Mexico City and Oaxaca

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October 3rd 2016
Published: October 4th 2016
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We've made it to Mexico!
We arrived in Mexico City early, and got a taxi to our hostel at 5am, to find it locked up. To improve matters there were a lot of riot police with shields on the street too. Whilst they seemed friendly enough, it didn't help us feel comfortable in this new place! Nowhere is open at 5am, so we were a bit unsure what to do, but luckily knocking on the hostel door for the attention of a security guard who let us in 😊
Once it finally started getting light around 7am we decided to go out and see what the city had to offer, very aware of the riot police and our valuables. Luckily we needn't have worried, as we felt perfectly safe, and speaking to locals they told us during daylight hours the city is safe, and just to be a little more aware at night. Mexico City certainly doesn't seem to deserve the bad reputation the western press gives it.
At lunch time we took the plunge and ordered food in Spanish! Luckily I did manage to successfully order a vegetarian meal, although I had no idea what to expect until it arrived!
We found some nice Plazas and markets to wander around, getting a good insight into Mexican life. We also heard our first mariachi playing to diners in restaurants.
Day two we headed out to xochimilco, the canals in Mexico City that I had been recommended. These started as floating gardens for agriculture, which took root to create islands. Jess mentioned to her friend who lives here that we were headed there, so her friend offered to take us.
It was a great help having a local at the canals to help us agree a price for a boat trip and not get ripped off! The canal boats are full of colour, and largely used by Mexicans for a day out, rather than being for tourists. There are many hawkers along the canals offering souvenirs, food such as corn, photos with a sombrero and bands to serenade you. Along the way Jess's friend Abby got a band to come alongside and serenade us with traditional Mexican music. They were so lively and upbeat, it was great fun.
After our boat trip Abby invited us back to hers for lunch. We got to try a cordial made from hibiscus flowers, which was really good, and I tried cactus and another vegetable I've never seen before, but they tasted good.
We then went to the Frieda Carlo museum which was really interesting. By the time we were in the museum a huge thunderstorm was underway, so unfortunately we didn't get to go down the road for authentic churros, instead we jumped in a taxi back to our hostel.
Once the rain has stopped we headed out to meet another of Jess's friends Selene, who took us for dinner with some of her colleagues. We had the tastiest enchiladas I've ever eaten. They looked like chocolate sauce and whipped cream, but in reality they were cheese enchiladas covered in black bean sauce.
Day 3 Abby took us out to Teotithican, pyramids dating back 2000 years, that were ruins when the Aztecs discovered them. We could climb, the sun pyramid and the lunar pyramid. The sun pyramid was the highest, and seemed quite a climb. Once we started climbing it however it wasn't so bad, and there were great views from the top. Luckily when we got there it was fairly quiet, so there was plenty of space at the top and we could get some good photos. A group of locals took the opportunity to ask us to pose in their photos too.
The lunar pyramid we could only climb to the first layer, but it gave us great views down the avenue of pyramids.
At the bottom we encountered a few groups of giggly school children, one group of which was brave enough to practice their English and interview us for s school project, whilst their friends were all stood filming us!
After a massive lunch of authentic Mexican foods we headed back to the city.
Day 4 we spent the day travelling to Oaxaca. Luckily the bus was very comfortable and the amazing scenery made the 8hr trip fly by. We were treated to endless mountainous landscapes and thousands of cactuses.
Once in Oaxaca we attempted to find our hostel - everyone we asked told us it was only a few streets away - 3 here, 5 there, until we finally flagged down a taxi who actually knew where he was going! It wasn't quite in the area we'd been walking around after all.
We headed in to the main square, the zocalo, in search of some dinner. We found stalls selling sweet corn - a nice healthy option until they cover it in mayonnaise then smother it in cheese! It tasted good though. There was a lot going on in the zocalo, bands in all of the restaurants around the square, a stage and music, people selling their wares. This all made for a great place to sit and take it all in. Locals would also get up and dance in the square to various music.
The next day we decided to spend exploring the city. The city is laid out on a grid system, so it should be easy to navigate - and it would be if the road names didn't keep changing every two or three blocks! Luckily there are lots of interesting sights to see whilst wandering around getting lost. We did manage to find a lovely cafe for lunch, and some more street performances, as well as cobbled streets with quaint houses. In the evening whilst having dinner we were handed a leaflet for a salsa club, which we decided to go and try. It was great fun, even if we were the only tourists there, and everyone else looked like they knew what they were doing.
Yesterday we booked a day tour which took us to many places around the area. Our first stop was a 2,000 year old tree, with its 1,000 year old mate nearby. It was a very impressive tree, with an 18m diameter. Next we visited a local rug weaving village for a demonstration of rug weaving and a talk about how they create the colours used to dye the wool, all from local plants and insects. They start children off on small looms from around 6yrs old, with simpler designs, to get them into the family trade. The rugs were very nice, but I wasn't tempted to buy one.
Next stop was a Mezcal distillery. After a brief tour it was on to the good bit - the tasting! There is a huge variety of flavours to the Mezcal - that distillery alone makes 12 varieties from different Agave plants, but there are 50 types overall. On top of this there are some that are flavoured, some stored longer than others etc etc. Whilst the expensive White Mezcal tasted like fire bred with ethanol to me, I was pleasantly surprised to find they're not all like that! There were a couple that were much more palatable, and more whisky like. The flavoured cream varieties all tasted very good, from peanut to passion fruit, and also very cheap - £4 for 375ml.
In the afternoon we visited Mitla, the regions most important religious archeological site. We had a chance to view the two tombs unearthed here, as well as our tour informing us of the history. It was a place important men came to retire.
Our last stop was a petrified waterfall, with pools above it. These were incredible, there were a choice of 3 pools, all with amazing views of the mountains. We could have easily spent all day here if it was easier to access by public transport (not a 3hr+ journey each way). This was definitely the highlight of our trip so far, and will take some beating!
Tonight we are off on a night bus to Puerto Escondido, to the beach.

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