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Mexico

Mi Querido Mexico

The journey continues...

sunny

As many of you know, I have wanted to move to Mexico or at least come and stay a while for ages, so I figured, what better time than now!

I'm headed to Oaxaca City for the Galeagetza festival and will see where the wind blows me from there. Oaxaca is a gorgeous, colonial town and I think I'll spend a few days there getting to know the city. Maybe head to the beautiful Oaxaca beaches after and who knows what else!

I have a one way ticket to Oaxaca - we'll see when I come back. :)

Saludos a todos!!
Giovanna

Posted by luzygiovis 02:48 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Holy Mole! Oaxaca City...

Zocalo and the Guelaguetza Festival!

sunny

After three wonderful months in Asia with my mama my new adventure has begun and it’s time to get moving again. I thought it would be easier to leave this time, but I was wrong. This is a completely different kind of trip; I’m not with my mom, or anyone else for that matter. This time, I’m off to the homeland, alone. All alone. Woah, that’s heavy. I am dying to get to know my country. I’m curious as to what I will find, what I will learn, who I will meet. I'm getting my new business off the ground (importing all the beautiful things from all over the world to the U.S.) My plans go as far as getting to Oaxaca for the Gueleaguetza festival and then see where the wind blows me. This is both incredibly exciting and a bit daunting, but I'm looking for a bit of adventure, a lot of culture and some luck to find me.

Secretly I doubt that I have what it takes, whatever it takes, to head off alone to Mexico. In light of this, my determination to go seriously puzzles me. Why now? Maybe it’s a feeling that if I don’t do this now, soon I will wake up trapped in my future, wondering or wishing or regretting not doing this. Sometimes I seriously believe that in all my years of work and study, I’m not sure I actually learned anything. I gained intellectual skills and tools, yes, but what did I actually know? I want to throw myself into an experience that is too big for me and learn in a way that cost me something. This is going to cost me something…

I'm in Oaxaca, staying at Mezcalito Hostel. A colorfully painted, hammock hanging, open aired place five minutes from the Zocalo. I am staying in the girls dorm with 7 other girls. I arrived a few of days ago, a little nervous to be travelling by myself, with the question I got from several people before leaving looming through my head “do you know anybody in Oaxaca?” I would shake my head no, but silently, in my head, I said “but I will!” My one great travel talent is that I can make friends with anybody. This is why I’m not afraid to travel to remote places of the world, as long as there a people there to meet. I spent my first day on my own and on the second day here I met a group of travelers, all traveling on their own as well, that have all adopted each other and we've been enjoying this town like you wouldn't believe.

I love everything about this city. The smells, sounds, streets, food, perfect warm weather, the energy...every turn on any given cobble stoned street leaves me wide eyed at what I find.
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Santo Domingo Church

We've found the way to Oaxaca's heart is the zocalo. It is, besides one of the most beautiful central squares in Mexico, the life centre of Oaxaca. The leafy, cafe-lined area has a little of everything. There are couples canoodling, shoe shiners, occasional demonstrators, street clowns, xylophonists and persistent peddlers selling hand-carved combs, shawls and hammocks. I've spent a few hours sitting here, watching all the people sitting at little tables in the restaurants and cafes, deep in conversation, from very early in the morning, until late into the night. The conversation can be accompanied, depending on the moment, by the famous Oaxacan chocolate caliente (yum!), cafe de olla, Mezcal (double yum!), tequila, fruit juices, or Mexican beer served with lots of lime and salt.

Imagine this: a stroll down any one of the cobblestoned streets leads you to walls lined with brightly hued colonial facades, arched windows, gorgeous churches, food to die for (this is the land of seven moles), unique art galleries filled with dreamlike paintings, great museums, some of the best shopping in Mexico and so much more. At night, there is nothing better than the late-night food market or street stalls where vendors dole out my new favorite, gigantic and cheap tlayudas — hugely oversized tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, salsa and carne asada then folded in half and grilled. All for about 20 pesos!

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Typical Street at night

Our little group is fabulous and we get along like a little family on vacation - always happy, laughing and can't get enough of each other. I couldn't ask for better instant friends. There is Javier, Luis and Zuri - a trio that continuously keeps us cracking up, who are professional dancers from Mexico City; Pepe, an outgoing and energy filled DF-eno that now lives in Chicago. Lydia, a beautiful smart girl inside and out, from London. Ryan, a smart gringito who is fully bi-lingual (surprised me!) from Connecticut and me. We have gone picture crazy and spend a lot of our time in gorgeous places, posing for funny shots. I love it.

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Our familia posing with Pedro Infante

I’m bad, or rather lazy on researching a place before I arrive there. I tend to just show up and see what happens. What this normally means is that I end up standing at the bus, train or airport station, staring blankly at my guide book, wondering which direction I should head to find a place to stay. Thankfully, on this trip, I am traveling with a couple of planners and I happily follow the group without making many decisions that to me are unimportant.
We have gone around town and back again, visited several historic places, great restaurants, even better street vendors, fun bars, went to a fabulous outdoor play, hitched rides on the back of a pick-up truck to surrounding pueblos like San Martin Tiljate, felt privileged to see the Galeagetza and the list continues. The culture in Oaxaca is endless.

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San Martin Tiljate, mini Galeagetza festival

I’ve learned that sometimes when you are traveling you keep yourself in a sort of “bubble”, seeing what you should see while there, following a crowd or a guide book. We have popped that bubble these last few days and does it feel oh so good!

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Monte Alban's (Awesome Archeological Site)

I'm loving this city and feel blessed to be here, surrounded by the beauty that only a Mexican town like this can bring and great people to share my experiences with.

Adios for now.
Giovanna

Posted by luzygiovis 23:32 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Oaxaca's Beaches

Paradise....

sunny

I left Oaxaca City to head to the beautiful beaches in the south. My friends left a day early and I stayed behind to do shopping for my new import business. It was a great day of exploring, getting to know the unique local arts and crafts, talking to artisans, taking pictures and spending some money.

I got on a van and headed to Mazunte, a relaxed, tiny, hippy beach town with a fine, white, curving sandy beach. I found my friends at one of the posadas (hotel) by the beach with a spectacular view of the beach from high on a cliff. The place was borderline decrepit, but the view made it worth it at least to stay for a couple of days.

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Sunrise on the hammock...

We spent our days in Mazunte relaxing, reading, swimming, writing and getting to know each other more. Our scheduled two days there quickly turned to eight. Mazunte and the surrounding beaches are addicting. We met a couple of new friends at a tour we took our of Puerto Angel beach who turned out to be great additions to our familia. Sarah and Justin, both from the U.S. joined us in Mazunte and we didn’t leave each other’s sides for some time after that.

Mazunte’s charm made it hard to leave, but we finally did and headed to Puerto Escondido, a surfer’s paradise with several beaches intermingling with one another. We stayed a few days and did a little more relaxing, great eating, took surfing lessons (I love this new sport!!!), explored the surrounding beaches (Carrizalillo, Zicatela, Puerto Angelito and more).

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Surfin´in Mexico!

My favorite thing we did in Puerto Escondido hands down was a night trip to Laguna Manialtepec to see phosphorescent plankton, a magnificent occasional occurrence that comes and goes as it pleases. It was like tiny fireflies in the water. Like a galaxy of stars on the surface that ignited only with movement. Fish would swim by that looked like they were on fire (only the fire was green). We got to a spot in the middle of the lagoon and stopped and after only a ½ second hesitation, jumped in the water. It was such an odd feeling – plankton was all over us and glowing. It was alive! The more you moved, the more you saw it. We went underwater and opened our eyes and you could see it. We dove down deep and burst up to the surface and it was like some kind of scary movie. You could cup your hands and see it. We even peed in the water to see what would happen (yep, you could see it). After getting out, I moved my bathing suit and it was still there, clinging on. The experience was awesome. Being out in the middle of the night in a lagoon in Mexico swimming with phosphorescent plankton? Are you kidding me?? This was a good day…

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Breakfast at the hostel

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Life is good...

How can you beat swimming with phosphorescent plankton? Well, I don’t think you can, but a visit to Chacahua was a nice follow up to it. Our combi ride headed west from Puerto Escondido climbed hills and descended into several river valleys. We then took a speed boat that dropped us off to an ancient chevy truck with an equally ancient owner of the truck that drove us through the desert to Chacahua village. There, we walked into one of the campsites on the beach where you can camp for free as long as you consume there. And consume we did. The food consisted of freshly caught anything from the ocean only about 25 yards away, cooked by two plump and friendly ladies, both descendants of African slaves who escaped from the Spanish (just as much of the areas’ inhabitants).

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Lidya, Sarah and I

We met a few locals that offered to take us on a tour of the area the next morning. We got up and feasted on fresh caught fish and squid and headed out into the lagoon on a small paddle boat. We paddled to another small beach where we had some coronas to refuel and then took a hike up to the top of a hill where there was a pretty lighthouse which we promptly climbed up to get a view from the top. The climb up the shaky and crumbly steps was worth it, as the view from the top of all of Chacahua both beach and lagoon was magnificent. The virgin beaches seemed to go on forever and the lagoon and it’s thousands of birds seemed to do a show for us down below.

After the hike, we went into the mangroves in the lagoon, looking for crocs and other wildlife. The best we found were tiny, fast moving ,fire engine red crabs, some cool looking birds and a couple of water snakes. The trip was fabulous though, as we helped our guide paddle through the vines and get out on the other side of the lagoon.

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Chacawa Mangroves

We never imagined Chacahua was going to be so beautiful and only planned to stay one night before heading back to Puerto Escondido to catch our bus to San Cristobal de Las Casas. Too bad, because we could have stayed here for quite a while. Swinging on our hammocks, reading, sleeping, swimming in the ocean and lagoon, drinking out of coconuts, eating fresh caught fish…one day is just not enough!

Back to Puerto Escondido and we’ve had enough with the party, surfer scene of this place and we’re headed to San Cristobal de Las Casas on a 12 hour overnight bus. We’re all excited to get to a city and to see what awaits us there. Our group has now grown to six people and we get along fabulously. We prepare for the trip by buying tortas, wine, cookies and pirated movies to watch on my laptop. Until next time!

Posted by luzygiovis 16:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Palenque's Ruins

Impressive!

sunny

Enough with Merida’s heat…I’m off to Palenque to get some more Mayan ruins and jungle in my life. The 8 hour overnight bus ride with a couple of friends I had met a few nights before was a piece of cake and we arrived in Palenque at 6:30 am. Palenque town is not high on the must-see list, as it’s a sweaty place with little character, but it’s got anything you might need.

We caught a colectivo (public transport van) and got dropped off at El Panchan, a 10 minute drive towards the ruins and a backpacker favorite for its perfect jungle setting and its proximity to the ruins. For 50 pesos per person (a bout $5), we each got a cabaña, surrounded by tall, leafy trees filled with all sorts of birds, each making their own unique calls and making the setting that much more authentic. There are even families of monkeys jumping from branch to branch!

I met a few more travelers once here, and decided to take a tour of the nearby waterfalls, Misol-Ha and Agua Azul. After the 20 kilometer drive south, we arrived at the cascades of Misol-Ha. The place, although small, is in a very pretty setting, the fall of water is over 35 meters high and dives into a wide “pool” that is surrounded by impossibly green foliage and huge stones, carved by the water through the years. I wished I had my hammock to put up and take a nap to the crashing sounds of the falls, but I left the cabaña a little unprepared.

Off to Agua Azul, another 40 kilometer run and we arrived at its not-so-blue waters due to rain in the surrounding hills. I befriended a couple of girls from Israel and we went exploring the gorgeous space together. We were again surrounded by lush, green jungle, but this time the falls are long, strong and very beautiful. We hiked about 2 kilometers to the mouth of the falls and found a tiny “beach” where we dove into its cold waters. It was so refreshing with the intense jungle heat. After finding some local kids swinging off branches into a deep area, we quickly joined them and played for a while until we worked up and appetite and headed down to find some food. After a mango with lime and chili, some jicama and empanadas, we were happily full and ready to head back. I passed out cold on the 1.5 hour ride back to Palenque.

When I got back, Pepe had arrived from San Cristobal and we caught up on our week of travels apart. Headed to get Ilyana, Vic and Roy and had a great dinner from one of the two local restaurants while chatting, watching a fire show and having some chelas (beer). The group meshed immediately and we brought the silly out of each other – dinner was full of laughs. After we headed to the “late night” spot (it was around 12 by this point), La Palapa, where we danced for hours to salsa, meringue, cumbia and who knows what else. I knew the night was a success when Ilyana and I did a choreographed orangutan dance to the music.

The next morning we met the group and had breakfast while recapping our hilarious night out. Our two friends from Merida (Roy and Erik from Holland) arrived that morning and joined us. As the rest left to head to San Cristobal, the four of us decided to go explore the ruins.

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Jungle flowers

The Palenque ruins are strategically situated on top of tall hills and in the middle of some of the densest forest I have seen yet. The ruins are impeccably kept, some of the prettiest and most impressive so far on this trip. We got a great guide, Mateo, who explained details of the Mayan culture and beliefs, some of which are still hard practiced. After climbing el Templo del Sol, you get a breathtaking view of the excavated ruins, but also the uncovered hills all around that are the buried sites yet to be truly discovered. The Mayan architecture is impressive and purposeful and we only got to see 2% of what was once Palenque at the peak of its power!

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Palenque from the top

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Snapped right outside my hut

After the ruins we went to get some tacos and re-fueled for our tour into the jungle. Mateo, a native Palenqueño and of Mayan decent was extremely familiar with the jungle around the ruins and showed us several medicinal plants, still used to this day, natural dyes (used 1500 years ago to paint the stucco on the ruins), gave us a snack of termites (which actually tasted like parsley) and fresh picked snails cracked and eaten straight from a little stream. We washed the snails down with the streams cool and refreshing water. He took us to a great little hidden waterfall, which we quickly started climbing until we could climb no more. Later, when I got bit by some bug on the arm, Mateo quickly found a plant which he rubbed on the sting and it immediately made it go away. I always find it amazing that we are surrounded by these natural remedies and we live in such an extreme pill society…

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Termite lunch!

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Fun to climb!

I’m loving El Panchan, Palenque and the tranquility of the cabin, the jungle and all its crazy sounds; even the howler monkey which sounds like a small lion (a bit scary in the middle of the night). We will stay about 5 days then we’re off to the Lacandon jungle to explore for a few days. After, it’s Guatemala time!!

Stay tuned for more!
Love and muchos besos from Mi Querido Mexico!

Posted by luzygiovis 07:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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