A Travellerspoint blog

September 1985

Army everywhere, escape to Teotihuacan

Mexico City

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Monday 1st September 1985
Some sort of political fiesta in town today. Army everywhere. All roads around the zocado blocked. People flocking in. Take the metro to Indos Verdes and coach 260 P to 'Piramides'. Bright sunny day and hordes of people all over the ruins. Difficult to re-imagine the colourful life and prosperous city of Teotihucan that flourished here for a 1000 years and outlived the roman empire by 300 years. Enormous ceremonial complex, unfortunately can only guess what the various structures were used for, some of it certainly not pleasant. The inhabitants lived in walled compounds connected by narrow streets, middle eastern style. Each compound probably contained several extended families, perhaps a hundred people. Several hundred compounds were obsidian workshops. The whole city was built with stone, the walls plastered and painted with bright colourful religious frescoes. Everything full of symbols. City had a violent end. Pre aztec. Huge site. Exhausted.
Miss dinner. Dine off street food. Lauugh at indian girl playing over powerful air vent. Goes further than marilyn Monroe and flings her blouse joyfully in the air stream where it bounces for a while 20 feet above her head.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:01 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

post the parrot

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Tuesday 2nd September 1985
Spend the morning posting the parrot, 9000P. Job done. Hope Tony and Lindsey's wedding went ok.

Visit British embassy again. Unhelpful again, they close at 1pm although the advertised closing time is 2.30. After posting the parrot I know many post offices well and choose the most helpful to cash some travellers cheques.

Visit the palacio Gobierno and enjoy Diego Riviera's huge colourful and detailed murals. Much easier to look at than Orozco's.

The large cathedral built on and with the ruins of the aztec temple has an extraordinary and accurate mosaic reproduction of an old painting. The altar is elaborate chirrigueresque, an uphill struggle to reach it seems as the whole catherdral leans alarmingly, having survived several earthquakes. In retrospect pyramids would appear to be a better idea, more earthquake proof.

After the cathedral I wander round the corner a stroll into a curious institution. dark mahogany and marble, authorised people only allowed in, seems to include me. Its like a gentlemans club with large worn armchairs, newspapers and a couple of elderly mexican snoozing in the dignified gloom.

Buy bus ticket to Oxaca.

Violent hail and thunderstorm in the evening. Hailstones pile up outside my room and I am the only one at dinner. Ben and kathjy had an exciting day at Teotihhuacan. They got a ride home in a taxi that had lost its fare, bet the cabbie was angry.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:41 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

I get mail

at last

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Wednesday 3rd September 1985

Third vist to the Embassy and find a letter from home and a postcard form Damien, last seen in Brisbane. Embassy say they will forward anymore to Costa Rica.

Later on the metro an Indian woman gets her shawl caught on my trouser back pocket button as she is trying to leave the train. Trying to free the button when the doors start to close and with great gusto she gives an almighty, tug ripping off the button. The train slides away silently on its rubber wheels and I hear her convulsed with laughter. A tourist rip off.

Visit the police to report the loss of my Olympic camera. Tourist office had said they had no idea what to do if one was robbed, a common enough experience for tourists in Mexico City. Two german girls help out and translate for me, they were there to report the theft of their backpack. Busty mexican gilr who also helps leaves me her name and phone number. This amuses the policeman greatly. They take about two hours the quiz us and type up the report, but spending most of this time chatting up the german girls who were very patient with this persistent lechery. Female tourists get a lot of long lecherous stares, wolf whistles, and bottom pinching.

Meet B&K for lunch at the Asturiana. Then pack my little bag. ben gives me his army issue mosquito repellant. It is toxic to all forms of live, and stopped his watch dead with the fumes. He also gives me some compo biscuits and baked beans. I give them my book on Mexican prehispanic culture and a Time magazine with a report on this years fatal air crashes so far. The worst ever with 4 x as many as the last record.

Board late night bus to Oaxaca. have to persuade reluctant woman to move as I had booked a window seat to give me something to nod off against.


Posted by 1985 trip 04:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

dawn in Oaxaca

a clown performs

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Thursday 4th September 1985

Arrive in Oaxaca bus station at dawn. Homeless indians in cardboard boxes are staring to poke out grubby hands looking for their first fag before facing the day. It is chilly at dawn.

Picturesque jocalo (main square) as ever, lovely hispanic legacy. Sit on a park bench to catch the warmth of the rising sun and to await opening of hotels. Breakfast then check into Marie Louise 800 con bano. Cleanish and quiet. Hot water in the morning. Sleep.

Later in town I watch with admiration a clown entertain the crowd. On an illuminated stage outside the grand baroque cathedral he tells a long entertaining story in spanish and mime getting people on stage to play some of the parts. A group of local shoe shine ragamuffins get enthusiastically involved playing lions horses etc. They are all filthy and in rags. The princess is about 5 and paralysed by shyness, in her anxiety she nearly twists off her thumbs and eats all her hair. In a breathless voice she agrees to marry him and plans to have 6 children. We are outside the roman catholic cathedral after all. Great entertainment, put on by local arts committee.

Comida corrida 350, aques melone 100, cafe 50. later a large bowl of unusually flavoured hot chocolate with cake 150. Yummy.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Friday 6th again

is it the mescal?

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Friday 6th September 1985

Its Friday 6th again, I've just asked the tourist office and they should know. Can't work out how and extra day has slipped in. A street urchin tries to sell me THe News for 150P and won't negotiate even though he has doubled the price. Find a library and immerse myself in back issues of National Geographic. I have a hunger to read.
Catch last bus to Monte Alban and romp all over it in the dramatic horizontal rays of the sun. The ball courts are surprisingly small, but not much room on this flattened mountain top. Several little tunnels to discover, perhaps the priests used them for magical effect. Meet Henry and Charles on the south pyramid. Trendy arts students form kent who are wondering how to stay travelling but also get their dissertations typed and submitted. Arrange to meet up in the evening to get pie eyed on Mescal. Best laid plans... shops all shut at dusk.

Posted by 1985 trip 04:46 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

an impressive tomb in Mitla

the glory of the Zapotecs

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Saturday 7th September 1985
Mexico00343.jpgGet a bus ticket to Villerhermosa for tonight, 700km 3100 P.

meanwhile get a bus out to Mitla. This site is contemporary with Monte Alban but out lived it by a couple of hundred years. The wall panels of these palaces/temples are worked in bold simple geometric patterns in deep bas relief, similar to patterns on the woven goods but writ large. Each piece of the mosaic is individual hewn and fits it's neighbour perfectly even now, without mortar. Masters of their technologies. Also an impressive tomb. Huge heavy lintels have to be used over doorways, as there were no arches. Stone columns supported wooden roofs.

Forced march from local bus station to long distance bus station picking up bag on the way. Fortunately Villahermosa bus is late leaving so I just catch it.

Switchback ride over mountains, roadside dotted with donkeys and cows. Buy a fly in fake amber for 850. Snooze as we sway into the night...

Posted by 1985 trip 04:56 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

long bus ride to Palenque

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Sunday 8th September 1985
... and 13 hours later arrive in Villerhermosa, catch afurther bus to Palenque about a further 140km. Check in to Hotel Avenida, large clean room con bano but a bit overpriced at 2000P.

Back to the tropics with geckoes chirruping, insects and sweat running down my natal cleft. Cool shower and collapse.

Posted by 1985 trip 10:21 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

up early and to the ruins

of Mayan Palenque

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Monday 9th September 1985

Up early and to the ruins. No entrance charge. The mists are still clinging to the jungle canopy. Howler monkeys make loud growling barking noises further up the slopes. Grand views over the plains. Ornate detailed bas reliefs, friezes and calligraphy decorate the ruins and stelae. Secret tomb down two long steep flights of steps under the main pyramid. The copy in Mexico city is easier to view but the setting and descent add great atmosphere.

The palace is riddled with high corbelled vaults, roofs supported by false arches, which because of the technique are high and heavy, trilobate spaces lighten the load. T shaped windows, the symbol for the wind god, expressing a wish for aircon perhaps. Baths, aqueduct from nearby stream and unusual tower. Missed the septic tank. What remains of the stonework is very fine and beautifully embellished. Tiny ball court. Many more ruins in surrounding jungle. Armies of men keep the vegetation cut back on this little bit. Many french people visiting the site today.

Back to hotel for lunch. Small village close to the ruins, but locals seem totally fed up. Chat to a grubby american from New York who has been travelling latin america 2nd class, and it shows. Wonder if I look as bad. He enthuses about the Brazillians: open hearted, proud, optimistic.

5pm bus to Merida. Several other foreign travellers on board for a change. Mother and wriggling brat sit next to me, but mercifully get off fairly soon.

Posted by 1985 trip 10:27 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

night on a park bench

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Tuesday 10th September 1985

rather unexpectedly arrive in Merida bus station at 2am. I need to seriously improve my Spanish. Spend the rest of a warm night on a park bench. At 9am I break a 10,000 P note in the bank and buy breakfast, then check into Hotel Mucuy at 1500P for a rather nice room, there is a seat on the lavatory, and there is paper in the holder. Helpful staff. Sleep eat write.

Posted by 1985 trip 11:52 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

whistles and stares

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Wednesday 11th September 1985

Surprise surprise the Palacio Gobierno is covered in murals. This time by a local artist. The history of the Yucatan. Bold brazen stuff, rough hewn people struggling through a splurge of colour. Particularly good feet.

Mexican do a lot of whistling. Its a male pastime directed at their fellow men. They seek an acknowledgement. They also stare long and hard at any retreating pair of female legs. The gaze is deliberate and prolonged. catholic frustration or mere macho show?

Merida has colonial cafe culture. Old men in Panama hats drink small black coffees in the cafes. Bet their gossip is as sour as their beverage.

Posted by 1985 trip 12:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

the Chaac mools of Uxmal

Puuc style

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Thursday 12th September 1985

Check out of the Mucuy hotel and hope to find something a bit cheaper later. Used their ancient typewriter to type up a filler piece for the BritishMedical Journal about the Temples of Pagan, Burma. Spend lunch time talking to a young student in the zocalo and therefore late leaving for Uxmal. Rush around ruins at closing time. Grand and elaborate broad friezes, mosaics, serpents and stylised Chaac heads.

Check into Hotel Le Paz, not as nice and not much cheaper 1400P.

The errors of the day were redeemed by a splendid affair in the evening. Plaza St Lucia was the setting for a performance of Las Serenadias Yucatanas. The link group was a 26 piece band of old men dressed in white. The drummer was ancient, and looked unlikely to last many more performances. He was small and hairless, except for the middle of each eyebrow which were preserved. His scalp tissues had shrunk so that his panama hat rested on his ears which had bent with the weight. Once plump jowls now sagged, dragging the cheek and lower eyelid with them. The fat saxophonist couldn't keep awake. I fact they all looked as disinterested as zocalo waiters. Two female singers in elaborate white huipils graced the stage. The soprano was splendid, and of considerable weight. She choose her chair carefully. The trombonists had lost their hats, whereas the clarinetists in front of them both had theirs, which seemed contrary. Fine guitar strumming, Spanish type barber shop singing, black moustaches and black dinner jackets set of by blood red carnation. Some yodelling, a stirring poem, shuffle and stamp dance group to finish. Some visiting medics from central america were guests of honour and introduced. An entertaining batty old lady in the front row elucidated the whole show with expressive waving of hands. Her sign language helped make up for my poor spanish. I followed the medics as far as their hotel and carry on to mine.

Posted by 1985 trip 12:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

hammock deals

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Friday 13th September 1985

Bus to Tixkokol where I wander around nonchalantly even though everyone knows you just come here to buy hamacas. But no one asks me to buy as its pouring with rain and all traders are sheltering under the town hall arches. I end up buying three from Senor Rodrugues, 80, 120 and 170 strings 14000P after gentle bargaining. Al 3+ ply. You can get hammocks for 1000P each but more like a string bag for the shopping. The ones I have are like the locals use at home, they use really big ones stretched from wall to wall, tied up in the day as there may only be one room in the house, and they sleep sideways in them. Plan to send the largest "matrimonial' to Tony and Lyndsey and the middle one home and keep the smaller one to travel in, it is still big enougto be comfortable. The smallest is not coloured, plain sizal a local fibre I think (but looks like cotton). Also find some silver for Elaine, a cheap hat and tie for me with a bright indian weave.

Fireworks at midday. Independance day.

Posted by 1985 trip 13:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

sling my hammock in small homestay near Chichenitza

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Saturday 14th September 1985

to the Post Office with my purchases. No is possible internationale parcels until Tuesday !?! Wretched independance day celebrations have paralysed the place.

5pm bus to Chichen. I'm overloaded and so is the bus.

Arrive well after dark in the small village of Pista 2km form the ruins. The lady at The Pasakan Maya Restaurant asks me about cuarto economics as I pass. Turns out I can sling my own hammock in their spare room for 1000P! Brilliant. She helps me untangle the hammock strings, there's an art to rolling it up and Senor Rodrigues made it look very easy. Tie up mosquito net over it all and it looks like a ghostly four poster bed. Cosy inside, very comfy, very pleased at the way events have turned out.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:42 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

washing sewing reading

and son et lumière

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Sunday 15th September 1985

What with all the washing sewing reading and a thunderstorm didn't make it to the ruins during the day.

However made it to the Son et Lumiere show in the evening with a few others. Ruins impressive lit up at night. Quadraphonic hifi good too, but the music was repetitive and boring and ponderous and the lighting effects repetitive too. The voice overs spoilt it all. Thre breathless voices raised mirth rather than respect with chaotically mis stressed sentences 'where they here or did they come form...' A yorkshire tool fitter who has been wandering the globe for two years accompanied me to a beer afterwards. He regrets didn't get to Tibet, and looks like lack of money will stop him reaching south america too. He got a standby ticket out of singapore.

Dinner with the man of the house. he is as round as his wife, but drunk hence long conversation, although our respective language skills are not up to much actual communication. Spoke proudly of the virtues of the Yucatan and the Maya I think, the locals all look very indigenous and not spanish. We shared endless home made tortillas which were very tasty with pollo pibil. Yum. Muy bueno gusto. He had a very large piece section of chicken which was brutally rendered into tiny pieces by a heavy handed assault with knife and fork. ±Plenty of saliva and sharp intake of breath and smacking lips as he bit into a red chilli or a lime laden with salt. All washed down with three beers and a coke. I think my cash has prompted a feast. The chillies n this household are the very devils balls, but they make a marvellous colonic antiseptic so I managed a small one, poco piquant.

In the village square a large number of people were milling around, with a few vendors, as if something was going to happen. I hang around till 11pm and nothing much happened. Toddlers ran about bumping into everybody, children played marbles, youths smoked cheap cigarettes, older and fatter wiser gossiped on benches and grew fatter still.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:53 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

busy day at the ruins

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Monday 16th September 1985

Busy day at the ruins - enormous ball court: 6 friezes show 12 teams, the winners head is held by the losers captain, the winners kneeling body spurts seven serpents of blood from his neck, one for each member of the team. The central stone disc (the goal) has a skull speaking, with blood dripping as maize leaves to the ground. Peculiar acoustics.

A hot humid claustrophobic climb up inside the main pyramid to an ugly red jaguar seat set with a few pieces of jade. Shafts lead up to the temple on the top so the high priest could be heard from his den. Up the outside there are 91 stairs, then 4 on the top and then the altar = 365. The large steps of the pyramid cast a moving serpentine shadow apon the side walls of the stairs at the equinox sunset.

Steam baths, many carvings, Toltec Mayan mix, observatory, palaces, more ball courts, sacrificail cenote 70 feet across and 100 deep. Lots of pillars, fine corbelled vaults, better than in Palenque, and sinister chaac mols.

There was quite a crowd at the nearby Templo Evangelico Eben- Ezer. Several people standing, loudly calling god into their lives. Lets hope Chaac does not answer them.

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