06.17.2011 25 °C
We really enjoyed staying in Oaxaca and it is almost with a small tear in the eye that we left for the bigger town of Puebla closer to Mexico City. We could have easily stayed here a bit longer, just enjoying some great food in the numerous restaurants and cafes that line up the streets of the historical centre.
Upon arrival in Puebla late afternoon, we quickly felt a bit oppressed by the traffic, the noise and the far less relaxed atmosphere compared to Oaxaca. Hostels prices were not to our taste either and we had to pay a bit more than usual. As a rule of thumb, we found that Hostelling International hostels (HI) in Mexico were quite overpriced and that lesser known small hotels provided better services for less money.
As we went out in search of some place to eat, it started to rain heavily so we entered the closest restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet and although the food was nice, it was not special and a bit pricy again. We went back to our hotel walking down some poorly lit streets and didn’t feel that comfortable for the first time since we arrived in Mexico.
On the next day, we explored a bit more the town, especially its numerous churches and cathedrals.
We liked the atmosphere a lot more than the previous day. I guess, we had to get used to being in big cities again but at the end of the day we were reconciled with Puebla, which has some great colonial buildings, a good student vibe and after all quite a lot of bars and restaurants.
We ended the day in a bar having a few beers and tequilas while listening to some dance and techno music played by a local DJ! It was a nice change from the Latino music we have been hearing for nearly 8 months now.
The next day we finally made it to Mexico City. It was a special moment for us as this was the final destination of the first part of our trip. We could hardly believe that we managed to travel from Ushuaia at the Southern end of the American continent to Mexico, without flying (except for one hour in Panama to cross the Darien Gap). We have spent about 590h in buses, including 10 nights, for a total of approximately 25 full days of 24h! We could also count the number of hours spent in boats as we have spent a fair amount of time on it as well!
We found a fairly cheap hotel close to the historical centre and started our exploration of the town. On a Saturday afternoon, most pedestrian streets near the main Cathedral were packed and we thought we were on Oxford Circus in London on the first fay of the sales! It was a bit crazy. After months spent in small colonial towns or in the nature we felt a bit overwhelmed by this frenzy but as well a bit excited to get back to “civilisation”! We first visited the central Cathedral as well as the presidential palace and then headed towards the independence monument before finishing the day in the “zona rosa” or red district, which appeared quite liberal for such a Christian countrry like Mexico.
On our next day we visited the suburb of Xochimilco, famous for its canals and colourful boats.
We managed to find a Mexican couple to share a boat with us for a one hour ride on the canals to minimize the price. It was kind of nice but I have rarely seen such a touristic thing. Once you get on the canals, you see tons of boats with people trying to sell you food, handicrafts, or willing to sing Mexican songs in their traditional outfit. It was actually a big circus and I wouldn’t recommend it!
For lunch we ended up under the tent where people were celebrating the festival of the rabbit!!
I let you imagine the look on the waiter’s face when Charlotte asked him if he had anything vegetarian!
In the afternoon we got back on time to visit the Templo Mayor – free on Sunday – and we ended the day in a nice bar next tour hotel.
On our next day, we took it easy enjoying the food in our local restaurant, Café Mestizo on Calle Uruguay, and – after climbing to the top of the Cathedral - we went to visit the Guadalupe area, which comprises a few churches and a monstrous and ugly Basilica.
Even though the public transports are very good and cheap, the town spans over such a big area that it takes a bit of time to travel between sights so we didn’t do anything else on that day.
Very early morning the next day we left to visit the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, some 60km away from town. The route has been known for armed robberies but we could see a lot of police presence and random search on passengers at various checkpoints! All very reassuring… In about 3 hours we finished visiting the ruins, which have come to fame for its two massive pyramids.
We got there early enough to avoid the big crowds and we rather liked our experience.
For our last day in Mexico City, we saw a different side of the city by going to fairly wealthy suburbs (Coyoacan and Polanco) where cafes and tree-lined streets reminded us a bit of Paris. On our way to the ethnographic museum we stopped by at the nearby zoo (with free entrance) and ended up spending most of our afternoon watching pandas, jaguars and rhinos among other things. We never made it to the museum!
We finished our amazing latin America journey in Mexico city thinking about all we have done in the past 8 months and we will share with you some of our conclusions below. Note that the adventure is not over as we are now in Canada for a week, preparing for our 2 month Asian adventures!!
Some statistics and comments on our Latin American journey:
On average, we have spent 2.15 nights per place we stayed at. Although we felt we slowed down a bit lately with longer stays in the same place in Honduras, Belize and Mexico, on average we have actually spent less time than previously in each place since we left Colombia.
Longest stays in one place: Utila, Honduras, 6 nights. Tulum and Mexico City, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5 nights. Caye Caulker, Belize; Corn Island, Nicaragua; Banos, Ecuador; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 4 nights.
We have spent 5 months in South America and 3 months in Central America.
Countries in which we have spent the most time:
• Colombia, 33 nights.
• Ecuador (includes 8 nights on the Galapagos Islands), 29 nights.
• Mexico, 27 nights.
• Chile, 26 nights.
• Brazil, 25 nights.
• Nicaragua, 19 nights.
Least favourite countries:
• Ecuador (except Galapagos)
Favourite places (by chronological order):
• Pantanal, Brazil.
• Patagonia, Chile-Argentina.
• Pucon, Chile.
• Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
• San Augustin-Tierradentro, Colombia.
• Capurgana, Colombia.
• Corcovado National Park and Osa Peninsula (Frog watching at night, snorkelling), Costa Rica.
Best journeys & experiences in no particular order:
• Cruising down the Rio San Juan to San Juan del Norte and then onto Bluefields and Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.
• Cajamarca to Chachapoyas by bus, Peru; 12h00 across stunning mountain sceneries
• 5 stars night bus from Lima to Trujillo, Peru
• Chachapoyas to Villcabamba, Ecuador: funky border crossing in the middle of the jungle
• Walking in the jungle from Capurgana to Sapzuro, Colombia (great views & abundant wildlife)
• 5 day cruise in the Galapagos, Ecuador
• Travelling through the guerrilla territory of San Augustin and Tierradentro at the back of trucks on dirt roads, Colombia
Worst journeys & experiences in no particular order:
• Dealing with immigration while crossing the border to Panama from Capurgana, Colombia
• Boat ride to Bluefields; 3h00 of soaking in a small fishing boat
• Going off the beaten path by bus in Uruguay from west to east
• Travelling in Paraguay
• La Serena to Iquique, Chile, in 18h00 by bus
• Turbo to Capurgana, Colombia by boat going through big waves
• Hiking up volcano Concepcion on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
• The rain and the wind storm in Torres del Paine, Chile
• Being mugged in Quito, Ecuador
Favourite sites or monuments in no particular order
• Tikal, Guatemala
• The pyramid of Chitchen Itza, Mexico
• Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
• The sarcophagus of Chachapoyas, Peru
• Archeological sites of San Augustin, Colombia
Favourite sceneries in no particular order
• Iguazu falls, Argentina & Brazil
• Volcan Villarica in Pucon, Chile
• Glacier grey at sunset in Torres del Paine, Chile
• Mt FitzRoy, Argentina
• Lava field and beaches in the Galapagos Islands
• Cocora valley near Salento, Colombia (hughe palm trees in the cloud forest)
• Coral walls of the Caribbean
• Cycling around the volcano Concepcion on Ometepe island, Nicaragua
• Diving in the cenotes (caves) in Tulum, Mexico
• View of Ilha Grande from Parrot’s peak, Brazil
• Desert and sand dunes surrounding the coastal town of Iquique, Chile
Best encounters with wildlife:
• Tapirs bathing in the sea in Corcovado NP, Costa Rica
• Poison dart frogs in Costa Rica and Nicaragua
• Scarlet macaws in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica
• Swimming with hammerhead sharks, Corn Island, Nicaragua
• Swimming with penguins, turtles and sea lions, Galapagos islands, Ecuador
• Observing toucans in the wild, particularly in Corcovado NP, Costa Rica
• Magpies on Ometepe island, Nicaragua
• First capucin monkeys and coatis observed while walking between Capurgana and Sapzuro, Colombia
• Baby tarantula walking under our table during dinner in El Remate, Guatemala
• Caypibaras and Jaibiru in the Pantanal, Brazil
• Massive crocodiles in the Sumerido canyon, Mexico
• Diving with giant sting rays and spotted eagle rays, Belize
• Spotting an armadillo (and possibly a small wild cat but I’m not certain about that one) at night on Boca Brava, Panama
• Venomous snake in the mountain near Oaxaca, Mexico
• Creepy crawlies at night in the Amazon rain forest, Ecuador
• Condors flying just above us in Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
• Fox in the mist at the top of Torres del Paine, Chile
• King fishers by dozens along the rio San Juan when crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua by boat
• Anteater in Corcovado NP, Costa Rica
Favourite beaches in no particular order:
• Tulum, Mexico.
• Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.
• Water Cayes, Honduras.
• Las Lajas, Panama.
• Ilha Grande, Brazil
• Tortuga bay, Galapagos islands, Ecuador
Favourite Cities in no particular order:
• Oaxaca, Mexico.
• Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
• Cuenca, Ecuador.
• Leon, Nicaragua.
• Mexico City, Mexico.
• Santiago, Chile.
Least favourite cities in no particular order:
• Quito, Ecuador.
• Montevideo, Uruguay.
• Cartagena, Colombia.
• Granada, Nicaragua.
• Valparaiso, Chile.
• Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Favourite food: Mexican, Argentinian.
Least favourite food: Chilean.