Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
Trip End Jan 27, 2004

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Saturday, September 27, 2003

Tijuana, Baja California, La Paz, Los Mochis, Copper Canyon, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chiapas Highlands, Jiquipila, San Cristobal, Palenque, Yucatan Plains, Coastal Yucatan; Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Merida, Xpuha

It`s been a long time but here I am finally in an internet cafe but as always am short of time. I think we have been in Mexico for a couple of weeks now. It is an unbelievable contrast to the civilisation of the American/English world. I think that Mexico is fantastic and the more time I spend here the more I want to stay. We are experiencing new everything; culture, language, smells, sights and sounds, colour, lush green vegetation, heat, hurricanes, rain and hail...

We had a 3 night stop over in the jungle! Yes, the jungle! Where the heat is humid and the air is moist. A lot like sitting in a steam room but it is continuous. All sorts of animals including Howler Monkeys who swing in the trees above us and roar like lions. It is a very strange sound to hear in the middle of the night. We bumped into a very large tarantula at some ruins which was a bit scary and have seen lots of dolphins swimming not far from us in the Ocean as well as hundreds of huge Pelicans diving for fish.

We have been stopped a few times by the police, they seem to take every opportunity to take money from tourists and they like to try and keep your driving license so Kevin just asks how much will it cost for us to drive on. He pays them and they give us an escort to our next destination. It`s all wrong!

Did I tell you about the train journey up to Copper Canyon? A 7 hour slow climb through a canyon, with reclining seats, a restaurant car and a bar. Needless to say we drank Marquerita`s all the way to the top and rolled off the train to the most impressive thunder storm. The sites on the way are difficult to describe; lush green trees, cactus, the bright purple flowers. Women and children in fields wearing their traditional dress; bright puffy skirts, almost luminous colour of blue, red, green, yellow, pink and orange. Hanging out washing, picking corn... donkeys tethered or carrying loads of corn... children playing outside brightly coloured houses with dirty faces all looking up into the train as we went by. Climbing higher and higher, through dark tunnels, over rickety wooden bridges hovering over deep gushing rivers, up and up.

Another stop was by the Ocean in Mazatlan which had just been hit by a hurricane so the weather was wild. Campsite on the beach was flooded so we checked in to a hotel. Andrew, Rob and I managed to find a restaurant called The Shrimp Factory - heaven! The heavens opened just as we left the restaurant and as we were a bit giggly from the wine we danced and sang in the rain all the way home in true Cary Grant style. Very much fun.

Overslept the next day but had a fantastic drive up into the mountains, dodging fallen boulders and mud slides. It took us some time but we got there. At one point the road was completely blocked and we had to wait for the locals to shift a giant boulder.

By now we were beginning to take in some Mexican history - the Spanish have a lot to answer for when they came and took over Mexico in the 1500s. Walking around towns you would think you were in Spain; beautiful architecture, ornately carved wooden doors. Houses and buildings painted terra cotta and deep purple. In this light they glow. We camped in the town on a hill and look down over the town. A mass of roofs, TV aerials and barking dogs that kept us awake all night. Now we were headed to Mexico City.

There is a stupid rule in Mexico City that you can only enter the city by car on a certain day, depending on the last number of your license plate! So Tuesdays and Thursday are odd numbers and the other days are evens!!!! What is that all about?

Everyone drives Beetles over here except they are not built by Volkswagen. There is another company that builds them but they can`t carry the VW badge. There are subtle differences on the bodywork but not that you would notice. They are everywhere - like the Dodge Ram pick up trucks are everywhere in the States.

Food over here is quite bad but it is generally getting better. It is nothing like the Mexican food at home, it is a lot more bland. But its growing on me. Refried beans are served with every plate, even breakfast and we are bored with that already. Generally it is burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas - the same food but just arranged differently. Chilli sauce is also served with every meal and I am completely addicted. Can`t have a meal without it. Even my Mexican Eggs (Juevos Mexicana) for breakfast gets a dousing! - scrambled eggs with onions, peppers and chilli. Wow!

Picked up our new fellow travellers in Mexico City having said goodbye to Rob and Glenda. We have a young dutch couple called Eric and Sonia. They are very sweet and are good fun but it didn`t really open up the group much as they spend a lot of time on their own. So we feel we are down to a smaller group although we are all getting on, there is still the young/old divide but we are never going to be able to do much about that.

Mexico City is like any other huge city. It has a big plaza in the centre with a huge cathedral at one end - it`s quite impressive inside and is absolutely jam packed with gold - but aren`t all catholic churches! Saw some pyramids which weren`t as spectacular as the Egyptian ones but pretty to look at. If you can have pretty pyramids! Andrew and I got caught in a hail storm while we were there so more giggles.

Had a great steak in an Argentinian restaurant so am looking forward to spending our time in Argentina if what they say about the quality of the steaks is true.

After MC we went on to Oaxaca (pronounced Wahacca of course!) and had a couple of very relaxing days walking around cathedrals and drinking coffee in the street. Again a very strong Spanish influence which gave it a cosmopolitan feel.

Another interesting experience was a pagan catholic church where Indian Mexican peasant families sit in front of the alter, light candles, chant prayers and offer a live chicken as a sacrifice in order to ask for good crops, good health and a good marriage. We stood back from a family who chanted and then the father held up the chicken and broke its neck right in front of us. Then they all open bottles of Pepsi Cola, drink it down and burp which is supposed to be a way of saying thank you to the saints. So very odd.

At the moment we are in paradise and are spending four days on a Caribbean beach. I have bought my own hammock and spend all of my time swinging in it under the palm trees, reading my book, watching the turquoise water slowly roll onto the white coral sand. Life doesn`t get any better. The good news is we are off to an island in Belize in a couple of days which is even more idyllic. We are taking a day pack over and staying for 3 nights. All we wear at the moment are bikinis and sarongs and I haven`t worn any shoes for days.

This morning we went cave snorkeling which was just unbelievable. We drove on a tractor to the middle of the jungle where we climbed down a hole into the grounds. There we swam in and out of caves teeming with stalagmites and stalactites. We swam with flashlights and pulled ourselves along with our hands. At some points the ceiling was so low that the top of our snorkels scraped along the ceiling. We had to squeeze in and out of rock caves and.... well, it blew me away. The caves are famous and IMAX have even made one of those 3D movies down there. A spooky experience but fantastic.

There is so much more for me to tell you but I just can`t otherwise I would spend all of my time in internet cafes. But hopefully this has built a bit of a picture of the diversity of things I am doing. I don`t want to come home! In fact, I would like to go on to Brazil and Cuba so at the moment I am trying to think of a way to do it. We will see. It may be that I miss my little nephews so much that I will come home at the end of January as planned. Or maybe I will just stay in my hammock in the Caribbean................

T xxx
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