Thumper…

January 16, 2019

Day 12 Palenque – Merida

Monday 2nd July, 2018

Had a day of travelling today, heading from Palenque in Chiapas to Merida in the state of Yucatan. About 8 hrs on the bus. Got seat number 1 on the bus, the very front seat behind the driver. The biggest advantage was getting off – you didn’t have to wait for everyone to get organised. Sitting right behind the driver didn’t give us an unobstructed view out the front though – he had the blind down so it was kind of weird because we couldn’t see anything at all out the front!

The view from seat number 1!

The view from seat number 1!

The first part of the trip was going over the road we came in on because we’d had to come the long way last time. Thanks indigenous groups.

The scenery for the most part along here was different to the first part of the trip. It was not as hilly, so in a way a lot less spectacular, but still different in its own way. At plenty of places along the road they have toll booths and at one stop they were all gathered round one watching the soccer world cup. I don’t know whether service suffered at all – it was a pretty quiet time of the day, so maybe if somebody came they ran back to their booth to serve them (assuming they’re not automatic).

The water just near Emiliano Zapata, Mexico

The water just near Emiliano Zapata, Mexico

We got our first glimpse of the coast around the Champoton/Escarcega area, before heading inland again. It looked warm outside, the beaches looked quite inviting (and not many people either) so it would have been good to stop and have a look around. That’s the down side of a public bus though. You just can’t.

The Champoton beach, Yucatan, Mexico

The Champoton beach, Yucatan, Mexico

The bus trip was fairly uneventful and we arrived in Merida around 4.30. The drive in must bring you along the back streets and we were winding through little streets that have old cars sitting on the side of the road, people hanging around, streets generally not very tidy, houses in disrepair. I wondered what kind of town we were heading into… But Merida turned out to be quite good!

Merida town sign in the town sqare

Merida town sign in the town sqare

After we got to our hotel (Hotel Colonial), we checked in and from there we walked around the city square and enjoyed the old buildings. The San Ildefonso Cathedral in the center square area has some massive wooden doors – they would have to be the largest doors I have ever seen. Just across the road from there is the municipal offices and Governor’s Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) on the corner of the square (Calle 60 and 61). Palacio de Gobierno is a good place to visit – and it’s free. It’s really more like an art gallery and when we were there it had a series of huge artworks that depicted Mexican history, from the Mayans to the Spanish. The explanations talked a little bit about when the Spanish came and the different problems that caused. It was very interesting – I actually didn’t take any photos of the works in there because I was too busy reading it all!

A grand hall, in one of the galleries with the history of Mexico paintings at the municipal offices

A grand hall, in one of the galleries with the history of Mexico paintings at the municipal offices

That evening we watched the lunes free dancing show in the square area in front of the Modulo De Informacion Turistica (the tourist information buildings), with the dancers doing some traditional dances for the people. The area was crowded, but they’d set out seats for the elderly. Pretty funny when my travelling companion got offered a seat, but I was refused! The night was warm and balmy and with a large crowd it made it fairly warm. The dancing was very good though and the crowd got involved in the fun of the night. The best dance was at the end when the ladies were carrying a tray of drinks while dancing. There was not a drop spilt and I did wonder whether it was fake, but it was definitely real liquid, so they did very well to dance with them! If you’re in Merida on Monday nights, make sure you check this out – even if you just stay for part of it.

Advertisements

January 9, 2019

Day 11 – Palenque

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 9:54 pm
Tags: , , , ,

1 July, 2018.

Palenque is pronounced pal en k.

The ruins rise from the jungle, Palenque

The ruins rise from the jungle, Palenque

If you can picture a brilliant blue sky with the odd whispy white cloud, bright green forest contrasting with the lighter green of the thick lush grass and the sun beating down mixed with high humidity, you have the setting for the Palenque ruins. The thick grass provides a soft cushion underfoot and the shade of the taller trees provides relief from the heat – and it’s only 8am. The ruins of the Mayan city Lakamha, nor far from Palenque, is where we are headed today.

The different temples in the area, Palenque Ruins

The different temples in the area, Palenque Ruins

These weren’t as excavated as others we have seen so far, but underneath, surveyed but not yet restored or even unearthed, is a town big enough for around 100,000 people. The ruins, hidden for thousands of years by the dense jungle, now rise from that cleared jungle, revealing secrets of a long gone dynasty, a people who were capable of building giant complex structures, but somehow incapable of carrying on their way of life. There was the kings tomb, a massive structure built to house his body, the kings palace and a number of temples. The kings palace was a complex structure that included toilets, running water and sewage systems, galleries, bedrooms, courtyards and its own observatory. They are working on restoring more of it.

Restoration works, Kings Palace, Palenque Ruins

Restoration works, Kings Palace, Palenque Ruins

There are three temples that have been restored, the temple of the sun, the temple of the cross and the temple of foliage. It’s believed that these structures of Lakamha were built around 226BC and abandoned possibly in the 700’s.

Temple of the Cross, Palenque Ruins

Temple of the Cross, Palenque Ruins

The mayans believed that corn was a god, and as well as dedicating a temple to it, royalty babies also had their skulls squashed and elongated to make them look like heads of corn. Normally rubber bands are used to do this.

Another area they had restored was a ball court for a game played with a rubber ball. The rules for this city where the loses got decapitated. Definitely an incentive to play and win.

Ballcourt area, Palenque Ruins

Ballcourt area, Palenque Ruins

The walk from the ruins area to the museum was a well made path through the jungle, which was just like our rain forest. There were some interesting waterfalls along the way, some other man made structures from the mayan era and occasionally some wildlife – although I think they were all hiding because it was too hot!

In the afternoon we went to Roberto Barrios waterfalls. These were a series of cascades, with limestone rocks and green water flowing over the different levels. The water was lovely and cool on this hot day and we were able to navigate this waterfall by climbing down it, sliding down it in places and swimming in the pools. There are even ropes there to help you do this. If getting in the waterfall doesn’t appeal, there’s also paths alongside the falls to take so you can get to the bottom. Even though it didn’t feel it, the water was actually quite strong. There was one place I stood under one of the cascades in the waterfall and it wasn’t a nice gentle stream like I thought it would be!

A series of cascades, Roberto Barrios Falls, Palenque

A series of cascades, Roberto Barrios Falls, Palenque

The only thing I can think of that comes close to being similar to these falls are the Tad Sea Waterfalls in Laos near Luang Prabang. That too was excellent and not to be missed.

The waterfall wasn’t very crowded even though it was Sunday, perhaps because it was election day in Mexico. Hanging out at, and in, the waterfalls was probably one of the best times of the trip.

Roberto Barrios Falls, Palenque

Roberto Barrios Falls, Palenque

After a nice relaxing time, we headed back to the hotel, a spot of food shopping for lunch the next day at a supermarket (chedraui) that was a big department store crossed with a big supermarket. Whatever you wanted you could get – almost! No soft cushy world cup themed thing, but plenty of world cup donuts and cup cakes in Mexcican colours, plenty of good looking baked goods (uncovered and having the odd blow fly land on them) and some very odd things. Odd to us anyway – chicken feet, cactus leaves and plenty of different types of herbs.

Chicken feet

Chicken feet

From there we headed to the central park (Parque Central) where we had something to eat at a little street side café in the park, then finished it off with some hand made ice creams at the shop next door. Not sure of the name of this place, but head to the park and it’s on the 1a ote nte – at the back of the square/park area. There’s also some good souvenir shops in this area, especially on Central Pte (I picked up a Mexican blanket). Don’t miss the Burger King in that street – we didn’t eat there, but I did visit there. Just like here, they have good toilets…

Choice of ice creams, Central Park, Palenque

Choice of ice creams, Central Park, Palenque

One strange shop that I noticed took me back in time – but not because I ever remember something like this. A dimly lit shop with a person at the front desk and one other customer caught my eye. The sign above the shop said “Trunk Calls”. I’m like trunk calls…. The shop was filled with phones – probably a dozen or so in their own little booths inside the shop – imagine an internet café except with phones instead of pcs. The one customer was up the back in his own booth chatting on the phone. It was one of those sights that I kind of shook my head and checked, double checked and then triple checked what I was seeing. I checked so much I didn’t even get a photo – it may have been too dark anyway.

The streets are quite safe at night, it’s nice and warm and very pleasant walking around these areas.

January 6, 2019

Day 10 San Cristobal – Palenque

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:04 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

30 June, 2018

A cool little bus in San Cristobal

A cool little bus in San Cristobal

Today was a travel day, where we spent most of the day on the bus. We had a chance to take a last look around San Cristobal in the morning and grab anything we needed to eat for lunch and tea before leaving. Most shops were slow at opening, even though it was 10am. The bus stations are like airports and run really efficiently. They’re also very clean, although you do have to pay for the toilets. Your bags are checked in, admittedly at the bus as you are boarding, but you’re given a ticket and can only collect your bag with that ticket. No ticket = no bag, so don’t lose that ticket!

The bus today wasn’t express, we left at 12 and made quite a few little stops which is a little annoying when you’re going right through. The trip today was about 8 or 9 hours, for a town about 3 or 4 hours away, with the route going through Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco. The direct road to Palenque passes through an indigenous people controlled area, so depending on their mood, depends on whether traffic can get through. The big public buses always go round, just not taking their chances.

An idea of the long v short route (map from aboutsancristobal.com)

An idea of the long v short route (map from aboutsancristobal.com)

You could take a small private bus and go the short way, which then gives you the luxury of stopping off at some amazing sights along the way, but unless you travel in convoy, you’re also at risk of being held up. There’s been plenty of reports of bandits holding up and then robbing vehicles, especially with foreigners on it. Yep, letting the indigenous control their land seems like a good thing…

Found a new little street in San Cristobal that had some different little bakeries and shops, but I’ve still learnt that while they look good, they don’t always taste the best. I was tempted with the chocolate mice though, but as soon as you left the shop they’d melt it was so hot and humid!

Chocolate mice at San Cristobal

Chocolate mice at San Cristobal

On the way to Palenque, we stopped at Chontalpa. We saw the train line that carries refugees to the USA from the Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The people of the town actually throw food to the people on board, because it’s a long journey. If you look at the map, we’re way down at the bottom of Mexico, not far from Guatemala.

The train line illegal migrants often use to get to the US

The train line illegal migrants often use to get to the US

We got to the hotel around 8.45pm, so a long day of travelling. So what do you do on a bus for nearly 9 hours? Good question. I had a phone and ipod, so those tended to get a bit of use. A portable USB charger is a blessing – there’s usually a USB charging port, but it doesn’t always work. I had a friend back in Aus who was sending me some clips of Masterchef – so that would normally fill in 20 or 30 minutes watching those. Thanks to the Mexican sim card I purchased back in Puebla, Whatsapp data was free, so it was easy enough to download those clips. Movies on the phone, I’d update my travel diary, I loved watching the scenery and of course, inevitably you would get some sleep!

Some of the water ways and marshes near Chontalpa

Some of the water ways and marshes near Chontalpa

January 5, 2019

Day 9 – San Cristobal – Sumidero Canyon

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

29 June, 2018

Went out to Sumidero Canyon (Canon del Sumidero) today then came back and had free time. The drive to the canyon had some simply stunning scenery, although it was not stunning enough to keep me awake for the whole trip…

The area between San Cristobal and Chiapa de Corzo

The area between San Cristobal and Chiapa de Corzo

The tour that we took was organised for us by our tour leader and he didn’t come with us. The company we went with was quite good, but everything was in Spanish. When we arrived at Chiapa de Corzo, the town the boats leave from, we dutifully followed everyone else – collected our life jacket and sat where we were told in the boat. The toilets at the boat port looked clean, shiny and new, but were behind a big turnstile gate requiring you to put a coin in the slot to use them. A few people had a bit of trouble with their bags going through the turnstile, so it’s best to not be in a hurry if you’re planning on using these toilets!

The entrance to the toilets at the boat launch base, near Chiapa de Corzo

The entrance to the toilets at the boat launch base, near Chiapa de Corzo

Once on the boat that was fairly full, but not over crowded, there was somebody who could interpret for us and could tell us a bit about what our boat driver was saying. Mostly though, the scenery spoke for itself.

The canyon was spectacular. The cliffs or walls were around 300m high going fairly much straight up. Most were covered in jungle type vegetation. There were meant to be animals you could spot along the way as the boat cruised up the canyon, although the boat driver didn’t seem to be spotting too many animals. We saw 3 baby crocs sunning themselves on a rock, I spotted a monkey and there were a few different birds flying around. The monkey appeared small, and around this area of the canyon, the walls were mostly bare, but the monkey seemed to have inspector gadget arms that enabled him to reach branches and roots that didn’t seem possible. Around each bend a stunning new view of high gorges appeared, the high gorge walls parting enough at the top to reveal the pale blue sky and a few whispy white clouds. At the bottom of the gorge a river flowed which was probably fairly deep if the walls continued down as they did up. At one point there was a helicopter flying which put the size of the walls into perspective. The helicopter was dwarfed, and appeared as not much more than a dot against the huge towering walls of the canyon. It certainly reminded you of how insignificant you were compared to the size of these walls.

Sumidero Canyon

Sumidero Canyon

There was the occasional water fall that flowed over the edge of the gorge, breaking up the continuous cliffs. There was at least one cave area where a shrine had been set up to the Virgin of Guadalupe, which is a catholic title of the virgin mary assocatied with her appearing as an apparition to people. With the shrine came sacrifices and candles, placed there by people who took a boat to the area, then climbed the ladder to the cave.

Virgin of Guadalupe picture

Virgin of Guadalupe picture

After a while we rounded a bend and the river opened up to reveal some farm land and a big dam, the Chicoasén Dam. We were actually on top of the dam wall, so we couldn’t see the height of the wall, but that could have potentially added more height to the gorge, or given a better indication or how deep it was (or used to be). The walls of the canyon varied in vegetation cover – from nothing to lush green low trees. The near vertical walls generally had no vegetation, but instead mineral deposits added to the streaky linear appearance of the walls, whereas the walls that had a bit of angle were covered in the lush green low trees.

Sumidero Canyon

Sumidero Canyon

The dam produces electricity for the area and accounts for 30% of the hydro electricity generated in Mexico, so it’s a fairly key piece of infrastructure for them. There were plenty of brown pelican type birds sitting on the drums around the wall, the most concentrated number of wildlife we saw in the canyon and of course you’re at a tourist attraction, so even on the water, you can’t escape vendors selling you stuff, so here we had the boats pulling up alongside selling food.

Sumidero Canyon

Sumidero Canyon

The day was quite warm and sunny, with a higher humidity, made bearable by the wind generated as you sped through the water on the boat.

The trip back was express and then we were back on the bus heading back. We stopped for lunch at the nearby small colonial type town of Chiapa de Corzo. This was where our lack of Spanish let us down – and there was nobody to translate for us. The tour dropped us in the middle of the town and we’ve looked at each other and said how long do we have, where do we meet? We thought we had a vague time (we’d picked up a little bit) but everybody disappeared that quickly we couldn’t confirm, so we thought no worries, we’ll just keep the bus in sight. But then the bus disappeared as well… So anyway, we found a little street type stall/restaurant – they were a bit surprised at having 4 foreigners for lunch and we were wondering whether we’d end up being sick later, but we got something and then still had a few minutes to fill in. We stupidly thought the bus would pick us up from the same place it dropped us off, but that didn’t happen. We saw a couple of others in the group wander down a side street (the one we ate lunch at, so we knew there was nothing interesting to look at down there) – and not come back. After initially wondering whether we missed something interesting down there, we realised it was the bus… Engine running, slowly inching forward, we climbed on the bus as the last ones aboard and wondered whether they were actually going to wait for us or not. The joys of travelling! But all good.

Endless, Sumidero Canyon

Endless, Sumidero Canyon

The scenery back was of course amazing again.

For what was left of the afternoon I just hung around the hotel. I tossed up heading back to La Parisina to get that soft comfy object that had been gnawing at me, but I wasn’t quite convinced as yet. More time was needed. But then the doubts arose – what if I didn’t see another? Fireworks going off at random times made an interesting afternoon. Went back to the same place as last night for tea and it was just as good.

The height of the cliffs are staggering, Sumidero Canyon

The height of the cliffs are staggering, Sumidero Canyon

January 4, 2019

Day 8 – San Cristobal

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 7:13 am
Tags: , , , ,

June 28, 2018

Today we were going to a couple of indigenous villages.

These villages run independently, they have their own leaders, own justice system, yes their own laws almost.

Our guide for the local villages was an indigenous person who had a chip on his shoulder regarding the west and christianity.

The first village, Chamula, was the most extreme. He welcomed us to the village by saying that they don’t want foreigners here, but if you have to come, here are the do’s and don’ts. Mostly don’ts. Except of course that they want your money, so anything they possibly could charge you for, they did. I think if the tour hadn’t been organised by our tour company, at that point most of us would have walked away and said don’t bother.

Of course the only ways to actually get to and from the village are by transport that is owned and operated by the village. Passenger vehicles from Mexico are not allowed to enter the Chamulan territory.

Unfinished Spanish church in Chamula

Unfinished Spanish church in Chamula

He blamed the introduction of coke to the village for all the rubbish lying around – “they” gave us coke, can’t they give us rubbish bins? We saw one coke bottle lying round… I’m pretty sure the take away food rubbish and the food scraps had nothing to do with coke. I was also less than convinced that they’d actually use rubbish bins if they had them anyway. Or if they did, they’d expect the Mexican Government to provide rubbish collection services while of course wanting to be an independent state.

He seemed to suggest that this particular village wanted to be left alone – until of course they wanted something from the government, who of course owed them. They were also quite happy to take the money from the tourists, but didn’t want them to have an opinion, and were happy to accept free health and dental care from aid organisations, but only under certain conditions, which of course they determined.
It was also voting day, or something to do with elections that day, so there were large groups of men gathered together, dressed in their traditional dress, around some of the public buildings. That was a little unnerving as we walked past the groups.

Chamula jail cell

Chamula jail cell

They have their own jail and justice system and he gave us a recent example of when the jail was used. The jail is open to the view of the public, so the idea is of course that the criminal is shamed publicly. In effect there’s not really any justice system – it’s basically mob rule, although I think sometimes that the chief of the town can be called upon to rule if required. The example he gave us was of a male who had allegedly raped a young girl. Rape under any circumstances is not ok, but the accused is entitled to tell his side of the story. But not here. After he was accused, he was thrown in jail, but that wasn’t enough punishment. So they killed him. A group of them got together and decided that had to happen, so they killed him. Err… ok. No trial, nothing like that. Just brutal mob justice. To be fair, I’m not sure I call that a justice system.

Exploded firecrackers, Chamula

Exploded firecrackers, Chamula

They have a couple of churches. One was never finished and stands as a reverse tribute to the Spanish – in that the indigenous are quite proud that the Spanish never really conquered them. The other used to be a catholic church, but now is a bit of a cult really. They have dissociated themselves from the Vatican, they worship some self proclaimed saints and a few rocks that a woman claims spoke to her, and don’t read the bible. They have the church filled with pictures of the saints along the sides, adorned with flowers. The floor is covered in pine needles, changed weekly, and candles. There are no seats. The candles are 5 different colours, all representing a different direction and part of the offering. They sacrifice chooks at times and bring the "evil" coke, sprite and fanta as offerings because they are the same colour as the candles. We couldn’t take photos, but the inside doesn’t look much different to a hindu or Buddhist temple. Anyone who chooses not to participate or to believe something different is excommunicated not just from the church, but the village. So far they’ve done that to around 40,000 who are living in the nearby San Cristobal. That’s actually quite a staggering number, given that the village didn’t really look that big. I do feel for those excommunicated, because of course now they’re not welcome in their home town of Chamula, but they never really fit in at San Cristobal either. That is the price for choosing to follow something different to the majority I guess.

Chamula city square

Chamula city square

The day that we were there we just happened to be the day that leaders change over. There are two types of leaders, community and spiritual. There are two leaders, each must be a husband and wife, (so 4 really) and they only serve for 1 year, and it’s all voluntary. They need to make sure they have enough funds to support themselves during that time. Every person is expected to do some type of voluntary community service, such as policeman, for at least a year. Only appointed church leaders are allowed to run shops, but only after they’ve done their service. The spiritual leaders are given a house, and are primarily responsible for cleaning the church, changing the pine needles, cleaning the wax off the floor, changing the flowers etc.

Each church leader has to be able to have about 30 assistants who will work with them for the 12 months. At the leader changeover they have fireworks. We were standing almost next to a guy who was letting them off. There’s noise, commotion and you really had no idea what was going on – but it didn’t feel unsafe. Our guide heard the signal for fireworks and yelled out to us in English, giving us a fraction of a second notice. We had no idea where they would come from and didn’t know we were standing next to the guy letting them off. We soon found out… they were loud enough when you’re not near them, but when you’re next to them, not expecting them, they’re ten times worse. There are two types, one that explodes in the hand and one that explodes in the sky. Of course he let off the ones that explode in his hand… we moved away pretty quickly as he laughed. The whole time we were there, fireworks were randomly being let off. Many of the people still wear traditional clothing.

Chamula Church

Chamula Church

The market had some good fresh produce there for a few stalls, but otherwise there wasn’t much around. Our leader kindly left us outside a café or two for half an hour or so, but none of us were quite comfortable enough to eat there. To use the toilet was of course a few pesos (whatever it was, it was more expensive than normal). Although you felt safe in the town, it was rather oppressive. Of course there were a few lovely people there, who offered a smile rather than a grim “get away from me look”.

After Chamula we went to Cinacantan, another indigenous village, but less extreme than the first. They were also more willing to let you take photos – note that you could take photos in some areas of Chamula, just definitely not of the people and not inside the church. I think they smash your camera if you’re caught taking photos. In some ways I understand not wanting photos taken – I’m certainly not overly excited when people take my picture.

Cinacantan Church

Cinacantan Church

Cinacantan was really just like many other villages in other countries, like Vietnam or China, just not as friendly. We had a quick look in the church which was a bit more like what you would expect from a catholic church.

From there we went to a local house where they made textile goods, available for sale to tourists of course. Cinacantan also has some agricultural industries set up and is working toward becoming self supporting and providing opportunities for the people within to have an education and earn some money.

Some handmade table runners at Cinacantan

Some handmade table runners at Cinacantan

After we left these villages, we went back to san cristobal and saw another cathedral. Then our tour leader took us to a chicken restaurant. Oh man, that was the best meal I’ve had all trip. Roast chicken, onion and… mashed potato. It was so good. I would definitely recommend this restaurant (unfortunately I couldn’t find it again to actually visit there again while I was there…)

We had a bit of free time, which was good, did some washing, hung it on the line, brought it in straight away because it rained. Thanks to Ceasar, I had a lead on some Mexican flags. A fabric shop of all things, called La Parisina. Turns out this place was not just a fabric shop, but more like a craft shop – kind of a bit like Spotlight stores here in Australia. I collected a few flags, much to the amusement of the staff who found it kind of funny that somebody would want to buy 8 Mexican flags… But it was there that I saw them. How could anyone resist? Soft, cushy, world cup themed… a perfect souvenir at a decent price. But how could you transport something like that? I walked away. But inside was a new gnawing. Could I get it home, how, was it worth it? And what you’re all wondering, am I referring to? You shall have to wait.

And did I mention that it wasn’t just out at Chamula that fireworks would go off at random intervals – around San Cristobal they were going off in groups of three at completely random intervals, scaring the daylights out of you!

The unmarried mens costume on the left, married mens costume on the right.

The unmarried mens costume on the left, married mens costume on the right.

Later that day we went to a traditional clothing museum. It was run by Sergio Castro, a man who had a passion for healing those who couldn’t afford it, as well as a passion for indigenous culture. We learnt more from him in the short time we were with him than our guide with his weird ideas that morning. One of the outfits there was made of bark, and had decorations representing the sun, moon and stars on it. Another type of outfit could be styled two ways, one for the single men, which is like a skirt and they wear nothing under it and once they’re married, they wear the same clothes, but it becomes more like trousers. If you are in town, you definitely need to take a tour of this museum (which is actually his house).

Made of bark, the sun, moon and stars

Not just scribble – Made of bark, the sun, moon and stars are circled!

We dropped in to a local restaurant about 3 doors down from the hotel tonight, Namitas, for tea which turned out to be great. They were the best tacos I have had all trip. It was a lovely family run restaurant and they were very happy to help and cook whatever you liked. Prices were also very reasonable and the food was prepared there in front of you. Definitely recommend this restaurant!

The sunset from Normita's, San Cristobal

The sunset from Normita’s, San Cristobal

January 3, 2019

Christmas Haul 2018

Filed under: Idle Ramblings — pearsey @ 8:15 pm
Tags:

We did things a little different again this year, and did a Kris Kringle, so each of us got two others to buy for. Can’t say I’m a fan of the idea, but anyway. This year our challenge was to include something home made in your gift. I gave everyone homemade Christmas biscuits. Mum returned with a home made coat hanger (the cover of the coat hanger was knitted) and a cover for my bench seat. Dad gave Jo (his KK recipient) a nice pot plant holder. Sadly, the rest of our family failed!!! What is wrong with them??? Here’s my Christmas haul this year, just because I can and just because it’s a bit of a tradition!

  • 4 ball tin of tennis balls
  • 40m of Glad bake
  • Assortment of plants: 1 lavender, 1 passionfruit vine and 1 Huntington Gold lily plant
  • 4 pairs of outdoor gloves (3 gardening, 1 leather work)
  • Assortment of chocolates and nuts
  • 1 car washing sponge
  • 3 kitchen funnels
  • Silver serving spoon
  • Holman Wireless Weather Link
  • Kathmandu Compact Travel Scale
  • Oakwood Leather Care Complete Protection Pack (for my car seats)
  • China Gunpowder Tea
  • Babolat Tennis Ball Clip
  • A homemade coat hanger by Mum
  • 52L Storage container
  • 303 Protectant Interior and Exterior (for my car)
  • Kathmandu Carabiner Key Light
  • 3 Pairs Kathmandu low cut socks
  • Turtle was clear vue glass cleaner
  • 3 11″x 14″ photo frames
  • A netted reusable bag for fruit (to use instead of plastic bags)
  • 1 LED Flip switch – Instant Light
  • Kathmandu Shirt
  • A cover for my wooden bench seat that Dad made me for my birthday
  • A crazy junk present of a karaoke christmas microphone

All very useful presents (except the last) and again, I did quite well, I am blessed indeed!

Day 7 – San Cristobal

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 2:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

Wednesday June 27, 2018

We arrived in San Cristobal del Las Casas around 7-8am after our overnight bus trip and walked to the hotel (Palaciode Moctezuma) where we could check in. Regardless of how comfy the bus is, you still don’t sleep properly so I was a little tired that morning. Turns out the walk was a little further than we planned and by the end, with our luggage and lack of sleep, heat, some of us were struggling a bit, as we lifted everything up and down the huge gutters that are the kerbs here. We learnt this lesson and when we returned to the bus station when we were leaving, we hired a taxi and through our luggage (with one person) in there!

On the corner of Benito Juraez Ave and Francisco Leon, San Cristobal

On the corner of Benito Juraez Ave and Francisco Leon, San Cristobal

We went somewhere for breakfast, a nice place off the main square area in Ave Insurgentes, in San Cristobal, then had a walk around the town area. We headed to the market, where there’s plenty of fish, fruit, crafts, beans and general stuff. The fresh fish looked great, but there’s nowhere to cook it if I’d got some. Any unsold fish is eventually turned into dried salty pieces of cardboard looking stuff which looked very unappetizing. Not sure what they used that for or cooked with it, but I guess it kept pretty much forever. The fruit also looked good and as long as you ate it that day, it was ok.

An assortment of nuts and seeds at the local market, San Cristobal

An assortment of nuts and seeds at the local market, San Cristobal

We saw some more cathedrals, some graffiti areas and plenty of cake shops that had some very appealing pieces in the windows! I had learnt though, that even though these cakes looked good, they often didn’t taste how you expected. I guess we don’t realise how good our cakes are here in Australia until you go overseas and sample the wares from other countries. There was a lane known for it’s graffiti, which maybe was good for San Cristobal, but after some of the lanes in Melbourne, and later on in Medellin in Colombia, it probably wasn’t something you would go out of your way to see.

Iglesia Cathederal with the big screen set up for the Mexican World Cup Soccer game

Iglesia Cathederal with the big screen set up for the Mexican World Cup Soccer game

The streets of San Cristobal are interesting. They are two lane, one way, one for parking, the other for driving. The houses or shops that line the streets are around two stories, with no sideways signs advertising their shop. All the signs for the shop are on the front, making it hard to see until you’re in front of it. The footpaths can just fit two people abreast (but more comfortable single file), the gutters, in most places, are around a foot high, varying from less to that, to maybe 1.5 feet height, making the footpath a fair height off the road in some places – so be careful opening car doors when you pull up alongside the gutter. The streets are in blocks and at each block is a cross road. Everybody stops and then somehow the cars move forward orderly. There’s no traffic signals in this area of town, but yet it just worked.

The steps to the Iglesia San Cristobal

The steps to the Iglesia San Cristobal

The city square had a big screen set up so that everyone could watch the soccer, as Mexico was playing that day in the world cup. There were also plenty of people walking around waving Mexican flags. We thought it would therefore be fairly easy to find some Mexican flags. Part of our challenge is to bring back a flag from each country we visit for the others in our office. Well we couldn’t find any place where you could actually buy them around the market area. Any shop surrounding the square area that looked remotely like it make have flags we went into – and so did most of our group, eager to achieve this goal with us. We came away empty handed and had to ask our tour leader Ceasar to look into for us. Stay tuned!

Some nice looking cakes

Some nice looking cakes

There’s plenty of nice restaurants within a few blocks of the square area and we headed to one place for tea that night. It was nice, but turned out to be rather expensive by Mexican standards (and no, I can’t remember what it was called, I didn’t do so well in grabbing the names of restaurants this trip!).

January 2, 2019

Day 6 Oaxaca

Tuesday June 26, 2018

A bit of a sleep in today, as we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 9.

From the Hotel Meson Del Rey we went right for a couple of blocks to grab something for breakfast. There’s a nice place not too far away that was good for breakfast – heaps of fresh bread, fruit and juice among other things.

The fertile plains in the Oaxaca Valley

The fertile plains in the Oaxaca Valley

We went to the Monte Alban ruins in Oaxaca, a short drive from the city center. Again, the scenery was amazing, the clouds over the city and the mountains providing a perfect setting for some great shots with the ruins in the foreground. Our guide provided us with some interesting commentary and took us to an area that seemed to be in the opposite direction to the main ruins. We did wonder why we were heading that way, but as we stopped and learnt a bit about the area, it became obvious why we’d gone off the beaten track. Our guide was experienced enough to pick out some fossils and pieces of historical artefacts as we were walking along.

Surveying the patio hundido area, Monte Alban

Surveying the patio hundido area, Monte Alban

There were some interesting human remains in the museum, and they provided examples of what they used to do to humans thousands of years ago. Putting rubber band type things around a young skull could change the shape of the skull (think cone heads). There was evidence of dentistry work to alter appearances and possible potential primative surgery such as brain surgery or broken bone fixing. Which is a huge deal that it happened so long ago.

Just enjoying the grand plaza

Just enjoying the grand plaza

The ruins themselves are old temple pyramids, but provide a great platform for viewing the surrounding mountains and town of Oaxaca. Truthfully the scenery captured my attention far more than the ruins, it really was stunning. Monte Alban sites on the peaks of the plains around the Valley of Oaxaca and was believed to be founded around 500 BC. It was a fairly significant city in its day – for around 1000 years – but for whatever reason it lost its influence and was abandoned not long after, after 500-700AD.

The steps to the southern platform, Monte Alban

The steps to the southern platform, Monte Alban

From there we headed back to the township of Oaxaca, dropped off a couple then headed to the petrified waterfall (Hierve el Agua), an hour or so out of town on the road to Mitla.

The final tlayuda! Traditional Oaxacan cooked the traditional way.

The final tlayuda! Traditional Oaxacan cooked the traditional way.

We stopped for lunch at a little place not far from the falls, near Mitla, a little cafe in the middle of a small town, well community, no perhaps a group of houses. It was similar to yesterday’s lunch just much much better. Tlayudas are traditional Oaxacan food, and can be served like a pizza (as we had yesterday) or folded, which is the more traditional way, that we had today. They are covered in mole (pronounced moh-leh), which is a black bean type paste and then quesillo, a traditional stringy Oaxacan cheese.

The coals cooking our tlayudas

The coals cooking our tlayudas

The waterfalls are not really waterfalls, they used to be, but aren’t any more. Petrified, frozen in time, they hang there, turned to stone with the odd trickle of water flowing over. The water is rich in magnesium and other minerals, but unlike some other areas, hasn’t turned the rocks into stunning colours. It was these minerals in the water that calcified and made the stunning formation we now see.

Hierve el Agua, calcified, frozen

Hierve el Agua, calcified, frozen

You can take a walk down the hill, there’s a bit of wildlife around – birds, butterflies and reptiles – and plenty of vegetation. The track takes you to the bottom of the falls and you can stand and admire more of the scenery and get an idea of the impressiveness of the rock formation.

Again though, just like at the Monte Alban ruins, the scenery was absolutely stunning, with 180 degree views of the surrounding mountains. You could have stayed there all day, just drinking in the view. The mountains rose up from the valley and met the cloud dotted blue sky that seemed to go forever.

The Hierve el Agua falls,dwarfed by the surrounding area, Oaxaca

The Hierve el Agua falls,dwarfed by the surrounding area, Oaxaca

The vegetation is different to what we’re used to in Australia. It’s designed to defend itself, with seemingly all the plants having some kind of thorns as a defence. Cacti, bushes, aloe vera plants. They look interesting, but just don’t touch, they’ll attack!

There’s some pools at the top, a couple natural and a couple man made. The constructed pools are filled from the little magnesium springs that come out and these were being enjoyed by a few locals.

Mineral pools at the top, Hierve el Agua falls

Mineral pools at the top, Hierve el Agua falls

On the way back we dodged a fee stray donkeys and stopped at a local mezcal place. Mezcal is a spirit, a little like tequila. Here they make the drink from scratch, by hand, the same way they have for years.

The stray donkey was too busy taking in the view to worry about getting off the road!

The stray donkey was too busy taking in the view to worry about getting off the road!

After that it was a really quick stop at the world’s biggest tree, the El Arbor del Tule (The Tree of Tule) at the small town of Santa Maria del Tule. I must admit though, I was a bit disappointed when I saw it because I’ve seen much taller trees than that. But it’s not the tallest, but the widest, with a diameter of around 58m. Pretty impressive tree.

The trunk of the tule tree, Santa Maria del Tule

The trunk of the tule tree, Santa Maria del Tule

We didn’t have long there before we raced back to the hotel, because tonight we were catching a taxi to the night bus at 7pm. Had time for a really quick wash in the hotel toilets (we’d already checked out) before heading to the bus station and boarding a bus for San Cristobel. Again, it’s a good quality bus. Reclining seats, air conditioned, toilet, checked luggage.

Today would have to be up there in terms of highlights while travelling. Some awesome scenery, a short hike through some different forest, mineral spring pools, historical ruins, a large tree and all with very few tourists around – which is always a bonus. Southern Mexico around Oaxaca is definitely worth a visit!

On top of the north platform, Monte Alban

On top of the north platform, Monte Alban

January 1, 2019

Day 5 – Peubla to Oaxaca

Monday June 25, 2018

We grabbed a taxi to the bus station and boarded the bus for Oaxaca, pronounced wah hakka. The scenery on this bus trip was amazing and our tour guide purposefully booked seats on the right side so we could see it. Such a shame that we couldn’t stop and take in the views, but that’s what happens when you’re on a public bus. The public buses were really nice – a USB charging port per seat (which usually worked), reclining seats, air conditioning, toilets and allocated seats. We passed some pretty cool mountains in the distance, with lovely green rolling hills in the foreground – still a novelty given everything was so dry back home in Australia. I did find myself wondering though, where was the traditional “Mexican” landscape? You know the desert with the cacti everywhere, the kind that you saw on cartoons like road runner! Eventually the landscape changed and cacti covered hills started appearing, a little different to what I was expecting, but still a lot closer to what I associated with Mexicol

Wild cacti, something associated with Mexico, between Puebla and Oaxaca

Wild cacti, something associated with Mexico, between Puebla and Oaxaca

The trip from Puebla to Oaxaca was a 4.5hr trip, which went fairly quickly, especially as you always sleep on a bus, no matter how hard you try to stay awake.

Scenery between Puebla and Oaxaca

Scenery between Puebla and Oaxaca

Once we got to Oaxaca, we checked in and then went for a walk through the markets and to get lunch. There were a few different types of areas in the market. There was the usual manufactured household goods, then the specific local goods and local souvenir goods, then the food areas – fruit/veg, insects and meat, with an included restaurant food court area. For lunch we had traditional Oaxacan (tlayudas), which is basically pitta bread (heavy corn tortillas) with some bean type sauce (mole) on it and a little bit of cheese (quesillo) and beef. The one at this shop was a bit dry – we’d had better elsewhere.

Traditional Oaxacan Food, Oaxaca Mexico

Traditional Oaxacan Food, Oaxaca Mexico

From there we went to the Mayordomo chocolate shop, where we watched them make chocolate from scratch. Of course you could buy anything chocolate related you liked here. We visited a couple of cathedrals, one of which was the Santo Domingo de Guzman. This was constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries and was an active monastery during that time. The inside has since been fully restored and used more than 60,000 sheets of 23.5 karat gold leaf! The streets of the city in the old area are quite enjoyable, with some varying local artists doing their work on the streets. The streets are very interesting and you could almost say chaotic but not in an Asian way. They are generally narrow, one way streets with cross road intersections fairly regularly that appear out of nowhere. Its weird in that everyone stops, and if there’s the lone traffic light high up on the corner, everyone seems to obey but then there are the corners where there’s no traffic lights and everybody stops and then it’s playing chicken to see who goes first. As with all countries, when crossing these roads, follow the locals!

Cool hand made and hand painted wooden items, Oaxaca Mexico

Cool hand made and hand painted wooden items, Oaxaca Mexico

There’s plenty of colourful buildings, from hospitals to shops and then plenty of other old buildings. That night we went to a restaurant in the Zocalo town square area, where a jazz band set up and started playing. People got up to dance and the atmosphere was party like – think NYE without the annoying drunks. The rain didn’t even deter the band or the dancers, the band simply moved under the balcony and kept playing! Nice restaurant that we ate at, but I can’t remember what it was called! Zocalo is worth a visit as there’s always something happening there and always plenty of people watching to make it interesting.

Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Oaxaca Mexico

Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Oaxaca Mexico

Blog at WordPress.com.