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Published: April 19th 2016
Everyone is the age of their heart...” ~ Guatemalan Proverb
Don't hang your hat higher than you can reach...” ~ Belizean Proverb
A good person finds their native soil in every country...” ~ Mexican Proverb
The big news is that we’ve crossed Mexico off our ‘travel wish list’ and transferred it to our ‘we are really doing this’ list. It’s been a long 15 months since we last travelled, and we’ve had lots of time to choose a super special travel destination for Andrew’s big birthday trip. In our initial planning we hadn’t set out to visit Guatemala and Belize as well, but given their very close proximity to Mexico and the low likelihood that we’d organise a trip to visit either of those two countries on their own – we’ve extended our itinerary accordingly.
Andrew made the final decision on the destinations for this trip. Mexico scored more points that the other shortlisted countries for the simple fact that neither of us have as yet set foot on the North American continent – and because we LOVE Mexican food (what little we know of it anyway).
Cuba and China were two of the other top contenders for this trip… and as much as we’d like to get to Cuba before the floodgates open to full-market tourism. We heard first hand reports that the food wasn’t
that fabulous (completely understandable given the trade restrictions in place), so it fell out of favour. And somewhere between reading about needing leech-proof socks (again!) and the reappearance of bird flu, we decided that three years of Asia in a row was enough and it could wait another year or so. So we are now Central America bound, baby!
Here’s a snapshot of Mexico: the United States of Mexico is a federation of thirty one states and the Federal District of Mexico City (the capital and largest city). It has a population of 116 million, the currency is Mexican pesos (MXN) and the official language is Spanish (although many different indigenous languages are also spoken). The geography and environment of this large country varies dramatically from tropical rainforests to temperate beaches; from vast inland low-lying plains and deserts with hot days and cold nights to highland areas that tend to be cooler all year round. We will be travelling across all these landscapes, and we’ve packed a wide wardrobe selection to cover (hopefully!) every climatic possibility. Mexico has a vast coastline that runs along the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and it shares land
borders with the US, Belize and Guatemala.
A quick snapshot of Guatemala: the population is just over 14 million, the capital is Guatemala City, the currency is Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) and the official language is Spanish. Guatemala is mainly mountainous (volcanic mountains and lakes), except for the northern lowlands and stretches of land on the south coast. We’ll be travelling through the country in the dry season. However, the weather patterns have been highly unpredictable, so our raincoats have been packed just in case. Guatemala shares borders with Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.
And finally a quick snapshot of Belize: it has a tiny population of around 350,000, the capital is Belmopan, the currency is Belize dollars (BZD) and the official language is English (it’s the only English speaking country in all of Central and South America). Belize has a sub-tropical climate with constant high temperatures and humidity, but apparently the fresh Caribbean Sea breezes keep things comfortable. We will be there just before the start of the wet season, so obviously we’ll be crossing our fingers that the rains don’t come early so we can enjoy the happy sunshine that Belize is famous for.
preparation for this trip we watched Mexican films, read Mexican books and ate Mexican food. The last point was trickier to do than you would think… there are quite a few restaurants in Australia that present fusion Tex-Mex food (such as nachos and chile con carne) as authentic Mexican food. We also ‘researched’ a large number of Latino restaurants in order to get a broader understanding of that area. So we have eaten more than our fair share of Australianised takes on tacos, empanadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, moles, smoky chipotle sauces and churros inspired desserts. One of these dishes was a wallaby mole – it was seriously delicious, but you probably couldn’t get a more Australianised version of a Mexican dish could you? 😊
We are not only looking forward to becoming intimately familiar with a range of new foods, drinks, salsas and sauces, but also getting to know the regional distinctiveness of those dishes.
Our travel preparations have additionally included digging up our ‘haven’t travelled overseas for over a year!’
house-bound roots, channelling our Latino alter egos and getting Ren’s passport renewed (with a new-generation security chip which hopefully means no more queueing at immigration!).
that we’ve both spectacularly failed at with our travel preparation was not finding the time to learn some Spanish before this trip. We will be going to remote areas where NO English will be spoken or understood. Given our modicum of Spanish was mostly acquired from our trips to Spain (and Ren obsessively watching Pedro Almodovar’s films in the 90s), here’s hoping all our conversations will only need to revolve around food, what the time is, or where the toilets are. For everything else, we will need to rely heavily on our smiles and charades skills!
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We are very excited about visiting
a new continent and three new countries, and also very much looking forward to finally eating a taco in its native land.
Big adventures ahead!
Ren and Andrew Films that set the scene for this trip... Under the Volcano
, directed by John Huston (1984); Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)
, directed by Alfonso Arau (1992); Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch)
, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (2000); Frida
, directed by Julie Taymor (2002); Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita
(2014). Travel reading on this trip... Lonely Planet Guide Mexico
; Lonely Planet Guide Guatemala
; Under the Volcano
by Malcolm Lowry (Andrew); Pedro Paramo
by Juan Ralfo (Ren); Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel (Ren); The Power and the Glory
by Graham Greene (Ren).
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