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September 1999

Hits 1717 | Created 1999-09-01 | Modified 2007-05-24

Journal extracts from 1996 - travels in Mexico.

Palenque, Mexico.

A glass so cold that the beer freezes ariund the edges as you pour it in. It goes well with the utter heat and humidity of the midday sun.
I'm sitting in a small cafe near the main square, passing time out of the sun. I'm still in my $130 peso budget, but only just. I'm going the have to give up my daily budget at this rate.
There's a large rally about 20m away, a wall of policia with riot shields surround a large building , where an unseen man rouses the crowd with a passionate speech. Cheers occasionally.
I'm reminded of those western type films with Pancho Villa rousing crowds.

There were gunshots this morning which woke me from a mundane dream about being lost somewhere.
I have nothing to do today.
Yesterday saw off the nearby ruins - a sprawl of Mayan pyramids and houses, mid-jungle. I wandered up the steep steps, imagining that I too was to be sacraficed at the top, then at the top imagined myself the priest, high on sacred drugs.
I lost myself in the forest, being bitten and stung by all manner of plants and animals. Lizards ran by, large things circled by head. I discovered overgrown Mayan houses, but didn't enter due to the mass of flying and creeping, stinging, buzzing, biting things that silenced as I approached.
I got lost and missed my trail markers, endlessly hitting impassable dead-ends, getting hotter and, despite myself, full of panic. Eventually I stumbled out of the jungle and onto a green lawn, picnic-ers staring at me.
Covered in mud and scratches, feeling like a Livingstone for a minute.
I had been only 100 yards from the grass all the time, probably.

Tomorrow San Cristobal is my next call, a cooler mountain village by all accounts. A welcome change from the steaminess here I imagine. It's beautiful here though, a large plain surrounded by steep looking jungle hills, with a large ravine nearby for good measure.
Oh, too hot to write anymore.

Home early after a few Coronas due to the small riot in town. After the crowd began to smash windows and generally wooden things, I was ushered quickly into the bar where the own proceeded to barracade the doors and windows with tables and chairs.
I sat with my fag and beer, a little shaky as the police deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd. I luckily only had a little of it.
After a while, the owner unlocked the door and ordered me to Vamos! through the square and home (though not before I paid the bill and left a tip...)
A street away the locals looked worried as the tourists ordered more beers in ignorant bliss.
After asking, it seems that it's about Marcos' political campaigning, and that the people don't want him here.
Mind you, after a tweleve hour solid speech, I'd be tempted to break a chair or two.
The guy on hotel reception assures me that it is No Problema. Hmm.
So, no tea for me, as I'm a little fearful of the angry crowds to return to the streets now. Ah well, up early tomorrow anyway.

Bitten by mosquitoes, and finished 'Are you Educated?'

San Cristobal, Tobasco / Chiapas.

Last night was finished off with a huge electric storm that lasted all through the night - like someone turning on the light every few seconds.
This morning, caught the bus with minimal problems, and have just arrived at the Hotel Real De Guadalupe, oh, no, the 'Santiago', which has gone up $10 in five years to $70 per night [Note, $=Peso]. I'l look for the hostel tomorrow - I had to escape from the torrential rain storm that came on us in seconds. It's still raining outside, but I may try and hit a restaurant nearby...
The place? Hard to say yet, but seems nice / cheaper, if a little touristy. The journey jere was incredible though, endless hills and ravines chock-a-block with jungle.

A pretty good day and night really. Wandered about town endlessly confused over streets and places until I realised that in the last five years, they've renamed most of the streets. Right. So, can't be bothered to move hotels now, and will stay here tomorrow too.
Plan is to hit the Pacific coast on la manana por la manana. I'll spend tomorow doing museums and hills and the like, I guess.
This evening, ate a 3/4 course meal for about $30, and had a couple of beers about town. I was feeling a little depressed until I had my first small-talk conversation en espanol with a Mexican - my hotel receptionist. We talked about silver and India, and I asked for a good bar to go to, and got one! Felt high after my small Spanish breakthrough - still broken and weak as hell, but understood a little more now.
Las Velas is quite a kicking little bar full of funky young Mexcians and tourista gringos alike. Happy hour ensures a good time of course. Dos cerveza for $14. Not great, but good for here.
Talked to, and flirted with, a French girl who was with a worried looking boyfriend. I can't help that we're heading for the same coastal town, can I?
Anyway, enough, I'm a little drunk tonight, and am looking forward to muchos sleep and a late start.

Finished 'e' by I.W.

Same place

A day of Indianesque slow banks, churches, and endless wandering. Did breakfast, so conculded that would do for the day - people eat far too much you know. Wrote postcards and sent them, had a beer in the square, the usual. Then had a quiet beer, trying to get through 'A Lover's Discourse - Fragments' in a central cafe. Had a terrible 'special' cerveza which was flooded with lime juice and salt - most unpleasant really. I emailed and then killed time until hora feliz at Las Velas and got conned into having four beers, then five, not two as I had desired. The place was heaving with all kinds of folk, doing the vida loca - yes, Ricki Martin got them dancing alright. 'Chatted' to a Chilean guy on holiday who knew as much Ingles and I knew Espanol - an interesting event though.
Now a little drunk, and ready for sleep.
Should get up early and tackle the Tuxla - Tanala - Puerto Arista, but it may be a late start - who cares? Not yo, anyway.

Puerta Arista

I'm a few metres from the sea in my little cell. Mexican radio plays, and a storm blows outside. My fan is less than industrial strength tonight, and my washing drips from an impromtu line across the room. The room is dirty amd bare and full of rat shit, if the truth be known (which worries me a little). I'm eating Green Salsa Doritos, which are much better than any of our flavours. I have a Sol to drink ($8 pesos) and it's about 8pm (I think), or 9 maybe. I was driven inside by the mosquito problem. I've been bitten to hell.
Journey was pleasant. Colectivo bus to the middle of nowhere, then two local buses to Tuxtla, then a long walk and wait before four hours here in an air-con Cristobal Colon special. Had some nice Quesidillas on the way - meat free, good grief. I arrived at Tonla and took a co-op taxi for $7 to the coast.
Never been to such a depressingly deserted place - 15km of beach and thirty or so beach bar type places, and I've seen about five people along the length of it. The ocean is rough and pretty, and the sand is clean and full of beach dogs. Spent the evening 'chatting' with the guy who looks after this place ($50 per night). He has no Ingles and isn't prepared to slow down his speech for me, so it has been tricky talking up until now. Still, he gave me free tortillas and tequila, and I gave him free Duma [Dutch rolling tobacco] in exchange - very amicable.
I guess it's as good a place as any to chill out and meditate, but I'm still a little unsure of the vibe - I'll be able to say more tomorrow, I'm sure.
The storm grows. I think I'll drink my beer and listen to it.

Mi amigo just called to drop off a Mexican fag for me, and babbled about something - frustrating to understand so little.

Day? I don't know.

Oops, just worked out that it is Friday, and too late for Traveller Cheques in Tonala, which means I may have to stay in this quiet place until Monday, when I can get to El Banco. There may be an ATM I can use, I'll check that out tomorrow morning, I guess. Sigh. Onto the credit card already. Figures suggest an earlier than planned exit from Mexico at this rate.
The money situation here is made more complex by the lack of cambio (change) as all I have are $100 peso notes, three of them. And no-one had any change. All very well for the old man whose wife cooked me breakfast to say 'you pay me manana or mas tarde', the fact is that I'll have no cambio then either. Sigh again. This time I'm gettng a wad out of the bank so I don't have to worry about it.
Walked for three hours today, up and down the beach - in one direction it becomes nothing at all - just beach and scrubland. No shade, and vicious sand fleas to attack you if you settle for a moment on the sand. Not a soul around. In the other direction, more of the same, but a village shimmering on the horizon - a treat for Saturday or Sunday, maybe.
Vultures eating carrion, dead puffer fish, purple shells, dolphins in the distance and big old waves. The sky is always pinkish towards the west, and the waves sound like a stormy day from inside my 'room' (I am trying to air it now, as it is quite smelly really). No sign of the rats yet though.
Don't know what to do next - north or south, I guess.
Can't seem to settle into meditation and excercise routine. I'm too restless, and my mind too full of shite. I'm trying to clear it, but some things just won't go away...

Lying in my hammock, restless.

Evening, night? (Nothing to eat still)
Burnt to hell. I'm as red as a lobster. Foolishly I neglected sunblock to my cheeks (I wore my bandana) and thought that my legs and arms could take it. Oh no. Maybe a mistake indeed. My chest and back are better due to sunblock (I was white...) I've never seen my skin look so angry. On top of this my water ration for the night is half of a small bottle, so, 250ml. I've had less than a litre today and 600ml of Coke. Hmm. Should I drink the half bottle of Sol that I have left? Can't be good.
Tomorrow, a couple of litres through me, I think. It was enough trouble getting the 250ml as it was - can't go back for more, just can't.
There's also a huge fiesta next door, apparently for Mexicans only, so there will be no sleep for a while. I mean, it must be only 8pm or so. But, the mosquitos make life impossible outside right now - even with my boots on.
Spent the rest of the evening dolphin watching and tryng to chat with Armando, my hunchbacked friend. He's quite a star really. If I stayed for a while, I'm sure my Espanol would improve greatly.
I predict peeling.
$30 pesos within budget today - wow. Manana to Tonala for an attempt at an ATM. I hope it comes off.
Still no change. Debts mount.
140 days to go, about. On budget, that's 1400, or about 1600 over budget. Not too bad really, I guess.
Not much else to add.

[Picture of room here]

Quickie. Day in Tonala using Mr Credit Card, okay. Bought a lot of water and apple drinks.
Had a small breakfast and am fasting until tomorrow's equally small affair. Good for me.
Sunblocked and walked for two hours today - no village to be found.
Read and sat in my hammock smoking for the rest of the day. Had one beer and four fags.
Better 'chat' with Armando this evening, though still very tricky indeed.
Actually swam and did some yoga today too - amazing what you can do on an empty stomach eh?
Tomorrow, more of the same, though I'm aiming at two meals.


Usual breakfast at 8.30, then a dither to Tonala - overcast skies, muggy heat. Booked a night bus to Oaxaca tomorrow at 9.25pm ($150). Should be about eight hours? Figure I'll hang out there and see the sights until Independence day on the 16th (yes, I know what I said earlier).
Then, back here for a walk up the beach in the mild rain. It is now pissing down, and the beach bar is flooded out. Torrential. NO sign of stopping at all. Hopefully before my trip to Tonala tomorrow (down to $100 after bus fare etc).
Spent the day worrying about money and then telling myself off for doing so. Figure real cash should last until mid October, then onto credit proper. I reckon I'll travel until I hit the 1,000 in credit bills, then head home, wherever it is. With this figure in mind I can get on with life for a while. Should last until Anne comes anyway. Also thinking about future, post-Mexico today, but it's a subject too large for just one afternoon I think. Looking forward to change of scene tomorrow. Travel is one of the best parts of travelling after all.
Burns in face dying down. Mosquito repelente seems to work too.

Mazunte, Oaxaca state coast

Monday, I think. Terrible eight day gap in journal writing. I'll catch up as best I can.

Bus to Oaxaca city was uneventful and very dark and cold. In the morning I arrived and went to the first hostel I found (The 'D' hostel) on Fiallo Street - backpacker haven. A kind of India style collection of people and laid back, mid-range ($50) dorms.
Spent the next few days just hanging out with new people - another Ralph, Michael, Maya, Claudia, Rolofo and many others. Did trips to hot springs (not very hot, but pretty), ruins at Mitla (some dungeon type tombs and nice mosaiac stone work), Monte Alban - massive old city on a hill - nice day out with Claudia there talking about philosophy and love; and finally the 'big tree', a cyprus which is 2000+ years old and absolutely huge - a good day out with musicians on the bus on the way there. There was also Independence day and night which was quite crazy and involved food and foam fighting with much drinking and eating in many salsa bars. Some late nights were had. Met lots of Mexicans, and even took acid with some of them one night. Nothing too much, we ended off wandering the streets until dawn, which Michael danced up with his musical backpack.
All our pals left, for Chiapas mainly, so I headed down the coast (near Zipolite) for some days to try and decided where to go next. Trip from Oaxaca city took about seven hours through amazing jungle with most of the road covered by landslides of rocks and mud.
Staying in a hammock on the beach ($30) here now, company is Dagma and Gabriel, oh and Yogi and Annie too. Not much to do here at the moment as it is raining again. One amusing story is Michael and Russ going for a swim the other night, naked, and returning to find that their clothes had been washed out to sea - money, ID, everything. They had to sit with us, nude, as everything was locked up by then - I did offer mosquito repellent though.
Today, up with dawn, breakfast of huevos mexicana with coffee, then sitting here with a beer. Micheal reads, Gabriel tries to remove splinters.

Oaxaca State, Mazunte Beach.

Last night was a visit to Zipolite, walking down the road. We saw Maya and Hila there and had some serious happy hour cerveza. On the way home of course we bought a large tequila bottle. Nude swimming without the usual fear of the sea that you have during the day here. Many cuts and grazes now. We all then drank the tequila and were generally rather noisy.
Today, quick huevos Mexicana with an odd head, then twenty of us went to the next beach where some fishermen were taking us to look for dolphins and tutles. All was going well - sunny day today - until the Navy turned up and arrested the boat drivers. We were boarded, using M16s, and provided with a military escort to Puerto Angel. We had to take a collectivo back here.
Then swam and almost failed to return to shore - quite scary - and then had a long walk up the coast with Russ. Smoking on a deserted beach, and then literally fell into my hammock.
Rather burnt and light headed. Maybe to eat?

Mazunte Beach. Sunday, Midday.

Stolen pen, but can't complain. Still here and it's more than a week now. Planning on escaping tomorrow. Rotation of company means Gabriel and Russ are all that's left. Now here is Daniel (Hawaii), two German guys, Toby, Salonge and Isabel, and many others of course.
Been to town to change money, all the other beaches, and even to the turtle museum.
Spent this morning watching crabs at the far end of the beach.
There's a slightly desperate air to our little company now, with a large bunch of guys who are desperate for a shag. Hungry eyes mean that women stay away...
Slightly tired of hammaca life, being bitten endlessly and never stretching out properly, but, again, cant compain really.
Evenings spent drinking various cheap spirits and smoking at various beach shacks.
Got a guide to Guatemala from Toby (swap for Irvine Welsh).
Andy from Oaxaca city turned up for a couple of days too, but will be back in the office now I guess.
Must call home this week.

Burnt back has developed into a thousand small white blisters - very unplesant.

Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico. Midday.

Escaped on a 9pm bus. Went to Potucutla with Daniel and waved goodbye, barely and hour late. Amazingly I slept for the entire 18 hours, and was bewildered and unbelieving when woken up in Tapachula. Got in at about 10.30, and decided to take a room (Las Americas, $60) and chill out rather than push on straight away. Am now restless and wishing I'd pressed on. This town is pleasant enough, but there is little to do, and I'm loathed to spend pesos sitting in cafes. Have freshened up, and groomed, and walked the town several times already. Find it imposible to get any Quetzals, so am heading to the border tomorrow with a fist full of pesos and hoping for the best. Hmm...
Tried to call home, but got no joy (probably as it was about 5am there...) I'll try again later I think - strange dream about my parents last night compels me further.
See no other westerners here, no gringos at all so far. The hotel is noisy and full of distant laughter.
A bed, a ha, oh, yes, a bed...

My clothes, my shoes, my bag, everything seems to be falling apart.

Back has peeled fully, after the blisters stage.

Later, after sundown.

Despite myself, I had three beers at the Zocolo. At $11 a shot, I shouldn't hve really, but time seemed heavy on my hands.
I managed to call the folks, and for $50 talked for a couple of minutes - everything fine at home, it seems.
My father will call Anne and tell her I'll be in Antigua for a couple of weeks. I should have called myself, and now feel quite guilty - I will call from Antigua myself...
Bought $40 worth of smelly cheese, tomato, lettuce, bread and butter, and now regret buying so much, but it'll do three meals (or more, regretfully).
Think I'll stay in now for the eve. Two Germans may knock at my door, but I think I'm bed bound now. Sleep for 12 hours? No problema.

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