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some rich bishop built this

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28th August 1985
Visit the state museum. Well laid out, small prehistoric section and interesting ethnology section with old presses, carts laths , fish traps etc.

Meet the son of the British Consul to Belize in the bank. The bank clerk pointed him out as he is staying in Hotel Gonzalez too! He is a student at the LSE and is travelling for 6 weeks with his girlfriend Kathy.

Do the Cabana de Hospice. Another grand building. It is at the far end of the pedestrianised promenade. Built by some rich bishop as a hospice, it is all on one level and contains numerous plazas inside. Splendid Orozco murals and accompanying display of work ups sketches and plans. The large chapel is adorned too. There are some art galleries as well. Enjoy some paintings by an artist from Hong Kong called Barbara. She does watery landscapes, silhouetted mountains with a small amount of foreground detail, subtly simple, very chinese. Reminds me of the fish prints I saw in Sydney.

Several of the cloisters are academic institutes, dancing, musicians, performing arts. Classical piano music drifts around the conclaves. It is completely delightful.

I photograph the cathedral from the Gobierno roof with the new camera. The sun was shining through the dome.Mexico00320.jpg

Beer and pollo con mole with Ben and Kathy. He invites me to Belize, but have to get there before 18th Sept when he returns to Uni.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:41 Archived in Mexico Tagged orozco Comments (0)


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Thursday 29th August 1985

Catch a bus to Tlaquepaque. A small town on the edge of Guadalajara specialising in crafts. Plenty of cheap stuff, but also a lot of very fine work, glass, leather, metal, papier macho, also expensiveantiquues and fine furniture. All displayed in cool rooms, verandahs, and open courtyards. Very pleasant to stroll around.
Market unfriendly. Have a cold seafood spicy tostada. Legs crossed. Enjoy Sergio Bustamente's gallery particularly. His papier macho, and brass and copper sculptures are startling and lively. Mostly animal forms with a surreal twinge. Kitch but exquisite and about $1000. He is a master of his craft. Buy a colourful papier mache jungle parrot from nearby, unfortunately not a Bustamente, then worry about getting it to Tony and Lyndsey for their wedding.

The Parrot

The Parrot

Arrive back v tired early to bed early but late to sleep because of lots of noise in the hotel.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:07 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

lose a day

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Friday 29th more or less

Think its the 28th and realise it is the 29th. Pack and vacate room swiftly. Wash a shirt. Telegram to Bridgend. 4500P ! Feel rather aimless most of the day. Send off a few faded postcards but fail to get parrot wrapped and posted. Walk down calle Indepencia with parrot in hand to the estacion de ferrocarril. Greeted by enormous long train, most of it ex Canadian Pacific rolling stock. A mexican built carriage is Especial Primera, coach type with reclining seats plenty of leg room with air con. The old pullmans are still full of character, lots of buttons and curtains and signs in english. One hour late departing...

Posted by 1985 trip 03:22 Archived in Mexico Tagged trains Comments (0)

Mexico City

altitude 8000 feet

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Saturday 30th August 1985

... and four hours late pulling into Mexico City train station. See very little of the scenery on the journey as my double glazed window is steamed up on the inside. Picturesque glimpses though. Man in sombrero on a donkey, maguey cactus hedges and fields of maize.
Get in at 2pm . Catch Metro, 1 peso (almost nothing) and make my way to Uruguay street and check straight into Casa de Huespedas las Asturiana, luxury of own room with loo and shower, but no hot water, 850 pesos. 17th century building around a cool courtyard. Frighteningly rotten staircase. Hotel regulations are framed on the back of the bedroom door, dated Octobre 1950. Restaurant on the premises and stuff myself for 450 P. Several courses, one of which was fried battered brains (seso). Finish meal to find Ben and Kathy checking in! Mutual surprise. They have just arrived by taxi but were on the same train! They had a single berth in the pullman. I thought they had left yesterday, but have lost track of the date lately.

Make my way by rapid and cheap metro to the British Embassy. Big thunderstorm and embassy closed when I get there, but man on the door lets me in as I look like a drowned rat. Next man, behind glass panel, says they don't keep mail, they're closed, come back monday. Feel miserable and go back to bed. Prospect of a letter emotional. Dinner later with Ben Kathy and beer to cheer me up.

Sleepless night tormented by mosquitoes.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:29 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Museum of Anthropology

fabulous stuff

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Sunday 31st August 1985
Up late after mosquitoe torture and off to the museum of anthropology at Chapultepac park. Get thoroughly lost in the park. Lovely museum. Enormous free hanging concrete roof with water pouring down into the middle cooling the whole museum. Well laid out galleries with tombs to discover. Take a guide for 1 hour 40P. 'and now we see something else' not very useful. The pottery and stone artefacts are particularly impressive. There are dramatic reconstructions of Tenochitlan.

Dinner and a beer back at Asturiana with Ben and Kathy.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:48 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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)

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