Hello blog it’s been way too long, over 2 months in fact. Shameful. The last two months have possibly been the two most unusual months of my life, in that I’ve done none of the things I usually do in December and January like go home for Christmas and have the family over for New Years. It was so, so nice to catch up with everyone from Southampton again over the Christmas holidays and find out how everyone’s adjusting (/learning to cope with) to the Mexican way of life.
We decided to explore two of Mexico’s southern states, Oaxaca and Chiapas, over 4 weeks. I can honestly say it was the best travelling experience of my life, a beautiful country with amazing company; I’ll try and summarise some of the best bits:
We started off with an 8 hour bus from D.F. to Oaxaca City, Oaxaca which turned out to be a very European/Spanish feeling city (though still very Mexican of course) with tall, colourful architecture, beautiful artisan markets along with delicious coffee and chocolate. The perfect place to spend a few days ‘Mexican tat shopping’ as we’ve called it (clay skulls, colourful rugs and Mexican shirts) and soaking up the atmosphere in the lively main plaza:
From Oaxaca City we also visited the very special spot known as ‘Hierve el Agua’, a waterfall formed from calcium.. I think, with swimmable pools and stunning views of mountain scenery. Getting there was a journey and a half in a very legitimate looking (not) Mexican bus up a steep, twisty dirt track; cliff edge stuff:
I also experienced my first Mexican ruin site, Monte Alban, which was just like stepping into one of my favourite films, Eldorado:
Our next destination was Puerto Escondido, still in the state of Oaxaca, which is a resort type place on the coast. For me this was my least favourite place we visited. I had high hopes of picturesque, empty beaches but I guess due to high season everywhere was rammed with tourists and there was very little Mexican about the place; except maybe for all the pelicans, the occasional cowboy and the sweltering heat. However we still had a ‘different’ Christmas Eve/very early Christmas day with a beach all to ourselves and it was even warm enough to go swimming in the middle of the night which resulted in nearly loosing all our clothes as the tide snuck in on us. The hostel we stayed at even put on a Christmas buffet which was some of the best food we ate on the trip:
I was very glad to escape the heat of Puerto and move onto our next stop in the capital of Chiapas: Tuxtla. Not the prettiest of cities but certainly 100% Mexican with a crazy fruit market next to our hostel and a lively marimba concert held every night in the main plaza with couples of all ages making the salsa look annoyingly easy, indigenous families selling their crafts and shoe shiners as young as 10:
The good thing about Tuxtla was the amazing day trips you could make from there. Cañon del Sumidero was incredibly impressive, I expected a boat trip up a nice-ish river but it wasn’t until our driver started pointing out all the crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas and pelicans that I had to remind myself (again) that we’re not in Europe anymore:
We also spent New Years Day clambering down 700 and something steps to a beautiful waterfall that was almost deserted except for a few crazy Mexican families carrying down their cooking stoves and tortillas:
Our next destination in Chiapas was San Cristóbol de las Casas and probably my favourite stop of the trip. A smaller city, European feeling similar to Oaxaca, but with a strong indigenous population and for some reason a load of vegan restaurants which meant I could finally try some Mexican enchiladas:
In the outlying towns we were also able to visit an indigenous church (sadly no photos allowed) but imagine a church with no seats, floor covered in a thick layer of pine needles and the most candles you’ve ever seen, and also una ‘escuela zapatista’ (zapatista school) which focuses on teaching skills, such as cooking and carpentry, to its students who are mostly from indigenous families:
After a chilly San Cristóbal we had another long bus journey to Palenque, which is a hot and humid jungle spot, where we pitched up in a little jungle cabin – crazy how much the climate can change in just a few hours. The main attractions of Palenque are the jungle ruin sight:
And waterfalls Misol-ha and Agua Azul:
That (sadly) concluded our Christmas travels and it was back to an incredibly cold and wet Toluca, already looking forwards to doing it all again in the summer. Luckily for me I was only half way through my university Christmas break and still had all of January free soooo pretty last minute my madre flew out for a quick visit.
We met in Cancun (a 2 hour flight from Toluca) then caught a bus to Tulum where we based ourselves in an airbnb near some cenotes (natural pool type things) for a week.
Despite having wonderful experiences all over Mexico, the distance from home is something that plays on my mind a lot and thinking about going back to England is something I also do a lot. So, I was incredibly thankful of this brief catch-up from home – mum to the rescue, she’s a superstar.
I (eventually) started back at work in February and things have been pretty quite so far. Spent my 21st weekend in Mexico City, sipping beer on canal boats and doing some cheeky shopping and since then have started getting on with the YARP and booking flights to Cancun again for Alice’s 21st and the end of YARP deadline in May – 2 perfect excuses to celebrate.
The end – PHEW.