Welcome to Mexico
18/01/2008 - Mexico from the south up through the Yucatan peninsula and 3 hours in Belize!
If you´ve already ploughed your way through this mammoth epistle then please don´t so do again!! this is just to let you know about the 30 or so new photo´s we´ve uploaded today, so go and visit the gallery!! Its been a nice 2 day rest here in Antigua and we fly on to Ecuador tomorrow morning,
more soon N and C xx
Sorry its taken a while for us to get this updated but we´ve really been staying in some remote places where we were lucky to get electricity let alone internet access some days!! But that gives lots of photos and lots of stuff to read in this bumper installment...
Day 4 -
Today we drove across the border in to Mexico from Guatemala, our guide said it would take 6 hours but in the end it took us 10! Quite a long day and nothing much to write about except mad dogs running out across the road and several Guatemalan road blocks as they blasted away part of the mountains to make the roads bigger. Dusty, dusty roads! Arrived in San Cristobal where we were staying for 2 days. Traditional meal saw Nicky trying Chicken with a chocolate sauce! (look out for this new phenomenon on Dragons Den when we get back - Reggae, Reggae Sauce look out!). Todays speed hump count was in excess of 291!
Patrick Moore would be proud of this part of the world - as well as the moon being rotated 90degrees, they have a pechant for Zylophone music. We´ve had accompaniments in lots of restuarants - which universally have been terrible. And then they want you to buy the CD on the way out. Fat chance...
Day 5 -
GPS N16.7400 W92.6299 Alt 2141m
(Woo hoo - technology! Check out our hotels live on Google Earth/Maps)
Cold outside this morning, you can see your breath but its bright and sunny. Drove a short distance to the Village of San Jaun de Chumula which translates as "Dead Mule"!?! It had a very colourful market place and church, but the locals were not keen on having their piccy taken as they believed the camera would steal their soul! Rotten fruit thrown at you was the risk you took should you point that lens! We walked through the hills to a village on the other side, on the way passing a school where our arrival disrupted lessons as the kids all poured outside chanting "PENCIL PENCIL PENCIL" (in spanish obviously!), In order to get rid of them, our guide Jose told them the next group behind us had the pencils, and off they ran down the road (there was no next group - bad man Jose!)
Also in this village Cameron was first in the group to suffer the food poisoning. Not much dignity in running from the local church to vomit in public!
Day 6 -
GPS N17.4912 W 92.0265 Alt 63m
First stop this morning was the beautiful water falls at Ague Azul which means Blue Water. The colour of the river and falls was amazing, and we even had time for a swim in the freezing waters - though the current was very strong, and we had to be careful we didn´t get swept over! The falls stretch along the river for a few Km so we had a good chance to wander along and explore them and take some photos for the gallery. After swimming, we drove on to Palenque in the hot and humid flatlands, but at least we left the twisty mountain roads behind for a while. Home tonight was a small hut in the jungle! Very basic, but the noises outside were incredible! There was a big bar area for dinner which was packed with travellers from all over, evening entertainment included a fire show!
There are too many dogs in Mexico. Cameron has concluded this after many days of arduous research. We have had other "cooing" incidents from the women of the group over ´cute´ little puppies. The last thing Mexico needs is more dogs!
Day 7 -
GPS N19.8430 W90.5358 Alt 10m
Alfresco 17 course brekkie this morning under a canopy in the jungle, then off to our first Mayan ruins of the trip - Palenque. Spent a good few hours looking round the incredible ruins emerging from the rainforest floor. Afterwards, it was back in to the van and a drive north to Campeche on the Mexican Gulf, stopping off at the beach for a swim and a leg stretch. Very hot and humid here. Campeche is a walled city, but the walls have nothing on Berwick Upon Tweed´s in this authors opinion! Our hotel was pretty poor and sweaty, without a window in our room, but nevermind as it´s just a place to lay our heads for a night and no more. Took a stroll around the city in the evening before a nice meal out.
At the end of the days - it just wouldn´t happen in the UK - Historic Scotland or English Heritage would forbid it - you can just clamber all over the ruins and everything here - on these ridiculously important archeological sites. It kinda doesn´t seem to make sense as you clamber to the best views.
Day 8 -
GPS N20.9654 W89.6189 Alt 4m
First week gone already! Morning stroll around Campeche and the sea front, before driving on to Uxmal Ruins. A much smaller site than Palenque, and visited by fewer tourists, which gave it a nicer feeling. Saw the Magicians Pyramid and the impressive Nunnery Courtyard. We also saw our first Iguanas which live in abundance amongst the stones and happily relax in the sun while they get their photo taken! Lunch was lime soup and cocktails, with chicken and pork that had been cooked in the ground (they made a song and dance about this which was inappropriate to try and justify the price)! Cameron stuck to a traditional Pina Colada (which didn´t have pineapple??), whilst Nicky tried a Witch´s Fart - combination of fruit jiuces with Tequila, run and vodka! After lunch it was a short drive on to Merida a lovely colonial city on the Yucatan Peninsula. Our hotel was lovely and had Cerveza Happy Hour in the bar - sorted! Although they still don´t understand why Nicky always orders an extra sprite to make up a ´shandy´. For dinner Jose took us to a Taco place (Mexican Taco´s are to Fahijitas to Gringos! and Mexicas then don´t have anything which mirrors what we would recognise as a Taco, Confused!? Managed to get our first load of washing done at the hotel, very exciting to have clean clothes again!
We´d also like to name and shame our parents for all being out when we tried to call for the first time - we´d like to recommend Skype for calling home when overseas, but we´d not like to recommend our folks for actually having social lives :-)
Day 9 -
GPS N20.1561 W87.4558 sea level
Cereal for breakfast which makes a novel and welcome change from scrambled egg! Today we drove to the most famous Mayan Ruins, Chichen Itza or as we prefer to call it "Chichen Pizza". Its a UNESCO heritage site, and one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. Its an impressive site, but spoiled by the hoardes of coaches that turn up from Cancun ferrying the huge cruise ship passengers (and yes we do imply the 2 meanings of the huge ships, and huge passengers) for their day on land. It was nearly mission impossible to get photos that didn´t include half the population of the USA in them, until Cameron shouted "free burgers" and pointed to the bemused food stall, and watched the subsequent stampede.
We also saw our first Cenote (or sink hole), a cave and Mayan water storage system. Later than day we got the chance to swim in a cenote underground, it was lovely clear water and wierd swimming around stalactites, quite beautiful. Home tonight was just outside the town of Tulum on the Carribean Sea. Our bungalow opens out on to the most amazing sandy beach and blue water. We arrived just in time for an incredible sunset and had a late night paddle along the shore. Take a look at our photos in the Gallery as they are truly stunning!
Day 10 -
Still in Tulum, this is our rest day and what a place to be. Waking up to the waves crashing outside our room, and jumping straight out of bed and in to the sea for a swim - perfect! Watched a pair of Flamingos fly overhead, and loads of pelicans around. Took the offer of a cave snorkelling trip in the afternoon, so we donned mask, flippers and snorkel and were led off through a series of caves. The underwater world was really eerie, some small fish came up to examine our flash lights, and we had to watch we didnt bump our heads on the over hanging rocks. Walked along the sea front road tonight to find a place for dinner, were suprised to find it had rained when we came out - thats not supposed to happen here in a paradise beside the Carribean Sea!!
Day 11 -
GPS N18.7317 W88.3536 Alt 15m
During the night it poured down, sounded very loud on the roof of our bungalow! However dawn was bright and clear, off to visit Tulum ruins today which are very small in comparison to the other sites we visited, but unique in that they perch on the shore overlooking the Carribean Sea. Jose said it would be dry all day, but 10 mins after we arrived the heavens opened and we do mean ´OPENED´ - We were soaked, but at least it was warm rain! Thankfully the sun came out soon afterwards, and we dried off fairly quickly. In the afternoon we drived on to Bacalar, a tiny place on a lagoon shore, south of Tulum - which was badly hit by the hurricanes that hit Mexico last October. We stayed at an eco-lodge where we had a straw roofed hut overlooking the lagoon. We took a canoe out for a paddle before sunset, and from the lagoon you could see the massive amount of trees felled during the storms. Cameron discovered that the waterproof taupaulin zipped up round our bags on the top of the van was a misnomer, and that all his undies were now squelching! The only electricity was solar powered and that ran out shortly after dark as it´d been cloudly for a lot of the day, so it was dinner and beer by candelight! There was just our group on site which made it a very special place - and over more beers and cocktails later that night the owners told us how their site they´d owned and built up over the last 12 months had been ripped apart around them, as they sheltered from the storm as it ran straight over them. It´s really amazing what they´ve managed to reconstruct in the short few months!
Day 12 -
Woke to another incredible dawn chorus of cheeps, caws, whoops and hoots of the jungle!! 3 countries in one day today, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, so its 2 border crossings and another long day on the road. Belize being part of the British Commonwealth was a bit bizarre for us, as the signs turned to English for the 4 hours or so we were driving through, before reverting to Spanish again at the 2nd border crossing. Belize City was very dissapointing, as there was nothing much to look at, and we drove almost straight through without stopping. We did stop for a lovely lunch along the way at another eco-resort where we had chicken or fish with pineapple. Eventually, after bribing our way back into Guatemala for 60p each (yes, really, it´s true!), and long after dark and our scheduled arrival time (I think we´re starting to get the timekeeping principles of the Central Americans now!), we rolled in to Santa Elena near the Isle of Flores in Guatemala. Flores is a small village on a island in the middle of a huge lagoon, connected to the mainland by a causeway which we travelled over to get dinner.
Cameron´s extra notes for today
Is it mandatory for all minibuses in Central America to have broken windscreens?
Flores theives are rubbish, and polite, One came up and asked if we spoke Spanish, and then after we answered that we didn´t, then asked for our money. To which we turned tail and walked back into the hotel. Anyways, we then put off our trip to the ATM that night and stuck with the group incase there was anyone who´d actually performed a robbery before...
Day 13 -
(Forgot to get GPS, sorry, but easy enough to find Flores Isle on the map sites!)
Today is our last set of ruins, and our last day of this part of our trip. We drove to Tikal national park which is the biggest Mayan Site. The National park spans an area of more than 500 square Kms. Our guide for the day was Abel who turns out to be an Air Traffic Controller at Flores local airport who ran guided tours in his free time! We spent hours walking along small jungle paths (and Nicky chatting about aircraft, runway lengths and primary and secondary radars - yawn - are we not on holiday?), coming across huge ruins. Some of the buildings have been restored, and others are still just mounds of earth covered with the jungle. We climbed up to the top of one of the temples (68m tall) for a fantastic view over the jungle canopy, with the tops of other ruins peeping through. We saw some Spider Monkeys swinging through the trees, and heard the noise of the Howler Monkeys in the distance, we also saw some Toucans flying around. In the afternoon we arrived into the airport, Cameron did the group presentation on the bus for Jose, and we took a brief 30 min flight from Flores back to Guatemala City. We lost the first couple from our group today as they stayed in Guatemala City to be close to the airport for their early flight. The remaining members of the group drove back to Antigua, and had our last meal of the trip, finding a kind of TGI Fridays place for food and drink, finally agreeing to share a round of Tequila with Jose before we left for bed! (Suprisingly Jose disappeared when time came to be paying for that round ;-)
Overall a great trip with some lovely people, fantastic sites and amazing places to stay. Next stop Quito, Ecuador for the Galapagos Islands!
Thanks for all the Guestbook entries and emails and texts, please keep them coming as we love to hear news and gossip from home. Hello to Katie Clark born as we were leaving! congrats to new mum and dad Andy and Alison. For those ATC at Brum, one of our group on this trip taught the son of Bunny Gunsen at school - small world!! Sorry this is such a long one, we´ll try and keep the next one briefer for you all. Till the next time Adios Amigos!! xx