A Photographic Memory

It has taken me almost six months to be able to write this, partly because I cannot physically put into words what the trip meant to me and in a way writing this officially ends the best year of my life (I am also guilty of being v lazy). But here I want to reflect  on what I learnt from travelling solo for one year and a few of my favourite photographic memories and maybe even inspire one or two of you to book that scary one way flight into the unknown!

The last day!!!! Starting my journey home to Dublin leaving dreamy Isla Mujeurs in Mexico 😦

Trying to settle back into ‘normal life’ after 12 months on the road has been challenging to say the least. Living in a travel bubble for one year completely separated from reality changes your priorities and your entire perspective on life. This bubble is both uncomfortable, scary, exciting and dangerously addictive. Travelling solo as a female around Latin America is definitely a challenge but is one of the most liberating  and exhilarating things I have ever done. Anyone nervous especially girls just do it. I think everyone should experience solo travel at least once in their life.

Another benefit of solo travel. You can puke all over rainbow mountain and no one needs to know about it. I had violent altitude sickness that day but managed a fake smile.

I have gotten better at embracing the here and now even if it is a two hour commute on a bicycle to Tallaght. I am a sucker for a challenge. This commute often feels like backpacking (or cycling Bolivia’s death road aka the Greenhills road in Walksintown)!

Bolivia’s death road V my commute to work (similar gig)

Since starting I have had 4 punctures, been hit by a car (luckily I was okay the woman thought I was a wheely bin), ended up hitch hiking to a presentation (that’s a v long story), cried for an entire hour en route home pretty convinced I had frost bite (I did not!!), almost got blown away during multiple storms. Admittedly it is usually quite bleak but there is the rare day where the wind is behind my back, sun is shining and I am listening to the Beach Boys and I feel invincible. The quick morale of the story, cycling in Dublin is a joke but better than public transport!! Our bodies can do so much more than we give them credit for.

Cycling in Amsterdam on the other hand…….

During my trip someone once told me I was a magnet for problems and disasters. Maybe that is true these disasters have subsequently followed me to Dublin and most likely will follow me wherever I end up next. Only last week I set my hair on fire in a restaurant in Berlin while roller blading a Half Marathon!!!!! Sometimes you might feel like crying  and whenever you do try your best to laugh! No joke, literally everyday of the trip there was some kind of a disaster in store both major and minor. I look back now and can honestly smile about them all.

This is me on cloud 9 having completed my first half marathon on blades.  This is also before my hair caught on fire (most likely caused by my recent dodgy highlights which were particularly flammable).

I find it difficult to describe how I feel after the year away but it is without a doubt an emotional roller coaster consisting of indescribable joy, loneliness, guilt, sadness, isolation and fear.  A year of camping, hitchhiking, sleeping on mountains, caves and couchsurfing went by in the flash of an eye. I was broke, homeless, lost, robbed, held up at knife point and violently sick (on numerous occasions). You do stupid things and all rationale goes out the window. A perfect example of this is me buying a motorbike in Brazil with the plan of biking through the Amazon into Colombia?! In my defense I had been on a bus for almost 3 days so I was little delirious (as opposed to normal!). It is still there in case anyone reading this in headed to Brazil!?

Just a few of my photographic highlights

Fresh off the plane. Day 1 of the trip and I am straight to the fish market in Santiago, Chile.
Valparaiso, Chile stole my heart. I spent my first 3 weeks here (originally supposed to be 3 days).  Week one consisted  of getting  held up at knife point by two Chilains, I was attacked in my sleep by a drug dealer and lost my only debit card. This was not enough to deter me from the most enchanting  place, the people, the music and especially the street art. I rarely cry but I cried leaving Valpo. Maka thanks for the pepper spray it was literally life saving.
My first day hitchhiking in Patagonia! A scary yet exhilarating experience. Hitch hiking was never something I planned on doing but fellow travelers easily convinced me. Little did I know it was the beginning of  a whole new level of adventure. The simplicity of this photo makes me smile and I remember how proud I was to make it to Cerro Castillo after hitchhiking with four different men. The mountain in the background is where I ended up sleeping that same night (without a tent/sleeping bag). I was luckily oblivious to the disaster that awaited me.
Me at the top of Cerro Castillo, Patagonia. I had been trekking for 10 hours carrying my entire life (literally); laptop, wine, beer, clothes etc etc. I was covered in blood, melted butter and yogurt and was stung to death by bees. Unforgettable for all the right reasons. Patagonian scenery is so stunning it messes up with logical thinking despite everyone urging me to turn back and give up I persevered. Sleeping alone on a Patagonian glacier was yes, crazy. This was the most physical challenging thing I have ever done (2nd place is the Paris Marathon which was also hellish but at least it was only 4 hours of hell). I learnt that I am pretty hardcore, ridiculously stubborn and arguably stupid.
Marble Caves, El Rio, Patagonia, Chile. Patagonia These caves are entirely made out of marble.
I love the simplicity of this picture. I took this on the Carratera Austral a road in Patagonia extending  1,240km long.  This road is famous for it’s lack of transport, shops, petrol stations but more importantly for its stunning scenery of fjords, glaciers, steep mountains and lakes. Hitch hiking is a must here.
Trekking  through  Patagonia’s Glacier Exploradores. I hadn’t slept in 48 hours  yet I didn’t feel tired at all! This was an amazing day and the scenery was just jaw dropping.
A shell of myself at the end of the W trek (a solo 4 day mountain trek in Patagonia). I was freezing, starving and exhausted but my main memory still remains the mountains. Such a surreal place.
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Perito Moreno, Argentina. I vomited continuously at this glacier but gathered enough energy to take a few pics of this ridiculously pretty place. This day marked the beginning of my 6 week illness where I contracted a virus from drinking water from a river (in fairness I was asking for it).
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Cordero: Patagonia’s signature dish of barbecued lamb. This was a new’s years day feast where the lamb was covered in beer and barbecued for 6 hours. Without a doubt my foodie highlight of South America. This was like silk in your mouth I became quite barbaric eating this but it was a truly sensational. This was a perfect day eating cordero, drinking buckets of red wine and sunning ourselves in Ushuaia where it was surprisingly warm!
Worth the continuous vomit inducing up hill climb for this rainbow sunrise.  I do remember thinking will I ever get better or maybe this is the new reality for me. Vomiting while camping in Patagonia is a different level of rough. For 5 minutes I completely forgot about vomit and was blown away by a double rainbow and burnt orange sunrise.
Motorbiking from Salta to Cafayate (well not quite…sitting on the back taking photos!). This photo reminds me of two amazing things I got to do; experience couchsurfing and secondly get to motorbike around Northern Argentina (gracias Mati). I since became  a little bit obsessed with motorbikes and am now a proud owner of a Honda which is sitting in a random village in Brazil. Just another one of Ró’s genius travel decisions.
A harrowing experience exploring the mines in Bolivia’s Potosi.
Waiting for sunrise at Salar de Uyuni. Special special place.
Úna!! When your Mam travels solo to Bolivia and treats you like a queen. Memories of a lifetime.
This photo always makes me smile. I motorbiked to a peach festival in Cochabamba, Bolivia with a group of complete strangers.
Camping in Toro Toro’s National Park in Bolivia; home to thousands of dinosaur footprints. So cool!
Salkantay Trek; en route to see the main man: Machu Picchu
Gocta waterfall, the third highest in the world. It has been known to the locals for centuries but it was only in 2002 it was discovered by a German who noticed it on google maps . Crazy how many un discovered beauties are potentially still out there. This was definitely one of my Peruvian highlights and better still no body else was there! 
Successfully completing the Santa Cruz trek in Huarez in Peru.  Again from a very un-reliable source I was told this was a walk in the park and I would be fine solo. I was not……and spent the 3 day trek stranded on the Cordillera Blanca.  That being said this is home to the Paramount picture mountain so it had to be included as a highlight!
I will never forget snorkeling in the Galapogos Islands in Ecuador. Just incredible.  Everything about the Galapagos is a highlight.
Wild Galapagos Tortoise. Obsessed with these guys.
Seals doing what they do best; chilling. Isabella, the Galapagos.
Celebrating Colombia’s world cup with the locals. I made it onto Colombian radio for correctly predicting the match result (3-0 to Colombia V Poland). It insured free drink for myself and Nils for the  rest of the day!
Typical lunch scenes in Cartagena, Colombia
Picking up a hot German in an airport in Ecuador has definitely got to be a highlight! This is Nils, we met going to the Galapagos Islands and initially I hung out of him for his very efficient and organised travel itinerary. We shared left over lobster on our first date (the couple next to us where sending it back so I  controversially asked the waiter would he mind if we ate their left-overs). An uncomfortable yet perfect experience. I soon found out he was also pretty sound and we spent an amazing 8 weeks travelling around Colombia together.
Getting to play 5 aside football against the locals in El Rio, Colombia. The pitch was in the middle of the jungle doesn’t get more authentic than that.
Communa 13, Medellin, Colombia. Previously known as one of the most dangerous districts in the world.  It has since reformed itself  through art and music and stole my heart.
When you friends travel across the world to see you (and of course Colombia). For the first time in 9 months I was given new clothes, hair and make up and made feel female again!
The trip around the San Blas was incredible from the people, the culture and the food. I have never seen or experienced beaches like this. I doubt anything will ever compare. LOVED it.
Guanjuato’s (Mexico) local market. I creeped on this man for ages he seemed so content selling his tomatoes. I was always at my happiest when surrounded by food.
Cipriano; Serving the people of Real de Catorce (Mexico) with menudo. It is a horrendous concoction of sheep intestine and chilis. A must try while in Mexico. I spent the afternoon chatting to the 83-year-old who had never once left his home town and he couldn’t’ have been happier.
Camping in Real de Catorce, a small village built-in the middle of a desert. I befriended two dogs here Cookie and Cracker who I will never forget. The only way to access the village is through a 3 km tunnel. Cracker was hit by a motorbike as I was leaving the village trying to follow me. The loyalties of dogs is an amazing thing.
Cascada Tamul in Huasteca Potasina, Mexico. I hitch hiked to this place with a group of roudy retired Mexicans after a night camping in a random man’s house. My whole week in Huasteca Potasina  was a series of very dodgy (and exciting) adventures ( I won’t elaborate….).
Barancas de Cobre: Mexico’s hidden gem. I zip lined through the whole canyon. Myself  and Tim a man I picked up on the bus had the place to ourselves. Pictures will never justify this place. Without a doubt scenery wise, my favourite place in Mexico (and 3 times as large as the grand canyon!)
This picture speaks for itself. I love and relate to it.
One of the best things I ate in Mexico was this home made tortilla.  The woman grew her own corn, milled it and made fresh tortillas everyday.
Waking up to sunrise at Hierve del Agua in Mexico. I was told I was crazy to camp here alone…well I wasn’t alone, the restaurant lady lent me her three dogs who minded me for the night. The next morning I got to explore for hours before the tour buses came in their droves.  Skinny dipping beside a petrified waterfall without costing a penny has got to be a Mexican highlight.
El Chepe: One of the world’s most stunning train journeys located in Northern Mexico. Northern Mexico is known as being really dangerous so very few tourists come here and I was also advised against it. It was here where I left my passport in the fruit/veg aisle in a small supermarket. It was returned 24 hours later. Never judge a place based on other people’s opinions go and see for yourself.
Northern Mexico getting another shout out.  Myself and an Israeli chap motorbiked to Creel. Trying to to take this photo was extremely dodgy but totally worth it!
This is Rosa pre booze, a lovely lady from Creel, Northern Mexico.  This woman pestered me for ages begging for money to buy water. Obviously no one is going to deny an elderly woman water so I gave in. Moments later Rosa emerges with a bottle of tequila which she shared with me! (and yes tequila and water are the same price in Mexico).
Rosa post booze. Rosa is now perched in our bathroom and every time I pee I am reminded of the day I went boozing with one of the Northern Mexico’s biggest legends. Her face tells a thousand stories.

Some parting advice;

Don’t always take the easy option get on that bike, book that flight, step into the unknown and who knows what might happen you may even be lucky enough to pick up a hot German in the airport.  Life can pass us by in the blink of an eye so speak to that stranger, be open-minded and curious. Everyone has an untold story waiting to be heard.

Biking/Camping  through Northern Argentina

I completely get that hitchhiking, couch surfing and sleeping in tents isn’t everyone’s gig but it’s always good to put yourself out of your comfort zone every now and again (no need to be as extreme as me aka 8 weeks straight in a tent). The experiences you will have will be authentic, exciting and unforgettable. You think you can’t do it but you absolutely can!

Just maybe invest in a better tent than mine 😉 This was taken in Palenque in Mexico during a thunder storm (the sunglasses are just because of sleep deprivation). My Christmas present to myself was a tent and I it was the best thing I have ever bought even though we both looked constantly disheveled.

Money seriously comes and goes and ultimately can be replaced. Some of my happiest memories are when I didn’t have any. Material things are so un-important but memories will last forever. I know its v cheesy but it’s true. I became so much better at accpeting at dealing with things that got lost, broken and robbed and believe me there were a record amount of things.

Broke times while living in Cusco. I managed to be-friend a smelly hippy called Ekkie who taught me how to busk using a tambourine. Earned enough to buy an ice cream=success

The best thing I did on the trip? becoming fluent in Spanish. I will never forget Christmas was spent with a group of Chilanos who hadn’t a word of English and after everyone pissing themselves at my Spanish attempts I persevered and months later I landed myself a job in a hostel in Cusco and was able to lap away to every randomer who came through the doors in Spanish. Progress!! It’s hard work at the beginning but just power through it is so so worth it. The whole point about travelling is obviously seeing amazing places but for me it is more about connecting with the people. Doing both is a glorious combo.

Getting to talk to cute locals like this in spanish is really special

Life is a series of peaks and valleys and just like traveling  it is not always going to be Instagram perfect  but wherever you are living learn to live in the moment is the best thing we can do. No matter how grim, how cold, how tired or how fed up you are there is always a solution, put a smile on your face and power through. Even a 25 hour bus can have its up sides!  Some of my most challenging moments of the trip are now my best stories and fondest memories but at the time I clearly remember thinking I had hit rock bottom (sleeping in a cave alone is perfect example of this).

Low times in Santa Cruz. Getting stranded in the Andes in Peru is no laughing matter. Sleeping alone in a cave with a bunch of cow’s sounds worse than it actually was. As good as you would get in the Westbury.

A final thank you to all of the amazing people I met on the trip, the strangers who took me in, fed me, the couch surfing community and those who picked me up off the sides of the street. I am also so grateful to everyone who spared the time to read about some of my trip.Your comments and messages meant the world to me.

A huge apology for the stress I caused. Dom and Una; two saints who put up with my  loose travels.

This quote perfectly summarises  what travelling means to me

”Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain

‘We all have a little spark of madness we mustn’t loose it ‘ Robin Williams. Me, Magda, Iv and Sheldon Manuel in Merida Mexico. The most legendary couch surfing hosts.


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.

Cycle 10 minutes in Puerto and you will have the beach to yourself
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.

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

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.

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.

They even made me some lowpro tacos
The most delicious ceviche
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.

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.

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!

Crazy Fabian and randomer in the beautiful hostel’s pool
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.

Magical Mazunte
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.


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.

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.

The scene of the crime  where I lost my 23rd pair of sunglasses of the trip. Hairy Eyes are with the Pacific now
Mazunte had the most stunning coastal walks
Surfers paradise

Week 47: Oaxaca, Sierra Norte & Puerto Escondido. Mexico

The start of the week was pretty chilled and just spent eating, drinking and exploring lots of Oaxaca’s markets.

That facial expression when you have made a sale. This woman made beautiful carpets.
Getting lost in Mexican Markets
Getting dolled up for market day
Bargaining for onions
Shop till you drop

Oaxaca is a large city surrounded by the Sierra Norte mountains. I had read that something really unique and worthwhile doing was trekking between the indigenous villages in the mountains. I inquired about how to go about this and everywhere was saying you needed to take a tour. Generally speaking I hate doing tours not only from the money side of things but often I find them really contrived and you have no freedom to go at your own pace. Also, I am a sucker for a challenge.  I had read that you could actually go solo and just pay the entrance fee to each pueblo but info on this was lacking. Having not trekked in weeks I was dying for the adventure. I decided to resurrect the tent and after a lot of effort I eventually found a collectivo to take me to one of the indigenous villages. Needless to say I fell asleep on the bus, missed the stop and added an extra 8 km onto an already long trek. Anyway it was still gorgeous and it was so nice to be back in the crisp fresh air. I love cities and beaches but I would pick a mountain any day of the week.

The pine forests of the Sierra Norte

This area is covered in pine forests and is absolutely stunning and best of all un discovered. I started trekking and at the beginning it was fairly straightforward but a bit tough going with the heavy backpack. I got to the village where one of the guides told me there was an American couple trekking solo too and they were headed in the same direction as me and it would be safer to go together. The guide told me to wait 10 minutes for them but what he actually meant was they left 10 minutes ago so after waiting a half an hour I realised they were well and truly gone. So true to nature I headed off alone. It was a stunning route but there was no doubt it was a challenge.

Day 1 featured a lot of trekking through fields of maize
Maize for miles
There was the most stunning flowers in the Sierra Norte
Stunning red tipped cactus

There were multiple forks and several paths making it super easy to get lost (which I did on several occasions). At one point I walked for an hour in the wrong direction and ended up in a Man’s farmhouse (unfortunately Man was mia). I decided to turn around and luckily a gardener came running towards me, eccentrically happy to see me (the feeling was mutual). The indigenous people here speak a native language so their spanish is rusty at best.  It was really difficult to understand him. He told me the Americans were lost too and that to follow him and he would take me to them. Indigenous Man was super fit and I am not so he was literally sprinting and I was trying to keep up with him which proved v tough. He eventually put me on the right path and told me I had about 2 hours to reach the next village (so at my pace I was predicting 4 hours). After about 10 minutes I was lost again but luckily stumbled across the most amazing selection of wild mushrooms.

Picture perfect mushroom



The most insane  mushrooms

They have these little yellow signs indicating the route and naturally enough they have loads at the beginning and then they basically they become non-existent. Typically parts of the trek where you really need to see the yellow man he is nowhere to be found.

This little man was playing very hard to get during my trek in the Sierra Norte
Feeling fresh day 1

After about an hour I got back on the route pretty exhausted I dragged myself into the village just as the sun was setting. The climate here was completely different to the city of Oaxaca and pretty icy at night. I had planned on camping considering I had lugged tent and stove with me. The village I arrived at was called La Nevaria home to only 75 people so as you can imagine there is not much going on here.

No body gets left behind on the mountains

I was shattered and the cabana owner was really kind and told me it was too cold to camp and just let me stay in the most beautiful cabana for free (It had 3 double beds it and a wood fire). I inhaled dinner which was delicious.  To start we had  hot chocolate and sweet breads to follow homemade tortilla, steak, eggs, rice and heaps of picante to help us worm up. Glorious. I eventually tracked down the mysterious Americans and we had dinner together. I slept a glorious 10 hours that night. The next morning I was up and after a delicious breakie I was set for another days hiking. This was going to be a toughie as I needed to walk 30 km to make it to the next village. I had hoped I could tag along with the Americans but god love them they were puking their rings up (post frijoles) so I once again set off alone.

Foggy wake up calls from my Cabana
Imagine living here!

Day 2’s scenery was beautiful I was mainly in the secluded forest. I had it completely to myself and didn’t see a sinner. I got lost (obviously) but not as bad as the day before. I was  in bits  considering how out of shape I am. I was walking so slow the Americans caught up with me and even over took me they were flying it. As soon as the sun was setting I decided it was best pitch the tent in the forest as I couldn’t feel my legs. This was at about km 27. The scenery was so spectacular I wanted to enjoy it. So I camped in a beautiful area and had some dinner of stale bread and a rotten tomato not exactly gourmet but it did the job. One of the down sides of wild camping once it gets dark you have nothing to do and nowhere to go especially when flying solo. I happened to have the series Stranger Things downloaded on my phone and had heard it was v good. Probably the worst possible series I could have chosen while sleeping in a forest. It is a about a child who goes missing in the forest during a rainstorm. And true to nature a huge storm broke out and tent started to leak. The cherry on the cake was there was a local festival happening in one of the nearby towns where loads of bangers were going off ( sounds v similar to gun shots!). So I was v shook to say the least.  I got through the night and the next morning I set off for the village of Amatalan.

The most beautiful trees
Magical Pine forests; the smell was amazing
Very easy to get lost here

Amatalan is a really cool village with panoramic views of the mountains. About 200 hundred people live here. I had some breakie with a few other travelers who were also trekking solo. The Sierra Norte is so so big that none of us saw each other during the trek. So day 3 I decided to trek to another village and from their catch a collectivo back to Oaxaca. A local lad told me 1 hour max so this resulted in a 3 hour trek. At this stage my body was just about cooperating.  Predictably Mexican time estimations are a little bit ridiculous. I couldn’t find a bus so luckily enough I was able to hitchhike to a nearby village where I was brought back to Oaxaca. I was absolutely nackered but equally delighted with myself for exploring a very untouched part of Mexico. A beautiful challenging experience. I would highly recommend it to anyone going to Oaxaca.

Dreamy wake up calls in the Sierra Norte
I love these weird-looking trees
Breakfast was an apple tree beside my tent

I had the afternoon in Oaxaca before catching a night bus. Wandering around Oaxaca is the best you stumble across all sorts of random affairs. On this particular afternoon it was national maize day.  This consisted of hoards of Mexicans parading around dressed up as sweetcorn. Mexico are trying to protect their native maize.  It is extremely important as all of their foods are based on corn. Apparently there is a growing problem of GMO American maize coming into the country which is grown faster and therefore cheaper (and tastes awful!!!).  After this there was a huge protest for abortion rights in Oaxaca. Interestingly  in Mexico abortion is only legal in Mexico city in all other states it is still illegal.

10/10 for effort
It would be rude not to have an elote on national maize day
Oaxaca City campaigning to legalese abortion

That night I was booked onto the notoriously rough bus to Puerto Escondido. This ride was turbulent and extremely puke inducing. I miraculously held it in and arrived into the sleepy beach town of Puerto Escondido at 6 am. I went for breakie and then explored the nearby beaches and first impressions were excellent.

Feels after a night bus

The hostel was outside the main strip so was more chilled and close to the more secluded beaches. It was called Lomodeli and was excellent, amazing beds and the most gorgeous pool. It really was paradise. I made a great group of mates while I was there. That night it was one of the lads birthdays so cake and cornona were on the house. The next day I took a bike to one of the nearby beaches which was completely deserted. Back in the hostel while having a dip in the pool I made mates with a group of random Mexican men who were in Puerto for work. They invited for a seafood dinner saying it was on their work tab. So sound of them so we all had delicious prawns by the sea such a treat.  I ended up staying in Puerto way longer than expected as I think most people do. It is an addictive place that is very hard to leave. It is famous for its surfing waves but also its laid back chilled vibes and stunning beaches.

Playa Carrizalillo
Morning swims on an empty beach; Playa Carrizalillo
Playa Baranco
Seculded Sunsets on Playa Angelito





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!

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!

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!

Puebla has enough churches for every day of the year each more spectacular than the next
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.

Getting dressed up in a 60 year olds clothes to go to the theatre in Mexico
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.

I had to order two of these it’s that good
Chili en Negado is the stuff of dreams
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!!!!)

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.

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

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

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.

Imagine getting this dressed up to buy your meat
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.

Roasting goats for some tacos
Best business man in Oaxaca
Market day is the worst day of the week for these poor divils
Myself and Maria had breakie together; hot choccie and cinnamon buns
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.

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.

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

Calcified Pools


One of the many amazing places Oaxaca has to offer
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.

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


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.

The  stunning road to Batopilas
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.

The beautiful buildings of Batopilas
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.

The local talent of Batopilas
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.

Independence day ready Batopilas
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.

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.

Me at Divisadero’s Canyon
Me and Tim on one of the suspension bridges
Tim you legend!
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.

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

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

Children in El Fuerte getting ready for Independence day
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.

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.

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.

Having none of it
We cracked a smile (post booze)
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.

Chalupas: Traditional  tortillas in Puebla fried in tons of beef lard, spicy salsa and pork. SO HEALTHY
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


Week 44: Zacatecas, Chihuahua & Creel. Mexico

I was told that Zacetcas was a must visit while in Mexico. This is a gorgeous mining town home to where Corona is made so I didn’t have to think twice about coming here. I did couch surfing with a lad called Edgar who turned out to be a complete legend. On our first night we went for beers with his friends where I was introduced to the Mexican delicacy mescal (similar enough to tequila but nicer). I then had some tofu ceviche with the most spiciest piquante of my life. I ended up getting a migraine from it. It was outrageous stuff. Even the Mexican lads were in sweats. The next day Edgar took me to all of the street vendors  where we sampled lots of local Zacatecas dishes. We climbed up to the most stunning view points and hiked for the rest of the day. We then took a drive out to the mountains to watch sunset and to sample some surprise surprise tacos. These were in fact my best tacos to date. Delish.

Mexico in a nutshell: Tacos y Micheladas
View of Zacatecas
The sombrero on its second week (record!!)

Edgar was a complete gent. He was living with his parents and gave up his room for me. This guy has backpacked before so understood how precious a bed is while travelling. Edgar warned me about his two dogs one a German Sheppard and the other a poodle (quite the combo). Anyway he informed me both dogs were vicious and would probably bite my legs so I wasn’t allowed leave the room without protection. So if I needed the loo in the middle of the night I had to wake him up.  This was a bit of a disaster as I generally need the loo every morning at 4 am.

Edgar in one of Zacatecas’s caves
Stunning views of the valley
Trekking in Zacatecas

Anyway post tacos I wasn’t feeling the may west (at all!!).  I said good night to Edgar and prayed the feeling would pass. I felt so so guilty for waking his entire family but had no choice because of the dogs.  Anyway the night was a rough one and I was in ribbons. 4 am came and I felt violently sick, not wanting to wake Edgar/ not knowing if I would make the bathroom in time. I ended up frantically trying to empty my food bag to get sick into it. Food bag was conventionally ripped so sick ended up all over me and the floor. I then tried to do a tidy up job using some of my clothes. I was a little bit panicked/delusional that I ended up gathering up all the sick and putting it in my backpack. Delightful.

The delicious culprits

Anyway the next morning I felt marginally better and managed to eat some grapes and beans (probably the worst combo). I still hadn’t a chance to dispose of the sick monstrosity as it was steaming away in my backpack. Anyway after an excellent tour of Zacatecas myself and backpack full of sick made our way to bus terminal where I eventually managed to get rid of last nights evidence (including some of my clothes). Clothes supply is steadily decreasing yet weight  of backpack steadily increasing?! So once again not my finest moment but needs must. Thank you Edgar for a memorable few days in your gorgeous hometown.

I absolutely loved this church
Loved the colours
Beautiful squares in Zacatecas

Next stop was Chihuahua in Northern Mexico where a few people had warned me not to go because it is notoriously dangerous especially around the boarders with Narco trafficking. The reason I wanted to go here was because of the famous Copper Canyon ( crazily lots of Mexicans have never heard of this place). The journey here was nothing short of nightmare. So from San Luis  Potosi  I had organized a bla bla car. We planned to meet at an Oxxo shop (Oxxi is like the spars of Ireland). Anyway obviously I went to the wrong Oxxo and the driver just left without me. I waited desperately for an hour for him and eventually realized he was never coming. This was v dodgy because my flight was leaving in a few hours. I luckily managed to get the slowest possible bus. There was some serious mechanical difficulties from the get go and the bus crawled through the streets stopping every few minutes to check the engine. We were stopped on 4 different occasions by the police looking for our passports. It was a hideous journey that took 4 hours longer than expected. I had resided to the fact I would miss the flight.

Luck was on my side and we pulled into the terminal at 5.15 am so I got into an extortionatly priced taxi and told him to peg it to the airport. I get to the airport and ques were out the door. Stress was on a next level. Although long bus journeys are sick they are definitely less stressful than flying. I was allowed skip the que given the circumstances. It was no surprise when my backpack was announced overweight and I would have to pay. Obviously I insisted on wearing all my clothes/ sleeping bag and carrying my pot. I looked and felt like a hobo but who cares I managed to get myself and excess luggage through free of charge. I literally have no recollection of being on the plane but we landed in Chihuahua and my next task was to find a bus to the small village of Creel, 6 hours away.

I managed to hitchhike from the airport  where the man dropped me off at a massive supermarket. As per usual I got seriously overwhelmed and bought enough food for a small army. The man packing my groceries ended up dropping all of my tomatoes and stood on them (?). It was a sign of how stupid the shopping expedition was. The subsequent 40 minute walk to the terminal was hell on earth with the big family grocery shop and 25 kg backpack. Anyway en route a lad called Pedro felt sorry for me and carried my groceries to the terminal where I got the last seat on the bus. Things were looking up. Until…….the bus broke down. We were all told to abandon the bus and wait on the side of the motor  way for a new one. Trying to organize all my stuff was a nightmare and all of my food bags ripped. I was literally walking around the motor way with tomatoes, tins of tuna & sweetcorn,  a pot , a sleeping bag and a sombrero. An hour later I realized I had forgotten my entire back pack luckily I found bus man and it was retrieved. In fairness losing the big backpack wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world.  I am starting to look and feel more like my Uncle Joe as the days go by (not that that is a bad thing he is a legend). Delirium levels were reaching an all time high.


At this stage I had almost been travelling for 24 hours. When the new bus came I made mates with a chap called Guatalupe and the rest of the journey flew in (Guatalupe was also extremely delirious so we hit it off immediately). We arrived into pissing rain. I had planned on camping but considering the abysmal journey I treated myself to a room (this place is not touristy at all that no dorms exist). I was disheveled to say the least and was so grateful to have my pot, stove and abundance of food. I cooked up a mushroom pasta dish and a cup of barry’s teas in the room and k-od for the next 12 hours. The only other backpacker in town was an Israeli chap I met on the bus so we planned on going mountain biking the following am.

24 hours and still going……
Room service (backpacking style). To be fair the freshly ground pepper in luxurious

Luckily the weather was amazing the next day.  One of the must sees here is Valle de los Monjes. It is a formation of rocks where you can climb to the top and see the most amazing views of the nearby canyons. The place was deserted and we had it to ourselves. Definitely a highlight. It was clear the horrible journey was completely worth it.

Mirador at Valle de los Monjes
Valle de los Monjes
Me on top
I could look at this view for days

A personal favourite was valley of the mushrooms where they had loads of rock formations naturally shaped as mushrooms (v random).


There were mushrooms everywhere
Just  another mushroom

The next day myself and Eres rented a scooter and decided to visit the nearby Cusarare waterfall. This was a stunning drive and the waterfall was seriously impressive (and empty!). We met a local who showed us how to get up close to the waterfall. This was probably a bit dodgy but definitely worth it. Isreal wasn’t to keen on me driving the scooter but I insisted and loved every minute. One of the most spectacular drives I have ever seen.

Cascada Cusarare
From this point we saw a complete circular rainbow. 
Rainbows and waterfalls

Afterwards we decided to make the most of the scooter and venture to a nearby town that someone had recommended to me. Eres was getting really ancy with me when there was no sign of any village. I was delighted and really enjoyed the amazing scenery.  It was honestly jaw droppingly beautiful. We were getting slightly worried (Israel more so than me) as we were dangerously low on fuel and at the bottom of a canyon. Anyway we decided to turn around and managed to reach a tiny village near the waterfall where we figured we could get petrol. There wasn’t a dribble in the whole village. We definitely weren’t going to make it back to Creel. I got chatting to a lovely lad and  explained the situation and he suggested taking fuel out of his car. This worked a treat and he didn’t charge us a penny.

The drive…
Our shitty scooter just about making it out of the canyon
Operation get fuel!

En route home we stopped off at the most stunning lake to chill for a while. Eres is a professional spoon maker and is an expert at carving wood so that’s how we spent our afternoon.

Lake Arareco, Creel

That evening when I got back to my hotel I realised I had locked myself out.  I wasn’t too concerned and figured the hotel would have a spare key. There was no spare but there was a machete so the owner  without hesitation literally cut the door open without batting an eye lid. Only in Mexico!! My room was right beside the train tracks so anytime a train passed the room would shake violently. It was actually kind of scary as the hotel I picked  definitely wasn’t the sturdiest. Creel is an up and coming place and definitely in 10 years time will be different and presumably a lot more touristy.

Myself and Israel planned on making our way to a village called Batopilas the following morning. It is located at the bottom of the canyon. It takes 5 hours to reach by bus.

The indigenous people here were scared of tourists and kept running away from us
Bird shaped rock
Beautiful Creel

Week 43: Tamasopo, Xilitla, Sótano de las Golondrinas, Tamul & Naranjo (Huasteca Potosina). Mexico

An excellent start to the week with me finishing work and making my way towards Huasteca Potosina.  This is in central Mexico and home to hundreds of stunning waterfalls, lakes and caves.  Bla bla car is really popular here where you basically hitch a ride with someone headed in the same direction and pay them for petrol. My first bla bla car experience was excellent I met the loveliest guy Carlos who wouldn’t let me pay because it was his birthday and he was feeling generous. Another Mexican legend.

Day 1 was spent at Tamasopo’s beautiful waterfalls and rivers.

Tamasopo’s waterfalls
Swimming here was paradise

I found a random woman’s house where she let me pitch my tent for 2 euro. She was a bit icy but it did the job.  Dinner that night was in Don Julias’ house. Her are her 84-year-old mother are producing some of the most delicious food I’ve had so far.

Don Julia and her legend mother

Next morning was back to Don Julia’s for breakie. She was a little eccentric and spent the morning screaming at the customers and visa versa. It was great entertainment. Next stop was Puente de Dios a stunning natural water pool.

Puente de Dios
I had this place completely to myself
Huasteca has the most stunning colours

Next stop was Xilitila a subtropical rain forest in the middle of the mountains. This is home to the garden of Edward James. He was an eccentric character from the UK who built this crazy garden in the middle of the jungle. I spent hours here and it is a photographers dream. I had a delicious lunch in the town and to my amazement when I asked for the bill the waitress told me that a man had paid for me but was gone. I don’t think I have ever experienced a nicer/ more unexpected gesture. Some true gems out there.

Garden of Edward James
Amazing structures in the middle of the rain forest
This place is filled with the some stunning butterflies

I tried to make my way to Sotano de las Golondrina. This was a big challenge as it was completely off the beaten track and most people take a tour here. The main attraction is this really deep cave where at sunrise millions of swallows emerge. I managed to get a bus to a random village. I then hitch hiked to another village so things were looking good until I found out where I needed to be was 18 km up a mountain. I figured I could start walking and hopefully try to hitch hike not the easiest  task as it was getting dark. After about 1 hour walking I found this drunken man on the curb telling me he lived in the mountains and he was headed in the same direction. He said there was a jeep going up but the driver was in the pub so we just had to wait for him. Absolutely delighted! Eventually the lovely albeit very drunk Malachy arrived (jeep man). He started the bumpy journey up the mountain  and stopped twice en route for supplies of Corona. Malachy was getting progressively drunker by the minute but I was in no position to complain. He told me where I needed to go was another 4 km. He said he was in a great mood so he would drive me all the way. When we arrived I had no idea where to sleep but Malachy saving the day once again said I could pitch my tent in his mates garden.

Yuan filling up on chicken while waiting for the bus man to get his corona

I pitched my tent in Ceaser’s house. He was a lovely Mexican Man and had the most stunning view of the valley. He was pretty horrified when he saw my atrocious excuse of a tent.

Early wake up call to watch the swallows emerge from the cave

Ceaser had a similar swing to the one in Banos (Ecuador) the only difference it wasn’t a tourist attraction just for his own enjoyment. A highlight was getting pushed while watching sunrise. This was an incredible experience and one I had completely to myself. Moments like this always make me realise sometimes taking the more challenging route is so much more rewarding (although I definitely admit the tours are easier).

Home sweet home
Ceaser’s deadly house and swing
Sunrise swings

Husateca Potosina is not the easiest place to backpack with most people having cars or taking tours. It is a stunning place and completely worth the effort. En route down a tour bus asked me did I want a lift. Without hesitation I was on board a bus full of hilarious retired Mexicans. They invited me for a delicious breakie. They too were off to the famous Tamul waterfall. They insisted I tag along.  Cascada Tamul was out of this world  you have to take a canoe through beautiful caves to see the waterfall.

The crew
Obsessed with these boats
En route to cascada Tamul

During the boat ride the guy next to me was asking about my trip etc. He then asked where I had eaten lunch the previous day and it transpired this was the guy who had randomly paid for my food. Alex, a young guy from Mexico city said someone had done something similar for him in the past and when he saw me he thought I looked wrecked and could do with a treat. I couldn’t believe that we happened to meet each other and be on the same boat. As the saying goes it is a very small world. I was so grateful our paths crossed again. Alex good karma is on your way muchas gracias ( + the power bank is saving my life)!!!

Alex, Mexico’s kindest stranger
Cascada Tamul
Me and Miguel

That night I arrived into the village of Naranjo. I hate arriving to a new place in the dark especially when you’re looking for somewhere to camp. Not ideal at all. After some quick street food I tried to suss out somewhere to pitch the tent. The place was a bit of a ghost town with not even a taxi to be seen.  A few people pointed me in the direction of a camp site which was 2 km walk away. Instead I went to a nearby hotel to check could I pay to pitch my tent there figuring that would be the safest option.

I got chatting to a lad at the entrance who said he was the hotel owner. He said he had a spare room that wasn’t ready that I could have for the night free of charge. I couldn’t believe my luck. That soon changed when I realised that Fransisco wasn’t the hotel owner and  his intention was to share the room with me. Luckily there were two beds but it still felt a bit dodgy. Fransisco said he was going out to get tacos and that I would  have to let him back in because he had no keys (also a bit odd). At this stage I realised I had been completely stupid to accept the invitation and that he was quite clearly a funny fish.

When he was gone I left the room to try and find reception to see if I could pay for my own room but there wasn’t a sinner around. I honestly had no idea what to do or where to go. Francisco came back 3 hours later locked.  Naturally enough I didn’t sleep a wink. In bed I had my panic whistle and my pocket knife close at hand (just in case!). In the middle of the night he was hovering over my bed asking me was I was frightened of him. The obvious answer was YES but I just pretended to be asleep. I then started to hallucinate and genuinely thought there was another man in the room. Frightening stuff but still think it was just my imagination.  In these situations you always think the worst and I was convinced he had  me locked into the room but luckily at 6 am I made a dash for it and it was open.

A horrible night that I was extremely lucky to escape from.  I know that sometimes I am too trusting of people too quickly and on this occasion I put myself in un necessary danger. Completely stupid. I have been amazed about how generous, kind and helpful the Mexicans have been but obviously this doesn’t apply to them all. No matter where you go there will always be funny fish. I think Fransisco was harmless enough just a bit of a looser. Lesson learned.

Later in the morning I took a taxi to the nearby waterfalls Micos. Another set of stunning waterfalls with barely anyone here because  it was a Monday. I camped out here for a few hours I met a lovely American family who ended up giving me a lift to the next set of waterfalls Minas Viejas.

Mica’s waterfalls
Swimming here was pretty divine

Minas Viejas was practically empty which was great but not exactly great when trying to leave the place. When it came to leaving I started to walk the 6 km down the mountain when luckily a police van kindly stopped and drove me the rest of the way. Even better, the police were super sound they set up a check point where they stopped every passing car until they found someone to take me back to San Luis Potosi.  Absolute legends.

Minas Viejas
The most amazing ducks
Mirrador Minas Viejas

After successfully finding a couple to bring me home I was so relieved and my faith in Mexicans had been firmly restored. I gave the couple money for petrol so grateful for the lift. Once they got their money they said they couldn’t bring me any further and left me out in the middle of the motorway. I still had another 200 km to go. A disaster. I saw a bus pass, flagged it down and begged the bus man to let me on but he refused saying I needed a ticket. Things were looking really grim and I had no idea what to do as the sun was setting in. I started to hitch hike with no other option and prayed someone would stop before it got dark. That’s when Jose stopped the kindest Mexican Man. He wasn’t going my direction but insisted on driving me to a nearby town where I could safely get a bus.

En route we had some laugh and we stopped for delicious tacos (complements of Jose). I ended up getting a parting gift of a sombrero and an apple and Jose insisted on paying for my bus ticket. A true gent. I eventually got onto the bus and made it back to San Luis in one piece.

Two lifesavers!

Huasteca was an adventure to say the least and although I probably took the more challenging route I loved it and met some amazing people. This part of Mexico is relatively untouched by backpackers during my week there I didn’t see one foreigner  just Mexican families. Highly recommend it!

Week 41 & 42: San Luis Potosi. Mexico

I volunteered in hostel Sukhe for the past 2 weeks so it was a quiet one. There is not a whole lot going on in San Luis except for a ridiculous amount of churches. It’s v v holy but the perfect place to do absolutely nothing and that’s exactly what I did. A significant time was spent watching netflix. Luis Miguel is a hero in Mexico; a famous singer. The netflix series is a must watch I’m addicted. Highly recommended!

Historical centre of San Luis Potosi
Lovely evening light in San Luis
Love the colours of this church

Naturally enough my first night on the job was a bit of a disaster. It was a Saturday so everyone went out so I was left in charge of the hostel (the owner fecked off to Texas without telling anyone).  At 1am a lad started banging down the door saying he had a reservation. A girl in the hostel was convinced the guy outside was trying to rob the place. Apparently the same guy had tried to rob the hostel a number of times in the last couple of days. Naturally enough I was freaked out and had no idea what to do but I let him in any way not knowing what else to do. He seemed a little dodgy but harmless enough. He told me 3 of his mates were en route and they would be arriving at 3 am. Absolutely fantastic so I went to bed with the doorbell and safe. I got the fright of my life when the other 3 lads rocked up (very punctually at 3am) with a broken down car being rolled down the street. I was convinced it was stolen. I quizzed them a bit to try to ascertain were they dodgy or not.  I didn’t sleep a wink afraid of god the place was going to be fleeced. Luckily nothing happened  and I actually felt quite bad considering the icy reception I gave the lads. They were all off to a wedding the next day. Anyway after a few cold beers we were all friends again.

Jose, me, Roberto and Paula, hostel sukhe

That same morning I went to clean the terrace were I found 4 drunk men offering me beer. They definitely weren’t staying in the hostel and still have no idea where they came from so extremely dodgy. All in all a rough introduction to hostel work. Thankfully things chilled out after that.

Yet another church
Leonora Carrington museum
Leonora Carrington museum

One of the guys I was working with sadly explained to me that his cousin had cancer and desperately needed blood. In Mexico the system is really bad  in order to get blood you need to recruit your own donors and if not you  pay. So alarms set for 5am myself and Jose went to the hospital to donate. It was an experience in itself seeing the operation of a Mexican hospital. There were ques out the doors and we had to wait a mere 4 hours to donate. Poor Jose wasn’t eligible because he got a tatoo 2 years ago. It was worse than the Spanish inquisition  as I was being question by the iciest doctor. They made us feel like criminals and were actually really mean. They were very concerned about the fact that I was a dietitian and almost wouldn’t let me donate because of it. The Doctor told me in Mexico if you work in a hospital you can never give blood because of all of the infections. Another interesting difference is you’re not allowed eat before hand. This was hell because of the waiting time and the waiting room is located right beside the restaurant ideal.  Apparently it’s because there would be too much fat in your blood? Afterwards myself and Jose had the most delicious gorditas for breakfast and came back to the rooftop terrace in the hostel for a few well deserved whiskey and cokes. I was delighted to have been able to donate and wish Jose (the patient’s name too) the best and hope he recovers soon.

Whiskey and cokes on Sukhe’s roof terrace

Definitely one of my favourite activities is people watching and just wandering aimlessly around the chaotic markets of Mexico. I love talking to all the vendors and most of them are delighted to lap away especially Mexicans they are the best.  Mexico’s markets are probably the most random I have ever encountered with plenty Jesus’s, skulls and dolls sprawled around the place.

Your average feature in any Mexican Market
Would you like a heart?
Cow’s Stomach the main ingredient for Mexico’s famous Menudo soup (minging)
These type of tortillas are traditional to San Luis
This fella has been selling chillies and spices his whole life in San Luis’s Mercado
There are over 150 different types of Chillis in Mexico
One of the cutest Mexican ladies selling tortilla makers
Mexico’s famous Tortilla makers
If you don’t want to make your own Tortillas you can always buy them from some of the excellent Tortillarias
Another typical feature in any Mexican market
Hard to understand how there is a market for these….

I met some amazing people during my time in San Luis. So with batteries fully recharged Ró is back on the road and heading to Northern Mexico. Wish me luck!!

Me  after 10 months of backpacking!

Week 40: San Luis Potosi & Real de Catorce. Mexico

I decided I wanted to do some volunteer work to relax and recharge the batteries.  I thought I was going to the mountains but obviously didn’t do a tap of research and ended up in one of Mexico’s most religious towns; San Luis Potosi. Trying to make the most of my time here I figured I could volunteer in a restaurant to get some experience. I had looked up cookery courses but they were working out really expensive. So I thought this was an excellent way at getting free food, free cookery classes and a chance to improve my Spanish that was until I met Regina…..

One of the many churches in San Luis Potosi

I looked up on my lonely planet authentic Mexican restaurants and Cafe Pacifico was top of the list so with no deliberation I decided to give it a go. I was interviewed on the spot by owner Yuan. Trying to explain myself in Spanish was a bit of disaster. He was more obsessed with the fact I was travelling solita. He finally agreed and said I would be safer in the kitchen than on the streets! Anyway I wasn’t arguing and we agreed I would start the following day at 9am. I was absolutely delighted with myself and really excited to learn about Mexican cuisine. My excitement was short-lived when I met Regina, the head chef. I tried to introduce myself  the response was just a grunt. She was the type of woman who looked 70 but was actually 50. She made it quite clear she was pissed off having me there. I tried to be as positive as possible which pissed her off even more.My first job was to cut a couple of hundred chilis. My hands were on fire for the rest of the day and subsequently my eyes (and other body parts!).

Regina may as well have been speaking Hebrew that’s how impossible it was to understand her Spanish. She would shout random words at me one of which being ‘pollo’ repeatedly. The girl doing the dish washing translated for me saying that  I actually needed to boil 50 chicken carcasses (delightful). This was a disaster as I ended up dropping one of the carcasses by slipping in  a puddle (I’m blaming my cheap Colombian shoes on that one). There was blue murder when she witnessed the chicken incident. Regina regularly commented about how slow a worker I was! Progress was made later that day when Regina asked me how old I was and asked me if the soup needed any more salt. I said no it was perfect and subsequently a fistful of salt was lashed in!

I will say one thing I was impressed with Regina’s stamina. The woman was as thin as a rack and told me she didn’t really like eating. In fairness to her although she was like a demon the Woman worked like a trooper and watching her made me dizzy. She has worked in Cafe Pacificio for almost 35 years so I completely understand why she didn’t want me lurking around the place. The hygiene standards left a lot to be desired with raw fish, chicken and vegetables all  being chopped on the same boards (naturally). A lump of meat fell on the floor and was just thrown back into the pan with the rest of it.  It was incredible nobody took a break  during the day.  I was literally about to keel over with tiredness that I kept pretending I needed the loo just so I could sit down. These women work like machines and get paid pittens. Serious respect especially for the dishwashers. They never once complained and had one of the toughest jobs.  It brought me back to my days working on the belt in the MPH except for the minus craic. I had agreed 2 weeks work with the owner but after that hellish day I happily through in the towel after day 1 and said Hasta Luego. Raging I don’t have a photo of Regina but it was too risky she probably would have cut off my fingers!

It turns out the hostel didn’t actually need me to work for a few days so I decided to make the most of the free time and go to Real de Catorce. This place is incredible and not like anything I’ve seen before. It previously had a population of 40,000 because of the silver mines in the surrounding hills. Once mining declined the population dropped to almost zero. It is famous now with the hippy population who come here searching for Peyote. Peyote is a hallucinogenic cactus (not my kinda gig). The village is built-in a high mountain valley located in the middle of the desert.

Hippy Central
This view was just above the place where I pitched my tent

The only way to get into town is through this incredible 2 km tunnel. It feels like your going through a mine with only one car able to pass at a time. A lot of miners were sadly killed during the building of this tunnel.

Trust cocoa cola to be found in the middle of the desert

I decided to camp here because the scenery was spectacular and accommodation was v expensive. I know I promised to put the tent in the bin but I figured one last outing wouldn’t hurt. I instantly befriended the most adorable dogs; Cracker and Cookie. There was no one else camping which is always a little scary especially during the night. But I knew I was in good hands with my new dog friends. My tent and sleeping bag were still wet/sandy from the camping expedition in Panama. It was a stunning afternoon so I left them out to dry and explored the town.

Typical buildings in Real de Catorce
Local lad just having a sit
Entrance to the local church

Myself, Cookie and Cracker went for a few beers. We were then joined by Iv, a Mexican friend I made on the bus. Iv was a gem and brought me all the freebies from her lovely hotel like fruit, yogurts and shampoo. She completely gets the backpacking life. Iv it was lovely meeting you and I will see you in Merida. We went wandering around the town to find somewhere for dinner when  a massive thunder-storm broke out. It actually took me ages to realise that I had left my tent open and my sleeping bag was outside ‘drying’. Disaster!

Doesn’t look the prettiest but does the job (kind of)

Dinner was as authentic as it gets in a local Woman’s kitchen. I went for the enchiladas de los mineros, a local delicacy and a cafe oyelo. It is coffee sweetened with some natural plant. Iv went for the reliable gortditas.

This summarises Mexican dining in one

That night was always going to a rough one. The winds were incredible and I thought the tent was going to blow away. Both of us were looking a little worse for wear but we made it through a sleepless wet night. I was greeted by Cracker and Cookie full of the joys of life waiting outside my tent. The three of us set off together to get some breakie. I had planned on trekking into the desert into one of the nearby towns. It was stunning and Cracker and Cookie decided they were game and tagged along.

Walking to Estacion
Some of the views along the way
Desert style graffiti

We lost Cracker along  the way poor fella was beefed and had to go home. Myself and Cookie made it to the pueblo where naturally enough there was nothing to eat. We were both starving. All that was on off offer was stale bread, beer and water. So that’s exactly what was on the menu. Cookie looked as if I had given him a T-bone steak.  After our feed we made our way back up the dreaded hills.

Cactus at every corner
The most delicious tuna fruit
A very drunk Caesar and the legendary Cookie having a beer

En route back Cookie was in a heap and ran toward any shade he could find. We ended up taking about 3 siestas and plenty of breaks in between until we crawled back into the town and went to the only open restaurant.

Trekking to Estacion
Cookie full of beans trekking around Real de Catorce

We caught the tail end of a storm so we were both freezing. I ordered Menudo what I thought was a rich vegetable soup turns out it was quite the opposite. It was a very typical Mexican dish of cow’s stomach. It was Cookie’s lucky day I  wasn’t able to stomach the soup (if you will pardon the pun) so Cookie got to finish the goods after I requested a doggy a bag!!!

Minging Menudo aka cow’s stomach soup

I got chatting to Sipriano, the restaurant owner. He was most entertaining albeit extremely deaf. We were both essentially screaming at each other in very bad Spanish. We definitely  scared a few customers off. After some cafe oyelos myself and Cookie made it back to the tent absolutely beefed. A fab day with the best company.

Catalina was very proud of her food ( and rightly so)
Sipriano an 83-year-old Mexican messer

After another sleepless night I was awoken by Cracker and Cookie sniffing out my tent. The three of us set off for a breakie of gortditas and a mosie around the stunning town.

The stunning town of Catorce
Central Plaza

To get the bus back to San Luis I had to make my way through the 2 km tunnel the issue was Cracker and Cookie hadn’t left my side in 3 days. I tried to say my goodbyes to them urging them not to follow me but to no avail. The tunnel is narrow and pitch black so I was worried for them. Afraid of missing the last bus I hadn’t much choice but to go through. I tried to keep the dogs safe but all of a sudden a motorbike came out of no where and ran over Cracker. I starting screaming at the motorbike as Cracker was still under his wheels as he kept driving. Words can’t describe this asshole. Miraculously Cracker was ok and just had a big chunk taken out of his coat. He immediately sprinted out of the tunnel shaking with the fright. We all followed to see was he ok. I figured the bus could wait. We went for corn on the cob to settle the nerves. I had no idea how I was going to leave Real de  Catorce without adopting two  new furry friends.

Cookie the amazing survivor!

Luckily I found a bus going through the tunnel. Cracker and Cookie desperately tried to get on the bus with me until they were kicked off. It was really emotional and I could hear them crying from inside the bus. After about 20 minutes we arrived at the other end of the tunnel to transfer onto the main bus to San Luis. To my amazement who was waiting excitedly for me outside but Cracker and Cookie. I still have no idea how they made it through the tunnel that quickly. It was so sad and I pleaded with the bus man to take him back to the town safely. Bus man agreed…..

Leaving Real de Catorce
Trekking through Real de Catorce
Always time for a bit of bird watching

I was so sad on the bus and really worried about Cracker and Cookie’s safety when the Man next to me kept tapping my shoulder and pointing out the window. Who do I see but Cracker and Cookie sprinting after the bus.  This went on for a solid 15 minutes until the bus stopped to pick up an auld one. The dogs made one final attempt to get back on the bus until angry sombrero man kicked them off with his walking stick. It was heart breaking stuff. These were without a doubt the most loyal dogs I have ever met.  I felt like I was in a movie. I absolutely loved Real de Catorce it was such an authentic experience but it was Cracker and Cookie who made it so special.

Saying our goodbyes (Cracker)
Cookie my best travel buddie in 10 months

Week 39: Mexico City, Guanajuato & San Miguel. Mexico.

My first stop was notoriously dangerous Mexico city. I was delighted to meet Chloe, a friend from Dublin who is traveling for 13 weeks and we happened to pass through Mexico city at the same time. Things were off to a rough start when a lovely Mexican lad found my passport on the floor in the middle of the airport. It had fallen out of the hood of my hoodie ?? Like who knows anymore.

I arrived in the middle of the night to a lovely hostel called (El hostel Massiocare). The whole hostel is based on the 4th floor of a building and had an amazing rooftop, kitchen and people. The walk up the stairs is the most exercise I have done in weeks! Myself and Chlo just spent our first day catching up on the last 10 months over way too many g and t’s. It was perfect. Thanks Josh for the donation of a bottle of bombay. It went down way too easily. The next day we did a free walking tour around the city where we ended up adopting another Irish guy Dave, who is also traveling for 1 year. The guide wasn’t the best but handy to be brought to all of the hot spots. My sense of direction isn’t the may west so suited me down to the ground.

People watching in Mexico City

Unfortunately, I had a rough Mexican introduction. While eating delicious tacos in Mercado San Yuan 400 euro was robbed from my bag. I have no idea how but apparently they are experts at it, especially in Mexico City. To date on this trip I have lost/ been robbed a record amount of things. But on this occasion I was surprised as I’m generally really careful with my money bag. I know stupid carrying that kind of cash but I had just come from the atm.  400 euro is a huge amount of money when traveling especially when you have been slumming it in tents for the past few weeks. But money comes and goes and you have to forget about these type of situations. I’m just grateful I wasn’t attacked and that the tacos were delicious. No matter what happens things could always be worse.

Bloody tacos
Central Plaza Mexico city
Just your standard post office. GPO hasn’t got a patch on this lad.
Mexico’s beautiful buildings

So later that day Elizabeth (our Aussie friend from the hostel) and Dave had bought tickets to go see the band Interpol (never heard of them but apparently they are v good). They bought the tickets from vendors on the street as it was booked out online. Both huge music fans were v excited. We had a few pre-drinks on the hostel’s roof terrace before the gig. Half an hour later they both rocked back laden down with wine turns out the tickets were fakes!! So all in all an expensive day for everyone involved. We all drowned our sorrows listening to Interpol on Elizabeth’s phone while drinking too much wine. Very grim but quite amusing all the same. If you don’t laugh you will cry. Interpol are coming to Dublin in November so that might be on the cards.

Amazing murals, Mexico city

Next day was to be a cultural one. Generally speaking I’m not the biggest lover of museums and tend to avoid them. My attention span wouldn’t be great and I get bored quite easily. However, on this occasion Chlo had booked to go see Frida Kahlo’s house, a famous Artist in Mexico who was married to Diego Rivera (another famous artist). They are legends in Mexico and of course I had never even heard of them. Ever the organizer Chloe had booked tickets online otherwise you que for 3 hours!

Viva la Vida never a truer word
Frida’s studio in her original house

Anyway it did not disappoint and it was really interesting learning about her life and seeing where she grew up. She was definitely an eccentric, unique and talented lady. Frida is so famous over here that wherever you turn there is a restaurant or hotel named after her. There is also a movie made after her featuring Salma Hayak which is worth a watch.

Frids Kahlo

Afterwards we made our way to the Sumaya museum ( two in one-day serious over). We mainly wanted to go to the Sumaya Museum just to see the building itself. It was incredible and I felt like I was in New York.

Museo Sumaya
Gates of hell, Museo Sumaya

It was so nice catching up with friends from home and a welcomed break from the usual travel small talk of ‘where are you from’, ‘where have you been’ and ‘where are you going’. I love meeting randomers and never knowing who you are going to meet or what kind of experience you’re going to have. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to make an effort and speak in drunken Irish and reminisce about home. Chlo it’s been fantastic and enjoy the rest of Mexico.

Elizabeth, Chlo and myself at Frida’s gaf

My next stop was a place called Guanajuato which claims to be one of Mexico’s most beautiful towns and you can clearly see why. For centuries it was one of Mexico’s wealthiest cities because of its mines. It is made up of tumbling hills and colourful architecture. It was absolutely stunning and definitely a place I could see myself living in. I did couch surfing with a 23-year-old Mexican called Ricardo. I couldn’t have been luckier and he was so nice to me. I had my own private room with a double bed ( unheard of nowadays). On my first night he gave me a tour of the historical centre.

Historical centre of Guanajuato at night
Guanajuato was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998
Main Plaza Guanajuato
Guanajuato’s University

We tasted some traditional street food of tamales ( steamed maize stuffed with cheese and spices) and champurrado (hot drink made out of chocolate, maize and cinnamon). Delish everything here has so much flavour. I am as happy as a pig in shit with all of this glorious street food.

Ricardo has 3 business’s on the go; he owns a pharmacy, sock company and invests in property and he is only 23!!!Quite the combo. Way to make you feel inadequate my most valuable asset is my broken tent!!

Funicular to mirador Pipila

The next day I went exploring on my own checking out the markets, buildings and amazing viewpoints of the city. Later that evening I met up with Ricardo where we went to an Art Exhibition of one of his friends. This was a fancy affair with everyone dolled up to the 99’s. I felt and looked like someone who was just picked off the side of the street (which I kind of was).

Local vendors in the Mercado Hidalgo
Getting lost in Mexican markets
People watching in Mercado Hidalgo

It was an excellent night where I had a lesson on how to speak Mexicano (mainly just learning how to curse). I was then introduced to Guanajuato’s best tacos. These were next level with homemade taco shells , bbq chorizo, spicy salsa and salad. Eating them off the bonnet of cars was just what I imagined Mexico’s street food to be like. I really like spicy food since working with a Mexican in Cusco, Brenda. I realise there is spice and then there is Mexican spice!! Nothing an ice-cold corona can’t fix.

Mexico’s street food
All of this for €1.50

That night a gang of Ricardo’s mates came back to the house. They were all really intrigued about hurling so we all sat down to watch some while drinking barry’s tea. Couldnt have felt more Irish. I had an amazing couch surfing experience and love the local and authentic experiences you have when you do it. That is why I travel after all. Money can’t buy these type of experiences and I would recommend couch surfing to everyone.

I’ve said it before when something bad happens something good is just around the corner and that was the case here. My faith in Mexicans has been fully restored. Myself and Ricardo will hopefully meet in Japan for the rugby world cup. Ricardo has great taste with a Leinster rugby ball hanging proudly on his mantel piece.

Mexico’s colourful houses
Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is
The locals

After saying my goodbyes to Ricardo I headed towards another gorgeous colonial town called San Miguel de Allende. It claims to be even nicer than Guanajuato and is described as hauntingly beautiful in all the guidebooks. It is popular amongst American tourists with lots of money. This place is dolla dolla bill. It is stunning but almost too good-looking for me. When someone is that good-looking it is almost intimidating. I preferred the more rustic feel of Guanajuato. Still, a stunning place to pass the day.

Just your standard church

I just spent the day there eating ice cream, quesadillas and gorditas. So gorditas kind of remind me of pita breads but are made out of maize. They are stuffed with beans, spicy salsa and whatever meat is going. For 50c they are the bees knees. Everything is completely fresh and made right on front of you.

San Miguel’s stunning streets
Not over the top at all

My next plan of action is to travel further north to San Luis Potosi where I am going to work in a hostel for the next 2 weeks. Looking forward to having a base for a while and a much-needed break from the backpack and buses !!