It honestly feels like I’ve spent hardly any time at home these past couple of months, been jet (well…autobus) setting around Mexico. Here’s a selection of my latest trips/viajes.
20th August: Huachinango
Around the beginning of August, there was a hurricane that affected a number of communities within the states of Puebla and Veracruz, as reported here. A few people at my university decided to bring people together to help Huachinango, a village in the state of Puebla affected, and I volunteered to lend a hand. I wasn’t really sure what it was going to entail. It was three hours away on possibly the worst roads I’ve ever been on (luckily I seem to have overcome my travel sickness…yay). While we are largely safe from this kind of natural disaster with the city of Puebla being a couple of thousand metres above sea level, this village lay at the bottom of the mountains.
It was the first time Huachinango had been affected by this kind of flooding, and it was truly devastated. Pick up trucks were totalled, while mud, concrete blocks and trunks of trees filled the rooms of houses to the brim. Apparently the people here weren’t properly warned about the hurricane, thus they incurred higher casualties. Oh, and of course the government doesn’t work on the weekends, leaving them with a big chunk of the week without help (apart from a few volunteers). We were there for hours, and only managed to clear mud from half a room.
Despite all of this, the people there were in pretty good spirits, grateful for the help and even offered us a bit of alcohol (aguardiente, the cheapest on the market and I think essentially moonshine hehe). The kids asked us how to say words in English – I unfortunately taught them “Shut up” before someone could point out it probably wasn’t appropriate for 10 year old boys to go round shouting that…oops.
21st August: Teotihuacan
The next day I went on a trip to Teotihuacan, a Mesoamerican civilisation from the Classical Period (that Pre-Hispanic art class is really paying off eh), that is located in Mexico City. There are two main pyramids here, El Pirámide del Sol and El Pirámide de la Luna.
26th-29th August: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
The highlights from our 15 hour bus journey to Puerto Escondido include: one girl throwing up into a ziplock bag two hours in due to an unfortunate combination of windy roads and tequila (and having to hold onto it for a few hours till the next break…) and being stopped and by la CNTE teacher’s union and asked to pay a fine to travel down a road, with the driver deciding to reverse back for half an hour instead.
Still, we got there! We visited a few beaches, the first was Playa Zicatela and then the next day we visited the town of Mazunte. Mazunte is an interesting place, it used to be an abattoir for turtles, apparently with the beaches stained with blood, so after the practice was banned, the town fell into an economic depression. It was then converted into a kind of tourist spot, and also the founder of The Body Shop visited and invested in a line of cosmetics made with local ingredients. We went on a boat tour and saw some turtles and some dolphins and went on a hike in the blazing heat that gave me sun burn and a near heart attack – cute stuff.
The actual water is very fierce – I was knocked under by a wave a one point so remained slightly scared of swimming but it was beautiful. We also went on to see some glow in the dark plankton, which was amazing. Unfortunately on the way back we got stopped by the traffic police (los tránsitos) and the tour company got asked to pay a fine (bribe) to let us pass…Bienvenido a Mexico!
Still, all in all a great trip, though perhaps could’ve done without the two hour delay from running out of gas on the way home!
4th September: Las Cascadas de San Augustín Ahuehuetlan
This time we thought we’d head out into the big world on our own and rent a car to travel to a waterfall about an hour and a half away. All was going well until we turned down a dirt road to get closer to the waterfall, only to find it was horrendously slippy due to heavy rainfall the day before. One of the cars we rented did not have good enough tyres, but we thought the jeep would be fine. All ten of us piled into this one car and despite going really slow, it took about ten minutes to start to think I might die from slipping off the side of the cliff. Don’t worry guys, we lived to tell the tale. We installed the help of a couple of young tour guides, and hiked to the waterfall (in lots of mud). It was truly beautiful and I enjoyed the water, even though it was cold and muddy as hell. Something that really grabbed my attention though, was the undernourishment of the animals in the village. Goats, cows, dogs…all emaciated and unkempt. I’m sure this wasn’t done on purpose, so it made me worry somewhat for the people here. Just an hour and a half away from Puebla and, like Huachinango, it seemed a world away. We got home tired and muddy and, naturally, went out for pizza.
10th September: Nevado de Toluca
As I’m now apparently a super active, hiking kind of person (I own hiking boots here and everything) I decided to go on a trip up a volcano. It’s 4000+m above sea level and, sadly after having my jacket stolen in a club, I was woefully under dressed. Cold aside, I was pretty proud of making it up past the highest point and back along the lakes. Here are some pics!
15th-19th September: Jalisco – Tequila, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta
What better wake up call than 11 shots of Tequila? After an overnight bus, we arrived in Tequila at 10am and got a quick tour and a tasting of different kinds. Some were flavoured and only 15% so we were only moderately drunk when we were asked which kind we wanted to buy. I refrained apart from a group purchase, but other people bought 6L for personal consumption!
Then we spent the evening in Guadalajara for independence day, with fireworks, dancers and of course the Alcalde ringing the bell and shouting Viva México! Was good craic, but I definitely want to go back to see more of Guadalajara another time!
Then onto the beaches. To be honest, I don’t think Puerto Vallarta is my favourite area, it was touristy, everyone could speak English, the beaches were crowded and people were constantly trying to sell stuff. Still, the Sayulita beach was speckled gold and another smaller beach we went to another day, Las Playas Gemelas, was incredible! The sea here is so warm and tranquil, lovely!
So that’s what I’ve been up to recently, I think it’s time to rest…