A Travellerspoint blog

Chichen Itza

11734 km travelled

sunny 42 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

We visited Chichen Itza earlier this week, once again the swine flu did us a massive favour and this normally jam packed site was practically empty. So, we got to see one of the 7 wonders of the world without hundreds of other gringos buzzing around blocking our views, excellent - go pigs!

It was such an impressive site and you could really imagine what it would have been like over the years when it was occupied by first the Mayans and then the Tolecs. I think if I could go back in time anywhere I would have gone here when one of the big ceremonies was on, it would have been amazing when all the colours, carvings and pyramids were new.

The first building we saw was a big pyramid, which is actually a humungous Mayan calendar which worked like this: on each side of the pyramid there is 9 levels, divided by a staircase, equalling 18 which is the number of months the Mayans had in their year.

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On each of the 4 staircases there is 91 steps, totalling 364 steps, add the top platform and you have 365, the number of days in a year.

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As if that wasn’t clever enough, during spring and autumn equinoxes the design creates a light and shadow illusion of a serpent crawling down or up the staircase. Amazing! All this was built 1200 years ago without the help of any machines, wheels or Bovis homes. To think the Spaniards came along and wiped out most the evidence of this culture as heathen is a real loss, apparently not much is known about the cultures because the conquistadors and priests burnt their idols and scrolls, and smashed thousands of their temples.

We walked around the site and saw a cenote, which is a big hole in the ground which would have been an underground cave but over time the ceiling had caved in. The Tolecs, who were apparently obsessed with sacrificing as many people possible, used to throw people into this lake alive as offerings to the Gods, think of it has a human flavoured God sized pot noodle.

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Next we saw a big ball court, which is the largest in Mexico, it had large walls along the sides with two stone hoops.

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Here the Mayans and Tolecs used to play a game similar(ish) to football (apart from sometimes they set the ball on fire). If they happened to get the ball through the hoop the team would automatically win, there must have been other ways to win as well I assume. To add a nice twist and a real incentive to win the game, the losing team were all killed. There were carvings along the walls of players having their heads cut off, gruesome stuff. I think this idea would be a great introduction to professional football, I’m sure it would decrease the amount of fake falling over and girly crying ...

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No way to get ahead.....

Next we saw the platform of skulls; this was a T shaped platform with skulls etched all over the walls. In Tolec times this would have been used to display the skulls of those sacrificed for all to see, maybe every Sunday families would have taken a nice afternoon stroll to see the decaying heads, who knows?! Walking around it you could really imagine all of the skulls up there, awesome!

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The site was pretty big with loads to see, but the sun got hotter and hotter so we left after a few hours.

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Over the last week or so the midday temperature has been 42 degrees, which is pretty much so hot that all you can do during the middle of the day is sit and drink beer and lounge around in the swimming pool. It’s tough but we seem to manage it somehow.

We have now dragged ourselves away from our last hostel in Merida city, it was as near to perfect as a hostel can be with really friendly people, a nice swimming and lots of cool stuff to do. We are now in San Andres Tuxlas, back near the jungle again – the journey here took 23 hours which is an immense amount of time to be sitting on a bus or waiting in bus stations for transfers, but we survived it and I vowed to take more journeys in the UK, 7 hours to explore Scotland always seemed quite far but compared with the journeys here it would be nothing! Mel Gibson’s film ‘Apocalypto’ was filmed around here and we went and spent this morning at the waterfall where they filmed the main man jump off (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FT-jNv6QxU), it was really beautiful although it isnt rainy season here yet so it wasn´t quite so violent as in the film. We sat and watched lizards, damselflies, butterflies and leaf cutter ants doing their thing at the side of the river. Perfecto!

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Posted by monkeyboy1 17:11 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Hanging with the monkeys

10783 km travelled so far

sunny 35 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

A week ago, lying in my bed at about 4am and quite drunk I heard the weirdest noise in the world, it sounded like an evil man groaning really loudly, swirling around the room – like the bad guy from Lord of the Rings when he was angry at that poor little Frodo. It turned out it wasn’t Saruman but that I had heard my first howler monkey. It was definitely the strangest sound I had ever heard. I can’t do it justice by describing it so here is a link to the noise, turn your speakers up full, drink a bottle of rum and lock yourself inside a dark room (preferably in the jungle)to get the full experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwQuGGFYZcA

I can’t even imagine what the first people who came here must have thought it was but it must have been pretty scary with what sounded like a demon outside! Every night in the jungle we were woken up with a full performance, I quite miss it now we’ve gone, but at least I’ll get it again in the Amazon.

But, I need to rewind, that was only last week and a lot has happened since the last blogathon. Last time I wrote we were in Puerto Escondido, the surfing town. The day after my last blog we went sport fishing, I had high hopes of becoming a master fisher and making my living sailing the seas catching trophy winning fish, like Captain Birdseye but with a bigger beard and less of a penchant for small children. So, we set off at 6am to catch me a marlin. Within a couple of minutes of dropping our lines both of us had caught fair sized Dorados, the fisherman in charge seemed to think we actually knew what on earth we were doing so we had to make it up as we went along, somehow we managed to drag the fish aboard and he kindly beat them to death for us. We were really cuffed and I mentally prepared myself for the big catch that would put my name in the history books. Unfortunately things didn’t quite pan out like that and I spent the next 3 hours without catching another fish whilst Christy, who wasn’t really that fussed about fishing anyway, caught fish after fish after fish, including a tuna! The end result was 6-1 to her, unbelievable. My Captain birdseye dream shattered I returned to land to be mocked by the locals for letting a WOMAN beat me at fishing. Either way it was great fun and I saw lots of other wildlife including turtles and pelicans, and for our lunch we ate one of the dorados and we had tuna for dinner, and they were both delicious.
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My ears had been playing me up since we arrived in Mexico with lots of popping and deafness so I decided to go to the doctors, I went and found out I had a blockage in my inner ear, he thought it was blocked by some kind of wax but I personally suspected a rum build up. At the end of the appointment Dr Cristobal turned Dr. Nick (from the Simpsons) and tried to charge me 2000 pesos (£100) for the consultation, I said that was too much especially considering the normal doctors down the road were charging 30 pesos, and he gave me a 50% discount on the spot which was very accommodating of him. I said that was still too much and he gave me yet another 50% discount so we settled on the price of 500 pesos. Not great but better than £100, he threw in a set of tyres and a pencil shaped like a giraffe too so I was delighted. I am also glad to say my hearing has returned now which is a bonus, good old Doctor Nick.

Our next stop was a 12 hour overnight bus journey away to the mountain city of San Cristobal. The city itself had a really nice feel to it and we spent a couple of days wandering around it, checking out the cobbled streets, colonial buildings and locals dressed in their traditional clothes. I couldn’t take many photos because they believe in the evil eye and think that photos steal their soul, and apparently people have been attacked for taking photos so I left my camera in my bag. Every afternoon without fail there was a massive thunderstorm and on the second day we hid in the hostel playing scrabble. We were joined by a Mexican man who I think might have been Sam’s double, his name was Bernardo and he had the same looks and mannerisms as Mr Lewis Jnr. It turned out he could play a mean game of scrabble which was a bit embarrassing as English was his second language and evidentially our first, once again I blamed the rum. We were joined later by Juan, another Mexican bloke who worked at the hostel and we all went Salsa dancing in a great club. Mexicans put us to shame with their dancing, everyone seemed have been trained intensively since they were toddlers and shapes were being thrown that I couldn’t even begin to work out. Christy and I joined in and I made a fool out of myself no doubt but we had lots of fun anyway. Bernardo who was fairly quiet all day bloomed in the Salsa environment and shot off as soon as we got there, grabbed a girl and flung her onto the dance floor for an hour of intensive salsa therapy. Afterwards he came at sat down quietly once again.

The next day we went for a boat tour down a canyon and saw lots of vultures, kingfishers, herons and other interesting stuff.
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On the final night in San Cristobal I went out with Juan for some final goodbye drinks, I met another couple of blokes, Andy who was from Manchester was a loud and cheerful bloke and Jesse from Seattle who sounded exactly like Nicolas Cage. Andy was meant to be in Cuba with his friends, but had got to Mexico only to find out that Cuba had cancelled all of the flights from Mexico because of the swine flu, so he was travelling by himself making his way over to Cancun to catch a flight later on to Jamaica to meet them again. Jesse was just 18 years old and had travelled by himself overland from Argentina and was planning on continuing all the way back to Seattle, impressive stuff at that age (or any age really).
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I said that the next day Christy and I were going to the jungle to live with some monkeys which excited them as much as it did me, and they decided to join us for the next few days on our jungle boogie.
So the next day we travelled together to Palenque, we arrived around 6pm and it was still boiling hot and steamy as any proper jungle should be. We got a collectivo to the jungle lodge which was an awesome assortment of huts, hammocks and a few rooms set in the jungle and around a big swimming pool. It was filled to the brim with hippies, lots of which I think stayed there for months on end, playing guitars, munching on the local mushrooms and talking to the trees. We spent a few days lounging around the pool, drinking way too much rum and asking Jesse to do Nicolas Cage impressions.
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On the second day one of the hippies, who we believed to be King of the hippies, asked us whether we wanted to join them in a steam room and do some “Mayan chanting”. It all sounded very nice and relaxing so we agreed. At sunset we joined about 8 of them who were marching around a campfire sweating profusely and obviously quite excited about what lay ahead. We were told to get in line and only look at the fire for it was what the ceremony was dedicated too. The fire has been set up and surrounded by antlers and offerings to the Mayan gods, it turned out this was not a hippy ceremony but an ancient Mayan one. After what seemed like a very long time walking around the fire chanting whilst feeling like I was on fire, and with big chief man dropped various substances on the fire which made it go pop and whizz and in turn making our heads go pop and whizz, we stopped and he explained that the ceremony would begin. Apparently we were about to enter a state of meditation where there was no tomorrow, no yesterday, just now. It was all very intense, we had signed up for a hippy fest of light chanting not a full on spiritual festival of Maya. We then had to pay our respects to the Gods of the North, East, South and West and then we were ushered into Temezcal whilst having dubious smoke blown over us. A temezcal is a stone hut which looks like an igloo, it has a hole in the centre for hot rocks and inside it is totally black apart from the hot rocks in the middle. Christy decided that it was all a bit much and left which the man in charge wasn’t at all happy with, I decided to follow her to check she was ok and big chief Maya tried to block my way with a pair of antlers but after some light debate he set me free from the temezcal. We sat in the pool listening to frantic chanting for about an hour after. Jesse and Andy stayed and we caught up with them later for a full account. We saw Jesse first, he stumbled up to the bar like a zombie, I thought maybe he had been lobotomised but I couldn’t see any obvious entry wounds to his skull. He said that the heat was unbearable and that they had shut the door and sat inside the dark room chanting various things with only the hot rocks to focus on, whilst the main man burned various things on them. After a while he started hallucinating and saw 5 imaginary people trying to touch him. We found Andy later, he had left after 10 minutes of hallucinating and passed out outside the temezcal, the man had come out to check his pulse to see was still alive, which was nice. Apparently most of the people had left around the same time and Jesse said that by the end the few people remaining were all lying passed out on the floor. I don’t know exactly what went on in there but for the next 2 days they were both space monkeys and kept repeating “the headmaster is a wonderful man”. All very odd but an experience all the same.
Close to our jungle hangout was the main attraction in Palenque, a big Mayan temple. We went and checked it out and it was really impressive. You could imagine what it was like at the time and the people going about their day to day tasks such as chopping people’s heads off and throwing them down the steps. Apparently lots of the architecture was inspired by psychedelic substances which the priests used, most probably in a temezcal!
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After a few days we said our goodbyes to Andy and Jesse and we set off for Tulum. In Tulum there is a Mayan temple right on the cliff of the beach and we spent the day looking around it and on the beach hanging out with iguanas who seemed to think they owned the place.
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Next up we set off Cancun, the Great Yarmouth of Mexico. We checked in at a random hostel only to randomly find Andy there so we decided to go and check out what Cancun nightlife had to offer. We ended up in an open club which cost a tenner to get in with unlimited drinks all night. I’m not sure that they made all that much money from us and we drank and danced until they threw us out at the end. It was a good night and Cancun provided exactly what it said on the tin; no culture but lots of booze.
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After a day’s recovering we said goodbye to Andy (again) and set off to where we are now, Isla Mujeres. It’s a small island 30 minutes from Cancun, it seems very nice and there’s lots to do – the sea is amazingly blue and the beaches are perfect too.
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Weve spent today driving around in a golf buggy which has a maximum speed of about 10mph, we went and saw some turtles in a sanctuary and then went snorkelling and were surrounded by hundreds of fish, it was roight nice!
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I’m deciding whether I can afford to go swimming with whale sharks over the next few days which sounds awesome, if not there’s lots of snorkelling to do and maybe I’ll bump into one anyway! We’re going to spend the next few days here and then head off to one of the seven wonders of the world, Chitchen Itza. Until then, adios amigos, hope you are all well and that its still sunny in England!
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Posted by monkeyboy1 16:36 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Windy bus journeys, swine flu, scorpions and rum

9491km TRAVELLED SO FAR

sunny 35 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

On our second day in Oaxaca we decided to hire a car and explore the nearby towns, in true Korean style we rock scissor papered to decide who would drive and I won (or lost depending on how you view driving on Mexican roads). We escaped the city without too many problems and were surprised to see the amount of speed bumps Mexican roads have, they literally stick them everywhere, even out of the cities on long straights with no houses nearby. These are not the amiable small speed bumps you see in England, but bigger, meaner and even more concerning, they seem to be cunningly camouflaged which resulted in us hitting a couple of them at full speed, which luckily due to our 998cc engine was about 70kph – only a small take off was achieved. Our first stop was nothing less than the largest tree in the world; with a trunk diameter of 11 metres, height of 42 metres and age of at least 1500 years old it was certainly impressive.
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It looked almost like several trees had been stuck together (maybe a con by the tourism agency to increase notable sites in Mexico?) and housed hundreds, if not thousands of small birds which buzzed around. This was a good tree, even the birds who lived there were exceptionally happy, Enid Blyton would have loved this tree. Nevertheless, it was just a tree and after 10 minutes of saying “my, that is a big tree” we left and set off to our next destination.
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We drove on for around 45 minutes up the most windy and steep road ever (or so we thought naively at that point) only to realise that our fuel reserve light was on, deciding it would not be best to be stuck in literally the middle of a mountain we drove back down the windy and steep road, got some more fuel and then drove back up the very windy and steep road once again, it was tiring and dizzying work. After some more driving around in circles the tarmac road came to an end and led onto a bumpy road leading to seemingly nowhere. From out of nowhere appeared a rope which was tied across the road to stop cars passing through, I nearly crashed into it but luckily saw it at the last minute and skidded to halt.
Three older Mexican men walked from a hut and conveyed to us that it was necessary to pay an entrance fee of 20 pesos, curiously the same amount it would cost for three elderly gentlemen to buy 3 beers, a co-incidence no doubt I’m sure. We pay the fee and continue along our merry way. Finally after much more bumping we arrived at the waterfall, only to meet a man at the gates informing us that we need to pay 15 pesos each to view the waterfall. We told him we’d already paid some other men for entrance and he reliably informed us that was road tax and this is waterfall tax, silly us for asking, we pay the waterfall tax and also some sun, tyre and gringo tax to complete the package. I get the feeling that this is the way things work here, an ex-pat was telling us that when he drives down from the U.S. with his foreign number plates he gets stopped all the time and told he has broken the law by having two eyes, or for wearing a hat of illegal dimensions, or for driving with 4 wheels and that every time he will be told that he has to pay a fine or go to jail for at least 21 days. On one of these occasions he decided that he would to go to jail, on hearing this the policeman gets flustered and suggests instead that he gives him the pot of spare change he has on his dashboard, amounting to about 4 dollars. He agreed and was allowed onwards. Law and order at its finest. We eventually got to see the waterfall, which was petrified and very stony. It was beautiful but after all the taxpaying and bumping we had done maybe something more spectacular was required!
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That night back at the hostel we met a Swedish couple, Martin and Laila, who were also at the start of a year away. We went out for a meal and drinks with them which was great. We got on really well with them and it turned out that they were both heading off to NZ next for a year so we will no doubt meet up with them again then. Over several mescals (a Tequila esk drinl) Martin and I chatted about loads of things including a bike ride he had done from Sweden to Africa, through Holland, France and Spain, stopping off to live in some caves in Spain for a bit which sounded very impressive. I regaled a tale of when I had once ridden to Bacton Woods (a whole 4 miles), but then got a bit tired and called my mother to pick me up in the car. Naturally, he was impressed. After the bike riding he had joined a local paper as an apprentice photographer for a few years. Several mescals later we decided bed was in order (not together) and that we would meet the next day. The next morning we all met up and Martin was excited because the paper he worked for in Sweden had asked him to get some photos of the dreaded swine flu. I decided to go with him and see what I could get, with the possibility of selling some of the photos to a paper in England. Christy went off with Laila to look around a local temple and we set off into the flu. We got loads of photos throughout the day and I learnt a lot being with someone who has worked as a photojournalist before, mostly about being brave and just taking the photos whether the subject is bothered or not, then running away before they beat the crap out of you. We got photos and did a few interviews with some locals. He sent his off to his paper and I contacted the EDP (possibly the biggest newspaper in the world for those of you who don’t know) who brought them from me and added me to the front page, along with a headline quote that I definitely did not say, “I saw Swine flu unfold”, there was no unfolding in front of my eyes, that sounds gross. So that was my few minutes of fame, if some other big news happens along our journey then I’ll be sure to get loads of photos and try my luck again! Is hoping for a national disaster so wrong?

With news of the piggy flu building to gargantuan levels, and the threat of humanity being wiped out and the world being taken over by swine we did the only thing we could sensibly do, go to the beach and drink ourselves stupid with tequila. So we set off on a bus journey we’ll never forget, we’ve since been told that the route between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido has 3000 curves, I think by the end we could have guessed something around that figure. For most of the journey, the bus literally drove 10 metres forward, did a hard left, went 10 metres forward and then did a hard right, and so on for 6 hours. I wished the Romans had been to Mexico and I wished the bus driver hadn’t played so many Sega rally car driving games in the early 1990’s.

Finally we arrived in Puerto Escondido which is a reasonably small fishing town which boasts a legendary surf break known as the Mexican Pipeline and lots of surfing types walking around saying things like “whoa dude, did you catch that surf?”, “bodacious” and “narly”. We made our way to the hotel we were staying at and where we still are now. We are actually staying in a cabana rather than the hotel, which is a hut outside the hotel. It’s basic but nice, and at night-time the local wildlife comes out to play. On the first night I saw a big black scorpion walking along the side of our room, giant ants in the bathroom and of course the mandatory colony of geckos. We agreed that the geckos could stay but that the rest of them were quite frankly going to have to leave. Unfortunately they haven’t taken any notice of our polite requests. Thankfully we have a mosquito net which makes us feel a bit more like we won’t get stung, bitten or eaten during the night and so far only my feet which rest against the netting have been chomped upon.
It turned out that because of those naughty sick piggies, tourism has dwindled massively and everyone has run (or surfed) away. We are the sole guests of Hotel Ben Zaa, and the town is also pretty empty, not a “duuuude” in earshot. This has benefits such a swimming pool all to ourselves and the undivided attention of the owners Steve and Maria, every cloud has a silver lining. They are both really nice and have made us feel at home, we have been at their bar most evenings drinking the largest margaritas (4 shots of tequila per margarita, for 1.70, niiice) and rums you have ever seen and chatting about many things. It’s been great and more like visiting a relative than staying at a hotel, and the food is great too. Steve took us down to his friend Jose’s house on our second day and we went horse riding with him.
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We took a route down lots of dusty country roads to a river where we went for a swim. Jose was really nice and calm and put up with us practising our Spanish on him and our complete horse ignorance and “how do I get it to reverse?” type comments. Neither of us has ridden a horse for years but it was a great experience. The horses were really good and didn’t throw us off even once. On the way back we felt more confident and built up to a canter and even a gallop. I will make a cowboy yet. Afterwards, over a nice cold beer, Steve translated a story which Jose was telling which I thought was worth sharing. It was about a friend of his who had accidently cut off his finger with an axe, that would be painful enough but the story gets better (better for the gore loving listener, not for the man). So, his finger is chopped off and because he doesn’t have any money he tapes in back on again and then bandages it up, hoping it just fixes itself. A month later he takes off the bandage and realises that in the blood and the pain he has taped his finger on the WRONG WAY, with the nail facing inwards! He then had to bite the bullet and go to hospital where they had to chop it off again and stick it back the right way. Ouch. We found out later that our guide Jose had been involved in a hit and run car accident and had his legs broken, he couldn’t afford to go to the doctors so he set them himself and had to sit at home until they mended, by which time he found out they hadn’t set right and he couldn’t walk. Luckily after some fundraising at the hotel they raised enough money to send him back to the hospital to get his legs re-broken and reset. I will never moan about the NHS again. Ever. Probably.

That night when we were in the bar we heard a samba band playing loud from somewhere near the hotel, it’d actually been playing since 6am when it woke us up. No one knew exactly why they had played all day but they thought that it was possibly in tribute to an old lady who died a year ago; apparently she was a bit of a party lady and used to regularly hold 5 day parties. Fuelled by super cocktails we decided to sneak around and see if we could spy on what was going on, peaking around the corner we saw a big band plus over 200 people sitting around a courtyard with people dancing in the middle. We were spotted and pulled into the party by a sweaty Mexican man, who gave us beer followed shortly afterwards by a full meal. They wanted dancing foreigners, unfortunately I don’t do dancing especially in front of 200 people, but Christy was brave and went and had a dance providing a spectacle for the locals to photograph. A few of the local kids joined her and decided that she was the best blonde haired Barbie ever and proceeded to pull her about even after the dancing had stopped. Overall an interesting night!

Yesterday Christy and I got a collectivo, a taxi bus, to drive us to where we went swimming in the river. I took down my camera and got lots of photos of the colourful birds which zoomed all over and entertained us.
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At lunchtime Steve had suggested we walk up to the village and ask for a woman called Martina who would cook us some lunch. So we turn up, find her and she obligingly cooks for us, but seemed a bit flustered. Whilst eating lunch outside in her garden we chatted to her in our broken Spanish and from what we could work out she didn’t normally cook for people and wasn’t actually a restaurant, just a women with a house, a cooker and a frying pan. Either way she didn’t seem to mind and seemed happy with the company. When we asked her how much she wanted for the food, she got all flustered and refused any payment, we didn’t let her get away with that. Along with the meal we also got a mini tour of all of her menagerie, including 20,765 big turkeys (including a baby turkey just 1 day old), a million dogs and a parrot (numbers may have been enhanced for reader benefit) which her six year old son was keen to handle in a way that the RSPCA wouldn’t approve of, notably holding it upside down, shaking it like a maraca and petting it like he would a full sized Rottweiler, which would have been fine but it was only the size of his hand. I tried to suggest not sticking his fingers in its eye sockets but he just grinned and laughed a lot, he seemed like a very happy boy and was genuinely oblivious of any discomfort the parrot was going through. Out in the country there aint no animal care and I guess animals are for eating or shaking, luckily the parrot didn’t seem all that bothered and the boy got bored so it escaped. After lunch, an afternoon back down at the river watching the vultures swoop around was called for and we lazed about some more in the shade of a tree whilst a girl tried to catch fish, some cowboys charged around and a boy herded his goats around us and across a river using an ingenious way of getting the goats to cross the river which was mainly taking hostage one of the baby goats and walking across with all of the mothers and families following bleating away.
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All very idyllic and it was nice to see some rural Mexican life. After, whilst waiting for the collectivo to pick us up a shopkeeper let us sit on some chairs in the shade outside her shop and gave us a free ice lolly, then a drunken man rolls up and tells us his name is Yinny. He jabbered to us in Spanish for quite a long time, btought me a beer and then sat patting his pot belly whilst telling us he was happy and talking some more, oblivious to the fact that we didn’t understand anything he was saying, even though we are saying “we don’t understand” in Spanish. He didnt seem to mind and we didn’t either. It seems that overall the Mexican people are nice (excluding some police and road tax collectors), especially the rural ones and that the sun is shining and that we are both having a good time. It looks like this entry has turned into a bit of an essay, I’m going to quit before my computer explodes and go for a swim in the pool instead! Tomorrow we´re going sport fishing for tuna, sailfish and marlin, fingers crossed!
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Posted by monkeyboy1 18:16 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Mexican eagle has landed

9353km TRAVELLED SO FAR

sunny 30 °C
View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

Finally, we are here! We arrived in Mexico City on Monday evening and ordered a "safe" taxi from the airport, I think safe is a pretty loose term in this case as our taxi driver, who was in his late 60's, drove at breakneck speed dodging traffic undertaking and overtaking, making even crazy Korean drivers look like old women dawdling to church on a Sunday morning. We arrived safely at our hostel which was really nice, a big colonial building 30 seconds walk away from the main square of the city.

We got up early the next morning and went for a walk around the main square which was an impressive row of colonial buildings with a giant Cathedral in the middle.

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It was all quite peaceful apart from the 100 or so policeman and soldiers standing around, we saw a wide array of killing devices from pump action shot guns to machine guns to standard boring old rifles, all being waved around, often pointing in your face - we just hoped that the safety catches were on and that they hadn't been watching too much Rambo recently. I'm not sure whether the presence of so many military and policemen were meant to make you feel safe, which it did partially, but it also made you wonder exactly how bad the situation was if it needed that many of them in such a small area! Walking around the city there was a policeman on nearly every street corner, there seemed to be almost more policemen than normal people. Luckily we avoided bullets and swine fever which was a great result.

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Walking around the streets the first morning a man called us into his restaurant and fed us pig intestine tacos, the first of my brave Mexican gastronomic experiences! It was actually pretty tasty, much better than the dried grasshopper I ate early today which tasted of gone off crispy marmite, niiiiiice.

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On our first day we went and looked around the National Palace at the murals by Diego Rivera and around the botanical gardens which they seem to have forgotten to plant any flowers in, but it still had some giant cactuses and trees dotted about the place.

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We finished it off with an our first shots of authentic Mexican tequila, which although tasting much better than the normal car brake fluid we get at home, still tasted of tequila which I'm not sure can ever be a good thing after my Stalham Christmas eve experience which I think I will never forget.

The next day we went and comandeered a boat on an ancient canal, it was a bit too relaxing and calm to don my pirate headscarf and patch, but we had a great time floating along in the sunshine with a Corona and some tacos.

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After Mexico City we travelled to a nearby city called Puebla which was exactly what we needed after the intense Mexico city experience, the city was really beautiful and had a really relaxed atmosphere about it. Once again the city was based around a Cathedral and central square.

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We spent our time walking around looking at all the nice buildings, soaking up the sun and eating lots of Mexican food. On the second day we went into the Cathedral which I think contained the most gold I have ever seen in one place. I couldnt help but think it was almost obscene and so over the top and that if even 1% of the gold was sold they could rehome all beggars around the city in mansions, and probably have enough change to purchase a Premier league football team afterwards.

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We were sitting in the main square when a youngish bloke comes over to us and tells us "I had a shower today, I think that makes me handsome", we agreed as any polite English couple would do. He then offered to write us a poem in exchange for some money, he challenged us to think of any topic for this poem, no matter how difficult. So, I asked him to write us a poem about Stephen Hawkins, the legendary astrophysicist. Unfortunately he didn't know who Stephen Hawkins was so we asked him to write us a poem about my big toe (who recently went through a mid life crisis when the nail totally fell off, I was wearing sandals so he could see the toe in question to get some kind of inspiration, and we filled him in with vital information such as the name of the toe, Egor). He agreed to the challenge and wrote possibly one of the worst poems ever heard iof in the history of bad poems, it went like this:

"I write this melancholy to my bare foot,
to the embers of solitude of the broken finger and his light steps of wood and the anarchist theatre,
Egor can fill me with dirtyness,
In this eternal travel in languages and their ultra violet tears of side walks"

We gave him 15 pesos (about 70p) for this work of genius and sent him on his way hoping that he would change career and do something he was a bit better at.

After our relaxing Puebla experience we set off to catch the bus to our next destination, Oaxaca. In order to catch the bus we decided to catch the city bus to the bus station. We got onto the bus after sweating our way over town with my 20kg of backpack and camera equipment and got the bus which was packed full of people, including a blind man playing a harmonic badly. As there was no room we had to stand up and completely filled the space between the seats, holding on for dear life as the driver once again did the manic depressive version of driving seemingly perfected by all Mexicans, alternating between ultra fast and complete stop with very little inbetween. It was taking up pretty much all of my strength to stand upright when the blind man decides he wants to relocate to the front of the bus via us which I would imagine would be quite difficult at the best of times let alone when you have two gringos blocking the way and hanging on to the rails so much that they can't move. Anyway, we eventually got the the bus station in one piece and caught the 5 hour bus to Oaxaca. The journey started off with fairly dull scenery but built up to mountain circuits through cactus forests which was all very spectacular.

We then arrived in Oaxaca last night, home of Mexican art and crafts and funny coloured rugs that Christy loves so much :-)

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First thing this morning I spotted 2 hummingbirds outside our room here which can only be a good omen for this place. We spent today walking around the local markets, people spotting and eating a massive steak with tortillas for lunch (which was better than grasshopper and tequilla put together)

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We're going to spend the next week or so in Oaxaca relaxing and seeing the sites, and afterwards we're off to the beach on the Pacific Ocean for a spot of surfing, duuuuuude! It's only just sinking in that we've got nothing to do apart from relax and see the sites, filled in with the odd siesta here and there, awesome! It's nice not having anything to rush to and that we can take our time speaking to random people and mooching around, sweeet!

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Tomorrow we're going to hire a car and visit the largest tree in the world, a petrified waterfall and a town where they make the colourful rugs. Will add stuff about that soon :)

Posted by monkeyboy1 13:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

7 days till take off

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View Around the world in 365 days... & Where we're going! on monkeyboy1's travel map.

Well, we're just 7 days away from setting off on our trip around the world. The map above shows where we're roughly planning to go. It hasn't really sunk in yet with either of us that we're going travelling, maybe it won't sink in until we actually touch down in Mexico and are trying to find our way around a city with 20 million other inhabitants using our more than basic Spanish, "Entiendo?" "No Entiendo!" could be the way it will all go... :P

Even though it hasn't fully sunk in i'm still getting excited about the prospect of seeing so many cool places and doing so many things, in my head the highlights on the trip will be:

- Diving off the East coast of Mexico.
- Climing Tikal to watch a sunset.
- Trekking an alternate route to Macchu Picchu for Christy's birthday.
- Living in the Amazon for a month whilst trying to avoid being infested with skin boring bugs and/ or wrestling with anacondas.
- Trekking the Great Ocean walk in Australia.
- Seeing Komodo dragons and orangutans in Indonesia.
- Spending Christmas and New Year in Thailand.
- Exploring Africa.
- Spending a year with Christy doing hardly any work, and best of all not having to teach any children! :D

I'm sure there will be many many many many more exciting things happening along the way that I can't even imagine yet and I'll keep this blog updated when I can with everything that happens.

The next time I add to this I'll be in Mexico, hasta la vista amigos!

Posted by monkeyboy1 12:27 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged packing Comments (0)

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