Friday, January 22, 2010

Part 2

And day two in Oaxaca was a long day, we grabbed a tour van, which we thought was transport only - again a lack of Spanish played in this, it wasn't too bad though. Our 1st spot was a giant tree in a church court yard, C thought it was amazing I was more interested in the wedding that was happening in the church, everyone, the entire wedding party, the family, and all the guest followed a marching band all the way through town to the church, after the guest went inside the bridal party followed once they where all inside a guy started letting of fireworks and bungers in the church yard, which seem strange to me as no one but him could see them - everyone was inside the church I assume having the ceremony. But I learnt during my time in Mexico people will take any excuse to use fireworks, they where everywhere and it was a rare night we didn't hear any.

After the tree we visited the highlight of the day for me a small village famous for their rug making. They showed us the complete process, from combing the wool to spinning, dying and weaving. It was so great to see particularly the dying process - our favourite dye came from a little white parasite that grows on the cactus, when you squash it on your hands you're left with a red die. this is where it gets tricky, the die reacts to the PH levels in each individual's skin so everyone gets a slightly different red. When you drop a few drops of water on the dies it changes colour, it will change colour again with lime and limestone, each giving a different colour - it was amazing. You can get colours ranging from deep red through to orange, yellows, and even purples this way. After the demonstration it was shopping time, and I admit I walked away a little broken hearted as we simply couldn't afford to buy all of them. We narrowed it down quickly picking 2 rugs with traditional patterens (copied from local Zapotec and Mixtec ruins) one in grey and white the other in reds and purples, made from the parasite. I couldn't decide it was 2 hard so the decision was handed to C and he picked the red one. I still wish we had been able to afford both of them, but maybe next time.

After that we went to Mitla, an amazing ruin covered in the best geometric patterns I loved it, they where only small but they would have to be one of my favourite ruins, they stand out as different and the detail in the design really was something. Across the road from the main ruins was a Spanish church that was literally built on top of the temple, with some of the original still standing behind it. This was not the 1st or the last time I was totally blown away by what the Spanish had done when they conquered Mexico. They hadn't simply moved in and started their own rule they had calculatingly gone through Mexico building on top of traditional import sites, and imposing not only their rule but their religion and way of life of the local people. But I truly loved how Mexico now incorporates all of it's ancient culture along with the Spanish culture into a very unique blend.

After Mitla we took a rather bumpy ride into the mills to some mineral springs. The springs has left mineral deposits over the years, and the rocks appear as a waterfall, running down the edge of the cliff. The view was breathtaking and it was freezing, I had go buy myself a Nanna wrap to keep myself warm.

Back in the van we headed to a Mezcal factory, well the back of someones house anyone, they took us through the process - similar to tequila but they smoke the plant rather than steam (which defiantly comes across in the taste). Than on to the tasting, personally the anejo (aged) was the nicest, not unsurprising also the most expensive. They also had a range of fruit infused mezcals that where amazing such a rich strong flavour, very sweet and tasty.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


So after our trip through the mountains we found ourselves in Oaxaca at night fall without accommodation, again. The honeymoon planning had been C's job, unfortunately planning isn't really C's strong point, I thought this would be fine allow for a bit more flexibility in where we went and when. Unfortunately arriving in a foreign city where you speak only the most minimal of the language and understand even less without having accommodation prebooked was something that C found fairly stressful too. He felt a bit of a duty to look after us over there and worry about these things I guess, leading to stress when we didn't have accommodation sorted out. So after a frantic search, with C making a number of phone calls and trying to get by with his very limited Spanish, we found a small (English speaking!) BnB within walking distant of everything, and we could get down to the business of exploring.

Personally Oaxaca was a big highlight, we saw heaps, got out of the city and explored further afield, took in breathtaking ruins, and its a great center for art and culture. So we managed to pick up some really nice pieces.

We didn't have enough time in Oaxaca we could easily have spent a week or 2 exploring, so we each picked 2 things we each wanted to do and got straight into it. We started with a trip to Monte Alban, amazing ruins atop a mountain with 360 degree view of the surrounding country. It was breathtaking. We'd arrived at opening time so we had the place mostly to ourselves, it gave the place an unearthly feel. It was a much smaller site than Teotihuacan and hadn't been as restored as other sites but the location and layout was great for imagining it in its hey day. We covered the site pretty easily in 3 hours than headed back to the city to check the place out. It didn't take me long to realise I didn't have enough room in my bag. Oaxaca and the surrounding areas have some amazing hand crafts including, the most amazing black pottery I've ever seen, hand dyed and woven rugs - everyone of which I wanted, cheap leather, cool silver (everywhere in Mexico had cool silver), Mezcal by the barrel, and contemporary art.

I think I'll wrap up this post here still heaps more to tell about Oaxaca but that will have to wait for another day.

oh and photos, check back for them I'll add them in

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cerveza, Tequila, Mezcal and Cocktail-y goodness

So for this post it seems only fitting that I hand over to C.

So, the drinks in Mehico have been plentiful, cheap, tasty and, well, tasty.

First the beer, or cerveza as those in this part of the world call it. Having only a limited selection of mexican beers available at home, it is fairly easy to think that they are all light-as-water summer drinking lagers like corona. Indeed, a lot of them are, and they go down very nicely indeed while sitting on the beach in mid-30's warmth. But there are a lot of other far more interesting brews available too. My favourite would have to be a beer by the name of Bohemia. It's quite a full flavoured job, more reminicent of an Australian beer, yet with that nebulous and undefinable super-refreshingness that Mexican beers seem to have in spades. There have been many more goodens - here is a partial list of sampled brews - Sol, Corona, Dos Equis, Pacifico, Tecate, Buchanero, Bohemia, Modelo and the list goes on. Did I mention that it is pretty difficult to find a beer costing over about $1.50 at almost any place over here? How about $5 for a six-pack of corona? Yep - strike another one up for Mehico.

We have sampled quite a few cocktails over here, but the most noteworthy one that Brooke and I have gotten into is the Bull, or the el Toro Bravo. It consists of a beer, into which is placed a shot of rum and some lime juice, a lime and that is all. It is very tasty.

We have also tried plenty of tequila and mezcal. Mezcal turns out to be astoundingly nice - it is like a smoky tequila. We did a tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery, where we learnt a fair bit about tequila and the processes that go into making it. We tasted some extremely nice tequilas - they bear almost no resemblance to the tosh that destroys the nights of underage teenagers everywhere. The good stuff is remarkably smooth and subtle - so we bought a bottle of the 'special family reserve', and will open it for a special occasion. We've also picked up 2 bottles of Mezcal, an Anejo (aged) and a fruit flavoured.

Anyway, no photos for this post - you all know what an alcoholic beverage looks like.

we survived the vomit comit

So to make our way from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca we had 3 options, fly (in a 13 seater plane - very $$$) catch the bus for 8 hour the long way round, or catch a van they nick-named the vomit comet through/up the beautiful winding mountain highway for 5 hours. We opted for the vans. And where rewarded for it, the scenery was amazing and no one on the bus was sick.

We'd heard and read a lot of stories about the van - how winding the road is, that it would making the best traveller sick, so just prior to getting on we each took a travel sickness tablet, lucky neither of us really needed it - we don't normally get car sick and while it was definitly the windiest roads I've been on neither of us had the slightest bit of sickness.

Not the best photos I know but they where taking out the window while hurtling around the mountian

Saturday, December 26, 2009

In paradise with no clothes...

...No, we haven't gone all naturalist and become nudest, we flew from Guadalajara to Puerto Escondido via Mexico city and my bag didn't arrive - C's made it but for some reason mine got lost along the way. At 1st I had a bit of a laugh about it, they assured me that it would arrive the next day and everything would be fine, I figured I'd just buy a few things to get me through until the bag arrived. Little did I know how stressful shopping in a country where you don't speak the language could be. The sizing system in the shops was very different from home and we couldn't ask for help because we didn't know enough spanish. we got it all worked out in the end and managed to buy swimmers and a change of clothes but it was hard work. We decided our time in Puerto would be relax time, no rushing around sight seeing or waking up early. So we had 2 days of pure blissful relaxing on the beach. we discovered an amazing coastal walk that took us to the secluded little beach/fishing port a perfect place to cool off and swim. I did consider jumping out of a plane (skydiving) over Zicatella beach but I was a bit worried about the safety standards in Mexico. I don't really think there is much I could say about Puerto, except that it was amazing - the water was warm and azure blue, the beaches were stunning, the people were chilled out and friendly, the weather was hot, the food was awesome (one of the best seafood dinners we've ever had), and, as ever, the drinks were dirt cheap. We could have stayed there for a very long time...

Yup - tasty as it looks.

Told everyone that we'd send 'em a photo of me chilling out on the beach with a pina colada.

In the rather inviting ocean.

One of many of the beautiful little bays that make up puerto escondido.

The coastal walk

Overlooking the main town

Sunday, December 20, 2009

To Guadalajara

So, got the bus to Guadalajara. Got off, and immediately realised that we were thoroughly lost after getting out of our taxi. The driver swore black and blue that we were at the address we pointed him too. The lack of presence of our actual hostel begged to differ. After some directions from a local hotelier, and walking through a few sketchy streets and back alleys, we happened upon our destination. We knew things wouldn't be so easy though, when our friendly neighbourhood hostel manager kept glancing repeatedly from our booking confirmation to his computer records and back again nervously. Turns out our room had been booked out for the first night of our stay due to a lag in the computer system (or some non-sensicle excuse), but that we could have a whole dorm to ourselves for the first night and a cut in the price as compensation. Seeing as we were only paying about AU$25 for the private room per night in the first place, this was not such a great deal.

Anyway, went out and about to see the town after this and knew immediately that we would be in for a treat. Mexico's cities are all about their zocalos - the central squares in the centre of the city where everybody comes to hang out, chat, play chess, smoke cigars, drink tequila or beer, and, of course, eat good food. Guadlajara's zolcalos were many and impressive - they kept going one after the other forever, with a good deal of sculpture, water features, colonial buildings, art work, live music and performance art thrown in to the mix to make it especially awesome. So we spent the first day just wandering around, snapping piccies, sampling the food and beer. You know - enjoying life and soaking the place in. Of course, it almost goes without saying that there were many impressive cathedrals, monuments, dedications, government buildings etc etc. to check out. We called it a night on day one with a sense of excitement about the place.

Day 2, we got up and headed out again to see the place in some more light and to check out some museums. All were interesting, but the highlight would have to have been one that contained a fully recontstrcuted whoolly mammoth skeleton inside. I don't have to tell you that it was pure awesome. Next, on to the cathedral. Let me just say that it was impressive. Damn impressive. However, it has become apprent that, in mexico at least, catholics (of which the country boasts an 85% subscription rate) are into some odd, and let's just say, plane freaky stuff. In this particular cathedral, a little girl who died about 100 years or so ago is a revered figure within the church. They have this doll, all dressed up in white modelled on her, lying in a glass cabinet in the church. What is truly freaky is that a) the paint is all faded and pealing off the doll, making it look more than a little menacing, if not downright scary, and b) that they HAVE THE ACTUAL BONES OF ONE OF HER HANDS IN A HAND-SHAPED FISHNET GLOVE PROTRUDING FROM ONE ARM OF THE DOLLS DRESS, ALONG WITH A POT OF HER BLOOD SITTING IN THERE WITH THE DOLL. It is literally the scariest thing I have ever seen, and surely in poor taste. Yet there it is, and the people of guadalajara absolutely adore it. Anyway, that pretty much filled in that day, along with a lot of other walking around seeing the sights, eating good food and finding a few cool little bars.

The next day we did a tour out to the town of Tequila, famous for, yes, being the origin of the drink Tequila!! We did a tour around the Jose Cuervo distillery, where we learnt all about how the drink is made, sampled some tequila at various points alongt the production line, and sampled some very very nice stuff that I had no idea existed at the end (Anejo Tequila, anyone?) We bought a bottle of some of the nicer stuff we tasted there, and then went out to another tequila producer to sample their wares. Then home again, when we went to a little restaurant that got a shining review in the lonely planet guidebook (also up the road from our hotel, and busy every time we walked past it). It was a tiny little out of the way and unassuming place, but I can honestly say that the food we ate there was trancendental. Easily the best mexican we've had in mexico, and easily the best mexican i've had ever. Possibly the best FOOD i've had ever, damn it all! Pure awesome.

Anyway, Guadalajara was awesome - could have spent a week there easily, but we decided that we needed some time at the beach. We flew to Puerto Escondido the next day, which was possibly even better - heaven on earth. But that's a story for the next post, isn't it?

i love this city

possibly the worst drink in the world - food is suppose to be spicy and salty not drinks. also the worst photo of brooke.

not the best photo but the creepy bone hand and blood viel.

the mamonth

the magic agave fields in the magical town of Tequilla - they actually called it the magical town of tequilla which was strange.

Brooke's commander in chief;

Brooke'll be back tomorrow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

moving on

So day 3 C and I intended on an early morning breakfast a quick wander around the city before we left Mexico city and headed for Morelia - thats not how it worked out, C and I had been struggling a little with the time change and still recovering from the long flight, in the morning we had been setting multiple alarms to get up, it was hard but we had managed it, today however we weren't so lucky. We still aren't 100% sure what happened but I'm pretty sure we slept through 5 alarms and woke up at 11am. Needless to say it was a rushed and crazy start to the day. But we managed to buy our ticket and arrive at the bus terminal 5mins before the bus left, perfect timing.

At the other end things went a lot better, we managed to get a taxi driver that spoke a little english and taught us a bit more spanish. the 1st hostel we tried had just had a cancelation so they had a free room, and the city was awesome.

We walked around it for some time - all of the buildings were restored colonial buildlings from the time of spansish rule. The centrepiece of the city was, without doubt, their amazing cathedral.When lit up at night, it is a very impressive sight. So we had some dinner, wandered into the cathedral and generally walked around, sampling the regional sweet specialities, and generally checking the place out.

The next day, we got up and walked down the markets to a church at the end of the street that we heard was pretty weird/amazing. No sonner had we come upon it than a weird mexican catholic parade of marching band and dancing old ladies marched down the street, into the church and started with all kinds of dancing and partying. The inside of the church was truly something to behold - it was like Salvador Dali and Lewis Carroll's love child, however that would work. The inside was ornate gold filligreed wood carving pretty much everywhere the eye looked, with pink and green patterns everywhere, truly creepy carvings of various saints, the virgin mary and many other catholic figureheads, flowers everywhere, candles, incense, alters, symbology, blah blah blah - it was over the top x 1000. The parade into the church added another level of truly odd, and then the icing on the cake was provided by those amazingly dedicated individuals who WALKED ON THIER KNEES down the ~1 KM OR SO OF COBBLE-STONED STREET to the church, inside and up to the alter, presumably as some sort of petition or penance. All I can say is that it would hurt beyond imagination, and the looks on their faces pretty much confirmed that in my books.

Anyway, after this, we spent the arvo visiting a few museums, eating some mighty fine mexican and drinking a couple of cervezas, and forumlating the next part of our trip - off to Guadalajara tomorrow!

Women dancing in a marching nad parade in your local Morelian Catholic Extravaganza.

Just the dome of what must surely be the most ornate church interior in the world... The photo really doesn't do it justice.

Another quiet little corner of Morelia.

Old colonial government building in Morelia.

The Morelian cathdral - truly an awe inspiring sight, particularly at night.