Elvis Lives

Joined May 2016
  • Day316

    Adios México. Te Amo!

    March 28, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We came into Mexico a bit apprehensive and thought we would continue at a similar pace to the US, so we would be through and into Guatemala in 6 or 7 weeks, yet here we are nearly 4.5 months later!

    We loved the Baja California for its deserted beaches and dry dessert climate. I'll never forget my birthday where I spotted a large fin from my hammock strung across our palapa (palm shelter), and our friend Andre whisked us out in his small boat so I could chase whale sharks without a tour boat in sight.

    The journey across to the mainland was way better than we were led to believe, and immediately the hot and humid climate hit us. We spent more time on fantastic beaches, but also half our time up high in the mountains. We climbed volcanoes, soaked in hot pools, saw millions of mating butterflies, and swam in incredible lakes and rivers.

    We visited dozens of pre-hispanic archeological sites, some of which are so awe inspiring they barely seem possible. Teotihuacan and the structures smack in the middle of Mexico City were just amazing, huge cities with massive pyramids and tens of thousands of inhabitants. Monte Alban is one most people have never heard of but it's 360 degree vistas over 3 surrounding valleys made it a truly special place, and Palenque embedded deeply in the rainforest with a howler monkey soundtrack was just awesome.

    The climate has been incredible, with the only real day of rain coming in the rainforest. Down by the beaches it's stinkingly hot but generally with a nice breeze, and up high its hot in the day with a cool night.

    What makes the country so really special is the people. Even though most of them don't have much by our standards they are happy people and are so friendly & just genuinely want to help you out. As a foreigner you are not treated as a walking cash machine or as some sort of alien, and we've met so many amazing people, both locals and travelers alike.

    We've been surprised how much we love this country, and we're now planning on coming back this way before we head home, and maybe even keep the van somewhere so we can explore more in the future.
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  • Day315

    Gut Feeling

    March 27, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    I was laid out for a day with my stomach problems and then we had a couple more days finishing off the dental treatment, but we were lucky it was such a nice town to hang around, and a fantastic campsite where we met so many wonderful people.

    Eventually we got on the road and finally left San Cris, albeit with a sense of deja vu as we headed back towards Comitán (where we broke down a week previous). We did our final stock up at Walmart and cruised on to Lagos De Colón (I guess because the myriad of lakes and rivers looks a bit like your guts?).

    We drove past a lake crowded with people and shops, through a few shallow fords, and found a fantastic camp spot by a gorgeous, crystal clear gurgling brook. As we were sleeping in our car they only wanted one dollar for parking, rather than the 5 bucks if we had a tent?!

    In the morning we checked out the archeological site, which had renovated (rather than restored) structures resulting in some pretty unique droopy pyramids. There was something special about the site, and we decided if we were ancient Mayans this would be where we lived!

    It was only a small site so we were finished early, and we headed straight back to our previous camp spot where we whiled away the day alternating between the hammock and stream. It was so hot Maya even had her first self-initiated swim, and we felt like proud parents! This place was truly blissful.
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  • Day309

    Montezuma's Revenge

    March 21, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    So we got back to San Chris without any further issues, and had a much needed decent night's sleep. In the morning I had another dentist appointment, where Doc Pepe scanned my teeth with some hi-tech tool which enabled them to mill my porcelain crown in front of my eyes. Jo also had her first ever fillings (!!).

    Next job was sorting out the suspension, after a bit of driving around we found a place that looked half decent (i.e. they weren't just repairing cars on the street!). These were the friendliest & most cheerful mechanics I have ever come across. They got straight to work & found out that the new suspension wasn't broken but the bolt had just come off so it was a super easy fix. After they'd also done an oil & air filter change, before we said our goodbyes they asked for a photo of us all with the van, & we were of course happy to oblige! 4 men working for an hour cost us a massive 350 pesos (about 17 bucks!)

    Other chores before we head over the border were a vet health certificate for Maya, filling our water tank with potable water and some stocking up on essentials from the supermarket. Guatemala here we come!

    ... Almost!

    We went out for the evening and tucked into a tasty burger then enjoyed a glass or two of the local spirit pox (pronounced posh, but think pocheen) listening to excellent live music. All was good until about 4am when my stomach exploded. This then killed the next couple of days and delayed our departure south.
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  • Day308

    Poorly Elvis :(

    March 20, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    So Elvis has had a few problems recently - some small, some not so.

    We had a weird problem a few weeks back when we woke up to find our coach batteries run down to zero, and over the past week we've been seeing weird readings on our battery meter ranging from 14V (charging) to <11V (less than empty). We had just spent a week in the back of beyond and had nearly made it back to civilisation when the engine died. After a bit of messing around (we even had a helpful tractor driver try to jump start us but to no avail) I pulled the coach battery out of the back, which allowed us to limp 10km into Comitán, a decent sized town near the Guatemalan border.

    We spent the night in a Walmart car park and the next day was a bank holiday so we weren't holding out much hope but the first mechanic shop we came across just happened to be an alternator specialist. In 2 minutes he had it diagnosed and in under an hour it was fixed for 20 quid!

    We decided not to try and sort the broken front shock there and limped back to San Christobal, where we were going to be staying for a few days. The front shock is only a month old too, but the roads and topes (speed bumps) are pretty evil around here.

    The good news is the battery problem appears to have fixed the highly worrying propane alarm going off. I just need to fix a leaking indoor shower, wire in a proper volt meter so we can see what's going on in more detail, and patch up a bit of paint work that blistered in the rainforest heat/humidity...

    We're actually pretty lucky that this happened in Mexico, with a plethora of good and cheap mechanics and also we weren't hundreds of miles from a big town.

    Fingers crossed this is the last of Elvis's health problems, but I wouldn't lay any money on it.
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  • Day306

    Clouds and Lakes

    March 18, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    The road winding through the jungle along the Guatemalan border was really a strange one. Gone were the accustomary corners/topes and instead there was a long straight road. For most part the surface was excellent and you could fly along at over 60mph, until you suddenly hit some massive broken up section where you would drop a foot or bounce over the rough road worse than a bucking bronco.

    As we had over 4 hours drive to cover going slow wasn't much of an option and we hit a few things way too fast. Then when we were on the gravel road down to our camp spot we heard a loud clunk and Elvis had a new rattle. It didn't take me long to realise one of our brand new front shocks was hosed, and without the dampening effect it was a bit bouncy onward journey.

    Fortunately we didn't have far to go to get to Las Nubes. The name 'The Clouds' comes from the white spray kicked out of a pretty small but ferocious waterfall. We had a nice walk through the rainforest, including navigating the labyrinth of large rocks some of which you had to crawl under, and took in some amazing miradors (viewpoints). Maya absolutely loved it and was haring around like a dog possessed! We rounded it off with a cooling dip in the river, a safe distance away from the falls and the scary whirlpools that drained some of the pools.

    The next day we continued to limp along, and decided to spend the night at the beautiful National Park of the Lakes of Montebello. We camped right on the waters edge, but the weather was a bit iffy so we whiled away a lazy afternoon. In the morning it brightened up and we did a short hike to the 5 Lakes area. It was a gorgeous walk through the rainforest, punctuated with incredible views over the lakes from high up on the limestone cliffs. The calcium makes its way into the water and gives the lakes an sumptuous milky blue glow when the sun reflects off it.
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  • Day303

    Welcome to the Jungle,..

    March 15, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    We scooted the last hour or so up to Palenque, collecting another hundred topes or so. I guess we can't really complain that it's raining in the rainforest, particularly as Elvis hadn't had a shower in 3 months (yes, he does smell a bit now!). We relaxed under the awning and it cleared up enough for an afternoon dip in the pool.

    The place is surrounded by jungle and the howler monkeys came into the trees, just out of sight but create an enormous racket by grunting out some primeval taunt. It was pretty scary to hear the jungle roar like that. These sounds combined with the firefly light show almost made you feel like you were in the 'upside down' (Stranger Things fans will know what I mean.)

    In the morning we headed into the archeological zone, only a few metres up from our camp site. As dogs are never allowed we very luck enough to leave Maya with Josh & Chantelle. Palenque is special as it's the local capital of the more northern Mayan ruins, and it's set deep in the jungle. We nearly didn't come here (we had changes to plans because of dental work) but boy are we glad that we did.

    We started exploring small clusters of housing and pyramids as we wound our way up the heavily rainforested hillside, and at the top there's an impressive set of temples. These are Mayan style and have some amazing engravings still intact. The beauty of this site is added to by its lush environment and its view over the flat jungle rooftop and of course the Howler Monkey sound track.
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  • Day301

    Revenge of the Topes

    March 13, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    We headed out of San Cristóbal, with the obligatory splurge at a supermarket, on the most infamous road ever. Everyone was taking about this horrible road that was littered with topes (speed bumps) and wound around mountains curves. It's only 200km (84m) - how can it possibly take 6 hours?!

    We stopped off at a little amber shop en route and ran into Josh & Chantelle again, and then we both jarringly made our way to Tonina. By my reckoning we had been over 240 topes in under 100km, and considering the speed we were driving it ended up averaging one a minute! Some aren't too bad and you can cruise over, but some (and you don't know which until after you have gone over them) even if you crawl over them everything in the van crashes around. It was worth it, as we had a beautiful camp spot overlooking glorious green countryside, that made one person leave the comment it looked like England!

    In the morning we explored the spectacular site of Tonina, a rival to the more famous Palenque. It was a really impressive site with 2 huge pyramids at one end, and I got some amazing drone footage with me standing atop of one.

    We then made a quick dart (80km, 2 hours, 120 topes!) to Agua Azul. We weren't expecting the amazing milky blue cascades winding their way up the river, with tantalising rope swings and lush swimming areas. We camped there for the night, and the for the first time in months the heavens opened.
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  • Day297

    San Cristóbal De Las Casas

    March 9, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Although it's not Christmas we made straight for San Nicholas, a nice forestry area at the edge of town with great camping. We spent the first night partying around the pool table with a bunch of local lads and met a bunch of nice people some old friends and some new, including Josh, Chantelle and MK their dog (Maya's new bestie) who we would travel with for a while.

    As we are soon leaving Mexico we wanted to take advantage of the cheap but top quality dentistry and one quick check up visit soon led to the inevitable follow up cleaning, extracting and patching. I had an incredibly uncomfortable extraction of a rear molar, due to it having a twisted root (I declined the x-rays to my error!), and spent the next week munching painkillers.

    The rest of the time we spent exploring the labyrinth of markets selling an amazing array of artisanal products, and eating from a huge range of cuisine - highlights include an authentic Thai and Pibil Cochinita (slow cooked pork from the Yucatan area).

    We visited Cholula, the next town over, but there are no photos as there were strict rules about protecting the indigenous culture who live here & still wear traditional dress. The church was unlike any other I've been in, for example there was a disabled boy being blessed with a chicken, that was subsequently sacrificed on the candle and pine needles covered floor, whilst the rest of the family drank coke (to burp out bad spirits) and pox (pronounced posh). Quite an experience!

    On our final night in town the camp site got invaded with kids, and a dozen tents sprung up outside the van. Bizarrely enough their teacher had a pretty broad Barnsley accent and the kids where impressively clever & polite, so it was actually pretty cool to chat with them. We headed for slow Thai (it was worth the wait!) then drinks at Funky Burrito, whose owner rented an airstream on the camp site. We had a fun night hanging out with him and (repeatedly) sampling his own brew mezcal (little known sister of Tequila).
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  • Day292

    I Know a Dead Parrot When I See One...

    March 4, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    (If you don't recognise the Monty Python skit, shame on you!)

    After tearing ourselves away from the beach we spent a day restocking our dwindling supplies of food, water, beer & petrol. We then headed inland, crossing an incredibly windy estuary that logically was home to a huge windfarm and made for an interesting drive.

    We wound our way up to about 600m above sea-level & headed 3km down a dirt road to a community cooperative-run area of natural beauty, Cascadas El Aguacero. After over 750 steps down into the sandy bottom of the deep canyon we had a wonderful natural shower under the cool waterfall & lounged in the more bath-like (albeit a lukewarm one) river. The carpark gradually emptied & we spent a lovely quiet night with electricity from their incredible solar power set up with just the resident cat for company.

    Despite the temptation to descend back to the lush waterfalls we headed on another couple of hours to another eco-tourism place, Sima de las Cotorras (aka Sinkhole of the Parrots). I don't think I need to explain much more about this place, but we spent a lazy afternoon watching them sweep down x-wing stylee to their roosts on the cavernous walls to a raucous screeching from the existing inhabitants. We even got up at sunrise to see them spiralling out for the day too.

    We then cruised an hour or so down the road to El Cañón del Sumidero (Canyon of the Drain!), and took a couple of hours boat trip into the national park. It was a fun ride on a fast boat and we saw plenty of crocs sunning themselves on the banks. After such an early start it was only early afternoon so we decided to plow on to our next destination, the much anticipated San Cristóbal de las Casas, climbing from a few hundred metres up to over 2,000 in only 40 minutes (fortunately it was a decent road, albeit a toll one).
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  • Day281

    I Feel The Earth Move ...

    February 21, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We visited a community co-op eco-tourism where they are trying to preserve the mangrove forest and all the associated flora & fauna by taking people on tours. Our boat weaved through the mangroves and saw parrots, herons, turtles & huge iguanas, which were orange due to it being mating season. We then landed on the island & were slightly alarmed when our guide started to lure a huge crocodile out of the water - it was over 4 metres long & there was no cage or fencing between us! We were really impressed with the efforts being made especially since a storm a few years ago destroyed 80% of the mangroves, so they even had a mangrove nursery which volunteers use for replanting.

    After giving a few backpackers a lift back to town we headed down the coast to a beach which promised to be less developed and have calm seas for swimming and snorkeling. Oh boy did it deliver - San Agustín is a stunningly beautiful bay with commodores (rustic restaurants) strung along the sand and a massive shallow coral reef. Nothing much happens here, a few buses bring in Mexican families and a few gringos are boated in during the day, but by sundown everything closes down and there's just a couple of gringos in vans and the locals.

    The biggest drama was sitting outside the van having breakfast one morning when everything started shaking - we were having an earthquake! We also realized that there had been one in the night which had woken me up but I had thought someone was shaking the van - I had even checked no one was trying to steal the bikes off the back!

    We've been away from the coast for quite a while and as this is one of the most idyllic beaches we've stayed on. It's a perfect blend of little restaurants and locals living a happy life. The snorkeling is amazing and we had a fantastic experience watching mini explosions of fish mating, all the time surrounded by larger fish looking forward to some tasty caviar!

    We had no choice but to stay as long as we could before our supplies ran low and we were driven from this fantastic hidden spot. Definitely on our 10 ten beaches in the world, and considering our itchy feet tendencies that's some list!
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