Well, this is my first blog, Jonny joins the 21st century. As I planned to set out for Mexico I had the usual apprehensions before any trip. The plan? Explore southern Mexico and Belize, maybe Guatemala, as a true traveler, not as the banal tourist, with my friend, best friend to tell it straight, sharing the journey. Conceptions about Mexico turned into misconceptions to be corrected. Watch what you eat, don't drink the water, don't eat anything washed in water, various travel warning designed to avoid bandits, danger, danger everywhere.
Well I ate and drank everything, never got sick. Walked back streets and traveled at night, no threats. Saw many rough looking people, no one posed a threat. A stranger is a friend not met, someone said. A self exploration and letting go of fears was at hand. Am I being naïve or standing too assured in the face of God? I came back after two weeks, but my friend continued on into central and perhaps South America. Is he ok and safe, haven't heard from him in over two weeks, are my new conceptions misplaced? I start to worry but I know him and believe he is alright, immersed in the experience and landscape, perhaps finding romance.
Jon, Isla Mujeres
I had some self imposed goals strung together for the trip, but was open to see what would happen on the journey. The plane set out at 6 am, so I drove to Columbia to pick up my buddy and then drove to Charlotte.
Was dead tired, the so tired you can't sleep, and he was in the middle of a crisis of faith, so the start was foreboding. The journey started in Cancun. Caught a bus to town and was determined to avoid the hotel zone. Got the R1 bus for about 13 pesos to get to the ferry to Isla Mujeres. Went in the wrong direction though and had to sit through a ride through the hotel zone. So much for that. We caught the ferry and got to the island. I thought it was to be undeveloped but a small town greeted us. Ended up finding a place on the beach to sleep for the night. The moon was awesome, crescent I guess, hanging low in the sky over the water. I awoke in the morning and had a swim to washed the stank off me, had some expensive breakfast and caught the ferry back.
Caught a second class bus to Chichen Itsa, a Mayan ruin.
Turns out that Mexico didn't have cheap chicken buses, or at least no one would admit to it, but the second class buses were pretty cheap. The ruins weren't that great, too many tourists, and trinket vendors. But got there at 5pm, so it was free then. Sat in the parking lot and another bus came along and it was on to Merida. Got in late and walked around looking a place to sleep. The streets were dark and many people were out, was apprehensive but it turned out to be unfounded. Found a hotel, the only one on the trip I think, just wanted to unload. We got some bread, sat in the park, ate and talked of many things while birds crapped on us. The locals were amused. One thing I noticed, couples hang out on park benches or in the streets, hugging and kissing. I figure there is not much privacy at home, but they can find it in public surrounded by people. I was envious of them to have love to share.
Isla Mujeres, Arthur, Sleeping on beach
The next day, there was no bus left to Uxmal, but a good guy lead us to a nice hostel where there were some nice girls from Brazil. After a brief talk, it was on to exploring the colonial city, went to church and prayed and talked more about God. Walked the streets, bought hammocks, had coffee at a café and turned in.
Isla Mujeres, dawn
Got a bus to the Uxmal ruins. It was much more interesting experience, not many people and no vendors. Ate a sour orange from a tree, so sour my lips went numb. Walked out to the main road and hoped a bus would come by to Campeche. One came at dusk and I jumped on. Campeche was just as menacing, but all was cool.
Walked miles to find a beach to sleep on in the new hammock. It really wasn't a beach but a bit of sand in some trees with trash all around. It rained but a tarp kept me somewhat dry.
Isla Mujeres, dawn
Walked back to town the next day and explored some. My traveling companion decided to read and sleep in a park. I had some bad blisters on my foot, brought the wrong shoes, so I was glad for the stop. My friend prefers to travel alone and foresaw us going our own ways at times. So I tried to give him space and allow him some solo respites where I could. He spoke the language though and I didn't, so I feel I leaned too much on him and used him as a crutch. But I don't spend much time with him and I guess I was selfishly enjoying his company. I felt he was restless at times and wanted to tell me to explore more on my own during the trip and experience more interactions with the local people, but he never said anything.
I was impressed by and appreciated his patience and tried to interact with the people with my ill-suited Spanish book. That is the best way to travel; I get a "C" for my efforts. But I learned a good lesson about traveling. If I am blessed again to travel with him, it will be different. I know more now.
So I got the 9pm bus to Palenque, got there about 4am I think and a cheap room for a few hours sleeps. The town was cool, bought some better shoes, and caught a collectivo to the ruins. The ruins were awesome and a guide took us into the jungle. We looked for howler monkeys, heard but did not see them. We met a cool couple, Monika and Lucas, at the ruins.
I talked with Monika about a book I was reading, The Power of Awareness. They were Buddhists and she related common themes to the book, and invited us for meditation later that night. They gave us a ride to the cabins they were staying at by the edge of the park, El Jaguar, and we got one. Missed the meditation, but we got together and talked more and went to an outdoor bar across the street. There was a fire dance and drummers, and some cool people, local and foreign, good relaxation.
Isla Mujeres, Arthur, buddy
The next morning we meditated with the two, said our wiedersehens, walked back to the ruins, and caught a collectivo to town. Another collectivo to Agau Azul. Walked up the river and falls. The water was actually green to me.
I thanked God for letting me see this beautiful creation of his. We found a small island in the river, swan over and set up camp for the night by the river. We had more great discussions as it got dark, quoted the Bible, and I finally stopped when I realized I was talking to myself as my friend was asleep. It rained that night and everything I had got wet, but I was glad to be alive to experience it. Another observation. There were very small children selling things along the river to make money for their families. I saw many of these children, even alone and at night, in Mexico and I got so sad that there wasn't a good future for them. I want to go back and help them somehow when I figure a way to best do it.
Got back to the main road and another collectivo to Ocasingo and another to San Cristobal.
I bought a whole roast chicken from a woman cooking on the street in Ocasingo and it was so good. San Cristobal was a beautiful city in the mountains, geared for tourists but great just the same. Checked into a hostel and went exploring. Went to mass that evening at a beautiful church. Went to a bar with a band, but got kicked out when we wouldn't buy a second drink. Hung all the wet stuff to dry and we talked in the room about my travel companion's dreams and mine as well. I was finally getting some clarity to my life, and where I want to take my life. I really want to teach or help people in places like I saw on the trip, and travel while I do it. My buddy suggested ways to do it. Now I have to figure out how to get from here to there. I got to see my life the way I want it and want to work to get there. There are so many places in the world where the people need clean water, healthy food, a permanent roof over their heads, an education. I passed by so many one room houses that just had a hammock and small TV inside.
I can make a difference and grow myself mentally, socially, and spiritually. My friend knows so much more about things than me and offered to give guidance on my personal journey, which I am thankful for.
Philanthropy: Greek, love of humanity.
Another observation: There are many indigenous Indians in Mexico. And they watch the Spanish soap opera and game shows on TV. But there are only Spanish people on TV, I saw no one who was Indian or even mixed. Does the government think that if Indians were on TV, the population will feel empowered and start to protest their conditions, just something to think about?
The next day, the hostel washed our clothes for six bucks and we found another hostel "Flavian" ran by an awesome young couple called Erica and Arturo.
They were great to me. I met some girls from Switzerland there who were traveling for several months. Met a lot of people making long travels. Had a pizza and went to an indie cinema and saw "one giant step". Got up the next day, had coffee at a jazz café, and took a long bus to Chetumal, back on the east coast.