Mexico is my favourite country in the world, it is the type of place where anything can happen. New terrains and adventures are forever opening up and guaranteeing memories of the weird and wonderful variety. I have definitely got a few highlights. La Santanera in Playa Del Carmen, unfortunately is now closed, but that was a top spot for overlooking Av. 5ta, soaking up the vibe of the town. Feeling the warm sea breeze, drinking cocktails, watching the effortless salsa dancers as they spin and strut, or listening to a mariachi band on the street below, with the palm trees wrapped in white cable lights, twinkling festively… It was how I spent last Christmas eve, with random lovely people I met in the hostel, and that to me, epitomised the laid back cool of Mexico, it was as if Playa was saying, “Welcome back mi amor, this is what you came for”.
I have had my fair share of messy nights out on Doce party strip, one in particular when myself & some girls from the hostel, bumped into a guy I had become acquainted with the previous summer, so that led to partying in the VIP areas of the night clubs with this bandito weed dealer and his crew, who was throwing the cash around, treated like royalty by all the bouncers and we ended up at the Twerking Contest in La Vaquita, keeping it real classy like. You don’t wanna hook up with a fuckboi, but there was some serious ByeFelipe flouncing upon rejection of this bandito’s ‘game’, and once I connected the dots (jail, LA, tattoos, missing arm..) and realised his influence in these parts I genuinely thought I might get “disappeared” for my disrespect and figured it was time to move on to Bacalar.
Another mescal inspired night ended up with me & some of the younger volunteer girls (one of whom had a thing for the Israeli lads who were on their crazy gap year after their army stint) ended up in a luxury holiday frat house in hoity toity Playacar at what was quickly turning into a topless orgy in the swimming pool. That same girl ended up going “missing” for a night and put the organisation on high alert. She’d hooked up with a 28 yo and went bank to his, had no idea where. Seems he was a pro online poker player who developed some algorithm and spent his time pissing about beautiful places like Mexico hitting on (and stalking) 18 year olds.
One of the more bizarre friendships I made was with a girl in the language school. I ending up staying with her, this really clued in and cool Czech, totally stunning, all tall and dark hair and huge fake tits, she had an AMAZING apartment and was being bank rolled by a sugar daddy twice her age. He would jet her off to Thailand or wherever at a moment’s notice so she could be his trophy piece of ass at some business dealings. She told me how back in the UK she was one of those girls that the exclusive nightclubs would find to come in and put in the VIP areas for the footballers and the Saudi tycoons splashing the cash on £4k bottles of champagne. She had some serious stories and I was learning all about the coke lifestyle in Cancun and the swingers cruises that are part and parcel of being some kind of It girl. Hmm.. maybe she was an escort? Am I so naive? Anyways she wasn’t allowed to chat to any men, natch, and she was too good to talk to the local women, who she thought were all boring little housewives and young mamas, so she led a pretty lonely existence. Paranoid too, and she kicked me out because she thought I would tell people (who?) where she lived, and apparently some ex of a friend turned up looking for her and blah blah drama. I guess she didn’t want anything to get back to Papa about blokes coming and going.
In Bacalar, a 5 or so hour bus ride south from Playa, I arrived to find that I wasn’t going to be staying in Green Monkey hostel, turns out the town (and I use that term loosely) was flooded by those torrential rains so common on the Mayan Riviera, and the electricity was out. Solo travel can be unnerving as a woman, so being told you’re going to some random new place to stay and to get in some random big guy’s pick up truck, with his dogs, can set all your alarm bells ringing. But sometimes just go with the flow. In fact every time I have gone with the flow in Mexico the Universe has provided, so I am sure there is some kind of lesson in there somewhere… Turns out this hostel was super chido, really laid back and full of cool people. Nothing to do in Bacalar except hang at the beautiful “laguna de siete colores”, smoke weed on the dock and improve your Spanish, and I guess, paddle board… Hostels are great for latching onto other people’s plans so when I met Nina, a super cool, half-Mexican German boho type (with dreds) I figured she would be a fairly copped on traveler. We got chatting to another dude, Xavi, a Mexican who lived in Tulum, a town between there and Playa. We clicked and became somewhat of the three musketeers, embroiled in some sort of hippiesque drug- fueled love triangle, sharing a bed in his one room flat. That was easily one of my favourite adventures I’ve had whilst traveling solo, everything was just so easy and fun and beautiful and chilled. We hitched rides on the highway and hung at the white sandy paradise-like beach. It’s one of those times that you make a mental snap shot of, because this isn’t reality, and even as it’s happening you know you’re going to miss it.
I made my way to Chiapas, teaming up with this young European couple at the airport because there were pretty violent protests and apparently the airport coach connections weren’t running and roads were closed. We taxied all over the city of Tuxtla. We made it to another station and I got some piece of shit rickety bus to San Cristobal. As it turns out the coaches were running all along. Typical. Chiapas is GORGEOUS, all magical turquoise rivers, effortlessly majestic canyons & lakes and traditional indigenous culture. Unfortunately, I ended up totally alone & bored (and freezing cold) in San Cris, which in fairness, is a very beautiful little “pueblo magico” that everyone loves. I had the hostel dorm to myself, and somehow managed to book my flight for the wrong date and had to stay another night. Now I had to try to find my way back to the airport and hope the roads weren’t closed again. All clear. Flight got me to Guanajuato without a hitch. Yet again, there is NO POINT in stressing in Mexico. Tranquilo tranquilo…
Guanajuato is cool. Gorgeous architecture, windy streets, tunnels, great night life and pubs. I met a lovely German girl, Melissa, and her friends who were starting a semester in the University. Met an artistic Irish backpacker and we became a bit of a short lived gang. I got turfed out of my hostel and ended up wandering around for wifi looking for a new place, dragging my case up the very hilly windy streets. Yes, Guanajuato is very very steep, with many many steps. So I ended up staying in this rustic place called Harlequin.. Opposite the church bell, which tolled often, punctually. Now, when I say this hostel was rustic, I mean it was run down and creepy as hell. “Haunted 1970s orphanage” is what I can best describe it as, with walls painted in halves of primary colours, crucifixes all over, and a harlequin painted on the wall. The dorms had primary colour metal bunk beds with just a manky blanket and bottom sheet and I imagine all the bed bugs in the world. So there I was, mixed dorm, bunch of blokes, much rage inducing snoring, when I got food poisoning. To the point of ; “Oh god, I am bleeding, I may have ruptured a spleen or my intestines, I am dying.” So with the wifi signal that I can barely access from my bunk, I am lying there, messaging my friend back home to google the symptoms. I had also convinced myself my kidneys were failing because I was dehydrated. (I am a rarely, if ever, ill and am seemingly a terrible patient) They were of little comfort, like; “Go to a doctor! Get out of there! Don’t die!” While all this was happening, I had discovered Tunnelfest, the largest underground rave in all of Latin America was happening the following night. So I got chatting to the guys in the dorm, and they wanted to go, so did my new girl crew and hell if I was gonna miss this. I had to sort out my food poisoning, so the night of the gig, me & Melissa (God bless that polyglot angel) had to wander to the chemists (while the others split off went to source tickets) and find an all night doctor that she could translate to about my food poisoning symptoms. It was pretty much mortifying. To my relief, it was fine, I wasn’t going to die. We all made it to Tunnelfest anyway, which was fucking incredible and as intense, crowded and sweltering as you could expect it to be with thousands of glowing, glittering, teeth grinding people packed into a tunnel. A top night, all things considered.
Onwards and upwards to La Huasteca in San Luis Potosi. I met great people. I had a lovely taxi driver, I made friends with a bunch of super cool dudes, tattoo artists, pot heads who lived/worked in the hostel. We hung on the roof in hammocks listening to music and shooting the shit. It’s a supposedly rough town at night, and they looked out for me, brought me to the bank and translated when I needed to transfer money for a tour. Just that super Mexican hospitality I’ve come to know and love. Even though the beauty of SLP is unparalleled, that part of Mexico is seriously off the beaten track and I was easily the only gringa in town. The tours didn’t even translate into English, it was all the Mexican families on their summer holidays. My absolute favourite trip was when we went caving & rafting on Tampaon, you paddle along and when another boat passes you drench them by splashing with the oars and everyone sings Spanish songs. It is wholesome and lovely and all about la familia. When we got to the rapids they just fucked us out of the boat in our life jackets so we could flow down stream. It was really amazing, so much fun and worth the figuring out and rerouting.
The scariest thing, that I have had to psych myself up to do and almost talked myself out of several times, was to catch an overnight bus to Mexico City. Alone. I’d heard there were police searches and that the buses got pulled over by gangs. An Irish friend of mine, Alex, was playing a gig with Save Ferris and I told one of the girls from Cuba, Anna, that I would meet her there for a reunion, so I couldn’t back out… Anyways I faced my fear and I did it, went to the bus station, got the bus. A lovely, comfy, recliney seats, USB ported, TV screened, air conned luxury ADO coach. If you didn’t know before now, Mexico does seriously comfortable bus travel. I slept pretty much the whole way and woke up as we were arriving in Mexico city. I was shitting it going through the arrivals, I honestly thought I would be snatched up by these rogue taxis I had read about online. So when you get there, they have official stands and you pay taxi fare upfront for whichever of the zonas, then you get a numbered ticket and wait. They match your number to the taxi and a little kid even carries your bags to the car. Muy facil. Again, what the heck do I worry for in Mexico? I made it to the hostel, met Anna, and discovered that Mexico city is one of the most cosmopolitan, cultured, historical, architecturally aesthetic cities I have ever been in, it is like London or Paris or Madrid. But huge. Myself & Anna watched the Olympics in the plaza, took a bus tour, looked a street art, stayed in a hostel with a nightclub on the roof that went til all hours and let strangers leave the bar to wander around the rooms.. Safe. So we left for a different neighbourhood.
Mexico city was full of wacky adventure. We met Alex and his bandmate, other Alex, and went to the Lucha Libre wrestling which is both comical and impressive. The locals take it seriously and their reactions to this pantomime spectacle are fantastic. Anna and myself went on the Xochimilco barge tour, which again is bizarre, the barges are all crowded together and it kind of ends up being a very slow, very colourful booze cruise with reggaeton pumping while locals try to sell you flowers and snacks. Brilliant stuff. That night we went to the stadium to see Save Ferris perform at the ska convention. The Alexes had gotten us back stage passes, so we got to hang in the dressing room with the bands, and yes, there were light bulbs around the mirror, plus there was unlimited free booze and we could go on the back/side stage to see the gig and the audience. An absolute once in a lifetime experience. We ended up fairly hammered, there was an after party and it is all a bit hazy. Was a fantastic way to end that summer’s backpacking.
So Mexico, my love, I shall see you again in 3 weeks, and I cannot wait to experience what you have in store. Feliz navidad!