thrirdly another thanks you to Ernesto that made the visit to Palenque so interesting!