Joined February 2017 Message
  • Day21

    Tulum, Mexico

    February 5, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Tulum. A welcome escape from the metropolis that is Cancún and our last stop in Mexico.

    A local taco joint just down the road from us became a quick favourite and our dinner spot for three nights in a row. Don't fix what ain't broke and all that. This place was rammed every night and rightly so. Night one involved naive amounts of red chilli saucing, which quickly left us all with numb tongues, mouths and lips! Lesson learnt that this chilli sauce was not to be messed with and substantially less amounts were used on following nights.

    Like Valladolid, Tulum is well known for its cenotes so our newfound gang were keen to check these out. Armed with free bicycles from our hostel, we took on a good 20km ride on a mixture of cycle paths and genuine highways, out to Cenote Dos Ojos. Whether we were really allowed to be cycling on what was essentially a shoulder of a dual carriageway/main highway remains unknown but we made it there and back unharmed, the only casualty being Scott's chain coming off when he cycled too hard trying to race a truck. Boys!

    Cenote Dos Ojos was a bit more on the commercial side so we found ourselves being roped into doing a tour as we would only be able to visit a small portion of the cenote on our own. The others had intended to dive the cenote but it turned out to only be 8-9m at its deepest points so it wasn't really worth it. So snorkels and fins were donned, along with wetsuits for us girls. This cenote was completely different again to the others Mike and I had already visited. Instead of being wide and open and just one pool, it was almost completely covered, you could touch the ceiling with your hand (or smack it with your head as we all did a few times) and it was a borderline maze at times. It quickly became apparent why we needed a guide. We were each given a torch to use underwater as well because most of the cave was really dark. The tour itself was probably a bit more express than we would've liked, but the water was insanely clear and we all enjoyed snorkelling around and looking at the various different formations of the cave. One portion was rightly called bat cave, with many tiny little bats hanging in the ceiling crevices - all only about the size of the palm of your hand. Crazy!

    Not learning from our excessive sweating on the first day of exercise in 28 degree heat, the team ventured out for a 6km M.E.R.C to the beach. Mount Eden Running Club doesn't have a great history, dating back to our Auckland days. Usually a boys running club that frequently involves multiple members breaking down or bowing out mid-run for some reason or another, this run was no different. Clearly adding girls into the mix only added to these statistics. Cat tripped over and grazed her hand and leg, followed shortly after by me bowing out due to a combination of a lingering cold and my tight IT band playing up yet again. Before long the heat got to us all and we walked the last km to the beach together. A swim was much needed by the time us sweaty messes arrived, so we spent a good half an hour in the sea, body-surfing the waves and playing with a waboba ball. The water here is so warm but still refreshing at the same time, so nice!

    Post-swim the realisation set in that we needed a way home again, so Cat, Rich and I took a taxi via the supermarket to get lunch for the team while Mike and Scott braved the brutal heat of the day to run another 6km home again. Nutters.

    Rich is an avid NFL follower so when we saw a couple of bars were going to be playing the Super Bowl final, we decided we'd lock it in as a Sunday afternoon activity. A few beersies and a couple of drunk weirdos at neighbouring tables made for some interesting side entertainment whilst trying to grasp the rules of a game I haven't watched probably since visiting family in the US 11 years ago. Of course the others were supporting the underdogs, but considering my family live in New England I thought I'd better support the Patriots too. And what a comeback it was!

    Mexico has been an awesome country to explore. So much culture, great food, some wicked scenery and natural wonders to hang out in, not to mention the stunning white sand beaches. Definitely would recommend it for a visit. Next up, country number 40 for me! We're heading to Belize - Caye Caulker island to be exact. Can't have a break from island life for too long right?
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day18

    Cancún and pals!

    February 2, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Ahhh Cancún. Somewhere we were originally planning to skip as it's really just resort after resort along the beach with people on all-inclusive holidays and therefore more expensive and not an authentic experience of Mexico. We made the exception for one day however, as we had pals to meet! They've all come off a two month sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands and a week or so in Cuba but now have decided to delve into some of Central America with us and put our tans to shame. Scott and Rich were friends we made from our time in Auckland and Rich's girlfriend Cat has joined us too, so now we have a little gang of sorts to travel with for the next few weeks. A gang which I clearly missed the memo about needing to be at least 5"11...cue many photos highlighting my midgetness for the next few weeks.

    Mike and I arrived a little earlier than expected to Cancún after a somewhat express ferry-bus combo from Isla Holbox got us here before 10am. We were staying in the downtown area of Cancún in a rather shady hostel to avoid the extortionate prices of the hotel zone (it's actually called this) so jumped on one of the hail-from-anywhere-you-want buses to get us to the beach, as we knew the others wouldn't arrive until mid afternoon. We headed to Playa Delfines, which actually turned out to be a really nice stretch of beach with a break in the hotels behind and white sand that sticks to absolutely everything, especially with sunblock on! The water was super turquoise in the shallows but semi dangerous for swimming as there was lots of strong currents and rips so we passed the time reading and listening to podcasts instead.

    Back at the hostel we reunited with the pals late afternoon and had a couple of years of catching up to do over a few beersies on the rooftop. The lack of options and the quality of Cuban food had really broken these guys so they were excited to see what the Mexican food had to offer. Thankfully we stumbled across a open-air local food market not far from where we staying and tucked in to some super cheap and tasty Mexican food, so I think they were much happier after that!

    The following morning we trooped out to the beach again, this time to a slightly closer beach called Playa Marlin. It was quite similar to the beach from the previous day but with hotels behind. Again this beach wasn't great for swimming due to rips and currents but it was really hot by mid morning already and the water was warm so we couldn't resist. Other stretches of beach are better for swimming but they get crammed with people or taken over by water sports areas. Catch 22 really.

    Cancún was much bigger than I expected, it's a proper city with highways, malls, supermarkets and general Americanisation as well as all those multi-storey hotels. Safe to say we were happy to keep this stop short. For now the gang is continuing south!
    Read more

  • Day17

    Isla Holbox, Mexico

    February 1, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    After being landlocked for the first couple of weeks of our trip, what better way to get used to being by the sea again than to head to an island? So, we headed to Isla Holbox. White sand beaches and turquoise water. Not a bad place to introduce ourselves to the coast and seaside life of Mexico.

    Isla Holbox isn't overly developed and the town itself is pretty small; there are only a couple of roads, most people just getting around on foot, bicycle, motorbike or golf cart. There's only a handful of a cars on the island at this stage. The life here is pretty simple with the shop and restaurant owners seemly just opening and closing whenever they felt like it. Some days for a few hours, some days not at all. There didn't really seem to be any pattern to it!

    We spent much of our first day wading through a mix of knee to waist deep water along various sand bars for about an hour and a half to a beach where supposedly we should have found flamingos. Either we didn't walk far enough or the flamingos were hiding because unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen. We did however see some small stingrays (about the size of a small frisbee) and a few different fish along the way, so all was not lost. We returned to our hostel somewhat defeated and almost delirious with dehydration and borderline sunstroke after what ended up to be a 5 hour expedition in harsh sun.

    If that wasn't enough for our bods Mike and I set out to punish them some more. Mike headed out for a run and I found another yoga class to do on the rooftop of the hostel - this time run by another girl travelling from Switzerland, at sunset, overlooking the sea. Bliss.

    Mike did some restaurant research again and found very unassuming local place that dished out some amazing fish tacos. So good we had to repeat offend the following night. Lucky we turned up earlier though as the second night the restaurant closed at 7pm when the previous night it shut at 8:30. What restaurant serving dinner shuts so early?! Bizarre.

    Our hostel also happened to be running a quiz night so we thought we'd get amongst. It was run by a crazy Mexican girl who was mile a minute switching between English and Spanish and full of personality. We ended up being grouped with a couple of Aussie girls and a Turkish guy and surprisingly managed to not come last which was a bonus, although not first either! The quiz night escalated into a night out with one of the Aussie girls from our team and some English lads on one of the opposing teams. We hopped between a couple of bars and ending up at a beach bar/shack with a DJ using a full on huge Apple Mac computer on a random desk in the sand. Classic.

    We woke up feeling a bit worse for wear the following day but pushed through and walked past multiple building sites, some of which seemed abandoned, to a different beach with hardly anyone else around which was really nice. Isla Holbox is a bit of a weird spot. You can't tell if it's developing more or not really. Many of the building sites seem half done and then just left. But who knows!

    We had hoped to swim with whale sharks here but unfortunately found ourselves visiting out of season, so we're going to have to save that for another time!

    All in all, Isla Holbox gave us a mixture of relaxation, party time and some much needed beach time, but also I think it's the beginning of a completely different side of Mexico. A much more commercial and touristy side, but we shall see.

    For now we're heading back to the mainland, Cancún is our next stop and some well-overdue reunions await!
    Read more

  • Day13

    Vallodolid and the Cenotes

    January 28, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Cenotes! What a cool phenomenon.

    For those not familiar with cenotes, they're essentially underground caves/sinkholes that have been formed by the collapse of limestone exposing the groundwater below. Our stopover in Vallodolid was literally planned just to see these as there are many surrounding the town. Upon our arrival we noticed there was one actually in the centre of town just 500m from where we were staying so we chucked the togs on and meandered down the road. What literally just looks like a small mound of dirt to the average passerby then turned into a staircase down into a little slice of paradise that is Cenote Zaci. This one was half open air and half covered, with a good 20m between the roof and the pool below. Really hard to capture in a photo but great for a wee dip!

    The following day we hired a couple of rickety bikes from our hostel and biked about 5 or 6km out of town to some other cenotes. Unfortunately these ones were somewhat more commercialised with a full complex of restaurants and stalls selling the usual tourist crap so we paid a bit more to get into them. Thankfully the actual cenotes themselves were still really worth visiting. They were a lot more underground and undercover than Cenote Zaci and the humidity levels were at an all time high, the only light let in by a small hole in the roof and the assistance of some artificial lighting. All these cenotes have pretty clear water as you can see an abundance of black fish similar to catfish swimming around and other smaller fish nibbling at your feet, which feels horrific by the way. I can't believe people actually pay to have fish do that with their feet in a tank. Yuck!

    Our hostel in Vallodolid had an awesome outdoor area and communal kitchen so we cooked up a couple of cheap meals with the help of a big supermarket nearby. The hostel happened to be situated on a sort of courtyard/square with a local church which was the host of many festivities over the weekend we were there. This was part of the annual 12 day Candelaria Fiesta where they celebrate the Virgin de la Candelaria (the virgin of the candle). At all hours of the day there were church services, singing and dancing. The locals were all dressed up in their traditional clothing as well, white dresses with colourful embroidered flowers and flowers in their hair for the ladies and white shirts, trousers and cowboy hats for the men. We definitely had a good people-watching spot for a couple of days but not a lot of sleep, the Mexicans really know how to do a fiesta! (Unfortunately these are also some of the photos lost due to SD card issues)

    Next up, it's time for some vitamin sea. Isla Holbox, we are coming for you!
    Read more

  • Day11

    Mérida, Mexico

    January 26, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Getting closer to the coast! We've hit the Yucatan penisula. Mérida was again a bit of a stopover just for a day and two nights as opposed to us particularly wanting to see/do something there but we found ourselves in a hostel with an amazing pool here which was much required! And another interesting little town.

    We did a free walking tour in morning, which actually just ended up being a walk around the main square or Zocalo as each historic town has, and visiting the buildings on each side. The guide was talking mile-a-minute and going back and forth between Spanish and English so much that sometimes you couldn't keep up with which language he was actually speaking! I found myself somewhat exhausted after and hour and half of this - trying to decipher what I could in Spanish and then listening properly in English! Too much for the old brain.

    That evening also happened to be a Friday which worked out well because every Friday they play the ancient Mayan game Pok-ta-Pok in the main square that you can go and watch for free. This was the game I wrote about in an earlier post where we saw the court used for this at the ruins in Oaxaca and Palenque, so we were very intrigued to see it played in real life.

    The game is set up with a free standing hoop in the middle of the court, similar to the hoops in quiddich from Harry Potter. There were teams of about 4 or 5 and a ball a bit bigger than a baseball but made of unknown material. It roughly starts with someone from either team throwing or rolling the ball to the other side of the court and then after that it can only be touched with their hips or knees. So proceeds a somewhat ridiculous display of men sliding all over the concrete to hit the ball with their hips while it's on the ground until eventually someone makes it get some air so they can stand and thrust at it instead! How they didn't all have grazed knees and thighs I don't know!Once the ball gets higher off the ground they are then trying to get it through the hoop. It seems each team member can touch the ball once on their side of the court until it gets to the other so it's similar a bit to volleyball in some ways. Neither team managed to get it through the hoop in this round. So the following round, things got more heated. Literally.

    The ball was lit on fire and so began a game reminiscent of hot potato. Same rules as before but played with hands instead of hips and knees. A lot more goals were scored in this high paced version! All in all, a fun game to watch but no desire to join in and have burnt hands at this stage...
    Read more

  • Day9

    Palenque and the first bout of sickness

    January 24, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Continuing our adventures in the Chiapas region, we headed further east to Palenque via tikitour on another 8 hour bus ride. I say tikitour because the direct route would take just 4.5 hours, however there has been protesting and highway blockages on this route from San Cristobal on and off for the last couple of years. One guide told us this can be by people from the smaller villages on these roads who are protesting as people don't stop here and spend any money or stay there, instead heading for the bigger towns which leaves them with no income from tourists. Long story short, the bus takes a longer route to avoid this.

    We stayed in a wee hut about 10km outside the actual Palenque city in an area called El Panchan which is sort of in the jungle which was quite fun. We could hear lots of different animals each night when we were sleeping although sometimes we weren't overly sure what they were. Other guests said they were jaguars but weren't sure how true that really was. Definitely ones that we did see were black howler monkeys so I'm sure they were making at least some of the noise! It has been our first stop out of the mountains as well which thankfully brings with it some warmer temperatures.

    The first day here we visited an awesome set of waterfalls for the afternoon called Roberto Barrio. There was literally no one else there apart from our tour group of about 15 (again, when I say tour I mean the type where they just drive you there and back) which was insane because it was such an amazing spot. There was about three or four different levels of main waterfalls with huge pools at the bottom and then the main one we swam at you could climb all over and sit in little pools amongst it, awesome. Definitely recommend.

    Then unfortunately in the middle of the night I managed to get sick with food poisoning or something of the like somehow so we spent the majority of the next day doing not an awful lot! Not overly sure what from considering Mike and I have been eating and sharing basically all the same foods but we will never know. Thankfully the worst of it was over within 24 hours and then it was just trying to face food again without the classic stomach churn and get the energy levels up again after the best part of two or three days without much substance. Because of where we were staying in almost the middle of nowhere, there was only really one restaurant called Don Muchos where we could eat at for breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days so it was lucky they had a large menu because we had well and truly exhausted the options after that many meals! They had live music each night though from a local band which kept things interesting.

    We had intended to visit another two different waterfalls but given my sickness taking out a day of activities and the fact that we needed to keep moving we had to choose between these and seeing the ruins, which most people come to Palenque for. We had heard that these other waterfalls weren't as good as Roberto Barrio and far more touristy so we decided it was best to see the ruins instead.

    So on our last day I managed to just muster enough energy to go and see said ruins. The ruins here date back to 226BC to 799AD but only about 5% of them are open to the public so it must be an absolutely massive area. Nowadays all these ruins are situated in a massive jungle which made for some good exploring for us and a welcome relief from the sunshine. So crazy to try and imagine these pyramids and palaces being bright colours like blue and red in their heyday when today they just look like regular stone. Unfortunately I have since managed to somehow wipe our SD card before I managed to back it up so we don't actually have any photos from the outing to share. Technology. :(
    Read more

  • Day5

    San Juan Chamula, Mexico

    January 20, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    One last trip we did from San Cristobal was to visit San Juan Chamula which is an indigenous community who live in a village about 10km out. It was super interesting and the first time we had an English speaking guide, so this day trip deserved its own post.

    San Chamula has an autonomous status in Mexico so no police or military within the village. This doesn't mean to say they don't have any sense of order though. They have three different types of leaders; religious, traditional and civic.

    There are 112 religious leaders, two living together over 46 different houses. Taking up this role for a year each sounds like a pretty expensive role but also a rite of passage. Prayers are done four times a day, but if the leaders are out of the house then this can be undertaken by their wives. Prayers are not set, instead they pray whatever comes from the heart, using candles and incense - ultimately leaving the room thick with smoke.

    Local traditional dress involves black wool skirts weaved from sheeps wool for the women and almost poncho/dress like versions of similarly weaved wool for the men, except white. Belonging to this village seems somewhat elite. Basically the only newcomers can be if a man from the village finds a woman from another. If the situation is the other way around then the woman must leave the village. Members of the village are also banished/evicted with any change of religion or beliefs. Pretty cut-throat and prestigious in some ways.

    Visiting the church of San Chamula was very different to any other church we've ever been to. There were no pews and no altar as such or any cross or anything, just many saints who they pray to for different reasons. They also have pine needles all over the floor, replaced every Saturday - symbolising close proximity to Mother Nature as their Mayan cross is the tree of life.

    We witnessed some of their healing ceremonies within the church, performed by a healer with the person needing to be healed and their family. Healers are born with their powers but are trained by other healers on how to use them. Often the healers can be people born with deformities, for example cleft palette. The healing ceremony itself involved a series of candles being lit on the floor, different colours depending on what is being prayed for/needing to be healed (white for health, orange for money etc). It also involved four other elements, a chicken, an egg, Coca Cola and their local homemade spirit which is called posh (which tastes terrible by the way - similar to rice wine). The chicken is waved over the person to take all the bad energy and then is killed (neck broken) in the church and then either eaten with the family after to share the problem or buried. The egg is waved over the person and symbolises new life and new beginnings. They then drink the coke (this replaces a similar coloured drink that they used to make but because it takes so long they now just use coke) and supposedly when they burp afterwards it is supposed to be releasing the problem. Lastly, they drink the posh to burn the last of the problem out. Interesting concept to say the least!

    At the time of our visit, the village was celebrating Saint Sebastian. They were parading around the main square with some men on horses and others walking, all in their traditional dress. Every time the procession passed in front of the church, some men would let off handheld fireworks. These fireworks are different to what we're used to, they aren't coloured so all their focus goes into making them as loud as possible. It doesn't surprise me that some of these men are hard of hearing given they are literally holding them at arms length when they go off. Absolutely nuts.

    We couldn't really take any photos in the village as the locals don't permit you to do so - but rightly so as it must be strange having people take photos of you all the time as you try and go about your daily life! So the photos on this post are from another small village we also visited this day, called Zinacantàn. They follow similar values but their local dress is completely different. See the flowery purple clothes below. They too were celebrating Saint Sebastian for nine days but had huge crowds and a big party this day. There was also some strange ritual at one stage which involved three or four men dressed as leopards climbing up a tree/pole and others then throwing stuffed squirrels at them... bizarre as heck and I can't remember the significance of this but it went over my head a bit even when explained at the time.

    Zinacantàn is well known for its beautiful flowers, with tons of huge green houses on the outskirts of the town and this is the inspiration for the embroidered flowers on their traditional clothing. After witnessing the bizarre squirrel throwing, our guide took us to the house of a local lady who was making a traditional wedding dress as seen in the photos linked. They also showed us some of their local clothing but no one volunteered to try on one of the wedding dresses but somehow Mike and I ended up modelling a couple of capes!

    Afterwards they treated us to some tortillas and black beans with salsa. All homemade from homegrown organic ingredients. So simple but so tasty! The tortillas were literally made from mushed up corn and water and then flattened from a ball into the classic circle shape and then cooked on a pan covered in chalk over a log fire. It's so interesting to see how resourceful people can be with just the basics.

    Overall we both thoroughly enjoyed the insight into these two villages and the strong sense of culture they beheld. Definitely opens your eyes to how differently people can live! Time to venture further east, back to sea level and warmer temperatures - bring on Palenque.
    Read more

  • Day4

    San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

    January 19, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We arrived via overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, another beautiful town in the mountains and the beginning of our experience with the picturesque Chiapas region. The buses here so far have been a pleasant surprise, I think we had prepared ourselves for the worst considering some of the experiences we had in Southeast Asia a couple of years back. All have been on time too which makes a nice change. But this particular bus ride had extremely windy roads through the mountains and it felt like the driver had a very heavy foot for said roads so Mike and I found ourselves feeling pretty ill and unable to sleep because of that really, but we made it in one piece in the end. Just.

    San Cristobal was the coldest of all the cities so far, only about 7-8 degrees and very foggy/low cloud on the morning we got there, again in part due to the altitude I suppose. Thankfully it heats up during the day as we didn't really pack for cold weather...

    We really enjoyed our time San Cristobal because aside from the beautiful historic town, there was lots to see and do from there. While we usually aren't big on doing tours; generally preferring to do things independently, we decided to do a few through our hostel as they were really cheap/mostly just involved transport anyway to then give you your own free time. Doing the transport on our own would have resulted in multiple changes of buses and longer routes so in the end it was a bit of a no brainer to just go with the tour options.

    First we went on a trip to Sumidero Canyon which involved a boat trip down this massive canyon, its highest point at 1km. It was 13km long as well so the boat trip took about an hour each way on a pretty speedy boat. We managed to spot lots of different wildlife here, including a small crocodile, storks, pelicans and vultures. Unfortunately for us and our limited amount of Spanish, the boat operator only spoke Spanish so we were unable to take in a large portion of the information that he was giving us about the canyon. However, further research has found that it was formed around the same time as the Grand Canyon, some 35million years ago! Nuts.

    That day we also visited a small town called Chiapas de Corzo, where they happened to be celebrating Fiesta Grande de Enero (the great January feast). As part of this they dress up for the dance of of the Parachicos. We didn't see this dance but we saw some of the people dressed up and walking the streets with music etc.

    San Cristobal itself was an interesting town, although we mostly only experienced the historic part of it. When we drove out of the town on some our excursions, we realised how big the city actually was and some of the more mainstream/American businesses that it had, for example Dominos pizza, big supermarkets, car yards and the like. The historic part where we stayed was for the most part really nice, with small one way streets which often backed up with traffic and with similar colonial architecture to Oaxaca and parts of Europe. One thing I have really enjoyed is the colourfulness of some of the buildings. I feel like finding an average street at home in NZ would never be particularly appealing to take a photo of but so often in Europe, and now here; I keep finding myself just constantly taking photos different streets. The amount of westerners that seemed to be living here or just in San Cristobal more long term as opposed to just passing through was somewhat surprising, most of them seemed to be well amongst the hippy vibe.

    Temporarily joining in on this hippy, holistic vibe, I managed to do a couple of yoga classes here which we stumbled across on one of the roads near where we were staying. Most of the class was in Spanish but it was almost surprising how easy it was to grasp what the instructor was saying in the limited amount of Spanish I knew, combined with watching the movements at the same time. All in all, it was a really nice experience to not only support a local business, but to get some exercise and some Spanish practice out of it as well.

    One evening post yoga we decided we needed a break from the Mexican food as surprisingly we hadn't particularly found any great local spots for it here. San Cristobal has lots of restaurants with different cuisines, perhaps due to the fact that many westerners seem to have settled here. So we tried a Thai restaurant that Mike found on tripadvisor with good ratings. Not long after sitting down and ordering we realised the restaurant was supposed to be closing at 8:30pm and we had only turned up just after 8. Feeling bad that we were keeping them late we chowed down our food when it came and must have looked like we hadn't eaten in weeks! It was some of the best Thai food we've had and afterwards the owner came and checked that everything was ok. It turned out she was originally from Bangkok but who had lived in New Zealand for 13 years and now has been in Mexico for 7. She was super nice and told us about how even though she'd done a masters degree in NZ, she still struggled to ever get a decent job there. This is all too common unfortunately and this was ultimately what drove her to move away. To be fair, she's doing a great job with her restaurant and has already had to upsize, so this new venture is clearly working and at least she gets to share her roots with San Cristobal.

    Continuing on the tour front, we also did one super long day trip where we visited El Chiflon waterfall and Lago de Montebello which is a series of lakes on the Guatemalan border. We had only really wanted to go to the waterfall but all the tours involved both sights and it was too much admin to do on our own so we just had to suck it up! At El Chiflon Mike managed to talk me into going zip lining again over the waterfalls. We did two different ziplines, both a few hundred metres long. The first of which I couldn't manage to brake hard enough at the end so went flying into the finish and ended up horizontal for a moment. Mike has it on video and it would definitely make for a good gag reel!! Thankfully the workers managed to catch me or I would have gone backwards and ended up hanging in the middle somewhere probably! Then we headed to the lakes, which were pretty but we didn't have much time to stop there to actually do much more than take a few photos so not sure all those hours of driving were particularly worth it but you can't have it all! The drive itself was super frustrating as we'd be driving in an 80-100km zone and then suddenly there'd be speed bumps in the middle of no where every few kilometres, really bizarre. But all in all it was a fun day, just very long and tiring!
    Read more

  • Day1

    Oaxaca, Mexico

    January 16, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Next up we headed to Oaxaca City (pronounced Wa-haka), about 7-8 hours by bus, south of Mexico City. Mainly we were using this as a stopover to break up the otherwise even longer trip south so we only really had one night and one full day here before catching an overnight bus. Oaxaca City was quite cute though and was the beginning of us seeing more colonial architecture, very colourful too. It was nice to be in a smaller town again too after the enormity of Mexico City.

    Again we arrived in the dark, about 8:30-9pm so it was hard to orientate ourselves with the place first off. We were starving as well but thankfully there was a little taco place still open just around the corner from our hostel. We had such good food here we went back the next night pre-overnight bus. It was our first taste of tacos al pastor, which is basically spit-roasted pork meat like kebabs. Apparently this name actually comes from the Lebanese merchants who immigrated to Mexico City in the 1900s and brought this concept with them, because "pastor" means shepherd. So now it is intertwined with the Mexican culture too and it's a great mix to say the least, as the pork is usually cooked with chilli and other miscellaneous herbs and spices. NOM.

    With the day we had in Oaxaca City we explored the small historic town and also caught a bus up to the top of one of the mountains on the outskirts of the town called Monte Alban. Like Mexico City, Oaxaca is at altitude (1555m) but situated on a plateau with higher peaks surrounding it. So aside from awesome views of Oaxaca and the valley below, Monte Alban also had ruins from an ancient town, dating back to 300-900 AD.

    There were big pyramids, the Gran Plaza, tombs and a ball court where they used to play an ancient game called Pok ta Pok. This game between two teams involved trying to get the ball through a hoop in the middle of the court, but only being able to touch the ball with their hips or knees. Slightly hard to comprehend how this would work!

    Edit: We were fortunate enough to see this game being played in real life in Mérida - see that post for further info!

    To be fair Mike and I aren't massive on ancient ruins or buildings/history in terms of buildings but they were interesting to see and difficult to comprehend how they were even built at that time with who knows what kind of tools.

    Time to brave the first of (hopefully not too many) overnight buses. Wish us luck!
    Read more

  • Day0

    The adventure begins in Mexico City

    January 15, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    Hola from Mexico! Hope you're ready for an essay and a half.

    We began this three month trip by arriving in Mexico City after the longest 12th January ever - approximately 43 hours for us or something ridiculous. Literally arrived about 4 hours after we left NZ but with some 20something hours of travel and horrendous immigration lines at LAX in between! The wonders of time travel. It was almost midnight though by the time we got to our hostel and obviously pitch black so we didn't really know where we were arriving to but the city looked massive from above. I guess if 22 million people live here then it has to be.

    We spent our first three nights in Mexico City, starting to familiarise ourselves with the language, culture and food. While we tried to learn some basic Spanish before we arrived, it has quickly become apparent that we are going to need to learn a lot more! Basically apart from the hostel receptionists, no one speaks English. In some ways I suppose we had expected particularly in the city that they might speak a little bit of English as they do in so many European cities and quite a lot of Southeast Asia too, but at the same time it is nice to have to make more of an effort to get by and it gives us something to do in our downtime! However I think also the more we get to the coast, the more English speaking there will be, but we will try our best to keep speaking Spanish instead.

    Another aspect we've had to adjust to was the altitude. Mexico City itself sits at 2,250m above sea level. For the most part it was fine until you climbed a few stairs and felt out of breath abnormally quickly. We've been finding ourselves more tired than usual as well but nothing a little "feet up" as Mike would call it, can't fix.

    The first day in Mexico City we quickly learnt that the locals tend to dress quite conservatively, as I first went out wearing a long sleeved dress that came to above the knee as it was quite warm (mid 20s) but with the looks I was getting, I may as well have been wearing a bikini! Even Mike wearing shorts seemed not so much the norm. So we didn't last long before I felt truly uncomfortable and we went back to get changed into some trousers. It's so interesting how differently you can be perceived by what you wear. No second looks after that and lesson learnt.

    One problem we found with the Spanish that we've learnt is that it's obviously it is mainland Spanish and although it's mostly the same, Latin American Spanish does have some differences or rather Mexican foods obviously aren't covered so we found ourselves not really having any idea what things were on the menu or even which meats were involved! This is because even though for example, cerdo is pork they will call it different things on a menu depending on how it is cooked. But anyway that first evening we went deep on trying some tacos from a street food stall and went for a mix of the meat options not knowing what any of them were. Some ended up to be a mix of what's seemed to be chorizo and pork and then we later found out with the assistance of google, that one may have been goat... interesting. At least we didn't end up with the liver that is offered at some of the other taco joints!

    That same night we went to see one of the Lucha Libre fight nights which is similar to WWF wrestling, quite staged but pretty funny as well. We went with a group from the hostel which was a laugh. The amount of snacks and drinks being sold in the aisles throughout all the different matches as well was insane, chips, popcorn and god knows what else but there was something different every minute I swear. As soon as you finished your beer they'd be ready to serve you another as well, truly hustling all night long. One experience of this was enough for us but it seems that some of the locals are avid followers and clearly each have their favourite fighters to support!

    The following day we headed south of the city via the extremely cheap metro to Xochimilco. I'm talking like 5pesos (33cents NZ or 19p) a trip each, which takes you as far as you want. I'm not saying NZ public transport needs to be that level of cheap but maybe people would actually use it if it was more affordable like that! Anyway, at Xochimilco they have canals that you can hire a boat for an hour or two and take food and drinks or buy them along the way from other boats. It was fun to see/do and clearly an activity that families do perhaps for special occasions or with friends. There are mariachi bands as well that will come onto your boat and play a few songs as well if you wish. Quite a fun idea really.

    The following day we also briefly went to see Frida Kahlo's bright blue house - funny as I studied her and her art when I was at school. Unfortunately we didn't have time to go in to the house/museum that it is now, as the lines outside were silly and we had a bus to catch!
    Read more

Join us:

FindPenguins for iOSFindPenguins for Android