Everything You Need to Know About Tolantongo, Mexico

IMG_1576

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

Camping in El Chico National Park, Hidalgo

DSC_0602

It felt good to leave the monstrous Mexico City behind and escape the smog and chaos of the big city life. We weren’t headed far, just an hour and a half away to Pachuca, in the next state over, Hidalgo. This was a stop over for some nature adventures in the state we were excited to explore. Our stop over ended up being extended a few days however, as we fell in love with our oh so comfortable king size bed and quiet guest house. We hadn’t slept too well our last few nights in Mexico City in our noisy budget hotels, so finding a place with a good bed and no noise was a welcome respite. We decided to extend our stay mostly to just relax and catch up on some writing and sleep. Our host was so wonderful and welcoming and there were no other guests so it was extra quiet. She even got wine (and grape juice for me!) to share to help her celebrate the opening of the place, whilst burning copal. I highly recommend staying at this cute little place, ‘Downtown Pachuca’; Gina is the host and her place can be found on booking- definitely get the King size room! Continue reading

Hiking Toluca de Nevado

DSC_0514

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

DSC_0195

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

IMG_5149

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

DSC_0648

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

DSC_0482

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

Isla Holbox, México

DSC_0676

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. 

Continue reading

Día de los Muertos in Mérida

IMG_9500

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