27 December 2012

Zipolite, Mexico


Puerto Angel


We had little to do except relax. Wake up. See the sunrise. Go for a nice relaxed run on the beach. Shower. Eat breakfast at one of the many restaurants on the beach. Go back to room, slather on sunscreen. Chat and chill on the hammocks on the balcony in front of our room. Be glad for our ocean view and the roar of the waves. Read on the beach. Jump around in the water when it's too hot. It's lunchtime. Ponder lunch. Sip watermelon juice and laugh, maybe order a pina colada or two and play a version of Drunk Mexican Scrabble. Back on the beach. Swim. Read. Talk. Laugh. Head for the hammocks in the shade if it's too hot. Buy hibiscus juice. Head upstairs for a shower before the sunset. Over to Posada Mexico for pina coladas and tapas. And then where is dinner? The sun sets beautifully over the rocks. Get dinner. Relax. Walk around in the streets, scanning the goods vendors have, trying not to bump into other diners and strollers. Up to the room. The roar of the ocean while reading before bed. And sleep. And let's do it again tomorrow. In a town of pure beauty and chill and guacamole...it's a great place to be.

24 December 2012

Oaxaca, First Try

I got into Oaxaca an hour earlier than expected on the fancy night bus from San Cristobal de las Casas. You can take three different levels of classes (or maybe four?) and I opted for ADO Platinum, because the chairs looked really cushy and comfortable and turned into as close as could be to beds. (They also had 25 seats versus the next level down, which had 44 or 48.) The price was about $762 pesos (13 pesos = 1 USD), but I really didn’t want a crap night of sleep (especially after being sick) and I wasn’t paying for an accommodation that night.

I arrived at Posada Don Mario, which looked rather lovely but at first they couldn’t find my reservation, and then, despite emails to the contrary, told me they couldn’t do my laundry. I hunted around for laundry, ended up doing it myself. After a run and clean clothes, I set out to explore the city.

I hit up Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo, which had an interesting exhibit of this woman wearing a paper dress (photos) and also, a whole photo series of these same two naked men, always with blank looks on their faces. Interesting. Next up, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, which had some interesting work. I also went to Museo de los Pintoers Oaxaquenos which had some really grotesque-looking images of people by this one painter whose name currently escapes me. All the museums were free, the Centro always being free and the other two being free because it was Sunday. Yay!

After, I wandered around the streets, looking at the radish festival set-up, popping into stores. I found a cute café with a rather revolutionary feel (the time zones on the four clocks were: Oaxaca, San Francisco, Tibet, and Palestine – those specific locations listed). I got an excellent café here at Azul Lobo, and sat and wrote and enjoyed a bit of quiet.

The Zocalo was getting more crowded, and the time later, so ultimately, I headed back to the room for a shower and to reorganize my bag (repack my laundry, sort things out).

Wayne arrived and it was bliss, kisses and hugs. I missed him terribly while I was gone so far, but you know when the person arrives and It’s like, wow, you’re even more incredible, how could I ever have not been in your arms, you’re wonderful?  Yeah…

We headed down to the Zocalo to get some food and see the radish festival. We ordered a bunch of food but couldn’t finish it – I because my stomach has shrunk on account of food poisoning/not eating as much since I’ve been here. No matter. After, we strolled around, visited a few galleries, vendors, shops, holding hands, talking.

We headed back, repacked, and went to bed early. We got up at 530 to shower before our van ride to Potchutla to the beach to discover, oh great, our posada shuts off the water at night. Lovely. No matter, the beach beckons!

22 December 2012

Iglesia Indeed

Now the church in San Juan La Chaluma is amazing. Words cannot even describe.

I entered and my legs went weak. I was stunned. It was so powerful. Evergreen needles on the floor, candles, so many candles everywhere (I have never seen so many candles), on tables, on floors, and people praying, doing rituals. It blew me away. I could barely walk.

It's a mix between a Catholic Church and a Mayan church. There are all these (creepy) statues of Jesus and other saints, white faces. The ceiling was painted with Jesus - and various animals, eagles, etc.

San Juan La Chaluma is a Maya city - everyone in the church save a few tourists were Maya. I stuck out in my pink sweater, black skirt, pink leopard print leggings - not to mention my blonde hair. People in the church we wearing traditional garb - the women often in the silk embroidered tops with these black furry skirts, and the men wore black furry tops with pants. People were sometimes by themselves, but usually with other family members.

The people were chanting - unintelligable to me, so not Spanish, I suppose it was Mayan. People were crying, lighting candles, chanting, covering their faces, drinking soda (burping is thought to expel evil), rubbing things against their faces. 

Presumably, the most memorable thing (I saw it once, was shocked, and again saw it while I was leaving) were the roosters. This woman near me suddenly pulled a live rooster out of a box. It struggled at first, and then stopped moving. (Later, when she put it down, I realized she had killed it.) She held the bird over the candles (rows and rows of taper candles) and then over and surrounding and touching her daughter's body, chanting. The other daughter sat quietly, braiding leather.

The church had such a powerful energy, it overwhelmed me. I felt it as soon as I entered, my entire being consumed with the power.

*Note, you are not allowed to take photos inside the church. If you do, the tickets warn, you will be "punished." One of the workers at my hostel told me of some guy who tried to take photos anyway - they threw his camera on the floor, smashing it, and threw him out.

21 December 2012

What I Saw Yesterday and Today (Besides My Bed)

they do churches well

mary....not my friend mary harvey but mary...


the anniversary march

quiet zapatista protest

Bring on the complaining!

It’s cold. It’s raining. And my tummy has hurt for two days.

But I don’t want to go home.

I want to feel better.

Yesterday, with stomach pain and problems, I spent the day walking around San Cristobal de las Casas, with rests in between. I’d go back to my quiet room and take a nap, or read, or just chill out.

Today, my stomach is better at times, worse at other times. But it’s POURING. As much as I had hoped that rainbow earlier this morning meant something, no, it didn’t. It’s pouring.

I took it easy – walked to the coffee museum, got lunch (UGH, so not ready for food), got lost, mailed a letter at the post office (wheeehee), got lost, and most importantly, went to a pharmacist and got Cipro. I haven’t been in pain/sick for 30 minutes, but it comes and goes and waves so I can’t yet be sure.

But it’s pouring outside. My shoes are soaked, my feet are frozen. And I guess I need to rest and relax anyway. So I’m staying in bed, writing, reading. Might watch a movie with some of the other gals from the hostel.

I am on vacation. This is fun…well, vacation is fun but this is part of what comes along with it, I suppose.

20 December 2012

Lagos de Montebello y El Chiflon Cascada

I really wanted to see the lakes of Montebello – they are so close to each other, yet so many distinct colours – greens and blues and aquas and they are all different.

I headed out on a day tour, of which you don’t need to know the details. You simply can view a few photos. I’m getting sick of these tours (lots of driving, being rushed around to different places, crappy overpriced lunch at tourist restaurants, more driving) but sometimes, they’re really the best way to see things.

We saw various lakes. They were just stunning. You can see the photos, but you can’t see the beauty. Just lovely.

The last stop was El Chiflon, this waterfall. It was incredible. You walk along these paths next to a river and various waterfalls. It was just gorgeous, so incredibly beautiful. You could feel a very special energy there.

Note, also included some pics of churches in San Cristobal de las Casas I went to. There are two miradores (look-out points) on either side of the city; I ran to and climbed both.
I climbed up a bunch of steps to this church and look-out point

pretty church. they know how to do churches here!

i love all these flags in the streets

climbing to the top of another church

green lake

blueish lake

slightly different blue lake (trust me, they were all different shades)

otro lago


how pretty

the $ shot

yes, this is the life!

And the sadness...

On our tour to Lago de Montebello, before we got out at the first stop, our guide said, in Spanish, “The kids just want tips. Ignore them. Don’t give them tips.” I didn’t know what he meant and decided my Spanish must be bad. Then I sadly realized my Spanish isn’t all that terrible and I understood correctly.

Children, as young as four or five, were tugging our sleeves, “Como te llamas?” They wanted to tell us about the lakes, for a tip. They were impossible to ignore and you couldn’t help but feel sorry. It seemed like their mothers were working the food and craft stalls selling things, but it just seemed sad. Why weren’t they in school? It’s hard to escape your family’s fate if you know nothing but your family and don’t get any chances.

At the bathrooms, which you paid a few pesos for, a 7 or 8 year old boy was collecting the pesos and handing out toilet paper. I wanted to cry.

The lakes are also known for lots of theft. My Spanish teacher warned me of it before I left, and my guidebook and others suggested that you go with a group and don’t bring anything of value as thefts are quite common. I had to wonder if the children were involved…and that made me so sad.


“It was only a matter of time,” my coworker told me when she learned I am having tummy troubles in Mexico. Ugh.

I tend to have a weak stomach and to get hit with food poisoning and tummy troubles more than others, so I was being uber careful. Asking if every raw fruit or veggie was washed in purified water. Drinking only bottled water. Brushing my teeth with bottled water. Still, I got sick.

On my tour to Lagos de Montebello, they took us to this dodgy tourist restaurant where the menu was recited. The vegetarian dish was a big pile of fried cheese, black beans, peeled cucumbers, pico de gallo, rice and corn tortillas. The pico de gallo was uber spicy but I ate the rest. A German guy I hung out with ate the same thing, but instead of a pile of cheese he had an enormous piece of fried chicken. I took a bite of the cheese. “Hmm, this tastes funny,” I thought. I ate some rice. But really, the cheese was the main attraction, and there wasn’t too much else. So I tried it again. “No, this is either gross or bad.” I ate the rest of the food.

Five hours later, my tummy started hurting. And more and more and more. And I only sat at the hostel’s bonfire for a few minutes as all I wanted was my bed.

I woke up in the middle of the night sick. I felt so terrible and it’s a good thing I was half asleep or I would have felt even worse. I slept with a garbage pail next to my bed (that luckily, I never used).

The entire day has been a myriad of pain, napping, in bed, occasional rush to the toilet, have a bit of a wander to a church or a market or for food, but always coming back to lie in bed. Even sitting up I can’t do too long.

I am grateful I’m in a private room at such a nice hostel and hope it calms down soon. Tomorrow I’m supposed to go to a Mayan village and the following day I’m leaving for Oaxaca. 

18 December 2012

Yaxchilan y Bonampak y La Selva Lacandon (Jungle Lacandon)

Because I love ruins and jungle, I jumped at the chance to take a two-day tour to the ruins of Yaxchilan and Bonampak, and a hike through the Lancandon Jungle.

Of course I forgot how these things go – long van rides, lots of waiting around for drivers, everyone trying to sell you something, crappy food, never delivering what they promise.

But still, we sign up for these tours because honestly, it’s the best way to do things sometimes.

Stacey, another backpacker who was in my dorm who I befriended my first day, agreed to come up, despite her fear of snakes. We saw none. No regrets there.

We left at 6am, well, we waited beginning at 6am and finally our bus came, 20 or 25 minutes late. We drove about two hours and stopped for breakfast at one of those tourist restaurants – the kind that really only cater to tour groups. We ate, got back in the van to sit some more. I read Outside magazine (thanks, V, for sending), Confederacy of Dunces on my Kindle, wrote, and slept.

Then we paid 15 pesos and popped out at a boat launch. We took a 30 minute boat ride on the river the separates Mexico and Guatemala, and got out and hiked around Yaxchilan. It was quite impressive. We had to enter through a dark ruin to get to the Gran Plaza to the main part of the ruins. We sat bats, not fun. After walking around, looking, taking photos, I sat in the shade for a bit and wrote, daydreaming, wondering what’s next. I climbed a lot of steps, which is what you do at these sort of ruins. I pitied anyone wearing flipflops.

I climbed the “Pequena Acropylysis” and after a 5 minute hike up windy, jungly stairs, was rewarded by being the only person at the top of a series of ruins. Incredible. I took photos, felt how powerful it all was. Pretty remarkable.

Then we hopped in the boat back, and went to lunch which actually wasn’t terrible (though it was cheese quesadillas, the standard for vegetarians). I drank a bunch of hibiscus tea, mmmmmm.

They had vendors in front, of course.

Next, we headed to Bonampak. The ruins were smaller but they had well-preserved painted murals inside some of the ruins. Very nice.

Next, they dropped us off at our accommodations –w e were promised private rooms with private bathrooms. Perhaps they meant “primitive” instead of “private”? We did have four walls and a roof and mosquito netting…but Stacey and I ended up sharing a room, and the bathroom ended up being a shared outdoor affair – and not only did we share it with many humans, but with lots and lots of insects. We all stopped hydrating early so we wouldn’t have to use it in the middle of the night.

There wasn’t much to do or many places to sit and chill out. There were two ripped smelly hammocks we all took turns sharing. I ended up chatting with a nice English couple about Zipolite and received some great recommendations.

After dinner (spaghetti), we hung out for a little while drinking chamomile tea. We went to bed fully clothed (It was a little chilly.) rather early – I think I fell asleep around nine.

I woke up early enough for a run. I hadn’t brought running clothes with me but I ended up running in the clothes I had worn the day before. Yes, I can run in a regular bra with a regular skirt and t-shirt. I did an hour, including plyometrics. Then I cleaned up and we ate breakfast (Mexican eggs and beans, again. Sigh.). We headed out to our jungle hike, which was more like a slow walk. Our guide was a middle aged Mexican woman who wore a purple and orange dress with flipflops and carried nothing else. We all had water and snacks and some of us even had towels.

We had to walk over a log over a river, which of course I suck at, and a nice Basque girl and Stacey held out their hands for me. We had a water crossing at one point, which was intimidating before we started, but actually quite incredible. Our guide sat on the other side, watching as we removed socks and shoes, tentatively stepping across the stones to the other side of the water.

Our guide only spoke Spanish and didn’t say much. I’ve been on several other jungle tours, and none was this low quality. But there were only 6 of us hiking, it was pretty chill, and still nice in the jungle.

Our final destination was a waterfall. We all crossed it, went swimming. It was just beautiful. It was cold, but nice. I thought of how my old running coach would’ve been proud to see me sitting in the spot where cold water rushed over my legs – how fantastically recovery-esque that was.

We got back to a pretty lousy lunch (quesadillas and black beans for me, the vegetarian; the others may have liked their food more) and then we were told we had over three hours until our vans came. Well, we weren’t told, I asked. We rotated usage on the hammocks, read, daydreamed, wrote letters. We had an interesting group – a Basque girl (Don’t say Spanish!), a German guy, a Mexican dad and his daughter, a Canadian (that’s Stacey), and me, the American girl.


We lazed around and finally the bus came. A long ride, and then, a shower and return to the real world felt wonderful.