To the Yucatan

Do you remember one of your teachers asking you what the best day of your life was in third grade?  Well, when asked, I answered that it was the day L.Batt. came into the world.  There have been many amazing days since, but it often crosses my mind how boring our family would be without the youngest daughter.  It should also be known that I love (LOVE) surprising people (and hate to be surprised).

So I had my mind set on surprising Lynds in Cancun.  I let her know that it was too far out of the way and then cut off contact a week before she was set to arrive in Cancun.  George and I literally drove two weeks straight of 7+ hour days across Mexico to get to Cancun.  In all honesty, my contribution to that was small.  G was a trooper.  The first road we had to take out of Oaxaca was over a mountain pass in Mexico.  Did you know that the Mexican interior is all mountains?  Anyways, it took us 6 hours to drive the mountain pass.  We calculated about 21 turns a mile.  If you put your hands in front of you like you’re grasping a wheel and move them from side to side at a reasonable pace, you’ve grasped the ab workout we endured.  We were both car sick.

It took us 3 days to drive from Oaxaca to Cancun.   I was bubbling over with excitement.  G had managed to find a campground right beside the five star resort Lynds was staying at.  When we pulled in, I was frantically emailing Brian who I was colluding with to organize the surprise.  Meanwhile, G walked out to the beach.  The resort was preparing for a wedding.  I wasn’t sure if it was ‘the wedding’ Lynds was attending until I heard country music.  This was definitely a Mitchell (small town – south western Ontario) wedding.  G was in the shower when the wedding was wrapping up.  I told him I was going to make my move if they started leaving.  Thankfully, he made it out to the beach in time because he would have been pissed if I went in without him.

We spotted Brian who directed us at the wedding party.  They had just finished up a toast.  I was a little apprehensive to disrupt the festivities, but with Brian’s prodding, I got in there.  Lyndsay turned around and started sobbing (awesome).

We spent a few days catching up with them (which I’m immensely grateful for) and partying at the resort.  Thanks to happy newlyweds (Maureen and Trevor) for putting up with us.

PS.  (placeholder for cursing).  Our food container, tent and basically everything we own was invaded by thousands of tiny ants.  We used a garbage bag to build a moat in the sand around the ladder.  This was successful until the ladder punctured the plastic and the water drained out.  What a well-adapted species.  We hosed down the tent, drove hundreds of miles, and those damn things were still climbing out of everywhere when we popped the tent in Belize.



“…just follow the plan…”

Several years ago, we were on the coast in Oaxaca state for Nat and August’s wedding.  Amazing.  So, in my mind, Oaxaca City was a must see as we drove through Mexico.  Nat and August spent a bunch of time there, so we picked their brains while crashing at their pad in SF before xmas.  From what August told us, I gathered that food in Oaxaca is should be the biggest tourist attraction. August also sent us a 3-step plan to epicurean delights in Oaxaca.

We had stayed at mostly some sketchy places on the way down to Oaxaca, so I wanted a place in the city with a few more comforts.  We ended up getting a nice little hotel room.  I was pacified.  As a side note, with a piping hot high pressure shower, good bed, and blazing fast internet, I can live just about anywhere doing just about anything.

As mentioned, I was determined to stick to the plan.  We were exhausted the first night in Oaxaca after days and days of driving, so we picked a full restaurant on the central park for dinner.  In my mind, basically any food item + guacamole = bliss.  I saw chapulines + guacamole on the menu.  Awesome… = bliss.  However, I hadn’t tried yet “chile relleno con queso”, so I opted for that.  When we got home, I looked up chapulines.  Apparently a delicacy in Oaxaca (cool), toasted grasshoppers (not cool).  Disaster averted.  The chile relleno was delicious by the way.  The queso was flavored perfectly with fresh herbs and it was served in the rojo mole (one of 7 moles that Oaxaca is also known for).  George did not have such luck.  He got chicken in green mole (another of the 7 moles).  The mole was sweet, and we believe in separation of church and state (sweet and savory).

The next morning, we headed for one of the places on August’s list.  After hunting it down in the market, we found the mandated eating establishment.  We ordered chilaquiles verdes con huevo.  This time, the green mole was sour.  I emailed August and Natalie and enquired what the heck green mole was supposed to taste like.  Nat told me to stick to the plan – it was implied that we were eating less than awesome food because we had veered of course.

Needless to say, we did stick to the plan.  The food was awesome, but with little Spanish, I was struggling to eat vegetarian while staying true to August.  That evening, we took advantage to the thriving night life in Oaxaca.  We tagged along with a parade around the city.  A school had planned a concert that began with hundreds of students following a band around the streets of central Oaxaca.  It was quite a fiesta when you added in some dancing, tequila, and two giant nurses.  We classed it up with a bottle of rum and some coke.  I thought that we had again lucked out with our timing.  As it turns out, there were 3 more processions (2 weddings and one of just bicyclists).

The following day, we checked out Monte Alban before continuing the journey to the Yucatan and L. Batt + Bud.



“Every great story begins with adversity”

This is a quote that our friend (Dan Weatbrook) shared with George at some point.  Every time things start going wrong by his doing in some way, he throws it at me.  Theoretically, I agree, but it irks me to no end when things are buggered up and he says it.  Case in point – Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca.  George had read about the place.  The reports lead us to believe that it would not disappoint.  We had some issues finding a place to stay the previous night, so we were already running on half empty.

We were driving pretty slow as we approached the parking lot.  Some local boy managed to hop on and hold onto the back of the truck to hitch a ride up to the parking lot.  George caught a glimpse of him as we were driving up there.  He was very clear in his demands when we stopped. “money” (to watch the truck while we were gone)… — “no”, “cookie”…–“no cookies”.  repeat x 3.

You had to hike about an hour to get to the butterflies.  We had heard that it was a requirement to pay a local guide to come with us up the well beaten path.  We started the hike up, but didn’t encounter any guides (clue #1).  We assumed this was due to the fact that we had arrived early.  As we were walking up, we passed some local venders which was a good sign, and then started hoofing it up the hill.  Very quickly, it was not clear which path we should take as there were roads and paths going everywhere (clue #2).  I wanted to turn around, but G was persistent.  Very soon we started to crisscross with a fence (clue #3), most likely a boundary fence.  Eventually we made it to “the top” or what we thought was the top.  We heard some noises, and then realized that it was a chain saw (clue #4).  Considering that they enforce silence around the butterflies, this could not be our final destination.  G went to ask for directions from the man cutting down the tree.  It turns out we had hiked in the exact wrong direction.  As we headed in the right direction, I got a little frazzled (yes, tears).  This was followed by the inevitable line “every great story begins with adversity” and George laughing maniacally at me which was not well received.  The backstory is that we didn’t have any time to waste.  Every day was precious since we were hauling ass across Mexico to surprise my younger sister.

We walked for a few miles and finally came to such a well beaten path, we knew it had to be it.  We had also started to see more butterflies, a very good sign.  I had given up hope at this point, so a very welcome sight.

We found the butterflies and a few odd looks from the guides since we were flying solo.  It was awe inspiring.  They were clumped so thick that they looked like leaves and bark.  When the sun was hidden by the clouds, there was a flurry of activity as thousands of the butterflies flew about.  For your information, up close, butterflies are kind of mean looking things.

So, we saw the butterflies and avoided the park entrance fee.  Success – it would be a great story.


San Miguel de Allende

I first heard about San Miguel on some travel show and subsequently from a series of friends (August+Natalie and Rachel).  It’s known for begin a wonderful colonial town where hordes of foreign artists have settled.  Generally, people stay on the coasts when vacationing in Mexico, so I was excited to see some of the interior.  Though in all fairness, San Miguel is pretty swamped with tourists.

We chose a popular campground in the city.  After a little maneuvering in the narrow streets, we claimed the last spot in the perpetual full campground.  It was full of the ‘around the world overland vehicles’ we had become accustom to.  It was certainly a first time seeing so many in one spot though.  The couple camping beside us had come 4 years ago for a day and decided to stayed.  We planned for a shorter visit.

Again we felt some serendipity in our timing.  It was the anniversary of San Miguel.  There were a number of events planned including a marathon, concert with a bunch of foreign dignataries and fireworks.  We walked around the town, had a wonderful dinner (damn true Mexican food is delicious) and watched the concert.  It gets pretty cold in San Miguel at night, so we relied on some hot chocolate to sustain us through the concert.  The fireworks tower they assembled seemed a little like the leaning tower of pisa to me, but it lasted through the post-concert fireworks which were…bananas.  They lit off a bunch of conventional fireworks and then sections of the fireworks tower one by one.  Gradually, they worked their way to the top of the tower.  At one point George observed that the only thing left was for the top to fly away…and then the damn thing did…hahaha.

I now know two things about Mexicans for certain.  They take Tequila and fireworks seriously and kill it on both.