I'm writing this blog post from a hostel in Oaxaca as bombs and festive music emanate from the central square in celebration of Guelaguetza. It's an annual indigenous cultural event focused on traditional dancing in costumes and includes parades complete with indigenous walking bands, native food, and arts & crafts. I had no idea this festival even existed until someone was talking about it on the 12-hour bus ride last night. So I'm in the right place at the right time. I arrived earlier today around noon via the major autobus system in Mexico. I was unfortunate enough to miss my bus the evening before and had to wait an extra 7 hours for the next one. Always expect unforeseen twists and turns during long-term travel. The most important thing is to embrace the struggle, roll with the punches, and keep moving forward! Before sitting down to write this blog, I was exploring the city taking photos of the festivities. This is quite a happening, artistic and cultural city. People are very amicable here. For example, I was walking a rather long distance back from the market carrying two overflowing plastic bags. The can of beans was balanced precariously right on the edge. It fell on the sidewalk a couple times and friendly passersby picked it up for me. I'm just glad it wasn't the glass bottle of spaghetti sauce. Everyone has been surprisingly friendly during my travels so far! They will routinely look out for my belongings, notice that I dropped spare change, offer gifts, and just generally reinstill my faith in the goodness of humanity. Fuck Donald Trump! I booked a room for 3 nights at Hostal Pochon so I can experience the local culture and wait patiently until I can afford to buy another bus ticket to Mexico City. Look forward to visiting my beautiful friend Angela at her family's ranch just outside the massive city, population 19.2 million people.
Just yesterday I was exploring the touristy city of San Cristobal de las Casas. I walked up and down the streets looking for a hostel and eventually found a chill place for only 90 pesos; the cheapest one during my travels so far. My phone no longer charges properly since I took it for a swim in the salty ocean multiple times. Therefore, I can't use the trusty Maps.Me to find my way around. The positive is that it forces me to ask for directions in broken Spanish. That night, I was searching for a tech shop to get a battery replacement. The cobblestone streets were filled with people throughout the evening. I met a guy from Virginia at the hostel who was playing guitar for tips. My other roommate was carrying a cardboard display around trying to sell handmade jewelry. This place seemed to attract a lot of rebels, outcasts, square pegs in round holes; to quote Steve Jobs. I awoke in the morning to the sound of bombs going off right outside my bedroom. I decided it was time to hit the road once again, but not before reading briefly at the city square and taking a few photos of merchants selling their wares. It's amazing what you can capture if you slow down, relax, and wait for the photo subjects to approach you. Of course, payment is expected. Let it be!
I can't remember the exact date I arrived in Mexico. It doesn't really matter. Here's a story of my arrival in Tulum:
I’m currently writing this from my dorm room at Hostel Cha Cha Cha in Tulum, Mexico. After traveling in Central America for nearly 3 months, I’ve finally reached my destination. It’s 3AM and I’m tired, but my thoughts flow better at night. My first impression of Tulum did not live up to expectations. After wandering around the streets at night for over an hour, I finally checked into my hostel. Third time’s a charm.
My day started on Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize. This place was a paradise, but it was a small island and after a few days I’d seen everything. The highlight of my time on the island was an all-day sailing/snorkeling tour in beautiful turquoise waters. This was my first experience seeing the great barrier reef; second largest in the world only to Australia. I understand now why it’s so important to protect the fragile coral ecosystem teeming with marine life.
My day started by catching a boat to Ambergris Caye, a peninsula of the Yucatan. Unfortunately, my luggage was loaded onto the wrong boat and it mistakenly took me back to Belize City. This was rather disappointing since I had anticipated touring San Pedro for a few days. That being said, I’ve found that going with the flow is very important when traveling. Besides, taking a bus ($7) to Chetamul was significantly cheaper than a ferry boat ($50) from the island. Everything happens for a reason. Call it manifest destiny. I exchanged my Belizean notes to US dollars at the bank and walked to the bus station. It was only 15 minutes before the clunker bus arrived. We reached the Belize border after two hours. I paid the entrance $40BZ fee at immigration and collected my passport stamp. The bus waited outside to take me to the Mexico border patrol. The building was much cleaner than I expected. I did the usual song and dance, checked my luggage, and took the bus with a few other passengers across the border to Chetamul. We pulled into a gas station and I got a taxi cab to the ADO bus station. It was 190 pesos for a bus to Tulum. The conversion rate is 18 pesos for every US dollar. The calculation in Belize was easier. Divide by two.
The bus didn’t arrive at 6pm as scheduled. I asked the attendants multiple times and I didn’t actually get on the bus for another 3 hours; passing the time by reading, checking social media, eating, drinking, people-watching, and complaining under my breath. Once arriving in Tulum, I got my luggage and walked to a hostel right around the corner. The night watch unlocked the sliding glass door. He spoke only Spanish. No vacancy, even though the sign out front read opposite. So I decided to walk around searching for another hostel. There’s so many options in this hippie surf party town. I should be able to find one no problem. However, it soon became apparent that everything was closed. I asked for a room at Hostel Cha Cha Cha once more and was turned away. Ever resilient, I kept investigating with Maps.Me as my guide. Luckily this place is very safe comparatively. I started to think of alternative options of places to sleep, none of which seemed practical or smart. I finally found Hotel Maya on the main street, but I wasn’t about to pay $550 pesos to stay there for less than 8 hours. Out of options, I returned to Hostel Cha Cha Cha and checked into an empty dorm room. Turns out they had openings the whole time! This place has outstanding reviews on HostelWorld. It’s very clean and comfortable. My current plan is to explore Tulum for 3-5 nights and then continue upward to Cancun or the island of Cozymel. I probably won’t spend much time in either of these places since they are touristy and expensive. Look forward to meeting with my friends David and Brandy for dinner before they leave for San Miguel on Thursday!
I checked into Hostel Che the next day and walked over 3 miles to Tulum Beach. I took a nature shortcut and walked along rocky cliffs, trespassing through hotels, to reach the beach. There are no words to explain how beautiful this beach is. Photos won't do it justice either. You have to witness it with your own eyes. Azure waters and white sandy beaches. Paradise on Earth! The highlight of my Tulum adventure was taking a tour to Akumal Beach with a bunch of new friends from the hostel. We swam in the turquoise waters, snorkeled with turtles, played Frisbee on the beach, drank vodka, and I took photos of beautiful ladies from France and Sweden. Why waste time on swiping through Tinder when you can travel and meet interesting wo/-men from all over the world...
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