Thumper…

December 31, 2018

Day 4 – Mexico City to Puebla via the Teotihuacan Ruins

Sunday 24th June, 2018

It was an early start today – which was worth it in the end, although after 3 and a bit days of being in transit, it would have been nice to have a sleep in beyond about 6am. Ate breakfast in my room with the best that we could find at the local convenience store yesterday, using a little bag repurposed as a bowl with some cereal type equivalent and some plastic cutlery from the flight over! The streets were so quiet after the hustle and bustle of yesterday. After jumping on our bus, we stopped at an Oxxo store, basically the same as seven elevens. A doughnut ice cream, Pepsi bottles set up as players on a play soccer field – but otherwise fairly normal.

As we drove through the outskirts of Mexico city toward the Teotihuacan Ruins we passed the square houses, built into the hills surrounding the city. Mexico city is actually built on a former lake, a flat shallow lake that was drained so that it could be inhabited. Crossing high above our highway are the wires for a cable car. These cable cars are now available in a few of these communities which help people get to work each day. These have had a major impact on the people living in the area and have been instrumental in lifting these areas out of poverty.

On Sunday’s, the Mexicans get free entry into their tourist attractions, so our aim was to beat the crowds (and the heat), which we did. The ruins here were built hundreds of years ago, around 100BC, with construction continuing until around 250AD. The ruins are part of a large Mesoamerican city, but nobody really knows who it was built by or why it was abandoned. There are a large number of buildings around the area, which would be needed given that the ruins were thought to be a city of up to 125,000 people. There were of course palaces for rulers, kings and priests to live, as well as the supporting buildings. There are two major pyramids in the ruins area, one is the sun and one is the moon. They are built in the shape based on the outline of the nearby hills, with the idea that the silhouette of the pyramid follows the outline of the hill behind it. There are also plenty of other ruins around the place, with a big wide street down the middle called the avenue of death. It’s called that because of the many mammoth bones found, not because many people died there. The avenue is around 40m wide, and a decent length, which various ruins fronting onto the avenue. There’s still more that need to be excavated, but what is there gives a good idea of what the city was like back then.

The sun pyramid, so called because the sun god was worshipped at this monument, is 65m high and you can hike up to the top. This was well worth it and the view from the top was amazing. The sun was still fairly low in the sky, bringing a nice morning light to the surrounding area. The horizon in the distance met with the white clouds, broken occasionally by the higher mountains nearby. The surrounding land was lush green, dotted by larger trees with the odd building in the distance rising up from the landscape. The top of the pyramid was made up of smaller stones, with obvious restoration completed in some areas, but still fitting in well with the original work. Making it look even better were the hot air balloons just sailing over the area.

The mural of the puma was an example of some of the stone paintings of the era, discovered only recently in 1963. Other murals give glimpses into live at the time, such as the temple of agriculture, which has murals of seeds, plants and water on the walls.

You weren’t able to climb to the top of the slightly shorter moon pyramid (around 42m), but you didn’t have up get too high to have a great view as well.

Next stop was a cactus tourist shop. They demoed what you can get from a cactus – thread, needle, paper type stuff, colours to colour the thread. It was really quite amazing what you could do with the nasty looking cactus plant!

We continued on toward Puebla, although got delayed quite a bit by political rallies happening. We pretty much ended up in a traffic jam of hundreds of buses and people all heading to a major political event at the large soccer stadium. Once we’d checked in, we had lunch, while watching a world cup soccer game and a walk around the town. Saw some markets, old cathedrals and enjoyed the streets of the area. There were some great buskers in the area, including some jazz bands with the full set up – drum kits, sax, electric guitar etc, living statues, tricksters and Michael Jackson impersonators. There was also a “unique to Puebla” toilet stop shops – private toilets made available to the public to use, at a fee of course.
We stopped for a nice afternoon tea in an air conditioned American chain restaurant (not maccas) but I can’t remember which one. They had nice donuts, but of course were expensive. To compensate that night we went to a little local Mexican restaurant around the corner and ate some nice tacos for very little!
Puebla is a nice place to visit, the town has a really nice atmosphere and is highly recommended for a visit.

A panorama from the top of the Sun pyramid, Teotihuacan Ruins

A panorama from the top of the Sun pyramid, Teotihuacan Ruins

Views from the moon pyramid, Teotihuacan Ruins

Views from the moon pyramid, Teotihuacan Ruins

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December 30, 2018

Day 3 – Colombia to Mexico

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:55 am
Tags: , ,

24/6/18

An early start as we headed off to the airport so we could get to Mexico, the final destination so we could begin our tour. It was certainly the long way round to get there – Melbourne – Auckland – Santiago – Bogota – Mexico City. Took from Thursday morning (Melb time) through to Saturday afternoon (approx. 2pm Mexican Time), or the equivalent to Sunday morning around 5am Melbourne time. To say we were looking forward to a good nights rest was a little understatement.

The Bogota airport was to become a familiar place over the next few weeks as we flew in and out of there a few times. It was a reasonable airport, but didn’t really have a lot of appealing food places there – plenty of cafes, but not much to actually eat in terms of meals.

The view of Bogota as we were leaving was amazing, it was so clear and showed the city perfectly. There were also some very nice looking beaches that went for miles as we flew over El Salvador.

Aerial view of Bogota, Colombia

Aerial view of Bogota, Colombia

After a good trip (thanks Avianca Airlines), we arrived in Mexico City, Mexico. Got through customs really quickly, which I thought was great, because we didn’t have long in Mexico City.

In style! Our Mexican City Taxi.

In style! Our Mexican City Taxi.

Found a prepaid taxi, which left from the other end of the airport. Mexico city airport is long and thin, so of course we had a long walk carrying or luggage. Jumped in our taxi, which was more like a truck (no wonder it was a bit above the recommend price). It was a bit of a drive to our hotel, but as we were driving along, all seemed ok until we got diverted by the police. Our driver took another route, but then a bit later on, we were diverted again. Seeing the same part of the city confirmed that we were not going far quickly and actually going round in circles. After another little chat with the police, out taxi driver called the hotel. What transpired was there was some kind of march, the streets were blocked off and the hotel was sending the bell boy to meet us. None of us were overly happy about that, but there was nothing we could do about it. The taxi driver was nice enough to wait with us until he arrived, foreigners sitting around in Mexico City is probably not good. In a sense we’d be sitting targets. Our taxi driver spoke no English, we spoke no Spanish, so conversation was a bit limited, but he did understand the offer of food! Once our bell boy arrived, we had a 20-25 minute walk back to the hotel in the hot humid Mexican heat, but the bell boy was nice enough to carry out luggage for us (two bags!). We soon realised that the city was blocked off for the gay pride day march. Our hotel was the other side of the march so we did have to join in to get there while we crossed the road. The march meant that the streets around our hotel were busy, but fairly car free – something that wouldn’t happen very often, but also that most of the time we had to look around Mexico city had been eaten up. There were people with rainbow flags everywhere and people wearing the Mexican soccer shirts everywhere. Mexico had played earlier that day and won, so the people were happy!

The gay march we had to negotiate to get to our hotel in Mexico City.

The gay march we had to negotiate to get to our hotel in Mexico City.

We had just enough time to find a shop round the corner from our hotel and get some food for the next day (like breakfast – it was an early start) before our welcome meeting for our Tucan Tour. We have a small group, 6 people.

The mexican bag stand found in most restaurants!

The mexican bag stand found in most restaurants!

After our meeting we went for Mexican – that was unexpected! Just kidding. What else would you have in Mexico? This restaurant was the introduction to something so far uniquely Mexican – a little hat stand like rack for people to hang their coats, bags or shopping on so that they didn’t have to sit on the floor! Very cool idea, although the waiters and customers had to navigate around them.

December 29, 2018

Day 2 – Bogota, Colombia

June 23, 2018

Waved goodbye to Santiago for a while, some pretty good views of the city lights as you take off.

They served a very nice meal on the plane tonight (Latam Airlines), nice enough to eat as a midnight snack, or whatever time zone the body was in. Coming in to Bogota, Colombia is a little different. The airport is good enough, but there’s a little form you have to fill in detailing the amount of cash you have and what you plan to spend while you’re in Colombia. This is in addition to the normal customs form. There’s also some cool screens above the wash basin in the toilets just to be sure they’re not leaving any advertising revenue stone unturned.

Above the basin at the Bogota airport!

Above the basin at the Bogota airport!

Got to the hotel, Hotel Vilar, Bogota and we thought it would be too early to check in, but they found a room for us, then because we were leaving early the next morning, they moved our free breakfast to today for us which was really nice.

Chorro de Quevedo Square, Bogota Colombia

Chorro de Quevedo Square, Bogota Colombia

From there we went on a free bike tour (Gran Colombia Tours), checking out various areas of the city. It’s so bike friendly, it’s great for cycling around. There are specific bike only lanes, marked specially and divided with lines just like a road. The traffic lights have special lights for the cyclists as well.

Bike lane at an intersection, Bogota

Bike lane at an intersection, Bogota

We saw a number of city squares, the first and oldest, Chorro de Quevedo Square, was established with a chapel and 12 houses, one for each disciple.

Lievano Palace, Bolivar Square, Bogota Colombia

Lievano Palace, Bolivar Square, Bogota Colombia

The next square is the main public square, Bolivar Square, or Plaza de Bolivar in Spanish. The square houses the city hall, congress of Colombia, a cathedral and the Palace of Justice of Colombia. The entire square area is rather large and is filled with pigeons (flying rats), people feeding them and people trying to sell you stuff.

Llama at Bolivar Square, Bogota

Llama at Bolivar Square, Bogota

From there we stopped at a few old buildings, like the National Museum, and a park. There are lots of parks around Bogota, all are nice and easy to get to. The ride to this point was also quite good as it was level enough, but tending to the down side. I was hoping we didn’t have to ride back! We stopped at one park for some local fruit juices, but they weren’t really anything to write home about… Except that I just did. We briefly stopped in for a look at another square type area where there were some public chess games happening and saw the Arcade at the Parque Nacional (National Park which is not a national park like we know in Australia).

Arcade in the National Park, Bogota

Arcade in the National Park, Bogota

Our bike tour took us to the new area of town where we were staying, which is very pet friendly. We were shown an indoor swimming pool which normally has ducks on it. Pet ducks. Or pet dogs etc. It just looked like a normal indoor swimming pool that any old gym would have, except that it’s a pet swimming pool. Of course the time we were there it was closed for cleaning.

Pet swimming pool, Chapinero area, Bogota, Colombia

Pet swimming pool, Chapinero area, Bogota, Colombia

On the ride back to the old town, we stopped at the old bull ring, which was in use up until about the 90’s when Colombia outlawed bull fighting. The ride back was ok, but i think the effects of altitude were being felt, at least that’s the excuse I’ll use. Bogota is at 3000m, our highest mountain in Australia is 2200.

After we’d dropped the bikes back off at the start, it was well past lunch time so we went and grabbed some local Colombian food at a nearby restaurant near the Chorro de Quevedo Square. Google Translate came in handy as we tried to decipher the Spanish menu with our non existent Spanish!

Lunch near Chorro de Quevedo Plaza

Lunch near Chorro de Quevedo Plaza

The walk back to the hotel was interesting and long. For some unknown reason we decided to walk, perhaps not realising it would actually take as long as it did. It would have taken us at least a couple of hours, and we were walking quite quickly, but it took longer because we stopped to look at stuff (and rest a little). With Colombia in the world cup, which was on at the moment, there were Colombian soccer shirt sellers everywhere on the footpaths, along with anything else they could sell, including drugs. Yes, the drugs that an Australian is now doing time for in a prison in Bogota. The city was actually quite easy to navigate around as the roads are basically numbered and in order – Calle 1 (street 1) , Calle 2 etc. Made it easy to find the street our hotel was in and which direction to walk, but the down side was you knew how many more blocks you had to drag your feet for… We’d looked at jumping on a bus, because we figured they’d run along the main road we were walking along, but we decided against it because as we studied the people boarding, we noticed they were all showing a card – we didn’t have one, nor did we have the Spanish skills to ask about one and a second type of bus, where a few were paying cash just didn’t look right. We found out our suspicions were right in a couple of weeks on our return journey when we were talking to our tour leader about getting round Bogota. So we kept walking…

Nice bike lane, Bogota

Nice bike lane, Bogota

The streets are safe or not safe, depending on who you talk to, even within bogota. Later on we ducked around the corner for something to eat, ended up with a pizza that was a little undercooked but was otherwise ok and then an early night.

December 28, 2018

Day 1 Melbourne – Santiago, Chile

To escape the winter cold this year, I chose Mexico and Colombia, with a stopover in Chile both ways. It doesn’t seem like it was over 6 months ago that I left, but somehow time has gone that fast, and that yes, it is in fact that long. It will probably take a month or so to write this up! I find it’s like going on holiday all over again, makes the summer holidays that bit more enjoyable.

22/6/18

Peanut butter sandwich!

Peanut butter sandwich!

Had a reasonable flight time, leaving Melbourne at 10.45am, so that was good – left my friends house with a nice packed lunch, so I got to eat a nice peanut butter sandwich on the flight over! First stop was Auckland, which was all good until I was in the plane for the next flight. So the story. Got ON the plane. Went to put my luggage in the overhead compartment. I always put camera bag in over head compartment. It’s not there. I don’t have it. I had it when I got off the first plane. So, I grabbed my boarding pass and passport, ran off the plane as fast as I could, which isn’t easy when others are boarding, back up the walk way to where they scan your pass to get in. They took my pass off me, then I ran to where I thought I had it last. The drinking fountain. It wasn’t there. Asked the lady in the stall nearby for help. She said call this number. I said how… In the end, she started calling and while she did that, I went to the charging station where we were just before the water fountain. Thankfully, praise God, there it was. Calmly walked up grabbed it, thanked the lady for not really helping me and bolted back to the plane. The airline checkin staff were really nice, asked me if I’d found it. Phew. Thankfully after that the flight was uneventful. They even served ice cream on the plane, all be it in the middle of the night, a creamy vanilla with anzac biscuit.

Leaving Auckland

Leaving Auckland

The day doesn’t finish there, because Chile is back in time, so we got to do the day pretty much all over again. With no sleep in between. We arrived in Chile around 2pm their time, which by then was probably around 5am Melbourne time. When you enter Chile at Santiago, they charge Australian’s a reciprocal entry fee – around $123USD and make sure you have brand new USD notes or you’ll get rejected. Leaving the airport was interesting – the taxi that we’d arranged through the hostel wasn’t there, so we had to organise a taxi – that was interesting. We thought we’d ordered a taxi from the correct place and got these guys who were leading us down around through the carpark to an ATM – thinking we needed some cash to pay them (we didn’t). Finally set them straight, but you can see how easy it is for travellers to get led up the wrong path in strange countries.

Presidential Palace, Santiago Chile

Presidential Palace, Santiago Chile

So at Chile it was a 10hr stopover. I booked The Travellers Place hostel for about $17 for two, so we had a place to have a shower and leave some stuff while we wandered around.

We did an afternoon free walking tour around Santiago, which is a nice city, with some good historical buildings, especially in the older area of the city. They have what’s called ‘cafe with legs’, a regular cafe, but the staff wear short skirts and show off their legs. Mostly men visit the cafe, and at a couple of places they have banned women attending, because the wives or girlfriends would catch their partners there and make a scene.

Stock Exchange, Santiago Chile

Stock Exchange, Santiago Chile

There’s a really big park there, the Parque Forestal (Forestal Park), which is quite long, running alongside the river and that’s one place where they look after stray dogs. There’s kennels in the park for the strays to sleep – they also give the dogs coats in the winter and food, so they are all well looked after.

Dog kennels for the stray dogs in the Forestal Park, Santiago Chile

Dog kennels for the stray dogs in the Forestal Park, Santiago Chile

It was 11degC in Santiago around 7pm at night, although no wind, so it wasn’t too bad. Plus we were walking heaps. So as long as you were doing that it was ok. We stopped at a little donut café in the Bellavista area for some tea – it had free wifi, heaps of nice looking donuts and some nice lasagne.

Currently 11 deg C! 7:35pm in June

Currently 11 deg C! 7:35pm in June

Back to the hostel, had a shower, a quick lie down, quick use of their wifi and then off to the airport for a midnight flight to Colombia.

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