Everything You Need to Know About Tolantongo, Mexico

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Follow a winding road 1000 metres down into a steep valley surrounded by lush vegetation. See the turquoise blue river, steam pouring off her surface as she snakes through the valley floor. Soak yourself in a deliciously warm thermal pool, all to yourself, hanging over the edge of the cliffside while you stare off into the mountain valley. Let the warm waters pound on your back like a massage as they cascade down the mountain. And if you dare, climb into the very heart of the mountain through a black tunnel, torrid water pounding down from every crevice inside her, the hot blood of the mountain.  Steam billows so thick you feel it in your lungs. Watch your step along the smooth rocks as you walk along them from ankle deep to neck deep water. At the end of the tunnel, in the mountains heart, sit and breath her in, feel her heat wrap you in a blanket. It’s impossible to tear yourself away; it’s like being back in the womb, the sounds, the comfort, the warmth, the peace you feel. But you must. The rest of the mountain is calling you. Dare to run through the blast of icy cascades pounding from the mountain top, the very mouth of the mountain.  Pass through the frigid wall and reach the inside of the cavernous mouth, a warm reprieve, waste deep, with tiny smooth round tastebuds, pebbles on the floor, to massage your feet. Stare in awe at the stalactites, the strange smoothened figures on the walls and cavern ceiling, like grotesque teeth from thousands of years of dripping that warm, mineral rich water. And in the centre, a battering blast of hot water beckons you, dares you to try to withstand the power as the tongue of the mountain pounds on your back and pushes you down into the warm depths. Steamy breath gushes from her mouth out into the valley in clouds. Continue reading

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

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

Mérida, México

IMG_3892After relaxing in Tulum for a week, it was time to move up to the big city, Mérida.  We had booked eight nights into Nomadas hostel, as I wanted us to get into a hostel atmosphere to meet other people and find out what was going on for the Día de los Muertos festivities in the big city, our whole reason for coming this way. My mom had been to Merida recently and raved about it so we figured why not? Merida is the safest city in Mexico.  And the Yucatan, the state of which it is the capital, is the safest of the 32 states in Mexico, so that also made it an easy choice for a place to spend the big festival!

Our bus from Tulum was uneventful other than me feeling a little nauseous and wondering if I’d suddenly developed motion sickness after all these years. It sat with me like a pit in the bottom of my stomach the entire ride, and got quite terrible near the end. I lost motor control and couldn’t even open my purse to look at my phone to see if we were near our stop. I had no energy, no strength whatsoever, I felt like I was going to pass out or just topple over, unable to move. At one point I fell asleep against Travis’s shoulder, perhaps worn out from the hours of feeling unwell, and perhaps as a coping mechanism to not feel anything at all. Travis helped get my bag off and I shuffled off behind everyone else, happy to have my feet touch the ground and I sat off to the side, deep breathing and fanning myself while Travis waited for the rest of our bags. We hailed a cab and thankfully I was already starting to feel a touch better. It was a short ride to our hostel but our driver was sweet (and patient!) as we chattered away in my broken Spanish, and I translated for Travis. Continue reading

The Route: Round 2!

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Well Hello again!

It’s hard to believe that here I am, on the road again, setting off to see the world one more time.  It feels as if I just returned from my last grand adventure, and yet suddenly my feet are swept out from under me, and I’m rambling down the road to adventure once again!

People often ask, “Where are you heading this time?” and so I list off the countries that my partner Travis and I decided on for this adventure. The follow up question is always, “How did you decide on these places? Did you just spin a globe and point?”. And that one is a little harder to answer. I didn’t sit down one day and say, ‘Okay, where do I want to go?’, and map it all out. It came organically,  bit by bit.  And it changed, often. 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

An African Diary Part VII : Into The Wetlands

dsc_0910Day 16: Friday, December 4, 2015

Sleeping in until 7:30 was absolutely glorious and much needed after so many days of rising at dawn. Today was mostly a driving day as we had another 450km of road to cover to pass through the whole Caprivi strip to our next camp – Mazambala, near the border of Zambia and as close to Victoria falls as we would get, unfortunately. Next time… because we absolutely know there will be a next time! The rains came again and joined us for much of our drive, this time accompanied by massive rakes of lightning and rumbles of thunder.

Mazambala was situated on the Okavango river, surrounded by marshlands.  The camp is actually on an island on the river, but because the rains were only just starting, it was still connected to land. The campsites were 2km away from the lodge on the ‘mainland’, but we could take a boat over to the lodge whenever we wanted. We drove over to check in and check the place out and book a game drive for the following day.  This was the part of the country where we were hoping to see hippos, crocs and water buffalo. After setting up camp, as night fell, the warning from the lodge host ruminated in my head: “Don’t stray far from your camp, the hippos will be about, you’ll likely hear them.” Continue reading

An African Diary, Part VI: Etosha Continues

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Day 14: Wednesday, December 12, 2015

5:30am came in the blink of an eye. I ripped out my ear plugs, shot up in bed and smacked Rug.

“Lions”, I said.

We sat stock still for a moment and listened as their raucous roars filled the quiet morning. No other words were spoken as we grabbed our knife (the security of this water hole was questionable at best in our minds!), head lamps and cameras and marched to the waterhole. In the distance, two male lions and two females could be seen.  The smaller male was off and to the left, alone, clearly not welcome to enjoy the feminine joys of the other male lions domain. The big male stretched and roared and sniffed at the females, nuzzling their heads. They each slowly rose from the ground where they lay and lethargically made their way to the waterhole. The predawn light was dull and muted so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures. Instead I just sat and watched them interact among each other and listened to those frightening roars that had kept me awake all the night before. When they all began to move off back into the bush, we set out back for our camp and packed up quickly and hit the road to see what else sunrise had brought with it as we made our way towards our next and last camp. Continue reading