Week 46: Puebla, Cholula, Oaxaca, Tule, Tiotitlan,Tlacolula and Hierve del Agua. Mexico

*-In Cholula I ended up doing couch surfing with a lad called Artur. He was busy with Uni that week  so he handed me over to his parents. They insisted on picking me up from my hostel to bring me to their home town. Paty the Mam told me she was going to exercise class for retired women and I should come along. The class consisted of dancing with sombreros and sticks!  All the oldies were gas and we had a ball. Embarrassingly the next day I was actually stiff! Exercise has been put on the back burner for the past year. There are moments like this where you do start to question what are you doing with your life!

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View from Artur’s roof top; a regularly active volcano

When Artur returned from Uni  he seemed a little odd and not at all like his parents. The first thing we did was meet this random lad he was selling Pokemon cards to (one of his jobs on the side!). He was big into cartoons and videos games, not exactly my gig but each to their own as they say. Luckily I mainly hung out with his deadly parents who like me weren’t into the Pokemon scene.  They were huge fans of Luis Miguel (famous Mexican singer) so we used to have sing songs in the kitchen while making mole. The dream!

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Magical Mole

I had originally planned on only staying one night but Paty, the Mam convinced me to stay longer so she could bring me to the theatre. She was v glam and was v concerned about my appearance (or lack of in this case). She kitted me out (in some questionable gear) to make me theatre appropriate. She gave me a huge bag of clothes that no longer fit her to take with me. I even inherited a pair of fancy wedges (Paty wouldn’t let me wear my runners because of the smell!!!). In fairness to her she did an excellent job at gluing my Asics back together. She also gave all my other shoes/clothes a deep clean. A saint!

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Puebla has enough churches for every day of the year each more spectacular than the next
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You haven’t been to Mexico until you have picked up a Sombrero

The theatre was amazing and had dances and photography from the different regions in Mexico. The costumes were spectacular and I really loved it. It was such a treat and unique experience. Afterwards we had delicious elote (sweetcorn with cheese, chili and lemon is my favourite combo). Back at the house we had cheese and wine (they surprised me with this after I told them that’s what I really miss from home).  It was heavenly and a lovely finish to a memorable few days. So nice feeling part of a family.

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Getting dressed up in a 60 year olds clothes to go to the theatre in Mexico
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We went on Cholula’s version of London eye

My last day in Puebla I treated myself to wine and Chili en Negado  This dish represents the Mexican flag and originates from Puebla. It is a chili poblano which is fried and stuffed with dried fruit, spices, nuts and roasted meat. The star of the show is the cold sweet walnut sauce that covers the chili. It is finished off with pomegranate seeds and parsley. DIVINE. This dish is worth coming to Mexico for.

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I had to order two of these it’s that good
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Chili en Negado is the stuff of dreams
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Jameson whiskey spotted in the most random Mexican village. When I told the owner I was Irish I was treated to a free shot.

Next stop was Oaxaca where I had organised a bla bla car to take me 6 hours there. Manuel the driver was lovely but had some serious mechanical problems. The car reeked of petrol and fumes but worse Manuel was a lunatic on the roads. So pretty shaken and high I arrived to hostel chocolate in Oaxaca where I had a sleepless night due to an abundance of snorers in the room!!! Nothing unusual about that.

From the minute I arrived I loved Oaxaca. It is a place I could easily live it. There is an amazing buzz and most importantly it is a foodie heaven. The climate is also perfect.  Day 1 was just spent pottering around sampling the delicious food and coffee scene. The next day I organised to do couch surfing with a couple Jessy and Carlos. After walking for an 1 hour with the bulging bag I arrived to their home which was also an English school. Dinner that night was in  a Women’s garage where we  sampled the local delicacy of tlycudas. They are basically like giant quesadillas filled with delicious fillings. These guys are tasty but for me they are a little ott.  The next day I took a collectivo to the nearby village of Tule. There is basically nothing happening here except for the world’s largest tree which is in fairness a fairly big accolade. I got out of the taxi and couldn’t find the tree. I embarrassingly had to ask for it it’s easy enough to miss because of the all the leaves (in my defense!!!!)

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Extremely difficult to fit the world’s largest tree into a picture

Afterwards after a bit of a hula balu I made my way to the most stunning village of Tiotitlan, famous for carpet making. I had a demo on how to make carpets using rotting cactus plants and how they die to wools using dead insects. It was fascinating seeing them work.

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Getting a carpet making demo from a local lad in Tiotitlan
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Tiotitlan is the most famous place for carpet making in Mexico
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Local Woman carpet making in Tiotitlan

Such a pretty little village also known as one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos.

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Tiotitlan’s beautiful plaza

I came back to Jessy’s that evening where I was the guest speaker at one of her English classes. This was great fun and the kids she was teaching were adorable. I left the following morning as the room I was staying in was Jessy’s classroom so I headed back to hostel chocolate. You get a free choccie when you check out, choccie is minging but the nice gesture compensates for this. I also had the added bonus of giving  lots of my clothes away to a local orphanage in Oaxaca which Jessy kindly organised. Thank you guys for yet again another great couch surfing experience.

The following day was spent exploring  Oaxaca’s famous markets. It is known as the food capital of Mexico. Just walking down the streets there are wafts of coffee, chocolate and the rich aroma of mole.  To try Oaxaca’s best host chocolate you need to go to Mayodomo. For the best street food Mercado 20 Noviembre and this where I tasted the ultimate dish from Oaxaca; Mole. This is a love or hate and I am its biggest advocate. It takes hours to make and contains up to 30 ingredients 7 of  are different types of chilies. It also contains a load of spices, plantain, peanuts and chocolate!!! I sampled some more stomach and tripe soup (owner insisted it was maize soup!!). I will never learn.  I was also given some free samples of heart! Freaked me out but didn’t taste too bad. Another delicacy in Oaxaca are grass hoppers and worms. They fry them in lemon and chili and they are actually delicious. The Mexicans love them in their tacos as they add a nice crunch.

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Imagine getting this dressed up to buy your meat
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Mexico’s colourful markets

Saturday in the main plaza was excellent I happened to stumble across a jazz concert in a craft shop. They were incredible and played for 2 hours. I went back to the main square where dancers, magicians and amazing live music. Oaxaca is buzzing with street art, food, cool bars and restaurants. I’d recommend spending plenty of time here. It’s touristy but has still retained its charm.

The next day I decided to visit Oaxaca’s most famous market;  Tlacolula. This was spectacular and my favourite market of my trip so far. On Sundays all the indigenous people come down from the mountains where they sell their artesanias. The array of food was out of this world and I had the most delicious taco of goat, famous in this area. While having a Mescal in the market I bumped into a Robert from England  where we bonded over the delicious goat. The outfits were so stunning. It was hilarious seeing them all bargaining for chickens, turkeys and geese on the streets while dressed to the ninty nines.

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Roasting goats for some tacos
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Best business man in Oaxaca
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Market day is the worst day of the week for these poor divils
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Myself and Maria had breakie together; hot choccie and cinnamon buns
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This photo cost me a coca cola

Afterwords I managed to find a collectivo to take me up to the mountains to Hierve el Agua. This place is really special. It is a set of calcified rocks that resemble a waterfall. It is set in the middle of the mountains and contains a number of different natural water pools and rock formations.

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The petrified waterfall at Hierve del Agua

I decided to camp here wanting to see the sunrise the following morning and having the place to myself for a while. Camping here was incredible. It was completely worth for what the following morning had in stall.  I went to get some hot chocolate before bed and stumbled across a Woman’s house. I got chatting to the family who were a little bit concerned I was camping at the waterfall. They were in the middle of peeling maize to make dough for their tortillas for the following morning. The maize was from their garden. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. Alicia the owner insisted I take her 3 dogs with me and that they would look after me for the night.

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Sunrise with  just my furry friends: The best start to do the day
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The best time of the day: golden hour
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Calcified Waterfall

I was in good hands and we all woke up at 6 am for sunrise. I went skinny dipping in the thermal pools overlooking the mountains at sunrise. It was fairly magical. Afterwards myself and  my 3 furry friends went trekking for an hour to view the waterfall up close you can even climb up it.  When we got back the tourists started flocking in. Anyone going here come early it is so peaceful as you just chill in the natural water pools while looking at the gorgeous backdrop of lush green mountains.Also having the tent means you don’t pay the entrance fee so always an added bonus. For once the bandy tent came in handy.

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Calcified Pools

 

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One of the many amazing places Oaxaca has to offer
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Seeing the calcified waterfall up close

I went back to Alicia’s for a tasty simple lunch of fresh tortillas, beans, cheese, egg and of course picante.  The picante was made fresh in front of me and contained bbq’d tomato, garlic and chili. So simple but was so so good. This for me was one of my Mexican eating highlights. All of the ingredients were sourced from Alicia’s back garden. En route home I made a pit stop to a Mescal Distillery where you see how Mescal is made. I’m not the biggest Mescal fan but happy to drink it as its way more popular  in this region than Tequila. There are constant freebies being handed out so it would be rude not to.

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A thing of a beauty; homemade tortilla
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Alicia makes homemade Tortillas from scratch ever morning

 

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The agave plant how Mescal and Tequila are made

I had planned on only staying a few days in Oaxaca but it is a trapping kind of place so I have extended my stay accordingly.

 

 

 

Week 45: Batopilas, Divisadero, El Fuerte & Los Mochis. Mexico

The start of the week myself and Israel made the 4 hour journey to the bottom of the canyon to a small village called Batopilas.  I didn’t really know what to expect and just decided to go with the flow upon Israel’s recommendation.

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The  stunning road to Batopilas
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We stopped off en route to do some vulture spotting. There were loads of them!

We were warned the heat was insanely bad and they were right. Even sitting in the shade I was dying. All I could eat for the day was ice pops. We stumbled across Casa Monsay where we stayed. It was just an old woman who rented out dirty rooms full of cockroaches. I’m not exactly fussy so it did the job. Israel  on the other hand wasn’t  too sásta with the set up. We didn’t have any other choice as practically all of the hotels and restaurants were closed.  There was a really strange vibe in the place and felt like a ghost town. We were the only tourists in the small village of 1,800 people. It was absolutely stunning and has been titled as one of Mexico’s Pueblo Magicos. Israel had hay fever so took to the bed for the day.

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The beautiful buildings of Batopilas
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An extremely pretty little town

I went exploring by myself taking photos. A few people asked me was I a journalist and why was I here. It was a bit strange but I didn’t think anything of it. I was just chilling in the plaza when a group of kids almost attacked me. About 10 of them flocked around me with their teacher asking me would I mind answering a few questions in Spanish. This was bizarre as the first question was ‘cual es un cite sexual?’ (what is a sexual date?). A little bit taken a back I still tried to explain this in Spanish. I thought the kids would be giggling but they were full on serious. Quite an uncomfortable yet hilarious encounter.

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The local talent of Batopilas
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Childhood friends. They meet on the same bench everyday for the chats.

Anyway later that day I asked someone why there were so many armed guards and why everything was closed. It transpired that Batopilas is home to loads of Narcos. It is a well established place for drug production because the village is so inaccessible. Apparently they are trying to re vamp the village to attract tourism but people are still too scared to go ( We clearly didn’t get the memo). Obviously a gringo ‘journalist’ is probably not the best title to be carrying around. We both considered staying in Batopilas for the independence day celebrations. There was also an ultra marathon taking place in the canyon which I would have loved to have seen (I was invited to participate!!!). We both decided against it as there was absolutely nothing to do, nothing open and the heat was pretty unbearable. Still such a worthwhile place to see and completely off the beaten path.

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Independence day ready Batopilas
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This photo perfectly sums up Batopilas; a gun, a tarantula and an empty restaurant

The only way out of Batopilas was the 5 am bus. We arrived into Creel in the early am for some delicious coffee and we both parted ways. I decided to take a bus to another part of the canyon called Divisadero. I wasn’t too excited  about this and figured it would be really touristy because its main attraction was this adventure park, home to world’s longest zip-line. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I met Tim a lovely American on the bus who was struggling with the Spanish. We got lapping and he too was en route to Divisadero. We both presumed there would  be a town of some sort but all it has are a few extremely expensive hotels overlooking the canyon (pretty cool). I had decided to camp where we got dropped off. There were a few cabanas which had rooms for a reasonable price. Tim is a semi retired pilot from California backpacking solo around Mexico. He also is an avid motor bike traveler so he was giving me some dangerous ideas. Tim’s room had 3 double beds in it so he offered me a bed in place of the tent. As much as I love camping in my battered/bruised tent I couldn’t resist. Such a sound guy.

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Creel’s burrito buses

Tim had never been zip lining before so he convinced me to join him. I had decided not to do it having done it recently in Peru. I am so glad I did. So when we arrived at the park the place was completely deserted. We had panoramic views of the canyon it was amazing and completely to ourselves. Someone told us during the weekend/ holidays the place is crowded so we were lucky. We did  a circuit of 7 different zip lines and two different suspension bridges. It was incredible and worth every penny.

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Me at Divisadero’s Canyon
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Me and Tim on one of the suspension bridges
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Tim you legend!
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Sensational views from this cable car

I just can’t understand why nobody is here. Locals were saying lots of people still think the north of Mexico is extremely dangerous. Obviously it has its parts but I felt really safe. That evening myself and Tim got a few beers and trekked up to one of the fancy hotels overlooking the canyon and pretended to be guests. We drank our classy cans while watching the sunset into the canyon.

The next day me and Frenchie (another chap in the hotel) were up at the crack of dawn to do this trek to the bottom of the canyon. At dinner the night before a couple recommended we do it that the guide was amazing and it was the best trek they had done in their lives. Huge statements. I was afraid of missing out so decided to go for it. Turned out to be the biggest waste of money and we ended up just strolling along the side of the canyon to different miradors. We definitely could have done this ourselves but I have been warned several times that trekking in the canyon alone is really dangerous and I was asking for it. For once I took the sensible option.  You win some you lose some and definitely not the worse thing have a massive canyon all to yourself at sunrise.

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How the locals live in the Canyon
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Morning Walks in Divisadero
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Sunrise in the Canyon

Later than day we all headed towards the train tracks to catch the Chepe train en route to El Fuerte. This 653 km  train journey is known as one of the most beautiful in the world and it is really easy to see why.  It passes through a series of tunnels that go through the canyon where you pass loads of rivers and waterfalls. It is dolla but completely worth it. I spent most of the 6 hour train ride outside soaking up the views.

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One of the many tunnels
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Friends in the right places. No issues getting mugged on the train while hanging out with these lads
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The massive El Chepe train
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Some of the stunning views
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Views from the back of the train

We were all warned about the heat in El Fuerte but nothing could prepare you for this. It was 100% humidity and unbearable. I could barely take any photos as my camera kept steaming up. Myself and Frenchie stayed in the cheapest hotel we could find. Tim went a little more upscale. Tim not able to hack anymore tacos insisted on treating me and Frenchie to a beautiful fish dinner in an upscale restaurant. One of the kindest guys I’ve met on my trip. When Tim was my age he went backpacking for 2 years and completely understands slumming it. We opted for delicious sangria in an attempt to cool down. Poor Frenchie was staying put for a few days in El Eeurte.  I was delira to be leaving first thing in the am, Tim too. I headed to Los Mochis where my flight was leaving the following day.

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Children in El Fuerte getting ready for Independence day
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The height of what I saw in El Fuerte

Disaster struck in Los Mochis when there was a thunder-storm. The roads starting flooding and there was absolutely no ubers, taxis or buses to make the 20 km journey to the airport. The roads were steadily filling up with water. Afraid of missing my flight I tried to hitch hike. This was useless as the roads were practically empty. After about an hour I started walking and saw a police van and asked them would they bring me to the airport. I had nothing to lose and to my luck the police were bored out of their trees and were delira to help. Once again a very lucky duck making the flight by the skin of my teeth.

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At least one of us was happy about arriving at the airport!

The next stop was Puebla 2 hours away from Mexico city. They are worlds apart and I much preferred Puebla. It is stunning and is known for its culinary delights the most famous being mole. Mole typically contains a mixture of chilis (sometimes up to 7 types), nuts, seeds, tomatoes, raisins and the secret ingredient is chocolate. It contains more than 30 ingredients and it originated in Puebla. It is usually served with raw onions, toasted seasame seeds with shredded chicken in a tortilla or with rice. This with an ice cold corona is heavenly.

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Mole enchiladas

Below is Rosa. She was begging me for 10 pesos for a bottle of water. She was quite demanding and rude and wouldn’t budge until I prouced the goods. Anyway I gave her the money not wanting to deny an elderly woman water.  She emerges seconds later demanding more money saying 10 wouldn’t cover the cost. Feeling generous I gave her more and moments later she produces a bottle of liquor and a beaming smile. She instantly became super friendly and we sat down for for a few drinks together to celebrate Mexico’s independence day.

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Having none of it
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We cracked a smile (post booze)
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Happy independence day Mexico! Spent with the best. The irony of the sign behind! I think Rosa needs this number

My time in Puebla was spent mostly eating and drinking. It is renowned for its culinary delicacies so I was in my element.

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Chalupas: Traditional  tortillas in Puebla fried in tons of beef lard, spicy salsa and pork. SO HEALTHY
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Chili en Negoda: My favourite Mexican dish. Chili stuffed with meat, dried fruit and nuts. It is covered in the most sensational sweet walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate and parsley to represent the Mexican flag. SENSATIONAL