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Campeche- A Mixed Bag

Campeche, Mexico

Ok. This is back Nov 22ndish??? I´ve been pretty behind on blogging (sorry!!) so I´ll have to remember all that has happened since this date. (It´s now Dec 11th)- Campeche is a beautiful city on the gulf of Mexico and I believe it´s real claim to fame was that is once had a huge pirate problem (back in the day) Apparently, the problem with pirates was so bad that the peoples of Campeche decided to build a Stone wall around the city to protect it from the pirates. Today, a piece of the wall still stands and is now labeled a UNESCO site.
This is all good and interesting. Nice city. Pirate wall. Supposedly good shrimp.However, perhaps the most interesting thing that occurred in our short stay was that Josh got his credit card taken. BOLLUCKS. We had already purchased our bus tickets to Palenque and we were really really looking forward to getting there. Immediately, Josh called his bank and they assured him that they would be sending his card within 24 hours to Mexico. With sound mind that the card would eventually make it Mexico-we moved on from Campeche. More to come...

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 3, 2009 from Campeche, Mexico
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San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

So I´ve lost all record of dates for now. All I know is that we arrived in San Cristobal around Nov 24th? and stayed for 10 entire days!!! That´s huge for us. I think we became honorary residents of this place- but in the end, that was fine with me. Showing up in San CritObal in the late evening, I could already feel an excitement that I hadnt felt before on this trip. For those who don´t know, in the early 90´s, some rebels upset with the possibility of a NAFTA free trade agreement with the US, decided to ¨have a revolution¨and the rebels chose San Cristobal as the background. It´s a special city located in the state of Chiapas- the poorest state in Mexico. With the background of the Zapatistas, and the influx of indigenous Mayan peoples living in and around the city- I was sure that this would be a hippie capital. Boy was I right. I have never seen such a collection of hipsters (spanning North America, Europe and Australia) in my entire life. All dudes sporting long hair and beards to match (think Dazed and Confused) and all chicks with Mexican arm candy. Our hostel here was the stage for this hippie hangout, for there was a bonfire each evening. Hippies from high and low would surround the bonfire nightly-Mescal (A type of tequila but way crappier) in hand. At first the fun of the city (interesting knowledge of the Zapatistas, good falafals, deliciously strong coffee) excited our spirits. However, the excitement shortly wore thin as we sat waiting in our hostel for Josh´s bank card to arrive. The upside of being stuck in our hippie haven, was that we did start Spanish lessons with an extremely colorful Mexican Minerva. I began to look forward to our lessons each day, as Josh grew more frustated with Citizens Bank each day. The kid even lost his appetite. For those who know Josh, and more importantly don´t know his appetite- you can believe how distraught he was. We really were starting to believe that we would NEVER make it to Guatemala.
An entire week came and went. We started looking for teaching positions in the city believing the card would never arrive. Some told us to just move on to Guatemala. But come on people. If FEDEX couldnt find us in Mexico- how the hell was it going to get to us in Guatemala. Then, with no hope left. The card arrived and we were off to Guatemala.Hasta Luego Mexico!

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 3, 2009 from San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico
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Playa......Mexico´s own amusment park.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

So we fly into Cancun and immediately take a bus to the town of Playa del Carmen (aka the cheesiest place I have ever seen outside a Chucky Cheese Restaurant) This place fucking sucks. It´s essentially made so tourists can take a short trip to Mexico, and not actually see Mexico. If you went to a theme park and Mexico was an attraction- Playa is what it would look like. Surrounding us, on a three block strip are Italian, Thai and American restaurants with Mexican music playing in the background. Not sweet.
We stay in a hotel that is completely empty. I´m wondering if the reason for this is the fact that a man singing Eagles covers plays in the bar next door every single night. I walk around the strip watching people buy, at outstanding prices, fake-looking Mexican sombreros and moroccas to bring back to their families. I looked at a tag of one of the sombreros and noticed it was actually produced in Taiwan.
The beach by Playa is in fact, rather nice- and I wouldn´t be complaining about these tourists should I be staying at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. But I´m not. So I am. We end our first night here with dinner (at a Thai restaurant) and 2 for 1 cocktails at a Metal bar where an adorable little Mexican is dressed up as Spiderman and doing random tricks for money....hmmm begging- Maybe the toursts here did see some of the REAL Mexico I was hoping to see. Off to Tulum tomorrow.

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 9, 2009 from Playa del Carmen, Mexico
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Awesomness in Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

Nov 11-15
So from my last blog entry in shitty Playa del Carmen I can now redeem myself because Tulum is awesome. We arrive a bit travel weary by bus to our hostel aptly named The Weary Traveler where we can immediatly feel the hippy\backpacker vibe running through our veins in this well-aged hostel. We stay in a dorm room where a rather unfriendly Australian girl is staying (she later leaves because she hates americans). The hostel is fitted with a giant courtyard and huge picnic table used by everyone to chill at night. The British guys in the hostel take their chilling seriously where they are never without a joint. The hostel offers free breakfast and a free bus ride to the famous beach of Tulum next to some Mayan ruins. The first evening we meet Zach, a cabinet maker from Brookyln, John, a tree-planter from Toronto, and Elian, a swiss girl who has happened to get robbed twice and have bed bugs all in the last three months. We hang with everyone for the next three days on the beach, and what a beach it is. I will be posting pics as soon as possible. The sand is powder white, and the water, turqouise blue. Mayan ruins stand looming in the distance. The beach is famous (and free) so there are tons of gringos everywhere. For three perfect days, we all lived by the beach. Two lesbian Canadian girls later joined us where they were seen happily frolicking topless around the beach. Pics will come shortly (of the beach not the Canadian girls). Burned and beached out after four days-we head towards Merida tomorrow.

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 11, 2009 from Tulum, Mexico
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Mexico at it´s sleepiest.

Chichen-Itza, Mexico

Nov 15
After conquiring the Mayan ruin in Coba, Mexico- we were off to our next destination of Valodolid. A sleepy Mexico town near the city of Merida, Vallodolid offers charming churches, cobblestone streets and grassy piazzos. There isn´t much to do really in this sleepy town, however the hostel in which we are staying is wonderful. Located in an old convent, the hostel ¨La Candelria¨ boasts an open kitchen right in the middle of a garden. We had only planned one night in Valodolid, but with the pleasantness of our hostel, we are finding it quite difficult to leave.

Sunny, hot and humid today- perfect weather to venture 7 km out of town to see some famous cenotes. A cenote is a cave that has fresh water for swimming. Along with a couple we had met from Atlanta, we rented bikes and headed for the freshness of the cenotes. After 25 minutes we had arrived. The pristine beauty of the cenote was unfortunately surrounded by a tourist village selling goods that could be found cheaply elsewhere. Sweaty and deeply in need of a fresh water dip- we all jumped in, letting the catfish(the only fish in the water) to nibble at our feet. We visited another cenote after that was much the same, but a little bit bigger. We rode our bikes back to our hostel in the late afternoon, stopping at a supermarket to grab some ingredients for the night´s dinner. There´s really nothing better than cooking in a kitchen surrounded by flowers....and your some friendly chihuahuas underfoot. Good day (s).

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 17, 2009 from Chichen-Itza, Mexico
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A Couple of Days in Merida

Merida, Mexico

Nov 18
It´s Wednesday and we find ourselves on a hot, stuffy 2nd class bus working our way to Merida- the capital of the the Yucatan. Merida has a sizable population of 700,000 and is full of historical buildings painted in pretty pastels. As our bus arrived into the city, we were able to take in the colonial aspects of the city. Of course, the prettiest buildings were built by the enemy (the Spanish). Nomadas Hostel where we stayed was equipped with a pool (the first one I´ve seen at a hostel) outside lounge area and open kitchen. It´s funny when you enter a new hostel for the first time and everyone looks at you as the newbies. You kind of get that feeling like you´re the new kid in school especially when you see the already tightly formed cliques of travelers. Anyway, our first night was filled with eating Yucatan specialties (alot of turkey filled tortillas doused with spicy sauces) and drinking Montejo beers back at the hostel with some of the other travelers who were willing to open up and chat with us. We both went to bed tired, a little drunk and excited as one can be for the free city tour that would commence the next morning.
Nov 19
Again HOT. I feel like each day is hotter than the last and with Merida being inland, you don´t have any pleasant see breeze to look forward to. The city tour was done by a man name Pedro. Pedro is a spunky little man-probably barely 5 foot, who feels a special pride for his hometown of Merida. We learn (in somewhat broken English) that Merida at one time was full of Myan pyramids- but the evil Spaniards dismantled the pyramids and used the rocks to build more practical buildings-such as mansions for themselves. As we looked around the city, some of the buildings were still standing but were now badly damaged and in need of major resotoration. Perhaps the best part of the tour wasn´t even the tour itself, but the little Mexican boy (Emmanuel) who decided to follow our tour group around for the last half hour. The boy seemed to listen attentively to Pedro as our group of gringos walked from painting to painting (we were now in an art museum). Pedro didn´t say a word as this strangely out of place boy followed. Finally, as he finished up the tour he broke his English and said in Spanish ´´Little boy do you understand English?¨´ The boy didn´t say anything. Then Pedro said in the Mayan Yucatec language the same thing. The boy didn´t say a word. What was with this strange boy I wondered? Why was he following our group around (that was being spoken to in English) ? Did this boy have any language ability? As we walked down the stairs, another foreigner in the group asked Emmanuel his age. He quickly responded ¨10´¨ and then ran off. I came to the conclusion that Emmanuel was poorly attempting to beg for money, but soon became embarrassed. Kids.
Nov 20
Independence Day in Merida. Large parades full of teens filled the streets. The scene was not unlike that of Mardi Gras, however the musical endeavors of these particular children was a far cry from the Mardi Gras marchers. After a couple of days in the capital, with all it´s history, and pride- we were ready to leave the dusty city and move south to Campeche. A city stop on the way to Palenque. Josh, me and our newly adopted traveler friend Eliane, packed our bags and were on the road once again.

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 18, 2009 from Merida, Mexico
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Getting to the jungles of Palenque= Bus Adventures

Palenque, Mexico

Nov 23
The quaint town of Campeche with it´s bright pastel colored buildings wasn´t much unlike Merida. It had a nice waterfront (blocked by a wall that at one time kept pirates out of the city)and a charming central plaza, however two days in Campeche was enough and we were edging to get into the jungles of our next destination,Palenque.
Overnight bus to Palenque from Campeche ´supposedly´takes 6 hours and 30 minutes on a bus. Making it to the bus terminal for our 10 pm bus, we thought ´great´we´ll get to Palenque about 5am-wait an hour-and be on our merry way to the area of El Panchen- a hippie commune smack in the middle of a jungle about 4 km from the amazing Palenque Mayan Ruins. So here we are on our night bus where the feature film is the outstanding B movie ¨Direct Action´starring the great Dolph Lundgren. After taking our seats, next to the bathroom nonetheless, we all fall peacefully asleep only to arrive into Palenque at 3am! 3am! What the hell were we supposed to do at 3am?! We were totally unwilling to walk around the city, which was completely shady at this hour, for a place to stay. So we did what we had to. WAIT. We waited for 4 loooong hours on the floor of the bus station falling in and out of dream states. I couldn´t be happier when we finally were able to flag down a collectivo (city van) to drive us to El Panchen. The minute we set eyes on our bed in the jungle bungalow, we were out for the rest of the day.
Nov 24
If you ever have a chance to make it to some Mayan Ruins, make it to Palenque Mexico- where several of the buildings are still standing in their complete and original form. For four hours, we ran through these delightful structures (of course making fun of your average German tourist).After the ruins we were brought to two waterfalls, Misol-ha where I was told a scene in Arnold Shwartzenegger´s(sp?) film Predator was filmed and then to Agua Azul. A pleasant location where several waterfalls came together to form somewhat of a jacuzzi for swimming. We ended the day listening to an amazing reggae band and eating real tasting pizza back at the jungle commune. Tomorrow, we head for the city San Christobal de las Casas- a city that in 1994- was taken over by Zapatistas in order to ¨start a revolution!´Sounds right up my ally.

permalink written by  joshandmary on November 26, 2009 from Palenque, Mexico
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Crossing the border to Guatemala---Let the adventures begin

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

We made it to Guatemala and this place is absolutely nuts. It´s Dec 5th and as we drive Mexico into Guatemala (border crossing pics will be posted because it is insane) I start feeling a sense of uneasiness I hadnt yet felt before. In some sense, starting our trip off in Mexico was sort of comfortable. I mean I know tons of close friends of mine who have ventured there(family members also). I was familiar with Mexican food, Mexican music, and pretty much, Mexican culture. This is our close neighbor afterall. So when we finally reached the border to Guatemala- I guess you can say that our REAL trip was just beginning. We are farther away from home now and this place is known to be not just a little, but alot more dangerous. You already know there is imminent danger around you for the mere fact that shuttles run directly to everywhere you want to go in this country. There´s no place or time for the tourists to just simply hangout-unless they really want to of course. As the shuttle entered the country, we were immediately shocked by how beautiful the scenery is. Lushous mountains seem to go on forever and volcanos are visible in the distance. This country has the most breathtaking landscape I have ever seen. (PICS TO COME)
We arrive in Quetzaltenango (Xela "Shell-ah") to the locals. Our hostel, The Black Cat, is surprisingly pretty thought empty. The helpful bartender (who once lived in Canton NY) gets us settled in and let´s us know some information about the city. Our first meal is at a surprisingly delicious french restaurant in town. We have a night cap back at the hostel´s bar (Cabro Xela´s own brewed beer) and go straight to bed-for we know that Spanish lessons will await us this week and it´s best for now to get some rest.

p.s. I have been busy uploading pictures from the trip on to facebook as this website is incredibly slow for doing that. I just finished uploading pics from Tulum-Merida and will be posting more in the days to come. Enjoy!

permalink written by  joshandmary on December 11, 2009 from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
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Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

So Xela has proven to be both super educational and somewhat life-changing. After busting our butts with 5 hour long Spanish lessons for the week, Josh and I decided to hike the highest peak in Central America- Volcan Tajumulco. That´s right- the highest peak is actually a dorman Volcano!
Leaving at 4am for the hike, we both felt nervous and excited for what was to come. As we showed up at 6am, Josh, me, a 60 year old man and fellow Spanish student Barry, and Byron - our super energetic 40 something year old Guatemalteca guide began to ascend the peak. The winds were howling and we all felt the affects of the high altitude. Stopping periodically, gave us a chance to observe the astounding surrounds. We really were in the clouds!
As we got to the last leg, I began to really feel the strain of the hike and after 3 hours, we ascended to the top. Looking down at the world from 14000 feet was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my life. Josh had to have felt the same way because it was at that point when he decided to propose. He got down on one knee and for a second, I was like ¨Josh are you ok?¨ Then he asked me to marry him! I started to cry! I was really surprised! After four years we were finally engaged! I have to give it to Josh, I never actually thought he would propose and then he found the most romantic way in the world to propose. Probably one of the best, if not the best day of my life. Not only had we scaled the highest peak in Central America, but we were now engaged! So amazing.

permalink written by  joshandmary on December 16, 2009 from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
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Disasters in Ecotourism

San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Ok, so I´ve been told by one of my close college friends that Lago de Atitlan or Lake Atitlan was one of the most beautiful places in the world. She was right. This lake is surrounded by volcanos and boasts amazing views. One problem. As of this year, the lake is completely contaminated and is considered dangerous just to swim in. Well this put a damper on the lake experience. We rented kayaks and realized that we were the only two people in the entire lake. Something was definetly wrong. We stayed in one of the lake side villages known for partying. It was dead. Empty restaurants were followed by empty bars. We did happen to catch a Pohang Steelers game in one of the British pubs along the street. Needless to say, we were the only ones in the bar watching. Pohang lost by the way to Argentina. If anything, we did have a beautiful view of the lake and the tranquility of the place still resonated- However, this is a major ecodisaster for Guatemala and it is only in our hopes that the government puts money into the area to clean up the lake. It would be a shame to see this area die out. After our quick trip we were bound for Antigua. A city full of colonial architecture and a buzzing nightlife-

permalink written by  joshandmary on December 25, 2009 from San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
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Hey everyone! So it's finally our turn to travel! For the next six months, Josh and I will be traveling into the unknown world of Central America. Full of Mayan pyramids, white sand beaches and jungle walks, Central America is a dream come true for us backpackers. So, for all of you at home, we...

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