Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

4th December 2020 I booked a 10 day dive trip to the Socorro islands in Mexico in the hope that Boris Johnson would keep his promise of restrictions being lifted during Christmas. As I could not fly via America, I booked a flight for the 26th December via Paris- Mexico City- Cabo San Lucas. On the 17th December a new (Kent) variant appeared, whereby most European countries shut their borders to enter from the UK including France. It was a week of HELL. I put all my cards on this trip…I’ve become accustomed to solo travel ever since I did my first trip to Thailand in 2011. I love travelling on my own because it’s the ultimate freedom and forces me to meet new people. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I don’t have to worry about compromising. Needless to say how much I missed this during the year of Covid-19 when independence and freedom were the last on the list of opportunities.

As the situation was getting worse and worse by the day I got more and more angry, frustrated and desperate for my trip..I saw flights being cancelled, borders being shut but in my mind I hadn’t given up. My flight to France at 6am on Boxing Day was still ON! I did all the requirements, negative Covid test, packed my bag, bought a new underwater strobe, ordered spare batteries, my mind was set on this trip and for some miraculous reasons I found myself on that plane early morning on Boxing Day. I felt as if I had won the lottery! Empty airport, closed shops, hardly any people, fast check in and security, I stood there in that huge empty space and in that moment it was all that mattered.

The plane from Paris to Mexico City was full..

The whole trip to Cabo San Lucas was a whopping 30hours but I didn’t feel tired. As I was in the taxi from the airport in Cabo to my hotel I stopped the driver on the main strip, I listened to the live music from the car, watched the people having fun in the bars….and from that point I left Covid, the restrictions, the demoralised feeling, the fear, all the ‘walking on eggshells with people’ and the cold winter behind. I crashed in my hotel, next morning I went to the gym, had breakfast, checked out and headed straight to my Liveaboard, Solmar V.

It was warm! I had a bit of fear what the group would be like based on my last Madagascar experience with the French group but the fear was gone after I checked into the boat and met my roomie, Katy. Lovely girl, passionate about diving, super laid back, I knew I was going to have a blast. Maybe I didn’t think of the extent of blast I would be having! Once everyone was on board we left and it took us 24h to arrive from Cabo to San Benedicto island.

The famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas
The first group of dolphins en route to the Archipelago Revillagigedo

During the first 24 hours we could drink alcohol from the afternoon as we were not diving, so Bernard our wonderful bartender was bringing the Margaritas and within the first 6 hours the Tequila group formed..

Mark and Todd, the American brothers, Manuela and Filipe from Brazil, Katy from California, Klaudia from Poland living in Mexico, and our divemaster Rodrigo from Mexico. What a group this was!

The first (check out) dive wasn’t very successful for me as I had a 5mm brand new wetsuit and I didn’t have enough weights..my team saw a Manta, so they didn’t wait for me! I adjusted my weights and went down after trying to follow the bubbles, but couldn’t see them so I came up after 10 mins. But at least I was set for the next day with the right weight!

29th December

Fantastic schools of Hammerhead sharks, really action packed dives, Mantas on each dive. I was in my happy place!

30th December

I saw my first ever whale shark!!! The most emotional part of the trip! So so so so so so so happy!!! And for the record, I DID NOT RIDE THE WHALE-SHARK despite the rumours of my Tequila Team…..

Every afternoon after the last dive we sat on the sundeck or the front of the boat, sipping Margarita, watching the sunset, talking about our common passion travelling, diving, talking about life, bonding and making lifetime friendships…

31st December- The last day of 2020

I got up at 5am and did a pre-dive workout in the morning, we did 3 dives on this day, all wonderful again. Whilst we were on our last dive, the crew decorated the boat, the party scene was ready! We dressed up for our ultimate New Year’s Eve party and the rest is history.. Some illustrations below.

I will summarise this from now, every day was a magic, every day we celebrated life and our luck to be there together, every day we were grateful for this opportunity. The Tequila Group is still going strong from different parts of the World via WhatsApp.

10 days without internet was just what I needed. All we did was eat, sleep, dive, party. I did a fair bit of learning on this boat, Luke started introducing me to the fine details of underwater photography, I met this wonderful individual Taj who is travelling the World, and through his amazing videos and photos he is not only doing the best motivational speeches but also promoting his religious beliefs. Check out his YouTube channel Revelation of Hope Ministries.

Upon arrival to Cabo, when we started to have signal our bubble slowly faded. We had our last night, people were checking emails…and I became so sad. I wanted this to last forever! As I opened my phone on the 4th January..we all know what I saw: ‘England is going into a three months Lockdown’ It wasn’t a totally unexpected piece of news so I decided to postpone my return date…and the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland continued…

Katy and Komathi stayed for an extra night so we booked a hotel in Jose del Cabo, went for sushi and cocktails and then mezcal tasting. Rodrigo, our DM joined us..it was a fabulous night.

Next day they left and I joined Manuela and Filipe and their friends from a previous Galapagos Liveaboard Casey and Philip in Cabo Pulmo National Park to do some more dives together. I think on the whole trip these couple of dives were the coldest..17 degree water. Stunning dives though, I was hoping to see some bull sharks but they were not around sadly. I changed my UK SIM to a Mexican SIM as I knew I would stay for longer.

After one night in Cabo Pulmo we all went to La Paz, and reunited with Klaudia.

I feel it was so nice to hang out a few days more with half of the Tequila Team! Baja California has definitely been one of the highlights of the whole trip! As I started working online I could not do the trip with them to snorkel with the whale sharks but it was ok as we had a fantastic interaction underwater with one on the Liveaboard..my first one ‚̧

However we did a tour together to Santu Espiritu to dive with the sea lions! Very cold day, very cold water but it was worth it!

The next day we separated ūüė¶ But I officially got the title of Founder of the Tequila Group ‚̧ I still have my little badge:)

I took an overnight ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland and took the bus to Puerto Vallarta to see my bestie Bea who moved from Hungary to Mexico in October 2020! She was kind enough to let me stay with her for a couple of weeks. She lived at Marina Vallarta, a really nice part of PV. I was OK not to cram these 2 weeks with things to do. I just wanted to hang out, have nice meals, chill on the beach, talk about life. But we are both travellers, so it’s inevitable that something just randomly happens…so as we are walking in the Zona Romantica one night, we got stopped by a sales man selling us an opportunity to visit a 5 star hotel, have free breakfast, listen to a presentation and get a half price whale watching tour…..where is the catch..? Of course we said YES! We agreed that he would pick us up the day after at the address we gave him (trust is a big thing in these countries both ways and somehow it works!) and we got a voucher of a tour, date of our choice. So..let’s talk about time-share. It was a brand new concept for me. In Mexico it’s huge! Americans love buying time shares. This part of Mexico is like the extension of California..so what you do, is go to a fancy hotel, listen to a presentation individually not as part of a group, go through some complex financial formulas showing how much of a good deal you are getting by purchasing time share in this hotel compared to the amount of money you are currently paying to do your annual holiday and voila, the champagne pops and the cheerleading starts! In that 2 hours that we were there a few bottles popped…needless to say I can get carried away with these kind of things especially having visualised my next fitness retreat there so I nearly bought a time share too! Grateful to Bea and my risk averse husband for talking me out of it…

She introduced me to all her friends who were mainly Hungarians, it was like being in Hungary! Dinners, drinks together, shared traditional home cooked Hungarian meals and felt yet again extremely lucky to have been able to share all this together.

If anyone is looking for investment opportunities or buy a holiday home in Mexico, don’t look any further! Katya is the person! What an amazing girl! here is her website: http://katyahomm.com

During my stay with Bea I made a rough plan on how i was going to spend this time, I worked out a rough itinerary in Mexico and I was going to finish my trip with a huge dream! A Galapagos Dive Liveaboard. The prices of these liveaboards were heavily discounted and I went with the approach that I might as well do it if I was that part of the World. What I did not expect was that the UK was going to introduce hotel quarantine.. 2 weeks after me booking the Galapagos trip, the whole of South America (including Ecuador) went onto the UK’s red list which meant that upon arrival I would have needed to quarantine in a hotel for a total of ¬£1700 so I worked out that flying back to Mexico (or to the US in case Mexico went onto the red list in the meantime) was cheaper than coming home straight from Ecuador and stay in a hotel 20 minutes away from my house! See travelling (especially during COVID) is a bit like playing chess. You never know what the next move is! The unpredictability is that I’m hooked to beyond the necessity to experience different life situations and cultural differences.

After Puerto Vallarta I travelled to Oaxaca. It’s a city I missed out on in 2014 and it was very high on the list! It was kind of an adventure to get there because not only the time of my flight changed from Puerto Vallarta but also the day and the city of stop between the two so instead of flying on Monday via Mexico City I flew on Sunday via Monterrey. I didn’t plan to visit Monterrey, I tend not to visit cities on my travels but I have to say Mexico City is amazing but I already covered it back in 2014. The good thing about Monterrey was that again it proved to be a good thing trusting people. My first instinct is always trust humans. I arrived late – must have been after 10pm and I booked a hotel for the night but didn’t really look up how to get there. There was this guy at one of the bus stops at the airport and I thought he was waiting for a bus that goes to the centre of Monterrey. But it was just drop off bus to the short and long term parking so he told me to come with him and that he would drop me off at my hotel. We chatted, he just came from a weekend in Cancun. He dropped me off and asked if I was hungry. Of course I was so I thought I’d return the kind favour of dropping me off by treating him for dinner. In my dreams…super gentleman, he said ladies never pay in this country when they are with a man. Ha-ha! so we went for a takeaway dinner (it was lockdown so couldn’t sit in anywhere, we sat outside and ate, then he kindly showed me the city, dropped me off my hotel and we said bye. It was nice to spend the evening in a city you don’t know with someone who does! Next day I had my corporate class on Zoom and as my flight was in the afternoon I got to see the fifth largest square in the World called The MacroPlaza. 400,000m2! Super impressive!

After the short sightseeing I flew to Oaxaca – my Airbnb was phenomenal!

Lovely Travellers, we made truffles together on the first night!

Oaxaca is a lovely colonial town with highly creative artistic, culinary and craft scenes. Top class museums, fascinating markets, easygoing vibes.

Oaxaca is always the home of the BEST mezcal that Mexico has to offer. It’s an agave based sipping spirit- tequila is a type of mezcal. You can get reposado (rested) or a√Īejo (aged) which are smoother, you can get bottles with a worm inside or caterpillar that feeds on the agave. It’s usually served with mix salt and chilly and orange as opposed to salt and lime.

The city is surrounded by fascinating archaeological sites, the most famous one is Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital. It means White Mountain. Pics below.

As part of the tour we visited little villages along the handicraft route.

Upon arrival I got dropped off at a market as I wanted to stock up with mezcal. I love markets! the colours, all the character and the weirdest combination of things from live animals to fresh cheese, flowers, Mexican fight masks and the list could go on….

Oaxaca is also famous for it cocoa. The most popular form of consuming is as hot chocolate!

Sadly due to the COVID restrictions I couldn’t explore Oaxaca to its full potential, realistically there is so much to see in the mountains from the little pueblo magicos (magic villages) through the different ruins and ideally you do this by hiring a car.

As there were so may restrictions I decided to take a night bus down to the Oaxaca coast to Puerto Escondido. I almost forgot the joy of travelling on a night bus but I very quickly remembered the ice cold journeys, uncomfortable seats, people falling on you. I always thought that getting on a night bus tipsy is always better than sober as you fall asleep quicker but I definitely disagree with this after the 4-5 night bus journeys that I did from Oaxaca through Chiapas to Yucatan.

But it’s usually worth the struggle…arrived at Paradise quite literally…

I stayed in a wonderful hotel La Hacienda de Las Suites, which became my second home. I met so many wonderful people there, Patricia and Hansen from Buffalo NY, Gina and Roy from NYC. Luiss who worked there was a dream!

Next day I was already on a whale watching tour, swimming with dolphins, visiting the most beautiful virgin beaches..

Next day Gina and Roy’s friends arrived to celebrate his birthday and we had a beach party with lots of Coco Loco:)

It was time to move on. Next stop: San Cristobal de las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. It was a bit of a shock to the system arriving from 31 degrees to 11! Another colourful colonial city with its cobbled streets and charm. I walked around on the day I arrived and the next day did a tour to the Ca√Īon del Sumidero and a pueblo magico nearby Chiapa de Corzo.

The day after visiting the canyon I checked out of the hotel and took a tour to Palenque. We stopped by Agua Azul and Mizol-Ha waterfalls. Both beautiful!

And we finally arrived at Palenque. Set in the middle of the ‘jungle’ the temples are the best examples of Maya architecture in Mexico dated back to 100BC.

I got dropped off at the bus station where the guard kindly offered me to look after my stuff whilst touring the magic town of Palenque. I had about 4 hours until the night bus.

I arrived at Merida early in the morning next day. Checked into my hotel, and my lovely friend Ana Karen whom I met for the first time in 2014 (see my blog post from back then) and then a couple of other times after was coming that night to spend a long weekend together after years of not having seen each other! I was very much looking forward to seeing her because somehow we always connected through life/job/lack of father figure in our lives etc. I was out and about exploring the town, markets during the day, she arrived late. Some impressive art was displayed for everyone to see free of charge… lot of political messages behind some…

I also realised that Mexico and Hungary have a lot of similarities and yet they are the complete opposite when it comes to mindset. The ultimate pessimist meets the ultimate optimist…somehow this exchange does work though!

I was super tired after the series of night buses and parties that I didn’t quite recover from so we had a bottle of wine together with Karen at the hotel balcony and then I crashed. 

The next day we decided to hop on another bus in the morning and visit a coastal town called Celestun which is famous for its flamingos! Such a fun day!

The day after was our last day together. ūüė¶ We did some errands and shopping in Merida..had an emotional lunch together followed by a very quirky dinner recommended by my friend Gina at the Saloon Gallos! If you are in Merida, go there! And to add a breakfast place to this: El barrio! These 2 places were just magnificent! Food, service, atmosphere. I had a really fun weekend with Karen! I stayed one more day in Merida after she left, mainly teaching, gymming (those occasional opportunities when I could get my hands on the weights!!)

Next stop: Tulum!

I have been in touch with Luke from the Liveaboard throughout the whole time, and I booked a Photo workshop with him, along with a few photo specific dives in the cenotes. The Yucatan Peninsula is known to have the world’s largest number of underwater sinkholes (cenotes). Formed when limestone is gradually eroded over hundreds of years, cenotes are excellent places to dive, and as turns out to improve your underwater photography skills!

I would highly recommend Luke to anyone, if you are up for having a FUN, interactive and in-depth photo course and cenote diving experience, check out Luke’s website! http://www.lukecoleyphotography.com

Aaron and Michael were a lot of fun to dive with too, Michael used to live in Ickenham, around the corner from me!

And some of my best photos from these few days:

Once the photo course finished, I had a few more days to spend in Tulum before flying to Ecuador to the Galapagos islands.

Tulum was a very different place in 2014. Very remote, backpacker vibes..now, all prices set in US$, booking system, minimum consumption etc. It has gone through an extraordinary change! But I still love Tulum! The beaches..the atmosphere. Ibiza of the Caribbean!

Another dream came true visiting the Tulum Jungle Gym!

I got my PCR test done and the next day I took a bus to Cancun where my flight departed to Quito via Mexico City.

Next stop: Returning to the Galapagos islands after 9 years!! I was beyond excited! I became a certified diver a month after I visited Galapagos in 2012 and nobody could believe that I was there and didn’t dive! So it was time to make up for the lost time!

I arrived at Quito very late in the evening, booked a hotel close to the airport as my flight to the islands the next morning was super early!

Getting to the Galapagos is not as straight forward. You need a so called ‘salvoconducto’ (permit) to enter the islands. This needs to come from the hotel you are staying at, or in my case the dive company provided it. You need to specify exactly how long are you staying on the islands. You have a very strict list of prohibited items (mainly food) that you cannot bring onto the islands. They are very particular about their eco system for a reason!

When I saw the islands from above, I knew I was home!

The way you get from Baltra airport to Santa Cruz is to take a bus to the ferry station, hop onto a ferry and ride to Santa Cruz where you can either continue by bus to Puerto Ayora or by a taxi. I had a taxi waiting for me. I stayed one night at the lovely Hotel Coloma, went to Playa Aleman and Las Grietas on the same day as I arrived, had dinner and the next day my taxi picked me up from the hotel and took me to Calipso, the most luxurious Liveabord I have ever been to!

Calipso operated with half capacity which made this whole experience so much better! Full crew, half of the guests, undivided attention! Wolf island was my favourite day…every single dive on that day (4 of them) was just an hour of adrenaline with schools of hammerheads, dolphins, sea lions and many other amazing sea creatures! The group was great as well! I felt much more confident than on any other liveaboards before..I guess the one in Mexico was the closest but not quite like here as I pretty much have been diving 3 months in a row by the time I got to Galapagos!

The rooms were amazing, food was fantastic, and having known the language I got treated like a queen by the crew! It was almost like a private trip. The schedule of the 9 days were pretty much like, dive, eat, dive eat, dive, eat, party, sleep:) I am still in touch with most of the crew, the captain delivered the sad news to me that after me standing at the front of the boat admiring the beauty of Darwin’s Arch, it is now only history….It collapsed a month ago. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen it in its full beauty. It’s interesting that I also got to see Lonesome George in his last days in 2012 and a couple of months after he died. I wonder why I have such a strong connection with Galapagos.

The last day was a land day. We visited collectively a tortoise ranch and then went to Tortuga bay.

It’s funny to compare 2 pictures 9 years apart!

Me and Adrian went back to the boat to have the last party with the crew, the others left to the land to maximise their time on the islands and getting to know this heaven in earth also above the sea! What a fun last night..I could really imagine living there..on the boat..owning nothing, but owning everything by watching the sun rising and setting every day. I really don’t need much to be happy..it only seems the opposite when I am in London. I truly believe that I have two personalities, one is living by or on the sea..the other one is the city girl..In order to keep the balance, I need to experience both equally.

After we left the boat, me and Adrian spent a couple of more days together, visited another beach in Santa Cruz and Isabela island…and we got a tattoo together! My first ever! Im so so happy that I took home a memory from the Galapagos!

It was nearly time to go home!

As Ecuador and the whole South America was/is on UK’s red list, I had to find a way to avoid hotel quarantine..So I took a risk and went back to Mexico for the last 10 days hoping it wouldn’t go onto the red list. I chose to go back to Puerto Escondido, because Gina and Patricia were there and also because it was probably the most remote and least Americanised part of Mexico.

Next day I was on a fishing tour with my friend Shon Cruz. We caught nothing but my love for boats is endless!

I decided to visit nearby coastal towns, Mazunte, Zipolite so I took a bus and found myself in paradise. Mazunte is even more of a hidden gem than Puerto Escondido. I had the best room…it was so so simple. But that was all I needed! The smell of the ocean and standing on my balcony literally above the ocean!

I met Yosimar in Mazunte who owned a bar by my hotel. We became friends and he took me a few places which are more local rather than touristy. Introduced me to his friends..it was a magical day! Grateful for this experience!

These kids are so happy. They have everything. The sea, the sun..they don’t need the internet whilst the busy parents are not home, they don’t need a nanny, multi-generation living together, talking, eating together, living a pure life.

After Mazunte I went to Zipolite. Ana Karen decided to spend the last few days with me and she came directly to the Hotel I booked. It was called ‘Nude’. Zipolite is famous for its laid back, gay friendly, nudist vibes. It’s a magical place! Bigger than Mazunte but lots going on, and one night we went to a beach party. It was THE BEST! Seeing people dancing, being in crowds, under the stars with electronic music..it was like Covid never happened! We slept on the beach and it was safe and wonderful. I can still hear the waves if I close my eyes.

After Zipolite Gina, Diablo and another friend Marianne came to pick us up in the car and we went to San Agustino- famous for its snorkelling. We spent a day there enjoying fresh ceviche, seafood and of course Coco Loco. They all snorkelled but I still didn’t want to go into the water because of my tattoo. San Agustino is relatively close to Huatulco, which is more known than Escondido, Mazunte or the other coastal towns because they is where cruise ships stopped pre-covid.

When I first arrived at London, I got a job relatively quickly at an Italian company where I met Chiara. It was a strange company and being one of the only non-italian made it difficult at times to fully ‘blend in’, but I liked Chiara, and have been following her on Facebook. She moved to Mexico not long after we worked together, opened an Italian gelateria, found the love of her life and they had a beautiful girl. They opened a cooking school near Huatulco, so I decided to write her and ask if she wanted to meet up. I’m so happy I did! As it’s quite far from Puerto Escondido and most of my stuff I left there knowing that I would be flying out from there we spent 2 nights there. One in the little town where she lived (La Bocana), which was a paradise! And another in Huatulco city. Ana Karen had to work so me, Chiara and Isabella went to the beach! They live so happily in that tranquil place of the World. She doesn’t really miss the city, she created a simple but wonderful life for herself and her family. She is a true inspiration!

After Huatulco we took a super early bus back to Puerto Escondido so that Karen can start working at 9am (2h bus ride) and it was the final stretch of my trip. I reckon in these 10 days life gave me the best of the best having met Chiara, Ana Karen again, and one last surprise, my fitness buddy arrived from Brasil, Eliane!!! She came to Mexico as well to avoid hotel quarantine upon arrival to the UK from Brazil.

We said by with Gina, she has been a huge part of this trip for me and was sad to see her go. Same level of craziness and hunger for life!

We watched the last sunset and had a last party together with Eliane, her new friends and Ana Karen..which was an emotional rollercoaster! I felt sad, happy, grateful! My love for the sea and that lifestyle has become so strong..the positivity around me, the thrill of meeting new people, new inspirations. After a trip like this I always feel that my life shifted.

Settling back to the UK wasn’t easy. I lost a few clients during this experience but it was a ‘natural selection’. Grateful to those people who recognised how important this trip was for me and stuck with me.

I’m looking forward to sharing my next blog post..hopefully very soon! Thank you for reading and living this trip with me through my photos.

So back to one post before the previous one..I am in Mexico..it’ s the 21st February. I took a flight from Mexico D.F to Cancun to meet Richard. I was super excited! I arrived at Terminal 1, he did Terminal 3 and the waiting time was only 1 hour for me. Dressed up as a Mexican cowgirl I was waiting for my cowboy in boots, denim shorts and sombrero. Just as in the movies..very emotional and happy meeting at the airport, then we took a bus to Playa del Carmen around 9pm. Upon arrival I couldn’t hide my disappointment..I totally thought that PDC was less touristy and it’s a perfect escape from Cancun but no..bazaar style main street with silver shops, souvenir shops, agencies etc. We got to our wonderful hotel which was booked by Richie as ¬†a post-Valentine treat and roses allover..proper romantic. Again..as in the movies:)

roses on bed

1st full day in PDC we decided that on our route together there will be plenty of dive opportunities so Richard should do his open water certificate to be able to dive without limitations. After a tiring shopping around dive shops (which was quite off-putting for him) we found a very nice freelance instuctor, Diego (Argentina), and agreed he would start diving in a couple of days’ time, which then allowed us to have a mega night in Coco Bongo, the best nightclub in town (similar to¬†cirque du soleil , crammed with shows) where you buy a fairly expensive entrance and have unlimited drinks throughout the night..fantastic night..super drunk:)

Video will be up soon. in the meantime so pics:

coco bongo spiderman coco bongo

Next day..absolutely dying of hangover we booked a tour to Chitzen Itza..7.50 am start..needless to say we did not find funny the Mexican guide’s forced jokes on the 4 hour minibus ride:) Once we were at the site we felt better. Had a stop at a little rather commercial Mayan village, then a guided and free tour on the archaeological site.

Chitzen Itza CI

On the way back to PDC we stopped in a ‘Gruta’ and swam in the natural pool …sadly it was packed with tourists but still was fun.

Gruta

 

Richard did his open water in 2 days which is pretty impressive..i was concerned if he would like it etc. but he did!

 

diego and ingrid

We made friends with Diego and his girlfriend Ingrid and we went together after the course to the world famous dive destination Isla de Cozumel and did 2 dives where we saw Eagle Rays, turtles, Nurse sharks, lobsters, sting rays, trigger fish, cow fish, angle fishes and many more..It was an insane dive! Just to name them, the first one was Colombia deep dive and the second La francesa. If you guys get the chance, this is the place to go! Also very big surprise at Cozumel..Hagar, a friend with whom I dived in 2012 in Cambodia was sitting in the Blue Magic dive shop!!! What a small world..

Reunited:

Hagar

 

We stayed only one night as we had a total of 17 days together and we had to move. Next stop was Tulum. This is an incredibly romantic place on the Caribbean coast..We stayed in Playa condesa in lovely little bungalow, visited the ruins, did some cave diving (Dos Ojos), and just hang out in the hammock sipping great cocktails. I truly loved this place..so did Richard.

Tulum IMG_2522

Next destination was Belize for us. We crossed from Mexico in a town called Chetumel by ferry to Caye Caulker. At least this was the plan, until someone told us how great the carnival is in San Pedro (neighbour island where the only transport method is by gold carts) Well..San Pedro was not my favourite place, because it took us ages to find accommodation and it was super expensive (all booked up because of the carnival..) not only booked we pricey accommodation which was about 15 minutes walk from the centre but there was no sign of the carnival…So next day we did a trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. In Hol Chan we dived and Shark Ray we snorkelled with sharks and a big rays..you could so easily touch them ..it was an adrenaline rush! Loved it! The only thing that I was not quite happy with was that the locals were feeding the sharks..but otherwise they would not be approachable ..meh..this is one of those things you can either refuse to go because of the ethics or..you just say whatever..I won’t miss this experience.

lobstercrab DSCN0673 DSCN0680

After the half day dive we took the ferry to Caye Caulker. I preferred it so much more! Smaller island and a bit less touristy and developed. Saying that..there was a Starbucks on the island where the only road available was dirt road. We booked a dive trip to the famous Blue Hole..

IMG_2644 blue hole

It’s a full day trip, as it takes 2 hours on a speedboat to get there..the journey is fairly rough, so consider taking pills if you are sea sick. ¬†On the first dive we dropped down to 40 meter..sadly the visibility was not the greatest..you could just about see the wall but I managed to see 3 sharks as well so I was still impressed. The other 2 shallow dives were pretty good with turtles, eagle rays sting rays, schools of ¬†jacks and snappers and lots of fun in the water with Richie. Truly amazing day!

I have to stop here for a second and share a fairly funny story that happened just before we left Caye Caulker on the boat. A lady in her early 40s had to go to the loo after breakfast (6am) but the dive shop (Frenchie’s) did not have a toilet. I was in similar shoes and I was told to return to my guesthouse, the boat will wait. As I was on my way to our guest house this lady was running and said, come with me, this local man said there is a hotel where you can ‘borrow’ the loo. This hotel was very close to the dive shop so I joined her. It was too early, so we literally broke into this hotel but there was no toilet. So this lady decided that she will use the garden..she also added that she needed to do a number 2. I only had to do a number one but was not considering using the garden of a hotel. Especially after I bumped into a few staff members of the dive shop and turned out it was the official hotel of the dive shop! ūüôā I was offered a lift though to my guest house so i could go to my own bathroom. As we left the shore with the boat this lady came up to me and said how bad she feels about having to do a number 2 in the garden and she was considering going back and confess her ‘crime’ just in case she would be arrested..I was entertained by this story along with Richard for the rest of the day..

I miss those stunning sunsets of Caye Calulker..

Sunset Caye Caulker

The following morning we left Caye Caulker and headed to Flores, Guatemala. We arrived well in the afternoon and we did not want to rush around to organise our trip to Tikal the next day and given that Flores was a lovely little town with a huge lake we decided to stay there next day. Great decision! We hired kayaks, visited a museum and a viewpoint, met some locals who offered us beers in the heat. First surprise in Guatemala for us was a super developed shopping centre by the bridge between Santa Elena and Flores..western standards..western prices.

Flores DSC_0851

We decided not to do Tikal in the sunrise and what a great decision! There was no sunrise the next morning. We left Flores at 8am and returned at 4pm. Tikal was wonderful..a bit like Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with less tourists. Loved it.

DSC_0949 tikal

We took the night bus to Guatemala..it was very smooth…we pretty much slept through the journey. From Guat we took a shuttle to Antigua which took less than an hour so we were there by 7am.

Antigua was the second surprise for us…I totally thought that Guatemala is still fairly undeveloped but Flores, Antigua and later on Lake Atitlan proved the opposite. We found some amazing bars and restaurants in Antigua but experiencing that our order at a place is taken by iPad…well..I can’t deny my disappointment. Antigua is expensive. A fantastic place to stay though is: Casa Jacaranda. Cheap and you get a choice of 5 different brekkies included. Has a superb garden with hammocks, and the owners when they are there love chatting to tourists.

Antigua

One day we climbed Pacaya Volcano, which is a still active volcano and you can burn your feet on the volcanic rocks if you stand there too long but you can easily get lost in the fun of melting marshmallows above the heat of the lava. On the way back you get to pick avocados from the tree. ¬†It’s a half day trip..not demanding at all. The rest of our time in Antigua we watched the Sunday preparation for the Semana Santa (Easter), walked around, visited markets ,went to Pastores the little leather town nearby where you can buy cheap leather boots, belts, bags etc.

If you like eco-lodges, pay a visit to the Earth Lodge, fantastic hideaway from the touristy Antigua.

The morning of the 11th March was sad for both of us as the dream travelling¬†together came to an end. I was tempted to go home with him but I thought I might not have another opportunity like this to travel and to be honest I kinda had enough of travelling alone. Now that I experienced how great is to travel with the one you love and share all these adventures, feelings, moments, I don’t really want to travel alone anymore. I am really grateful to Richard that he made such an effort to take almost all his holidays of the year off to be able to travel with me and that he let me share with him such an amazing experience !

In the next post I am going to continue with Guatemala as after the 2 most touristy and developed places we visited with Richard I got a good insight into the ‘real life’ in Guatemala.

After the hard but rewarding month in Cuba, I flew to Mexico City at 6am on the 3rd February. I was not planning on doing anything on that day given that for a month I  was cut off the world. I realised again how difficult is for me just to chill and do nothing apart from catching up with people and admin etc.
I needed that day off still I felt I was missing out. A great friend of mine Maszi introduced me online to her friend who lives in Puebla region so she suggested me to go first to Curenavaca. I was a bit disorganised and planned nothing at all for Mexico..all I knew was that Richard was arriving on the 21st February and by that time I should visit some great places.So I started with Cuernavaca as Ana suggested.
Cuernavaca is a lovely lively city only 30 mins south of Mexico City. It has 2 gardens, churches, a central plaza and palace. Each night of the week you can enjoy dancers, musicians, acrobats and a lot of locals who use the plaza both by day and night as a place to hang out, meet friends and be entertained by many local artists and entertainers. The square and adjacent area is full of street vendors selling everything from bead work to maize on a stick and tacos. Best juice in town can be found in front of Teatro Ocampo.

Cuernavaca_Palacio_Cortes

After Cuernavaca I went to Tepoztlan. The stunning ‘pueblo magico’ is surrounded by beautiful mountains- I climbed one to see the pyramid on top:

piramide
Oh I have to add a funny detail here about my iPhone. As some of you know on my first trip the second day of being in Brazil my phone died to I traveled a year¬†without smartphone. On the second trip after 2 days my phone did not recognize any service in Cuba, but I thought it was just a ‘cuban thing’..well the problem¬†persisted in Mexico as well and even though I made a couple of phone calls to my UK provider as well as Apple and tried to restore the phone it still showing me no¬†service so please so not contact me on my UK number, and if you did and you are angry with me for not getting back to you now you know the reason why.
The other great iPhone illness that occurred was that first around 30% then 40 and finally 60% of battery the phone just switched off…again having spent a couple of¬†hours online searching for solution, downloading an app and restoring my phone helped.

iphone-sucks
After Tepoztlan I went 2 hours south to Taxco. I will take my time here as Taxco was one of my favourite places in Mexico. Imagine a little white jewel built on a hill¬†where the streets are so narrow that only tiny white Beatles can fit as taxis and normal car hardly any. People are very fit in this town as they have to go up and¬†down with their baskets full of empanadas or ‘elotes’ (corn) or whatever they sell on a daily basis. The ‘zocalo’ as they call the central square in nearly every town¬†in the center of Mexico is beautiful with a huge cathedral in the middle surrounded by silver shops. Taxco is nominated as ‘Pueblo Magico’ (Magical Town) with a reason.
taxco view taxco 2 taxco beetle
In Taxco I met a very nice local man called Evaristo and his sister Patricia. I just walked by their convenient store and we started chatting. In Mexico if you speak¬†Spanish and are not from the US people are super friendly! They directed me to the highest point in town where a statue of ‘Cristo’ was guarding the town. A lovely¬†lady joined me on my walk..just because she had nothing else to do. Again very nice chat. I had a private room with bathroom and kitchen 2 steps away from the zocalo¬†for 200 pesos (9 GBP) called Hotel Casa Grande. When I got back in the evening, I had a pleasant surprise: Evaristo turned up and asked if I wanted to hang¬†out. He remembered the hotel I stayed in and wanted to show me the town. So we went for a walk, got some beers and tequila and had a great night chatting. Next day I¬†was walking around silver shops to get a nice memory from this beautiful town and I decided to order a ring that has a salsa dancing couple on it. Given that salsa and¬†the latin culture is such a huge part in my life I wanted to create something that reminds me all time how much happiness Latin America, the people, the language, the
music and the dance gives me. I requested a ring from a silver shop by next day. I had to explain pretty well what I exactly wanted and even having done so, I was not confident they would make a ring exactly how I imagined. In the afternoon I went to a beautiful cave called:  Cacahuamilpa Cave where visitors are mainly Mexicans. Stunning place. It takes 2 hours to complete the visit of this cave..and this is what you can see:
IMG_2027 corona bottle
By the time I got back to Taxco my ring should have been well ready..sadly it wasn’t and it wasn’t even close to be.. So I had to look for another silver man to do one¬†for me. I asked him to be ready for 11am the next day because my bus left for Mexico DF at midday..needless to say it wasn’t! Ended up running to catch the bus but I¬†made it in the end. Moral of the story: Whoever want to have a ring done, STAY WITH THE MAN UNTIL HE FINISHES IT otherwise every other order will be before yours no
matter when they came in. Here is the art:

salsa ring

Upon arrival at Mexico DF I wanted to stay in the ‘Zona Rosa’ this time which is full of bars and supposed to be one of the nicest part of the city. Sadly they didn’t¬†have a dorm but Line (from Quebec) offered kindly that she would share her double room with me. I was super delighted. This is the hostel where I met one of the nicest group of people that includes Line (mentioned above), Sean (US), Lucila and Flavio (Argentinian couple arriving a day after me). The day I arrived was a¬†Saturday and I was dying to go out. Line and Sean were well up for it too so we went to the Condensa area crammed with bars and clubs and I truly had one of the best¬†nights on this particular night in a Cuban bar and in a place called ‘Patas negras’.

aliz dancing on bar Patas Negras
The next day we wanted to take advantage of the ‘free museum Sunday’ but we were way too hungover so had brunch at Wendy’s then went to one of the most famous museums¬†in MeXico DF :The Antrolpology museum. Sadly it was only free for locals so due to our hangover we opted for skipping the museum and visiting the Modern Art instead.
Good decision. Loved it. We bonded with the Argentinians who travelled with little money but great talent. Flavio is a musician and Lucila juggles with fireballs at traffic lights. The day after we went to one of the most important Aztec ruins near Mexico city : Teotihuacan. We spent a great day there climbing the Sun and Moon temples, fighting off the hassle of fake silver sellers..and had an average lunch..

Teotihuacan

Now I think this average lunch turned into a regret the day after when we went to Xiochimilco.I will explain why in a minute.¬†Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valle de Mexico.These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas¬†attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like¬†boats called ‘ trajineras’¬†around the 170¬†km (110¬†mi) of canals.

xiochi 1 xiochi 2 xiochi 3
My breakfast was a melon juice..once we arrived at Xiochimilco my dear Hawaiana flipflops broke..along with my heart as those black flip flops walked a few miles around the world..oh well..sometimes you need to say goodbye. Flavio fixed it for the day anyway..if anyone has the problem here is a great way to a temporary fix:
flipflops
On the boat I started to feel weak and sick..I knew something was wrong so after the boat and museum I made my way back to hostel..sadly I couldn’t go anymore on the¬†metro because i felt too sick to travel, so I took a taxi with Chervel …umm..I didn’t make it to the hostel without being sick in the taxi ūüė¶
The coming evening was the worst on this trip..I had pain, I felt sick..if these guys were not there and the helpful staff of the hostel I would have suffered way more. They called the ambulance and I had blood taken, blood pressure measured, I had fever so they prescribed a medicine that sent me to sleep and the day after I felt much better. Very weak because I could not eat anything the whole previous day and the following 2 days either but I made sure to drink a lot of liquid. I am not sure if I had a bug..probably yes ..and also maybe the spicy Mexican food did not do well to my tummy ..but hey, at least I lost weight and felt superb after I
recovered!

I don’t usually like Latin- American big cities but Mexico City reminded me very much of Buenos Aires. Loved it!

Next stop was San Miguel de Allende. This little charming town (also Pueblo Magico) is a top American retirement spot therefore you hear more English than Spanish here. There are several hot thermal baths in the neighborhood to enjoy (Taxi is the quickest way to get to them but if you have time try the local buses! I boarded one and a national transportation control asked me if I was afraid to ride on this bus.), there is a huge handicraft market and design unit where you can get some inspirations, or just get lost in the bars and fine restaurants..I stayed in Hostel Alcatraz with kitchen facilities. Great staff and good atmosphere.

san miguel 1 san miguel 2 La gruta
After San Miguel I continued to Guanajuato. This town is slightly bigger than San Miguel but the centre is absolutely walkable. In Gunajuato you will find great street entertainment especially during weekends.

Guanajuato 1 guanajuato 2 guanajuato 3

To mention one and my favourite is to participate in the tradition of ‘callejoneada’ a type of ‚Äúwalking serenade‚ÄĚ, during¬†which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes and weave their way through the narrow alleyways of colonial Guanajuato while playing music,¬†singing popular folk songs, telling stories and reciting local legends.

callejoanado
I was lucky enough to witness a proposal during the serenade which certainly doesn’t happen every day.
proposal
In Guanajuato I had a splurge by staying in a hostel called ‘Casa de Dante’..with superb breakfast, stunning views (it is on top of a surrounding mountain so a little¬†bit far from the centre but great exercise opportunity!) and great company! I met Brian here, American photographer, reunited with Chervel¬†again whom I met in Mexico¬†and did Xiochimilco together and met Daisy from England with whom I spent a great day together visiting the Mummy Museum and the city and enjoying the traditional
serenade night.
Daisy and Brian
After Guanajuato I made my way to the last destination towards the West Coast: Guadalajara, the second biggest Mexican city. I found eventually my hostel stumbling¬†around with my backpacks in the night: Hostel Tequila. At first glance I did not like this hostel even if it had a pool but as everything it needed time. First day I¬†spent in the San Juan Market..This is the place to go if you want to buy cowboy outfit, leather stuff, cowboy boots, sombreros, or fruits, veggies, everyday clothes,¬†souvenirs or if you just want to try the market food which is exceptional here..top quality shrimps and fish prepared in white wine or garlic. Don’t ask me why they¬†offer seafood, Guadalajara is not by the sea. I bought a pair of boots for myself and 2 sombreros for the arrival of Richard in a few days’ time!
On the second day I went to Tequila with 2 Brazilan bankers. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Guadalajara and then a tour in one of the tequila factories. Jose Cuervo is¬†certainly the most traditional and biggest but I went with rubio and I did not regret it! If you happen to be here make sure you eat before because there is some¬†serious tequila tasting going on and you DO FEEL THE DIFFERENCE between a smooth gold tequila with least taste or the very tasty but strong white tequila!

After Tequila we wanted to go to the famous Lucha Libre (Wrestling) but tickets were sold out for that day so I just chilled. Ont he last day I went to Tlaquepaque (another part of Guadalajara), I absolutely loved the creativity of this place. It attracts loads of wealthy tourists from all over the world, lots of wholesale merchants and curious ordinary tourists like myself. If you want to enjoy the great nightlife Guadalajara offers head to Chapultepec, a famous road full of bars, restaurants, live music and every Monday free salsa on the street (alcohol consumption on street is prohibited).

guadalajara 1 guadalajara 2 IMG_2269
I had a night bus back to Mexico DF at midnight. The journey is 6-7 hours. I slept ok. Once I was in Mexico, I had to change terminals and head to Puebla, where I finally got to meet Ana Karen and her brother (as I mentioned at the beginning, a good friend of mine, Maszi put us in touch). Now..this is a welcome!
Welcome to Puebla
I spent 1.5 fantastic day in Cholula where Ana Karen lives. We drank Micheladas (beer with spicy lemony sauce, sometimes with tomato juice added), walked to some of¬†the tons of churches Cholula offers, one is very pretty but you cannot take pictures called:Church of Tonantzintla, which means ‚Äúplace of our little mother‚ÄĚ in¬†Nahuatl, comes from the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, the earth mother who became the equivalent of the Virgin Mary when the Spaniards conquered the pre-Hispanic world.

In the evening we drank some Mezcal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezcal) with Ana Karen then headed home to sleep.Next day she prepared a fantastic breakfast:

BreAKIE
Tlacoyos with fresh orange juice then Memo brought down his tequila selection and the day has started very well! Ana saw me off to Mexico City Airport (Memo came with us as well half way) from where I flew to Cancun to meet my Love..but this will be a next story..guaranteed entertainment if you stay with me for the next time:)