Our Indiana Jones Adventure

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Posada Los Angeles
What I did
Nachos Bar

Flag of Mexico  , Central Mexico and Gulf Coast,
Thursday, September 29, 2011

We were salivating in anticipation of our first meal in Mexico. They are famed for deeleecious food, possibly the best in Latin America. Three different meals were ordered and they did not disappoint! The schnitzel was good but who has schnitzel in Mexico?! (Me!) Both Manuela and Mario opted for stews with rice and beans that tasted like home-cooked meals. But it was the the chilli salsa that stole the show and blew us away!!

Preconceptions of cantinas serving tequila (Where else did Cantina Tequila get it from?) spurred us to hunt for just that. So we went around the streets asking locals where to go. Initially they were directing us to the plush hotels. This prompted us to add: "No para gringos, para Mexicanos!" (Not for foreigners, for Mexicans!). 

That's how we ended up at Nachos Bar, a small poorly-lit and simply decorated bar with only male patrons. The waitresses were the only females in the place besides Manuela and I. Judging from their facial expressions they must've thought we were lost. Before they offered directions, we ordered our drinks: a Corona and tequila each. Of course, we asked for the price first! It was then we met Don Julio, one of the most expensive tequilas, but Manuela charmed the manager into charging the same price as the other tequilas - 50 pesos per shot. Don Julio was smooth, very smooth!
Next day we headed off to the ruins. We quickly learned what Septi-hambre (September Hunger) means when we were surrounded by ten guides. They weren't all touting for our business though. As Salvador explained, they take turns and keep a list of who will tout the next set of customers. The negotiating ball was in our court so we patiently waited until they accepted our price of 300 pesos for 2 hours. They laughingly said we could have the elderly, slow-moving, slow-speaking guide for that low price but we held out for Salvador. We figured he'd make for good entertainment!
The ruins themselves were not that different to Tikal's. But Salvador took us behind the barriers into unexcavated parts where we could crawl into the structures where bats lurk and swing with vines from the mounds. Very Indiana Jones! Just like Tikal, only about 10% of the ruins have been excavated so lots more discoveries await. Tikal has the "middle of the jungle" setting bursting with wildlife but Palenque was more intriguing. More intriguing than the fact their aquaduct/draining system still works! 

Palenque is special, like a temple of doom! Secrets tombs were discovered with special release mechanisms. Two separate tombs contained skeletons with lots of jade jewellery and other personal possessions - one belonging to a woman and one to a man. They're not sure who they were but they must've been important.

Salvador was a great guide who apparently won 3rd prize for best guide with some regional tour company. We got on so well that Salvador that he invited us back to his house where we spent a pleasant afternoon. We paid for the ingredients and in exchange he cooked up a storm! Prawns diablo with chipotle chillis and dorado fish wrapped in foil with tomato, onion and his special blend of herbs and spices. He showed us around his humble abode where he sleeps in an expensive hammock. He told us his life story, showed us pics of his 7 kids and told us how much he spent on his daughter's 15th birthday party. This celebration is a big deal throughout Latin America (we first came across it in Cuba), almost as a big deal as a wedding. Rather spend that money on her education, I say!

That night the town was struck by a nasty storm that lasted for hours. The joys of the rainy season! We're talking bolsterous thunder, constant lightning and torrential rain. We were trapped at a pharmacy trying to out-wait the rain. While sat there admiring the awe-inspiring weather and chatting about life, lightning struck the ground right in front of us! Mario saw it and I saw the look on his face. Shock! Horror! I've never seen him react that way EVER before, in all our 14 years! 

Eventually we admitted defeat, kicked off our flipflops and wading carefully along the sidewalks. As serendipity would have it we discovered a small taco joint on a side street that served "gringas" - a taco with kebab-like meat from a huge skewer topped with grilled pineapple and melted cheese! A perfect ending to a very eventful day!

Aside: To honour the start of 3 months (at least!) in this country Mario decided to wear Mexico on his face! He shaved it all off (thankfully, not his eyebrows!) and started work on his Mexican-style moustache (watch how it grows in future posts).
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