Our plane trip (including stopovers) was a mighty 30 hours! A great start to any holiday.
After the hellish 30 hours on a plane we arrived in Mexico City. Waiting for us at the airport was Amber, a friend who had already been travelling for one & a half years, who we had planned to meet in Mexico, on this date, about 2 years ago. Who would have thought that this would actually work out!!
So after the obvious hugs & kisses, we were off on a fairly scary van trip to the hostel. Mexican roads are fairly scary, especially when there are no seat belts & you're in a large black van with tinted windows.
I was a bit worried when going to Mexico City after hearing many scary stories from people that had previously travelled through. I didn't expect much, & the city totally surpassed my expectations. There are markets everywhere, music in most corners, sure a few dodgy characters, but all in all I really enjoyed it.
My introduction to Mexico was Hotel Moneda - a large & inexpensive hostel that Amber had kindly book ahead for us. When we arrived it was dark & there were a few shady characters hanging out the front & I was completely surprised when we left in the morning to find a bustling market at our door. The market had merchandise much like that of the Vic market in Melbourne, so if your coming to Mexico & considering bringing your ball chasing ferret toy with you, don't bother, you can get one here.
We braved the metro (the cause of most the scary travel stories I had heard) & went to some Pyramids, only an hour out of the city. Now I had herd many stories about the metro, none however prepared me for the number of pashing teenagers that we would see. Apparently it's the thing to do in Mexico, grab a partner & start passionately kissing for hours in the most public of fashions. An interesting Mexican pass time that I decided not to embrace.
The pyramids were beautiful (check out the photos), they are the 3rd biggest pyramids in the world & we climbed up them! It was crazy; I have never seen so many steps in all my life. Climbing those babies has definitely made me start thinking that I may need some kind of training program to get into shape for the Inka Trail but, as most of you know, I'm way too lazy for that & will just hope for a miracle instead.
The other amusing thing about the pyramids was all the people trying to sell us almost everything, with the hilarious catch phrase "almost free, almost free". There was some very nice stuff (& some complete junk), but as my pack already weighs 17kg, I thought better of buying a large carpet or rug.
We also visited "The Blue House" Frida Khalo's house, which has been turned into a gallery containing many of her works, Diego Rivera's works & trinkets from their lives. There were also many of Frida's back braces & crutches, etc. which were kind of spooky in a way. I felt a little strange looking through her house, as some of the rooms had been left as they were & I felt like I was intruding.
To get to The Blue House we caught the metro again & managed to stumble upon peak hour. I have never seen such packed trains before. There is no such thing as personal body space in peak hour, as one manky old man let me know, when he thought it was quite ok to travel for many stops with his hand firmly on my butt.
When we got out at our station, we walked around a park (the long way unfortunately) in search of the gallery & saw millions of very cute squirrels scurrying around. I have never seen such creatures & was surprised at how tiny & cheeky they were. They had obviously been living quite a nice life being feed nuts by the regulars at the park & I was a little afraid that they might run up my leg they were getting so close.
The park was also home to a kid's playground that had been abandoned by kids & inhabited by a burly bunch of topless body building types (& a few pashing teenagers). This was maybe the only time that I felt a little uneasy, but I think that besides a few cat calls, they were way too busy checking themselves out & greasing each other up to bother us too much.
From Mexico City we caught a bus to Oaxaca, a great town full of cobble stone streets & beautiful old buildings. The town had a great plaza with many restaurants & a million art stores. I was again very tempted to empty my pack & fill it with many bright canvases, but I managed to stave off that impulse. I didn't do anything too exciting in Oaxaca; I was just happy wandering the streets & sampling the many tasty dishes on offer.
One thing that we did do was go & see a movie in a really great small cinema that is run on donations. It was in a building that was hidden by a brick fence with arches in it no higher than four & a half feet. When we finally figured out that it was behind this wall, we were amazed to find an awesome setting of green creepers with bright purple flowers & a pond, which looked like it should be in a movie and not the setting for a theatre. The theatre itself was small & had wooden seats, & the film that was showing was luckily mostly in English (some French also) & had Spanish subtitles.
One night, after having a great dinner at a street stall, we stumbled across a dance performance. I'm not sure what it was in aid of, but it looked as though they were doing the dance from the movie Boys on the Side, when their at the carnival (don't pretend you haven't all seen it!). I think it was something to do with a man trying to win over a pretty girl. It was very cute, lots of skipping around while batting eye lids & spinning very large, very pretty skirts. There was also a performance on in the main square that was mostly men with very large costumes that looked like oversized papier-mâché marionettes. They were accompanied by firework things that made a loud bang, but didn't have the traditional bright lights bit. It was like firing guns every 3 minutes. A little bit scary.
From Oaxaca, we decided that the beach was calling, so we set of on a day bus trip to Puerto Escondido. We new that there were a few different classes of buses that lead to this destination, & we thought that we had booked a first class bus, but alas we had not. We paid 88 pesos & found out later that some friends who were on their way also, had paid 200. This was a little worrying, but we thought what the hell, let's do it.
This was maybe one of the biggest mistakes we have made so far. The trip was like being on the mad mouse on speed from hell. It was insane. It was 7 hours of up, down, right left, hair pin turn after hair pin turn, at a million miles an hour, on roads that crumbled into nothing at the sides of mountains. Now I am a nervous passenger in buses in Melbourne, so this was not my ideal way to spend a nice sunny day.
Once we arrived in Puerto Escondito, all in one piece by some fluke of nature, we booked in to one of the dodgiest hostels I have encountered thus far. The dorm had no doors or windows; it was pretty much a thatched roof with a couple of walls. The beds were terrible & there were way too many Jack Johnson wanabees there for my liking.
If you haven't guessed already Puerto Escondito is a surfy town, the beaches are beautiful, but not safe for swimming due tho the massive undertow. It was a little bit too much like the gold coast for me, lots of bronzed boys posing with surf boards & bleach blond girls with breast implants.
After one night in the dodgy hostel, some friends we met in Mexico City told us that they were staying at a hotel that had hostel prices. It was great. We got an apartment with enough room for all of us for not much more than we had paid elsewhere for dorms, & there was a swimming pool & most importantly hot water! Very exciting stuff.
My time in this town was pretty much spent relaxing & floating about in the pool, the weather was a little to much on the hot side for my liking, so I didn't have the energy to do too much.
This is where our group split up. Amber, Rose & Alison headed towards Belize, while Nikki & I headed to Taxco, a town in the mountains that is famous for its silver & jewellery. This is pretty much my idea of heaven.
To get there, we had to catch a bus (1st class all the way baby!) to Acapulco & spend a night there. I didn't get a great look at the place, but from what I saw, it was smoggy & full of high rises & honeymooning Americans.
When we arrived in Taxco we booked into a very cute hostel, with amazing views of the town, which was right next door to the silver markets. As it is in the mountains, the streets were all very steep & cobbled, but it was so beautiful that walking around didn't seem like too much of an effort.
The entire town is full of jewellery stores & it was tiring trying to find exactly what you're after. This didn't stop us however & I managed to pick up a few really great pieces for not too much money.
While there we visited a bar called Sasha's Bar. It's up stairs on one of the cobbled streets & had cute window box tables. We liked this place so much so that we visited it 3 times in one day. The third time we visited we meet Sasha, the owner, an American who had set up the bar many years ago. This was the first night that I had the guts to try Mescal; after we were offered a free drink from the owner, it was hard to say no. I was a little scared of this drink, as it's from the same family as tequila, the nastiest drink on earth, but I was pleasantly surprised when I sipped it (its sipped not slammed the Australian way) as it wasn't harsh & tasted quite nice.
I really enjoyed Taxco, not just because of the jewellery, but because of the amazing scenery & great climate & nice people.
While in Taxco, we were keeping a close eye on the news as Hurricane Wilma was approaching Cuba, our next port of call. It became apparent fairly soon that we would have to change our flights, as we were due to fly on the very same day that it was to hit Cuba. In Australia, this would only require a phone call, but here, it meant that we had to find a Mexicana airline office & go there in person to change it.
This would have been fine if we had been in the city, but Taxco is about 3 hours out. After exhausting all other option, we high-tailed it back to Mexico City the day before we were booked to fly and race around to get the tickets changed to three days later.
With all that stress we decided that a big night was in order & after meeting up with a Scottish girl, a German boy & an Israeli, we headed off to the Zona Rosa, the night club district. Now, not being a big fan off nightclubs back home, this took some persuasion (& a few beers) but it was a highly amusing night out.
The Mexicans definitely know how to shake it, I felt very inadequate & somewhat prudish. Most the dance moves that were being pulled by the locals would nearly be illegal in Australia. It was a great night of people watching, I would highly recommend it, but if you want to drink, make sure you have had your fill before you go out, because there were definitely different prices for the locals & the gringos.
The next day we headed to the university to see some music that our new German friend had heard about the day before. On the way, we meet a Mexican film student named David, who very kindly escorted us there. When we arrived, the bands weren't ready, so we were invited back to David's house for lunch. When we got there he cooked us up a big feast, & refused help from us. After that he showed us some of his films, which were really great & played us his bands demo CD. He was extremely nice & would do anything to help us out. After the movie watching, he rang a friend who drove us all the way back to the uni to see the bands. Such amazingly generous & kind people; you would never get that back home.
When we got there it was a punk & hardcore event, which suited me just fine. It was hilarious, I felt slightly out of place, I think Nikki & I were the only ones wearing colours other than black & red & we definitely had the most boring hairstyles there. The music was much the same as at home, but in Spanish (this doesn't so much matter when the lyrics mostly consist of Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh Roaaaaaaarrrrrrrrr!) This was another great people watching exercise. Most of the people there didn't speak English which made it a little hard to talk to the students, thanks to my lack of Spanish, but they were also very nice. One scary looking punk, with way more piercings in his face than I performed when I was a piercer, offered us some of his alcoholic drink. It came in a plastic bag with a corner bitten out & looked like pineapple milk. I didn't want to be rude, so had a taste & it was also surprisingly nice.
Once back at our hostel, Nik & I were exhausted from our big random day, so we decided to have a quiet night in. The only activity on our list was to head down the street to get an ice-cream. While on our way we were asked by a group of young guys with bongo drums, if we liked Reggae music. After answering yes, they lead us to a reggae club that was not even a block away from our hostel. There was a group of them, one of which was a cute little lady, who had spent some time studying in America & spoke really good English. This meant that she had to translate everything from anyone else in the group to us, which became funny when the very passionate Mexican boys started trying to sweet talk us.
The club was awesome, great music & a dance floor that wasn't too packed. This style of music didn't so much lend itself to the booty dancing of the night before either, which was refreshing, but a little white girl like me definitely feels inadequate when faced with a dancing bunch of Mexicans.
That day has to be the most random & fun day I have had so far, loads of music & interesting people equals lots of fun to me!
So although I didn't plan on spending these extra days in Mexico City, it all worked out great. I got to see another side of the city, that was previously invisible to me & I really enjoyed it.
Cuba is next on the list, so that's all from Mexico.