Holy heck, I know this is a common statement, but where has the time gone. It is almost November which means it is over 5 weeks ago that I left Antigua and ventured North into Mexico; and what a ride it has been. Three nights in San Cristobal, just less than four weeks in Puerto Escondido, three nights in Chacahua, three nights in Mazunte, and now four nights here in San Jose del Pacifico before we continue on to Oaxaca City for the Day of the Dead festival.
It’s the first time since my last post that I have finally found time to do some writing. And my gosh it’s the most perfect setting for it. We just checked into a place called La Puertas del Sol where you can book your own little cabin with a fireplace and a goregous view of the mountains and valley below. The others have gone adventuring so here I am lying in the sun with the sound of the breeze and the birds all around me, making the most of the peace and quite. So time to get some words down.
Let’s go back to the end of September, 20th to be exact. It was a 5am start that morning to catch the shuttle bus from Antigua to San Cristobal, Mexico. Two of the Aussie boys, Dan and Blaino, were also on the same bus, so as promised the night before, I woke the two dusty lids up so they didn’t miss it. Two hours into the 12 hour day we were stopped 2 hours from the border due to an organised protest. I haven’t done the research but from catching different conversations it sounded like the people of Guatemala were protesting against the President and some of his recent decisions; for instance removing the UN’s anti-coruption unit that was implemented into the government without consent from the people of Guatemala, sounds like early stages of a dictatorship to me. Anyway, we were stopped in the most bizarre location by a bunch of Guatemalan’s who had cordoned off the road with one big rope. We waited for about an hour and half in the peak heat of the day before we were allowed through.
Eventually we arrived into San Cristobal around 8pm at night and went straight to Puerto Veija Hostel to check in, shower, dump our bags, before heading out to get cash and dinner. We ended up walking about 7 blocks from the main square to a local corner of the town in search of a restaurant called Taco el Meson that a friend had recommended. As we got close I started to question if the place was going to be open, it was 9pm and majority of the shops were shut. Then I started to see some lights and hear some chatter, the place was huge and full of locals, there wasn’t a single tourist in sight, that’s when you know you have found the best cheapest food in town. We had the tacos, my first taste of Mexican food, and they were out of this world, I definitely would recommend.
I ended up spending three days in San Cristobal which was timed perfectly with a friend Rosa from back home and a few of her friends who were also in the area and staying at the same hostel. It was the first time in 3 months that I had been around so many kiwi’s, it was a nice change from the aussies. San Cristobal is a beautiful town with gorgeous streets, and an incredible variety of food; you could literally stay there for a month and always eat out somewhere new. Most of my time there was spent eating, having a few drinks with friends, watching Rosa attempt an eating competition, people watching from the side of the street, and absorbing the Mexican culture. I was even lucky enough to time my stay with one of the town’s street parade, a parade like no other. At first I was confused why I was seeing so many people walking past carrying huge tyre inners, the type that we would use for tubing down the river, but as soon as the parade began, I quickly caught on. It was incredible, I swear there was no costume the same, and it went on for hours, probably half the day. By the end of the day I was pretty over it, squeezing my way through the crowds. Among all this I even managed to find time to attend a yoga class, my first class in Spanish, it was quite the experience, thankfully the teacher was kind enough to translate a few things to English.
Then on the evening of the 23rd of September, I had one last dinner with Rosa before boarding my overnight bus to Puerto Escondido, a town on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, well known by surfers for it’s huge swell. Again I was lucky enough to time my arrival into Puerto with an Aussie couple (Tanita and Stu) who I had meet at the Doozy Koala hostel back in Antigua. They had caught up with a few of their friends from back home and had pitched in for airbnb for a week in La Punta, the southern end of the main beach, and were kind enough to offer me their couch to sleep on. So when I arrived early the next morning I had somewhere to go, and holy it wasn’t an ordinary airbnb, it was a mansion. Four storeys, each with a huge balcony, a rooftop with a view out towards the horizon, 3 huge bedrooms, 2 living areas, a big kitchen and a pool. It was luxury. I slept on the couch which was more comfy than alot of the beds at the hostels I had stayed at. Most of my time at the AirBnB was spent hanging out in the pool, watching movies, doing yoga with Tanita or cooking something up in the kitchen. The odd night we went out for dinner, mainly to Pepe’s which quickly became my favourite place for fish tacos. I think I ended back there for another 7 or 8 times during my time in Puerto. The coconut battered fish tacos are to die for.
We even had a go at catching ourselves some fish. One morning our group of 6 from the AirBnB and one other went out at 7am on a fishing charter, consisting of a tiny ‘lancha’ boat trawling for 5 hours for sail fish, as big as the Marlin we catch back home. We had a few runs but unfortunately nothing that stuck. Thankfully we saw dolphins and alot of turtles, even two mating, which made up for our lack of fish.
When we checked out of the AirBnB we all went and stayed at a hostel in La Punta called Akumal, basic accommodation but great vibe and it had a rooftop. The following two nights after Akumal I booked in to stay at a hostel recommended to me by a friend called Bonobo Surf House. It is located on the opposite end of town with a cute beach called Carrizilillo that is great for beginner surfers. The main reason for the shift was to separate myself from the group to get some admin done, figure out the rest of my trip, when I’m going to meet up with brother, where I’m going to be for the Day of the Dead festival, where I will be for Zac’s anniversary and where I’m going to go in the states to start my J1 visa beginning 4th of December. All was fine not planning anything for the beginning of my trip, but now I needed to figure out some logistics.
But before I left for the other side of town, Tanita and I went for one last coffee at Cafe Ole in La Punta where through just talking to one of the waiters and then to the manager I organised to volunteer at the cafe when I return after my two nights at Bonobo. This way I could help out in the kitchen 5 times a week, 5 hours each shift for free accommodation which would also give me a place to be while I did some planning. Our accommodation was also in the most perfect spot, two doors down from the end of the road and close to the popular point break surf spot in La Punta. It felt good at least having a short term.
After my two nights in Carrazilillo, I ended up working at the cafe in the kitchen as one of the su-chef’s. It was alot of fun. We made all sorts of things ranging from panacotta to pizzas to peach chutney to curry and more, but unfortunately my second shift in that’s when I was thrown probably one of my biggest challenges on the trip, one that ended up lasting roughly 4 weeks. I could tell something wasn’t right with my body, that morning I had done a workout with a friend but surely I shouldn’t be this tired just after that, I mean yes I’m unfit, traveling does that to you, but I could hardly stand up for the full 5 hour shift. Then during the night I had a fever, something wasn’t right. The next day was the same, I rested majority of the day and then went to the cafe to work from 5pm till 10pm. Again I could hardly stand up for majority of the shift, to the point that I was using a stool in the kitchen. That night we were all finished and cleaned up by 9.30pm just waiting for 10pm to roll around, then my friend Shai said I should ask if I can go home early very aware that I wasn’t feeling well. So I got up and went to go talk to the head chef and manager who were sitting at a table with the big bosses girlfriend. I hadn’t meet her yet but apparently she was like the CEO of the cafe. Immediately I regretted asking if I could head off early, the head chef explained the situation to the CEO in Spanish as she didn’t know much English. Then I stood there for what felt like a good couple of minutes while she thought about it, there was just no sympathy, something that I have never experienced before, all my bosses back home have always been super understanding in situations like this and probably would have already sent me home and told me not to come back tomorrow. Eventually she said something in Spanish which translated to “it’s okay tonight but it shouldn’t happen again”. I was gobsmacked, immediately I felt like I had done something wrong, there was no sympathy at all, no feel better soon comment, nothing, and we only had 30mins left of the shift. So I walked off, there was no point in trying to explain myself, and I was furious, I swear I could have yelled at her. I think it was one of those moments where something happens or someone says something that opens the gate to a whole heap of other emotional shit that is being stored. And to be honest I had just moved into the volunteer accommodation where majority were from other parts of the world, majority spoke Spanish, and it was the first time that I really felt like I was on my own journey, it felt pretty lonely. And then there was the feeling sick part, and the missing Zac part, and the fact that I will never see him again part; everything just piled up, i couldnt hold it in any longer that I just balled my eyes out in the shower that night, to the point that I was hysterical. It was horrible but also a satisfying feeling having the chance to let it all out, I was obviously overdue for a big cry.
The next day I took myself off to the doctor. Thankfully one of the girls at work had a recommendation for a guy who speaks English, and he was great. I explained to him my symptoms, initially he spoke about sending me off to get bloods done to test me for Dengue Fever until he looked at my throat and immediately he could tell I had an infection, so antibiotics it was. After the first few pills I started feeling so much better, I had energy back, I could actually start to have conversations with the other volunteers, it was such a relief.
At the end of my first week volunteering, Nat and Brig, my old flatmates and really good friends from back home, flew into Puerto Escondido from Mexico City. They had booked a nights accommodation at Bonobo Surf House so I went there to meet them on arrival. It was so nice seeing familiar faces, especially after the week I just had. They dumped their bags and then together we caught a taxi back to La Punta so I could show them the beach, where I was living and working, and then we went for dinner at Pepe’s with Dan and Blaino, the two Aussie boys I traveled with from Antigua. It was their last night in Mexico, and because it was my first night reunited with Nat and Brig, we ended up having bit of a Doozy. Unfortunately it was a Monday night so not much was going on, but after dinner we ended up back at the boys hostel with beers and mezcal where we parked up at the bar playing pool and talking majority of the night. In no time it was 4am in the morning and so the girls and I decided to head home. What I didn’t realise until we got to the main street was ofcourse there was going to be no taxi’s at that time of the morning which could take Nat and Brig back to their hostel. So instead they came to stay with me, I had my own room with a double and a single bed, it seemed like the only logical option, and our only option.
That morning I had work at 10am in the cafe. When I got there I was surprised with how many people were asking how my night was; apparently we were very noisey when we came home that morning, waking up majority of the volunteers. Then that’s when it clicked, I suddenly remembered the three of coming home, drunkenly laughing and talking in the common area as we chowed down some of my leftover pesto pasta. We definitely were the gossip that morning. Anyway, my shift was going just as normal until the CEO came to talk to me. She was coming to tell me off for breaking two of the rules of the volunteer accommodation, staying up in the common area after 12pm and having guests over, which was apparently an absolute no no. One of the volunteers must have mentioned being woken up to one of the bosses that morning and then next minute they are checking the security camera’s for evidence. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was, the fact that they were checking the camera’s, I found it pretty funny to be honest. I didn’t even try to explain myself and the dilemma with the taxi. Then long story short the big big boss who I hadn’t even meet yet came up to me towards the end of my shift, he said he had heard what had happened and that they won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour and t
told me “your out”. I couldn’t believe it, I had just been fired from a volunteer position. I mean it couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, I was only going to be volunteering till the end of the week and instead it gave me more time to hang out with Nat and Brig.
So that afternoon I packed up my bags and we went and stayed at Akumal Hostel for the rest of the week. It worked out perfectly, it gave me the time to find a job, book flights to the states and also figure out the rest of my trip here in Mexico. Aside from the admin the rest of our time was spent watching the surfers at Zicatela, trying different restaurants, hanging out with fellow NZ friends Meg and Finn, and even releasing some baby turtles into the sea.
At the end of the week Nat, Brig, Finn and I ventured an hour north to a place called Chacahua. It is a small beachside village at the mouth of a lagoon which is also known for it’s surf. Aside from surfing there isn’t much else to do there apart from read a book, swim and siesta three times a day in one of the many hammocks. Unfortunately due to a few evening storms the waves were no good so we just ended up relaxing to the point that your almost tired from just doing nothing. Coming from a girl that use to cram a thousand things into a day, sitting still use to come as a challenge; but since starting my travels I am quickly becoming an expert.
When we returned to Puerto Escondido we ended up staying in a different part of town, away from the beach and close to the markets in a hostel called Puerto Dreams. Unfortunately when we returned, a suspected ear infection that had been bugging me for the last week started to become unbearably painful. For a second time I took myself back to the doctor, this time to Hospital Angel del Mar that was just a few blocks away from my hostel. When I arrived the place was full of locals, no one on the reception was able to speak english and so it looked unlikey that I was going to get a doctor that spoke any either. However Dr Venus was great, her English was worse than my Spanish so we just ended up speaking the length of the appointment in Spanish, it was super interesting, Google translate was definitely our friend. As expected my ear was overly inflamed and infected, so I was prescribed antibiotics ear drops and given the stern word that I wasn’t allowed to swim for 10days. I followed all the rules but it wasn’t a fast recovery. A few days later I went back again, eager to get it all sorted before we hit the road, my glands were up and the throat infection obviously hadn’t budged, so a second lot of antibiotics were prescribed.
The next day Nat, Brig and I hit the road, making our way an hour south to Mazunte, another little town by the beach with a similar chilled out vibe to that of La Punta. Arriving in the afternoon, in the peak heat of the day we wandered around the town for about an hour until we finally found ourselves a cabaña only a stone’s throw from the beach. It was such a relief and exactly what we needed, all three of us were starting to fall apart, it was one of those classic traveling moments; I was battling an infection, Brig just found out she had head lice and Nat’s bowel movements definitely weren’t normal. Looking back on it now we can laugh, but at the time tensions were definitely high.
We ended up spending 4 days in Mazunte, it was beautiful, super relaxing and with good food options what more could you want. However it wasn’t the most ideal place to be suffered from an infection; no swimming, no sun, and no beers, it was a hard reality, especially when we went and visited my friend Gen at her airbnb that she had booked with a bunch of friends. It was an absolute mansion, the photos don’t do it justice. In celebration of the incredible views I decided to treat myself to a beer while I sat on the poolside, it just felt rude not to.
Unfortunately after a few days being in Mazunte, the infection ramped up, my tonsils were huge, grosely infected, and now painful. My plan after Mazunte was to head up into the mountains to go visit a friend in her little village, so with that in mind I messaged my doctor, sent her a photo of my tonsils, and straight away she recommended that I return to Puerto Escondido to get a throat swab so they could target the infection. So early that next morning after a collectivo and shuttle bus, I was back in Puerto. I found the laboratory, got my test done, and then it was a waiting game, the results weren’t going to be back for four days. I was absolutely guttered, traveling while your sick is hard work, not just physically, but mentally. I craved to just be back in NZ, in the company of family and friends, where I could lie on the couch and mum could stroke my hair, or spoilt with Zac’s lemon honey drinks. So instead of hanging around in Puerto which was the initial plan and making small talk with strangers in the hostel, I decided to make my way back to Mazunte where I could lean on Nat and Brig for comfort. Thank god for them. We also had another friend from back home join us, Joey, and so together we made a plan. We ended up staying one more night in Mazunte, mainly because the girls were hungover, and then headed up into the mountains to a little town called San Jose del Pacifico the following day. We stayed two nights in a hostel called La Cumbre before availablity popped up for a cabin where I write from today. The mountains are beautiful, the air is refreshing, we actually had to wrap up, it was a nice change from the constant layer of sweat you wear when down by the beach, and hot showers and a fireplace, it is luxury.
Anyway, enough rambling, tomorrow we head to Oaxaca city where I plan on heading straight to the doctor for the fourth time. I have never been more excited for a doctor appointment. This time I will have my test results and we can kick this infection once and for all. After that we will have two days before we move into an airbnb with some of Nat and Brig’s friends from Australia ready for the Day of the Dead festival, apparently it goes off, but I will fill you all in on that next time.