[an error occurred while processing this directive] Two generations go to Mexico

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  - Two generations go to Mexico

 by Olive Braman


Olive Braman spent quality time on a backpacking holiday with her son



I recently enjoyed a repeat visit to Mexico backpacking with my elder son, Adam. We set out with no very clear idea of where we were going, but that’s what the younger generation does today. We travelled everywhere by bus which was  cheap and mostly very comfortable, though I put an absolute limit of eight hours at a time. The first class buses showed videos and had air conditioning and decent loos (very important for my generation).  

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We flew to Mexico City, then went straight to the second largest pyramid in the world near Puebla. It was wonderful – virtually no other people, long hidden passages to explore. Thirty years ago I found coming down the steep steps rather alarming, and age hadn’t changed anything.


Then there were three days in Oaxaca seeing the tranquil ruins of Monte Alban, the superb gilded church and  beautiful old convent, now a museum.  We found inexpensive (£5.00) rooms with en suite showers and loos not far from the zocalo (square) where we ate every evening. The square was always full of people selling food, souvenirs and balloons – hundreds of balloons. Some of them were about ten feet long, which seemed to me ridiculous –what can you do with a ten-foot balloon?  

I found out that evening. Children playing outside the cathedral were tossing them into the air where they sailed like zeppelins. I wanted one! 


We lunched in a walled patio under a grapefruit tree.  Our bill, £3, included two complimentary glasses of tequilla  - a frightful drink I thought, but Adam enjoyed it.


The ruins of Mitla were dull, so we decided to take a bus to the petrified waterfall 13 kilometres away. "It will take half an hour" said Adam - in fact it took an hour and a half on a second class bus bumping along unmade roads. The bus stopped every few minutes to disgorge the locals with their bulging bags of tomatoes, eggs, cement, potatoes, but fortunately no live chickens as there were 30 years previously. When we finally arrived we had half an hour to visit the pools and waterfall.  We needed three hours to see the whole thing and have a swim.

On the journey back Adam hopped off to see the second fattest tree in the world, but I had had enough so returned to Oaxaca alone to find myself at the bus station in utter confusion with no idea where our hotel lay. Fortunately, a couple of German tourists staying in the youth hostel near to us steered me in the right direction. I gave Adam a bit of a fright by not being at the hotel when he got back (I had gone shopping) which I felt served him right for abandoning me to look at a fat tree.


We went on to Tuxtla Gutierrez - marvellous name, but rather dreary town - so we left for Chiapo de Corzo with the intention of taking a boat trip down the Canyon Del Submerido.  There we braved the crocodile-infested waters for an early-morning swim (there were half a dozen varying in size from two feet to about twelve) and the canyon was impressive. We saw buzzards and pelicans and some sort of river cat, which hissed at our boat for getting in its way.


Our next stop, San Cristobel de las Casas, was disappointing - no beautiful buildings, rather cold, though a pretty setting up in the hills, and children of four and five selling  beadwork and chewing gum. Descending from the hills towards Palenque, the scenery was splendid but the bus sustained a puncture so we were not as appreciative as we might have been.


We were transferred to another crowded bus, stood for an hour while the puncture was repaired, then a second tyre exploded as we reboarded. We had to travel very slowly until we could be transferred again.  Patience helps in Mexico.


I loved the Mayan ruins at Palenque in the foothills of Alto Chiapas in the middle of and encroached upon by the jungle, with a waterfall and cascading pools for swimming. Those Mayans had picked the most splendid spot to live in and sacrifice people.


Then we were off to Campeche on the Gulf of Mexico, where the sea looked oily and the sea front very bleak. Don’t bother. Instead head on to Chichen Itza for the magnificent ruins. This time I did not climb the huge pyramid, remembering the terror I had felt when descending those steps, and even Adam came down very cautiously. 


We saw a 20-foot procession of leafcutter ants carrying leaves 10 time their size. Adam cruelly put a small boulder in their path, which created total confusion as the idea of going round or over it was not on their schedule.  Mercy prevailed and he removed it so they could carry on marching.


We were now keen to get to the Caribbean coast where diving at the reef off Cozumel  is said to be next best to the Barrier Reef.  But when we arrived we found no buses, poor beaches - nothing but cruiser visits and the place thick with tourists.


Our final week was at Playa del Carmen which has white sands, palm trees, turquoise seas and a lively Fifth Avenue packed with shops, cafes, bars, mariarchis- in fact musicians of all sorts. Adam went clubbing while I enjoyed the café life.


Enticed by descriptions of swimming in underground caves, we took a bus to Xcaret, a sort of zoo, aquarium, nature reserve, theme park. I was a bit nervous and clung to Adam in the dark bits, but it was exhilarating.  We could have swum with dolphins but had scruples about it being exploitative.  I expect the dolphins love it. 


To end our holiday we flew back to Mexico City where we just had time to go to the main square and the Museum of Anthropology.


It was a good trip, having quality time with my elder son, and on two occasions when it was very hot  Adam volunteered to carry my backpack, which I greatly appreciated.


And we didn’t have a single cross word.  



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