As the 9th of February was approaching I started to be really excited. Backpacks were ready by the doors, filled from the top to bottom, respecting the 23 kg baggage plane allowance. This excitement also included a tiny bit of a stress as always – a mixture of emotions I go through every time I travel somewhere. Maybe this time it was more due to my friends’ and relatives’ catastrophic predictions: Are you going to Mexico? They will kidnap you, rape you and sell your organs… they use to say. But if I ever listened to any of this, I would probably never leave my flat.
Travelling on your own, without an agency is the way of travelling that fits me best. It is maybe a bit less comfortable (ok, maybe way less comfortable than staying in the four stars all-inclusive hotels) but richer in experience. Simply because you don´t know what will happen while looking for accommodation or while moving from one city to another. Like missing the flight from Paris to Mexico (due to a delayed flight from Vienna) which also included movie-like running from one flight terminal to another (at Charles de Gaulle airport the distance is pretty
huge). Well, we did not make it (we only needed 10 more minutes) so we were forced to spend one night in Paris and this already messed up our plans. Not to mention that we were packed for the sunny, 25 degree Mexico while in Paris it was snowing and approximately –7 degrees Celsius. So yes, stress and adventure is always a part of this type of travel.
10th of February
Arrival in Cancún. Warm and humid air slaps you in the face. Cancún is a real tourist paradise with beautiful beaches, but with very little in common with the “real” Mexican life. Simply, the flight tickets were the cheapest with the arrival here. After spending the night in the most hippie hostel ever, without air conditioning, but with cockroaches instead and after being offered to buy some weed or other drugs by an American emigrant we hurried up to the “genuine” Mexican cities.
11th of February
Tulum – a Maya costal city, one of the best preserved places. The location itself is beautiful, but the best part of visiting Tulum was how by chance we found accommodation directly on the beach in the incredible cozy beach houses with almost no one around. Staying there made me feel like Robinson Crusoe (if he had a water closet, a restaurant with great sea food and a comfortable bed).The sunrise on this beach was the best ones I saw in my entire life.
16th of February
Palenque – a Mayan city situated in the Jungle. One of the most charismatic places in Mexico – a city lost in time and in a jungle. Something we would have really enjoyed had it not rained so heavily the whole day. We got wet in 2 minutes and walking around for hours in wet clothes is no fun even when you are looking at the butt of Queen Elisabeth II. During the way back to our accommodation we met a German teacher who had been travelling alone around Mexico for a long time, we shared a beer and a pizza (yes, pizza is everywhere even in the unknown depth of Mexican jungle) and listened to his very interesting stories.
18th of February
San Cristóbal – a picturesque city surrounded by mountains. And even though the city itself is definitely worth visiting, the surrounding villages are a must-see. To be more precise a church in one of them – Chamula. This church is an incredible mixture of Catholicism and of the traditional Mayan religion. When you enter the church you see the statues of the Saints – Jesus, John the Baptist and Virgin Mary. But this is probably where the similarities with the “ordinary” Catholic Church end. For instance, the ground of the church is completely covered with pine needles. There are no benches, only a few standpoints occupied by Shamans. Every Shaman has few things around him or her – a candle, a chicken, alcohol and a bottle of Coca-Cola. The Shaman’s job is to heal people by forcing the dark spirits to leave the ill person and to enter the chicken that is then ritually killed. The most fascinating part is obviously the Coca-Cola. The Ancient Mayans believed that when you burp you soul leaves the body and you can be united with the higher spirits. In the past in order to achieve this “instant burp” they used an alcohol that has been fermented in the ground for few weeks in order to get gassy. But now with Cola-Cola it is so much easier! Yes, you are right, Cola-Cola is a truly sacred drink. Amen to that.
28th of February
Guanajuato. Probably the nicest city that I have ever been to. Very different from all of the other Mexican cities we have visited. It’s the center of student life in Mexico. Once a rich city where silver was mined. A place where the Festival Cervantino is held every year – one of the premiere arts and cultural festivals in Mexico, conducted in memory of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. A city with lots of charming cafés, bars and restaurants with great food. The atmosphere itself is so powerful that this city will stay in our memory for sure.
1st of March
Departure from Mexico city – the city with 21 million of inhabitants (that is Greater Mexico
city) and the biggest national flag in the world hanging in the main square. Also the city where Frida Kahlo, Alejandro González Iñárritu or Alfonso Cuarón were born. As I step into the plane all of the tiredness of the past days caught up to me, but I did not feel like going home. I kept replaying in my head the quote from Frida Kahlo, one of my favourite painters: “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can”. But this is it – these trips are meant to be short, so they can be intense. Back then I did not know when or where I will travel next, but I was sure that I will do so. Yes, travelling is a drug and I am glad that I am addicted.
There are many things I have not mentioned – swimming in cenotes, the island in Pátzcuaro, the city of Oaxaca, being shown how the carpets are manually produced and coloured, the house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. But, and this is a truth that I believe in, it is always beyond comparing reading about travelling and doing the travelling yourself. Leave your comfort zone behind and travel! You won’t regret it!