(M)escalating Mayan Mesoamerican expectations in Mexico

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We went from one superb couch surfing host to another two in Mexico city, we seem to be pretty lucky in finding great people to host us. We had an amazing few days in the city seeing things we would not have otherwise discovered without local know how on our side. We jumped in the hollow VW campervan and went to Xochimilco for a lazy Sunday afternoon but unfortunately we only managed to get a tip off about Isla de Muñecas the day after we left. It would have been a creepy interlude into the day of the dead festivities but luckily we had some great experiences to make up for it. There was a film festival in town, so we visited a Bedouin tent set up in the centre of a park to watch a film, ‘These birds walk’ a film about lost boys in a home in Karachi, a moving docufilm that left me with a plethora of unanswered questions. We were only meant tks stay for one but our hosts friend turned up who happened to be a director and told us to stick around for the next one. The tent kept filling up, people were sat on the floor and yet the hoards kept piling in for ‘Pussy Riot’ another great documentary about the Russian a activists imprisoned in Moscow. Yet again I was left with more unanswered questions but a great night of free independent film viewing in the coolest setting. We headed to Teotihuacán to see the perfectly perpendicular pyramids in the scorching sun before we met up with other couchsurfers at their lovely home for dinner, and they proved that you need much longer in this massive city to see all it has to offer.
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We then made our way to both Puebla and Cholula, two lovely colonial cities en route to Oaxaca filled with dressed up trick or treating kids. I was soon perturbed by the constant rainfall that seems to disrupt our central American days. I was rather hoping my plans to avoid the rainy season would have paid off as we are clipping the end of it but it turns out that it is unusually extended. As a consequence we’ve had an unavoidable downpour every day. Cholula was the outstanding favourite of the two places, a colourful quaint university town even when the heavens open.
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We arrived in Oaxaca City just in time for dia de los muertos by the skin of our teueth. We jumped in the back of a pick up truck and headed for the enormous cemetery. The place was entirely candle lit and bright orange from all the marigolds. Every single grave was decorated and interlaced with families drinking and Mariachi and brass bands. It was an incredible spectacle, deafening and enchanting, everything I hope it would be but with a whole load more effort thrown in. We spent the following morning being interviewed for a book to be soon published in Korea about love in which we had to draw each other with amazing results…
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The second night of day of the dead festivities was an entirely different story as we were introduced to the hideous world of mezcal. We soberly painted our faces and embarked on a game of dominoes with shot forfeits for the losers. We headed far out of town for a parade in a hilltop church square. There were enormous brass bands one after the other with people dressed as monsters covered in bells all , marching down the hill parting the massive crowds. The noise was deafening but it was in full fiesta mode, but the mezcal hit hard and took all my memory away after 1am. It two whole painful days to recover, rendering us dorm room bound, only able to leave to gather food. We had to head to the coast to take care of our newly sober bodies so we took a night bus to Pochutla, waking up early morning bound for the pacific beach at Zipolite where we were poached by a hotel owner and wound up in an immaculate little room. We jumped into a collectivo and headed up to Rancho Cerro Largo in San Agustinillo to see if the friend I had made in India was in town. Luckily he was and it was so great to see him, particularly in this paradise setting. We borrowed a surf board to try out the surf on the private beach but the waves were 3m monsters so we headed back to Zipolite for a fish supper. We rose early in the morning for a class with Mario, the studio is incredible and the sound of the waves was hypnotic besides he is a brilliant teacher. We continued on in to San Agustinillo to try out more surf, I ordered an aqua de limon only to realise when attempting to pay after drinking it that it was a dear soul’s house! We headed on to Punta Cometa to eat and watch the infamous Pacific sunset where we were accompanied by the restaurant’s dog who led the way down the trail. We spotted our Italian friends eating pizza from a sturdy looked wood fired oven so we picked up a takeaway to eat on the beach, best pizza in a long time. The following morning was spent faffing about in Pochutla trying to get bus tickets, but we made it to the ranch in time to fit in a long skinny dipping body surf on the huge waves before a private yin class with Mario. We then jumped in his pick up before the sun set to reach the mangroves to spot crocodiles. We had a dog on board in our dug out canoe which was a bit precarious, but didn’t encounter any issues until we got out on the beach and one was waiting for us on the shore. We were greeted by some staff who had some turtles to release so we got to send them off in to the sea, a really nice experience willing them all to race to the waves in a tiny turtle race. Its so hard not to keep one in your pocket as a new travel pet. We returned to the ranch for an exceptional fresh fish dinner with homemade bread and local honey for desert, it would be so easy to stay there forever but made a nice end to our stay on the Pacific coast before the lengthy chain of nightbuses.
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The first took us to San Cristobal, another nice colonial town where we spent the day dodging the rain in cafes around the zocalo, we even met a girl from Zurich, a time world. The same evening we got another night bus to Merida and then on to Chichen Itza, a place where the cost of a government tax ticket is higher than the entrance fee. Despite the huge cost due to it’s proximity to popular American holiday destinations the site itself is incredible, a huge complex of well preserved Mayan ruins in a more jungle like setting, so worlds apart from Teotihuacán. We were the last people standing in the car park after closing time, nervously waiting for another bus, this one a local one to Valladolid, a great little university town with an amazing atmosphere, wish we could have stayed there the night because the street food was amazing, we had what was essentially a higher roast on the street for pennies. From there we got another bus to Tulum, by now absolutely delirious from all the travel so we passed out as soon as we found a cabaña. The next two days were spent cenotes hopping with a bike, but we kept getting drenched in the storms, cycling blindly along the motorway for miles isn’t the best way to travel when soaked to the bone with perishing flip flops. I’ve lost 3 pairs of shoes now, so solely surfing on my fetching Velcro sandals. The first cenotes site was more mangroves so lots of cool fish laiden roots to explore in turquoise waters which made a stark contrast to the eerie red opaque crocodile filled waters we previously visited. But the best by far was the Gran cenote, an open cave with underground river systems where you could dive down and resurface in a tiny cave with less than a metre head hight filled with oxygen depleted air, which made it really hard to breathe. It was brilliant to swim alongside the turtles and fish but the dark made it really creepy. It was amazing to watch the divers head down the river streams below, down to 40m at points. I would have loved to dive there but it takes serious buoyancy control to avoid bashing your head on the stalegtites. We were really sad to say goodbye to Mexico, it’s such an amazing country, but simply too big to even scratch the surface, which gives all the more reason to have to return one day.

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