Week 49: San Cristobal de las Casas. Mexico

Myself, Gustavo (a lad I met while eating seafood in Puerto) and Rob (another lad I met while eating goat in Oaxaca) all caught the same night bus from Mazunte to San Cristobal de las Casas.  Everything generally evolves around the food here in Mexico. As always it was a turbulent puke inducing journey. I was luckily positioned beside an aggressive snorer that serenaded me for the 12 hours. We all booked into the gorgeous hostel;Puerta Vieja. Gustavo was a lovely man from Bariloche in Argentina and was a bit of a yogi. He was mad for the meditation and a big believer in the hollistic way of life. He refused to use creams, mosquito repellent or any unnatural substances. Not exactly my gig but a nice chap all the same.

The worst thing about night buses is arriving at the crack of dawn with hours to kill before you can hit the leaba. On this occasion we were lucky and the hostel let us have their delicious breakie. This consisted of empanadas with guava juice and buckets of coffee. Poor aul Gustavo lost his shoes on the bus (he had been hanging out with me for far too long) so he went back to try and hunt them down. Myself and Rob decided to power through the tiredness and did the free walking tour. San Cristobal de las Casas is on everyone’s hit list while in Mexico and rightly so it a gem of a place. It  is a highland town in Southern Mexican in the state of Chiapas.

2911-2018-114877814727192752005.jpeg
San Cristobal de las Casas

It has a similar buzz to Oaxaca except is smaller, more quaint and prettier as far as I am concerned. It is well known for its wine and coffee scene.Need I say more? I had planned on camping out here for a good few days to soak it all in. The walking tour was amazing and probably one of the better ones I have done on the trip (best one still remains La Paz in Bolivia).

The guide brought to all the different markets and explained about the indigenous people in Chiapus. He brought us to loads of different coffee shops, cool bars and galleries. This is the type of town you could mooch around in for hours and get stuck in for days or even weeks! After the tour and some shots of pox (a liquor  made out of corn) a few of us joined the guide for lunch in his favourite restaurant; famous for its soups (more like stews). I went for the really healthy version of beef, chorizo and chicharron (pork cracking). This was sensational!

2810-2018-0932384245134127951936.jpeg
I could love off this stuff
2810-2018-0945272245296304080858.jpeg
Dossing from work; behind a bunch of lettuce
2911-2018-115514914793563282880.jpeg
Chillis!
1411-2018-055702093627998616416.jpeg
San Cristobal is famous for its candle making

I was having a chill in the hostel when I heard the refreshing sound of a north Dublin accent. It had been a while. Lorcan from Clonliffe road also travelling solo indefinitely around Mexico. He provided me with some much needed Irish sense of humour that I had so badly missed. A legend! Lorcan was the definition of cool. He wore shoes and tracksuit bottoms and a fanny pack around his chest and got away with it. Need I say more? I was so lucky with the people I met in the hostel and we quickly formed a great gang.

1411-2018-052298394013961261063.jpeg
Spot the Dub

That night, we all took advantage of the unlimited free cocktails in the hostel. Generally there is a catch but on this occasion there was no none and they were actually v decent so this escalated into a Mexican/ Irish dancing session. The beauty of travelling as an Irish girl solo is that anytime you break into Irish dancing people think you are Micheal Flatley. Any aul muck will satisfy a casual onlooker. The next morning a bunch of very hungover backpakers pilled into the bus to take us to the Sumidero Canyon. This is a massive canyon set within a National Park. The canyon is instantly impressive and home to so much wildlife such as; crocodiles, monkeys and thousands of birds. One of the most shocking things about it was the rubbish. It was horrible seeing animals chilling on plastic bottles. Apparently during rainy season all the rubbish from the nearby villages floats down into the canyon. They make attempts to clean it up but are failing miserably.

2911-2018-114369814662112148436.jpeg
Rubbish in the Sumidero Canyon
2810-2018-0909922244691665516444.jpeg
Stunning waterfall in the Sumidero Canyon
2810-2018-0951517244613260781924.jpeg
Crocodile having a chill
2810-2018-0909087244630830435142.jpeg
Boating through the canyon
2810-2018-0921462244583206245099.jpeg
Obsessed with Sumidero’s waterfall

En route home we stopped off at a random town where all we were fit to do was to stock up on goat tacos. Back home, I crawled back into the leaba for a quick power nap before hitting San Cristobal’s famous wine bar. 1 euro glasses of wine served out of an actual wine glass which also included free tapas. A dangerous place.

Myself and Lorcan escaped to watch the Conor Mc Gregor fight where we were conveniently sat beside a group of rowdy Mexicans. The excitement got too much for them and they needed to escort their very drunk Mexican friend home. So happy days we were left to the honors of  finishing off their bucket of beers. A tough job that someone had to do. Afterwards we made it back to the wine bar for a few more late night tipples. Things escalated quite quickly when a funny German starting setting off fire works. That was our que to leave.

The next days plan was to visit to the famous village of Chamula.  We picked up a few randomers from the hostel who joined us for the day. I have never experienced anything like this place before it is on a complete other level. Firstly the village is made up entirely of indigenous people who speak their own language. This community is mostly known for its church. They have a very distinct culture that they are very private and protective about. Tourists are allowed to pay to visit the church but are forbidden to take photos. One guy from the hostel got his phone smashed out of his hand for trying to take a photo. Another guy I met got his hand whipped by a man on a horse for attempting to take a photo.

2911-2018-2.jpeg
Chamula’s famous church
2911-2018-110406314862477403062.jpeg
The locals in San Yuan

Inside, the church is a different kettle of fish. The floor is entirely covered in pine needles and there are hundreds of candles. To add nicely to this fire hazard everyone is drinking Pox a lethal spirit made out of corn.  Another common practice in the church is for them to kill chickens as a sacrifice if a loved one in sick or they are praying for someone. The people of San Yuan believe that if they drink until they pass out it will cleanse them so their goal is to drink until they collapse. While we were walking around at about 2 pm in the day we saw countless amounts of people just collapsed on the streets.

2911-2018-111708715286856054450.jpeg
Typical scenes in San Yuan
3011-2018-041748853829906637498.jpeg
And another one bites the dust

We were lucky enough to arrive during one of their many festivals
(which happens about every month). The party had been in full swing since 5 am! There were fire works being randomly set off. I almost ended up in one of them fairly lethal but an unforgettable experience nonetheless. Everyone was dressed up in their indigenous clothes which were made out of fur just what you need in 30 degrees heat.

2911-2018-113615915014573064068.jpeg
Having a gossip
2911-2018-112813115117899689917.jpeg
Parades in and out of the church
3011-2018-041897653771394325809.jpeg
Chilling outside church

En route out of the village one of my friends from the hostel Emma got groped by a drunken man. This is just one of the many examples of this crazy little village. Anyone visiting San Cristobal you need to visit this town which is only 10km away. It is amazingly bonckers. Go on a Sunday for market day that’s when all the madness happens.

2810-2018-0944360244846104034411.jpeg
Back streets of San Cristobal

One lazy afternoon back at the hostel a German lad asked me to go for coffee and watch sunset with him. We went back to a gorgeous art gallery we had visited during the tour. This had the most stunning view of the city at sunset. Wined out of it we decided to stick with a coffee on this occasion. Germany opted for a brownie but little did he know it was a happy brownie. En route home we stopped to listen to some street artists drumming. Afterwards, Germany looked very emotional and he said he had never experienced anything more beautiful in his life.  I honestly thought that they were only alright and wanted to leave half way. He then went on to give a 500 peso donation this is mad money for Mexico. To put it in perspective I was routing around for 5 pesos to give and eventually abandoned ship when I couldn’t find it. I tried to warn Germany not to give all of his money away saying the drummers were good but I could have done a better job myself. A good lesson to Germany is to steer clear of the space cakes in the future It was the drummers who were the happy ones earning a small fortune that night.

2810-2018-0913851244875594985505.jpeg
Sunsets in San Cristobal
2810-2018-0905604244927348108391.jpeg
No wonder Germany was happy looking at this

San Cristobal and its numerous wine bars and not to mention Puerta Vieja’s insanely comfy beds made it impossible to leave and we all extended our stay.

Advertisements

Week 48: Puerto Escondido & Mazunte. Mexico

The week started off at Puerto Escondido’s typical slow pace. My days here are a bit of a blur so apologies for the lack of detail. There were a few things I really wanted from Puerto; relaxation, swimming in the sea and the most important was to taste Pepe’s famous fish tacos. From travelers I had met along the way I had heard rave reviews. I took one of the hostel’s bike and went on a journey to try to  find the man himself. I heard Pepe did excellent cookery classes which I really wanted to try.  I arrived to Pepe’s shack on the outskirts of Zicatela’s main beach.

2810-2018-1225188190223663847364.jpeg
Cycle 10 minutes in Puerto and you will have the beach to yourself

2710-2018-1150736187530243691637.jpeg
Morning swims my favourite time of the day

First reactions of Pepe weren’t great. Firstly he was half-naked chopping down wood and presumably drunk or high or most likely both. When I inquired about the taco making class Pepe started shouting and cursing saying he was pissed off with the world and that the owner didn’t pay rent etc etc etc. I thought I had the wrong Pepe. He was bulling because his waitress never turned up for work and he would have to make the Tacos himself. Not exactly a big deal as I was the only customer. Luckily she rocked up, drunk aswell. The taco eventually was thrown together. At this stage expectations were v low but what was produced was nothing short of a master piece. Sword fish coated in a coconut batter served with guacamole, pineapple salsa, smoky picante and the most glorious yogurt dip.  I was raging Pepe wasn’t able for the classes because I want the recipe badly.

Pepe has a lot of problems but the fish tacos ain’t one of them. Por favor give this man a Michelin star and maybe some counselling.

0310-2018-110553816164193576168.jpeg
A work of art

En route home I had a taste for fish tacos and I wanted more so I stopped by a place recommended to me by the hostel, El viaje.

I got chatting to a random man called Yuan who was sitting next to me. He subsequently told me his best mate also called Yuan owned the restaurant. A general rule of thumb if you don’t know a Mexicans name a safe bet is Yuan (or Jose). Anyway long story short I got lapping to the owner and we had a bitch about Pepe and he offered me a job for the following morning

2810-2018-0930636244232379737773.jpeg
Yuan’s prawn and fish tacos

So delighted with the opportunity to learn how to make Mexican Tacos I arrived the next morning with bells on. Yuan’s tacos were excellent too with a touch of Italy. He spent a few years in Italy and you can tell from his food. I think Italian food is the best in the world so this was always going to be a sensational combo.

2710-2018-0655983179148089631786.jpeg
The excitement over cutting a Mexican avocado. This superstar will beat Pepe in the kitchen any day of the week

I was a bit nervy starting work based on my previous experience in a Mexican kitchen getting screamed at by chef Regina (the witch). Anyway this was Puerto Escondido and things here are v chilled so I was in for a treat. We had some craic and Yuan and all the staff were so nice to me. I learnt heaps, ate loads and sweated buckets. It was really busy so I was kept going frying prawns, toasting tortillas and making guac. I sampled the most insane ceviche, carpachio of fish and of course countless amounts of tacos. They had to roll me out of the place. The owner Yuan used to be a professional surfer and a couple of years ago he randomly moved to Russia to open a Taco bar serving authentic Mexican food. He is a legend and overall great guy. On this occasion it seriously paid off chatting to strangers.

2810-2018-0935310243517054044208.jpeg
They even made me some lowpro tacos

2810-2018-0902566243424309735543.jpeg
The most delicious ceviche

2810-2018-0949117243470860747471.jpeg
This is a traditional Mexican breakfast called Chilaquiles: a yummy unhealthy combo of fried tortillas, tomato picante topped with cream, cheese, onion and avocado

I was beefed when I got back to the hostel having been on my feet all day in the humid heat. I’m also not exactly accustomed to doing any work. Any one going to Puerto you need to check out Yuan’s restaurant (El Viaje). His most famous taco is the smoked fish. He smokes the fish himself out the back and it is divine.

2810-2018-0940250243581993396892.jpeg
EL Viaje’s legendary staff and a very sweaty Ró

That evening, a group from the hostel were all heading off to the main beach of Zicatela to have beers and watch the sunset. Beer is just what the doctor ordered so I tagged along. We spent the night bar hoping and finished off into the early hours drinking mescal while watching an electrical storm on the beach.

2810-2018-0915777244097520701292.jpeg
One of the many sunsets in Puerto

Fabien one of the gals staying the hostel was a funny fish (in the best possible way). She was 50 odd and was Italian/Argentinian but lived in Brasil. Anyway she asked me to go to the beach with her and after a few beers (at 10am!!!) she had me up doing salsa dancing on front of e body . She used to be a professional dancer for carnival in Brasil so knew her shit. I’m not easily embarrassed but on this occasion MORTIFIED!

2810-2018-0843189242864932310289.jpeg
Crazy Fabian and randomer in the beautiful hostel’s pool

2810-2018-0841194242802938036641.jpeg
Saying goodbye while travelling is always the hardest part. This is Samuel and Fabien, absolute legends

Anyway as much as I wanted to stay longer in Puerto lots of people had told me there were more beautiful quieter beaches further down the coast that were worth seeing.

Leaving the hostel was a bit of a disaster. Anytime I have to move the backpack things get chaotic and things go missing. On this occasion it was the passport. I was half way down the street en route to the bus stop when one of the staff from the hostel came sprinting after me with my passport saying I had forgotten it at reception. These kind of situations are becoming more and more frequent. I have just been extremely lucky with the sound people I have met that have prevented lots of potential disasters.

I ended up hitch hiking to Mazunte because I missed the last bus.  Mazunte is a very sleepy beach town very popular with the hippy community. I arrived and checked into a hostel on the beach and was sharing with two lovely girls. I only planned on staying 2 nights here as for the first time in my whole trip I was short on time and I had to rush. There is not doubt that Mazunte is stunning but it is also insanely hot even more so than Puerto Escondido.

2810-2018-0949204244490947801011.jpeg
Magical Mazunte

2810-2018-0910441243912184460925.jpeg
The most stunning coffee shop views

I got wind that there was free yoga happening the following am at 7 am on top of the hill. I’m a sucker for anything free so decided to give it a whirl.

I arrived and immediately felt like I was in a cult. The first thing I saw was there was a ban on talking!! I thought a little ott but just went with the flow. I got my mat and for some reason felt like a criminal. I couldn’t even ask for the yoga class because of talking ban. I made the most of this and just had a nap. An hour later the teacher comes in and I figured this must have been the free yoga class. Obviously I was wrong and it transpired that it was a two-hour work shop on becoming a yoga instructor. The people in the class were on a months retreat and considering I wasn’t allowed talk  I felt like I couldn’t leave in case I disturbing the zen mode. As everyone was scribbling down notes frantically I tried not to expose myself too much in fear of having to pay a hefty amount at the end.

2810-2018-0821556243023299682945.jpeg
Mazunte

After a painful 2 hours we eventually started the free yoga class. This was rough because I was amongst professionals so it was clear as day I was an outsider. Anyway I got through the experience and after 4 hours I had my fix of hippies and sprinted out of the place. I was invited to participate in devotional singing that night which I politely declined.

Back on the beach I spent most of the time swimming and escaping the heat in the most beautiful cafe overlooking the ocean. Mazunte has it all; gorgeous cafes, bakeries and the freshest seafood. There is a lovely little coastal trek you can do to watch sunset it was beautiful albeit a little overcast. I went back the following morning for the most amazing sunrise.

2810-2018-0801722243063465608647.jpeg
Sunrise in Mazunte

The next day was much of the same. I wisely replaced yoga with coronas and seafood on the beach with my new Argentinian mate Gustavo. Puerto Escondido is a fantastic  place and I was so glad to spend time in Mazunte also. The Pacific is the place to be so everyone should add it to their list. Myself and Gustavo were both catching the same night bus that eve to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapus.

2810-2018-0958841244440585197009.jpeg
The scene of the crime  where I lost my 23rd pair of sunglasses of the trip. Hairy Eyes are with the Pacific now

2810-2018-0814272243196015705168.jpeg
Mazunte had the most stunning coastal walks

2810-2018-0837609243039352925088.jpeg
Surfers paradise