Blogs :: one month later...
Well, it's officially been a month, but it doesn't seem that long until I realize how far I'm actually going. 30 days later, I'm finally remembering to put the paper in the wastebasket not the toilet. In October we essentially played turista for 30 straight days, and are quite exhausted.
Mexico City was the first stop and I have to say I heard from both Mexicans and Americans questions like "why would you go there?". All I can say is I had a blast. From upside down tequila shots to Aztec pyramids to cathedrals to Mexican wrestling, it was a fun 4 days. After spending a good part of our month visiting ruinas from both the Mayans and Aztecs, I think I enjoyed ones just outside this city in Teotihuacan the best.
Next we headed down into the state of Chiapas. Described by one tour guide, the Mestizos here have perhaps the roughest life in Mexico if not the world. It is by far the poorest area of the country due in part to the rough mountainous terrain, climate, and history. "Without roads, cities or even small towns, eastern Chiapas is a kind of dumping ground for the marginalized, in which all of the hardships peasants confront in the highlands are exacerbated," says Charles Collier who has written several books on Chiapas. We spent most of our time in and around the hills of San Cristobal. If you've always imagined Mexico as hot and humid, I thought it was going to snow one night here.
Following trips to small towns like San Juan Chamula and Chapia de Corzo and Mayan ruins in Palenque, we ended up in Merida. This is a city I could enjoy. Every Saturday and Sunday they have a festival. kids, adults, teens, young, old, very old dance in the streets to classic Mayan music played by live orchestras, bands, choirs, etc. street performers entertain with clown skits and statue poses. Hot dogs are fried, churros are amazing, corn is served on the cobb covered in mayonnaise and cheese, and of course, tacos galore consumed. As the largest city on the Yucatan Peninsula competing for tourism with the likes of Cozumel and Cancun, Lonely Planet describes the town as "not near the beach and not caring". I like that.
After a quick trip to Uxmal, we headed to Chetumal to find a bus headed south into Belize City. I'm not sure how the Creole language would describe this former capital of a small former British Colony, but shithole works for most I think. A local explained it simply for us: "When Hurricane Hattie hit in 1961, the city never recovered. The government picked up shop and moved to Belmonpan." Couple that with government corruption (which another Bealizean did not want to even start a discussion with me about), lack of quality education, poor economic and infrastructure planning, and you get a country with huge potential that's struggling to pay the bills.
Getting out of there as quickly as we could, the following 5 days were spent diving on Caye Caulker. PADI training came first followed by the Blue Hole and then 5 days ridding my ears of water. I apparently breathe too much and found my oxygen deplete faster than most, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent underwater with the fishies. Boats in rough waters, not really.
After almost a week on an island with no paved roads where random holes dug up in the middle of sandy streets were common (plumbing issues?), it was hard to make the choice to get on a bus towards San Ignacio in the forested hills of western Belize. Here we found oceans of rain with nearly every tourist attraction closed. Still, we managed to convince the tour company to take us to a few waterfalls, Rio Frio and Rio on Pools, with a stop along the way at Bols Cave for ancient Mayan artifact fun. The roads were nearly washed out which made for a fun, but obnoxious ride (thanks to our New York City tourmate).
2 days later and 1 more extra, while we waited out tropical storm offspring that closed the river bridge and killed two guys trying to cross in a canoe with a drunken captain, we crossed into Guatemala for a quick stop over at Tikal. Sure the guides say it takes 4 hours to see "most" of the Mayan ruins, we did it in 2. Truthfully, you can spend days in the area if you haven't already seen a million cool stone buildings built into the sides of hills like we had for the past few weeks...
36 hours, 2 buses, 3 collectivos, 1 taxi, 1 boat, 1 random $1.25 roadside "tax" that no one in the colectivo wanted to pay, and 2 border crossings later we were in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead celebrations. Although the town is already decorated, the real holidays start tomorrow...
San Cristobal, Caye Caulker, Belize City, tax, Merida, San Ignacio, Mexico City, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Tikal, Mayan