Joined June 2017Living in: Queensland, Australia
  • Day318

    Chichén Itzá is a Mayan ruin located about three hours by bus from Cancun in the Yucatán region. We arrived at the main bus terminal in Cancun and waited for our bus to Chichén Itzá. The scheduled time passed and still there was no sign of a departure. After about half an hour of waiting around, the bus finally arrived, loaded up with passengers and we were off.

    Chichén Itzá became one of the largest cities in the region during the late classic period, 600-900 CE. The site is dominated by a large pyramid in the centre of the main plaza and a large ball court and a number of platforms surrounding the plaza. There are also two main sinkholes or cenotes, where there has been evidence found of human sacrifice. The most famous sinkhole, Cenote Sagrado, was dredged in the early twentieth century and numerous Mayan artefacts and human remains were found. The complex is filled with hundreds of local vendors trying to sell their wares. The sales pitch was almost the same throughout the site – they say that their goods cost US$1, or 20 pesos if they can see that the tourist is non-gringo. When the vendor goes to seal the deal, they say $1 off the price, not $1. Some people find the vendors off-putting, and while they were annoying, we seemed to manage to ignore them and not let it affect our time. Jason did fall prey to their traps and bought a blanket with a picture of a Mayan warrior woven into it.

    At one point, the sky rained on our parade and we had to seek shelter under our umbrellas. Soon, we were bombarded by a group of Spanish tourists from Barcelona and Valencia, wanting to share our shelter. Despite their thick Spanish accent, we had a brief conversation before the sky cleared and everyone continued with their tour of the site.

    By the end of the day, the number of (narcissistic) selfies being taken was almost unbearable. The monument, which should be the main focus, seemed to be relegated to just a background and the face of some wannabe instagramer or blogger took centre stage. We sat and watched as one couple tried to set up a photo as they jumped and bounced across the site. At one point, the woman fell flat on her arse in the dirt. But that didn't deter her.

    After about three and a half hours of wandering the ancient ruins, we had covered the entire area that has been excavated and we were ready to embark upon the long journey home. For some reason, the return trip took almost an extra hour to reach home. It made for a very long day but well worth the expedition.

    Next stop: Back to Cancun

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/KlISm-q-uX8
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  • Day317

    On day three in Cancun, we decided to take a one-hour-forty-minute bus trip to the nearby beach town of Playa del Carmen. We first needed to get to the main bus terminal in Downtown to then catch another bus to Playa del Carmen. When we arrived at the small beach town, we were met with tonnes of seaweed that had washed up on shore over night. There was no way that there was going to be any swimming so instead we hit the street markets for a bit of shopping, although the three amigos (Julie, Jason and Ricky) walked away with only a small bounty.

    The bigger bounty was captured in their gullets as they grazed their way through the streets, dodging other tourists. After lunching on tacos and fajitas and after a wild goose chase in Walmart for a new umbrella to shade Jason from the harsh rays of the Sun, the three amigos hit the road and returned to Cancun.

    Next stop: Back to Cancun

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/5VaIu85qJLs
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  • Day315

    Kickin' Back in Cancun

    June 9 in Mexico

    The three amigos, Julie, Jason and Ricky, were set to travel to Cancun to spend a week on the Riviera Maya. We arrived at the airport early and, at this point, our flight did not have an assigned gate. Go budget airline! We kept a vigilant eye on the information screens waiting for a gate number to be assigned but it didn't seem forthcoming. Then, all of a sudden it changed to T. We all looked puzzled at each other, trying to work out what this meant. Was it to be announced or was there some other (hidden) code to all of it? Then, 20 minutes prior to the flight, we saw a sign in the distance with a T on it and we figured this was the correct direction to board our plane. Two hours later, we landed in Cancun and were taken to our Airbnb by a pick-up service, which was actually cheaper than a taxi. Über had been operating in the area, but due to some violent incidences with taxi drivers, this was no longer an option.

    The first afternoon, we took a bus for 12 pesos (less than AU$1) to go to La Isla Shopping Centre in the Hotel Zone. We were staying in between the Hotel Zone and Downtown so it took only about ten minutes to get there. Amazingly, or maybe not, the price of food (and everything) was about three to four times more in the Hotel Zone compared to Downtown, where tourists rarely go. On the way home from the Hotel Zone, the bus seemed to be converted into a nightclub as the music blared from the speakers and the coloured lights flashed throughout the bus. It seemed that the bus driver was on commission as he stopped for anyone who might look like they needed a ride home. This meant that the ten minute journey took about half an hour to forty minutes. It felt like a lifetime as some of the passengers yelled at the bus driver, rather aggressively, to hurry up while others started to busk on the bus.

    The next day, we headed to el Rey, a Mayan ruin in the Hotel Zone, but little known by most tourists who visit Cancun. El Rey is a site that includes 47 structures from various phases of the occupation from 200 CE until the Spanish invasion, when it was abandoned. After a brief tour of the ruins, we crossed the road to one of the beaches along the Hotel Zone, Playa Defín to check out the crystal blue water and fine, white sand. Playa Defín was one of the very few beaches that we have visited that could actually rival an Australian beach.

    For the remainder of our stay, the heavens opened up and flooded most of the area, which meant we were largely house-bound, except for a quick outing to get food or a short tour of the downtown area. On one occasion, we headed to the Downtown area to indulge in some cocktails and Mexican food. The prices were a quarter of the tourist area so why not have four times the amount and become gluttons. Bart, not Bart Simpson, was the owner of the restaurant and dressed us up in traditional Mexican costume, as we sat back and sipped (sculled) on our cocktails before stumbling home.

    The rain, however, wasn't confined to Cancun. Many areas of the country were affected by flooding caused by two hurricanes off both coasts of the country. But fortunately, the sky held out for our day trip to Chichen Itzá and the flooding had receded at our next destination.

    Next stop: Mexico City.

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/-gjsCxWygNk
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  • Day313

    Mexico City Part 2

    June 7 in Mexico

    After a week at the beach, we flew from Puerto Vallarta to Mexico City so that we could meet up with our friend, Julie, who had travelled from Australia to Mexico to visit us. The hour-and-a-half flight got us into Mexico City airport with enough time to collect our bags and catch the train to the other terminal to meet Julie. We had made signs to hold as she exited immigration but her flight was early and she appeared before we could pull out the signs. Welcome to Mexico Aunty Julie!

    We spent the next two days in Mexico City exploring the nearby area and the Frida Kahlo house-cum-museum. The museum, also known as the Blue House, is dedicated to the Mexican artist and avant garde fashion icon, who was famous for her self-portraits (and her unique fashion) that combined popular culture with indigenous and folk styles. The museum included not only her artwork and photos but personal items that provided an insight into her lifestyle. Frida had contracted polio as a child which left her disabled and then was injured when she was involved in a bus accident when she was eighteen, which affected her for the rest of her life. Due to her injuries, she needed to wear corset-like garments to support her frail body, which she incorporated into her fashion. Apparently children would call out to her in the streets and ask her “where is the circus?”. To call it Fridamania would be an understatement. Frida's everywhere, including on the 500 peso note.

    We also meet a Venezuelan PhD student, Gerardo, studying in Mexico, who helped us practise our Spanish, although the conversations tended to be more Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English whenever we were unable to find the vocabulary to express ourselves. However, we did prove to ourselves that we are able to make small talk (really small talk). Maybe we can continue our conversation when we return. Our time in Mexico City was only brief but we will be back to spend more time in the megacity upon our return from our next destination.

    Next stop: Cancun.
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  • Day306

    Putos en Puerto Vallarta

    May 31 in Mexico

    Puerto Vallarta was our next destination, well-known as the gay beach capital of Mexico, with LGBTIQ seaside resorts, bars and clubs. We arrived early at the Guadalajara bus terminal only to find out that the next bus to Puerto Vallarta was sold out and that the 8:20am bus was running at least an hour behind schedule. We checked the other companies and the earliest bus that we could find was leaving at 9am. In the meantime, the bus that was supposedly running late arrived and left before our 9am departure. We eventually exited Guadalajara and arrived in Puerto Vallarta around 2pm. For seven days la Playa del Muertos was our playground, as we soaked up the sunshine and slurped on our cold, alcoholic beverage on the beach.

    Our apartment was only a short distance from the beach but it seemed perched high in the hills. To get to the beach, we had to descend down a flight of stairs, then a short walk before tackling a set of stairs that were built into the side of a mountain cliff. The journey down wasn't the problem - it was getting back up that was the problem, particularly after a few drinks. The same pattern occurred each day: get up, eat, go to the beach, drink, return home, rinse and repeat the next day. To mix things up, we changed the order of these activities or added an excursion to the historical centre to stock up on supplies or a bite to eat.

    On our first day in Puerto Vallarta, we strolled along the beach, puzzled at the colour of the water. It was a colour that we had never seen before. We started to think that the name of the beach, Playa de los Muertos (Beach of the Dead) may have been named after the dark red oceans. Maybe it was just an isolated incident but the next day the colour had returned to a bluish, green colour. Beach life was relatively uneventful, except one day a shark was spotted. Ricky was the last to know about it. He tried as fast as he could to get out of the ocean, but it seemed like everything was in slow motion and the sand had turned to quicksand. All Ricky could hear in the background was the eerie music from the Jaws movies. That was the end of our day at beach and our time in Puerto Vallarta.

    Next stop: Mexico City.

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/ZurlZ8EtGBo
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  • Day305

    Te Quiero Tequila

    May 30 in Mexico

    When most people think of Mexico, they think of big Mexican hats and tequila shots, so a visit to the small town of Tequila and a tour of one of the factories was in order. Most people haven't even heard of the town, even if they are chronic tequila drinkers. It is only an hour by bus from the main terminal in Guadalajara. As we walked the main street of Tequila, tour sellers lined the street all with the same tour but with different branding. Miraculously the prices of the tour were slashed with little need to bargain. But we didn't want to take the first offer so we continued to the end of the street. We excepted the next deal without reservation and then walked away realising that we didn't ask if the tour was in English. We were prepared for the worse, because, let's face it, most organised tours are crap anyway and really don't live up to the promises and the promotional photos.

    We had a hour to kill before the tour started so we walked around the historical centre then boarded our tour bus that was the shape of a tequila barrel. And no, the tour wasn't in English and Peppa the Pig hadn't taught us anything about the tequila making process. So we were up shit creek without a paddle. We understood very little of the tour and with each shot of tequila things didn't get any better. We were the only anglophones on the tour but fortunately the hispanohabantes spoke slowly and threw in a bit of Spanglish for us. We did learn that the word fábrica had nothing to do with fabric, that tequila can only be made in this region (with a couple of exceptions) and that tequila must be made from blue agave. We were shown some ovens where the agave is slowly baked before going into a series of vats. The tour lasted about 15 minutes before we landed in the tequila shop with all kinds of merchandise to buy, before we were loaded back onto our barrel-shaped bus and dropped off at the tour company tequila shop for more shots of tequila. By this stage a number of the men on the tour were only just able to stand-up. In the end, the tour turned out a bit better than we had expected but that's probably due to the tequila.

    Next stop: Puerto Vallarta.

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/7O-_Z39XLxQ
    Read more

  • Day303

    Gringos in Guadalajara

    May 28 in Mexico

    From Morelia, we travelled by bus for four-and-a-half hours to Guadalajara, the Pearl of the West. We checked into our hotel in the early afternoon and then quickly raced out to snap a few photos before sunset. We didn't realise that the sunset was so late in this part of the country. Before arriving in Guadalajara, we didn't know much about the city other than it is the second largest municipality in Mexico and is the location for one of our favourite Mexican telenovelas, Señora Acero. Almost all of the expletives/palabrotas in our vocabulary is as a result of watching this show – chingado pendejo, cabrón!

    Not only did the sun stay in the sky longer but it's rays also seemed much stronger. A short walk to the historical centre, where many of the city scenes from Señora Acero were filmed, required lathering ourselves in sunscreen and stocking up on water as if we were going to end-up in the desert, dying of thirst like Burke and Wills. It definitely beats the cold weather any day. But the mild case of food poisoning was unwelcomed by Ricky, who struggled to find an appetite while Jason gorged on all sorts of tacos and ahogadas (which is basically a bread roll filled with either fried pork, chicken and/or beans with chili sauce poured over the top). Maybe a Tequila tour might help Ricky get over his sickness.

    Next stop: Tequila.

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/E7yZFMO9vqA
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  • Day301

    Magical Morelia

    May 26 in Mexico

    Morelia is a city in the State of Michoacán in the Guayangareo valley, about four-and-a-half-hours away from Mexico City. One of the main reasons that attracted us to the city was that it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and was halfway between Mexico City and Guadalajara. The city, similar to Antigua, Guatemala, is filled with well-preserved colonial buildings. The main difference is that the buildings are made from stone, which gives it less of a rustic feel. As you walk through the town, you could swear that you were in a small European village rather than Central America.

    Based on the reactions from the locals, it was fairly clear that the town was not high on most tourists itinerary. The State of Michoacán doesn't have the greatest reputation but the city of Morelia seemed safe as we walked around the streets at night, bypassing families as they crowded around the main cathedral to watch the lightshow and fireworks extravaganza. At one point, we even had one of the locals approach us and ask us why we had chosen to visit Morelia. Filled with pride about his city, he pointed out some of the significant attractions in the area.

    We spent the next day continuing our adventures around the old town and crossed paths with an Icelandic woman. This would be the first of many chance meetings. We crossed paths in the streets as she searched for a nearby museum and then later in the day as we wandered around one of the many free museums. Small world. We swore that we weren’t stalking her.

    Later in the day, we had another chance meeting but this time it was with a local couple, Tony and Israel. Immediately we hit it off with, despite the lack of language skills. We seemed to stumble through our conversation. Tony and Israel were kind enough to show us around and to share their local cuisine. As we sat in the park eating our dorilocos and papalote, we exchanged details and talked about our different cultures. It was also a great opportunity for us to practise our Spanish. We had definitely underestimated the city and could have easily spent more time admiring the city's architecture, touring the many free museums and sharing experiences with the locals.

    Next stop: Guadalajara

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/rMPi-OehXYA
    Read more

  • Day300

    Mexico City Part 1

    May 25 in Mexico

    From Flores, we had to fly back to Guatemala City for six hours before catching a flight to Mexico City. We had anticipated the airline requiring proof of onward travel so we were prepared this time with a fake booking from Mexico City to Panamá. And it worked! During the long layover, we amused ourselves, as airport itinerants, passing the time away with a few episodes of a Mexican telenovela or Peppa the Pig in Spanish. We had even set-up our own home office in the food court. Before we knew it, we had boarded our Interjet flight and were on our way to Mexico City for one night. This would be the first of many stopovers in Mexico City as we tour the different parts of Mexico. Mexico City is the hub for all domestic flights, and flying seems to be the easiest and safest way to travel across some parts of the country.

    Next stop: Morelia
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  • Day299

    Sunset in Yaxhá

    May 24 in Guatemala

    Many people recommend visiting Tikal after Yaxhá to avoid disappointment. The main reason for this suggestion is that Yaxhá is much smaller and less excavated. Ricky disregarded this advice but was not disappointed. Although there are less structures at Yaxhá, it is estimated that there are more than 7000 ruins, the majority of which still lay covered underneath the jungle. The area had been occupied by the Mayans from as early as 1000 BCE but reached its height during the Early Classic period, 250 CE to 600 CE.

    Ricky decided to go it alone and joined a sunset tour of Yaxhá. Normally, we avoid tours because, while tour guides need to be certified, generally most tours involve wasted time travelling around picking up other people and many guides present biased, questionable information. This tour would be no exception. It was the people on the tour that made the adventure more interesting, particularly the German Ambassador for Venezuela, who shared with us some of the heartbreaking events that are occurring in the country; he talked about the high inflation and the political issues that do not seem to be improving – not while the current President continues to remain in power. It really is such a great tragedy and has caused such devastation to so many of its countrymen and women who have had to flee.

    While the guide provided some interesting information and stories, the “historical facts” seem to be clouded by his wish to portray the Mayans, his ancestors, in a very positive light and demonstrate the continuity of the ancient culture through to modern times. In many of the museums and tours of Mesoamerica and South America, there seems to be a feeling that they need to make comparisons with contemporary European cultures and place emphasis on Mayan astrology, mathematics and calendars. The guide avoided discussions about the Mayan practice of human sacrifice or denied the possibility, particularly related to the games played in the Mayan Ball Courts. While the site can be visited within an hour or so, our tour spent a great deal of time watching the sunset on top of one of the pyramids before making the two-hour journey back to Flores, much of it on a bumpy, dirt track.

    Next stop: Flores

    For video footage, see:
    https://youtu.be/sr6Wyz2hDCM
    Read more

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