Summary: The idea to go to Mexico on vacation had come up early 2005. We booked a flight (Düsseldorf – London – Mexico City), a car for four weeks and the hotel for the first night. Of course, we had planned our tour using books and online services (Lonely Planet and the German Reise Knowhow), however, except for the first night, we didn’t make any further reservations. The following report was written “on the road”. Where ever we’d find an Internet cafe (and there were lots!), we’d go online and drop our folks at home a note. “We”, by the way, are Silke and Danny.
Enjoy the ride.
Sent: Tuesday, 11 October 2015
To: „Family & Friends“
Subject: Greetings from Mexico
Just a quickie to tell you that Silke and I arrived safely yesterday (Sunday, Oct 9). Mexico City is huge. Not as stunning as New York City (hi, Rosie!) but most definitely exciting and crowded with people. The “final approach” on the airport was so unbelievable. The city has grown so much that you literally fly over houses and highways.
We were pretty beat after the 11 flight from London although we had good seats (a row of three seats to ourselves). Still, we were so happy when we finally arrived. Immigration and customs were no problem. My suitcase was even there on time for a change. At the airport they use the dreaded traffic-light system: If your light is green, you may go, if it’s red, you have to present your suitcase for inspection. Our lights were green. Another interesting fact: Silke was allowed to stay for 35 days, I got 42.
We stayed at the Hotel Catedral and it was indeed very nice – right in the centre of Mexico City. Very quiet, much to our surprise. The jet lag got to us a bit – despite our tiredness we didn’t sleep a lot. My cell phone doesn’t work yet for some reason. Silke`s does though. Called home early morning here to reassure my grandmother that we were still alive.
They speak a lot of Spanish here… but so far we’ve managed beautifully thanks to my little travel dictionary. The people look different. Dark skin, dark eyes and hair. It’s different from Europe, that’s for sure. Exotic and exciting. At first I felt a bit out of place – because I stood out I guess – but that feeling settled after about half an hour.
Today (Monday, Oct 10) we got our rental car. Let`s say it was quite an adventure to get out of Mexico City. Not because of the driving – Jedi drivers everywhere – no, it was because of the very strange street system and we didn’t find the right highway. When we did, we exited it again by accident because we didn’t understand the toll system. Back we went to Mexico City and then back again on the old route.
Around 2 p.m. we arrived at our destination for the next few days: Teotihuacan, in the north of the city where the first famous pyramid site is located. I had read a rec in my travel book about a hotel that belongs to Club Med and upon our inquiry they indeed had a lovely, beautiful room for us. Very colorful hotel, an old hacienda. It`s within walking distance to the pyramids.
Right now we`re in an internet cafe after shopping on a market. Man, the people are … efficient. Very friendly but they offered so many fruits when they noticed that we were foreigners. They also asked for the German word for the fruits and we all had a great time. Meeting people is so much fun, even if you can only communicate with hands and feet sometimes. We tried to deny politely but we had no chance – and now walk around with a bag full of fruits (free of charge). We did buy some, too, of course.
So far, our health has not been compromised :-).
Tomorrow, we go and visit the pyramids and then… into the pool in the afternoon to relax for the next leg of our trip later this week.
So far so good. I don´t know when I will be back online but I`ll try, of course.
Sent: Tuesday, 11 October 2015
Subject: Los piramides
Me again, still in Teotihuacan.
Silke and I spent the day (well, the morning until 2 p.m.) visiting the incredible pyramids of Teotihuacan. We arrived rather early (still taking advantage of the jet lag) and almost had the whole area to ourselves. That, and the temperatures were still ok and not too warm. When we arrived I still wasn´t sure if I wanted to climb the pyramids and when we got closer and got a good look at them, I thought… no, that´s not my thing, heights and all. Then we got very close … and I did it. I climbed up the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the world´s third largest pyramid. We felt the “thin air” and rested a lot. The view was awesome (even the view *down*). We met an American film group that apparently did a documentary and it was fun to watch them doing their jobs, repeating dialogues and takes over and over again.
We also met a 83 year old man from the United States who had climbed these pyramids in 1943. We had a lovely conversation and he told us in the end that “the hurt will go away, but the memories will stay forever”. He was referring to the hike up the pyramids and his words were so true. Speaking of which, I really regret that my Spanish is so rusty. It would be so much fun to be able to talk to the people here, who are all, no exception so far, very friendly. One vendor told me today that I had nice eyes. Or maybe he said I had a green eye <g> but he stared into my eyes and used the word “verde”. Quite macho but he was old so…
The food is delicious. Scrambled eggs with red chili in a green chili sauce – and that´s for breakfast. So far we´ve been extremely lucky and had no problems whatsoever with the food or climate.
Tomorrow we´ll leave and head south to Oaxaca. We don´t know yet what we´ll do after that because the hurricane last week destroyed some areas in the south and we will watch the news to see what we can do. If it doesn´t work out, we¨ll take the other way round. No worries.
Sent: Friday, 14 October 2015
Subject: Beautiful Oaxaca
Silke and I arrived in Oaxaca yesterday and actually I had already written a long email when my mail server crashed and now I have to start all over again. So, this will be short 🙂
Oaxaca is about 580 km south of Mexico City. Yesterday evening we found a tiny hotel which was a rec in Silke’s travel book. As a matter of fact, I secured the room “with my life”. Oaxaca´s historical district is crowded with cars and people in the evenings and when driving around and not getting anywhere, I suggested to walk the little distance on foot to make sure we’d still get the room. The hotel only has 6 rooms. So, I jumped out of the car and literally ran. No problem, my back is good again. So, I checked in and everything and then went outside to show Silke where to park. Silke wasn´t there, however. The traffic was bad but it was only two blocks and she shouldn´ve been there already. Ok, I stood there for about 45 minutes (!) with no money, no passport, no phone, no luggage and was seriously starting to get worried… but I didn’t move. We had agreed to meet at the hotel and Silke would find me first rather than I´d find her. She did in the end and told me that after I’d jumped out of the car the police had blocked the road due to some festival activities and she had to drive around and around until she could get to the hotel. Needless to say, it didn’t help matters that there are many one-way roads in the historical district. Honestly, I´ve never felt to lost in my life. I wasn’t afraid of the people or anything but the thought of having nothing on me except my clothes that I wore… it was scary.
Anyway, we´re here now and it is beautiful. We decided to stay here for four nights and will leave on Sunday morning.
Next time I´ll write you´ll hear all of our adventures to get to Oaxaca and how we got stopped by the police in Mexico City…
Sent: Saturday, 15 October 2015
Subject: Danny, Silke & the Law of Mexico City
Where did I stop yesterday? Oh, yes, I wanted to tell you about our adventure with the police in Mexico City. It all started with a blocked highway. Actually, we had intended to take the 132, then 150 and finally the 135. Much to our dismay, the 132 was closed due to God knows what and we had to take the non-scenic route through Mexico City.
Of course, we got lost. There are no rules, no proper street signs and you just cannot find a sign or any indication, anything that would lead you out of the city. In the end we hired a taxi driver and asked him to guide us to the highway to Puebla (the 150) by driving in front of us. We agreed on a price and off we went. He was good and we soon saw the sign for Puebla. There was a big roundabout and…
For some reason the police stopped us. They didn’t seem to care at all if they created yet more traffic chaos around us, no, they stopped us in the middle of that roundabout. Rule number one: You don´t want to be stopped by the police in Mexico City. If you get stopped…. speak little Spanish and do not attempt to speak English and overwhelm them. Ok, the one policeman had a note pad and I thought first he wanted to draw us a map how to get to the highway to Puebla but I was so wrong. In neat numbers he drew the amount of money we had to pay. I dared to throw in one of the few Spanish words I remembered in all the excitement and asked why. The man gestured to above and it seemed that we had run a red light. Of course, there was no way of proving him wrong or whatever. Needless to say we did not want to pay that amount of money – about 160 Euros and we tried to explain that we didn’t have that kind of cash with us. It was half true – because we both did only have about 400 pesos (40 euro) and 33 US dollars in our purses. They seemed to be satisfied, took our money and let us go. They even stopped the traffic so that we could get into the right lane.
A few blocks away, we stopped and checked if we still had all our things – driver´s license and all. Turned out we couldn´t find the copy of the contract of our rental car. Silke then walked back to the roundabout on foot to talk again to the police men. She went on foot because we didn’t want to give up our “valuable” position towards Puebla. In the meantime I found the copy of the contract and got out of the car to yell after her. Of course, there was no way in hell that she could hear me over all that traffic noise. About 20 minutes later she returned. The police men had been nice now but, of course, no copy of the contract which rested well in my backpack.
Laughing and cursing at our luck and bad luck we continued our trip to Puebla and then to Oaxaca where we still are.
Today (Friday) we went to Monte Alban, a few miles out of Oaxaca. It´s a famous pyramid site, one of the most visited ones in Mexico. We started rather late, around 9 a.m., after another delicious breakfast. The temperatures were not too high, somewhere in the 70s but the sun was burning down and I got my first sunburn. It looks kinda ugly but it doesn´t hurt.
Monte Alban was beautiful but when we arrived there were already lots of tourists. We climbed a few of the pyramids which were not as high and steep as the ones in Teotihuacan. The site is up in the mountains and you have a gorgeous view on the valley and Oaxaca.
Tomorrow, our plan is to visit a “petrified waterfall”, about two hours drive outside of Oaxaca. I´ve seen photos and postcards already and it must be breath-taking. Report will follow.
That´s it for now. So far our adventure is just that… an adventure. And we both love it.
Sent: Sunday, 16 October 2015
Subject: More Mexican Adventures
Another day is almost over down here in México. Time flies by and it is hard to imagine that we have been in this country for almost a week. Our days usually go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. No, no night life for us.
Today was another adventure. As I told the avid reader yesterday, we wanted to visit the petrified waterfalls today. We had our map and drove according to the directions and I´m sure we would´ve found the waterfalls, if the road would have been better. We exited the highway and drove into a village. It seem like the time had stopped here. There were no asphalt roads, just dirt paths. We saw lots of cattle (and mules). No road signs, of course, but small signs showing the direction of the Hiervos de Agua. @Rosie, forgive me if I torture the Spanish language. So, we followed the signs and the road lead up a mountain. No asphalt, mind you, and marks, no little “fences” that usually separates the road from the gap on your side. We kept driving… well crawling would be a better word because it was impossible to drive regularly. The scenery around us was beautiful but while we kept climbing higher and higher, we noticed a few rain clouds and when reaching a small parking lot, we decided to turn around and drive down again. The waterfalls were probably only a few miles away but not knowing the road and an approaching rain front, we thought it would be better to head back.
It never rained that day.
Instead we visited the old town of Mitla, which has another beautiful archeological site. It wasn´t as big as the ones we had seen before but nonetheless very beautiful. Here, unique in Mexico, the former walls of the temples were decorated with little stones which looked like a beautiful mosaic. We walked around – Silke even ventured down into one of the tombs.
The weather is still beautiful although the sun is really tricky.
I already treated myself to a few Mexican goodies. Here in Oaxaca (where we still are, btw) there is a market called Mujeres Artesantes de la Regiones de Oaxaca (sorry for any typos). The women from the various Indian villages (yes, I know the term is not politically correct) come and sell their crafts, clothes and Mezcal (the Oxaca version of Tequila). I bought a beautiful blousse. Today Silke and I drove to another city, which is known as a town of weaving arts. They still had the old tools they used for weaving clothes and carpets. On a market I bought a beautiful, beautiful scarf. I would have even paid the double price, but after a few negotiations I got it rather favorable. Negotiating the price is a thing here. I´ve never done it before but it does seem to work and there is nothing weird about it.
We met a German tourist group and they told us that they were heading towards the state of Chiapas. When we heard that the roads are supposedly no problem after the hurricane at the beginning of the month, Silke and I are considering continuing our trip as planned and go to Chiapas first and then to the Yucatan. Tomorrow we´ll leave Oaxaca.
Oh, the food! It is still incredibly delicious. This morning we discovered a small place that had a buffet. And after this (when I log off), we´ll go to an Italian place which we had already discovered yesterday evening. Yes, I know, it’s a sin because the Mexican food is so fantastic. Still, after a while you want little taste of “home” and I’m game for noodles.
Sent: Monday, 17 October 2015
Subject: Jedi driving like a bat out of hell
Imagine the greenest green you can possibly imagine. Now add an extra layer of yet another shade of green to it and imagine the Rocky Mountains. This is how the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico looks like. Silke and I literally gasped often when we drove up the mountains because after each and every curve another panoramic view awaits you. I wish I could´ve taken a photo of it but it’s impossible to stop on the roads. Still, this image of green will forever burn itself into my memory.
We arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas this morning, about 150 miles north of the border to Guatemala. As I mentioned the other day we decided to drive through the state of Chiapas as planned and not go the other way round. Lucky that we did because it is so very beautiful here. We did see a bit of the damage Hurricane Stan left here last week. The rivers are full of water and we saw a bit of flooding in one of the villages we drove by.
The people are not rich here but I would not call them “poor” either. It just a different life style and yet more different to European eyes I guess. However, I have to say that I´ve never valued clean, purified water as much as I do here. It´s indeed a commodity. Driving up to San Cristobal today was not only breathtakingly beautiful but also granted a tiny insight into the life in the villages. We saw dark-skinned women in colorful dresses walking by the road and carrying bundles of wood on their backs.
You might wonder about the strange subject line of this email. It came to me last night while lying in bed because the day had been rather stressful. We drove from Oaxaca to Tuxtla Guttierrez (the capital city of Chiapas). It´s a way of 350 miles (about 550 km) and it took us 10 hours to get here. We started fairly earlier from Oaxaca hoping we´d be here in the early afternoon but no way. The first part of the trip (down highway 190, almost all the way to the Pacific coast) turned out to be very curvy and driving was challenge. So, we took our time.
About one hour after we started our car indicated “oil service”. Great. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. We stopped in a village (guarded by the military) and attracted immediate attention. Of course, 2 chicas y 1 coche, that was probably the highlight of the month. I admit, I should´ve practiced more Spanish before this trip – Silke had but she couldn’t really speak it. I asked an elderly woman about the next gas station and with an “oh, no problem, kiddo, it just around the next curve” she pushed us into the right direction. I don´t know if that was *really* what she had said but it sounded like it and, indeed, there was a gas station soon. By the way, all gas stations are service only. You cannot do it yourself but have to let the man or the woman do it. Payment is also only in cash. Much to our surprise the woman at the gas station wouldn’t give us a bottle of oil at first so we went into a small store which turned out to be the public telephone and grocery store. This time I consulted my little Spanish guide first, then tried to ask for oil and ended up pointing at the respective phrase in the book. We had our oil in no time. It turned out that our oil was fine after all and we guess that it is just an indication that, after a certain mileage, the car “should” get an oil change.
We continued our journey and I took my motion sickness pill because we kept going up and down the mountains. Round and round, up and down, round and round. About four and a half hours later we reached our first destination of the day. It was already afternoon and we had to hurry if we wanted to reach our final destination, Tuxtla Guttierrez, during daylight. Driving after night is not an option because the roads are tricky and there are many “reductors de velocidad”, bumps in the road, which can damage our car if you don´t drive across them in snail speed. Driving is pure excitement here. The roads we took yesterday were toll-free and rather good (almost no pot-holes). Still, the sun kept traveling around us and we just adjusted to the traffic around us. I´m sure we broke quite some speed limits – but so did the others and it seemed alright. The highway got better and less curvy for a while and we really drove fast, but then the mountains came again and we had to slow down. When arriving in Tuxtla Guttierrez we stopped at the first bigger hotel, paid a lot of money for a loud room – but happy that we had made it we fell asleep.
I like the state of Chiapas. Yesterday evening we caught Star Wars II on TV in that expensive hotel and just a few minutes go we walked through the pedestrian precinct of San Cristobal when they suddenly played the Star Wars soundtrack :-).
When I say “expensive” it means that the hotel costs about $ 75 per night. Right now we have on for $ 40 and that is about the standard price. It is a rule that you can view the room and facilities before you decide. We checked out three different places today, two cheap ones and one more expensive. The latter was quite a sight but the staff was kind of snobbish so we went for the cheap & nice one. Despite my lack of Spanish, I have to say that I´ve already learned a lot. How to ask for a room with too beds. Ask for a quiet room, ask to see the room and how much it costs. The problem starts when somebody replies in Spanish <g>.
We will stay here for three nights (leaving Thursday morning) and then head to Palenque, deep into the tropics. The weather has been great so far. No rain and up here in the mountains it not as warm (but the sun is burning nonetheless).
More later when our Mexican adventure continues…
Sent: Wednesday, 19 October 2015
The weather got a bit cooler this morning. We are still high in the mountains, of course. We´re wearing long sleeves at the moment but it is actually rather nice not to have the sun burning down on you. I noticed on TV that another hurricane is dashing into the general direction of Florida and that it *might* hit the northern tip of the Yucatan. We are still about a thousand miles away from that area and it does not seem that we will come close anytime soon. So, no worries, we´re fine.
This morning we did an extraordinary tour. Silke´s travel book had recommended to find two Mexican guys named Alex and Raul and take a tour with them to two Maya communities nearby. Her book even said where to find them around 9 a.m. at one of the cathedrals. So we did and Alex told us to meet him “at the cross in front of the cathedral” at 9.30 a.m. We were a small group with a few Americans, a German couple and one from Israel.
I don´t know what I expected – maybe people living in colorful tents with no modern technology. We parked the small tour bus and walked the rest of the way into the village which turned out to host about 8,000 inhabitants. The walk into the village was already interesting and Alex pointed out a lot of facts and told us quite firmly not to take any photos unless we asked for permission first. The community we visited was the tribe of the Chomulas. They have their own language and own authorities and land. Mexican law is not respected at all. Still walking by huge fields of corn and beans, Alex continued to explain that it was a tight-knit community and there was no “inter-racial” contact with other tribes, races or Mexican people. Of course, the Chomula go to work here in San Cristobal de las Casas but they marry only people from their own community.
Before we reached the actual village we learned that the average salary per day for these people is 40 pesos, which is a bit less than 4 euro. Can you imagine that? So, they depend on selling their arts and crafts on the mercados (markets). In Mexico, tourism is the 3rd most important income. The items you buy in the Maya villages are authentic and when you buy it you support that particular seller and not some whole-sale company. The money goes directly to the family. A good thing to know because later when we had a bit of time on one of the mercados in the village I bought a beautiful curry-coloured jacket with red/green/blue stitching on front and back. We learned also that it takes about three weeks to make a “poncho” and I do not want to know how long it took to make my jacket.
When we finally reached the village I was surprised to find real houses made of cement or adobe and cars and phone lines. There are certainly differences between “rich”, “richer” and “poor” and “poorer”, like everywhere else. Alex showed us one house where a family lived that had the franchise rights to Pepsi Cola and it was a rather big house with garden – however, still nothing compared to a Beverly Hills mansion.
Speaking of Pepsi, the Maya people rely on sponsors, so you find school yard or playgrounds with the respective sign of a brand. Pepsi, Sprite, stuff like this. These sodas, btw, also play an important role in their religious beliefs. More about that later. Remind me, if I forget.
Alex seemed to know many people in the village because many greeted him, some hugged him. I´m sure it was about making money for him, too, but it didn’t come across that way. He paid the “entry fee” for the church (for us as foreign people).
I have visited many churches but I can easily say that I have never seen such an amazing place like the Maya church we visited today. When we entered there was pine tree branches on the ground, a holy symbol for the Chomula. Colorful curtains going from one side to the other decorated the ceiling. On the left-hand side of the church there were many Catholic holy people although the Chomula do not really give a damn about the Catholic church. The altar was decorated in the same fashion. There was no priest (they don´t have one; only for baptism one comes from for away). There were no chairs or benches in this church. Instead, people sat on the floor and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of candles burning. Every person could bring their own candles, put them on the ground and lit it. Alex told us that each and every one person came here to pray for themselves, talk to “God” and do not mind the other´s business. There was also alcohol, a schnaps called “posh”, and Pepsi cola. Part of their belief is that after you pray and talk to “God”, you drink something that bubbles so that you can burp – this is considered a cleansing.
There were also shamans / healers and Alex told us a bit about their tradition. Oh! Part of the reason why you are not allowed to take photos is that the Chomulas are arrived you would take away their “animal soul”, yes, their animal spirit. So, if somebody feels sick, they go to the healers first to see if something is wrong with the animal soul. Sometimes they even sacrifice live chicken because they believe – after rubbing the chicken over your body – with its death the sickness of your animal soul will leave. It is quite common to kill chicken in that church.
We then were allowed to visit the house of a Majordomo, who was the guardian of one of the holy figures in the church. (One Majordomo for each figure). It was a rather “run-down” houses, very dark, with pines tree branches on the floor. He was burning … this smelly stuff… no sage but incense? I do not know how to spell it. Sorry. Also we got a taste of that posh schnaps. Silke liked it, I didn’t. No surprise 🙂
After roaming the mercado (and buying a strange looking fruit and a little figurine in the shape of a giraffe), we met at our meeting point and went to see the next village. It was similar to the Chormula village but the people were not as shy and their church had a priest.
Alex took us to a Mayan house where we could watch (and take photos) of a woman weaving a carpet. Not with a machine, of course, but by hand. She did not even have a loom but did it totally by hand. Threading one yarn string through, pressing down hard with a piece of wood and then the next string. I´ve never seen anything like this and I really do appreciate even more the very little money I paid for my colorful jacket.
Inside the house another woman was making black tortillas for us. Alex told us that they tasted way better than the “Texmex” stuff they serve tourist. She made them by hand, too. There was a big fireplace (open fire!) and a squeezing machine (although it was *not* a machine) to flatten the corn cornmeal. She made tortillas for all of us – with pumpkin seeds – and they tasted delicious! Again, we were allowed to take photos (Silke and I asked Alex if we could leave some money for the food we ate and it was ok and no insult).
The tour ended around 2.30 p.m. – and my report is over now too. We’re hungry! No surprise either.
Sent: Wednesday, 19 October 2015
Subject: Quiet Day
Hurricane Wilma might be fast… as Jedi drivers we´re faster. Seriously, we are still in San Cristobal, heading to Palenque tomorrow, and were literally more than 1,000 miles away. We will probably in Merida on Monday.
Today was a quiet day. We had decided to sleep in and woke up at 7 a.m., of course. Horrible, I know, but we were just awake because we went to bed early yesterday evening (like every day. LOL). No night life for us.
After breakfast (enchiladas verdes) we went SHOPPING first on the food mercado, then on the arts & crafts one. The food market so different from the ones I´m used to at home. We bought mandarines and tomatoes for very little money and also encountered some very weird smells, not necessarily good. We stopped to have a snack of sweet somethings. I have no idea what it was. It tasted like apple strudel without the apples. Very sweet. Then we went to the regular market and I bought a leather painting with Mayan symbols for my aunt´s winter garden… and another scarf, made of wool this time. Silke bought a table cloth.
We stopped at a cafe for an orange juice and then continued our little shopping spree. Close to our hotel there is a jewelry store with beautiful stuff (and much cheaper than downtown). I bought a gorgeous bracelet with precious stones (tiger eye and lapis) and I´m still contemplating if I should get myself a necklace I saw there, too…
Speaking of jewelry, there is so far only one thing to be careful about and it´s corals, especially black corals, which are protected by the “endangered species law” (I´m sure there is an official name for it).
Silke had a bit of problem withdrawing money with her bank card from her bank account. Two banks here didn’t accept the card but the third one did and she´s happy now to spend some more money. 🙂
Strolling through San Cristobal – sunshine today! – we stopped at another cafe. This one was located at the Zocalo – the big “piazza” every town has. Two jugos de naranja (orange juice) and after a while I thought about order a slice of cake which I had seen a picture of on the menu. I smiled at the mesero (waiter) and asked for a “torta“. He asked what kind and started naming various kinds of fruits (or so I thought). He pointed at the menu saying “torta de la casa” with all fruits available (or so I thought). Imagine my surprise when he returned with my order and placed a big sandwich in front of me, complete with ketchup and fries. Only then I remembered that I had read just yesterday that “torta” means sandwich and “tarta” is cake. LOL. Silke and I laughed so hard and, of course, nobody else around us understood why.
Tomorrow we´ll start early to drive to Palenque (about 4 hours drive) and we will stay there for three nights.
Sent: Saturday, 22 October 2015
Subject: Stairway to Heaven
Remember my talking about the “greenest green” when we drove up to San Cristobal de las Casas a few days ago? Well, I lied. This, here in Palenque, is the most greenest green I`ve ever seen. *This* is the tropical rain forest.
However, I`m getting ahead of myself. We left San Cristobal de las Casas yesterday (Thursday) to drive to Palenque in the north. It was cloudy and actually rather chilly when we packed our car after breakfast. As I have mentioned before, driving in Mexico is a challenge because there are hardly any informative road signs. You would imagine that there is a sign to one of the most important archaeological sites in the country, but that would be too easy for the tourists, right? It was our luck that there was a military post at one of the crossroads and I asked them which way would lead to Palenque (the guys all looked yummy). Needless to say, a few miles *after* that crossroads there was a sign to Palenque. What a funny country!
After driving for maybe two hours we noticed a change in vegetation. The pine trees went and the banana trees came. At one point we were stopped by a “friendly” demonstration. Indigenous people had erected a road block in the shape of a rope going from one side of the road to the other. Police was there, too, to supervise everything. It turned out that they asked for a contribution of five pesos for collecting the waste by the road. For such a good task we happily gave the money and were then allowed to continue our journey. A bit later another rope blocked our way. This time a woman sold bananas and, hungry and all, we bought a few for very little money. Pulling down the window we noticed for the first time that the temperatures outside had considerably increased. As had the humidity.
Silke and I switched places after a while because the serpentines made me queasy again. We arrived in Palenque around four o`clock in the afternoon and… what an unpleasant town. I had read in my tour guide that the only reason it was famous was because of the pyramids nearby. Everything was above price and … unpleasant. It was surely no comparison to the beautiful cities of Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. Of course, we were here because of the pyramids and nothing else.
We stopped at one of the hotels and when we got out of the car for the first time since San Cristobal, the humidity hit us like a sledge hammer! We had finally reached the tropics. The air is palpable, so humid, if you look closely enough you could actually see the moisture. We checked out four hotels (one very expensive one just for fun to see the rooms) and ended up in the Maya Tulipanes. Very nice, very good staff (so far). The food though is different here. Still good but not as spicy as we are used to it.
Back to the beginning of this email: We book a guided tour into the tropical rain forest and this morning our night ended at 5 a.m. A van from the local travel agency collected us at 6 a.m. and took us into the darkness of the morning, which had not even dawned. We collected some more people from various hotels and after a breakfast “somewhere” we arrived around 10 a.m. at our first destination, the national park of Yaxchilán.
The park is only accessible by boat. Imagine a Venice gondola with an engine. That was our boat and I was very uncomfortable when we started to race across the river (much to the amusement of the other four passengers). The river, I keep forgetting its name, is the natural border between Mexico and Guatemala and I have to say that I have never seen such an impressive river. At least twice as wide as the Mississippi and full of water. Surrounded by tropical rain forest it looks just like in the movies and you expect Indiana Jones jumping into your boat any minute.
The special thing about Yaxchilán is that it is not only a national park but also host to pyramids, different than anything we had seen before. The structure itself was similar but there is nothing like the site of a pyramid covered with grass and moss. And the sounds! We heard howler monkeys nearby and even saw one real spider monkey climbing from tree to tree. At one point we even noticed a toucan high up in the air as well as parrots. Welcome to the jungle!
We stayed there for a few hours and then went to Bonampak, another pyramid site, different than the others but not less impressive. Here we would still see very colorful wall paintings – and hundreds of butterflies. A very blue one followed us around a bit but it wouldn’t sit still enough to take a photo.
Despite the fact that there were mosquitoes and other stuff buzzing around our heads, I did not get one bite thanks to my anti-mosquito lotion. That stuff really worked. (I`ll probably get hit now sitting here in the hotel).
The day ended way too soon, as so many days had ended too soon already. Tired, filthy but smiling we got home in style…
Sent: Sunday, 23 October 2015
Subject: Slippery when wet
In the shower this morning I was wondering about this very strange noise. Like running water. Of course, when you´re in the shower you most certainly hear the sound of running water but this was different. It almost sounded like… rain. I called out to Silke to look out of the window but she said there was nothing. However, when I came out of the shower it was raining cats and dogs! I have no idea if this was the influence of hurricane Wilma but we had in-fact three showers of rain today. Nothing serious because it was as warm as the air outside. It wasn´t even refreshing. <g>
After breakfast (fruit salad for me) we visited the ruins of Palenque. It was more humid than yesterday, probably due to the rain fall. Still, it was so warm and I had on my shorts and a top – and my hiking boots. It looked quite adventurous but if there is one thing I´ve learned from this pyramid thingies, then it´s to wear good shoes. Due to the rain before the steps and stones were wet and we needed to be extra careful when climbing down. Same rule as always applied: Up is easy, down is dangerous.
The ruins of Palenque are surrounded by tropical rain forest and the sight is breath-taking (if you still have some because of the 95%+ humidity). Is it possible that the green seemed yet a little bit greener than yesterday?
We walked around the archeological site and took lots of pictures when the next round of rain poured down. At first I tried to seek some shelter under a big tree but the rain came down so heavily that I decided to climb up to one of the small temples and hide there. The rain curtain gave the pyramids a mystic look and we just stood up there and looked around until rain stopped after 15 minutes.
The humidity was back instantly and then the sun came out. It is not a good combination. Silke and I sought the big trees for shade and bought some souvenirs from a boy (Mayan symbols on a limestone, quite pretty).
After lunch we headed back into the mountains to visit the Agua Azul waterfalls, which are supposed to be the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. We paid some sort of “save the roads” toll and then the entry fee and parked our car. A boy of about 10 years offered to watch our car. We had read about this in our travel guide and it is supposed to be a good thing. Of course, there were many other tourists too, but we surely didn’t mind a set of watchful eyes. We “negotiated” the fee, 10 pesos, and the boy said his name was Pascal. Payment was due upon our return. I don´t know if he really watched our car but he surely showed up promptly when we returned about three hours later. So, I guess he did keep an eye on it.
The next rain sent us into a small restaurant where we had a coke and some food. Not bad but not good either. Oh, beware of the toilets! (The toilets in the jungle were cleaner.)
Silke slipped on some wet stones and fell into the mud. My heart stopped for a moment because the fall did look bad but she laughed and already complained about her white pants – which now were not white anymore, of course. I event took a pic of her dirty butt. Evil me, I know.
We went for a walk around the waterfalls that cascaded down from the mountains. Again, the sight was breath-taking and we stopped here and there to take pictures. On top of the trial we came to a small vendor who sold freshly pressed orange juice. Yum! We’ve come to enjoy this beverage and it is so very different from the stuff you buy in the supermarket. Silke was even allowed to take a photo of the man squeezing the oranges.
Silke´s mishap had taught a lesson and we walked down slowly. My constant problem is that I cannot estimate the distance between steps or if it is a deep one or small one. However, we both managed the walk down without compromising our pants again.
On our way back to Palenque we stopped by the Miso-hal waterfall, which is not as big as the Agua Azul ones but not less intoxicating.
Tomorrow we´ll head north to Merida, Yucatán. We don´t know how long we´ll be staying there but there are many things to see. Another pyramid site and a national park with Flamingos. And, of course, the beach is getting closer.
Sent: Tuesday, 25 October 2015
Subject: Chichen Itzá
The scenery has definitely changed. Our beloved mountains are gone and in exchange we got flat land with bushes and trees. We left Palenque on Sunday morning and drove north. Although it might sound like a cardinal sin, Silke and I stopped at Burger King by the road and had a burger and chicken fingers plus fries. I have to say that the quality of the food has most definitely changed since we arrived on the Yucatan peninsula. Everything seems to be mainstream, tourist style. Don´t get me wrong. The food is ok but the spices are gone.
We arrived in Merida in the afternoon and stopped at the hotel Dolores Abla, another rec from Silke’s extraordinary travel book. As a matter of fact, right now we are staying yet again at the Hotel Dolores Alba located close to the ruins of Chichen Itza:
The price is good – 430 pesos, which is like 21 Euro per person. We also checked out the Club Med <g> but it was just not our style… the paint was red and it felt kinda strange.
I´m getting ahead of myself again. After arriving in Merida, the capital city of the state of Yucatan, we walked around the historical district a bit but we both did not really like the city. Too big, too loud and dirty. So, we decided to only stay two nights. In the evening we met two women from Switzerland (one spoke French, the other German) and had a tri-lingual conversation in French, German and English. It was so much fun.
How decadent is it to dive into the swimming pool before breakfast? The air was clear, already warm and the water felt so wonderful. I swam a few rounds before we tackled the next adventure of the day: The nature park of Celestún.
The small city of Celestún is located about 92 km west of Merida and we arrived there shortly after noon. We hired a boat for one hour and the captain (a young lad named Jose) showed us the area. It was so beautiful and we saw many birds including pelicans and flamingos. The flamingos are the actual highlight of this park. Due to the recent hurricane (and the hurricane season) we only saw about 60 flamingos but in the dry season there are more than 10,000 flamingos in that area. What does that tell us? We have to come back in spring! 😉
Our captain wasn’t in a hurry and he stopped the engine so that we could see the flamingos rather close. We even saw a baby flamingo with white/gray feathers – sleeping on one leg, of course. The water was very shallow and so it happened that we even saw a real crocodile! Just a for a very short moment but it was a croc nonetheless.
We continued our little boat tour through a mangrove (sp?) forest. They grow red mangroves there which means – so we learned – that the water is red. I took some awesome photos of the red water and the sun shining through the tree branches.
Needless to say, the tour ended too soon but … the memories will stay.
We left Merida this morning and arrived “here” shortly afternoon. The hotel is outside the little village and has two pools and looks just relaxing and cosy. The important thing is that the village has several Internet cafes. Tonight we will go and see the light show of Chichen Itza and tomorrow we will visit the ruins for real.
We don´t know yet what will happen after that. Our plan was to go to the beach but we don´t know yet if the road to Tulum is open again after the hurricane. Tulum is about 150 km south of Cancun.
Well, that´s it for now. We´re both still enjoying this trip, which turned out to be so different than anything we’ve seen before. Different is good. It is hard to believe that next week, on Nov 4th, we will already be on a plane home again.
Sent: Friday, 28 October 2015
Subject: View from a hammock
Our plans to go to Tulum, 150 km south of Cancun, did not pan out. The hurricane had destroyed parts of the main road and we were told by our hotel in Chichen Itza and also by the Swiss women we had met earlier that it would be not a good idea to go in that direction at the present time. (Of course, if we had listened to everything who´d told us that traveling through Mexico by car was dangerous, we wouldn’t be here at all.) Still, we watched the news and it did not look good.
So, we ended up on the westside of the Yucatan peninsula in Celestún (where we watched the flamingos the other day). It is a fishing village and the restaurant we went to yesterday evening closed at 7 p.m.! Still, Celestún has its charm and we like it there, especially since the beach is just below our balcony. We arrived here yesterday afternoon and discovered a brand-new hotel on the “main road”, Calle 12. Actually, there is only one road. They had an introductory offer, which sounded good enough for us. 600 pesos, which is about 30 Euro for each of us. The rooms are huge with a bathroom (and bath tub!). Everything still smells so new and fresh. Even the pillows are still fluffy.
The best thing is though that there not so many tourists. Before, in Chichen Itza and actually all of Yucatan so far, there had been so many tourists and for some reason it bugged me. Certainly, we are tourists, too, but somehow I could not really deal with the “assembly line” routine in some places. As I said the other day the quality of the food has plummeted. Spices are *gone* as soon as one tourist shows up. Am I complaining? Yes ;-). I want my eggs scrambled with red chili again. I want the burning in my mouth back. <bawl>
However, the restaurants in Celestún seem to be good and Mexican. I had calamari in garlic sauce yesterday and the taste came back. At breakfast this morning – in another restaurant – there were four tables occupied with tourists and it looked as if we overwhelmed the waiter a bit. I noticed him sending one employee over the street to buy some toast. Very cute.
Did I tell you that we saw real vultures? Not here but when we were still in Chiapas. What an awesome sight! They even had found some road kill to chew on.
Every journey should expand one´s horizon and this trip has really provided us with so many wonderful sights as well as sad and depressing views on life. There are a few images that keep showing up in front of my mental eye every now and then. Like the poor woman in San Cristobal de las Casas who sat on the pavement hoping that some people would give her some pesos. I think I won´t forget her look when I gave her some coins which I had in the pocket of my pants. Or… the view from my hammock in our hotel in Chichen Itza. Actually I only saw a bit of my legs and then Silke in the next hammock and bit of the pool and palms. Still, it was a touch of paradise just lying there, doing absolutely nothing.
Which reminds me… I haven´t told you yet about our adventure in Chichen Itza. Grab a chair and pour some coffee…
First of all, we both had thought before arriving in Mexico at all that “after the third pyramid” you´d probably get sick of it. Chichen Itza was our seventh archeological site and, no, it did not get boring at all. Each site is different and has its own beauty and treasures.
Chichen Itza has a light and sound show in the evenings and although we wanted to explore the whole area in style the next day, we decided to go into the park and watch the light show at 8 p.m. last Tuesday. There were only about fifty to one hundred people and we got seats in the front row. It got dark very soon and the stars above us were already worth the entry fee (which we actually did NOT have to pay because we told them we would come back the next day). During the 45 minutes show I caught myself staring that the velvet black night sky and its thousands of sparkling little dots and points. The show itself was nice but not overwhelming. They illuminated a few buildings and the big pyramid. I took some very nice photos though (thanks to my tripod!). I must say that the “dark sight” of the shadow of a pyramid in front of us was actually more impressive. You could only see its shape and that it was something real big. Very impressive indeed.
We visited the archeological site the next day and, as always, got up at 7 a.m. (No worries, we *are* getting enough sleep. 9 to 10 hours should suffice, right?) There were not many tourists around just yet and we had the main pyramid almost to ourselves. I was told before that this one was one of the steepest pyramids but, honestly, I got up and down rather swiftly and without any problems. Not even my fear of heights kicked in this time.
The sun burned down although it was not too warm. I´m so grateful for my big hat and hiking boots. That’s all I needed any time of day. (Well, I had *clothes* on, too. <g>). We explored the site, gasped at the huge size of the ballgame field and admired the observatory. It´s rather difficult to get your head around the fact that the Maya built this such a long time ago without the knowledge of modern technology. Where does that leave us? Simple-minded? Sometimes it felt that way.
There were lots of vendors of arts and crafts and I ended up buying a wooden sculpture of a Mayan god for Marcel´s wall. It´s made of cedar wood and so heavy. I´m already look forward to packing my suitcase and get everything I bought inside – NOT! Silke bought a hammock, negotiating like mad to get the price she wanted. As a matter of fact, she bought two already. I would love to get one too, but where to put it? I need a balcony or two trees…
At our hotel we met the ladies from Switzerland again who had just arrived and checked it. At the same time I spoke to a guy who was reading “Long Way Round” – so was I and we chatted a bit about the book. He hadn´t seen the documentary yet and I strongly recommended it to him. He sounded British and I asked him if he came from Britain but he replied, “No, I´m English.” Nice lad actually and it was so refreshing to talk a bit English again.
Before we went back to Celestún we checked out the Northern coast of Yucatan, about 30 km north of Merida. We had read that it was not really a tourist spot but much to our surprise we spotted many beautiful hotels by the road. We stopped somewhere (after driving through the main gate and driving down a looooooooong road) and had to find out that this was not a hotel but a private mansion! So was the next and the next and the one after that. Can you imagine us just driving up there and ask for a room? Trust me, we giggled quite a lot. Not discovering one single hotel we turned around and headed to Celestún, which reminds me, btw, a bit of Key West, Florida. It´s not a beautiful (and does not even have a bank or ATM) but there is only one road from Merida and if you drive a bit more to the West you´ll end up in the Gulf of Mexico.
Life is good.
Sent: Monday, 231 October 2015
Subject: Dia de Muertos
Our long way home has begun. Actually, it began already yesterday when we left our beautiful beach hotel in Celestún, Yucatan. The new winter time woke us at 6 a.m. and after packing our stuff we indeed had to wait for the restaurants to open for breakfast. Interesting enough although it was still so ungodly early many people were already up and in the street.
After a delicious breakfast of Dutch waffles (which almost taste like German pancakes) we felt adventurous and took a road that was not on our map. Uuhhhh, very eerie. Well, not really. We just noticed the name of a town which we would pass anyway if we took the long way around Merida and decided to try the road. It was asphalt and everything and it so saved us about half an hour of driving to Merida and then out of the city again. So, the day already started very good.
By the way, if you are wondering what we did on Saturday, here´s the secret: We did absolutely nothing. We got out of bed, had breakfast, walked back to the hotel, spent some time on the beach or on our balcony, had dinner and went to bed. It was a perfect day. The walk on the beach was beautiful. There was just me, some pelicans and a couple of fishermen. I´ve never felt such comfortable silence. The water of the Gulf of Mexico was lovely and lukewarm. Just… perfect. Our dinner, too, was perfect. I had, if I spell it correctly now, “Camerones al coco”. That´s shrimps in a coconut shell with mango and apple sauce.
Back to our way home. Even before we went to Mexico we had decided to drive back on Monday in order to have a few days in Mexico City. For some reason we started on Sunday already and managed to reach Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco in the late afternoon. It was so *great* t get the first little taste of our mountains again. I almost asked Silke to stop the car so that I could get down on my knees and kiss our first curva peligrosa and was even a double curve. Beautiful! So, we reached the capital of Tabasco in the afternoon and this time we only consulted Silke´s extraordinary travel guide once and checked into one of the best hotels in town, Best Western Maya Tabasco. Lot of money for uncomfortable beds – but “Star Wars IV The Empire strikes back” was on TV!
Today´s Halloween and when we got started after our rich breakfast buffet we did some very fast Jedi driving and managed to reach Puebla, one hour south of Mexico City, in the early afternoon. We used the autopistas, which you have to pay for but at least you can go fast (well, Mexico fast) and we were so surprised when we passed Veracruz and soon got into the state of Puebla. We switched seats and I did the last 100 km of driving. However, our luck with the fast road left us for the last leg of this day trip because the road suddenly went up into the mountains and it was so very foggy up there. Silke slept on the passenger´s seat and I was so glad to have this big truck in front of me so that I could use it as a “beacon of light”.
The city of Puebla is pretty and we walked around the historical district a bit this evening. We met another couple from Israel who had just started their trip and we gave them some advice where to stay in Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. Tomorrow and on Nov 2nd Mexico celebrates the Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It´s not like Halloween although we’ve seen many kids tonight in costumes and a “dead corpse” on the street – so very cool that we threw some money in his hat, uhm, skull. The Dia de Muertos is a celebration of the dead in Mexico. Places are decorated with skulls and flowers and around the Zocálo for example there are little “monuments”, like altars, where people pay respect to the deceased loved ones. There are photos, candles but also food items like oranges and bread. Very different and very moving.
We are staying at the Hotel San Angel in the historical center of Puebla and will drive into Mexico City tomorrow and stay there for the last three days. We most certainly will give away our car first thing tomorrow because we both do NOT want another encounter with the police. 🙂 However, taxis do fine in Mexico City and they´re dirt cheap. Our planes leaves Friday night (arriving home Saturday).
I don´t know if we´ll get the chance to get online again in the last few days. Possibly yes but maybe not. So, if this is my last message for now, I´d say “adios” for now and thanks for joining me on this extraordinary trip.
Sent: Wednesday, 2 November 2015
Subject: ¿Más pan?
Ciudad de Mexico
This trip does not want to end just yet so this is me again with yet another chapter.
If you´re wondering about the subject line that probably only Rosie (yo!) will understand, we just returned from dinner. I know it´s still early, not even 6 p.m. but they close early, even here in the capital. That and we were hungry. Silke´s amazing travel book provided us with another advice where to eat and we ended up in a nice restaurant with even some historical background. One of the Mexican heroes ate there once and shot a hole into the ceiling. I forgot the name, something with Z and, no, it was not Zorro. Name will follow. Not surprisingly, the menu was in Spanish only but we noticed some hints what each item was. More or less. Pescado is fish, carnes is meat, entradas is starters. So far so good. I ordered little pieces of beef filet and the waiter uttered a warning that it was muy picante, very spicy. I’ve had my share of spices during this trip and I thought nothing could top the spicy-hot sauce, which we had as an appetizer in Yaxchilán. I was wrong. It was beef filet in a red chili sauce and unfortunately the only thing I could take off was my blousse (top underneath). Our little basket of bread was empty soon and the waiter came to my rescue asking ¿más pan? – more bread? No kidding. Don´t get me wrong, the food was excellent but it was spicy-spicy!
We are staying at the Hotel Catedral again. I had emailed them yesterday evening from Puebla and our room was waiting when we arrived. Miraculously, we managed to find our way out of Puebla rather fast this morning. When we hit the autopista to Mexico City the awesome sight of the two volcanos that surround the area greeted us. The bigger one, Popocatepetl , is active once in a while and you cannot hike there. Still, it was a breath-taking sight with the snow-covered top.
We reached Mexico City around noon and crawled through the car-congested streets of this hellish city. The airport was our destination because we wanted to return our rental car. Three days early but we both did not have the slightest inclination to spend more minutes than necessary driving here. We followed the airport signs and already saw our exit when… the police stopped us again. This time though we had been in a long line in front of a red light, not moving at all, but they still waved at us to pull over – which was easier said than done in this traffic chaos. Wisely, we had hidden our money again because we somewhat had expected another stunt like this.
Ok, police, two officers, Silke rolls down the window. The first guy says something to Silke when she doesn’t react, I tell her he wants to see her license. The other guy keeps walking around our car to search for anything missing. Officer 1 seems to think that I speak Spanish and addresses me mostly. I´m all smiles and blink with my ojos verdes. He asks if this is a rental car and then he says that the license plate is only valid until Oct 31st. Huh? In all Spanish words I can muster (not many) I try to explain that we are about to return the car to Alamo. He then asks for tickets – which I understand but ignored. Instead, I hand him the contract of the rental agency. He reads it – or attempts to read it, talks to his colleague and asks – possibly – if we go home today. Home? If home is our rental station, si, we go home today. More talking to the colleague, pen already ready to probably write down the amount they want. The first officer points at his watch and, si, home today.
Ahora. Avion. Aeropuerto. Alemania. Magical words apparently because they let us go without asking for any obscure payment. 🙂 Is that the way of the Jedi or what?
We went some sightseeing around the Zocálo this afternoon. This big place is supposed to be the 2nd largest open piazza in the world and it was decorated today for the Dia de Muertos. I’ve never seen such a colorful celebration of the dead. There´s lots of police and military guys (which machine guns!) walking around because there are *so* many people here these days. It´s not scary though unless you´re afraid of masses of people. We visited the governmental palace, which is famous for its awesome wall paintings by Diego Rivera. Very impressive. There´s one painting called the History of Mexico and it covers a whole huge wall. You get dizzy just looking at it. I tried to capture it on film but it was close to impossible.
Tomorrow we´ll visit with a Mexican lady I met here. It´s actually a long story again. A few months ago I got an email from a “Sentinel” fan because she wanted to put one of my TS pictures on her website. I had heard her name before in the fandom and asked in return very politely if she knew an online road planner for Mexico and explained our idea of this trip. That was in July or June. She gave us some advice (and actually told us that such a trip would be dangerous, like everybody else.) Anyway, we exchanged a few emails and shortly before we left for Mexico, she offered to pick us up from the airport on our first night and take us to the hotel. We tried to decline but she insisted. So, she collected us from the airport – accompanied by her son and drove us the hotel. Mind you, she doesn’t live in Mexico City but one hour away. We were so surprised that she just offered to come and do this. That evening though there was no time for dinner or a proper thank you because she had to drive home. However, when it became apparent that we´d have some time now, I emailed her again and asked if she would like to join us for dinner tomorrow evening. So, we´ll meet tomorrow. Funky, huh?
Funky as everything so far…
Sent: Friday, 4 November 2015
Subject: Mi casa es su casa
The funny thing about these travel report snippets is that I think of something to tell during the day and forget what it was when I finally get online. Old age… <ouch, stop throwing things at me!> Anyway, I know I thought of something earlier today but now it´s gone.
It´s Thursday here, our almost last day. Tomorrow´s the final one, our plane leaves at 8.40 p.m., arriving in London 10 hours later. It´s gonna be a long night but I´m hoping that the plane is not too full so that we have three seats like on our way to Mexico. British Airways confirmed our flights yesterday and everything is good to go. Well, not everything: I still have to re-organise my suitcase. So does Silke.
I´m looking forward to coming home. It´s not that I want to leave though. It´s still as exciting as it was the first day we came here but I miss my own bed. My own bathroom. My computer with its fast connection as opposed to these machines operating at snail pace down here.
We had a terrific day yesterday. As I had mentioned we met Sara, the Mexican lady and spent the day with her and her 19-year old son (cute, but way too young!). The Mexican clocks are definitely different because they arrived around 11.30 instead of 11.00. Of course, we terrible Germans sat on the edge of our beds by 10.30 already. They finally arrived and we spent some time looking at my photos. Of course, the screen on my camera is tiny and it´s no comparison to the real photos but they wanted to seem them. If I counted correctly, I took about 500 photos. I will select the best of the best for my photo album and website. Silke already requested a CD of all photos.
Anyway, Sara, her son and the two of us visited the archeological site of Temple Mayor, which is in the heart of Mexico City. The site is not complete yet and probably never will be because there is the “little” problem of the gigantic cathedral that is supposed to be on top of more archeological findings. And they can hardly tear down the cathedral, right? Speaking of which, I don´t know if I mentioned it in one of my first emails, the cathedral is so big and heavy that it is sinking into the uneven/unsteady ground. The last earthquake in 1985 did some damage too.
Truth to be told, we all did not really pay much attention to the archeological findings because we kept talking and talking about Mexico and Germany the whole time. Sara speaks very little English (as much as I speak Spanish and that is almost nothing) and her son translated a lot. Still, the communication was there and we enjoyed the company very much. Silke and I had missed the opportunity to speak to real Mexicans because we couldn’t speak much Spanish so our usual chat didn’t take place. However, yesterday we had the chance and we most definitely talked about everything that we did NOT talk about in the last four weeks.
In the afternoon Sara had an appointment with her brother and his family ad she asked us to tag along. It felt a bit strange first to just accompany them but according to her son it was ok – “they´ll just buy a bit more food.” Her brother, Ruben, lives on the outskirts of Mexico City and we were worried that Sara would probably want to take us back to our hotel in the evening. It was such a long way and we felt already a bit uncomfortable. We learned then that it was her brother´s belated birthday party – and we were dressed as dumb tourists! Never mind, as it turned out. The lady of the house, Sara´s sister in law, greeted us at the door and soon we were introduced to the rest of the family. Sara´s sisters were there, three kids (all boys) and two big German Shepherd dogs.
We communicated in English/Spanish, some family members spoke English or they spoke Spanish and we replied in English. It was a riot and it did not feel awkward at all. They made us feel welcome right away. The house was not fancy or anything, colorful I´d say and most importantly it was cozy. We were invited to a home-cooked dinner which was absolutely NOT spicy. Only when I mentioned that I kinda liked the chili, Sara´s brother called out to his wife in the kitchen and … a plate of chili was placed on the table. We also had cake as desert and between all the eating and looking around in this Mexican home we *talked*. About cars, food, specialties of our countries, school, food and our trip. It was fabulous! We took some photos of us and the whole family (just like in the movies <g>).
Sara, who had to work today, suggested then to take us back to our hotel but Silke and I declined and asked her to just call us a taxi. Sara agreed only reluctantly because going through nightly Mexico City in a taxi is not a good idea (according to her and my travel book). Still, this was the easiest way for all of us. We said our good-byes – and received a “mi casa es su casa” from Sara´s brother as well as a big hug.
Sara did still not trust the taxi who collected us and asked for the man´s license and everything. When she was satisfied that everything was in order, she gave me the phone number of her brother´s and asked me to call if anything happened *and* to email her as soon as I got to our hotel. She had even already paid the driver to take us downtown (and she refused to accept our money).
The ride back to our hotel was rather uneventful, not counting the fact that the police had closed off the area around the Zocálo and our driver had to do some Mexican Jedi driving to get us to our hotel, which is conveniently located *at* the Zocálo. We got a little taste how huge this place is because it took him more then 90 minutes to get around. In the end another fantastic day was over and we literally fell into bed.
Today we visited the Museum of Anthropology. It was worth the time though although now my feet hurt and I´m tired from all the input.
Oh! We also took the Metro, the underground, the tube, as means of transportation today. It was cheap, 2 pesos, and it was a lot of fun. A bit crowded in the end but cool.
Sent: Saturday, 5 November 2015
British Airways uses “World traveller” and “Euro traveller” to identify the various destinations. My bordering pass stated “World Traveller” and it made me grin. It’s true, isn’t?
Silke and I spent our last morning in Mexico City in front of the TV and watched re-runs of Smallville, Third Watch and Gilmore Girls. It was neat to do nothing but it was also a bit boring because we just waited for the time to pass. When the taxi brought us to the airport in the
late afternoon, the old excitement was back. We learned at the check-in that the plane would be full but we decided on our usual seat arrangement (me window, Silke aisle). The clerk pointed out that we would probably have a stranger sitting between us but we didn’t care. The stranger turned out to be an Italian American traveling from San Francisco via Mexico City via London to Rome. Young guy, not too bad looking but most definitely too young.
Our plane (Boeing 747-400) boarded early, but when we were ready for take-off and already on the runway, the pilot said “we have a problem” and apparently the luggage was stored incorrectly and would maybe, maybe not interfere with the plane’s optimal balance of weight. So, we rolled
back to the gate, the airport people re-arranged the luggage and we could take off with a 90 minutes delay. In the end we arrived only 23 minutes late in Heathrow.
The flight was *so* uneventful because I fell asleep after dinner and woke up over Iceland with only two more hours to go. Fabulous. The male flight attendant called me “madame” (not ma’am, mind you, because he was British). Quite cute and one of the others commented on my classes. That was the first time actually – or maybe the Mexican people had also commented but I didn’t get it. Now, back in English speaking territory, it was a whole different world.
And a different world it was indeed. Suddenly we did not attract attention anymore with our height and white skin. At Heathrow I used the bathroom and… wow, there was toilet paper, paper towels and actually very clean facilities. Don’t get me wrong, we could handle Mexico just fine but it was such a drastic different to walk into the ladies room at Heathrow. Hard to explain.
We had three hours time which passed quickly – I spotted the DVD of Episode III but did not buy it (because it was already waiting for me at home). We arrived in Düsseldorf on time and Silke’s parents picked us up as planned.
My suitcase is on the floor, some stuff already in the laundry and I had my first German sandwich and coffee. What a delight, after all.
Until next time, Danny, World Traveller