Michel Swieca

Joined March 2018
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  • Day18

    Valladolid

    May 18 in Canada

    After two wondrous days in Palenque it was time to hit the road for the last part of our journey, the Yucatán. I had chosen Valladolid and Holbox for our final two destinations.

    Valladolid is the smaller, lesser known of the main Yucatán cities, Mérida being the larger, more well known and more beautiful. But Valladolid has cenotes my friend, and for those who have never had the experience of seeing and swimming in a cenote, it is truly a breath taking experience. They are underground caves with water, some have a large opening which are very visible from above, whereas others have small hidden entrances that you enter only to have this incredible world open up once you descend a few (or many) steps into the earth. The Yucatán is full of these as there are no rivers, all the water is below ground in cenotes, and underground tunnels and rivers linking them.

    And the coolest thing is some of the best cenotes in are a mere bike ride away from Valladolid so we rented bikes from the lovely hostel we were staying at and spent the day biking and swimming in these incredible natural pools... it was a great day.

    But the trip to Valladolid was not without its challenges. It was another overnight bus to get to Valladolid from Palenque with a change of bus in Mérida. The Palenque to Mérida stretch was the overnight part and I had placed my daypack in the overhead shelf when I got in the bus with the intention of taking it down after I got settled in but I was so tired I fell asleep before talking the daypack down. Those of you who have taken overnight buses in Mexico or anywhere else for that matter probably probably have an inkling of what's coming next and you're shaking your head thinking, oh oh rookie mistake.

    Yep, rookie mistake indeed and one for which I paid. When we arrived at the Valladolid hostel and were asked how we wanted to pay, I said credit card as is my habit (gotta get those points!). I went into my daypack for my nifty little plastic credit card holder and dug around. A slight sense of dread spread through me...i couldn't find it. And then it hit me, my rookie mistake was about to complicate my life and cost me some serious time.

    Gi and I had witnessed a commotion on the bus in the middle of the night which we were trying to figure out what it was about. We had both been Gi and I had been woken up by one man, a young, Mexican man seeming to be arguing or yelling at another and even pushed him at some point back into his seat. That other guy, defensive, saying something like, "I was just going to the washroom". We thought it strange and were wondering what all that was about. Now, as the realization that my wallet had been stolen, it all made sense. That guy was a thief who travels on night buses and waits for the passengers to fall asleep and then looks for bags he can steal from. I was angry at him of course but more ashamed and upset at myself for leaving my bag there - a goddamn rookie mistake. Now as some of you know, I can be pretty hard and unforgiving to myself for stupid mistakes but age, meditation and just working on trying to be a better version of me helped me get over the ordeal relatively quickly. Gi and I did end up having a mini quarrel later that day but hey, we are both on a journey and still have a bit of work to do.

    Oh yeah, we also went to jail but fear not, we were not incarcerated. Very close to Valladolid, there's a prison in a village called Ebtun. The prisoners make beautiful, high quality hammocks and we biked over to buy a hammock.

    See you in Holbox!
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  • Day18

    San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque, Aqua Azul were all part of our mini journey through Chiapas.

    We took an overnight bus from Oaxaca to San Cristóbal de las Casas where we spent the day wandering the cobblestone streets. We experienced the more bohemian, hippy side all the way to full on local market complete with vendors selling chickens where we were the only non-Mexicans.

    The high-altitude colonial city in the heart of indigenous Chiapas is an interesting mix of modern and Maya, with cosmopolitan cafes and traditional culture. For those not familiar with the struggles of the indigenous and their David vs. Goliath battles with the Mexican army, read up on the Zapatistas and their leader, Marcos. They managed to fight off the army and retain much of their independence. Zapatistas are much revered in the state of Chiapas.

    Unfortunately we had but a day for San Cristobal De Las and it was time to get to the nearest airport, Tuxtla Gutierrez - normally about an hour and 15 minutes away - for our flight to Palenque. We had left our backpacks at the bus station when we arrived from our overnight bus trip from Oaxaca, easier and lighter to walk around the city. We walked back to the station to pick them up and then started looking for a taxi because there was no bus at that time that went to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport. They first driver wanted too much (we had asked around to know the normal price), the second didn't want to do the long drive but on the third did try we hit paydirt.... or so we thought.

    He first stopped to pick up his wife and drop her off somewhere, it was quick so not a huge deal and it's not that uncommon in Mexico so we rolled with it. Then he said he had some sort of meeting to go to but it would be quick. At that point we said if he couldn't take us right now, that's fine but we'll get out and take another taxi because we had a flight to catch and there was no time. He said ok fine we'll go now. He then proceeded to drive like a fucking maniac, passing every thing in site and hitting 130 sometimes on the curvy one lane highway. We got to the airport in under an hour. I think he was getting his revenge. Gi was terrified and even I, who doesn't mind a little speed, was slightly unnerved.

    It was a quick 25 minute flight on a Braer ERJ145 jet into the jungle of Palenque. Gi had booked a small hotel in the jungly, hotel zone area of the city of Palenque but since they were doing some construction on the hotel when we got there they put us up at their swanky sister hotel across the street. It was kind of resort-like but had a pool so that was cool.

    This was our home base for a couple of days as we visited the amazing waterfalls and natural pools of Agua Azul on the first day and the magical ruins of Palenque the next. Enjoy the pics!
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  • Day11

    Oaxaca and around

    May 11 in Mexico

    Write, rewrite, delete, write again. Time is short my friends. Mexico rocks, love it. Oaxaca rocked too. Nice to be back for me and Gi, get first time here, loved it too. Well known for its textiles, pottery, natural beauty, beaches, colonial cities and towns, and more recently Mezcal, Oaxaca could easily be a vacation on its own.

    As part of my 15 day Mexico primer for Gi, I managed to include all of the above into our trip save the beach because we would be at a beautiful beach in the Yucatan later on.

    The city of Oaxaca was quite lovely and to experience the rest of what we came to Oaxaca for, and being tight on time, we splurged on a driver to get us to the amazing Hierve el Agua (the water is boiling), a mom and pop textile workshop in Teotitlán, Mezcal distillery, cute little colonial town of Mitla, and finally the world's biggest and oldest tree, El Árbol del Tule in Santa María del Tule.

    Enjoy the pics!
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  • Day9

    I'm pretty sure I've written about this before but damn the disorganization of Mexico can be trying. The Mexico City airport is the scene of the latest chapter. We arrived nice and early for our domestic flight to Oaxaca because, well you just never know at an airport, and especially in an airport in a large Latin American city. We had no bags to check, had our boarding passes on the appropriate app on my phone, nothing in our carry-on bags that might cause problems... so it should be a breeze, right? Well it was... almost. The electronic boarding passes worked - the first time (more on that later), bag check was fine, off we sauntered to gate #1, our gate. We're walking along the corridor and see a sign for gates 1 to something, don't remember exactly what, so follow that sign down the stairs. When we get to the bottom we realize that strangely we're in a baggage pickup for arrivals area. Ok no problem, we'll just turn around and get back on track. Not so fast says the security guard who is stationed right there seemingly just for this situation. He advises us that we have to exit the arrivals area and circle back to the departures area, check in again and go through security. Naturally I took this news with the usual equanimity I always greet totally fucked up shit like this.

    But this second time we're at a different check in area and, as is often the case with airline and security staff, the ridiculous inconsistencies are shown. The lady at the check in is confounded by our electronic check in app and has to call in her colleague who assures her it's valid. Then the security makes me take out my wee travel speaker and Gi her camera, none of which happened the first time. We make it with plenty of time to spare. And of course the flight is delayed. Ahhh the joys of traveling.
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  • Day7

    I can't believe I used to spend so much time writing posts and uploading pictures when travelling. Of course it's different when you're backpacking for a year and have the luxury of time. And posting on a phone is more time consuming and less... fun than typing the words on a keyboard. Not sure if that makes sense but I feel it.

    And apart from the two above reasons, I don't feel like doing it as much so here we are, seven days into our mini Mexican trip of 15 days and I've just posted and uploaded my first pictures from the trip.

    More soon (or not 😉)
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  • Day1

    Day 1

    May 1 in Mexico

    ¡Qué onda güey! Ya estamos en México güey! Well we are and have been for a week now. But I've been a bad blogger (another lucrative career down the internet crapper) so I'll just zip back a bit in time if you'll permit me.

    It was three years since my last visit here but that was a very different trip and every place I'm visiting this time is different from that amazing motorcycle trip three years ago. However, apart from Holbox, I have at one time or another been to all places we're going to on this trip. Why go again? Because they're awesome, Gi has never been and my memory being what it is (shit) it'll all seem new to me anyway.

    Aeromexixo had decent prices to Mexico City so that was as good a place to start as any. And seeing as the plan that developed involved moving east and we (read I) had to finish the trip on chilled, beachy note, Yucatan seemed like the place to end the trip before flying back from Cancún. Isla Mujeres seemed like a great choice but I had been there a couple of times but strangely never the beautiful, chilled island of Holbox so that's where it'll all end in about a week.

    1) Ice cream in Chapultepec park, Mexico City
    2) Casa de los Azulejos, Mexico City
    3) Sanborns restaurant, Casa de los Azulejos, Mexico City
    4, 5) The National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
    6) Gi tasting chapulines (crickets) for first time, bar in Coyoacán, Mexico City

    Hasta luego!
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