Week 50: San Cristobal de las Casas ,Palenque & Merida. Mexico

Myself, Lorcan and Emma decided to do a cookery class to learn how to make tortillas from scratch; Mexico’s most iconic food.  We firstly went on a tour of the market which was great where the woman explained all of the weird and wonderful things you typically see in Mexican cuisine. The markets here are incredible and you could easily spend hours floating about.

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Fijoles aka beans!
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Stocking up on meat
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Browsing for Chicharron (aka crackling); the stuff of dreams

After purchasing all of our ingredients we went back to her house where we started making the dough and our fillings for our tacos and quesadillas. I was in my element. We also learnt how to make traditional Mexican salsas and guacamole. One of the most interesting things we tasted was a type of corn that had mushrooms growing from the side of it. Apparently these guys are really rare in  Mexico but were so so good. The tortillas we made were black because of the variety of maize we used. Nothing will ever compare to the taste of a homemade tortilla ridiculously good.

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Emma finding it hilarious making tortillas
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What a quesadilla should actually look like
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Spot the graceful Irish eating

My last day in San Cristobal was spent recording videos on the exotic fruits and vegetables found in Chiapus. Emma kindly co produced these. We rewarded ourselves afterwards with a trip to the famous wine bar where the hours seem to disappear too quickly. We had spent that day mooching around the shops and cafes. San Cristobal is famous for the amber stone. I tried to buy some as it is dirt cheap but failed miserably and settled instead for some pox tasting (a delicious liquor made from corn).

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Myself and Emma trying out the local pastries (these are minging by the way) Stick to the tacos and you can’t go wrong)
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A typical Mexican scene; Emma, myself and Rob dripping in sweat while eating spicy tacos

Based on the success of tortilla making class stemmed the idea of an Irish taco bar named; Bag of Limes so watch this space……

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Shooting some lowpro videos
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Emma such a pleasure meeting you. Buen viaje
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Myself and Emma doing a spot of Pox tasting
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Good bye to beautiful San Cristobal I cannot wait to come back

The next day both myself and Rob planned on making our way to Palenque. Usually the bus to is 3 hours but naturally enough in our case it was 10. Surprisingly it went pretty smoothly as we were warned about road blocks which are v common in this area. Some of the locals lay out a load of nails on the road and demand 50 pesos off each passenger to let the bus pass by. I was lucky enough on this occasion to be travelling with Rob because as per usual there were a few funny fish on the bus. We arrived v late and felt fairly delirious after the long journey.

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Arriving to horribly humid Palenque in my PJ’s looking like a hobo

Palenque is famous for its Mayan ruins but what makes this place distinct is that the ruins are located in the middle of the jungle. They are supposedly more beautiful and less crowded that some of the other more well-known ones. Rob who was travelling for 5 weeks was also an avid camper. He was keen to camp in the jungle so delira with a camping buddy I decided to join him. We rocked up to these cabanas who were charging a whopping 3,000 pesos for a cabana compared to a refreshing 100 pesos to pitch the tents.  Obviously there was no one staying there for that price so we had the place to ourselves including the most stunning private pool. Palenque is insanely hot so I was pretty worried about sleep that night. I was almost 10 weeks in Mexico and my first and only bad meal was in Palenque which in fairness isn’t bad going. The uninspiring chicken fajita were served with a side of salsa aka ketchup in this case. Really really bad. Unfortunately we were in the middle of no where so had no other choice. During the minging dinner there was a torrential rain storm where my tent conveniently leaked. Rob’s gear was a little bit more upscale so he was home and dry. Despite the wet I managed a couple of hours sleep. The beer always helps with this and after almost 1 year on the road my sleep standards are extremely low.

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The only 2 clever clogs camping
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The damp broken tent. She is growing on me
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Star fruit trees located outside our tents. Absolutely love this fruit and its my first time seeing/eating it in the wild

We were woken to the sound of howler monkeys which was pretty cool. We made an early start to try to see the ruins before the heat and the crowds. We had a delicious breakfast of tamales and tacos. Dirt cheap and ridiculously tasty. I am not the biggest ruin fan but figured while in Mexico I had to see at least one. I was pleasantly surprised and actually really enjoyed them. They were absolutely stunning and the backdrop of the jungle made it a truly enchanting place.

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Me at Palenque’s vast jungle
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Catching the early sun
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Rob exploring Palenque from below
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Gorgeous little houses in Palenque

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That afternoon we were wiped from walking around the ruins it is pretty exhausting. We chilled in our private pool while nursing a couple of beers. Where we had pitched our tents we were surrounded by lime, banana, mango and star fruit trees. We used to pick fresh limes to put into our ice-cold coronas which we drank in the pool. Not a whole lot to complain about that setup. We then ventured into town for a delicious lunch and went browsing for a Piñatas for Rob’s nieces.

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Glamping in Mexico
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How the other half live

Back at the pool I spent a while chatting to a creepy Dentist offering me free accommodation at his ranch. Maybe next time…… I was planning on catching the night bus to Merida to meet my friend Iv. This particular night bus was notoriously dangerous but I decided to take my chances with no alternative option. Before catching the bus myself, Gustavo and Rob met up for some wine and seafood. With my trip sadly coming to an end I am allowing myself a few more treats wine being one of them!

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Sweaty Seafood dinners with Rob and Gustavo

The night bus was rough and absolutely freezing. I was completely wiped out of it with the air con. I arrived at the crack of dawn and there was another backpacker outside crying because she had been robbed on the bus. I felt awful for her as I have been in that situation and it is the worst especially when alone. Rob caught the same bus the following night where two other people were robbed and they attempted to rob Rob but he managed to kick them off. So unfortunately the bus lived up to its awful reputation. God only knows how I got off scot-free.

Iv, the most gorgeous Mexican who I met in Real de Catorce while I was camping invited me to her home in Merida. She came to pick me and insisted I stay with her. At this stage of the trip I was looking very disheveled and to be honest I was hanging on by a thread. The visit to Iv’s house couldn’t have come at a better time. It was only when I arrived that I realised I had left my camera, bag of electronics and some clothes in Palenque which was 12 hours away! A desastre.

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The moment you realise you have left half your stuff in a Mexican jungle 12 hours away!!! You either laugh or cry so I choose to laugh!

 

Like most places in Mexico I ended up staying longer than expected. Merida is beautiful and parts look really similar to Cuba. The heat is the only issue but is a pretty big one. It can sometimes reach up to 50 degrees. Needless to say I was dying. Iv knew I had no clothes to my name so including the huge private room she gave me she  also included loads of clothes. Iv you are one of the kindest people I have ever met thank you for taking me in and showing me the most amazing Mexican hospitality.

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Iv, her mother Magda and her niece Vale eating Marquesitas. These are a typical sweet pancake from Yucatan and are traditionally served with cheese and sometimes nutella. They are ridiculously good

My first day with Iv who is also a foodie involved going on a road trip with her and her legendary mother; Magda. Magda is 83 years old and when she was younger traveled the world on her motorbike.  She is a hero and we immediately hit it off. We went to the town of Motul to sample their famous breakfast of Huevos Motulenos. This is a popular  dish with the locals consisting of fried eggs served on tortillas with refried black beans and a tomato-based sauce, which is often studded with ham, peas, and plantains and then sprinkled with cheese.The Yucatan has some of the best Mexican food and the most variety.  The place we went to is the most famous place to get this dish and on a busy day they might go through over 1000 eggs.

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Iv and her family having Merida’s most famous ice cream shop Helados Colon. They specialise in sorbets. The best flavour is Mamey, a local Mexican fruit.

Next stop of the day was a quick dip in a nearby cenote (a natural underwater pit). We then drove to the town of Izamal. It is known as the Yucatan’s yellow city where all of the buildings are painted yellow this is compulsory and the result is nothing short of magical. It is also known as one of Mexico’s Pueblo’s Magicos.

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Izamal’s most iconic building
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A lovely little dog having an explore of the Monostroy
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Brewing storms

More food was on the menu in the afternoon where  I tasted more local dishes in the most stunning restaurant. I tasted  papadazules (tortillas stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and topped with a sauce made of pumpkin seeds and tomato), Queso Relleno (Edam cheese, stuffed with a mixture of pork, peppers, onions, tomatoes, raisins, capers, olives and herbs and spices) and sopa de Lima  (soup made from chicken stock and lime and filled with chunks of chicken and pieces of fried tortilla).  All of this was polished off with  Agua de Chaya.  A traditional drink from the Yucatan made from a local spinach. This is really good for you and so refreshing.

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Hand made tortillas

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Iv and the sublime queso relleno

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Legendary mother and daughter outside Izamal’s best restaurant Kinich

Luckily Rob was also planning a trip to Merida which coincided nicely with him being able to return all of my stuff from Palenque’s jungle. We met for Moijitos in La Negrita (Merida’s coolest bar) and exchanged the goods. Once again someone was looking over me. Rob such a pleasure travelling with you for the short time good luck with your vegetable allotment and more importantly your beer making business.

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La Negrita
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Sweating with the excitement of tasting our first Mexican tequila; Don Julio
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Merida’s best bar; La Negrita. Only buying mojitos only for the free sunglasses!

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