Zipolite, Puerto Escondido and Mexico City07/05/2012
Our trip is coming to an end as we head back to Mexico from Guatemala, but there is still time for some serious beach time and a bit more Maya. It was a long trip to Zipolite (via Palenque and a night back in San Cristobal) but so worth it.
Zipolite is a small tourist beach town which hasn't (yet) been over taken by the tourism. The highlight here is the long curved sandy stretch of beach lined with small hotels and bars that seemed to shut down suitably early for our tastes (although we were in the off season). The reason the town hasn't been overrun by big hotels is probably due to the conditions of the Atlantic ocean here making dangerous to swim but with respect for the ocean and current here we did go in sea every day.
Arriving here after a long few days of bus journeys was a bit more eventful then we generally enjoy. A taxi driver got our attention as we stepped off the bus and we agreed a price with him by a process of speaking and confirming the hand signals. It seemed like a good price so we accepted. We should have known better - we had learned early in our trip it is very rare that the people who meet us off buses our thinking of our best interest. When we arrived in Zipolite the actual price was made very clear to us, so what we thought was going to cost us 5pesos actually cost 150 pesos. Not a good start to the place but after a cup of tea (very British) and coffee, we found an excellent hotel room in Posada Brisa Marina, with a balcony right on the beach and everything started to look up. After this we spent 6 blissful days reading, sleeping, swimming, eating and drinking. We had one excursion to La Ventanilla a lagoon in nearby Mazunte which is a conservation site for crocodiles, turtles and lots of birds. It was a lovely hour or so spent in a little boat going through the mangroves and then going to see the baby crocodiles and other animals. Our guide told us the animals were mainly rescued from private owners and were being cared for by the local people, the intention being to release the animals to the wild when they could fend for themselves. I truly hope they did release them but there was no way to know for sure.
Eventually we ran out of cash and as Zipolite has no ATMs we had to go to Puerto Escondido, mostly for the ATM, but also for the waves. In retrospect we might not have stayed in Puerto Escondido for 2 nights but that was in hindsight. The beach at Puerto Escondido is famous for its waves, in about July each year they expect waves up to 12 meters high! We didn't see these which I am sure would have been absolutely awe inspiring, especially to watch the expert surfers show us what the waves mean to them. During our visit the waves were more like 2 meters high which were still fantastic to watch but sadly, combined with the strong currents, render the sea here a no-go zone for swimmers. So we spent our days in the pool of our hotel and doing a bit more reading, sleeping, eating and drinking (have I mentioned before how great Mexican food is?) - not such a bad life.
Our final stop in Mexico was Mexico City. We allocated 4 days to the capital which just wasn't quite long enough. It is a great city. Thanks to my cousin and her family, we stayed in a great hotel close to the Zocalo, the main square in the centre of the city - Thank you McBrien's! We probably saw more of the city then we have of any other capital city on our trip, in part due to getting lost trying to find a bar that sold Mezcal - a task that in retrospect we probably shouldn't have tried so hard for as most bars seemed to sell it and we never did have it anyway! We spent one afternoon in the Museo Nacional de Antropolgia, an amazing museum which showed us lots about the Mayan and Aztecs (it also had more rooms that we didn't have enjoy reserves for), including the Aztec "Calendar" - which apparently isn't a calendar at all but never mind. This museum got us into the mood for our visit out of town to Teotihuacan, a Mayan site with incredible temples. The highlight was the Temple of the Sun which is over 70 meters high and is apparently the worlds third highest pyramid (thank you lonely planet for that). Obviously we had to climb up the steps of the pyramid to the top. It was lots of steps, we didn't even bother to count before you ask, but the view at top the great and you could see the whole of what remains of the city.
Our last afternoon was spent at Templo Mayor. This is an Aztec site that was flattened by the Spanish at the time of the invasion and built on top of. It is a wonderful example a temple inside a temple inside a temple inside... The ruins, while they are only ruins, are wonderfully preserved including the colour remaining on much of the decorative stone work. I guess this is partly due to the fact the buildings are relatively modern (the centre was built in approximately 1400), and partly because they remained covered by other buildings until 1978. What ever the reason, the museum had some amazing stone pieces, unfortunately most of the writing on was in Spanish so we didn't always know what we were looking at but it was still a fabulous last historical site on our trip and incredible to find in the middle of a vast city like Mexico City.
I can't believe it but it is actually time to head back to LA now for our final visit to our friend Mike and then it will be time to go home - something I don't mind admitting we have mixed emotions.