For someone with a history degree, I really didn’t know much about the Mayans before I arrived in Mexico. I mean, it’s not like they’d exactly had a huge impact on my home country of New Zealand – but you could say the same about the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, and god knows I spent enough time studying the minutiae of what they got up to.
I was vaguely aware of a few stereotypes – ball games, fondness for animal and human sacrifice, a well-known calendar – but knew little detail. The few pictures I’d seen of Mayan pyramids didn’t seem that impressive compared to those that housed the pharaohs, and all in all, I just didn’t expect to be particularly wowed by the historical sites on the Yucatan peninsula.
And then, well, I went to them.Continue Reading →
Last weekend a few of us rented a car here in Playa del Carmen and headed down the highway to the ruined Mayan city of Coba, about 90 minutes away. Only a few sections have been cleared from the jungle, but it’s estimated that the city limits stretched as much as eighty or ninety square kilometres.
While there are what seems like thousands of cycles available to rent (and dozens of persistent tour guides and cycle taxi drivers), we opted to walk around the ruins instead. The key, as always, was getting there just after opening time when the crowds were fewer, the temperatures cooler and the entire experience far more enjoyable than later in the day.Continue Reading →
Crumbling ruins, lazy iguanas and pristine Caribbean beaches. Now that’s what I look for in my historic sites.
Tulum, on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, is one of the premier attractions in the area, and it’s not hard to see why. I’d never been to an archaeological site where you can wander around admiring historic attractions for a while and then walk down to a perfect white beach to swim in a crystal clear ocean.
Of course, being a major attraction only a couple of hours from the resorts of Cancun, it’s highly advisable to get there early. We took a colectivo (shared van) from Playa del Carmen that arrived shortly after the 8:00am opening time, and had the place almost entirely to ourselves.
By late morning, the tour buses had descended and the quiet contemplation and deserted beaches had turned into a heaving mass of humanity.
Before the crowds arrive, though? It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.Continue Reading →
Before I came to Guanajuato a few days ago, every person I spoke to, every article I read, every guide book I flicked through all said exactly the same thing.
Guanajuato is beautiful.
Now, I’ve heard this kind of thing before, about several different places around the world, and I’ve often left wondering what all the fuss was about. Just how gorgeous could Guanajuato actually be, I wondered. Is it really worth all the praise that’s lavished upon it?
The short answer? Yes.
It’s absolutely stunning, one of the most attractive, ridiculously photogenic cities that I’ve ever visited. The ramshackle riot of colourful buildings, the crisp mountain air, the energy of this student town all combine to make me very glad I’ll be here for the next few weeks.
Add it to your travel plans already.Continue Reading →
The clock is ticking.
On Sunday I’ll be leaving Sayulita, my home for the last three months. There have been a lot of things to like about this little town – the beach, the cobbled streets, the laid back pace of life, the Bulldogs.
Wait, the what now?
One of the local bars, Monchis, has a particular drink that it’s infamous for. Take one enormous glass. Fill it almost to the brim with blended margarita. Insert, upside-down, a small bottle of local beer. Add a straw.
Hey presto, you’ve got a Bulldog.
With a prime position on the town square and happy hour pricing that runs for most of the night, it’s perhaps no surprise that I’ve ended up at this bar more often than I might care to admit.
Oh Bulldogs, I’ll miss you.Continue Reading →
The morning starts with an explosion. I don’t need to look at my phone to know it’s 4am.
The sound echoes through streets and off buildings, setting off the dogs, chicken and geese over the road in a raucous farmyard chorus.
The blasts continue for several more minutes, but I’m not concerned. These unwelcome interruptions to my slumber are just fireworks. They’ve been going off every morning for a week now, calling the faithful to church in Sayulita’s town square. There will be a huge celebration on December 12 for Our Lady of Guadalupe, and this is just the beginning.
I leave the pious to their prayers, roll over and drift back to sleep.Continue Reading →
On the way home from breakfast the other day here in Sayulita, I heard the distant sound of sirens. That’s an uncommon occurrence in this part of Mexico – contrary to what the media would have you believe – so I went to take a look.
I’m very glad that I did.
It was Revolution Day, and the town was out in celebration. Unbearably cute kids were everywhere, the girls in their best dresses, the boys with painted mustaches and wooden guns. The smoke from makeshift cannons drifted across the main street as a group of tiny cheerleaders paraded past, young and old alike reveling in the moment.
Towards the end of the parade came this group of young women on horses, their white dresses shining brilliantly in the sun. Even the horses were perfectly groomed, plaited manes and leg warmers included.
It was the perfect way to start the morning.Continue Reading →
I didn’t spend all of my time in Yelapa lying in a hammock or playing with my new friend Mr Toad (although to be honest it did kind of feel like it).
Before breakfast one morning I strapped on my walking shoes and headed off to find the closer of two waterfalls that are well-known around those parts. As it turned out, it was even closer than I’d expected – it’s pretty much on one edge of town, just a few minutes from the main pier along a mostly-paved path. Too easy, really – there were even signposts pointing out the right way to go. Not that there were really too many choices.
Despite it being so easy to get to, Lauren and I had the waterfall to ourselves the entire time we were there. Birds chirped as the spray covered us in a light mist, while other, larger animals rustled around anonymously nearby. It was only when the rumbling of our stomachs drowned them all out that we finally decided to move on…Continue Reading →