As you can guess, we are still in Mexico! In all honesty, we were originally not expecting so (especially as Mireia first wanted to fly over Mexico), but we are still here. We are currently in the area of Mexico City and still have a beautiful part of the country to see before entering into Belize or Guatemala.
The last time we spoke, we were in San Miguel de Allende, or Disney Land Mexico where the Americans ask for 'el chequé, por favor' (this is not the way how to ask for the bill in Spanish). From there we went to a village named Patzquaro, where there is a rather famous lake. Around this lake there are a lot of festivities during 'el dia de los muertos' (similar to All Saints, Allerheiligen or Todo los Santos). We stayed here for a day to see the area, but we were a bit disappointed. At the end there was nothing special to see, so we continued direction the west, were there you can find the youngest volcano on the earth. This volcano is the only volcano which people have seen to grow. It started to grow in 1942 and quickly overtook the area. Two villages have been swallowed within the volcano's lava and the only visible trace of this is the tower of a church. Arriving nearby the volcano, we are attacked by the locals who all want to be our guide to go to the top. Most of them want to go by horse for the simple reason that they can earn more and on top they do not need to do as much physical activity as when they would go by foot. Of course, we are not horse people and so we insisted to go by foot. Our guide is a pretty disgusting man, who has very little useful information to give us and who cannot help it to spit every minute. On top, half of the time we were walking without him, so we had to find out for ourselves which path to walk. Luckily, at the top of the volcano, he had some energy left to do his sit-ups and push-ups. Anyhow, the area is quite impressive, as it is covered by black sand and volcanic rock. The most impressive is the church tower which sticks out of the lava field, it is a bit surreal.
After our first volcanic experience (the next ones will be better, in Guatemala it might be possible to actually climb some volcanoes where you can see the lava flow!) we decided to go in the direction of Mexico City. We passed by Morelia, another beautiful colonial town, and went to Toluca. Here we would meet Rodrigo, a close friend of the family Guillot. In addition, we met David at a local gas station. After talking a bit it appeared that David has a shop in which he repairs brakes. And the coincidence was that we had to replace our brakes! So we talk more with him, and charmed by his kindness we accepted his offer to park our car at his place - where it is much safer than parking on the street. We end up to stay several days with David and his family and have a very pleasant time. David and his family- his wife Monica, and two of the three daughters Lauris and Sarita- have really treated us like we were from their family, so we felt like at home!! Once we left we promised we would go back!
After spending several days in Metepec, we proceed our trip towards Mexico City. We were prepared for the most horrible traffic in the world, but we were disillusioned and realized that you need to be in Belgium for the worst traffic in the world. The city is great and has a lot to offer, from pre-hispanic history, to hispanic history, to great squares. There is a lot of atmosphere and it was a relatively good place to spend el dia de los muertos. For this we went to see a theater show which took place in the city's waterways. Great experience, a part from the fact that we spend 6 hours outside in the cold and that we were home at 4 in the morning (a bit unexpected for going to the theater). We also went to 'lucha libre' where you could enter for free if you dress up, which sound interesting to us so we put on some make up!
Five days later we go to the pre-columbian city of Teotihuacan, built around 200 after Christ and later used by the Aztecs as well, as they appeared to be impressed by its size (like always). Here you have some impressive structures, especially for its age and also because only 10 % of the all the structures are excavated. Leaving Teotihuacan we have our first encounter with Mexican police corruption.
You need to know that the metropolitan area of Mexico City is a very polluted area for which they have installed several driving regulations - resulting in the fact that you cannot drive on every given day. So, we are driving through Mexico city, knowing the regulation exists, but not knowing how it applies to us. We get pulled over by two policemen, who say to us we cannot drive on a Monday, because our number plate ends by a 6. Not believing this, the police showed us the law via their phone, which took 15 minutes (yes, the system is very complicated and tourists are often the victim of it's complexity). We would have to pay a fine of around 100 euro (equaling 30 days of the minimum salary) and we would have to leave the car in the police station for the night - as we could not drive. We obviously get upset and the young police gets his superior, who obviously understands our situations and is very helpful to find a fast solution for both us and themselves. When Mireia asks them how we can proceed the fastest the commissioner replies: 'You can give me 1.000 pesos (60 euro) and you can proceed'. Having agreed not to get involved in the corruption, we declined his offer and said we would prefer to pay the fine, so we go to the police station. Here, we are joined by another police, to who we immediately mention that the commissioner is corrupted and that we want to file a complaint against him. At the same time, Alex starts to take dozens of pictures of both police, which they did not seem to like. As a result the two drive away from the police station and the third police starts to apologies, we do not have to pay a fine and he gives us the permission to drive in the state of Mexico. The only thing we would have to do is delete the pictures we took. Obviously this cop was a corrupt as the two others, as he preferred to protect his boss than to put him in a negative situation. Anyhow, a few days later we checked the regulations in more detail, and what did we found out that, as we have a foreign plate, we can drive every day (apart between 5 and 11 in the morning, while our situation took place at 17 hour) and that they just wanted to steal our money. Result: VanBaelenGuillot Vs Corruption in Mexico: 1 - 0!
Having the brakes for our car, we go back towards Toluca and Metepec, where we meet David again in his shop. We spend one day to install the new brakes and to make some corrections - a great experience to be doing this with people who have the experience and we are also very happy to proceed our trip in all safety for another 20.000 km or more. We were very happy to meet the family of David again, and we were convinced to stay a few days with them. This time we were lucky and we also met the oldest daughter called Fernanda. We really got very attached to them, we helped them in their homework's, played games, prepared presents to the boyfriend, we ate very typical food from mexico, we tried to go on an excursion and we talked and laughed a lot. After spending much time together we consider them to be part of the VanBaelenGuillot family!
In the upcoming weeks we will approach the Yucatan and the Guatemalan boarder and we'll see the most beautiful part of the country - Coast, jungle, temples and a lot of culture!
As always, you comments are very much appreciated!
Alex and Mire
|Like the previous time: a quick overview of where we have been|
|The city of Patzcuaro is characterized by its white and red facades|
|The volcanic rock field of Paricutin covers two villages and is about 100 km² large|
|Climbing the volcano is a bit tricky as it is covered with small and unstable volcanic rock|
|This rock is, as you can see, very light compared to other types of rock - or maybe Mireia became very strong of all the tortillas|
|The only survivor of the lava is this church tower and the alter of the church (you can see the two guilty volcanos on its right)|
|Snapshot from the city of Morelia|
|Our wonderful hosts in Toluca/Metepec - David, Monica, Sarita and Laura|
|And two of their three dogs, making sure nobody steals our car|
|A Mexican barbecue - YammieYammie|
We have joined the family to visit the caves of Cacahuamilpa - they were extremely impressive
|And everybody went on a boat ride afterwards - except for Alex, who was afraid|
|On our way to Mexico City we saw how creative Mexicans can be - A man selling churros on the highway|
|On the Zocalo, the city's main historical square, there is a giant flag which is taken down every day with a big show|
|Via the same square you can visit the Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple which was broken down by the Spanish. You can see on the picture that the temple consists of temples within a temple - a bit like the Russian matryoska dolls.|
|'Oh I am so tired, I cannot even walk to the park with grass which is 2 minutes away.'|
|The current Mexican government is trying to change a lot of things. Due to reforms in the educational system, many teachers are demonstrating in the city, therefor there were a lot of police man and women on the street|
|In front of the police we could find this old post-office, which clearly is still in use. You would almost go there to send some letters just to see the inside.|
|It has a beautiful staircase which is perfect for some posing by an equally beautiful lady|
|We wanted to show this before, but didn't have the opportunity to take a picture. These are the plants from which they make the infamous Tequila.|
|Mexico City (or DF, Districto Federal, as they say here) has a very impressive museum of Anthropology, which has the largest floating roof in the world (at least that's what they think, there is no confirmation of this assumption)|
|In here you can see the Aztec calendar|
|Back to the revolution: All demonstrating teachers have gathered at the monument of revolution|
|Relaxing in a sofa in the street|
|We soon realized that it is not easy to buy an English travel guide in Mexico, so we made an emergency shipping for the rest of our trip - Thanks Oscar!|
|'El día de los muertos' was approaching and the city had some topic related activities going on like these ladies who were demonstrating local dances from Oaxaca (a region in Mexico)|
|The dance which had some similarities with the Sevillanas|
|We wanted to go to a 'Lucha Libre', the Mexican wrestling, and were able to enter for free simply by putting on this make up (don't worry, it is a very common look in Mexico)|
|Mexico City is actually constructed on a lake and still has some waterways. These boats are used to bring the people around|
|At night we took this boat to see a theater show in honor of el dia de los muertos- 'la llorona'|
|Where there are tourists, there are people selling stuff (also in a boat). There were even toilet boats.|
|A view of our spectacle|
|The Chapultepec castle in the Mexico City Chapultepec park/forest|
|Every castle needs a dancing princess|
|Taking a ride in the city - although some streets are very well to cycle, most or very dangerous, but by now you all know or middle name is 'danger'|
|Next to the original Cathedral of Guadalupe they have build a new one recently. If you look good you can see the Guadalupe painting through the door - more info on this painting can be found on wikipedia|
|It's incredible that these structures are accessible for the tourists - on top of the pyramid of the sun looking at the pyramid of the moon|
|Views from the temple of the Moon to the temple of the Sun with the Avenue of the Death straight ahead|
|Commissioner Corrupt cop searching to earn a bit more to feed the family|
|Young corrupt cop putting on his innocent look|
|No shoes: it's working time, replacement of front and rear brakes|
|Working on brakes is a hard job which requires three people (Toño ond the left, David on the right and Alex)|
|Putting everything together again|
|Together with the family Aceves Mojica (or 'Torres Leon') in search for the monarchic butterfly|