Friday, 28 March 2014



I could not sleep during the night, there was a strong breeze and noise which I could not fathom, so I got up and came out on the balcony. The sky was alight with thuder, dark clouds streaked with violet spread out in the sky and over the treetops I could see the sun rays trying to burst through. So it must have been dawn breaking. As I was looking at the sea, it started to rain, thunder clasping its hands at the joyful downpour. Further sleep was out of the question, so I went in and cleaned my teeth, shaved and put on a fresh shirt and shorts.

Alex was up when I got ready so I went and bought fresh mango and orange juice, fresh tomatoes, radishes, and had a nice breakfast with fresh bread, olive oil and fruit juice. Alex just had mango juice. He is again uneasy, says that he does not want to travel, etc, etc. However he has received a SMS message from a friend who is in Cancun and will wait for him until the 16th October. And Alex is looking forward to meet her there.

In the afternoon we again went to the Muncipal market and a hearty lunch of grilled fish and prawns, calde de camarones, salad, rice and guacamole.

A very good meal indeed. And came back to the hotel to have a siesta as the day, after the rain, is very hot. It was our plan to continue our travel by bus, however, Alex says it wil take eleven hours to reach Merida, so he has gone to book seats on the plane. We go back to Mexico city and from there fly to Merida. We leave tomarrow at 15hrs, have a four hours stopover at Mexico city and reach Merida at 22hrs. Can't say if travelling by plane will take less time than the bus.

Our original plan was to continue our journey west, visiting Las Lagunas de Chacahua in the National Park, stay a day or two at Puerto Angel, lie down and take it easy at Zipolite beach, where swimming is dangerous and surfing is committing suicide. We are told that food is good there and even vegetarian food is available. And then on to San Augustinillo, where not only the surfing is good but swimming too.But our plans are now changed.

In the evening Alex wanted to go out and see who was hanging out, instead decided to stroll together with me. So as soon as it was dark and felt a little cooler but was not, we went out. The street was empty and so were the restaurants. We came to a place where loud music was being played, the drinks were 2x1free. We ordered mojitos, the waitress brought two small glasses which were just water, ice and a few mint leaves hanging on the rims. No rum. On our complaing, she took our glasses and brought them back with a little rum (there was no rum) and the liquid tasted awful. We paid 100 pesos and left the place, mojito untouched, and returned to the hotel.

09/10/2008: The night was very hot, only after 2 O'clock a cool breeze started and we could sleep a little. Alex has gone to supermarket CHE to buy fesh bread and some fruit, as it wil be along day. After four days' stay at Puerto Escondido, we are on the move again.

We are now at the airport which is modern, has a nice bar and restaurant. It is raining but hot outside and many soldiers and local police are patrolling the area. I asked a security guard if carrying a bottle of olive oil on board was permitted, he said their only concern was terrorists carrying dynamite on board. 

Monday, 24 March 2014


tags: Mexico, tourism, travel, backpacking travel, monuments, churches, food & drink, bus travel, beaches, history, art, architecture, places of interest.

Alex had been taking sun yesterday and his whole face, shoulders and back are scorched. I had told him to be careful about sunbathing but what can you do. He told me about a small restaurant shack, where there are rock crops and where the surfers are. In front of the shack the proprietor has hung two hammocks where I could lay down, read or write while he is gone further up where the young people are sunbathing on another stretch of the beach of white sand.

So we walked up the whole stretch of the beach to reach Playa La Carrizalillo to this restaurant which is called Sabor a Mar (Taste of Sea) and found it a nice place indeed. In front are big rock croppings and the sea is in constant rage, heavy waves breaking over the rocks with a thundering sound. The spot is ideal for surfing but not for bathing. I ventured in the water twice but the waves threatened to drag me inside. I said no thanks, came out of the water and had a cold dark beer. After that I ordered a Gin & Tonic but the owner, Señor Mundo, could not find the gin bottle. So I had a Cuba Libre and since I was feeling so relaxed, I went behind the counter and made myself one more, and only then, searching the shelf where were stacked all the bottles, did I notice the lonesome bottle of Tanquery Dry Gin, nearly empty. But I was content and at peace. Like Hemingway.

When Alex came back, his face and arms black, shoulders burnt, he could not lie down in the hammock and I had to put after sun cream on his body to protect it from further burns. He drank two large glasses of fresh Orange juice and I ordered a Gin & Tonic. Drinks cost 35 pesos each, beer 20 pesos and fruit juice 27 pesos.

We went back to the hotel and rested for some time, then took a shower and decided to again go the Municipal market and explore the place. The market was not full, but the stalls were full of different kinds of fruit & vegetables, spices, adobos and cheese. And fresh fish. We decided on one restaurant which had clean table covers, ordered cold beers and asked to see what fish they had. The owner, l stout woman, brought a tray on which were giant prawns which like in Spain, are also called Camarones here and the fish was Pargo.

 Camarones al ajillo or al pil-pil are delicious. In a clay or ceramic skillet, heat olive oil, put in chopped garlic, one whole dry red chilli, stir fry for two minutes, add peeled  prawns, and  fry for 3-4 minutes more. Add white wine and after a few minutes' simmering, the prawns are ready. sprinkle whole salt, garnish with lime/lemon juice, fresh coriander leaves and Viola! Camarones al ajillo. Great with dry white wine. 

We did not want to eat fried fish so I explained how we preferred our fish and camarones. The owner called another woman, who cut the fish in slices, broke  the head in two halves, took out the gills and grilled the fish on a hot plate. Alex  wanted his camarones al ajillo, and since there was no white wine to add, I told the lady to pour in half cup of beer. They were delicious and succulent. He liked the prawns  so much that he had three plates and said he was still hungry. We enjoyed the food so much that we promised to return the next day.

In the evening we watched  the US presidential debate on CNN. What a disappointing and uninspiring sparring between two lacklustre candidates.  

Alex has been feeling uneasy, too much sun and travelling with me, he misses the young crowd.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


TAGS: Mexico, tourism, travel, beaches, monuments, food & drink, history, backpacking, bus travel, accommodation.

06/10/2008: I have noticed a very curious thing on my trip to Mexico, neither Mexicans nor the few tourists we have met, look at you, there is no eye contact. Mexicans are very affable and polite but they do not smile. It feels as people are living in a sci-fiction world. It reminds me of the paintings of Paul Gauguin, all his protagonists, especially women sitting or standing are sad, the reason was that in Tahiti and other south sea islanders, at the time of his stay there, were dying of syphilis, the incurable and deadly disease with which the french and other European sailors had infected the islands. Mr. Gauguin himself was suffering from this disease and he died of it. But the sadness of Mexicans was very strange.

 Last evening, when we came back to the hotel, rain clouds were gathering and the wind was brisk. The sun was already setting over the trees and I could see a distant glow at the horizon. We went to bed, it was hot and mosquito's were buzzing about. I had a beer and Alex had a soft drink and about ten O'clock we went to bed. At about two O'clock at night, I suddenly heard a thunderbolt, followed by a  flash of lightning. The window was open and the lightning filled the room. I could hear the strong wind moving the trees outside. Then the downpour started and a full blast of thunder. It rained the whole night  and the early morning was blissfully cooler.

I went out and brought fresh fruit (12 pesos) and a orange juice in a plastic bag (10 pesos) and put them in the fridge. Then we went walking to  to the super market Che, which is about a kilo meter from the hotel. Che is a modern super market, with a very large selection of products. They bake fresh bread, sell grilled chicken and spare ribs, pork, and have a good selection of wine. We bought fresh bread, tomatoes, cheese, chorizo, Spanish Olive Oil, some beer and a bottle of Californian Red Wine. It cost 130 pesos. Expensive,  and after drinking it, had nothing to write about it. Back at the hotel, we had a leisurely breakfast and sat reading and writing.

It is now past 12 0'clock and Alex has just left, he has gone to the far end of the beach where there is a sandy beach. It is quite hot and I do not feel like going in the sun as it gives me a headache, also I am beginning to get a cold. So I will take it easy.

It is 3 0'clock, I must have slept, Alex is not back yet so I will go down to the beach and join him.
I was half way to the far beach when I saw him coming back. He said he was hungry, so we went in a beach restaurant which had tables and chairs outside, but there was no one eating. Almost all the restaurants are empty.

We told the waiter that we wanted to eat fish and could we please see the selection they had to offer. He brought us two fishes, one was a mackerel and other a small white fish, name of which he did not know. He recommended the white fish 'al ajillo' (garlic butter) and the mackerel 'a la Mexicana' (marinated in adobo). I called the cook and suggested that he grill the white fish and not fry in butter. However, the fish came out burnt, totally carbonated and without any taste of garlic or anything else and was uneatable. The mackerel 'a la Mexicana' was somewhat better. The bill came to 105 pesos. We paid and went back to the hotel. Time for a Mexican Siesta.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


Tags: Mexico travel, tourism, holidays, backpacking, monuments, mountains, seascape, landscape, beaches, food & drink, sightseeing, surfing.

The main street in el Puerto Escondido, El Adoquin, is a long street from one end of the town to the other. At that time it was unpaved, men were working to improve it, small shops on both sides looking forlorn. As I have said somewhere else, the year 2008 was a year of unrest in Mexico, there were a few tourists and this was apparent in Puerto Escondido too. Many shopkeeper with whom we talked, told us that the economic situation was very bad, many shops hardly sold anything at all. 

A small town like Puerto Escondido have restaurants selling Pizza and pasta, hamburgers, and other non Mexican food. Tourists prefer the food they know and are less likely to try the local fare. We had food at some of the restaurants but the best of all was La Langosta, a seafood restaurant, albeit more expensive but with a variety of food and drinks. It is our habit to visit local markets when we visit new places and this we did in Puerto Escondido too. The market was at a distance of some two kilometres, so we took a taxi. It was past five 0'clock in the afternoon and the market stalls selling fruit & vegetables save a few were all closed and so were the stalls selling food.

 However, the owners of one stall, father, mother and a daughter,  having closed it, were sitting and eating and on enquiring if we could get something to eat, allowed us to sit down and the man, without asking, brought us two cold beers. So we started talking and asked if we could have some fried fish and  prawns and salad. We were told that we could, and the man got up and went away and in ten minutes returned, accompanied by a young boy, who brought two fresh red snappers, cut in chunks and marinated in a dark red sauce, and a tray full of large tiger prawns. The fish, when we asked about the sauce, were told, was marinated in Adobo sauce, which is made of hot Chipotle chilies, sesame seeds, peanuts, sugar and vinegar, garlic and other spices, all blended together, mixed with dry bread crumbs.

In Mexico city we had asked for fried fish and this was fried without any condiments, totally carbonated, without any flesh left, without any taste. In Oaxaca city, we had grilled fillets of Mojarra (bream) marinated in lemon juice, fresh garlic, red hot chilies, vinegar, fresh coriander leaves. You need a fish of firm flesh like bream or snapper, tuna or bonito, marinate it overnight, and then grill it over charcoal fire or hot plate.

The kitchen in the food stall was small but well kept, inside was a charcoal grill with a hot plate on one side and a rack on which the young lady put the whole fish and placed the prawns on the hot plate to grill. Outside the kitchen and the wash up space, in the common area, were two tables and benches for diners.  Soon the smell of grilled fish filled our nostrils and buds of appetite and hunger started bubbling in our stomachs. We had two small glasses of tequila, chasing them down with couple more cold beers and after a wait of about 20 minutes, were served grilled prawns and fish, sprinkled with fresh lime juice and coriander leaves. The fish & prawns were well grilled, flesh firm and juicy and tasted delicious. After eating our food, we each had a cup of Mexican coffee, paid our bill, thanked the family for their hospitality and took a taxi back to Mayflower.

Friday, 21 March 2014


keywords: Mexico, travel, tourism, beaches, landscape, history, places of interest, food & drink, backpacking, people & places.

05/10/2008: We were looking forward to continue our journey to the south coast of Mexico and in the morning  took a mini bus (fare 130 pesos pp) for Puerto Escondido (The Hidden Port). The journey of 300kms,  through mountainous rustic country took exactly six hours. We left Oaxaca city at 9.30 in the morning and reached our destination at exactly 15.30 in the afternoon. Th day was hot and when we arrived at the bus station and climbed down from the bus, the heat hit us like a blast from a furnace.

We consulted the Lonely Planet and decided to stay at Mayflower Hotel& Hostel. The choice proved to be good. Our bus companions were a young man from the U.K and an Austrian girl from Vienna who told us that they also were going to stay at the same hostel. So we all walked down the road and in about ten minutes were at the Mayflower. The two travellers took a bunk bed each  in the hostel section of the Mayflower (100 pesos each) and Alex and myself decided to take a double bedroom with attached bath (350 pesos).

 The Mayflower is a nicely furnished clean hotel, rooms on three floors, with small balconies. Our room was on the third floor, with an open sitting area with sofas, a white piano sitting prettily in the middle, a book shelf and a small balcony with a table and chair, with a view of the sea. What a delight it was to hear the waves breaking over the rocks, fishing boats lolling on the waves. The night before our arrival it had rained and our arrival I found rain clouds gathering in distant sky.

 Almost all my adult life I have lived close to the sea, I know its many moods. I have watched, thousands of times the angry sea foaming and frothing, its thundering waves breaking over the rocks, or  calm wavelets lapping the shore or coming rushing to the beach and then in a slow motion spreading itself gently, soft soothing breeze calming the mind.

 We chucked our backpacks in the room and ran down the stairs to have a look at the beach and the sea and breathe the fresh salty air of the Pacific. We came out of the hotel,  walked  down a flight a steps and were in the main street of the puerto and a few steps further down was the beach. I immediately saw that the sea at Puerto Escondido was heavy, the waves strong and did not allow an easy swim. But it was wonderful to stroll on the beach ,to lie in a hammock and sip ice cold cuba libre and a mojito and later drink a cold dark beer (Negra) and eat olives. And it was completely relaxing.

Looking at the map of Puerto Escondido, you will see a long streach of beach strip about l00kms long. Its turquoise waters heaving in the wind, I found, were suitable only for surfing and although I tried, at various points of the beach to swim, it was not without danger of getting dragged inwards. Even the seagulls hovered carefully over the waves. The fishermen had already hauled in their boats and when we went down, they were selling their daily catch. Bonito, small shark, snapper, bream (mojarra) lobsters and prawns are caught and sold to the locals and to the restaurants.

There are three large beaches, Playa Principal, Playa Marinero and the Zicatela, the long stretch of sandy beach which you can see from the Playa Principal. But the beaches are not for swimming and during our stay there, we saw a few tourists, only some travellers. We wre told that it was low tourist season and we thanked God for it.

Monday, 17 March 2014


kEYWORDS: Mexico- Mexico travel, tourism, holidays, backpacking, monuments, temples, churches, pyramids, food & drink, history, mexican art.

In the great Indian civilizations of the central highlands of Mexico,  Pulque was served as a ritual intoxicant for priests-to increase their enthusiasm, for sacrificial victims-to ease their passing, and as a medicinal drink. Pulque was also served as a liquor reserved to celebrate the feats of the brave and the wise, and was even considered to be an acceptable substitute for blood in some propitiatory ceremonies(wikipidia). 
 Pulque is a milky, slightly foamy and somewhat viscous alcoholic  beverage made by fermenting the fresh sap of  Maguey plant. Agua Miel (Honey water), as is called the juice of Maguey before its fermentation, which takes about twelve hours, is less smelly but after the liquid is fermented, its stench is revolting. Cities and towns as late as 1950s, were full of pulquerias (grog shops), places with colourfully painted facades , selling this sour smelling liquid to the poor peons. 

These pulquerias were not different from the Gin shops in London's East End in 1600-1700s and its taste will remind you of the Moonshine brewed by the hillbillies of the deep South in the USA. 

 Another beverage made from distilling the boiled Maguey is Mezcal and Taquila. Most of Mezcal is made in the State of Oaxaca, where there is a saying: Mezcal para todo, para bien y para mal (Mezcal for all, good and bad). However, the Oaxaca's traditional energy drink is Tejate 'the beverage of Gods'',which was reserved for the ruling elite of Zapotec society, but nowadays you can drink it in the markets of Oaxaca. The juice is made from corn, roasted cacao beens, seeds and rosita flowers, the ingredients blended in a thick mush and gradually thinned with water, served cold in colourful  gourd bowls. 
In Mexico as in many other tropical countries, there is a great variety of refreshing drinks. Horchata is a traditional  Spanish drink, introduced in the country by the Moors, which is elaborated with the juice made of of  Tiger Nut/Sedge Nut (La Chufa), peanuts or almonds, cane sugar, cinnamon. The ingredients are blended and then diluted with water and served cold. Horchata Valenciana, aromatic and sweet, is the famous summer beverage in Spain. 

However in Mexico, where the beverage was introduced by the Spaniards,  Horchata is prepared with rice flour, almonds, cane sugar, lime juice/zest and cinnamon, all blended together. You can have it with vanilla or topped with rum, strawberry water (agua de fresas) or water melon or mango juice, sugarcane juice,  all well known refreshing drinks.

 However, cold or frozen margaritas for the hot days are ideal. We found a large variety of margaritas, made with kiwi, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, rosemary and lemon, taquila margarita and last but not least, Prickly Pear margaritas, cocktails, fruit juices with prickley pear juice. All taste divine and having time on your hands, relaxed and lazy, there is no reason why you  should not have a few cocktails.

If you like margaritas or Horchata de Tuna, the traditional Oaxacan drink, then you will be bewitched by Mojito, the white rum drink made with lime juice, brown sugar, soda water, mint leaves pushed in the glass, a slice of lime, ice to cool it and Voila! A cocktail for the summer sultry days. I prepare it with Jamaican or Cuban rum with a drop of angustura to give it a little kick.

Another refreshing drink we had was Agua de Tamarindo (Tamarind water). Tamarind fruit as you may well know, is a sour fruit, its juice is made by soaking the flesh in water for about twenty minutes, then mashing the flesh with your fingers until the pulp is soft, straining it and adding sugar or cane sugar or honey, lime juice, cinnamon, vanilla etc. You can buy prepared tamarind juice in bottles and cans from supermarkets and ethnic grocery stores. It is a popular drink in South East Asia, Africa and of course in Mexico. Tamarind pulp is used in culinary dishes and in preparation of  hot chilli sauce, coriander and mint sauce etc.

There is a good variety of beers in Mexico, the different beers which I had there were Sol, Dos Equis, Negra and Modelo Especial, Corona and Cerveza del Pacifico. Negra Modelo is dark beer (as the name suggests) with a taste of malt, but does not compare to brown ale or Altbeer of Germany.  and the Pacifico has less gas, is light and sits better in the stomach.

So on your first or the next visit to Mexico, enjoy its culinary delights and indulge in its enticing and refreshing drinks. Salud y buena suerte. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014


KEYWORDS : Bus TRAVEL, tourism, backpacking, Mexican history, culture, monuments, churches, Mexican food & drink

When I travel to a particular country, apart from its attractions, its people, of which I glean from travel guides, photos etc, the most important thing of which I think about, is food. Culinary delights, aroma & taste, subtle and sharpness of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. And places where the locals  drink and eat.

Mexican food is essentially made from Maize (Mais) flour, the basic ingredient for making tortillas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas etc.. When Spanish conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in the year 1517 set sail from Havana(Cuba) and reached the shores of Yucatan, first at the Cape of Cotoche and then at the coast of Compeachy, he and his companions saw large fields of maize and plantations of cassava-root, and observed that the natives made their bread from the flour of these two.

Hernan Cortez, the conquistador of Mexico, whom Bernal Diaz accompanied in 1519, saw much similarity between Spain and the newly discovered country, its mountains and lakes, its temples and palaces. An abundance of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, its teeming markets reminded him of Seville and Salamanca. So he named the country New Spain and so informed his Spanish king.

Although Spaniards left a lasting legacy in the construction of buildings, churches and plazas, I did not find any similarity with Spanish food. In all the places we visited, I tried to find a place where we could have real chili con carne or Menudo (pork tripe made with Spanish chorizo, blood sausage and chickpeas (garbanzo), but failed to find it. In fact, Mexican use kidney beans(frijoles) instead of chickpeas.

Crunchy taco shells, filled with seasoned grilled beef, topped with grated cheese and crispy lettuce leaves, with guacamole and hot sauce (moles) are delicious, to eat in the morning or at noon. Cod fish fillet or grilled tuna tacos, with guacamole, coriander leaves and sprinkled with lime juice are a treat. Spicy vegetable burgers with beans, with lettuce leaves is another delightful taco dish. Mexican food, outside Mexico,  is known for its tacos and tortillas, burritos and beans(frijoles).

Soft warm tortillas filled with beef and beans, meat balls (albondigas) with soft cheese and grilled peppers, or vegetables with chili, beans and tangy sauce, is another filling for a burrito. All freshly made and tasty.Chicken & Tortilla soup and sour cream chicken or beef enchiladas are worth trying. In many dishes, cold rice, frijoles, topped with guacamole and chili sauce are served, as is Mexican chorizo or stretched beef, fried and then chopped to serve as a filling for tortillas or tacos.
 But Mexican chorizo is nothing but fat, so is stretched beef and I do not like cold rice. I enjoyed Nachos (tortilla chips) dripping with melted cheese, fresh tomatoes and beans, topped with guacamole and jalapenos.

Fajitas (fah-hee-tus) is yet another dish made with grilled  marinated  beef fillet, thinly sliced and wrapped in a warm tortilla, together with fried onions, bell peppers, topped with fresh cheese, hot sauce, sour cream and sprinkled with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves.

Tamales are another meal, prepared with a mixture of corn dough (masa de mais) and filling is made with chicken or pork, olives and some other ingredients, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk and then steamed. The corn dough becomes firmer when steamed, and the tamale can be unwrapped and eaten.

Similar dishes are made in Greece and Turkey, in Indonesia and India, Thailand and other south east Asian countries, with rice and bananas, fish etc. The earliest tamales were simple, made with beans and squash and roasted over a fire and was basic food of the Peons (labour class and poor Mexicans).

Mole sauce the Mexican national dish, originally associated with Puebla and Oaxaca cuisine is made with left-overs of any meat, bird, poultry, together different kinds of chilies, peanuts, almonds, old dry fried bread, plantains, lard, cane sugar, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon and cloves. This concoction is kept boiling until the ingredients are reduced to a thick aromatic and sweet smelling sauce. This mass is then blended  until smooth and served with warm tortillas dipped into it.

In Spain La Salsa Española  is also made with left-overs of any meat, ham, chorizo, dried fried bread,  and the ingredients are kept boiling on low fire, adding more left-overs, until the pot is quite full. Then the mass is blended  until a thick smooth sauce emerges, which is poured over grilled lamb, beef and pork  and poultry dishes, eaten with thick chunks of  fresh baked country bread (pan de pais), washed down with red wine.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


keywords: tourism, travel, history, mountains, monuments, churches, cathedrals, art, backpacking

The State of Oaxaca, adjoining State of Guerrero, its Valles Centrales (Central Valleys) are full of remarkable ruins of prehistoric sites of its people, these ruins of pyramids, terraces and mountain walls, scattered upon its ridges and hill tops, at many inaccessible places small plots of cultivation, remind you that the ancient inhabitants of Oaxaca were busy in cultivation, its villages and markets bustling with creative arts, colourful textiles.On the Sierra Norte are the forested high peaks, to the South, across the mountain ranges, its fabulous coast and beaches, which today have become the centre of tourism.

Monte Albán (White Mountain) a few kms. west of Oaxaca city, is the ancient capital city of Zapotec people. We were amazed at the terraces and courtyards, high mountain walls which were cut away and flattened from the mountain peaks. It gave us the sensation of being at an isolated and solitary place of mysterious landscape, hinged upon the top of the mountain, a haze of vapour and heat wrapping the whole area, making it ethereal. All the ancient monuments of the prehistoric times, tell us about  the toil of the ancient man in the construction of such sites, incalculable time employed, under the authority of the ruler, without regard to the labour of generations in completion of these pyramids, temples of religious ceremonies, eternal fires burning on the mountain tops. The elite of the region buried their dead in the tombs, its maze of tunnels and staircases, is awesome.

In the time of Zapotecs ElMonte Albán was the centre of cultured, organised agriculturist and religious society, its elite lived in splendid dwellings with gardens and terraces, courtyards to play Ball game (Juego de Pelota) in the Gran Plaza of the city, where you will see many remains of temples of worship. Mexico was a society dominated by priests and religious ceremonies were all important.

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