Hiking Toluca de Nevado

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Our three day trek in the Sierra Juarez mountains was great, but we needed something a little higher, a little more challenging to help us prepare for trekking the great Himalayas.  Toluca de Nevado offered us just that challenge. Towering at 4600 metres, this long dead volcano is now home to two beautiful caldera lakes and absolutely stunning views.

We paired up with Julius and Sandro again and decided to rent a car. We grabbed snacks and fluids and hit the road around 1030am. Major props to Juluis for being the hero and doing the driving to get us out of Mexico city! It took a while, as traffic in this beast of a city is horrific! But finally we made it out, paid a couple of tolls and eventually took the turn off Mexico highway 10, drove past the little town of Raices, past the National Park area (where all the vendors are set up) and began to gruellingly slow switchback ride up the mountain. The reason so many people trek this mountain’s peak is because you can drive almost all the way up! In fact, you used to be able to drive right to the caldera, however the road now stops 2km before and you must hike in. Continue reading

Puebla and Mexico City

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After over three weeks in Oaxaca where we spent the holidays, it was at last time to move on. We were moving north, to el Monstruo (as Mexico City is affectionally called), but decided to stop off in Puebla on the way there as we heard good things about this old city. It was a big city in and of itself; at over 1.5 million people it is the 5th largest city in the country. I’m not much of a big city fan, but it was just a couple day stop over, mostly to see if we could find some good food!

We checked out the massive cathedral in the centre of the town, took one of those cheesy open concept bus top tours, and stopped in at the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, a gorgeous library founded in 1646 , making it the first public library in colonial Mexico. Some even consider it to be the first public library in all the America’s! The Bishop of Puebla at the time was a total book nerd and donated over 5000 books to San Juan college under the stipulation that they be made available to all the public. Over 100 years later the library was created and given the name of the Bishop, Palafoxiana in honour of his donation and love of books. Continue reading

Hiking in the Sierra Juarez Mountains, Oaxaca

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With our upcoming plans of trekking the Himalaya’s in Nepal, we needed to get a trek or two under our belts. There were plenty of hikes online with pricey tour companies, but we didn’t want to have to pay someone hundreds of dollars to walk with us, we were quite capable of that, thanks! After digging around some more we found there was a company in town that helped coordinate treks through the Sierra Juarez mountains and the Pueblos Mancomunados (united villages) for a fair price. The best part was the money went directly to the guides who lived in each of the villages so your money was actually making it to the villages. What made these villages united was that they pooled resources to help each other out, and 6 of the 8 communities came together and created the ecotourism programs that helps sustain the villages today. 

And so, on the first day of the new year, I awoke at 6am after not really sleeping at all (thanks anxiety!), caught a cab to the second class bus station and hopped in a collectivo van headed for the village of Cuajimaloyas, resting at a mighty 3100 meters above sea level. Continue reading

Where to Eat in Oaxaca: The Oaxacan Food Diaries

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Let’s be real here for a moment. The main reason I came to Mexico was the food. And the one state/city that I dreamt of most in my foodie dreams was of course, Oaxaca. The name alone strikes hunger, and fantasies of mole and chocolate swirl through your mind tantalizingly. Lucky for us, Mexico seems to book up like crazy over Christmas, and so we found ourselves ‘stuck’ in Oaxaca for three weeks over the Christmas and New Year holidays.  This gave us ample time to taste this sweet and spicy city! Continue reading

On Horseback To Iglesia de San Juan, Chamula

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While in San Cristóbal de las Casas we decided to go horse back riding through the country side to a small village. Technically this would be my first time on a horse (the ride I took in Peru hiking through the Salkantay Pass to Machu Picchu was a mule) and I was so excited! This would also be Travis’s first ever horse ride. We were picked up, myself, Travis, Matt and Monica, another hostel dweller, by Juan in his old pick up truck. His son hopped into the truck bed, which was full of huge sacks of maiz, and laid down to have a snooze, so that we could all squeeze into the back seat. We cruised to the edge of town where his pasture was located and then all got ourselves acquainted as best we could with the four horses. They didn’t speak much English (our guides, not the horses :P) so we just sort of went with the flow – which was a little unsettling since, you know, we were about to get on these huge beasts and had absolutely no idea what we were doing – Monica was the only one of us who had any experience with horses. I picked the smallest horse- thinking this would be a good idea, however that didn’t quite work out in my favour. I had the only horse who was clearly either overweight or pregnant, her side stuck out implausibly far, and she was the only horse without a sort of bit (which I am thankful for in the sense that it meant my horse was far more comfortable) but it also meant I had no control whatsoever. Continue reading

Three Days in Campeche, México

DSC_0009One of the things I love about travel is going to places you’ve never even heard of before. I admit to being quite ignorant of much of Mexico and it’s 31 states prior to coming here. I knew about the Cancun area, and that was about it. From Mérida we knew we wanted to head southwest towards San Cristóbal, so we looked at a map and saw a place called Campeche was on the way. Why not, right? So we researched it briefly online and booked our bus tickets out of Mérida. After Holbox, we had come back to Mérida for another 10 days or so to just relax, and check out a few places to eat that we never made it to last time, and hit up some of our favourites again! We were excited to be moving on from the east to new land, and Campeche sounded like a great stop along the way. Continue reading

Isla Holbox, México

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Shortly after arriving in México, my friend Yves messaged me on facebook and told me I absolutely had to get to Holbox Island while in the country. I had never heard of this island before (and I admit to pronouncing it Hall-box, not Hall-bosh, as it is properly pronounced!) but I was now recalling posts of his from a couple of years ago from an idyllic looking beach in México. So we looked it up and said why not? After spending almost ten days in Mérida, we were excited to get back to a beach and to a place we’d never heard of! We found a perfect little apartment online at Casa Frida that was a bit expensive for us, but we agreed to eat as cheaply as possible and take full advantage of the kitchen instead of eating out. 

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Día de los Muertos in Mérida

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When we decided we would travel around Mexico, I was elated to know we would be in the country for one of their greatest holidays, Día de los Meurtos (Day of the Dead), which falls around the same time as our Canadian Halloween, which just so happens to be my favourite holiday of all! So while I was devastated to be missing Halloween, being in Mexico for Día de los Muertos more than made up for that loss!   I wanted to make sure we were in a big city centre for the holiday, so after Tulum, we headed up to Mérida, a city my mom had told us about when she last came down to Mexico. Continue reading

An African Diary IX: Africat

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Day 20: Tuesday December 8th, 2015

Today we are leaving Ngepi. But oh how I love this place! The hippie vibes, the beautiful scenery, but most of all the work this lodge is doing to be sustainable and help out the local surrounding villages. Ngepi runs completely on solar power, all of their water is pumped from the river, they employ almost all of their staff from the once nomadic surrounding villages, they only serve wild game (no large domesticated animals), and they offer an incentive program to locals to plant trees and maintain them so as to ease the camps ecological footprint. The place is filled with adorable wooden signs reminding you to do your part. And the bathrooms! They were hands down the best I’ve come across in my travels. The walls were made of lanky sticks fashioned together into a six foot high fence, the showers were all fenced in with the same stick work (with no roof of course so you could look up to the heavens as you showered with the river water). Trees and vegetation covered the walls all over the shower section, creeping in from the surrounding vegetation. The shower platform itself was just a cute little dipped cement oval with a hippo carving at one end, and the shower head just floated above your head with the plumbing all hidden from view in a tangle of vegetation. It was like taking a rain shower in nature heaven! In the toilets you only had three stick fence walls – two on your side and one behind you – the front wall being left out so you sat and looked out into the thick tangle of forest while doing your business – as nature intended! Continue reading

An African Diary Part VIII: The Hippopotamus Chase

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Day 19: Monday December 7, 2015

How sweet is the day when one sleeps until nearly 8am! I rejoiced when I looked at my phone to see the time. It was stifling hot when I went to bed last night and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but sleep I did! I awoke with the predawn glow at 5:30 with a full bladder, and it being semi-light out, wasn’t terrified to make the trip to the bathroom.  I lazed about in the tent after Rug got up, enjoying the coolness of the day and starfishing a while. Our adventure (and what an adventure it would be!) for the day wasn’t until 4pm so I had all day to do as I pleased. I went to the lounge to do a little internetting and then Rug and I decided to order breakfast as it was only $5. After living on camp fare for so long, a little break now and then was needed. And let me tell you – the home bread was absolutely to die for! Continue reading