Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quetzaltenango, so called Xela

Xela was my first stop in Guatemala. The idea was to go directly to Chichicastenango, very famous for its Sunday-market, just after crossing the Mexican border but it was already quite late in the afternoon. After 5pm is difficult to find direct buses and travelling in the dark can be dangerous. Anyway I definitely recommend Xela as a first stop after crossing the border and it can also become a stationery point for exploring the surrounding area where various outdoor activities can be practiced: rock-climbing, volcano hiking, mountain-bike and more. Xela is surrounded by few volcanoes and if you are interested to explore them I suggest you contacting the following organization: Quetzaltrekkers. They offer very interesting and adventurous activities for a very reasonable price while at the same time they financially support the instruction of local kids.

Border crossing Mexico-Guatemala

An easy way to access into Guatemala from Mexico is to take a public bus from San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas) to Cuahtemoc for about 90 pesos. Once the bus leaves you at the border, get your passport stamped and then the only way to cross the border is to catch a taxi (ask to wait until it gets full so you will share the cost of 50 pesos between others). The taxi will take you to the city of La Mesilla in Guatemala about 10-15 minutes drive. Here you will get a bit shocked! La Mesilla is an extremely chaotic town (as many other Guatemalan towns): there is loads of traffic on the main street with taxies, buses, tuc-tuc, carretas (mobile bistros) and bicycle. All along both sides of the road is packed with market stalls selling all sort of things. Walking up the street to get to the bank first and then to the bus station, you will notice that they ALL sell the SAME thing in gigantic amount! Remember that once you have left Mexico you won't be able to use pesos because no one (not even the buses) will accept them . So make sure to withdraw some money at a bank and if you can DO NOT accept change from the people on the street: 1US$ is about 12.9 MX$ and in Quetzal (the Guatemalan value) is about 8. They were offering 5.5 Quetzal!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CHACAHUAAA... The Paradise on Earth!

Chacahua has been the HIT of my journey to Mexico and the most chilled-out, relaxing and free place I have experienced so far! It is located on the West coast in the Oaxaca State (Northern from Puerto Escondido). It is a small "island"-village placed between the Pacific ocean and a lagoon of mangroves and crocodiles.

From Puerto Escondido it is a bit of a treck: 1h30 by bus, then 15mins by minivan, then 15 mins by boat, then 20 mins by truck/pick up to arrive at the paradisiacal destination of wooden and straw cabanas, sandy floors everywhere, no hotels or high-end services... here dominates the silence of the nature and the relaxation of mankind! Again, it is an amazing place if you are not looking for comfort but ease, not expecting high standards but basic services... all you have is freedom from what modern society has created: stress, progress and success!
Chacahua is the place to escape the system in which we are stuck daily. To experience a real life-style of a surfer, to chill-out in hammocks hanging under straw roofs over-looking the ocean. To enjoy freshly cooked tasty fish in an authentic Mexican style. It is suggested a minimum of a 4 day-stay... if you have more time of course longer! Once you arrive just ask around for a cabana and almost every family offers a few places to sleep. The prices in general are fixed and are almost the same everywhere.

If you are willing to learn surfing ask for Tim & Dalila. They are very nice people and have great capabilities to teach you. Their son is Sebastian who is 9 years old and is one of the best youngest surfer on earth... looking at him surfing is an amazing show you can offer your self early in the morning when weather permits it!
Curiosity: the majority of the local people are black whose ancestors settled down about 200 years ago when their slave ship coming from Africa sunk off the coast.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gorgeous colonial towns: Morelia & Patzquaro

Morelia is the capital of Michoacán and it was the first city that the conquistadores had built after they conquered Nueva España. It is a very well preserved small colonial town of about 110 Thousand inhabitants and it is dominated by a marvelous twin-towered cathedral of a very pleasant light antique pink colour. Next to it, it is placed a spacious plaza filled with big tall trees which offer shadow to the numerous long stone benches where loud Mexican families and kissing couples like to chill out during their free time. I was amazed about these wide plazas which are present in every colonial city and represent the heart of the city as well as a meeting point for the locals.

Catedral de Morelía
El mercado de dulce (market of any kind of sweets) as well as casa and museo of José Morelos (from which the town was named). Morelos was a prest who strongly supported and helped the revolutionaries for the independence of Mexico. If you feel having a drink go to the bikini bar and try a michelada (tipical Mexican drink: beer, tomato juice, Maggie sauce, salt and chily... quite particular!), but if you prefer something sweeter get a tasty Orgasmo cocktail (Kalhua, Baileys, white cocoa powder, milk and brandy).

Colonial Houses

The second colonial town which I completely fall in love with was the fascinating town of Patzquaro (about 30 mins by car from Morelia). It is very well preserved as well but in 
comparison to Morelia, its dusty streets emphasize even more its characteristic Latin flair. If I will ever get married, Patzquaro have to be the place where I will spend my honey moon :o) !

The centre of the town is again a spacious squared plaza with trees and benches surrounded by charming arched edifices. The rest of the town is formed by cute tight streets and very low buildings of the same antique look with old wooden doors, small balconies and courtyards.

A few kilometers from the centre of Patzquaro there is a brown-colour lake (not very attractive) where I caught a boat to reach the cute, tiny island of Janitzio. On the top of the hill stands the tall monument of Morelos with one of his feast in the air (it looks a bit like the Statue of Liberty in NY but the Mexican version :o). It can be climbed from inside and from the top you can have a wonderful view of the lake and the mountains. It is a lovely trip that takes you out of the town to see the surrounding green landscape.

Isla de Janitzio
About Food

The best torta (basically a Mexican sandwich) that I have ever tasted so far in Mexico is in the famous bistro "Torta Patzquaro" located on the side of the road before entering into the town of Patzquaro. The torta I had was a tasty crunchy loaf of bread with bean paste, adobera cheese, tomatoes and big chunks of avocado... a real delicacy!