Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Oaxaca and Mexico City: Home Stretch

At 9pm we boarded the night bus from San Cristobal to Oaxaca, dreading the 12 hour journey ahead of us. With no other option to leave the city we opted to pay for the best bus possible which included reclining seats, pillows and a blanket. Although this was our most comfortable bus we had experienced yet, the bumpy, winding roads didn't allow for a very restful night. Arriving in Oaxaca with our friends from Hong Kong, each one of us completely exhausted from our journey, we stumbled our way to our hostel for some much needed rest. Soon after laying down, Travis began to feel sick and for the first time on our trip, we looked forward to home. There is nothing quite like the comforts of home when you are not feeling well and with only days left it became a little harder to push forward. With Travis unable to get out of bed or talk, I had to make the daunting trip out to get supper for us. At the beginning of our trip, Travis and I made an agreement that I would never leave the hostel without him and this was the only exception we had made on our entire trek. Even though I went out with our friends, my heart was racing and I was feeling very nervous as we hadn't been separated from each other for more than one hour in 4 months. Once I was finally able to relax and enjoy myself, I shook my head thinking about how much of an adjustment we will go through at home when we have to do things on our own again. 

After getting a full nights sleep, we headed to the Zapotec ruins with our friends. Travis was still feeling ill but didn't want to miss this famous site and realizing these were our final days, he pushed on. From the site we could look down on the city and the view was incredible with land and sky stretching for miles. The sight of big open sky reminded me of home in Alberta and caused me to get a little sentimental or perhaps it had more to do with the fact that home was fast approaching. My heart was filled with gratitude for our big open blue sky, something our Hong Kong friends said they will miss when they return to China. While exploring these unique ruins we thought about our niece McKinnley, as it was her birthday. With our friends help we decided to make her a video singing Happy birthday in English, Spanish and Cantonese. It was this moment that really drove home the fact that traveling doesn't simply open your eyes and heart to the country you are visiting, but also to other places around the world through the people you meet. Although China has never been high on my list to visit, I now feel a small connection and desire to go there someday, not only to visit our friends again but to get to know the people and culture. The four of us finished our time in Oaxaca by walking around the city that evening. We visited the large, impressive Cathedral with gold ordaining every inch of the interior, I can't fathom the wealth that went into the building. Oaxaca is also known for its chocolate and while I was able to enjoy a malt with our friends when travis had been sick, I was afraid he would miss out. Just minutes before we were to hop on the bus headed for Mexico City, Travis spotted a store selling the same malts! I was happy he was able to get in on our experience and I may have had a sampling or two from his as well.

With one last all day bus ride before us, we took it on with grace in order to arrive at our final destination. The highlight in reaching this location was meeting up again with our wonderful Swiss friends whom we met in Panama and journeyed through most of Nicaragua with. Ending our trip with four dear backpacking companions, both old and new, more than made up for the lack of time we had to explore this grand city. Our final night with them could not have been better as we soaked in the city centre including the Cathedral, colonial parliament buildings, Mexican food and music. Now we could say "we did it!", we completed our journey from Panama to Mexico City! With hearts full of gratitude we said good bye for now to our friends and turned our gaze towards home. 

Our final travel day home on Friday, February 27, 2015 included many feelings; sickness, sadness, excitement, stress, thankfulness, exhaustion and peace. Climbing into our bed at midnight felt sureal but was a welcomed feeling of comfort, both internally and externally. Over this next week we will rest, recover and reflect on our past four plus months of backpacking. Please check back in once more for the final blog entry which will include our overall thoughts and adjustments to home life. 




Sunday, 1 March 2015

Campeche, Palenque and San Cristobal in a Flash

Continuing with our Mexican theme of moving on every two nights, our next stop brought us to Campeche. This colonial city along the coast was picture perfect behind its protective walls. Everything has been perfectly restored, from the buildings with bright coloured walls to the orderly cobble stone streets making it all feel a little fake. By this time we had been moving along so quickly we hadn't made friends for awhile, so I was hopeful this city would introduce us to someone new. In the comforts of our hotel my wish was granted when we met a lovely Mexican family who was house hunting in Campeche. They were excited to learn we were from Canada and even with our limited communication we built a connection with this dear family who wish to visit Canada some day. Also, to our delight we happened to be in Campeche for Carnival. The music and costumes were stunning, especially against the back drop of the Central Park which came complete with a stunningly restored Catholic Church. Couples both young and old were crowned as King and Queen, warming my heart to see the people's respect for their seniors.

Back on the ruin hunting trail we landed in Palenque on a dark and rainy night. Without a hostel booked we tagged along with a backpacking couple from Hong Kong. Their companionship was most welcomed as our walk through town in the rain was very uncomfortable as the locals glared and swore in our faces along the way. This was the first place on our trip where the whole town seemed unwelcoming. It made me sad to think how people before us must have wronged them in order for them to hate us so. Thankfully, our friendship with the couple from China grew quickly which afforded us the opportunity to celebrate the Chinese New Year with them in a small way. To top things off, we discovered our plan to fast track Mexico was identical to theirs, a welcomed discovery with 3 more long bus rides ahead. Our purpose in coming to Palenque was to visit the Mayan Ruin site which once again was very impressive. The ruins left behind by the ancient Maya never cease to amaze us in their architectural scope and grandure. With some buildings at this site taking nearly 4 centuries to reveal their final form, it is nearly unimaginable to think that 10-12 generations of people witnessed this structure grow from beginning to end. 

Glad to be leaving a city that definitely did not want us there, we were back on the bus with our friends for an all day journey to the mountain city of San Cristobal. This colonial mountain town had a cozy feel and the people were very friendly, a welcomed relief after Palenque. However, the poverty appeared to be greater than we had seen in many of our past stops making us more than happy to do a little more gift shopping in the street market to support the local people. In San Cristobal we enjoyed many delicious meals at some of the cheapest prices we had seen on the trip, most of which we enjoyed with our kind friends. Even while in a beautiful setting such as we were, the ugly side of travelling doesn't end and we found ourselves spending too much time finalizing our flight home. Although we were happy with the result of our time spent working on our flight, it was difficult to swallow the precious time wasted which could have been used to explore the many magnificent sights San Cristobal had to offer. With our final days of this trip fast approaching we booked a night bus to Oaxaca and said goodbye to a city we never were able to fully appreciate. Such is life on the road.