I woke the next morning with a hangover. Not surprising at all, so I had a slow, sleepy day. James and Angie decide not to go to Cancun. They had intended to spend 4 days together up there before he left but change their minds and stay on in Tulum. Big mistake as tonight becomes another party farewell night. How long I can keep this up for I don’t know so this night I stuck to drinking 7up. The party and singing rocked again till the wee small hours. Hell this place goes through some alcohol and Kodak is getting lots of attention especially when he is standing on beer bottles half the night.
Having a night off from the alcohol was a good idea because the following day Duncan and I go to Akumal all day snorkelling. It was great. We watched turtles feeding, saw barracuda and parrot fish and an array of others. Even though I don’t have a divers certificate I still thoroughly enjoy snorkelling. The water is just so clear that you get to see everything anyway, however it would be a big advantage when it comes to the cenotes as they have underground tunnels that connect them. The Yucatan Peninsula has some wonderful things to offer and cenote diving is a big tourist earner. I have always loved the outdoors and sun and I could live here. So its farewell night AGAIN!! This place is going to kill me, but you only live once, so I am back into it again. Heaven help me in the morning.
Everyday there are bus loads of tourists that come from Cancun for a day trip to the Tulum Mayan Ruins and others that hire vehicles and just come for the day also. This does make Tulum uncrowded and the locals like it this way. The hotel is near full all the time and with the hostel over the road each night sees a different crowd of people ready to party. A wicked hangover hits me the next morning and its not until 3pm that I head to the beach for some sun and snorkelling again. When I get back and spot James and Angie I know exacactly what’s on the agenda tonight. Talk about being a tiger for punishment, fun though! Somehow, lying there in the hammock on some of those mornings, with a hangover, I have managed to get more writing done. The bar staff come out every half hour and top my water glass up and all are very interested in the fact that the El Crucero Hotel is someday going to be in print for people to read about. And lesson 2 about the Mexicans and Mayans. They generally don’t like each other. Alot of Mexicans can understand them when they talk in their own language bit cant speak it themselves. In between everything else that I am doing I have managed to get online and sort out an appointment in Mexico City with the New Zealand Embassy to get papers signed so I can get a new drivers license. Mine was stolen in Ecuador when my bag was done over. Getting this done will be good as my Mum has a friend coming to London so she can bring my new one with her when she comes over and by this time I will be in London myself. Tonight is yet again ‘party night’. By now I am almost begging for James to leave. I have nick-named the hotel the ‘ Hotel California’. You can check in but you can never leave. After another drunken night I find that by 11am the next day that James and Angie have left. Thank god, all this alcohol is just about to poison me. (I’m not complaining really).
Each morning when I have been getting up everyone has been asking what day I am moving on, but now they have stopped asking. I am enjoying it to much here and figure I might as well stay as long as I can. Staying at the hotel is Arjoh from the Netherlands. He and I got talking one night and today have teamed up and are going on a day trip to Chichen Itza.
You can catch a bus from the local station which does day trips. We stop off at a few towns on the way but it is only to pick up people for Chichen Itza. Its a few hours drive. When we arrive it is raining so Arjoh and I buy a plastic overcoat. Chichen Itza is packed with people. Arjoh and I head off with a map. Its not long before our shoes are soaking. Then the rain clears off and it is stinking hot and humid. Chichen Itza is fascinating. This place was huge in its day. I was a little disappointed that we were not allowed to climb the pryimads any more. Unfortunately a women from California woman fell to her death in 2006. I managed to somehow get a photo of the biggest one with out a tourists in the frame. Belive me, not easy to do.
The Temple of Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent God (also known as Quetzalcoatl to the Toltecs and Aztecs) is the largest and most important ceremonial structure at Chichen Itza. The pyramid was used for religious and ceremonial purposes. The ninety-foot tall pyramid was built during the 11th to 13th centuries directly upon the foundations of previous temples. The architecture of the pyramid encodes precise information regarding the Mayan calendar and is directionally oriented to mark the solstices and equinoxes. Each face of the four-sided structure has a stairway with ninety-one steps, which together with the shared step of the platform at the top, add up to 365, the number of days in a year. Something that has always intrigued me and the fact that the Mayan calendar ends 21st Dec. 2012. Wow! Chichen Itza. How do I tell you about it all. I cant really. You have to go there for yourself to appreciate this place.
Theres pyrimads, serpent heads, two cenotes they would through people in to sacrifice them to the gods, baths, and the most interesting for me was the long acoustic field or more commonly called the Ball Court. This is where you have two great walls either side, it is about 75mts long, and someone can stand at one end and someone stands at the other end and you don’t have to raise your voice or yell in order for them to hear you. It was however used for a ball game. The Maya also built sophisticated and highly decorated ceremonial architecture, palaces and observatories apparently without the use the wheel. They were highly skilled potters, weavers, sculptors and jewellers. They developed an extensive trade network through the jungles and along the eastern and western coasts of Yucatan and Central America. Through these trade networks they were able to obtain resources from distant areas such as obsidian from central Mexico and gold from Central America. Northern Yucatan is arid, and the interior has no aboveground rivers. The only sources of water are the natural sinkholes called cenotes. Some of these are small, while others are large such as the two at Chichen Itza.
Of the two Chichen cenotes, the larger, the “Cenote Sagrado” or Sacred Cenote, is the more famous. According to post-Conquest sources (both Maya and Spanish), the pre-Columbian Maya threw sacrificial objects and human beings into the cenote as a form of worship to Chaac, the Maya rain god. When archaeologists dredged the Cenote of Sacrifice, they found various types of offerings, including jade carvings, pottery, gold and silver artifacts and even human skeletons. The cenote was also considered by the Maya to be an entrance to the underworld and it is believed that the sacrificial victims were venerating Chac Mool by entering this underworld.
The Observatory at Chichén Itzá is called El Caracol (or snail in Spanish) because it has an interior staircase that spirals upward like a snail’s shell. The first structure was probably built during the transition period of the late 9th century and consisted of a large rectangular platform with a stairway on its west side. A round tower of about 48 feet high was built atop the platform, with a solid lower body, a central portion with two circular galleries and a spiral staircase and an observation chamber on the top. Later, a circular and then a rectangular platform were added. The round, concentrically-vaulted Caracol was built and rebuilt several times during its time of use in order to calibrate its astronomical observation capacity. The windows in the Caracol point in the cardinal and subcardinal directions and are believed to enable the tracking of the movement of Venus, the Pleiades, the sun and the moon and other celestial objects. One main thing I noticed about the cenote here is that the water was very green. I wasn’t able to find out why. All the rest I have seen are so clear and considering they are all contented by underground streams I couldn’t work why this one was green. (Some of the material from above has been taken from the following website.
I suggest you have a read of this for more facts and figures.) I will let my photos do the talking for the rest of this page. I have found that sites like this that totally grab my imagination are very hard to write about. They are simply one of those things you have to see and experience for yourself. I am grateful that I have. Now I can tick Chichen Itza off my list! http://www.sacredsites.com/americas/mexico/chichen-itza-facts.html
The next day I go snorkelling at the ‘Dos Sojos’ cenote. This was an organised tour as it is the only way you can do this cenote. Other cenotes in the region you can just arrive and pay at the gate and stay all day if you wish. I don’t stay in the cenote for very long, about a ½ hour. The water is very cold and I don’t have much body fat to keep me warm. That doesn’t make the experience any less enjoyable though. I love it. On this trips there where around 15 people from all over the world. Im sure the water here is the clearest in the world. (must google that actually and find out).
When I get back to the hotel I find that Arjon has moved to the hostel, but Garth from London, is still here. He arrived a few days ago and we get on really well. With all the farewell parties over for James, tonight is a quiet one in the bar and I could have a conversation without having to yell. Following day sees me spend hours at the beach and in the evening I make a call back to New Zealand. I get to talk to all the family. They were celebrating my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It was great to hear everyones voice. I hadn’t spoken to all of them in months.
With all the cenotes that are within a short distance of each other I have decided to snorkel as many of them that I can so when Duncan asks if I want to spend the afternoon at ‘Casa Cenote’ I don’t hesitate. Duncan, Garth, Elana, (French) and I head off after lunch for a 10 minute drive up the road. This cenote is above ground. All the others are down in a hole. What makes this one different again is apart from being above ground, it comes out in the sea. After snorkelling the cenote up around the corner and coming back we then walk over the road and onto the beach to snorkel over the holes where it comes out in the sea. Boy this is where you really notice just how cold the cenote water really is! You swim through it and get warm and cold patches and it looks like clear oil trying to mix with water. It bubbles up from holes from 1ft across to the biggest hole which was about 20ft across. From here we also went right out to the reef and watch turtles feeding and spotting all manner of other fish. The coral along this reef is just as colourful as the fish to. Pink, purple, lime green, blue, red….the colours of the rainbow…. wow!
Two days later Garth and I spend over 2hours snorkelling along the reef again. Cant seem to get enough of it. Garth is leaving tomorrow but this place has captured him and he intends to return again oneday. I know that I will also be back. Two days later I am back snorkelling at yet another cenote with an organised tour. The next night I get on the internet and book a hostel and tell everyone that in 2 days time I am leaving. In order to get my USA visa I had to book my flights into the country and out so I have to be in Mexico City to fly out in 5 days time so figure I best get on the road again. Tulum, Mexico – I shall be back!!
After saying my goodbyes to everyone and holding back the tears, Budgie drives Kodak and I to the bus station for our overnight bus to Palenque. When im hopping on the bus I notice all the Mexicans have a blanket with them. Ok Im thinking, what is this for. It doesn’t take long to find out that the driver loves to have the air-conditioning on FREEZING! Oh my god was it ever so cold. A Mexican lady got up and complained and I could make out she was telling him that her daughter was to cold but this made no difference whatsoever. I don’t have room to carry a blanket but will be putting more clothing on for my next overnight bus trip thats for sure. So another lesson learnt.
We pull into Palenque around 8am and I get to my hotel. I promptly go to bed as I have a migraine. I slept all day as I didn’t sleep much in the bus as I was so cold anyway and figure thats why I have a thumping head. I only have to go a few steps down the street to a resturant for dinner then go back to the hotel and sit outside with the owner trying to have a conversation is Spanish and watch the most wicked electrical storm. It was off in the distance and didn’t actually rain in Palenque itself. Catching the bus to the Palenque Ruins is easy and they run about every half hour.
The ruins here have to be my second favourite. They cover a huge area and they are still unearthing more of the ruins everyday. You can climb all over the pyramids here. Like Tikal and Chichen Itza, it is surrounded by jungle and jungle sounds from the wildlife. Again like the other sites it is jam packed with tourists from all over the world and of course many Mexican families visiting the sites for the first time. I will let my photos do the talking again.
Kodak and I head to the bus station again after just the one night in Palenque. This time we are off to Oaxaca. This time I have more clothing on but am roasting when I get on the bus as it is only 5.30pm. We have a 16hr long trip before pulling into Oaxaca the next morning.
I only want to visit the ruins of Mont Alban so we are booked on a bus tonight to Mexico City. I have arranged before hand to leave my backpack at a hostel for the day so head there to drop it off and have a shower and breakfast. I walk down town and before long find a tour to go to Mont Alban. This ruin site is up high and has a 360 degree view of Oaxaca. Would have been a grand place to guard and pretty near impossible to overtake in a war. The pyramids are not so high here and it’s a smaller site than the others I have seen but is just as interesting. I spent 3 hours here and read everything I could about it before catching my bus back to the city centre for a good look around.
Oaxaca is of course a very old city with the usual fascinating old building and architecture. Most enjoyable place to visit with lovely friendly people. I put on a heap of clothing in the heat and head to the bus station for the long overnight trip to Mexico City. I don’t sleep much and in the moonlight all I see is barren land and cacti. One place of interest we did go through was, I think, an oil refinery or something similar though that didn’t make sense as it was inland and you would expect to see it near a port. Anyway I starting thinking that it must be the only one in Mexico (whatever this plant is), as from one end to the next when I first started seeing the huge pipes it took us over 20 minutes. What it really was I don’t know but it was massive with pipes to match.
The light of Mexico City comes into view but it is still an hour before we actually get to the central bus station. This is not a surprise as I am now in the largest city on earth. Mexico City – 33million people. I catch a taxi to the hostel which takes another ½ hour. I am now at Hostel Cathedral in Colonia Centro. Right over the road from Zocolo. It’s a huge paved area with the Mexican flag flying which is huge, really huge. Turn right and I can go shopping for jewellery at 1001 jewellers shops. Go left and not 50meters away is an ancient city that has been unearthed. This hostel is in a great location. From the top floor bar there is a great view over this area and I sat there for ages watching planes coming in to the international airport at a rate of one every 28 seconds. I dine in the restaurant downstairs and stepped outside to have a smoke. There is this young man standing next to me and when he moves away I look at him as if to say do I smell or something. He looked back and said ‘ I don’t want to be in the picture’ gesturing to a young Asian girl over the road who is taking a photo of the hostel. I promptly moved next to him and introduce myself. His name is Omar and he is here with friends from Monterrey (Mexico).
So started another night on the booze. Rogelio, Omar’s brother, invites me to spend time with him and his friends and several hours later we all end up at a night club. In the wee small hours of the morning I finally get to bed all be it very drunk and very happy. The following night is the same. I end up talking with Diego from Venezuela who is into the All Blacks. Totally took me by surprise that a Venezuelan would even know about rugby let alone the All Blacks. Small world aye?! Who else is here – well Sean from Australia, who is trying not to laugh as he fallen down some stairs and has broken ribs, Melina and Raphael from France, Mosses, Guy and Isaac from Israel and a lovely Mexican guy called Jesus, whom I hit it off with. Talking and drinking with this lot meant another 2am to bed.
Next day I organise the hostel taxi to take me to the New Zealand Embassy. This takes us through the city on a half hour trip but we find it without much trouble and I get my papers signed. This is a load off my mind. After the half hour trip back to the hostel the rest of the day is taken up with walking and shopping followed with a quiet night. I have decided to give the Teotichuancan Ruins on the outskirts of the city a miss. I will leave this for another visit and I have ticked off the ones I really wanted to see, besides I have a flight tomorrow to…….
Los Angeles, here we come! Kodak and I land by 11am and ring our hotel/hostel for pick-up. This place is nice, close to LAX and has a pool. Again people from all over the world are here. It doesn’t take me long to start taking with a guy named Ben. Originally from Philadelphia, he has been living in LA for 3 months. Seeing as this is my first time in LA I ask him to show me about. For this I agree to pay his way into the places we visit. At 4am we are in reception asking about the free drop off at the transit centre when a girl called Anna has overheard us and asks if she can join us. She is Russian, and just flown in from Auckland (New Zealand) and wants to get out and she is only there overnight before flying onto Canada in the morning where she attends university. No worries, the more the merrier. We are off to Santa Monica Pier.
When you buy a transport day pass in LA it is valid to ride the buses and underground trains as many times as you like and are valid till 2am in the morning. I find the public transport in LA easy once you work it out and the locals are very friendly and helpful anyway. However LA is spread out over a huge area and it doesn’t really matter where you stay, you will end up being close to one attraction but at least 1- 2 hours from other attractions you want to see. This just means you have to be up early and organised.
Anyway we spent several hours at Santa Monica Pier and had dinner and went back only leaving when they closed at 11pm. I am now carrying around a fluffy brown and white stuffed dog that I have named Benanna. This was won at the Pier. Next day was spent at Venice Beach. If you want to go shopping for all sorts of stuff then this is the place. Restaurants, cafes, bars and stalls with all manner of clothing, beach gear, shoes, sunglasses etc…. On the 3rd day here we hit Hollywood.
We did the Walk of Fame and saw all the usual stuff that you see when visiting for the first time and the following day headed to Universal City. Wow I love this place, especially the 3D movies. I won’t write anymore on this as I think everyone in the world pretty much knows what these places are like. Because of where I am staying it takes 2 hours to get back and even though it is late when we do get back I have a few beers with a young Australian shearer and an American guy. Tonight the hostel is very full with backpackers.
The first thing I think I noticed about LA is there are signs, along with English, in Spanish everywhere. I did know that Spanish was the second language in LA but didn’t realise all the road signs had Spanish to and that the bus stops coming up next are all announced in Spanish, on the buses. Learn something every day.
And today Ben and I are off to Knott’s Berry Farm. When my Dad was in LA, many years ago, he had enjoyed KBF better than Disneyland so that is why I chose to go there instead of Disneyland. This takes us another 2 hours to reach having to go to the end of one of the train lines then catch a bus. It’s a long way from LAX, but it is so worth it. Lucky for us it is no so crowded and we don’t have to wait in line more than 10 minutes to go on any of the rides. I think we went on ever ride 4-5 times at least. The Death Drop is an absolute favourite! Roller-coasters of every sort – I just love them!! Great day out.
The following day is to the Aquarium at Long Beach. It certainly is not hard to spend all day at these different places especially when you haven’t been to an aquarium in years, as I haven’t. It tends to bring out the big kid in me.
And so to the next day and Venice Beach. This only takes a half hour on the bus to get here and I do enjoy it. There are stalls, shops, restaurants…… for a good mile. As the weather is great Ben and I spend a few hours sunbathing. Poor Ben ended up sunburnt. He hadn’t applied his sunscreen thick enough or often enough as was as red as a beetroot. And did he cop it when we got back to the hostel. He didn’t sleep to well. My last day in LA I was to spend at the hostel and relaxing. I had gone somewhere everyday and not gotten to bed before midnight and been up at least by 7 every morning and could again cross lots of my list.
Kodak and I get to LAX for our flight to San Francisco only to find the line ahead of us is long. We get up to the auto-ticket check in and it won’t work. I call for assistance and the first try by this lady helping, what do you know it doesn’t work for her either. Half way through her second attempt and the cut off time means we can’t get on our flight. As with most everyone behind me, we all have to catch another flight. Nothing worse than having to sit around an airport longer than you have to. As with every other time I go through security I get pulled out as I set the bloody things off and yes today is the same. That was until I was swabbed for chemicals, drugs and explosives. First time this has happened, but not the last!!! I must look menacing or criminal or something. No to worry. After landing in San Fran I decide to change my tickets so that I can spend more time in Canada. I now have friends there and want to spend time catching up with them and seeing where they live.
I found it cold in SF and immediately went and brought a sweat-shirt. This would have to be the first time since leaving NZ that I have felt cold. The wind was really chilly. My hostel is great and I have a room with 2 kiwi girls. Funny to hear a NZ accent after all this time to.
I get a map from the front desk, after a quick sprint to the nearest shop for my sweat-shirt and head off to have a look about. It doesn’t take long for me to decide that I like SF. So on my list is of course the Cable Car, Fishermans Wharf and the Golden Gate. It’s only a short walk around the corner the next morning to catch the Cable Car. I am with a young Australian couple who have set out to do the same thing as me so I have company for the day. The line is long to catch the Cable Car but goes down surprisingly fast so don’t let it put you off if you go to do the same thing.
On the car as you go over the rise you get a great view of the city and surrounding area, Alcatraz and the bay. During the winter when it is foggy and dreary many people have seen what is now referred to as ‘the Ghost Ship’ in the bay. Today is clear and cold and no chance of seeing it but I wouldn’t mind coming back in the winter in the hope of getting a glimpse of it. Anyway we have a wonder around Fishermans Wharf and get pointed in the direction of where to catch a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge is not as long as thought it was. It just seemed to look so long in all the pictures I had seen but when it came to walking it, it took no time at all. (Maybe it’s the fact that I walk everywhere.) Brought a second sweat-shirt here before hopping on a bus which someone had told us would take us back into the city. Oh no it didn’t and when it stopped at a train station we decided to get off and try getting back in on a train. This worked out better. Back in the city I did more looking and shopping before going to Jacks for dinner again. Tonight was quiet and tomorrow is another flight to…..
Calgary, Canada. I have a great Aunt who lives in Calgary and I have timed my visit to coincide with the Calgary Stampede, the largest rodeo in the world. My aunt lives one block over and at the end of the main street in Calgary. What an ideal place to be in Calgary. All I have to do is go down in the lift, outside and across a car park, walk 30 feet and catch the free train downtown. I can also stay on the train and go all the way to Stampede Arena. My aunts on the 11 floor and has a great view. What a spot to be. I immediately like Calgary.
So my first day is just sorting out where everything is in Calgary. If you end up there and wish to use the internet then the Public Library is the place. Show your passport and its free and you can print off if need be.
As you can imagine with the Stampede in town all you are going to see is cowboys everywhere and 101 bars open from first light till late, in the main street. There were people giving away a lot sorts of stuff and by the end of the day I have so many give a ways it filled a small bag. I also went and did the usual shopping for the kids as both have birthdays coming up and let’s face it I figure it is going to be easier to find a Post Office in Canada than Colombia.
Next day I spent at the Stampede looking over everything from Indian tents to sticky lolly stands. Got to see it all. Took a few rides in the amusement park area, and ended up in a bar having a few beers and conversation with some locals. Canadians get Kiwis, thank god, and it’s easy to have a good laugh with them. Before leaving I get my tickets for the next day to the Chuck wagon races, the night show and fireworks. I’m looking forward to the chuck wagon races especially as my Dad has told me about them. (He went to the stampede about 20 years ago).
It’s the next afternoon and the chuck wagon races are about to begin. I’m quite high up in the stand and just about in the centre so I have a great spot for taking photos, except for the guy in front of me with the biggest Stetson you could find. Then it starts – holy cow – I never realised how fast these chuck wagons went. Admittedly there are 4 horses to each wagon, but wow do they go like bats out of hell. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wouldn’t mind having a go myself. I don’t know how long this went on for as I just got so engrossed in what was going on and before I knew it the next part of the show is beginning. An interesting fact I found out while there was a very well known rodeo family, the West’s, started up and own ‘West Jet’. This is a budget airline in Canada and I was to fly West jet while there. They are brilliant.
The night show is like a cabaret show. Dancers, motocross bikes, singing ……etc Fantastic show they put on and so worth the money. Then there is the huge fireworks display at the end which can be seen from all of Calgary nearly. Loved every minute of it.
Today I am going to the rodeo day events. There are 8 events, with 2 rounds held in the afternoon and the points go towards the cowboys and cowgirls overall score for the week and obviously the most consistent person over the week is going to win the trophies and money on offer. What the $$ prizes amount to I don’t know. All the country champions from USA, Australia and New Zealand go every year.
This really gets me pumping and it’s not long before I have found some favourites that I’m going to cheer for. I have no idea who these people are, will never meet them, but it must have been something in their name. Anyway on with the rodeo. I love the bull riding but think they are totally crazy to do it, mind you the running of the bulls in Spain is more senseless and pointless than riding a bull.
Not forgetting the calf-roping, barrel races, steer wrestling, ……..bla bla. I have ended up being higher in the stand this time so tried taking photos off the big screen. Didn’t quite work but was grateful they had the big screen as it did give a better look at what was going on. At the end of each turn they then played back the vital bit. I almost think people that are not into rodeo would enjoy this event. I don’t know how many years they have had the stampede but it runs like clockwork, the evening and night show has something for everyone and let’s face it Canadians rock. Yep love Canadians, love Canada. On that note I better get a bus ticket to Kelowna.
Before heading to Kelowna I am on a mission to post a parcel back to NZ. Now that wasn’t as easy to find a Post Office as I thought it was going to be. Well not it Calgary anyway, but I had my Aunty with me. What it involved was going to the huge Mall in the main street, upstairs, into a pharmacy, through to the back, and hello, here’s the PO. Now I know where to go next time will be easy of course, but unless someone shows you, you don’t realise it’s there.
Ok so I have booked a ticket on Greyhound to Kelowna and whatever else I want to see I will do when I get back to Calgary in about 2 weeks. My flight to Chicago has been pre-booked and I depart from here and the airlines want too much money to change the ticket so I’m giving that a pass. No matter as I haven’t seen my aunt for over 20 years and coming back to see her again is no trouble at all. Actually she has the biggest sense of humour and has me laughing so much.