A Travellerspoint blog

June 2013

Session bronzage!

Puerto Escondido and Huatulco

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Bon a la demande générale, voici un post exclusivement en français...
Sorry for my english speaking friends but maybe you can try Google Translate?... ;)

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Après avoir vadrouillé pendant plus de deux semaines et demi a travers le Mexique, il était maintenant temps de faire un petit tour par la côte histoire de parfaire un peu mon bronzage (ou pas pour ceux qui savent comment je "bronze"...). D’après quelques recommandations le choix s'est porté sur Puerto Escondido et Huatulco, deux villes du même état (Oaxaca) mais situées dans le sud du Mexique. Puerto Escondido est environ à 10 heures de bus si l'on fait le trajet de nuit, pour environ 380 pesos (24€), donc pas trop cher et de plus cela fait économiser une nuit à l’auberge de jeunesse.

Voici la carte et l'emplacement de ces deux villes:

Puerto Escondido est une ville réputée pour ses plages et plus particulièrement pour ses spots de surf, apparemment il n'est pas rare que chaque année quelques surfeurs se noient à cause des vagues ou des forts courants. Si j’étais resté un peu plus de temps je pense que j'aurais pris quelques leçons mais bon c’était déjà pas mal de nager un peu, de plus les températures étouffantes (35 degrés) et presque 70% d'humidité font que tu as presque envie de passer toute ta journée dans l'eau...

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Sinon à 20 min de Puerto Escondido se trouve une lagune appelée Manialtepec où l'on peut trouver une faune et flore impressionnante. On avait le choix entre faire le tour avec un guide et un bateau mais on a préféré faire du kayak, qui est un peu moins cher mais plus fun à mon opinion...

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Le jour suivant le voyage s'est continué vers Huatulco (situé à 2 heures de Puerto Escondido), ville réputée pour ses plages de sable fin et eaux claires, pour ses activités aquatiques et ses hotels de luxe. Bien entendu les hotels de luxe bon c'était pas pour moi mais vu que le mois de Juin c'est la basse saison il est possible de trouver des hôtels pas cher pour environ 200 pesos par nuit par personne (12.5€).
Au programme: repos sur la plage avec une petite bière a la main, entrecoupé d'une petite pause pour aller faire coucou aux poissons avec masque et tuba. Vraiment sympa! La vie est dure!

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Spéciale dédicace à toi Thibaud... :)

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Les oiseaux aussi se plaisent bien à Huatulco... ;)

Posted by manolo84 14:29 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches birds nature french lagoons Comments (1)

Oaxaca and Hostal Casa Angel

What a week!


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Next stage in the trip was Oaxaca de Juarez, a nice city located in the south of mexico, in the state of Oaxaca. Once again, this was a 4.5 hours trip journey by bus from Puebla. Arriving in the hostel Casa Angel, I could already seen some familiar faces seen previously in Puebla. I think pretty much all backpackers follow a "recommended" route and by booking hostels via the famous websites such as www.hostelworld.com, people end up in the same ones most of the time.

So far Casa Angel is the nicest hostel I have stayed in, not only because of the hostel itself which is great, but also for the atmosphere. Everyone spends time in the common area and it's not rare to share dinners all together, which is quite nice.

One could easily stay a few weeks in Oaxaca without being bored as there are so many things to see and explore. Besides for those who like the Mexican food, Oaxaca is a little paradise with all the different markets and restaurants, offering traditional dishes.

Here are a few things that I have experienced:

Hierve el Agua

Don't pay attention to my face, I had the sun right in front of me so it looks like I just woke up... :)

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Mezcal

The Mezcal is one of the most famous and most appreciated alcohol in Mexico. You actually drink it a bit like we would drink Tequila in France, in shots with a bit of salt and lime. With a few people we wanted to know more and went to see how Mexican used to make Mezcal, in a traditional Mezcaleria. With the heat and the different bottles we tried, I think pretty much everyone ended up quite drunk that afternoon!

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The little grasshopers you are supposed to eat after a shot of Mezcal... Hum, you'd be better to close your eyes and not to look too close...
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Another one? Of course!

The Tule tree

Supposedly the largest tree in Latin America, quite impressive. That tree is in the village of Tule, about 10 minutes drive from Oaxaca.

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Monte Albán

This was one of the best site I have visited so far. Monte Alban was a city built by the Zapotecs a few thousands of years ago. Work is still in progress to excavate and restore some of the monuments but you can almost go everywhere on this site. The pyramids are not as impressive as the ones of Teotihuacan (see previous post) because they are not tall but the overall feeling is more majestic if I can say. All the different temples are closer from each other and the whole site is covered with grass, surrounded by trees and on the top of a small mountain. It is actually easy to take a moment and try to imagine the city like it was two thousands of years ago, with all the activity and its 26000 inhabitants. As usual, pictures talk more than words so here are a few pictures I have taken that day, and more are in the gallery section.

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Ixtlán

Here we are, my first hike of this round the world trip! Well we actually spent more time in the transports than hiking but it was quite nice nevertheless, to spend about 2 hours climbing up and down the mountain overlooking the village of Ixtlán in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca.
There were a couple of 2-3 days hikes available in the area as well but all were requiring a local guide and were a bit pricey. Besides I think there will be more opportunities to hike as I am going down to the Chiapas (southern state of Mexico) or in Guatemala later on.

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Finally, I would like to do a big hug to all the Casa Angel team: Clinton, Paula, Kenneth, Marc, Hini, Ellen, Elo, Ray, Zach with whom we have shared some very nice moments during these 5-6 days. Take care guys and maybe see you soon!

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Posted by manolo84 12:50 Archived in Mexico Tagged trees cities ruins hostels alcohol Comments (3)

On my way to Puebla

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As I said before, after spending a bit of time in Mexico City, time had come to start going south and my first stop was Puebla, a old spanish colonial city located about 2 hours drive south of Mexico City.

The best way to travel through Mexico is by bus (there are no trains or very few I have been told) and the bus network is apparently very good. A one-way ticket to Puebla costs about 140 pesos for a 2 hours journey (about 7£) in a fist class bus, which involves a large bus with air conditioned, movies on board, ticket for your backpack wich goes in the bus (for more security), security checks to make sure no one is carrying any weapons, and someone takes a photo of all the passengers before the journey (not sure why to be honest..). For longer journeys, toilets are also available in the bus. Ok, you will tell me "hey that's not really travelling like Indiana Jones!", but for that price, well Indiana Jones will wait. I'm sure there will be plenty of occasions later on when I will regret not having toilets onboard so for this time it's ok... :)

Puebla is quite small compared to Mexico City (well every city is small compared to Mexico City...). From Wikipedia, the city was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan, which means "where serpents change their skin", in between of two of the main indigenous settlements at the time, Tlaxcala and Cholula. This valley was not populated in the 16th century as in the pre-Hispanic period. Due to its history and architectural styles ranging from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque, the city was named a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city is also famous for mole poblano, chiles en nogada and Talavera pottery. The cathedral is worth having a look, as well as all the little streets with houses from every colours.

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30 min away from Puebla is Cholula, another city which hosts the largest uncovered pyramid in the world, also known as Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuatl for "artificial mountain"), which is a huge complex. It is the largest archaeological site of a pyramid (temple) in the New World. The pyramid stands 55 metres above the surrounding plain and in its final form it measured 400 by 400 metres. The pyramid is a temple that has traditionally been viewed as having been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl and apparently the architectural style of the building was closely linked to Teotihuacan.

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Posted by manolo84 17:10 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins pyramids mayas Comments (3)

Mexico City

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After a bit more than a week, time has now arrived to start my journey through Central America, therefore heading to the south of the country.
What will I remember from Mexico City in a few words? Huge city, hot and sunny weather (with the sunburns that go with...), friendly people, noise, pollution, history and archaeology...

Depending of what you are interested in, I think a week is largely enough to visit the most important museums, explore the Chapultepec park, Zona Rosa, the Zocalo square with its main cathedral and make a trip to the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

As I said the city is huge and its reputation for being noisy and polluted is not a myth either. Pollution will not be noticed constantly but sometimes I have found myself walking down the streets with my nose suddenly running and my eyes crying, which apparently are typical signs of a highly polluted city. I think the government has been trying to tackle the problem for years but unfortunately this is still not enough.
Also after having living in a city like London, I was expecting not to have any problems with the number of people in the streets of Mexico City but actually I still got a little bit overwhelmed. Especially at the weekends, there are literally thousands and thousands of people in the streets near the center and after a few hours, your only wish is to get back to your quiet hotel or find a nice spot in the shade of one of the parks. But although there are a lot of people, I have to say that all the local people I have talked to have been really friendly and helpful, even with my every poor spanish skills. Finally, in term of safety, well I think the reputation of Mexico City is maybe a bit exaggerated. Of course bad things can happen, like any big city and of course there are more police cars and men than I have ever seen anywhere else but I have never feared for my life. You just have to be sensible, stay in the center or the touristy areas and avoid doing stupid things I guess. I had also heard bad things about the Metro but once again, no problem there, even when arriving at 10pm from the airport with my big backpack and trying to find my way to the hostel.

Apart from that, the city is really filled with history and here are a few things that any new comers to the city will need to visit:

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  • Museo Nacional de Antropología

That one is really huge and you could spend easily a few days going through all the galleries, looking at the different civilizations that existed in Mexico, prior the arrival of the spaniards. Mayas, Aztecs, all the pre-columbian populations are all described in details and the collection of antiques and ruins from these periods is really impressive. I have personnaly spent something like 5 hours in it and for those who know me well, that's definitely a record worth an entry in the guinness book! :)
Check out the photos in the gallery to get a better idea.

  • Templo Mayor

This temple has actually only been recently excavated (35 years ago I think) and it was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. The temple is located right in the center of the city and that's only when doing some engineering work near it that some engineers started to uncover a massive monolith, just two meters from the surface. I'm not going to replace Wikipedia here but finding something this big and that old right in the center of the city is really impressive. Once again, check out the photos.

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  • Chapultepec park

The biggest park in Mexico city, which has in its center a little hill where you can find the Castillo de Chapultepec. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and the buildings atop it have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the Museo Nacional de Historia. The Museo Nacional de Antropología which I have mentioned above is also in that park, with a few lakes as well.

I could obviously go on and on for a while but my overall impression of Mexico city is a good one, although I am really keen now to get to see a bit of nature. I also took the opportunity during this week and a half to take some time to sit down and improve my spanish, see things at a slow pace in order to not rush and try to see as much as I could and as quickly as possible, which would have been a bad idea in my opinion, especially under this heat. Besides that allowed me to meet nice people and have a first grasp of the "backpacker community".

The next stage of my journey will be Puebla and Cholula, about 2 hours drive south of Mexico city.

Posted by manolo84 23:52 Archived in Mexico Tagged museums parks cities trip Comments (5)

One day in Teotihuacan

Une journée à Teotihuacan...

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For those who haven't heard of this name yet, Teotihucan was a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city located near the actual Mexico City (48 km) and the pyramids which can been seen there are in a formidable preserved state. You are even allowed to climb them, although I am not sure for how long still as there is an evident risk of erosion with mass public access. There are two main pyramids, the pyramid of the Sun and the pyramid of the Moon, surrounded by many other constructions from the same period. Some even say that these pyramids have been influencing the Aztecs later on.

I'll let you check the photos, all I can say is that suddenly you feel very small...

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Posted by manolo84 19:07 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins pyramids Comments (8)

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