How Close Is That?

I took a trip this winter to Arizona and Mazatlan, and saw quite a bit of neat stuff but wasnt really in the mood for blogging so I didnt get anything written down. But there was one event in particular I just had to blog about. Crystal and I were in Mazatlan, in her truck which wed driven down there, and we were coming home to Texas across Mexico.

Well, Crystal wanted to get new tires since theyre cheaper in Mexico and so we needed to pull out money from the ATM, and she wanted to know how much wed need. I didnt want to leave Mexico with many pesos because you always take a hit when you exchange them back into dollars.

I didnt have much time to give the question thought, so I just said 7,000 pesos, which works out to being about 650$, which when you figure 400$ of that was going for tires, would leave us 250$ for the 3-4 day trip out of Mexico. I figured we could pull out more money if we had to, anyway.

So regardless she pulled that out, we got our tires and left Mazatlan and drove towards Durango. The road is brutal, seven hours of hard curves and uphill climbs – where the oncoming trucks have the delightful habit of being in YOUR lane when they go around curves. Curves that have no gaurdrails and 3,000 foot dropoffs.

Anyway, we stayed a bit short of Durango, ate breakfast in Durango the next morning and got online at the Cafe Interbus. Quite literally a white schoolbus in the middle of an otherwise very trendy city park with an internet cafe inside.

Cafe Interbus

Cafe Interbus

Words fail me. Anyway, we went from Durango, through Torreon, and up to Cuatro Cienegas to look at the beautiful pools. Well, we tried to guide ourselves and got lost in the desert a couple of times, and we were on a deadline, so we gave up and decided to try again later. Well, we eventually go to the Mexican side of Eagle Pass, Texas, three days after leaving Mazatlan, with about 40$ left.

I had wanted to buy papayas and pineapples and take some home, since they taste infinitely better in Mexico than they do in the US. So we drove around, found a wholesale fruit market, bought some papayas. The pineapples didnt look so good, so we kept driving. Found another market, went in, at this point I had about 20$ left, and they didnt have a scale so I had to guess at how many pineapples I was buying. Well, I got to the checkout and I had bought JUST the right amount of Pineapples – one more would have left me broke.

I got 25.40 pesos in change – about 2.20$. I was at this point glorying in how close wed come – 25 pesos out of 7,000 isnt bad for dead reckoning – and we headed towards the US. Getting into the lane to cross the bridge into the US, we discovered that the bridge was a TOLL bridge!

Can anyone guess how much the toll cost? Thats right, 25 pesos! We drove across the US border with 40 CENTAVOS – about 4 cents – in Mexican money in our pockets! How cool is THAT?

Posted on April 9th, 2010 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Security – Take Three

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We mostly just played in the water and tried to relax so that wed be rested when we got home. Natnee and I did a short mangrove tour on our last day there. It was disappointing, but we did get to see some animals. We did it mainly to have something different to do. While we were wandering around waiting for our ride, we found some buildings sinking into the sand. Someone built too close to the beach and on too unstable a foundation.

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The only time we were stopped during our entire trip was just a few km outside the airport, and that was hassle-free. We returned the car. They tried to get us to pay fees for damages because a little plastic cover thingy was missing from off the rear windshield wiper. But we didnt have to pay fees for damages thanks to a picture I had taken when we received the car (go me!). At the airport security check, we were stopped. Actually, they had questions about almost every carry-on bag we had. They said one had water in it, which it didnt. They wanted to inspect my fingernail clippers before finally allowing me to keep them. (If theyd taken them, it would have been like the infamous Fingernail File Confiscation Incident of 2009!)

All other bags were okay except Natnees – probably because he looks like a gringo drug lord. Hehehehe. :) They wanted to inspect his bag by hand, so he and a security agent went to a nearby table. He looked at his flashlight, slowly pulling out the batteries like it was going to explode in his face. Then he wanted to make sure his camera was really a camera. He told Natnee that duct tape was prohibited, but let him keep it anyway. Were talking like less than 5 inches of duct tape. Thats not enough to go around one wrist, let alone tie up a stewardess! No problem with the juggling balls this time (until the US border, at least), but he questioned the knife sharpener, which, of itself, is entirely harmless. After Natnee demonstrated that the sharpener couldnt cut anybody, he spotted Natnees Bible. No questions about that, but he wanted to see his toiletry bag. Seeing nothing unusual there, he finally let Natnee go.

Once we got to our gate, they wouldnt let us through without unzipping all our bags and feeling around one more time (for what? Theyd already been x-rayed.). That makes THREE times we were searched. I mean, REALLY? Was all this bag inspection really necessary? But this is just a case in point of how little the Latinos trust other people. They are always locking and barring up their doors and peering down the streets. This fear of what MIGHT be leads them to be untrusting of others, themselves, and period.

Once we found a place to sit down, Daddy wanted some water. There was a small place nearby – a table, really – selling bottled water, but they wouldnt let Daddy back to the gate with it. So he stood there and drank it. Grumbling. The flight back was without incident. US Border Patrol stopped us and questioned Natnees juggling balls (as expected) and x-rayed all our bags for illegal stuff, aliens, etc. There were some El Salvadorans in front of us whod brought suitcases full of raw chicken and other raw meat parts. SERIOUSLY?!? Yes, and they were fined $300 on the spot for it. Ouch! Expensive mistake.

~Crystal

Posted on December 25th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Mexico To Home! Ondale! Ondale! Arriba!

Sorry this post has taken err six months to get posted. Things like this seem less important when youre home. Anyway I left off in San Cristobal; from there we booked a tour to go to the Sumidero Canyon for the day before we left. It cost 14$ each (although I later learned that we could have done it for 5$ each had we gone directly to Chiapas De Corzo and gotten on a boat ourselves). Still, it was cool. The canyon was a half-mile high straight up in the deeper spots, and we were on a fast boat that cruised at a good clip. The pictures pretty much say it all:

Sumidero Canyon 1 Sumidero Canyon 2 Sumidero Canyon 3

Sumidero Canyon 4 Sumidero Canyon 5

When we got to the end of the canyon and turned back, I inquired where were the crocodiles I had heard were here. He replied that they were in the water. With a smirk. He then said that to see them we needed a tourist to volunteer to go in the water. No one volunteered :)

Anyway, on the way back we did see a couple of different crocs, and got close enough to get some nice pictures of them, too:

Sumidero Canyon 6 Sumidero Canyon 7 Sumidero Canyon 8

On the way back we stopped at Corzo to have lunch and I had Pozole, which is what happens when you put a tortilla and water in a blender with some cocoa, basically. Thats not how they make it, but thats pretty much what it is. It is a corn drink, very slightly sweet, with cacao beans in it. I liked it, but Crystal didnt. Anyway back in San Cristobal we found some organic chocolate which I thought would make great gifts for the women back home. It said it was made in San Cristobal, but no address. So I walked all over the city, literally, looking for someone who knew where it was made, since I wanted to buy direct and wholesale. I spent about 3 hours that day and next morning looking for it, went down several blind alleys, but finally found it and bought 5 pounds of chocolate.

By now our possessions were starting to snowball and get to be quite a load to haul around, and it was to get worse! We lost track of time that morning (it was the day of our flight) and so we didnt start looking for a taxi until it was almost too late to make it to the airport.

We almost, and I do mean almost, missed our plane to Mexico City that morning. When we finally noticed what time it was, we had 1.5 hours until the flight LEFT. Not to check in, but to takeoff. And we were about an hour or better away. I was having some stuff printed that morning, and before I left I had to pay him; however he gave me a different price than his boss had quoted me (a higher one, naturally) so after we agreed on a compromise and I went to pay him, I realized I was out of pesos, he wouldn´t take dollars, so I had to change some – running downtown to find a bank, changing money, signing papers, etc – and once that was taken care of, I had to find a taxi, and then negotiate a price with him, then the taxi driver wanted to pick up some extra passengers but they weren´t ready by now we were getting quite anxious so we told him to forget it and just take us to the airport. And step on it.

Never say that to a Mexican taxi driver. Seriously.

The dude was a good driver, no doubts, but he literally passed a police car doing two-and-a-half times the speed limit. Granted, it was one of those stupid so-low-that-noone-even-tries-to-obey-it limits of 40kph, but still. I have to say though, e got us through a 40 minute ride in about 25 minutes.

Unfortunately, I didn´t have enough pesos to pay him (we agreed on a price of about 30$ for the ride and the speed) and he wouldn´t take dollars either. Apparently, it is a real hassle for Mexicans to change dollars here. It´s easy for me, but locals apparently have to explain where they got it, why they are changing it, who they are, where they are from, and all that bureaucratic hoo-hah. So he wouldn´t take dollars, even when I offered him 40. So when we arrived at the airport with just 10 minutes to spare until takeoff, we went to check-in and the clerk told us the bags had already left. After a momentary pause, we realized we could carry on all of our packages (at this point numbering 2 tubes, 1 box, 3 backpacks, and us).

So while Crystal got us ticketed, I ran off to find someplace to change dollars to pay the taxi driver – who, it cannot be denied, had earned his fare. I found a store who traded pesos in at 10 for the dollar, which was a criminal rate (at the time, 14.5 pesos to the dollar was what banks gave) but I was out of time. So I did that and paid him, plus gave him all my change as a tip.

Then we went through security. Mind you, we had planned to check our red backpack which had our knives in it. Since we didn´t have a chance to do that, we decided to try to run it through security. I´ve done that before, but this time no luck. They spotted them and took them away, both of our nice swiss army knives (although the total investment was only about 12$, still) and I guess since they already had us stopped, they wanted Crystal´s scissors too. We are talking scissors with a blade a half-inch long. Seriously. While they were in her vanity pack they also took away basically everything else pointy too – her fingernail file, cuticle trimmer, mysterious femininely-used pointy thingy.

On the upside, our pack was lighter with less female stuff. On the downside, I´ve heard about the nail file 25 times since then.

Anyway, we made it on the flight believe it or not. They were still boarding and they let us on. And I looked at Crystal and said ¨See? No sweat!¨ – Then she hit me. I still cant figure out why.

So after an uneventful flight change in Mexico City, we landed in Monterrey. The airport is quite a ways from the city, and there seems to be a sort of Taxi Mafia and it has all the taxi and bus prices hacked up to crazy prices for the ride from the airport into town. It cost us 5$ each on a bus for a 40 minute ride. A taxi wanted 30 for both of us. Mind you, it cost less than that to get across Honduras. I spent the better part of an hour trying to find or negotiate a better price (you know me) but 5$ each was the best. And then, there were only three of us on the bus! But it´s Mexico, can´t always understand it. Actually, you seldom understand it.

So we arrived in the inner city of Monterrey late at night. It was pretty creepy, reminiscent of Detroit or Chicago. Dark, dismal, knots of gang-like people on the corners. I had found a hotel on the internet and managed to find it after a few adventures. On the internet, they advertised $11 a person. On arrival, I was quoted $7, which I agreed to happily (most hotels in Monterrey seemed to charge almost US prices).

When I got my money out, he charged me $15 a person. Then when I balked it became $5. Then a few minutes later he knocked on my door and said he made a mistake, and tried to charge me $15 again. So we settled on $10 at last call. I told him I wasn´t paying more than I was quoted on the internet. I told him I paid him what he´s going to get and if he changed it again I was leaving. I meant it too, so he finally left us alone.

Anyway, it settled down after that. We were in a not-so-nice part of town. We tried to find a restaurant but all we found was halloween and druggies. Don´t ask. Anyway, we wound up back at the hotel eating granola. I really didnt like Monterrey very much, although to be fair I didnt see it under the best light.

Next morning we caught a bus for Reynosa from Monterrey. Again I got entangled in dialectic changes, since there “bus” was NOT an understandable alternative for “autobus”. “Bus” was not understood at all. And “Reynosa” was not an appropriate substitute sound for “RRRReynosa”. You have to trill the first R. I dont know why, but “bus to Reynosa” got me blank looks, and then a few finally said “oh, an AUTObus to RRRReynosa!”

Spent the night in Reynosa – a seedy border town – found some food to take home (a case of Pineapple and a case of Papaya – about 70 pounds altogether), some Kahlua-like stuff that I am fond of which is only sold in Mexico, and did some general last-minutes-in-Mexico shopping. Crystal wanted some yogurt, and we were in a large chain grocery store, and she couldnt find it at first.Then she found a little bit on the end of this aisle:

Yogurt Aisle

She said thats not very much. I said look around the corner; that entire island, from one end to the other on both sides is FULL of nothing but yogurt. They consume a lot more of it down there than we do. So next morning we caught a bus for McAllen. We had to get off the bus and walk through customs into the US – carrying the fruit, which they looked at carefully but allowed to pass (except for the tangerine Crystal forgot to eat, which was confiscated) pay a tax on the alchohol of 2.50$ for 2 liters, and finally got to the bus station, where we awaited a connecting bus to Austin, where we were to meet my parents.

Taco Bell

We had a 2 hour layover, and both of us were starving for Taco Bell. After 6 weeks in Latin America, Taco Bell was all we could think about. So the nearest one was 11 blocks each way. So 22 blocks of walking later, I was back with tacos! I was stopped in the yard of the bus station by a self-important guard who refused to let me in to the station. Mind you, I was 10 yards away from the unlocked glass doors which opened up onto the main room of the station. And I had tickets! But no, I had to enter through the other side of the building.

There was NO reason for that at all. It wasnt like I went through a line, the other side of the glass was a public space in the middle of the station, not a restricted area. It irritated me. But I walked around the whole bus station to get right back where I almost was (although in retrospect I think I should have insisted on going through the short way). Crystal then informed me that the security guard inside had made her not sit with her feet on the benches (the benches were steel, and it wasnt like they were that clean anyway). So then I juggled for awhile to kill time and of course after a while the guard came over and told me it was prohibited. By this time I was weary of ignorant rules and demanded to know why. He said it was prohibited, I said why again. He didnt know and didnt care. I then informed him that this rule was stupid. But since I only had 10 minutes more, I let it slide. It just illustrates one of the major differences between the USA and Latin America.

In Central America, I could have built a fire in the middle of the bus station and no one would have cared. I could have roasted corn on it and opened a concession stand and no one would have cared. Here, in the “Land of the Free”, I juggle quietly, not bothering anyone, or try to walk into the bus station in a slightly unusual way, or sit with my feet on the bench, and a pompous security guard is there to tell me its against the rules. I missed Mexico already. Maybe Ill go to Morocco next ?

Posted on July 31st, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | 2 Comments »

San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico

Upon arriving in San Cristobal, we wandered through the market for awhile, bought some mexican roasted corn with mayonnaise, chili powder, and lime on it, empanadas stuffed with potato and beef (4 for 30 cents) and then bought some tangerines. Now usually in the states if you go to a fruit stand youll see a bucket with 4 tomatoes precariously perched on top, but they know that you subconsciously assume that the bucket is full of tomatoes, which of course it never is. So when I saw about 8 tangerines perched on one such bucket, I asked how much it was, she said 60 cents, and I paid her expecting 8 tangerines, which was an OK price. Then she held out a bag and I held it while she poured the tangerines into the bag. As you probably guessed, the entire bucket was full of tangerines. We got 21 tangerines – and they were delicious, sweeter than Ive ever had at home – for 60 cents. And ten mangoes for another 60 cents. And a pineapple for 90 cents. And a papaya for well, you get the idea.

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They had the most charming way of displaying beans. I dont know what it is, but I really liked the way the colors popped out of the trays.

San Cristobal was without a doubt our favorite town of the whole trip. Food was plentiful, gourmet, and cheap. I counted 5 whole wheat bakeries in town and two health food stores. For Latin America, that is astounding. Hey, for Texas thats astounding. Thats why we chose to spend a week there, to rest and to eat. I had whole wheat bread at 3 different restaurants – one of which served it complimentary with the meal! And the food was great. All sorts of cuisines – Lebanese, Greek, French, Mexican, Italian, Argentinean, you name it.

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No doubt the reason they had all sorts of cuisines was because it was a very eclectic town. This map was hanging in a phone booth store (like it sounds, a store devoted to nothing but phone booths for calling home), and you can get an impression for who visited the town. This was a pretty good sampling of the nationalities on the trip, actually. Only a few americans, but tons of europeans.

The next day we found an ex-circus performer doing crystal stix, an art with which I am well acquainted (think a cross between baton twirling and juggling), so we hung out and did that for awhile. Went and had some whole wheat pancakes. Traded in my Star Trek book which I had finished for The Adventures of David Balfour by Robert Louis Stevenson – in Spanish. Went to the local artesian market and bought gifts for people back home. Went and had cat soup for lunch. Apparently, there is no actual cat in it, but think tortilla soup with milk and avocado in it and you have a fair idea of what it is. It was excellent.

We had fresh squeezed orange juice off the street for 60 cents, a 14 ounce glass. And not-quite-as-freshly-squeezed pineapple juice (but still real homemade juice), and coconut milk, for the same price. We did eat at one restaurant that annoyed me – they provided free chips and rather hot salsa. As we were most of the way into our meal, I took out the water bottle to drink, had a good drink, then a waiter rushed over and said I couldnt drink my own beverage. I said what? Its just water, but he said it was prohibited. It was a scam. They give you free salsa, to make you thirsty, then you have to buy water or a beverage from them at a greatly inflated price. Well, I was almost done with my meal or I would have made an issue of it. Probably should have anyway. There was no sign out front that said no BYO(Water), after all!

In wandering through the market one day, we saw this strange orange liquid in reused bottles. I naturally inquired what it was, and was told Rompope. I then asked them to write it for me, since I couldnt quite figure out what it was from that. I then asked them for a taste since even being written I had no idea what it was. Turns out it is basically a Mexican version of Eggnog. A very, very strong, thick eggnog. It must be half rum from the taste of it. Quite good though, in a different sort of way.

Somewhere in here we decided that we didnt really want to go the rest of the way through Mexico by bus if we didnt have to. We were running short on time (we had to be home in 9 days), but we really liked this town and if we were going to go home by bus wed only have 2 days here. And honestly, after 70 hours of bus travel, we were tired of it and needed a break. So we looked around for fares and found a flight from nearby Tuxtla to Monterrey for 85$ each. Since the bus fares would have cost almost that, we decided to take the cowards way out and fly most of the way home.

That night we had quesadillas, mushroom and peppers and all kinda things in them, for only 1 dollar each. They were huge and came with a serving tray with cilantro, beet-pickled-onions, fresh onions, jalapenos, and red and green salsa. See below:

Quesadillas - Everything you see for $2!

Quesadillas – Everything you see for $2!

The green salsa was hot. Coming from me, that means it was HOT. I took a drop of it and placed it in Crystals hand to lick it and then she said she had no feeling in her lips for an hour. I had two spoonfuls of it on my quesadilla and my tongue and whole mouth went numb. I could hardly breathe. It was awesome!

I wont make you more envious with tale after tale of cheap food, huge portions, and gourmet meals. It wasnt all great, anyway – but it is definitely high on my list of places to go back to, primarily for the food. nuff said about that. Basically, the next few days we didnt do much. Went to the markets occasionally, did laundry, ate, slept, did what sane tourists do – nothing.

We wandered around some of course. I found that same juggler again and we passed pins for awhile. It had been awhile since I did it, so I was a bit rusty, but I thought it turned out pretty good:

If a bit comical at times:

Only one more post left of this trip and well be home!

Posted on April 16th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Honduras, Mexico | 2 Comments »

Lava In Guatemala

On arriving in Antigua, we finally found rooms with HOT WATER! It had been awhile, and I had forgotten how nice it felt. Of course, it was a tad chilly in Antigua so that explains why. And my bathroom wasnt exactly what youd expect. In fact, it was the smallest bathroom – and the smallest bathroom door – I had ever seen.

Narrowest bathroom door ever!

We found an enormous market in Antigua. All covered. The building just seemed to go on forever, everything imaginable was for sale there. We even found some Cherimoyas for the first and only time on the trip, and they were SO delicious. They look kinda like an armadillo but taste rather like a tangy custard pie. They dont ship well so you never see them in the USA. Bought Crystal a shirt since it was a bit cold and I bought a sweater. We figured we were getting close enough to home that we could haul a LITTLE bit more stuff along. Up until now all of our belongings and clothes fit in one typical school backpack each. And we brought more stuff than we needed! Other travelers were constantly drooling over our packs, saying Dude, how do you DO that! and we stared at their 3-foot-tall, 2-foot-wide packs saying Dude, how do you DO that! with equal fervor. Going light is the only way to travel. My pack weighed around 15 pounds, give or take 5 pounds for food. Crystals was usually a bit lighter. After all, she was only a girl.

The place we decided to eat dinner had a power outage, so we ate by candlelight. We thought they were closed at first, but the food was good. Liver in tomato sauce! Yum!

Next day we took a tour to Volcan Pacaya. This is one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and one of the only places where you are practically guaranteed to see lava. It only cost about 10$ each, including the hour and a half ride each way, which wasnt bad.

Hey, it was cold!

Hey, it was cold that morning! Then it was an hour and a half hike up the volcano, which was mostly a pretty drab hike after Chirripo in Costa Rica. Once we started getting above the trees though, it started being pretty cool. Lava dust and enormous rocks that only weighed a few pounds.

Volcanos Sucre, Fuego, and Agua - sugar, fire, and water

More Volcano Shots...

Lava fields, El Salvador in the distance

Then as we got closer we started feeling the temperature rising. And in one place we walked over a volcanically active spot with hot rocks, and one guy lingered too long and his shoes started melting! As we got closer to the top, the rocks got looser. Now I am quite sure on my feet and am very good at balance. But these other people were walking disaster areas. By myself, it was quite safe. With a bunch of 10-pound-camera-toting clumsy-boot-wearing-tourists walking above me tripping and dislodging rocks onto me it was rather like playing donkey kong. (Warning: 80s pop culture reference). And it was a long ways down.

After finally getting to the lava flow in one piece however, there was only a space for about 4 people at once, and that was a bit precarious. So when my turn came around, I got up there, and the lava was quite impressive, moving at about 40 feet per minute or so down the mountain. As you can see in this video, which was not as stable as I would have liked, but it wasnt all my fault

I had planned to juggle in front of it, but it wasnt to be. The volcano itself was starting to dislodge hot rocks to roll down the steep slope at is, so it was time to vacate the premises. Anyway, after everyone had seen enough we walked back down. Crystal scraped the back of her heel, gently, twice, against these rocks and it ripped the back of her socks to shreds. The rocks were really brutal. I of course, being me, walked the bulk of the way back down barefoot. But thats not the sort of thing I would recommend to others

Lava

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On the way back down the mountain, Crystals knee flared up again (the strain that it took on Chirripo and later Corcovado still bothers her every now and then, when she exerts it), so we caught a horse that was on the way up and paid him to carry her down. The owner, not the horse. That is, we paid the owner, but the horse carried her. Somehow, that seems more confusing than it needed to be anyway, you probably know what I mean.

So after descending and returning to Antigua to collect our stuff, we decided to skip Atitlan and go straight for Mexico. We were sorry to miss it, but it sounded pretty touristy and we were tired of bus trips and wanted to find a place to just chill for a week without having to move. At all. So we took the bus to Huehuetenango and spent the night there, had tamales with a spicy adobo-type sauce for dinner and a soup.

Next day caught a bus to the border. The road was rather curvy and downhill, and not too wide, and the bus driver must have been in a hurry because we arrived 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule (something that doesnt happen often in Latin America). But the guy threw out the rule book in driving – he went around EVERY corner on what felt like two wheels. Is there even a WORD for Traffic Violation in Spanish?

This trip made me wonder. It literally required your full attention just to keep from sliding out of your seat at every corner. Seriously – having your hands on each side of the seat wasnt enough. I had to cross my arms and hang on to the seat in front of me, with my hands fully tensed, for the whole ride, just to keep from crashing into the people across the aisle. But somehow we arrived intact and walked across the border, and caught a collectivo to Comitlan and from there took a shared taxi to San Cristobal. We shared it with an Italian who had moved to Mexico (we later learned that there were TONS of Italians in San Cristobal, although I never learned why). She directed us to a certain hotel when we got out of the taxi, so we thanked her and she left.

We tried to tell the next taxi driver where this hotel was (and she had even written down the street it was on) but he didnt know it. So I told him to take us to a cheap hotel. Usually, those instructions get us to some decent hotels. But this guy took us into the most seedy district in town and I went in to the hotel, they quoted me 3$ (wow!) for a room, and I went to inspect it and seriously, it was one of the worst rooms I had ever seen. It would have been like sleeping on a towel in an old bus station. Needless to say, we moved on and I instructed him to take me to a slightly more expensive hotel! (Never thought Id say that, eh?)

After dismissing the taxi driver in a hotelly district we finally settled on one in the middle of downtown, right off the main square, for 12$ p/p, and it was very nice. It even had hot water. In the SINK! I had to go get Crystal and show her that there was hot water even in the SINK (she didnt believe me!) And FREE shampoo! Wow! The rooms really were nice, up to USA standards even. Well, almost.

Anyway, we were to spend a week in San Cristobal, so you can read all about it in the next entry

Posted on March 31st, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Guatemala, Mexico | No Comments »

Last Two Posts

The last two posts got published in reverse order, sorry ;)

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Home Again

Ive been back from Ecuador about three weeks now. My total stay there was 22 days. Did I like it? Well, lets just say Im selling my guidebook. It wasnt totally unpleasant, but if I ever go back itll be because Im passing through to the Galapagos or somewhere else. And I was very happy to get home. Back to real food again! I have quite a few more stories to convey here, but Im very lazy about blogging when Im home. Just too much else to do :)

Still, stay tuned, Ill get some posts up sooner or later; including some pictures and video of some of the things we saw – a video of my Mom getting bit by a giant iguana (she asked for it) – the Andean flute maker who played a few tunes for me which I captured on video – some pictures of the most neatly stacked fruits Ive ever seen in a market. Or anywhere, for that matter. Things like that. Eventually :)

Trips on the horizon now a weekend at Glen Rose national park in Texas, where Im going to go fossil hunting. Its the place that Dinosaur and Human footprints are side-by-side in the same strata. A packmule trip through the Colorado rockies near Marble, Colorado, in mid-July. And this fall Im definitely going somewhere. Maybe Spain. Maybe the Caribbean. Maybe both. Well see :)

Posted on May 26th, 2008 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Vilcabamba: Shangri-la? No, Shangri-lost

Vilcabamba: Shangri-la? No, Shangri-lost

Vilcabamba, Ecuador, known internationally as the valley of Eternal youth, gained popularity as such nearly 50 years ago. It achieved its fame through the discovery of a disproportionate number of centenarians in this remote mountain valley. But why? Why did they live so long?And why only here?

Many teams of scientists from many parts of the world, Japanese, Swedish, and American among them, came to find out. The Japanese said it was the ionized air. The American scientists, led by Dr. Morton Walker, concluded that it was the chelation of minerals found in the river water. Others believed it was the austere lifestyle and minimalist diet forced upon its inhabitants by nature, or the temperate climate which seldom departs more than 10 degrees from 60 at night and 80 in the day year-round. I came to find out, if I could, which of these answers was valid, if any, and if the Valley of Eternal Youth still existed, or had already passed into the pages of history. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 22nd, 2008 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Hiking Up The Cliff

It had been raining for 3 days. And it had been cold. And I dont like rain. And especially not cold. Thats why I went to Mexico and not Canada (well, that and the fact that Mexico is about 1500 miles closer). Fortunately the hostel had a nice community kitchen to hang out in, while I kept a watchful eye on the mountain waiting for a clear day. I was hoping to get a nice shot of the valley from the top of the mountain. This mountain:

elpotrero.jpg

So I duly waited. Finally one day it showed some signs of letting up at around 3pm, so I decided to give it a go. I packed my backpack with more brain food and went up the mountain. My guide told me it took him 2 hours up and 1.5 hours down last time he went, so I figured I could match that. In retrospect maybe it wasnt the best idea, but thats beside the point :)

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Posted on January 4th, 2008 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | No Comments »

Me, A Bat Wannabe

Not surprisingly, the day after my climb I was rather sore. Muscles hurt that I didnt know existed! But I was in Mexico and determined to enjoy it if it killed me. So when my guide suggested Bouldering, what else could I say? Of COURSE I wanted to try something 3x harder than what I did yesterday! Of COURSE I wanted to hike a mile to a cave situated on the side of the mountain on aching muscles – behind a guide who seemed maddenly inexhaustible! Why not? After all, he only suggested it because he said I did so well on the climb the day before – how could I let him down? And besides, it only cost me $30! :)

And so I packed a backpack with brain food (mangoes!) and set out for day of bouldering. Bouldering is basically rock climbing, only upside down. You see, instead of climbing UP a mountain, you climb ACROSS a ceiling.

hangin-around.jpg

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Posted on July 2nd, 2007 by Natnee and filed under Mexico | 2 Comments »

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