Fat Mexicans

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There are not many skinny Mexicans around, and when so much of their lovely food is deep fried and/or stuffed with cheese, it’s not really surprising.  And if it isn’t the cheesy morsels that tempt, the hot weather means that ice cream is always available and beckoning.  Thank god I’m nearing the end of the Mexico leg of my travels because I’m quite sure I’ve put on a couple of kilos since being here.  I must learn to say NO, rather than thinking “aah, but I’m on holidays!” because, for the sake of not only my figure but also my arteries, I can’t keep saying that for the next 5 months.

Of course, this was slightly relaxed for my 30th birthday, when I treated myself to a lovely, juicy ribeye steak at the fanciest place in Cozumel.  Heaven!

I did a couple of great dives in Cozumel off Punta Sur on the morning of my birthday, seeing a turtle, an eagle ray, and gorgeous reef fish and colourful corals.  I also tried to dive on Christmas Day, however it was pretty blowy out so the dives were cancelled.

All in all, the last few weeks in the Yucatan peninsula – Cancun (awful, awful place), Isla Mujeres (planned to stay here for 3 days and ended up here for 6 days) and Cozumel (nice diving, shame about the cruise ships) – have been pretty relaxing.  I arrived in Tulum yesterday to try some cenote diving, which were completely different to any diving that I’d done before and were a great experience.  The first dive was in Angelita, where we went through a halocline of hydrogen sulphate around 25m.  I couldn’t even see my buddy a metre in front of me through the cloud – really eerie feeling!  The second dive was in the cavern of the Grand Cenote, where the water was gin clear and we weaved our way through hanging stalactites.  Breathtaking dive!

Tomorrow is my last day in Mexico before I head off to Belize.  Adios amigos!

Dive 223: Gran Cenote, Tulum (Mexico)

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Dive time: 01:12:00
Max depth: 11.3 metres
Temperature: 26 C
Visibility: 100 metres
Buddy: Adrian
Surface interval: 01:28:00

The Gran Cenote looked beautiful and inviting on the surface, and there were lots of swimmers and snorkellers there too. The water was just so sweet when we jumped in – so nice compared to ocean diving!

I followed Johannes with Adrian behind me along a line that had already been laid. It was amazing seeing all these stalactites in gin clear water. The viz was amazing!

Midway through the dive, Johannes gave me a much better torch and I could see even more. Really surreal feeling seeing caves with the gin clear viz – couldn’t believe that I was underwater because it looked like we were just floating in midair! We followed Johannes past some stop sign (Qualified cave divers only!). A bit scary. The most amazing view is back towards the sunlight and the cenote opening and seeing swimmers’ legs.

A beautiful dive!

Dive 222: Angelita Cenote, Tulum (Mexico)

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Dive time: 00:40:00
Max depth: 42.4 metres
Temperature: 26 C
Visibility: 30 metres
Buddy: Johannes

I was really excited to do this dive to see and go through the helocline cloud – a sulphur mix in the water that hangs between the fresh and salt water layers in the cenote. Angelita is a sinkhole that is fairly round in shape. I felt a bit murky going down, and the water is just blue until at 25m or so, where the helocline sits. It’s really eerie, since it looks like a cloudy mist and there is a mound in the middle that starts at 22m and goes to the bottom of the cenote. On the mound is a dead tree with branches snaking out. Really eerie!

Through the cloud, I couldn’t even see the DM Johannes just one metre in front of me – just his light. Then we were in the salt water where the visibility cleared again. There were lots of dead leaves on the bottom.

Coming back up through the depths, we explored the sides of the sinkhole, went into a small circular tunnel and saw a few little fish.

A really different and interesting dive! Lots of mosquitos on the surface though!

Dive 221: San Francisco, Cozumel (Mexico)

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Dive time: 01:12:00
Max depth: 21.6 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Sandy
Surface interval: 01:21:00

After a chilled out surface interval with fruit and water, we motored to shallower San Francisco reef. More of a wall dive where the top of the reef gradually slopes down toward the deep.

We had a pretty long dive considering we went into deco on the first dive but we had an amazing group. We only had about 5 minutes of deco for this dive.

There was a fair bit of current so it was basically just a mega relaxing drift dive along the wall. No big things on this dive but nice reef and colourful fish.

Dive 220: Punta Sur, Cozumel (Mexico)

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Dive time: 00:54:00
Max depth: 33.5 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Sandy

What a way to bring in the 30s! Punta Sur is supposed to be one of the best dive spots in Cozumel and we had a fun dive going through some nice swim throughs, including one called The Cathedral since it had a high, pointed opening.

Lots of rocky outcrops with so much growth, soft sponges, hard and soft corals, loads of huge emperor angelfish and grey angelfish, small groupers, hunting barracuda, parrotfish, a turtle, and right at the end on the ascent, we saw a spotted eagle ray on the bottom.

We had a group that was pretty good on air so ended up racking up 8 minutes of deco. Great dive!

No mezcal for me, thanks

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After a manic week of people and pollution in Mexico City, it was a welcome relief to spend a few days in beautiful Oaxaca.  It’s a beautiful Spanish colonial town in the middle of three valleys, with a laid back and relaxed vibe.  There was a lot to do in the area – I wandered around the ruins of Monte Alban and Mitla, refreshed myself in the freezing cold springs of Hierve el Agua, saw the world’s widest tree (not as exciting as it sounds), and drank mezcal with a bunch of crazy Aussies from the hostel (the expensive golden stuff is OK, the clear stuff is like drinking paint stripper).

From there, I travelled to San Cristobal de las Casas, high up in the Chiapas mountains.  Being coffee country, I supercaffeinated myself and explored the hippie stores and lovely streets with alfresco dining and bars.

Despite desperate pleas from the Mexican manager of my hostel for me to change my ticket and stay in San Cristobal another night of salsa dancing (I’m clearly breaking hearts all over the country…ha!), I headed off to Palenque to see the amazing jungle ruins.  I had pretty high expectations of Palenque, since everyone told me how amazing they were, and I was not disappointed at all.  Our Spanish guide took us into the jungle to show us some unexcavated Mayan buildings, and gave us some fascinating background into the medicinal plants and the worshipping of Mayan deities.

 

For the last week or so, I’ve been chilling out in the Yucatan town of Merida, exploring the beautiful cenotes, the ruins of Uxmal, and indulging in some of the best pizza I’ve ever had (by Raffaello from Italy).  It’s a welcome break from the hectic travel schedule of the last two weeks, and is a bit of recuperation break before I head to the party towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen next week.

Well, Merida is known for its all-weekend festivities, so I’m off to find some beer!

Men in lycra and other DF sights

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Mexico City is just buzzing with people.  Just when I thought that there could not possibly be any more people crammed into the streets or the metro, the weekend arrived!  I try to ignore the similarities to London’s Oxford Street on a weekend.

There is no shortage of interesting things to do and see in a city this big and with a history and culture so rich.  I’ve managed to cram in a lot of great tourist sights, such as awesome Teotihuacán, the National Palace, the Museum of Anthrolopogy (one of the best museums I’ve ever visited), the Catedral Metropolitana, the Templo Mayor, and the incredibly massive Chapultepec Forest and the Chapultepec Castle.

Some interesting or cool observations about Mexico City:

  • The mo’ is definitely still in!
  • Mexican men LOVE the “wet look”, and I have seen some absolutely enormous tubs of hair gel for sale in the markets
  • The Metro system is brilliant – regular and clean, and at less than 10p to anywhere
  • The smog and pollution here is slowly killing me
  • Looking like a backpacker, who doesn’t speak any Spanish, is enough to feign ignorance at all the touts or people trying to beg for money.

This evening, my mate Paul and I went to check out a fun family night out – the lucha libre!  It was much more entertaining than that WWE stuff that you occasionally glimpse whilst channel surfing (noone really admits to watching it right?), just because they don’t take themselves as seriously.  The star performer of the night was Místico, and he got us all whooping at his amazing acrobatics and amazing leg throws.

This was my super sneaky iPhone shot after my camera wasn’t allowed into the fight.

Of course, I was more than a little excited at all the lead up to the actual fight, with the wrestlers strutting out in their shiny jackets and capes, and then tearing off their velcro pants and tight tops, which had me swooning and squealing like a teenage girl at a Backstreet Boys concert.  At only 40 pesos, or less than 2 quid, for balcony tickets it has to be the cheapest strip show ever!

Tomorrow I am off to the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  Must remember to charge the iPod for the 6 hour bus ride.

‘Gators and tacos

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I spent my last few days in Miami soaking up the sun and hanging out with the fantastic people that I met at my hostel.  There are always some interesting characters that you meet when travelling – the strangest person I’ve met so far was an American bloke who fancied himself as a bit of a Che Guevara, anti-establishment type.  He was in Miami to buy a yacht so that he could sail to Cuba, despite not knowing at all how to sail.

But mostly, it’s been great meeting people from all around the world that I will probably never see again, but thanks to Facebook, we can keep in touch and perhaps cross paths in the future.

 

I also took the opportunity to visit the Everglades national park, since I’ve always fancied going on a ride on those air boats!  The trip to the Everglades was quite fun, getting up close and personal with alligators, seeing on of the park guides jump on top of a 6 foot ‘gator and the air boat ride out into the marshlands, zooming sideways over the shallow swamps and spotting turtles, little alligators and a few different varieties of birds.

I am now in Mexico City, enjoying the constant sounds and rhythms of this populous city.  There is music blaring constantly, drum beats, vibrant colours, and smells of street food!  I tried my first street taco yesterday at only M$10 each (less than US$1), which was was packed full of flavour and heat.  Being constantly surrounded by this amazing food, I think I will struggle to leave Mexico any less than 5 kilos heavier!!