This is the story of my 6 months of studying in Arizona in 2010 and subsequent travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oaxaca's surroundings - Day 29

Though neither Sofie or I am big fans of the tours where you see the most touristic things in the area with other tourists stuffed into a minivan, frequently including stops at shops and an overly expensive restaurant, in this case we decided it would be our best solution. We wanted to see various things around Oaxaca, and it would be hard and time consuming to get around on our own. 

So we had breakfast (just what I felt like: scrambled eggs with ham and beans) and then went out to bring some sandwiched on the tour, avoiding the above mentioned restaurant. Arrived back to the hotel just in time to catch the minivan that was there to pick us up, and spend an hour driving around the city picking up other guests... 

Arbol del Tule
At least on this tour we had an English guide. Not that we got so much information from her, but she was there which was nice. :) First stop was at Árbol del Tule, the worlds biggest tree, considering its circumference. The tree is 36.2 m around and 11 m in diameter. Pretty big, and very beautifully located next to a church. 

Tasting mezcal
Second stop was "an indigenous town, which has specialised in handcrafted rugs". Read: a rug-shop on a lonely dirt road. We got an introduction to their weaving and coloring techniques, and were then offered the opportunity to look at their products... As always when noone buys anything both shop owners and guides look a little disappointed, both due to missing out on profits from the sales. Next stop was a mezcal distillery, very different from the tequila distillery I saw in Tequila. This one was much smaller and less automatized, but the sweet smell of agave and the samples were the same. Not liking mezcal I stayed away from them, while Sofie tasted the different version, though avoided the larvas we were offered with the drink...

Finally we reached one of the attraction we wanted to see - the archaeologic site Mitla. As in so many other places the Spaniards decided to build a catholic church on top of ancient ruins, and here we saw a different kind of buildings than in the other sites we have visited. Though still pyramids, the buildings resembled actual houses more, and were decorated with interesting patterns. Of course there is a market surrounding the site, but in this case we just bought water before continuing. The day was really warm, and we needed the fluid to remain standing! After Mitla we were taken to the "mandatory" restaurant; mandatory in the sense that there is nothing else around. So we were very happy with the sandwiches we had brought, filled with salad, chicken, avocado and much more, and for dessert mango and pineapple. Yum! That even gave us time to rest a bit in the sun before the rest of the party left the restaurant. :)

Hierve el Agua
The most amazing part of the day was a visit to Hierve el Agua, the petrified waterfalls. Before leaving the highway I noticed a sign showing 13 km to the destination - I had no idea that it would take almost an hour to cover the distance! The road turned into a dirt road full of holes, making the ride quite bumpy. Then we got into the mountains and started driving up through a loooot of hairpin bends, improving the view of the terrain every time we increased the hight. Incredible... We reached the waterfalls and, had an hour before departure to enjoy the area. Some people were swimming in the ponds at the top of the falls, but we wanted to walk down to get a better view of the falls themselves. Check the pictures - its hard to explain! We stayed down for a while taking in the incredible mountainous landscape around us, then walked back up to rejoin the party. 

Back in the city we wanted to get a real Oaxacan dinner meal, and the guide suggested a restaurant around the corner from where we were dropped off. We both had tasajo and mole, with lots of tortillas of course, and then went back to pack our bags before leaving Oaxaca the next day with a bus 6.30. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First day in Oaxaca - Day 28

The bus trip to Oaxaca ([Wahaka]) took 11,5 hours, and we had high expectations to the trip, since the bus was supposed to be even more comfortable than the one we took to Palenque. Unfortunately, it wasn't. The important difference was the space to the next seat, significantly bigger than in regular busses - however, the footrest was mounted on the seat in front, thus practically unreachable. Combine that with driving in the mountains, and imagine how we were literally sliding down from our seats trying to fall asleep. Sigh...

We arrived in Oaxaca around 7.30 (Wed 9/2), and easily found our way to the hostel close to the bus station. We waited a while till an English speaking receptionist arrived (don't know why the Spanish speaking one didn't just check us in), and he showed us to the room, despite the early hour. Here we met our two room mates, 50-year old English Sara and 27-year old Swiss Laura. Both nice and talkative, giving us suggestions on what to do during our two days in Oaxaca. For this first day we decided to stay around the city, while we would take a tour to surrounding areas the next.

Fruit in the sun
Convincing the reception that it would be fair to have the hostels breakfast on our arrival day as we wouldn't have time before departure two days later, we continued our day with quesadillas and beans with juice. Then headed out in the city, which turned our to be somewhat warmer than San Cristobal - nice! Our stops during the morning included Santo Domingo, a church pretty much covered with gold inside, and a break on a plaza for eating strawberries and mango. :)

Oaxaca is a pretty and sunny city, and we enjoyed walking around taking in all the impressions. We reached the Zócalo (central square), and found it to be in connection with another square, and together they formed a beautiful space with trees and benches, vendors, a marimba band, and lots of people around. Again, on a regular weekday... A beautiful atmosphere! We continued our walk to the markets slightly more south, and found probably the biggest assembly of vendors I have yet encountered in Mexico. One of the markets inspired me of the ones I have seen in China, with loads of little shops squeezed into a large, flat building. All sorts of smells and colors can be found here. In opposition to the food market in San Cristobal, where we had the doubtful pleasure of finding cows heads and hooves lying on the counters with the meat and heaps of dried fish intoxicating the air, here the meet looked delicious, the fish were fresh and on ice, and yellow corn-chicken were sold from every other stand. Together with the fruits and vegetables available, I had only one wish in that moment: To move to Mexico to try it ALL!

Chilis at the market
Detaching myself from daydreaming, we went around the market a bit more to get chocolate and mole paste (a chocolaty sauce used for chicken and other dishes). Sofie also looked for mescal (similar to tequila), and we had tastes of all three on our way through the stands. When we had had enough, we somehow found a way out past the chapulina-ladies, selling fried grasshoppers in various sizes from their big baskets. We were love on cash anyway, so left the market to find some lunch. Found a cheap menu with the local tasajo, relatively thin slices of beef. For a starter we got chips with the best mole I've ever had, perfect! :)

After lunch we headed back towards the hostel, while checking out local shops. When back,Sofie went to take a nap, while I sat on the roof terrace blogging. In the evening we went back to the center of the city, during the walk experiencing the city in its evening colors. Beautifully lit like so many other Mexican cities! For dinner we had an ice cream (!), which we enjoyed in the main square. Back home around 10 we passed out in our beds after the previous night's lack of rest.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shopping in the mountains - 3 nights in San Cristobal

With my book and a dog in the sun.
It was like waking up a 100 years back in time, considering the environment our first morning in San Cristobal. The room was freezing cold, but we were tucked in nicely with a stack of blankets in our beds. Outside a rooster was galling, dogs barking, and vendors walking the streets calling for costumers. Oh, and our French neighbors decided that they didn't care how loud they were, and kept us awake despite our urge to go back to sleep. Through our rooftop window we could see that the sun had not quite burned its way through the clouds, so we dressed warmly as we went down for breakfast.

After breakfast Sofie spend 3 hours skyping with people at home, while I sat in the sun reading a book. At one point of of the hostel's two dogs joined me, very cosy. In the hostel there are also 4 or 5 cats, some of which prefer to hang out in our room. So always when we opened the door we would have to consider if we wanted visitors, and remember to check when we left if we locked anyone inside.

Around 1 we were finally ready to explore the town. We went to look for a museum with Mayan medicine, but as we figured out later on it was marked wrongly on the map, and we never found it. We did however come across the market. And pretty much, that was all we got to see that day! :D San Cristobal is in the state of Chiapas, the poorest and cheapest and one of the most colorful in Mexico, so we went shop-amok in scarfs, necklaces, and other little things. For lunch we had some tacos in a nice restaurant in one of the pedestrian streets. In the evening we got back to the hotel, where Sofie spent some time at the bonfire in the yard, while I wrote my blog (and sorry for being a little behind and posting a lot when I get to it, its just really hard to find time!).

Ok, so... Monday morning we were up fairly early, going on a tour to the gorgeous Sumidero Canyon. One of those trips that starts with you being in a van for an hour picking up people in other hotels... Finally we got to the canyon, and was equipped with life vests and packed with 35 others into a motor boat on the river. So far so good, though we ended up on the seats in the very back, right next to the engines. Noisy and smelly. But we went into the canyon with high expectations, and they were not let down for the amazing scenery there. Incredible to sail in between such high mountain sides around you... Another fun element was the crocodiles, which we saw lying around on rocks and the shore. Never seen a live, wild one before! :) What was not so fun though was that suddenly water washed over the side of the boat, and in a second I was completely soaked... Not too cold fortunately, but the water kept coming in as we continued down, and in the end I was so annoyed that I complained and got to sit next to the driver of the boat, 2 m above my first seat. Much less wet, though much more windy. In the end we got back rather cold, slightly disappointed with the trip, but happy to have seen the amazing nature! Then we spent an hour in Chiapa del Corzo, where we had lunch before resting a bit in the sun.

Back in the hostel I took a shower to get all the river water-dirt off, then spent some more time on the blog while Sofie talked with her boyfriend online. Later in the evening we went out to find some dinner, and ended up in an Austrian restaurant, where I had a wiener schnitzel with potato salad - so good! Also quite fun to hear the story of the owner of the restaurant, who was also cooking for us, and told us her impression of Mexico and the city. Oh, and the fact that the minimum wage in Mexico is 55 pesos for 8 hours work. Interesting perspective! Back on the street we went to the Zócalo square, where a marimba band was playing and people dancing around the kiosk. Keep in mind that this is a regular Monday night. :) As all the other cities I have visited in Mexico, the buildings are beautifully lit during the evenings, and it is a different experience to walk through it at night and at day time. However, we were tired, so we didn't spend too much time out in the end.

Tuesday the 8th we had actually planned to go on a horseback riding trip into the jungle to an indigenous village, but decided not to, as the hostel owner told us that the horses were not being taken good care of. Instead we spent the time until we had a night bus at 8 PM exploring the city, which frankly we had done poorly the first day, ending up in the market! So this day we started out by walking to the bus station in the other end of the city, as far from the market as possible. We bought our tickets, and then walked to the coffee museum where we learned a bit about the story of coffee in Mexico, and then had lunch in their café. Some rather boring Enchiladas Suizas, so I guess I have to try them again when we get back to Mexico City, after a personal recommendation! We continued our trip to Na Bolom, which is a museum started by the Danish explorer Frans Blom. He and his wife worked in many years to preserve the culture of the indigenous tribes, and the work continues through their house. The museum depicted their activities and life, and also told the story of the current activities, now years after their death.

Back across the market we got a few more presents for people at home before leaving Chiapas, and spent some time enjoying the sun taking a break on a fountain in cute part of town! Then back to a restaurant close to the hostel where we had an amazing vegetarian buffet, got some focaccia bread to go to eat on the trip, and then picked up our backpacks in the hostel. A taxi to the camionera (bus station), and then we were off to new adventures in yet another Mexican state...! :)

Daytrippin' in the jungle - Day 24, 5/2

Way to early Saturday morning (5/2-11) we arrived with the night bus to Palenque an hour earlier than planned. Had slept surprisingly well during the 8 hours in the bus! The plan was to find a collectivo to take us to the Palenque ruins, but already in the parking lot of the bus we were contacted by various tourist agencies trying to sell their tours. Having just woken up we were unable to consider at that point, but we brought their brochures into the terminal where we freshened up. Then took another look at the offers and realised it would be a good opportunity: Instead of just seeing the ruins and the go back to the bus station to catch a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas, some 5 hours away. With one of those agencies we could get a day-tour including the ruins and the two waterfalls Misol-Ha and Agua Azul plus transfer to San Cristobal for 350 pesos (bus to San Cristobal alone would have been almost 200 pesos). We “challenged” the two main agencies to get a lower price, but ended up with just 325 pr. person. The deal made at 6.30 AM gave us 1,5 hours before the van would leave to the ruins at 8.

We went around in Palenque to find a bit of breakfast and enjoy the city waking up. The town is surrounded by mountains, and their tops were covered with clouds – beautiful! Then back to the agency and into a minivan, leaving our luggage behind to be reunited with us after the visit to the ruins. No doubt the tour operators have made this deal with many others, but it still feels weird just leaving all your belongings with someone you don’t know… The weird little van-driver gave us a lot of instructions in Spanish, which even the Spanish speaking guests found a little hard to understand. Anyway, we got off the bus by the entrance to the ruins with instructions to meet the van again by the cafeteria 3.5 hours later.

The Palenque ruins are in the jungle, in contrast to the ruins we visited previously in Teotihuacan, Tulum, and Chichen Itza, so the environment is very different and much greener! Its an impressive city with well preserved buildings, and we took our time strolling through all of them. However, after the long bus ride and with Sofie’s knee hurting, we didn’t feel like climbing and exploring them all inside. Also it was raining a tiny bit – only suitable for the rainforest I guess! :) We got a lot of great pictures of the ruins and the surroundings, and also visited a museum with excavated items and stories from the area.

We met with the other passengers at the “Cafeteria”, which turned out to be not much but a couple of coffee vending machines and tables. The bus was 20 minutes late, and as it arrived, we realised that we were too many people plus Sofie's and my backpacks to fit in the car. Two passengers were moved to a van from another company, while our backpacks where tied to the roof top luggage rack... Sofie and I were sitting with two others on the back seat, I was next to the window... Not the best place in the car, as the road was through the mountains, and the driver rather aggressive, with the result that I hit my head against the window time and time again. 

After like an hour of bumpy ride we arrive at destination number 2: The waterfall Misol-Ha. Here we spent an hour admiring the impressive falls, and walking in a path behind it. The back in the van on the same horrible road, made even more horrible by the driver. Sofie and I were both taking anti-motion sickness medication, but it just wasn't enough, so arriving at destination 3, Agua Azul, neither of us were feeling particularly well. At least we had 3 hours to get better and explore the area, before heading off again. 

Agua Azul
Agua Azul, or "Blue water" is names so due to its color (!), with a long series of falls over red rocks. Of course, as everywhere else there is tourists, also a lot of vendors in little shops were present to attract our attention. And they did well, with smells and colors we hadn't seen before on our trip! Getting closer to the poorer state Chiapas might have had an effect as well, with lower prices and new items in the shops. Once the worst nausea had disappeared, we tasted empanadas from one of the little stands; pockets of fried dough with chicken, cheese, beans, or other little things inside. Uhh, they were too good... Also on the way up along the falls we had mango and grilled corn cobs, and also got to buy some of the nice souvenirs. That way we managed to spend the time around the falls, eating, shopping, and looking at the pretty waters!

Back at the van we learned that we would have to change to another bus after 10 km, as the van was going back to Palenque, while we were going to San Cristobal. Actually pretty happy that we didn't have to go with the same driver all the way to Palenque. However, the road to San Cristobal turned out to be not-so-nice, as it was also through the mountains. The temperature was rapidly dropping, and in the end we were freezing cold, though still trying to get some sleep during the 5 hour trip. FINALLY we arrived in San Cristobal at 10 PM, 1.5 hours later than the tour promised, so we jumped into a taxi and went to the hostel we had booked online. They had a nice room waiting for us, and after a hot shower each, we went straight to bed!

Where the birds always sing - Mérida, day 23

Waking up in Mérida was associated with a choir of what sounded like jungle-birds, which we had also noticed walking around in the city the night before. Strange that these birds are so active only when its dark... The breakfast was the best I have ever had in a hostel! Big bowls with fresh cut fruit (melon, pineapple, and something unrecognizeable), bananas, cereal, yoghurt, bread, jam, butter, and the best: an omelet or a pancake of your choice! Wonderful start of the day!

The little man from the church... 
Then we went out to see the city, though we didn't get far. Every now and so often we were stopped by local people who started talking to us, and then after a while recommended certain shops where we should buy Mayan handicrafts! Friendly, yet with a purpose... First it was a little woman who convinced Sofie to check out a artisan coop, then a man on a bench who also managed to play some music for us on his iPod before showing us another Mayan shop, then an old man who first showed us around the church, then dragged us to his and his brother's shop. In the end we found some really nice though slightly expensive things, and decided that it was enough of shopping for the day!

So we went to see a museum with various paintings next to the cathedral, and got some lunch in a lebanese restaurant, before heading off to Paseo de Montejo, a fancy-building boulevard slightly outside the main central area. Here we visited an anthropology museum where we hired a guide, who's English turned out to be in need of some practice. It was a nice museum, but with the guide it turned out to be a little too much, so it was fine for us when the museum closed at 5, and we had to leave after a little more than an hour!

We found a little café with a yard where we spent half an hour drinking some lemonade. We had some time to kill before our night bus was leaving at 10; our luggage was still in the hostel. We went back there and spend a few hours, bought some snacks in the kiosk downstairs, and then went to catch the night bus to Palenque.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A trip back in time - Chichen Itza, day 22

Thursday morning we woke up early to catch a bus away from Tulum at 7.15. We left the white sands at 6.30 with a taxi, and caught some nice pictures of the sunrise on the way. The woman in the bus ticket booth tried to convince us to take the bus 2 hours later, a 1st class bus where we could reserve seats, but we decided that if it came to that, we would survive standing in the earlier 2nd class bus. While we waited we crossed the street to get some fresh fruit, and ended up with fresh blended orange-pineapple juices, croissants with cheese and ham, and big cups with fruit, yoghurt, and granola... Uhm, what a breakfast!

Safe inside the bus, on the front two seats (!), we left for Chichen Itza, the largest ruin city in Mexico, I believe. The trip took app. 2.5 hours, so we arrived at the site a bit before 10. A very nice time actually, not too warm yet, and not too many tourists. We fought our way through an army of vendors after passing the ticket-area where we deposited our backpacks. Then we got to to the main area of the ruins, and strolled around for some hours taking pictures and buying too many souvenirs, while it became warmer and warmer. When around 1 PM we had had enough of the place, vendors, and the heat, we went out to catch a bus to Mérida, our next stop. (Lots of pictures from Chichen Itza will tell the story in more detail than here! :))

As we managed to get into another 2nd class bus, the trip was a little longer than expected due to all the stops along the way. However we slept most of the way, so in the end it was ok. We arrived in Mérida around 5, and started walking on the way to the hostel located on the main square. Meanwhile we found a restaurant where we hung out in the bar with an only-Spanish-speaking waiter, who served us some dinner. Then we went to our hostel, checked in, took a cold shower (uff!), and went out in the city to enjoy the evening-lit area around the main plaza. We looked around for a bit in some shops as well, before settling at a restaurant where we got cheese- and chocolate cake... Nice, though expensive dessert! Then straight back to bed!

Still in Paradise - day 20.5 and 21

After coming back from our amazing snorkeling trip we settled into our new home-for-a-while on the beach in Tulum. We got out from the cap and stepped right into the finest white sand I have ever seen, and was greeted by Sabrina, the hostess. She showed us down the sandy path in the shadows of the palm trees and other jungle plants to our beach-tent - and incredible cotton tent with a thatched roof above it. Inside is a wooden floor and colored scarfs decorating and insulating the walls. The bed in the middle of the room was covered by a mosquito net, and there was also a drawer, two nightstands, and a lamp. Who needs more anyway? :) One of the more peculiar things of the site is that it is powered by a generator, only running till 10 PM. Hence, there was no power later in the evenings, allowing the pure impression of the beach environment to stand out. Incredible!

That evening, after taken the third swim of the day in the super-nice waves and watching the pelicans fishing, we went to the little cosy restaurant of the hotel, located between all the green plants in the sand, and got some drinks and their appetizer while we considered what we wanted to eat. However, it made us so full that we ended up leaving with nothing else. Afterwards we went walking around on the beach for a while, looking at the stars. So clear... Early to bed of course, tired after the swimming and fresh air - and lack of power to do anything else...! ;)

Wednesday morning, 3/2, we woke up and had breakfast like the day before in the hotel restaurant, however on their beach-deck, facing the morning sun. :) Afterwards we took our time to get ready, caught a taxi, and managed to get to the Mayan ruins in Tulum at the worst possible hour. Loads of tourist and baking hot. Oops... Anyway a nice experience in a very beautiful area. The ruins were very different from the ones we saw in Teotihuacan, and located on the edge of of cliff right above the turquoise ocean. Before we left the ruins we got a pop sickle each, made with fruit (one of those you should be slightly sceptical about if you wanna protect your stomach...). Super refreshing!

We decided to walk the 8 km back to the hotel, again maybe not THE best idea considering that the temperature well above 30 degrees. At least it felt like that with the sun smashing down from the sky. We walked partly on the beach, partly on the road, as the rocks allowed. Finally back at the beach we jumped into the ocean and rested a bit in the beach chairs. We were however not completely lucky with the weather, as some clouds had been building up, so with the wind it became a little chilly. While Sofie was writing postcards, I was reading the book I brought. When the sun went away behind the trees we showered, and got a late lunch on the beach-deck - quesadilla and Mexican salad, both very good. Then we spend some time packing our things as would be leaving early the next morning. Later in the evening we had some fresh fruit in the restaurant, enjoying our last hours on the beach. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

A couple of days in Paradise! Day 19 and 20

Leaving Cancún Monday 31/1 felt kind of nice, especially after good breakfast in the hotel. We walked back to the bus station and caught a bus to Tulum, a place recommended by Jesús as being one of the most beautiful places ever. So I thought we'd better go... :)

He turned out to be right! We arrived and quickly found a hotel we had checked out online - a little peace of paradise. Though far from the street it was a great place to start our Tulum experience. Let me draw you the picture (and of course there are more in Facebook): We entered through a gate overgrown with green plants and flowers, and found the reception in a small cabaña, or hut if you prefer, greeted by a smiling receptionist, who showed us around. Via little stone paths around to cabañas hidden in the jungle-like vegetation, we found our favorite in a round wooden hut with a large bed, bathroom, and a hammock hanging across the room! From there we went to see the pool with a few beach chairs around in the sun. Next to the pool a larger version of the cabañas with chairs, sofas, and a bookshelf, functioning as a restaurant for breakfast and dinner, and lounge throughout the day. What a truly amazing place...

So obviously we spent most of our afternoon in the pool and in the chairs in the sun, relaxing and enjoying not having to do anything but just that. Getting hungry around 3 PM we talked with Evelina, the Polish receptionist, who suggested a restaurant for lunch. She also asked if we would be interested in a snorkeling trip the following day - first I was a little sceptical, but then realised that the offer was great: 600 pesos per person including pick-up and equipment and some hours of snorkeling in the ocean. So we accepted, looking forward to some adventure! :) And then we went to get lunch in the restaurant, specialising in fish. Very good!

After lunch Sofie went to and Internet Café, while I spent some time reading in the sun. When she came back I had retreated from the pool because of mosquitos, and Sofie joined me in our cabin. We hung around for a while talking, before going out to the restaurant by the pool to get some dinner. I had an amazing risotto with smoked salmon, and as I asked for some vegetables also tomatoes and carrots with a glass of white wine. Sooooo good! :)

Tuesday morning we woke up early, excited to be going snorkeling! We had breakfast at 8, consisting of toasted bread with butter and jam, plus juice and coffee, and a great peace of banana cake! Was picked up 8.30 by our snorkeling guide, Evelina's Spanish boyfriend Jaime, and his friend Pablo. Packed our large backpacks in the trunk, and was off to pick up wet suits and masks. Uhh, exciting! :D

On the way to the beach Jamie explained the plan for the day. First we were going to Akumal Beach to look at sea animals around the reef. He expected that we would get to see turtles, sting rays, maybe eagle rays and barracudas if we were lucky, and for sure a lot of different fish! After Akumal we would go to a cenote - a huge sinkhole where the limestone has been eroded and collapsed years ago, and now filled with water perfect for snorkeling and diving. We didn't know we were going on this second adventure as well, and got extra happy that we had chosen to go on the trip! :) 

Getting into the wet suit was not exactly comfortable in the 30 degrees heat, but as soon as we were in the water it was nice. Weird feeling to breath underwater... Never tried snorkeling before, and the first time you put your face under water and take a breath, its really about overcoming some natural boundaries towards survival-behaviour! :D But of course you get used to is quickly, and we set out towards deeper, less sandy water. Our guide had brough an underwater camera to capture our sights. And we were soooo lucky with what we got to see!! Several huge turtles, several sting rays, a spotted eagle ray right next to a barracuda, and all those other magnificently colorful fish! What an experience! We were in the water for almost an hour and a half before we headed back to the beach and the car. I had a cramp in my leg and was provided with a banana, which apparently is good for cramps. Some of you will recon that I am not a big fan of bananas, but this one... Uhm, was good! :) 

Back in the car headed towards the cenote, Jaime told us a bit more about the place and what to expect. Can't say much else than to look at the pictures. It was so incredible there! The water was cold and completely clear, the sun was shining down in the cave, the water had clear rays of sun lighting everything, and there were loads of stalagmites and stalactites, many from floor to ceiling, in all sizes. Swimming around in those caves has been one of my most beautiful experiences ever! So incredible it is hard to describe, so just imagine the cool, clear water, little fish all around, and beautiful light and rock formations... The pictures will tell the story - check the link in the menu! --->!

Back home in the town we were dropped off at a local restaurant that Jaime recommended. We had a huge meal with quesadilla, flautas, and various other things, and then moved with our backpacks to the beach-version of the hotel we had just left - from Don Diego de la Selva to Don Diego de la Playa. Another interesting story, which I will have to delay my telling of as I have to sleep a bit... 

Flying to Cancún - Day 18

Sunday morning, 30/1-11, we got out of our hostel beds after too little sleep and checked out of the hotel. It turned out that this check out would be the first in a row of minor issues caused by the receptionists in various hotels being unaware of the prices offered online... Anyway, we got out alright and was picked up by Emmanuel a little past 9. Our flight to Cancún, the next stop on the trip, was leaving at noon, and we decided to go to the airport to eat breakfast together to be sure to be on time. We checked in and had chilaquilles and croissants with juice, very delicious! Then off with the 2h flight, with plans to return to Mexico City after 2 weeks.

When we landed in Cancún we arrived to a much more humid environment than I have experienced in a while (Slovenia, July 2010, to be exact! ;)). We had bought tickets for a bus to the center online, had an easy trip, and walked from the bus station to our hotel with a "local guide" - aka. an alcoholic who new the way, and entertained us in Spanish in the meantime. :) Our hotel was nice and not too expensive, only minus was the fact that our room was located on an EXTREMELY noisy street, which was rather uncomfortable during the night.

After unpacking a bit, we headed towards to beach. We must have been a little bit too optimistic regarding the distance, and didn't take the receptionist's advice on taking a bus there. We started walking, but it took us more than an hour, and by that time the sun had almost disappeared from the beach. At least on the way we went into a supermarket to stash up on some fruit, bread, and water, so it was a nice walk after all. After walking a bit in the powdery sands we found a restaurant (Pirates Bay, as far as I remember!) and had two salads and beers for dinner. We took a taxi home, and was reminded to always ask for the price on beforehand when he totally overcharged us. Went to bed fairly early - Sofie slept before 7! :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Biiiiiig city adventures! Day 16 and 17 in Mexico City

(Due to very slow internet I cannot add pictures at the moment! However, do check the Facebook album, Mexico part 2 ---->)

Our first morning in Mexico City started with a little walk through the city center, from the hotel through the Alameda Central park to get to a café, which Emmanuel had recommended for breakfast. Typically Mexican and very popular, but we quickly got at table and ordered orange juice, a tamale, and eggs with beans. We also got bread (with and without chili!) and butter for our delicious meal. And coffee for Sofie, of course!

Afterwards our tour continued to Zócalo, where we hardly got to the catedral, before a guy asked us if we were interested in a guided tour. He dragged to the guide, and old man speaking fairly good English, and we asked for the price – 100 pesos. We decided it wouldnt hurt with some historical introduction to the church, and accepted to offer. The cathedral is build on top of old Aztec ruins in an island in an ancient lake, and as the ground is unstable, the building has been sinking for many years. Hence the floor and walls of the church make you feel somewhat sea sick while walking around inside! Special expeirence… The catedral is very beautiful, and the guide took us around to the different shrines and told us some things about the traditions and history. When finishing the church he took us to an excavation site just behind the church, where the Aztec buildings are being dug out. Like Vicente mentioned the other day: “It’s a dilemma; should the historical buildings build on top of the even older buildings be compromised to learn more about the ancient history?” We decided not to visit the site itself, but the guide’s introduction to the nearby Presidential palace and its murals by Diego Riviera convinced us to join him there as well, for no extra charge. He showed us around in the magnificent buildings, and told us about the Mexican history based on the murals. Really a well-spent couple of hours and money! J

Again outside we checked out the public transportation system by taking a trip with the metro. Costs 3 pesos pr. trip and is easy to navigate, though rather hot and crowded. We went to Chapultepec where there is large park and lake, and we had lunch in a place that was a hybrid between a street vendor and a restaurant. Considering how hungry we both were, it felt worth the risk of poor hygiene! And for the record, none of us had any problems afterwards! ;) For dessert I dug out two Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, slightly smashed, but very delicious! :D Then back home with the metro to take a nap before meeting Emmanuel for dinner 19.30.

The nap was not the world’s best idea, as we both woke up feeling exhausted. No wonder for Sofie, whom with jetlag would feel like it was 2 AM. Anyway, we grabbed another metro, and waited for a while for Emmanuel, who’s phone stopped working so he didn’t know we were waiting. When he picked us up we went to a restaurant/bar with some of his colleagues, to celebrate a birthday. We had a bit of food and some entertainment from a magician, who did a really good job in making us astonished by his tricks! Around 11 PM we gave into the tiredness, and Emmanuel took us home.

Saturday morning started again too early, this time with breakfast in the hotel café – cheese omelettes with bread and jam and juice. At 9 AM Emmanuel picked us up to take us to the nearby ruins in Teotihuacan, app. 1 hour drive outside the city. It was a warm and sunny day, so we were soaked in sunscreen! Well, Emmanuel wasn’t, and got slightly sunburned…  :) The ruins were very impressive, and arriving before the loads of tourists from the city arrived in large busses some hour later allowed us some space in the beginning. Very nice! We climbed all the different buildings and enjoyed the view, though also feeling the exercise in our muscles! At a souvenir place I found on of the Mexican things I had already planned to bring home: a large ceramic sun in orange-reddish colours! Its really nice and will fit well in my living room! Also I got 3 little similar suns, and I am really looking forward to see them at home! I hope they will survive the trip…

Home by 5 and going out for dinner at 7, we had a bit of time to rest and shower to get rid of the dust! At 7 we grabbed the metro once again, and went for dinner with Emmanuel and two of his friends. We were in Coyoacan in a really nice restaurant serving mescal (similar to tequila, but stronger). With our dinner we had mescal drinks, mine with pulparindo. More special than delicious… Same goes for the guacamole we got, served with fried crushed grasshoppers… Yes, really. And they didn’t tell us what it was till we had tried it! Didn’t taste like much, though afterwards I really didn’t feel like eating more of them, recognizing legs and bodies on top of the otherwise delicious guacamole… After dinner we went to a salsa club to dance a bit. Not that either Sofie or I are very strong dancers, but with the 3 guys we really had a lot of fun! We didn’t keep track of time, and I was surprised to see that it was 3 AM when we finally got home! 

Though I am usually not so good with big cities, I must say that I got quite a good impression of Mexico City. Maybe because of our personal guide and driver, I don’t know – we just had a really nice couple of days!