Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mexico retrospective

As my train whizzes through the Scottish countryside (with a cold and rugged coastline on one side and lush green pastures on the other), my adventures in Mexico seem a lifetime ago. In reality, that was only two weeks ago – wow. Nevertheless, here goes a quick snapshot of my time in Mexico.

The snorkelling and diving on offer in Mexico is completely mind-blowing – especially when you venture into the fresh-water underground world! I had my first ever diving experience in the cenotes (caves) near Tulum and it was unreal. I know they tell you that the most important thing is to keep breathing normally but there were numerous times when I was awestruck and breathless! I think the photos speak for themselves…

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Dos Ojos Cenote

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Dos Ojos Cenote

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A whole new world

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Then, after a friendly conversation with the owner of our hostel (Casa Del Sol in Tulum), Ella, myself and two other English lads found ourselves travelling local style (in the back of a ute) to a completely isolated beachside town called El Uvero where we ‘camped’ in the owner’s unfinished house! We had to keep pinching ourselves as we kayaked out to the reef, snorkelled, caught all kinds of fresh seafood for dinner, found hidden cenotes, watched soccer games and shared our love of music… all under the full moon and all in the presence of swarms of mosquitos… hungry enough to bite through thick clothing! Totally surreal.

Ella putting her spear-gun skills to work

Ella putting her spear-gun skills to work

Hidden cenotes... apparently noone has ever found the bottom of this one!

Hidden cenotes… apparently noone has ever found the bottom of this one!

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Dinner... that lasted a couple of days and nights

Dinner… that lasted a couple of days and nights

We were literally the only ones in this paradise!

We were literally the only ones in this paradise!

Campfire cooking

Campfire cooking

Road trip to El Uvero

Road trip to El Uvero

Fresh coconuts

Fresh coconuts

Having spent longer than planned in the Yucatan, we then headed straight for Mexico city. Although we didn’t spend long there, it was surprisingly pleasant! We wandered the historical centre at night, visited the Museum of Anthropology and I got to negotiate the full suite of hectic transport options on offer. My rush-hour subway experience involved police blockades to separate men from women and children in order to prevent people getting trampled in the surging crowds but even in that situation, I was greeted with friendly smiles and help.

 

From the air, Mexico City reveals its true endlessness...

From the air, Mexico City reveals its true endlessness…

Out and about in the Historic Centre of Mexico City ... a whole crowd sing-along to Mexican love songs

Out and about in the Historic Centre of Mexico City … a whole crowd sing-along to Mexican love songs

Saying goodbye to Ella after incredible adventures together

Saying goodbye to Ella after incredible adventures together

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After a sad farewell to Ella, I headed for the mountain town of Taxco where I was welcomed by Jaime and Romelia; a lovely couple I met at a conference in 2012. Taxco had Spanish charm, more amazing (although dry) cave formations and entirely different culinary options to try. My room at the Posada de la Mission convent from the 1600s was gorgeous and I only wished I had longer to enjoy it.

 

Taxco

Taxco

A night time panorama over Taxco

A night time panorama over Taxco

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Romelia and Jaime

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A regional specialty ‘Pozole’ – corn soup with pig fat, chicken, chilli, onion and avocado

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Grutas de Cacahuamilpa

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Nevertheless, a day or two later, I crossed back to the Gulf of Mexico coast where I met some family friends in Veracruz – Boca del Rio. This place showed me yet another dimension of Mexico as a drug-trafficking nexus, the old capital, a port-based economy and laid-back coastal living. Dare I say that it almost felt like life on the Sunshine Coast, QLD.

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Isla de Enmedio

Isla de Enmedio

Breakfast with the Mabarak ladies

Breakfast with the Mabarak ladies

Veracruz zocalo - town centre

Veracruz zocalo – town centre

Mexico definitely upheld its’ reputation for amazing food. Highlights include:

–          fresh seafood galore (some of it thanks to Ella’s spear-fishing talents!)

–          limes galore (in beer, in tequila and squeezed on top of everything including plain tacos!)

–          black beans (that taste better than I have ever been able to make at home)

–          and quirky regional specialites (like jumil / roasted beetles and all sorts of variations on tacos and yummy sauces)!

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All in all, I know that there is much more to explore in Mexico and hopefully, one day, I will be back :)

 

Would you BELIZE it?

From Guatemala’s waterfalls, limestone bridges and caves at Semuc Champay and the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, we headed straight to Caye Caulker (one of Belize’s many islands amid the second largest reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef). A completely unplanned stop but I’m really glad we ended up there for a few days.

Caye Caulker - the main street

Caye Caulker – the main street

We were travelling with a couple of American friends who managed to score an old beachfront shack (cabana) and we all promptly invested in 7 large lobsters straight off the neighbour’s boat (for USD25 – oh so happy). We had no idea that our timing was perfect for the Belize Lobster Festival… pure luck!! We spent the next couple of days experimenting with different ways of flavouring, cooking and devouring lobster, snorkelling trips out to the reef and enjoying the Caribbean-style night life (reggae grooving til the wee hours!)

Michelle getting intimate with the lobster!

Michelle getting intimate with the lobster!

Cabana fun

Cabana fun

Thunderstorms are another particularly dramatic feature of Belize at this time of year – one minute it can be stinking hot and sunny and then it is rapidly followed by an hour of pouring rain. When you combine pouring rain, hot temperatures that make raincoats (and even sunscreen) unbearable and the tropical wood / thatch style of construction on most buildings, you quickly realize that there is no escaping the weather! It rains just as much inside as it does on the outside. And whether due to rain or pleasure activities (swimming, sailing, snorkelling etc), whatever you wear gets wet… you just gotta get over it.

Drenched but the day must go on...

Drenched but the day must go on…

Belize is such a small country but there is plenty to explore and it has a fascinating mix of cultures: several different groups of indigenous peoples, the Spanish colonial history, African Caribbean / Creole influence, waves of Asian immigration and a range of other visitors that have chosen to settle into / ‘got stuck in’ the laid back lifestyle on offer. Rasta-influenced pick-up lines and friendly compliments seem to be a normal part of walking down the street here :) Hey, its always nice to be told you’re looking very beautiful today… “sweet honey pie” :)

Both Ella and I also got told to ‘slow down’ numerous times! As I write this, a week later, I think we’ve finally mastered the slow stroll!!! Hmmm, perhaps that crazy little thing called relaxation is happening.

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Poor quality picture but a beautiful Manatee nonetheless!

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