16 May…Home again, Beaumaris, Australia

Yes, I’m home safe and sound and the trip is finally over.

 

Me, outside our home in Beaumaris

It was wonderful seeing Merry at the Airport! ….She has been so supportive, but lets me know she has earned  several MILLION BROWNIE POINTS!….I suspect I have a lot of gardening and odd jobs ahead in the next few weeks!

It’s a funny feeling being home again after 5.5 months!….I’m back in my comfort zone and don’t have to go anywhere or find a place for the night for Azulo!…. It’s wonderful seeing my home , family and all the familiar things again.

I slept well(ish) on the first night home and the next morning Lucy, Merry and I went out for breakfast.

With Merry again on Beaumaris Beach

later, I went for a coffee and Vanilla slice at my favourite Coffee place in Beaumaris Concourse…Brodams!

A Vanilla slice with Lucy at Brodams in the Concourse, Beaumaris

My two mad dogs, Mister and Maggie recognised me and flattened me. I’ve taken them on two LONG walks to get to know them again.

Me with my two mad (but lovely dogs) Maggie (left) and Mister

I went to watch Merry riding her beautiful horse, Jet

Merry on Jet

So, that’s it. It’s all over!

It has been a wonderful experience and I have met so many lovely people and seen such amazing sights. People overall have been so kind and helpful. I would like to thank so many people for their help and friendship.

Places that I thought may be dangerous turned out to be like any other places in the world. This is not to imply that there aren’t dangers in some of these countries…. but there is danger everywhere….. My view is that  If you are careful and keep to the basic rules of safety, the chances are you will be fine.

I rarely felt in any danger on the trip. This was only soured by the mugging in Quito but that can happen anywhere.

I think it’s true to say that the world is a lot better place than the TV and other media have us believe and the vast majority of people are honest and considerate.

I think it’s a shame we get all the negative news about places that create a  perception in our minds which is often unfair. Also, perceptions last longer than the dangers…Colombia is a case in point. I think most of us still feel Colombia is a drug ridden and dangerous place. …Yet the big problems in Colombia were over 20 years ago and much has changed since then…Problems that still exist are largely restricted to out of the way parts of the country that tourists don’t visit….Why are we still judging the place by the events of  20 years ago? It seems perceptions last longer than reality…Sermon over!

There are so many people who have been kind and helpful to me throughout the trip. I have also met and became friends with so many people from so many different countries….. It’s the people you meet on a trip that make all the difference

To all those who have watched the blog and in particular, all those who have sent email or blog comments. Thank you so much.

These comments, some of which are hilarious, have been a life blood to me. A trip like this can be very lonely at times and the blog has kept me in touch and given me an interest.

The blog, incidentally has had over 38,000 hits. I don’t really know what that means but it shows that lots of people have looked at it!

I would LOVE to know who has watched the blog…If you see this post and have not ever sent me an email or blog comment…please email me on gbransbury @gmail.com and let me know…

Finally, Thanks to my family and in particularly Merry who has been so supportive all along. It has been a very long trip for Merry and I hope she hasn’t got too used to not having me around!

So, this is the very DOPEY OLD BLOKE tuning out and saying farewell.

Bye Bye!

 

 

 

9-14 May, Los Angeles…Final days!

I’ts hard to believe it’s nearly all over. Already, when I look at photos of Argentina it seems like a dream…Was I REALLY there!…has it REALLY been five months?

I had two days to kill  before going to Andy and Melissa Wainwright and family’s place for the weekend, so I decided to find a quiet place near the beach and chill out (Andy, you may remember, is a relative of mine)

Merry, my expert travel agent, found me a Golf Course Hotel for $100.00 per night at Aliso Creek which is  near Leguna Beach, about 75 ks south of Venice Beach.

It’s a lovely place. The room was excellent and the Golf Course is a beautiful. peaceful little 9 Hole Course in a big Canyon.

Aliso Creek Golf Course

I had two lazy days there. I had a stove and fridge in the room  so I bought some bacon and eggs and made a pig of myself!

On Friday, I checked out and headed for Andy and Melissa’s place, which turned out to be only about 12 kms from my hideaway!

I’ve had a lovely stay with them. They have two kids, Jordan (18) and Alex (8) and live in a gorgous house in a quiet suburb

Casa Wainwright

Andy and Melissa Wainwright

Lovely sunny Patio

Andy,Melissa, Jordan (18) & Alex(nearly 9)

So far my stay with the Wainwrights has achieved several “firsts” for the trip!

Firstly, We went out for dinner on Friday night to a restaurant called “Chart House’ at Dana Point. It was the BEST meal of the trip! ….. I had fish with a sauce to die for!…….We also enjoyed several bottles of wine including one bottle from a Vineyard  called “14 Hands”….Our little hobby Vineyard in Melbourne is called “12 Hands”…Two less!

14 Hands

Secondly (and thirdly), We had a very late night sitting on their patio chatting and downing more bottles of  fine wine…Most enjoyable… and we had lots of laughs…..This was not only the latest I have been to bed on the trip but also the “merriest”…However…I must say, we didn’t feel so great the next day and Melissa had to go out fairly early for a walk and breakfast with some girlfriends!

Fourthly…I have had several games of soccer and other board games with Alex…Great fun. It’s so nice being with a young family!

Geoff "Beckham" showing how it's done!

i lost every game!

On Saturday afternoon, Andy suggested we have a game of golf to clear the head…Guess where we played…Yes, back to Aliso Creek, my nice little course in the Canyon…… It seems Andy’s parents Michael (who is a regular contributor to my blog) and Valerie love this course.

Aliso Creek Golf Course

Cheers from the Gallery for another brilliant drive!

It’s quite challenging and very pretty but it’s wise to stay out of the rough as there are rattlesnakes just waiting…

Better to hit straight here!

Andy strutting his stuff!

On Sunday. it was mothers day so Andy bought some doughnuts and I cooked my special scrambled eggs!

Master "small order" Chef at work!

Great Doughnuts!

After another game of soccer with Alex we went out for Mothers Day lunch. We went to a BBQ Restaurant like nothing I have ever seen.!

Melissa and Jordan enjoying Mothers day lunch

Andy and Alex

I had St Lewis Ribs, Baby back Ribs, plus a quarter of chicken plus lots of tasty sauces. Lovely. Stuart (my son) would be very envious!

We then staggered back home for a snooze!

What Cheek! Wearing Grandpa's "Michael's" Slippers!

It’s been the perfect way to end my trip

Tomorrow, I head home. I’m ready to go home after this amazing adventure which has been the trip of a lifetime. I’m excited about seeing Merry, Stuart and Lucy and the two dogs!. Merry has bought some new ear plugs as she claims, quite incorrectly that I snore!

I’ll do one more blog entry when I get home. so don’t switch off yet!

 

7-8 May, Bye Bye Azulo

The ride is finally over. I’m in Los Angeles

In all, I visited sixteen countries and covered 26,457 kilometers on the clock!

Azulo has been absolutely wonderful and has faithfully lugged me and much too much luggage around without any mechanical problems at all. Mr Kawasaki makes a great motorbike!

During these 26,457 kms i have had to change the rear tyre twice and the front once. I have only had minor problems with the arms holding on the panniers snapping twice, and the battery terminal coming loose (because it was incorrectly attached in Buenos Aires)

I have had only one puncture and that happened directly outside a tyre repair shop!!!!

I have been very fortunate. It’s almost as if someone has been looking after me!

Today, I said goodbye to Azulo and  left him with the Shipping agent….. It feels strange not having Azulo around anymore. In fact, I feel quite lonely! ….After having looked after Azulo for five months, it seems very strange NOT having him around…..More about that in a moment.

I had a nice easy ride from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. En route I saw a sign for “PEGGY SUE’S DINER!!!!….. I just had to stop!

Great eggs and bacon and heaps of hash browns!

I had THE BEST eggs and bacon American style, with a huge helping of hash browns and toast! Lovely

I arrived in LA at about 2.00pm so I called Philip Gallanders, my shipping Agent at Scan-Shipping. He was terrific and within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, it was all organised and I am going to drop off Azulo on 8th (ie the next day)

Philip is a Scot and has been extremely responsive and efficient…He is also a good bloke too!

Philip Gallanders, Scan Shipping. Highly recommended!

It all seems like magic to me…you drop off the bike and amazingly (hopefully) it arrives in Melbourne!

After leaving Phil, I phoned Andy Wainwright (my relative).

Unbelievably, Andy works less than 1 mile from Scan-Shipping!….. He told me to go across the road to Starbucks and he would be with me in five minutes!

You just would not believe it. LA is HUGE yet the two people I had come to visit work within 1 kilometer of one another!

Andy arrived and we had a good chat for an hour and a half. I’m staying with Andy and his family this weekend, till I leave on Monday

Andy Wainwright

As mentioned, I dropped off Azulo today. The packing  agent seems to ship motor bikes to Australia (along with other things of course)  There were dozens of bikes in the shed!!! Azulo will have company on the voyage!

Armondo receiving Azulo

Azulo's shipmates!

So, now I have time to kill till I descend on the Wainwrights on Friday afternoon!

I think I’m going to find a place near Newport Beach and chill out and do absolutely NOTHING!

 

 

 

 

4-7 May, Las Vegas

One of the great things about this trip is that I’ve kept on bumping into people I met earlier on…

A few days ago I got an email from Jeannie Panchal who I met in a Hostel in San Pedro De Atacama in Chile. She also came on the fabulous 4 Wheel Drive trip I did to Bolivia. (Actually it was Jeannie who told me about the trip in the first place!)

Jeannie is a tour guide with Intrepid Travel in USA. She had seen my blog and saw I was near USA and emailed me. Amazingly she is between tours and is here in Vegas. What a co-incidence! More later.

Jeannie Panchal and me enjoying a Latte

My Hotel, The Imperial Palace. is right opposite Caesars Palace on “The Strip”. Not the best Hotel and it is crawling with people as it’s the weekend.

Las Vages Strip near my Hotel (Imperial Palace)

I must admit, this place makes me feel very old!….. The people on the street seem to shout and scream all the time and there is rock music blairing out of every doorway. The street is packed and people are drinking and it’s all pretty awful

I wandered about and looked into a few of these bizarre casinos like “The Venetian” and “Caesars Palace” and there is this half sized Elfel Tower which is huge!

It’s very colourful but after being blown away by the noise and jostled about by all these drunk or noisy and loud people, I scampered to my room and had a drink! Peace!

in fairness. It’s the weekend…Rio was awful on the weekend and lovely during the week…Maybe Vages is nicer during the mid-week.

However, my tip is that..If you come at the weekend…Either stay in a good place like Caesars Palace or stay outside the strip!

Huge fish in this tank!

The blokes all like Victoria Secret shops!

UK Phone Box

Showing my age...I remember these!

The next day I visited a Car Museum in the Hotel. it is excellent with over 100 beautiful old cars including about 20 huge Rolls Royces.

Beautiful Rolls Royce (Sorry, forgotten details!)

There was this old ‘Rocker’ sitting there trying to sell his CD and books.

He had photos of himself with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and The Everleys. His name is “Jimmy Velvet” …..Have you ever heard of him…? what about you, Pete Casey? Bruce Loveday? ?..Can’t say I have but I know his songs….

I had a good chat with him about Elvis and Co. He reckons Elvis was a top bloke! Anyway I bought his CD…I’m such a soft touch!

Later that day, I met Jeannie… She picked me up in her big mini van and took me to her Hotel. She had just finished a trip with 13 Japanese and had all this food left over. Heaps of beautiful cheeses and dips and things!

Jeannie setting up our feast on her leftovers!

Her Hotel was also serving Margaritas for $1.50 each!….. We had a party! We were joined by a couple of other Intrepid Guides.

Jeannie put on this “interactive” radio station. I don’t think we have it in Australia. It’s amazing. You select a singer…eg Elton John… The radio then plays Elton’s songs plus similar music by other singers…you can delete a song if you don’t like it and it gradually builds a profile of the music you like! Very clever!

At 6.00 I staggered to Caesars Palace to see the Elton John Concert. It was terrific. He did all his old songs and the staging was fabulous

Elton John Concert at the Colosseum, Caesars Palace

The Man himself!

Today, Sunday,I took a helicopter flight to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon. I got a last minute deal so the cost was reasonable.
This is DEFINITELY the way to see the Canyon. The flight went over the Hoover Dam and then over and into the Canyon. We landed and had a snack and Champagne and took photos and wandered around for half an hour.

There was just six of us in the middle of this HUGE Canyon with nothing else in sight. fabulous. The view from inside the Canyon is awesome.

Hoover Dam and new road bridge...Azulo went over that!

Inside Grand Canyon

We then flew back and had another drink and were then taken back to the Hotels…..It all took four hours compared to 12 hours on a bus! Well worth the extra $150.00 I think

Tonight Jeannie and I are hitting the town and then tomorrow I saddle up Azulo for the last 450 k ride to LA

I am spending a few days around Manhatten Beach where I will try organise Azulo’s passage home. Hopefully it won’t take too long!

I am spending my last weekend with Andy and Melissa Wainwright and family. Andy is a relative who I have not met and he very kindly asked me to stay. I’m very grateful and it will be a nice way to end the trip

I fly home on Monday 14

1-3 May, Scottsdale USA

I’ve been having a wonderful time and rest in Scottsdale at the home of my old friend and Business Partner, Jim Josephson and his wife Susan.

I crossed the border from Mexico to USA in remarkable speed on 1 May.

The only potential problem is that l didn’t receive any papers for Azulo…… I’m sure I’m meant to get papers but there was nowhere that I could see to get them and the Officers told me I didn’t need any papers anyway.

I double checked with another Officer and received the same answer.

Nonetheless, I’m SURE I should have papers, and I bet I get asked for them when I try to ship Azulo from LA!….. Time will tell!

Anyway, I arrived at Jim and Susan’s lovely home in Paradise Valley at around three PM and have enjoyed three lovely nights here.

Jim and Susan's home

I have known Jim since 1973…39 years! …..Initially I was a Sales Manager in his Company, Computer Resources. Jim already lived in USA at the time…… later, Jim joined me, Brian Hacker and Arie Baalbergen when we started Applied Learning Australia in 1983.

Jim and Susan

Jim and Susan’s house is simply amazing and my bed is so comfy I could move in!…. It’s so nice to be with them and to relax in this beautiful place after all my long journey.

The weather is perfect. Warm but dry heat

Jim and Susan cooked a magnificent steak which was just what was needed after my less than terrific experiences with food in Mexico

Yesterday, we went shopping and had lunch in a very nice shopping mall. The kids were playing in this terrific street water feature in the Mall. The water kept rising and falling. I could have joined in!

Water feature in Mall

Today we visited”TALIESIN WEST” which was the winter  home and Architecture College of the famous American Architect FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT. The guided tour through this home in the Desert was very interesting.

Taliesin West...Home of Architect Frank Lloyd West

Afterwards we had lunch at the Hyatt Scottsdale which is a huge and amazing Hotel Resort

Hyatt Resort Scottsdale

It’s been a lovely and restful three days and I have almost forgotten I have been riding around South America for five months!

Tomorrow it’s back to business and Azulo has to come out of his luxury garage and hit the road for Las Vegas!

I am spending three nights in the  Imperial Palace, las Vegas  and on Saturday I’m going to see Elton John perform at Caesars Palace………… Then it’s on to LA on Monday 7th
I then have to ship my bike…. Hopefully I don’t have hasstles with US Customs regarding no papers…

I spend my last weekend with my relative Andy Wainwright and his family which will be a nice way to finish my trip, …then I hear the big Qantas engines roar on monday 14 and head for home to see Merry!

 

27-29 April, Guanajuata to Los Mochis

I left Mexico City early to avoid the traffic for the 300k ride North to Guanajuata.

However, it still took me two and a half hours to get out of Mexico City.

Despite excellent roads and an impressive infrastructure of viaducts etc, the city is choked by cars.,

Eventually I hit the open road and had a good ride through pleasant scenery to Guanajuata

Cactus...Used to make Tequila

Guanajuata is really beautiful. It is set in the hills and the houses are painted in all colours. It is a University town and is literally teeming with students which adds to the carefree atmosphere.

There is a small square with a huge hedge and restaurants all around and musicians everywhere sitting on benches and trying to get into the many restaurants to play for the customers!

My Hostel was right in the Centre. They allowed Azulo into the reception area and as you can see he took up most of the space!

The town is also unusual in that the “through” road is under the city so you have to drive through the tunnels and try and select the correct exit to the surfice…This is nearly impossible when you don’t know the town……

Through Traffic underneath the City...You have to select the correct exit!

After several failed attempts, I hired a taxi to take me to my Hostel

My next goal was to reach Los Mochis some 1100 Kms North, on the West Coast. Los Mochis is the start of the Copper Canyon Railway.

Karen...More homework! What is this crop?

The Copper Canyon is bigger than the Grand Canyon and you have to take a train to see it. I was told Motorbikes were allowed on the train (with some difficulty getting on and off)…but was possible!

I rode 900 kms on 28th because I needed to get to Los Mochis early enough to check out the Railway and get a ticket. 900k’s is a long way but Azulo did it with ease!

So, on Sunday, I arrived in Los Mochis at 11.00 am only to find everything closed.

I spent most of the day getting contradictory stories about whether or not bikes can go on the train.

One Hotel told me I needed to get to the station at 5.30 am. I pointed out it would be frustrating to get up at 4.30 am only to find I can’t take the bike on the train!

Given this is the town’s NUMBER 1 tourist attraction it is amazing that nobody knows and everything is closed!

To cut a long story short, It seems I COULD get the bike on TUESDAY’S train but not TOMORROW, (MONDAY)…. So, It looks like I’m foiled and will miss the Copper Canyon! Pity.

Instead, I will head North to Nogales and the USA Border.

A word on Mexican food

I must admit I’ve never been a great fan of Mexican food….  Now I’m even less of a fan.

In fairness, I’m not eating at the best restaurants and generally have no idea what to order most of the time….I’ve certainly chosen VERY poorly though!

It strikes me that they seem to have heaps of chili with everything!…. I like Chili in moderation….but not with everything!

I had an omelette for breakfast the other day and they covered it with this horrible Chili sauce Yuk!…. They also seem to have this purple mushie bean  stuff. Tastes horrible.  It seems to  gets served up with monotonousness regularity. Yuk!

Tonight I went to an “expensive” restaurant in an attempt to have a good meal…Failed again and yes, there was heaps of chili in the fish!

It would be nice to have ONE nice Mexican meal before I leave!

Maybe if you have any suggestions, you  could email me some ideas which I could try before I leave!… Thank you!

 

 

 

26 April – Visit to Teotihuacan

I decided to give Azulo a day off and take a PRIVATE tour to Teotihuacan to see the ruins which are about 50 k north east of Mexico City

I say a private tour because I was the only tourist so I had the bus, driver and guide all to myself!

It was a great day and the ruins are spectacular.

First, we visited the Aztec ruins at Tlateloloco in Mexico City

Temple De Santiago

Frankly there isn’t much to see as Cortes destroyed everything after a seige. Later, the Spanish built a magnificent church nearby called the Temple De Santiago using the stones from the ruins. I believe it’s the oldest Spanish Church in Latin America.

Next stop, the Basilica De Guadalupe. This is a series of big churches dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. Apparently, in 1531, Juan Diego saw the vision of a beautiful Virgin who asked him to build a shrine in her honour. Eventually this happened.

There is a HUGE square in front of the old and new Basilicas. Five Popes have given Mass here. Pilgrims enter the Basilica on their knees to seek redemption of give thanks etc. There are DOZENS of Confession Boxes.

Next stop a couple of “COME IN SPINNER” shops. (They always take you to these shops so you can buy something at inflated prices) Given I was the only tourist and the shops were empty they were eager for me to buy something!

Come in Spinner shops

At one of the places they gave me a taste of various local drinks.

First of course Tequila….Then Mezcal…made from another Cactus.

Another Come in Spinner shop

Next PULQUE. This is an old Aztec drink made from fermented Cactus juice.

The drinks come from Cacti like these

Next TUNNA and XOCONOSTLE made from the floweres of NOPAL Cactus.

I didn't drink it all!

They were all very nice and I was beginning to enjoy myself!

FINALLY, we made it to TEOTHUACAN

The area is huge, originally it covered 20 sq Kms. The ruins date back to Pre-Aztec TEOTHUACAN culture (not Aztec as I thought…The Aztecs came much later). The ruins date back to 1st Century AD. At one time there were 125,000 people living there. It was the biggest City in South America.

There is a magnificent main street that is 2.5 Kms long. There are the two HUGE Pyramids, Pyramid of the Sun and Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest in the world after those in Egypt.

Steep and high..over 200 steps

The whole complex is amazing and the view from the top of the Pyramids is breathtaking!

(Yes, I climbed them both!)

It was neasrly 4.00 pm but they took me to lunch anyway.

The Driver, Robert and the Guide Lourdes entertained me by dancing. They are a sweet couple and made my day very special

Lourdes and Robert (Driver and Guide) dancing for me!

We got back to the Hostel at 7.30pm and they still wanted to see Azulo! Lots of laughter and photos… then I went and had a drink…exhausted!

 

 

23 – 25 April, Taxco to Mexico City

The ride from Oaxaca took me past Volcano Popocatepeti which is a wonderful site. Apparently there is talk of an eruption…Not today, I’m pleased to say!

Next stop  the beautiful town of Taxco.

It was a bit of a detour but worth it. Taxco is the most beautiful little place high on a hill with the most magnificent Cathedral.

Taxco

It’s very European and could easily be in Spain or Portugal.

Taxco used to be a centre for silver but that’s long gone and now it relies on us tourists. It’s only 150kms from Mexico City

Just one night in Taxco then off to Mexico City

En-route I met another biker, Hector, at a service station. It’s nice that people come up to you and have a chat. There’s a community amongst us bikers!!!

No mango this time but he invited me to stay!

Next, Mexico City….I was dreading finding the Hostel as the GPS  was no help and the maps not much better…. but with the help from a Taxi driver I arrived at my Hostel which is in a very nice suburb 10 kms from Centro called Coyoacan.

It;s great having Azulo but sometimes it’s like having a child with you. I always  have to find places that have parking. There was nothing in Centro except expensive Hotels which are off limits!

However, I chose well this time.

The hostel is like a home from home and Coyoacan is the most beautiful suburb.

Coyoacan, Mexico City

It used to be a little town that Cortes founded. It has it’s own magnificent Plaza and Church and is obviously an expensive place to live. Obviously as Mexico City expanded Coyoacan was gobbled up

I took a tourist bus trip around Coyoacan. There was a group of seniors….maybe a  local Probus Group?  …It reminded me of my Beaumaris Probus Group in Melbourne and the trips we do…(I am the functions co-ordinator)

Bus tour of Coycoacan

I’m  looking forward to taking the group on some great trips when I get back!…Maybe an off road trip through the Simpson desert???

Now Mexico City….I’ve decided that perception is a very dangerous thing. ! My perception of Mexico City was a big, smoggy, dangerous and grubby place…I don’t really know why I thought that. I almost avoided it!

Wow, that would have been a mistake. Why did I think that?

It’s an impressive and quite beautiful place.

There is no smog (at the moment) and the sky is blue…The city (or parts that I’ve seen) are as clean as any other major big Capital, The Metro is superb, clean, efficient and cheap. There are buautiful and big parks everywhere.

The Historico Centro is big and impressive and the main ZOCOLO is HUGE…It is one of the biggest squares in the world.

Zocolo, Mexico City

That photographer who takes pictures of crowds of naked people (who is he?) He filled the Zocolo with 18000 naked Mexicans…the mind boggles!

I wish I had more time here as there is lots to see and do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21-22 April Oaxaca to Puebla, Mexico

I’m very impressed with Mexico so far.

The towns I’ve visited are lovely , the people very friendly, the roads excellent and the countryside very impressive. I have not had anthing particularly brilliant to eat yet but the Tequila is very cheap so I’m happy!

Typical scenery between Oaxaca and Puebla

Karen...What are these called?

One of the things I love about the Spanish Colonial towns is their huge City Squares (Called Zocolo’s here in Mexico)

I wish we had big City Squares like they have here!.

They make such a focal point for the people and are usually very beautiful with a Church one side and a Palace or Government building the other

Here in Mexico, the squares are packed in the evenings.

In San Cristobal, there is a large Indian population and they all come into the City in the evening. They have a huge market in the “Zocolo” selling the most beautiful local knitware and just about everything else too.

I met a very nice German couple at the Hostel, (as said earlier, the Hostels are nearly empty so I’m not meeting many people now!) We went to the Zocolo and had some nice taco’s and soaked up the atmosphere!

Tino & Johanna (German Couple)

Oaxaca, (pronounced Wakaka) has a huge Zocolo which has the most beautiful Cathederal which dominates. There are infact two big Plazas next to each other and they seem to compete for attention!

Cathedral Oaxaca

In one of the Squares there is a big market, bands playing, hawkers selling things and lots of Hot Dog stalls….

In the other square there is a big gazebo with a band and singers entertaining the crowd.

Band entertaining the crowd in the Zocolo

Dancing to the music..sorry about quality of photo...Not up to scratch!

The music they play isn’t rock music but a mixture of classical to light “Spanish” romantic type music as well as some big band music. Hundreds of people are in the square just enjoying themselves and dancing.

There is no drinking or arguments or louts showing off…Just families having fun.

It’s a lovely atmosphere and I wish Merry was with me

Oaxaca is another lovely town.

Typical street in Oaxaca

I spent two nights in Oaxaca so i decided to visit the Zapotec ruins at MONTE ALBAN

They are very impressive. The ruins are on the top of a hill which was flattened to make the City.

Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban (Photos don't do it justice)

It is HUGE! The Zapotec people lived here from 500BC to 700AD after which it was abandoned because the soil became degraded.

Next i stopped in Puebla, some 150 kms from Mexico City.

It’s another attractive Colonial Town but frankly to me not as nice as San Cristobal or Oaxaca…..

Cathedral in Puebla

Puebla

Yes..ANOTHER Market!

I’m visiting one last “Colonial Gem” tomorrow..Taxco. Then I think I will have just about “done” lovely Colonial Towns!

 

 

 

 

16 – 20 April Antigua Guatamala to San Cristobal, Mexico

Hooray…I’ve made it to Mexico. Only one more border crossing to go!

In case you’re wondering….I’ve delayed my return flight (with approval from Merry) to 14th May from LA. Still a bit of a rush but it should be sufficient time to see some key places.

My destination after leaving Copan Ruinas was Antigua Guatamala.

Antigua is a lovely place and well worth visiting if you are ever in Guatamala.

Antigua

Can't afford food but has a mobile phone!

I spent two very nice nights in a terrific Hotel called Las Marias. Expensive for me at $58.00…. It would cost $200.00+ at home though.

Hotel las Marias

Inner Courtyard of Hotel las Marias

Antigua is quite unique. It’s setting is beautiful with Volcanoes all around. The City was destroyed by a big earthquake in 1770 approx.

The town was moved and abandoned, most of the beautiful Churches were destroyed. In the past hunderd years or so people have been re-inhabiting the place and gradually it’s being rebuilt.

Typical street in Antigua

There are ruins everywhere. The town itself is quite big and very original. Lovely place to just wander about

On 18th I set out for Mexico…dreading my next encounter with the Aduana (Customs)

The ride was fantastic. Very beautiful scenery. I managed to get lost and found myself on a “goat track”…It got worse and worse and I wondered whether I should turn around.

Beautiful Guatamalan scenery

This time I stuck it out and was rewarded by ending up at a most beautiful lake (Lago de Atitlan) Simply stunning

Lago de Atitlan Guatamala

Lago de Atitlan

I eventually reached the border and crossed without much fuss! (actually there was ONE issue which worried me…I have been travelling on my UK passport as Aussies pay a “reciprocity tax” in Chile and Argentina. However, all my USA import visa’s etc are based on my Aussie passport. Therefore at some stage I have to change passports…this is my last chance and who knows what the U S is like!

One would not think that should be an issue…Wrong!

At every border crossing, you get and EXIT stamp from the last country. The new country won’t let you enter without this stamp. Now, I had my exit stamp but it was in my UK passport NOT my Aussie passport!

So, there I was trying to get an entry stamp in my Aussie passport with an EXIT stamp in my UK passport

They flatly refused to do it at first.

I applied my tried and tested technique of standing my ground and looking distraught…Eventually they relented and stamped my Aussie passport!

I’m now in San Cristobal de las Casas. It is a magnificent Colonial town. It is very well restored and appears much wealthier than Antigua or Granada.

San Cristobal

The weather is beautiful today and I’ve enjoyed wandering about and having a couple of Cappuccinos! (they are a bit odd though!)

This is how they serve Cappuchino

I rate San Cristonbal as second only to Parity, Brazil as my favourite towns on this trip. If you come to Mexico it is a “must see place”

Surprisingly there are very few tourists. The Hostels arew nearly empty and I have seen NO bikers! I haven’t seen much news lately so am wondering if the world economy has collapsed again!

Tomorrow I head North