A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 1-2: Auckland – Brisbane – LA

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We had an enjoyable night at Auckland Airport and even got an hours sleep on the floor! After a four hour flight to Brisbane we had a wait of about three hours before boarding our next flight to LA – 13 hours! We both very much enjoyed the free movies and wine and didn’t really get as much sleep as we perhaps should have done! As we crossed the date line we arrived in LA early Saturday morning which impressively gave us three Saturday mornings in three different countries! Landing in LA was rather traumatic – it was so noisy and busy and big!
Los Angeles from Hollywood Hills

Los Angeles from Hollywood Hills


We made our way straight to our hostel through some rather dubious regions on a very lengthy, non-direct (but cheap!) Metro journey. We stayed just off Hollywood Boulevard so had a little walk along the star paved streets en route to the hostel. It was bewildering – almost more people dressed up than not, people pushing their CDs in front of your nose and a zillion tourists! We were pleased to get to the hostel and go straight to sleep!

Feeling a little refreshed, we went for more of an explore along Hollywood Boulevard confirming the weird beings seen early did exist! It was all very surreal.
Sarah & Transformer, Hollywood

Sarah & Transformer, Hollywood


We then took a small walk up a hill behind the hostel to get good views across the city and also across to the Hollywood Hills and the famous sign.
Hollywood sign

Hollywood sign


After this we took the Metro to Downtown LA to visit “Little Mexico” in preparation for our visit to the country itself. It was a pretty cool street with lots of Mexican stalls and restaurants. It made us very excited! We then visited the area with all the huge Skyscrapers which was nice, but much like any other city. As it started to get dark we made our way back to Hollywood and went out for an obligatory burger and milkshake which was actually very tasty. Hollywood Boulevard remained very much alive well into the evening.

After a wonderful sleep in an actual bed we enjoyed some free cereal for breakfast at the hostel before heading to Universal City, the home of Universal Studios.
Sarah, Universal Studios

Sarah, Universal Studios


We enjoyed an explore around the free areas again being a little overwhelmed by the noise, people and Americaness of the whole experience! We then took ourselves on a small jaunt to Beverley Hills and enjoyed lunch in Beverley Hills Garden Park – a lovely grassy area in front of some of the huge houses. We went for a little wander around the residential area -huge houses, palm lined streets and big, big cars!
Beverley Hills street

Beverley Hills street


It felt as though we were on a movie set! We headed back towards Hollywood and had a walk along Sunset Boulevard which seemed nicer and less brash than Hollywood Boulevard. We stood and waited for a bus for a good while and were entertained by watching the cars pass – there is an unbelievable number of huge 4x4s, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Mustangs and even the odd pink Pick-up truck! All of the cars are shiny and have massive wheels – just a little unsure how necessary they are on the smooth, tarmacked roads of LA! We were excited to see one motorhome although it was more like a mansion on wheels!

It was exciting to visit LA but a little traumatising after the tranquillity of New Zealand, but potentially a good step to prepare us for what is to come in Central America! We are now back at LA airport waiting for our late flight to Mexico! It still all seems very surreal that we are actually going to Mexico and we don’t appear to have a great deal of a plan...watch this space!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 17:47 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Days 3-4: LA – Mexico City – San Cristobal de la Casas

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The flight was only 3 hours long and we both managed to get a little bit of sleep without the distractions of in-flight movies. The vast majority of passengers were Mexican which was exciting. We landed in Mexico City and had our first spot of drama immediately... Sarah’s bag did not show up at the luggage collection! After a little bit of panic and some frantic exchanges with the airport staff, it turned up seemingly out of thin air. Moments later, Joe was identified as a threat to national security and pulled aside for a closer inspection of his luggage. This check consisted of a opening the zips, seeing that it was a very full bag and deciding I was no longer a threat.

We went straight to the tour desk to book our bus to San Cristobal. We had various options as the buses are regular, but we opted for the first bus which would allow us to arrive in daylight. This was not until 7.30pm, a full 12 hours time!!! After contemplating leaving our big bags at the airport and popping into Mexico City for the day, we decided against it as we were tired and concerned about missing our bus if the traffic was bad... which it notoriously is! So we spent 10 hours in Mexico City airport, alternating between sleeping, eating and having baby wipe showers in the toilets. We approached the Marriot Hotel at one point with a view to using their travellers lounge complete with comfy sofas, showers and live sport! Joe went to enquire and was quoted a very reasonable price of 29 pesos (about £1.50). When we returned dreaming of a lovely shower and relax, the price was requoted at 29 US dollars... oops, that is more like £20 each. Cue a slightly embarrassing change of mind and a shuffle back to metal airport chairs!

The bus journey was good fun and surprisingly comfortable... for all of 30 minutes! It took well over an hour to escape the immediate vicinity of the bus terminal due to the most amazing gridlock we have ever seen. Cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes all nose to tail, honking their horns frantically trying to get into lane. Amazing stuff. Once we were on our way we managed to get a bit of broken sleep, with our i-pods drowning out the loud Mexican movies being played on the bus! Being night and being sleepy we didn’t see too much of the surrounding area en route, but we were aware of climbing some very steep hills, driving over some very bumpy roads and going through a huge number of toll booths.
We eventually reached San Cristobal de la Cases at about 10am, making it a 13 and a half hour journey... our longest individual leg of a journey since leaving home!

San Cristobal is set in the Mexican highlands of the Chiapas region. It is lovely little city with everything within walking distance and we are staying in a lovely B&B. We are at an altitude of nearly 2000 metres and so it is a really lovely temperature – hot sunshine with a delightful little breeze.
San Cristobal de las Cases (3)

San Cristobal de las Cases (3)


Everything is amazingly cheap – we decided to treat ourselves to a 3 course lunch including chicken fajitas, before heading off for a wander around town. We strolled through a market and went to a museum explaining the medical practices of the local indigenous peoples which was fascinating. We returned for a late afternoon siesta as were both feeling a little under the weather – not sure of the reasons but take your pick from the altitude, the sun, the lack of sleep, or the side effects from our anti-malarial tablets! After a little sleep and some paracetamol we have perked up and are looking forward to a stroll into town for some dinner!
San Cristobal de las Cases (5)

San Cristobal de las Cases (5)


It should be noted that Sarah’s Spanish is very impressive – a little broken but more than enough to get by in Mexico. Joe has never had Spanish lessons so lets not judge him just yet – the hellos and thank yous appear to be fluent.

Posted by Joe and Sarah 17:50 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Days 5 & 6: San Cristobal de la Casas - Merida

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After a lovely sleep in an actual bed we enjoyed our breakfast in the courtyard of the hostel before heading out to explore San Crisotbal. We first hiked up the steep steps of Iglesia de Guadalupe which gave us impressive views over the city. San Cristobal sits at almost 2000m above sea level so this small incline made us feel really quite short of breath - or it could be because we have done a spectacular amount of sitting down over the last few days and are just very unfit! The church itself was quite well maintained although the immediate vicinity had a strange feel to it with stray dogs wandering and not much else happening. We strolled back into the centre looking around a local market selling a massive array of sweet pastries, chocolates, sweets and cakes - each stall appeared to sell exactly the same thing and was meticulously laid out!
San Cristobal de las Cases (15)

San Cristobal de las Cases (15)


We felt it would be rude not to sample some of the local delicacies and enjoyed a cream custard cone type thing and a peanut butter slab thing - most enjoyable! We sampled some local coffee before heading across town to climb the even steeper steps of Iglesia de San Cristobal which had even better views across San Cristobal with the city itself being in a valley surrounded by tree covered mountains.
San Cristobal de las Cases (12)

San Cristobal de las Cases (12)


This church was really dilapidated and there were some odd folk hanging around. To add to the excitement, whilst at the top we started to hear gun shots...mildly perturbed we started to descend and then found out through a broken Spanish conversation with a local (who was trying to sell us things) that it was all ok - it was just a fiesta! Phew!

Late afternoon we headed back to one of our favourite spots...the bus station! After a 2 hour wait here we then boarded our bus to Merida - another 13 hour journey. As the sun went down a huge electrical storm began...lasting well over 4 hours! We drove though torrential rain and very loud thunder as the skies were lit up constantly by lightening! Sarah enjoyed a cooling shower on the bus as a leak sprung over her head! It was amazing to see but a little nerve-wracking considering the windy hilly roads we were navigating. We had a fair number of stops at checkpoints guarded by very heavily armed soldiers - it made us glad that we were on a coach with lots of other people and not in Queenie at this point!

We arrived in Merida early morning and the heat hit us straightaway! Although not very sunny it was so humid and quite a shock after the refreshing San Cristobal! After a very sweaty walk and taxi ride we found ourselves a lovely hostel, with great facilities and a swimming pool!
Merida (5)

Merida (5)


Amazing! We made use of the showers, hammocks and pool before heading into Merida. Much larger than San Cristobal, and very busy, Merida seemed a little hectic! However, it has a lovely Central Plaza which has an air of calm about it. We explored the local market enjoying a huge plate of Nachos (when in Rome!) with cheese, jalapenos, pork, guacamole and salsa - amazing!
Merida (2)

Merida (2)


We spent a little bit of time looking around the Art Museum realising that neither of us have a great understanding of art, especially when all of the descriptions are written in Spanish. It was enjoyable, and cool, nevertheless!

Joe demanded we rush back to the hostel for the evening in time to catch the free Salsa lesson! It was a lot of fun and we learnt some pretty impressive moves!! Sarah is a bit of a pro following previous lessons but who knew Joe could move like that! We enjoyed a man playing some Trovi music at the hostel before heading out to see the end of a live Trovi Band and traditional dancing which took place at a plaza near by - a fiesta which happens every Thursday. The area was packed full of locals and had a great atmosphere!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 06:33 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Days 7 & 8: Merida – Valladolid – Chichen Itza - Tulum

8th – 9th June

sunny 30 °C


We filled up with the hostels free breakfast (cereal, toast, coffee, mangos, bananas, pineapple & oranges), before spending a lazy Thursday morning lounging by the hostel pool, jumping in to cool off regularly... it’s so hot and humid here!!!! In the afternoon we took the 4 hour bus journey to Valladolid, the 3rd largest city in the Yucatan region (Merida being the largest).

After checking into our hostel which appeared to be run by an 11 year old lad we went into the city centre to find a spot of dinner. The centre consists of a large cathedral which looks very nice all lit up at night and several hotels and restaurants surrounding a plaza.
Valladolid (1)

Valladolid (1)


We found a great restaurant which served local Yucatan dishes. Upon the waiters recommendation we opted for 2 local dishes to share: Chicken enchiladas in a mole sauce (not entirely sure what this sauce was but it was nice!) and Chicken Panuchos which were essentially Tacos and were delightful as well. He also recommended a local Yucatan beer called Montejo which was amazing and so refreshing in a warm Mexican evening. We both agreed it was the best meal we had devoured in Mexico so far and celebrated with another Montejo.
Valladolid (2)

Valladolid (2)

Back at the hostel we had a rather sleepless night. Joe did not possess the necessary skills to prepare a Mosquito net and so went to sleep with his head all tangled up. It was an unbelievably warm night and despite turning up the fan to the highest setting of number 5 it did no good! (In the morning Sarah discovered that 5 would in fact be the low setting and number 1 provided a very refreshing fanning speed). Then at 4am we were awoken by incredibly loud clubbing music and shouting Mexican voices coming from somewhere within the hostel. It lasted until at least 5am and we think it was the 11 year old host and his friends!

We got up early in the morning in order to get an early bus to the Chichen Itza ruins (and miss the tour groups!). A different and suspiciously hungover looking 11 year old checked us out. Chichen Itza was already busy when we arrived and despite being before 10am it was stiflingly hot!! For those not in the know, Chichen Itza is a large Mayan ruins, most famous for El Castillo – a large 9 tiered pyramid shaped temple with lots of steps up to the top (around 100 as counted by Sarah).
Chichen Itza (6)

Chichen Itza (6)


Chichen Itza (8)

Chichen Itza (8)

We were quite impressed with the ruins and the history of the place is amazing but we both felt the whole experience was slightly lessened by the busloads of tourists wandering around and the market stalls lining the paths between the ruins. It was also incredibly hot and walking around was a bit of an effort!! We are planning to see a few more Mayan ruins on our journey so it will be good to compare them as we go! We have decided we may be more nature lovers than history lovers however as despite being surrounded the amazing Mayan ruins, the highlight was when a large lizard ran across our paths!
Chichen Itza (12)

Chichen Itza (12)

We left at around 1pm... Just as thousands more tourists came along – the early start was a great idea! It was a 4 hour bus ride from Chichen Itza to Tulum, where we are this evening. Tulum is on the Mexican Caribbean coast - the same stretch of coastline as Cancun but without all the tacky American spring-break shenanigans. We arrived late so went straight out for dinner at a place recommended by the hostel owners. The hostel we should say at this point is amazing! We are staying in a cabana (straw roofed hut) amongst a lovely garden with hammocks and lizards dotted about the place.
Cabana, Rancho Tranquillo

Cabana, Rancho Tranquillo


The bathrooms are far and away the best we have experienced since arriving in Mexico which is also nice. We get a free pancake breakfast as well which is a lovely touch! Tulum itself is famous for its beach and some Mayan ruins on a cliff top overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It also has a large Cenote (a sinkhole ideal for swimming) nearby. With all this in mind we are thinking of staying here for a few days to experience some Caribbean beach lifestyle before heading down and into Belize... the extended stay of course has nothing to do with the fact that Tulum beachfront would be an ideal place to watch England play France on Monday at 11am local time to escape the midday sun.

Back to the place recommended for dinner... exceptional! A bowl of guacamole to accompany Cerviche and grilled fish, with heaps of garlic. The Cerviche was very nice, consisting of some white fish and prawns, but the grilled fish was one of the finest fish dishes we have tasted. Truly delightful!! And all for a very cheap price!! As we are writing this a tour guide connected to the hostel has come to pitch a tour around the area for us... only it is a tad expensive and he has just told us the good things to see. Gracias Senor!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 20:24 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Days 9 & 10: Tulum

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Pancakes, Rancho Tranquillo

Pancakes, Rancho Tranquillo


After a lovely early pancake and coffee breakfast we decided against any tours and set about exploring Tulum on our own! We rented a couple of bikes from our hostel which were exciting in themselves having no gears or brakes! We were mildly alarmed by this as we knew we would be cycling on busy unknown roads but were calmly told its fine – you just peddle backwards! And indeed you do – it worked a treat and we have no idea why bikes ever needed to be made so complicated!
Sarah cycling, Tulum

Sarah cycling, Tulum


First stop was to Gran Cenote, about 4 km up the road from Tulum. As mentioned before a Cenote is a sinkhole formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath forming an underwater cave system – to you and me, a wonderfully clear, simply lovely natural swimming pool!
Gran Cenote, Tulum (14)

Gran Cenote, Tulum (14)


The Cenote was just off the side of the road in an area that looked a little like derelict wasteland , however the pool itself was amazing! Many people go diving or snorkelling here but we decided to stick with basics – swimming goggles and holding ones breath! The water was so so clear and full of big and small fish. We swam about 20 metres into the cave where there were bats flying all above us and scuba divers swimming below! There were two bigger pools connected by narrower waters, and a larger open cave area we could swim right through. The water felt warm and was shaded from the sun so was just delightful after our bike ride – who chooses to bike ride in plus 30 degree heat?!? The caves themselves were amazing with huge stalactites and stalagmites which you could swim around. Brilliant!
Gran Cenote, Tulum (9)

Gran Cenote, Tulum (9)

After this excitement we then continued our ridiculously hot cycle in the midday sun to the beach. First we went the wrong direction and ended up in an area of small private beaches and expensive hotels...and then we turned and cycled some more and found the beach – amazing white sand and the most turquoise sea ever! Needing a cool off from the cycle we headed straight for the sea and were both amazed at it’s warmth!
Tulum Beach day 1

Tulum Beach day 1


Tulum Beach day 1 (3)

Tulum Beach day 1 (3)


Both being frequent bathers in the English Seas the water felt like a warm bath! We spent the afternoon on the beach generally being amazing that we were lying on the Caribbean Coast before heading back to town for some dinner. It was the night of more Mexican delicacies – Burritos and Quesadillas, and a lovely Corona. All exceptional!

The cycle to and from the beach was quite interesting as we passed a lot of big hotels that would be more suited in the Med and also a massive expanse of land due for development. Not far up the coast from Tulum is Playa del Carmen and Cancun, both already very Americanised holiday resorts – and it seems it won’t be long before Tulum goes this way as well, which although would be great for the tourist industry, would be really sad for the area which is currently very under-developed.

Today we had another early start so we could enjoy a cool(ish) cycle to Tulum Maya ruins, situated along the coast. After a small deliberation over whether to pay to enter the ruins or just look from the outside, we decided to go in – and it was so worth it! Whilst archeologically speaking the ruins are less impressive that Chichen Itza, visually they are absolutely amazing! Set on the cliffs just above the beach you can take in the ruins whilst looking out at the sea, and they have their own private little beach! A few steps down from the ruins we enjoyed a splash in the sea whilst taking in the ruins on the cliff.
Tulum Ruins (5)

Tulum Ruins (5)


Tulum Ruins (15)

Tulum Ruins (15)


Tulum Ruins (11)

Tulum Ruins (11)


It was amazing - warm sea, big waves and Mayan ruins! The ground they are set in looks a little like a golf course and is much better kept than Chichen Itza with no market stalls inside! All in all we were very impressed with them and for those who are less historically or archeologically minded definitely a better ruin to visit!

Having spent a little while longer at the ruins than planned (due to Joe’s bodysurfing antics) we then had a ridiculously fast cycle in ridiculous heat to get back to Tulum pueblo so Sarah could watch England versus France in the European Cup – we made it two minutes after kick-off, but were almost sitting in our own Cenote of perspiration on arrival! Joe was very tense during the game and got a little worked up whilst Sarah enjoyed some tortilla chips and a cold coke. For lunch we sampled Tacos –the last on our list of “Mexican foods to try” and whilst they were tasty they were not a patch on the other delicacies. Because we hadn’t yet done enough cycling in the sun we then cycled back to the beach and found a spot of shade under a coconut tree. The area of the beach had great views towards the ruins and was just amazing – we both said it was better than we could have imagined – and sitting in Queenie on the cold cold nights we had spent a lot of time imagining the Caribbean! After a few swims, bodysurfs and a spot of sunbathing we cycled back to our hostel in cooler climes which was just delightful! The hostel has been lovely and the first place on our travels that we have stayed more than two nights! We have packed our bags and are ready for an early start tomorrow for a bus and then boat to Belize!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 20:29 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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