01.09.2010 - 11.09.2010 30 °C
1st September 2010 - 11th September 2010
The first day we were in Mexico City we went on a free walking city tour, booked through the hostel (Hostel Amigos- decent but loud). There were only three of us on the tour and our guide was a guy called Alejandro. We started by going in to a hospital that was hundreds of years old where there were murals on the wall. Alejandro explained the story of the murals for a good 15 minutes, which was very interesting (it was mainly all to do with the different Gods and how they depicted them). The hospital itself was founded by Hernando Cortes, the Spaniard who conquered Mexico. He realised that he and his men had brought over diseases that the Mexicans weren't equipped to deal with, so opened up the hospital to treat the ill- a pretty nice gesture from a man who then took over!
Next stop was the 'zocalo' or main square. It is so called as a monument was going to be erected in honour of independence, but only the base (zocalo) was ever made. When people were meeting with friends they often used to say that they would meet at the zocalo and eventually this is how the main square became known, despite the fact that the base has long gone. Unfortunately, the main plaza has high boards all around it as they were preparing for the independence celebrations (Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence on September 15th/16th), so we didn't get the whole effect. The buildings surrounding it, though- the cathedral and national palace amongst them- were covered in decorations, making them even more impressive than they already should have been.
Other buildings we saw included a very grand art gallery, some bars and stuff and that's about all I can remember... After leaving Alejandro (and giving him a very substantial tip!) we went up the Latino tower with the other guy on our tour, to take in the views. You can pay to take the lift up to the top (about six pounds per person) orrrrr get the free lift up to the bar, have a drink there and walk up the two floors to the viewpoint. We did the latter, which was very worth it as the drinks were cheap as folk, the bar very plush and the scenery amazing. Well worth it.
That night we went out with the peeps from the hostel and the next morning we were up early for a tour of three of the biggest markets in Mexico City. The tour was pretty much as you'd expect and a little bit more- we tried lots of different, local foods (including grasshoppers, but we passed up on the mosquito eggs and worms!) and Alejandro explained a lot of the different traditional religious figurines. We also saw traditional tortilla-making shops, which was cool. The tour was really interesting, if tiring.
After two days we decided it was time to move on and caught the six-hour bus to Oaxaca (pronounced wahaka), but not before a quick visit to the (free) zoo first!
Oaxaca is all about the food. The guidebook informed us that it is the birthplace of mole (no, not 'mole' like the animal, 'mole' with emphasis on the 'e'- like 'guacamole') and a scrumptious cheese called 'quesilla', oh and some amazing hot chocolate. So, naturally, all we did was eat, eat and eat a bit more (a common theme it seems!) We had red mole (very sweet), tlayudas (a pizza-type dish but with a tortila base. Very nice), enchiladas and mezcal (like tequila but more Mexican!) In fact, we camped out in one bar for a good few hours sampling their cocktails and finishing of the night with a very strong mezcal- it was awesome.
Oaxaca itself is a very sweet little town with cobbled streets and pretty plazas. On one of the days we were there we saw a brass band playing in the zocalo; apparently it is either tradition or law (I can't remember) that the local brass band must play in the main square in the days leading up to Independence day, we're not too sure why though...
After two days in Oaxaca and realising there was no direct route to Cancun, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we'd be catching a 12-hour bus to Villahermosa (it ended up being 14 hours thanks to a landslide blocking off both roads), waiting three hours (it was two after we were two hours late, but then the next bus was an hour late) and getting on another 12-hour bus to Cancun. It was most definitely a VERY tiring 28 hours and we were sick of the service station cheese and ham sandwiches by the end of it, but with such a short amount of time in Mexico (nine full days thanks to Mexicana going bust and us having to change our flights) we decided to just do it.
Cancun and Isla Mujeres
We got to Cancun late at night so decided to stay there and make our way to Isla Mujeres the very next morning. We got the local bus to the port and then paid something ridiculous like 70 pesos (3.50 pounds) for the 30 minute ferry ride across the sea., arriving in Isla Mujeres at about 10am. First impressions were that it was much bigger and much more built up than Ilha Grande and also much more of a tourist town, but once we eventually got to the beaches (we had to wait three hours before being allowed to check in at Hostel Poc'na- amazing) we could see why it was so busy! The sand was white, the water was crystal clear, the beaches weren't packed and the sun was blazing. We made ourselves comfortable, applied our factor 20... and still left burnt. The sun was INTENSE, the hottest we have ever known it. We spent two days lazing on the beaches and drinking cocktails in our hostel's beach bar. On one of the nights, we managed to lock ourselves out of our room- cue the security guard attempting (and failing) to break in to our room! We eventually found one of the guys from our room and luckily he had his key and let us in, but he seemed less than impressed, oops.
A common thing to do while in Isla Mujeres is hire a golf buggy to transport yourself up and down the island, so we did. After three months of not driving (longer for Liam) we navigated the streets, made it to the south end of the island, saw some other beaches and generally had a laugh whilst simultaneously kind of fearing for our lives in our indicator, wing mirror and door-free buggy!
A brief shout out here for restaurant Amigos in Isla Mujeres- we ate there both nights because the food was just. that. good. If you ever go, we recommend this place 500%!
After a couple of days of ending the trip in the best possible way, we went back to Cancun to continue relaxing. With it being our last day we spent the day at a beach club. We had sun loungers on the beach, next to the pool, being waited on hand and foot, drinking cocktails/beer and topping up the tan. It was luxury. We spent the entire day there and finished the trip properly with a hostel night out (we stayed at hostel Quetzal, which was really amazing- the owner was so nice and the free dinner was tasty). We went to The City club and for $45US we got: entry, queue jump, open bar, our own table with bottles of vodka, tequila, mixers and whatever else you want on it and waiter service- pretty decent! The night started with a show; acrobats, fire juggler/breather, lazer show, cocktail flaring and breakdancers- we all said we would have paid the entry just for the show alone! The night then continued with a mix and match of dance and RnB, dry ice being jetted out on to us all at random intervals and south african dancing (we can explain...) Overall, an amazing way to end our travels.
The next day- 11th September- we flew to NYC for three weeks of merriment with Jaz's family and her mum was even flying out to meet us.
South America (and Mexico) it has been emotional.
We'll continue to blog through NYC and eventually do a final retrospective post with memories, dos and don'ts and just general advice.
Until next time,
Jaz and Liam xxx