Tacos and Tequila....

Published: March 6th 2008
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Have been in Mexico for three weeks now, so about time I updated the blog.

After San Diego, got the tram down to the border and literally just walked through - not a single border official checking anything (though going the other way is probably the most policed border in the world). Decided to spend a night in Tijuana (one night too many I'd say). Luckily I was there on a Monday, very tacky town, and full of pharmacies selling cheap prescription medicines to Americans crossing the border. I think that's what you'd call a market solution to a dysfunctional health care system (as long as it doesn't affect my wage packet of course!).

Rather than a 24hr+ bus trip, caught a flight to Chihuahua the next day. This was the starting point of El Chepe - the Copper Canyon train ride, the last great train journey in Mexico up through the Sierra Madre Mountains, close to the Copper Canyon and back down towards the coast to El Fuerte and Los Mochis. I thought this would be a highlight of the trip and it certainly turned out to be.

The Primera Class train left in the dark at 6am and slowly made it's way uphill to Creel. This is where the scenery started getting spectacular. A couple of hours later we stopped in Divisadero (a tiny mountain village) which is right by the canyon to take photos. Now when the conductor says we'll stop for quince minutos he definately means it! Got a bit carried away with taking photos and buying postcards and because there were some people from the train still at the canyon edge thought I still had time. Turns out they were stopping there for the night so when I got back to the platform the train had gone with all my bags and stuff on it! Cue some serious panic much to the amusement of the local traders. Luckily one of them spoke some English and said one of the guys there could drive me to the next station, 10k down the road. Fortunately the train chugs along this section quite slowly so made it to San Rafael (appropriately enough!!) with time to spare and reboarded. From here on I spent most of the time hanging out the door between carraiges taking photos and feeling the wind rush by as the train went through countless tunnels, over many bridges and on the edges of cliffs. Superb stuff.....

Chilled out the next day in El Fuerte (very sleepy town) before the long bus trip to Guadalajara. Spent Sunday here, nice city with lots of plazas and historic buildings in the centre, but one day was enough, so caught the bus to the coast on Monday. Decided to avoid the worst of the package holiday beach resorts so headed to the small town of Melaque with the intention of doing absolutely nothing for three or four days. Very relaxing time there (though the town was full of American pensioners) and managed to catch the Champions League games on Mexican ESPN.

Big change from here to Mexico City, a huge, sprawling, smoggy metropolis. Stayed in a cool hostel right by the Zocalo (main square) and spent four days here. The highlight was a cool trip to the pyramids at Teotihuacan where we climbed the Piramide del Sol and the Piramide de la Luna and had a really good guide (Isaac) to explain about the ancient civilisation. Followed this up with a night of cereveza and tequila in the cantinas and mariachi bars and spent most
Piramide del Sol and the Avenue of the DeadPiramide del Sol and the Avenue of the DeadPiramide del Sol and the Avenue of the Dead

from atop Piramide de la Luna
of the next day recovering. I had intended to go to the bull fight on Sunday but contrary to the advice of the Lonely Planet and the tourist information girl, when I got there it was shut. If I'd known I could have gone to see the footie in the Azteca Stadium, will have to be more organised next time.

Finally, I went down to Oaxaca (wahaka) for a couple of days - very sweet town, a nice change from DF. It's got the usual Zocalo (but unlike Guadalajara and Mexico City is surrounded European style by restaurants and bars and has a really good atmosphere) and lots of colonial architecture, old churches etc. Met up with some of the guys from Mexico City hostel and had a good night out there. The highlight though (again) was visiting the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Alban on a mountain top overlooking the city. Really impressive site, almost like an alien world from a sci-fi movie, with a huge plaza, ball court, pyramid etc.

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