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Our Last Bit of Mexico, Chiapas

 

We left the insanely hot beach of Oaxaca, Mexico and headed straight for the Aguacero Waterfall in Chiapas.  It’s 742 steps down in 98 degree weather to a creek bed.  We walked through and across the creek bed and looked up at a breathtaking waterfall.  It pooled in several places covered in moss, plants and purple flowers.  The water was crisp and cool.  “We found Fern Gully!”  Christian gave me a hand and helped me up the slippery moss covered boulders to make our way to the bottom of the cascada.  We played under the chilling fall until our feet went numb.  Okay Chiapas, you got our attention, you are beautiful.

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That night we took a short drive to find the Sumidero Canyon.  We arrived after dusk and when everything was closed so it was diffilcult to find secure parking right away.  After an hour we found a locked gate fence where some guys where chatting under a street light near possibly the opening.   They figured out what we needed through some rough spanish and whislted for the night guard to let us in the parking lot of the canyon because we wanted take a boat ride the next morning.  We read other overlanders had done the same in the past and it seemed like a safe camping option for the night.  The next morning we headed down to the dock for a giant speed boat tour through the canyon.

The walls of the canyon were towering above us at 3,280 feet in some places.  This canyon is thought to be as old as The Grand Canyon.  The canyon was started by cracks in the earth’s crust and the Grijalva River dug its way for 35 million years.  Flying through the canyon our captain would abruptly stop for wildlife and the first stop was “Vulture Island.”  I don’t know, but to stop for a hundred vultures at once was probably the least appealing thing for me.  Moving along our next stop was a tree where two monkeeys were wrestling and showing off.  This was our “first monkeey sighting of the trip!”  Half way through the two-hour tour I notice that all of our life jackets have crocodiles on them and we haven’t seen one yet.  We get all the way down to the dam and pull up to a boat that is selling fruit, chips and soda.  Latin American culture “never miss an oppotunity to sell something” I believe is their moto.  For the return the captain speeds back through the canyon and then all of a sudden we come to an aggressive hault and a sharp turn.  I’m thinking “Hell yes, this must be it, the Crocs!”  This captain has laser eye sight or something?!  He pulls the boat right up alongside the croc so we all can bend over the side and take a million pictures, and nicely enough the crocodile stays motionless.  “How cool, it’s like he is posing!”  Them we speed off and head to another favorite spot for the captain where the next croc is out of the water and is also posing for more pictures.  A few minuets later a crocodile is actually moving and he swims by our boat for 10 seconds and then poof, gone.  The group is now satisfied and we head back to the dock.  When we got back I couldn’t let go of how strange our crocodile show was and I mentioned to Christian ” Do you think those crocs were real or staged? ”  Oh well if they were fake, they were really good ones.  Weeks later we ran into friends who had also done the tour a week prior and we compared our photos and had the exact same two crocs, same spot, same pose, same same.  However they never saw a crocodile swimming, Yea we saw a real one.

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Our last stop in Mexico was a spanish colonial town called San Cristobal de Las Casas.  It’s set way up in the mountains so the air was a lot cooler, and less sweating for us.  It rained a few hours every late afternoon, just enough to cool you off.  We found a campsite a mile outside of town and took the scooter back into town for sightseeing, groceries, chocolate and beer runs.  Our campsite was underneath tall evergreens, I absolutely loved it here.  I loved being in the woods but also only a mile to town, five days here flew by.   Chocolate shops, cheap decent wine and coffee everywhere, my little heaven and not a bad spot to spend a few dollars and a couple of days.

Next stop…Guatemala here we come.

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Oaxaca City, Mexico…mucho culture

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Oaxaca City, Central Park

A walk through the park on a Wednesday afternoon looking for our friends and we stumble upon this lovely orchestra performing.  This city was beautiful and full of handicrafts of all kind.  However, by the time Christian and I arrived we were over crowded cities.  We just didn’t have the energy to explore more while we were here, so we looked for a camp spot nearby.

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Wednesday afternoon in the park in Oaxaca.

We had two choices here in this area for camping.  We could park in a gated gravel lot in the middle of the lively city with no shower or bathroom.   The other option was a campground twelve miles outside the city that had WiFi and a bathroom however it was located between abandon buildings and in the middle of nowhere.  We chose the latter.  The next morning with our WiFi we found out there was a small public water park within walking distance.   PERRRRRFECT it was 100 degrees with no wind, and we were in the dessert.

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On top of Monte Albán, alone!

Now that we are seasoned tourist of Ruins, we got to the top of a small mountain range where we found Monte Albán before it opened.  Monte Albán sits 1,300 feet above the valley of Oaxaca and it’s City at an elevation of 6,400 ft.  This humdinger was inhabited for over 1,500 years by at least three different civilizations who literally chopped off the top of the mountain, almost as it stands today.  This site contained tombs, temples, inscriptions and it even had a ball court!

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friends buying crickets-snacks at the market

This is Josh and Jenna (from Travel Amateurs) they are our overlanding friends that we met along the way.  So glad we did.  While in spanish classes in Guanajuato they heard that crickets are a greeeeaaat protein (as Tony the Tiger would say).  Some really took this info to heart, like Josh and Jenna.  On the other hand Christian and I decided that if chicken or any other food was more accessible that we would choose everything else.

The next day six of us overlanders went up a 10,000 ft mountain for the Oaxacan experience.  The six of us hiked for four days and did 35 miles at 10,000 to 8,000 feet depending on the next town’s destination.  I wish that I could say that hike was glorious and maybe for some of the other five it was. My experience was…”Stay alive, don’t fall it will hurt, eventually this will end!”  One day for about 1,000 ft we slid down a “trail” with 40lb packs on our backs.  Tons of Fun.  This hike wore us all out so much that we never had the energy to check out the waterfalls, caves, and view points.  Pro-tip: Drive to the small Eco-towns and hike to the cool stuff.  Ex-pro Tip: Anything tastes better than crickets, like CHIPS or peanut butter or real trail mix.

Retreat for a quiet Easter weekend.

It was Good Friday and we thought that we should skip Mexico City because it would be way too crazy during Easter weekend.  So we headed southwest to look for some water to cool off and a quiet place away from the crowds and craziness of Mexico’s biggest holiday of the year.  We found out later that the best week to visit Mexico City is Easter weekend because everyone leaves the city and heads towards the beaches.  Pro-tip: Visit Mexico City on Easter weekend, perfect we wanted to come back soon anyways.

We got another pro-tip from fellow travelers that there was a quiet swimmable river on the way to Oaxaca City.  It turned out that we made a right instead of a left at that quiet river, however we only paid 50 cents per person to enter the river area to camp during the holiday.  Sweet, that’ll work!  We nestled in a perfect corner of the river and improvised some slow-cook rib recipes in our dutch oven that Christian would tend to for four hours.  After an hour of rib-nurturing a large front and backhoe loader crawls over our campsite/home for the weekend.

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Let’s slow cook some meat

We love cooking in our dutch oven and just cooking in general.  The night before we fit an entire chicken in this dutch oven and had an awesome kick-ass meal. Saturday we had slow-cooked ribs and potato salad very “‘Merican.” We shared a plate with locals parked next to us.

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INCOMING…!!!

However the river and its tractor conductor had a different plan for our Easter.  The regulars and tractor conductor decided that in front of our site was the PERFECT place for a new hole, GIANT HOLE!  At this point we spoke very little to no spanish, the conductor of this machinery said little to us and laughed.  A kind family walks over to us and says “he is going to dig up this area and put it on top of your dinner, you should move it.  He wants to put a giant hole right here.”  It felt intentional and we weren’t  sure if we were intruders at this point or if they were trying to force us out or not.  By this time the river was packed with a hundred or so people who came here every year for this weekend.  We had set up camp in the prime spot and also the place where everyone wanted a large swimming hole placed.  Not going to lie, guilt started to swell.

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The Aftermath 1/2 way done.

So, they got their swimming hole and fifty people ran towards it as soon as he finished and were jumping off large rocks into it.  On the plus side he made us a wall so we didn’t have a view anymore but it lead to a teeny bit of privacy.  We manufactured a new fire for our slow-cook dutch oven ribs and continued our own celebration among our fellow Overlanding friends (Here Until There) all while laughing at the situation. The family next to us brought us a “typical Mexican dish” for us to try which consisted of rice, beans, mole and chopped up hot dogs.

Teotihuacan, our first Pyramids and ruins.

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Pyramid of the Moon

This photo was taken from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun (third largest pyramid in the world) looking across the way towards Pyramid of the Moon which mimics the Mountain Cerro Gordo that rests behind it.  The Pyramid of the Moon (151 feet high) is actually seven pyramids built on top of each other which kept growing and growing and now is filled with tunnels and human sacrifices laid into the walls.  Hundreds of years separate each stage of construction.

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Early birds, get better photos.  Behind us is what remains of the Plaza of the Moon.
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Behind me is part of the Avenue of the Dead and The Moon Pyramid.  8 days sick here, still worth it.

This was when I first got sick the first time.  The nights before leading up to this day were awful and many rough days and nights followed this moment.  I was so weak here, climbing this pyramid was no easy feat.  I suspect I picked up salmonella or E.coli from the town before this and it lasted about ten days.  The morning of and the night before Christian and I were trying to figure out our plan of action in order for me to not miss this opportunity.  I decided I wasn’t going to miss these pyramids, I would suck it up and do as much as I could stand.  I climbed both of the Pyramids and then headed straight to bed which we conveniently parked right outside the gate.  I’m glad I did because I get to keep that memory forever and soon I’ll forget being sick and the terrible feeling.

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Pyramid of the Sun (246 feet high) and the Avenue of the Dead.

Teotihuacan

A beautiful Mesoamerican city located just outside of Mexico City was thought to have been built here around 100 B.C.  Some believe it was the sixth largest cities at its peak with a population of around 125,000 people up to 250,000.  This site was around thirty sq miles, we had to drive twenty mins to get around to the other side to get more exploring in.  We arrived before the gates opened because of a couple of reasons; One, this site will bring in thousands of tourist just that day and also to beat the extreme heat at midday.  We arrived there an hour before it opened and we were still the tenth car in line.  At this site there are two overwhelming-monstrous pyramids that will have you gasping at their incredible size and beauty.  Our imaginations ran wild standing in the middle of the Avenue of the Dead just conceiving how busy and lively this place was just a few short thousand years ago.