A Travellerspoint blog

Take a walk on the wild side

Palenque ruins

semi-overcast 26 °C

On January 1st in the late afternoon we arrived at the town of Palenque near the famous ruins.
We spent our night at the jungle village of El Panchan just outside of the national park and we found a great place to stay really quickly. After
falling asleep in our jungle home to the sound of an uncountable amount of birds, chirps, and howler monkeys, we got up early to head to the ruins just to realize it was a Sunday, the busiest day of the week because Mexicans can get in for free.
So despite the fact that we were early, it was already really crowded. A bit of a drawback, but Palenque is so so beautiful you can forget the crowds quickly enough. Palenque is an ancient Maya site that used to be inhabited by about 8.000 people at its peak, and it is set on a mountain in the deep jungle, which is why the ruins were only discovered about 150 years ago. The buildings are very well preserved and the setting is just spectacular. Palenque is truly magical!
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The jungle is beautiful and we actually saw not only the hugest butterflies imaginable, but also kolibris (hummingbirds), and a group of howler monkeys climbing and swinging from tree to tree just above our heads, making that scary howling sound (they sound a bit like a puma or lion!). The first time Malka ever saw monkeys in the wild...monkeymania!
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We decided to spend the rest of the day with our new good friend, the giant bottle of beer, and wait for the nightbus to the beachtown of Tulum on the Yucatan peninsula...
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PS: We are posting most of our pictures on our Flickr account and only some of them are lucky enough to make it on this blog.
If you want to see all, then follow this link:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/56559897@N02/

Posted by pimenmalka 14:52 Archived in Mexico Tagged palenque Comments (0)

Highland chills in San Cristobal de las Casas

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View Pim & Malka in Central America on pimenmalka's travel map.

Well, we knew we had to say goodbye to the beach - more and bigger adventures waiting for us - so we took the 12 hour trip on the nightbus to San Cristobal de las Casas in the Chiapas Highlands.
When we arrived in the city of San Cristobal at 6 o clock in the morning though, it was frrrrreezing! We were so lucky we brought along big sweaters and jackets. Everyone running around was wearing hats and gloves and scarfs...so this is how a temperature drop from 28 down to 5 degrees feels, brrrrrrrrrr....we were so happy the first day when we found a fantastic little soup restaurant to warm us up, especially with the big chillies in our soups! San Cristobal is lying at an altitude of 2200m, so days are fine with 25 degrees and strong mountain sun, but nights are horribly cold. We rolled ourselves into sleeping bags, a regular blanket, and 2 woolen blankets to keep warm!
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The city is really pretty, nice little churches, lots of cafes, a big crafts market and a big food market, some pretty squares and even the first true pedestrian zone we have seen so far! (no cars allowed? this cannot be Mexico!) But it is also a real tourist town, which here means indigenous people with their sad looking little kids selling crafts and begging at every time of the day. The city used to be the stage for the Zapatista rebel movement, and there are still lots of supporters who display their pride everywhere. You can even buy little rebel puppets, complete with guns and masks (which freak us out a tiny bit). We actually went to the cinema of a cultural center and watched an interesting documentary about the Zapatista movement which gave us a lot of insight into the issue.
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On our second day we took a tour to the Canon del Sumidero, a 25km long canyon, at the highest point it is 1km deep. We took a 2h boat ride on the river that runs through the canyon and spotted some lazy crocodiles. Really impressive and magnificent landscape, and we got off the speedboat with funny hair ;-)
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The next day we took a tour to some towns in the area where the indigenous Tzotzil people live. The towns are quite big, around 70.000 people living in these communities, but only 20% of them speak Spanish. Their main language is Tzotzil which is Maya. We visited a Spanish church that has been turned into a temple by the locals: They bring sacrifices to the altar like fruits, flowers, alive chicken (to kill there), and bottles of coca cola (!). They have masked and decorated the 62 Christian saint figures inside the church into the Maya gods. It was not allowed to take pictures there, but we can tell you it was quite a sight! This is the week when religious leaders are chosen, so it was superbusy - we could not get but a few metres inside the church, just masses of people crammed inside bringing sacrifices, smoke from incense being burned in the air. Afterwards we also visited a spooky graveyard (Maya religion also uses a cross and they bury people according to Maya tradition here, but it has different meanings) and a local family where they cooked us up some yummy tortillas.
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When we returned we wanted to do some shopping at the local market, but there was a demonstration of indigenous people going on who refused to leave the market until January 1st (anniversary of the Zapatista uprising), masses of police marching there, and streets were blocked by townspeople who sympathize with the indigenous protest. It felt strange though, because we could not get any more information about what was happening and Mexican media do not show these things as it is a politically sensitive issue.

And then came our last day in San Cristobal: New Year´s Eve! We were looking forward to the celeberations in the streets and wondering what to expect (more demonstrations?). It was also the first time for both of us to celebrate New Years in a country far away from home. It turned out to be a fun night, a little quiet though, because most locals celebrate at home with their families. But there were still lots of people, mostly tourists, on the street (this year, most tourists are actually rich Mexicans from the North). We had a nice dinner and some drinks, listenend to really nice live music in a bar and celebrated the arrival of the 2011 on the plaza in front of the church with the crowd. No fireworks (too expensive for most people here) but lots of sparkling lights!

FELIZ ANO NUEVO A TODOS!

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Posted by pimenmalka 10:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged san cristobal Comments (1)

Feliz Navidad a todos!

Christmas on the beach

sunny 28 °C

There are first times for everything...so this year we celebrate our first Christmas on the beach! Feels weird because it does not feel so christmassy, but there are traces to be found every now and then....
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On December 22nd we took the famous minivan (they call it the vomit van) through the crazy mountain roads from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. An endless string of curves... And to make things worse we had the craziest driver, he hit the gas hard and after 6 hours with almost hitting a truck full front and shortly after that almost decapitating a donkey, we arrived in Puerto Escondido just in time for Malka NOT to give justice to the name ¨vomit van¨ (phew that was close!).
First thing to notice was the heat that we were not used to, such a different climate here on the coast. We stayed in Puerto Escondido, a total surfer mecca, only for 2 nights in a cute cabana at lovely hostalito Osa Mariposa at Playa Zicatela where they serve the best vegetarian meals ever. But we were so stoked to be on the beach and just to lie around and do nothing that we forgot to take any pictures! Lazy days for sure, just sleeping and eating :-)

On the 24th we took the bus to the remote beachside town of Zipolite: a fantastic beach dotted with cabanas, nice little restaurants and the occasional nude old hippie lying in the surf spacing out on some local mushrooms :-)
We stayed at appropriately named Lo Cosmico in a tiny cabana, and the owners invited us to have Christmas dinner with them and their friends, the ¨cosmico family¨. So there we were spending Christmas Eve with a bunch of old hippies! It was so much fun. We met lots of nice people, had a great dinner with a huge turkey and Swiss cakes, 5 litres of selfmade fruit punch with lots of Tequila in it, and sat around our tiny driftwood Christmas tree together.
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Our Christmas days we spent on the beach of course...just hanging out, taking a swim every now and then, drinking cocktails and just enjoying :-) We never got so tanned over christmas, that's for sure. In the beginning we did not understand how people get stuck in Zipolite and never travel on, but after a few days you feel so lazy you don't want to leave the beach ever again!
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MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL FROM THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE WORLD!

Posted by pimenmalka 11:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged puertoescondido zipolite Comments (1)

Two gringos in Oaxaca

sunny 25 °C

After 4 days in Mexico City we travelled on to Oaxaca - unfortunately we had not realized that buses were fully booked on Saturdays, so we spent some hours waiting for the only free bus... but it was not so bad as we met a really nice Mexican girl and her mum who gave us the address of some distant uncles nephew (or something) who lives in the place where we will spend Christmas :-)

We had a great time in Oaxaca. When we arrived Saturday night we were greeted with fireworks around the grand cathedral as soon as we walked into town :-) Such a good start! We were lucky to stay at a nice new hostel called Casa Angel.
We spent out first day walking around town, enjoying the clean air (it is only then you realize what a smog you have been in back in Mexico City) and of course the nice weather (just to make you jealous there at home, we have not seen one cloud or drop of rain yet!).
Oaxaca is a really lovely city, very pretty colonial buildings and squares and great markets and restaurants with the best food you could possibly find! And lots of tiny friendly Mexicans :-) Since Oaxaca is well known for its cuisine, we can say for sure we have spent most of our money on food...and damn it was worth it!

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The first trip we did was to the ancient ruins of Monte Alban and it was special and spectacular. The city was built on a mountain top in the middle of the Valles Centrales, 40 km out of where the city of Oaxaca. The people who built it actually flattened the hill and built a city made of pyramids and temples with an incredible 360degree view of the valleys around it. We went really early to avoid the crowds, and it was just really beautiful and you could absolutely imagine it as a lively city. We totally discovered our indigenous roots (Pim is a danzante at heart and obviously knows his moves)...
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On our second day we decided to walk past a well known restaurant called Casa Crespo and ask about cooking classes to learn how to prepare some Oaxacan indigenous cuisine. And yes, Oscar the chef was giving a cooking class that day and we could join! It was so much fun! Oscar is a lovely funny guy, he took us to the market for grocery shopping and explained a lot about all the indigenous fruits and veggies of Mexico. Also, he assured us that Mexico is not dangerous at all, but Europe on the other hand...he went on the train from Germany to Prague and got robbed when he fell asleep...(no comment there!)
We then prepared a four course dinner with special drinks: we made our own tortillas with 4 different salsas and the best guacamole; a soup with plaintain banana, pineapple, bacon and lentils; a chillie stuffed with a sauce of shredded chicken, raisins, nuts, olives and tomatoes; and a lovely Oaxacan chocolat mole sauce with chicken, and to fill up the gaps a delicious avocado ice cream. Wow!
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On our third and last day in Oaxaca we went to do a hike in the mountains of the Sierra Norte. We had booked a tour and after some difficulty of actually getting to the remote village that was our starting point, we did a beautiful 5hour hike with great views with our guide, the little Mexican Piedro (Malka suddenly felt really tall!) who took us to three different lookouts at an altitude of 3200m. Beautiful!
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Unfortunately when we wanted to get back into town in the afternoon, we - and two Germans who also did a hike - realized that the lady of the tour agency had misinformed us about the buses going back. At 15.00 the guides told us there was only one bus at 19.00 and if we were lucky we might see a colectivo bus or taxi...but neither showed up (taxis, well yes, but all taken!). So we waited in the mountain sun for hours...and hours...... in the meantime the village (and cars passing by) people all laughed at the sight of four tourists waiting for a ride in the middle of the mountains. The highlight of this out-of-town experience was caused by a 3year old girl who walked passed by, pointed at us and said to her mum: "Ay, mami, GRINGOS!" The nice girl from the only shop in town kept her place open for us, and we danced to Mexican songs and played football with her three little kids a bit - soon it was getting icy cold (remember, we were at 3200m, it actually freezes there at night!)...The bus did not show up until 20.00, and after waiting there for 5 hours we got into the completely full chicken bus, the driver turned off all lights and there we went off the steep mountain road with crazy potholes in the ground...all shaken and stirred three hours later we were in Oaxaca. What a trip!

Only a few hours of sleep left as we still had to pack our bags for we were getting picked up really early the next morning to go to Puerto Escondido....

Posted by pimenmalka 10:06 Archived in Mexico Tagged oaxaca Comments (0)

Mexico City.... part 2

sunny 22 °C

First impressions, so they say, are very important.
Well our first impressions of this journey are great so far.

The second part of our stay in Mexico City we have visited Teotihuacan outside of the city and some real nice areas inside the city.
Teotihuacan used to be the biggest city in Central America, around the height of its reign there were about 1.5 million people living around the two pyramids that form the center. One of those, the pyramid of the sun is actually the 3rd biggest in the world.

It took us a metro and bus ride through the outskirst of Mexico City to get there - really weird to see that totally different part of the city with small houses all cramped up together, and weird to imagine that most of the city´s inhabitants actually live out there.

The Teotihuacan city used to be as big as 20km2, but the archeological site today is about 2km2.
The big street that runs through the whole site is called the Avenue of the Dead. It leads up to the pyramid of the sun and the smaller pyramid of the moon.

Before the climb...
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Here we are on top of the 3rd biggest pyramid of the world (after a very steep climb, yes5269449473_e6beb2d3a0.jpg

And this is the amazing view from the pyramid of the moon...
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After all of our climbing during the walk to the bus we actually realized we had been walking around in the hottest part of the day, so we were getting a bit drousy afterwards. The hot bus and metro ride back to the city also didn´t help, but instead of going to the hostel we decided to visit the area Roma. Really good decision, this neighbourhood is packed with hip cafes and bars and so we joined the upperclass mexicans in the afterwork ´borrel´. We liked it so much that after a short refreshment in the hostel we went directly back for dinner in one of the bars ´El diez´ of course named after the one and only number 10, Diego Maradona, whom they displayed everywhere they could. Can food go wrong in such a place? No it can´t, yumm...
Afterwards we socialized with the hostelcrowd which was really nice, and we watched a terrible movie ;-) until late at night...

Today we visited what turned out to be our favourite part of the city: Coyoacan. It´s a cute colonial neighbourhood about 10km outside of the city center, and it´s the area where the famous artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera used to live. We really loved walking around Coyoacan with it´s small town feel, colourful small houses, cobbelstone streets, cafés on every corner, a beautiful park and the lively Plaza Hidalgo. The relaxed and quiet little streets felt just perfect after escaping the downtown rush.

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Of course we visited the Casa Azul (the blue house), former home of Frida Kahlo, which is now a really nice museum. They display al sorts of paintings she made, as well as the original furniture, collections of her personal items, photographs of the family, and much more. It is a very beautiful building built around a paradise of a garden.

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Tonight we are going out for dinner with some other hostel guests and there will be a party afterwards here! The owner of the hostel has already built up a giant DJ set so we can´t wait :-) But we have to get up in time tomorrow to travel to our next stop: The city of Oaxaca!
Hasta lluego!

Posted by pimenmalka 12:50 Archived in Mexico Tagged mexico city Comments (1)

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