2 – Mexico City, Mexico – From Baja to the Land of Fire …

2: Mexico City, Mexico

Los Mochis – Creel – Mexico City
14 Nov 2001

   – On the Road
   – Budget Awareness
   – New Friends

On the Road
In just a few hours I will be leaving Mexico City with a bus to Palenque so I have some time to write about the past week from an internet cafe near the Zocalo square.

A week ago I was in Los Mochis waiting to take the train. Well, at 7 o’clock the next morning the Copper Canyon train left the station. In the train I finally got some glimpses of other back packers, but not as many as I thought.

The train ride is the most famous in Mexico (not so difficult since there are hardly any trains in Mexico) so let’s say it’s one of the most famous in Latin America. The train takes you through the Copper Canyon, which is four times the size of the Grand Canyon. The first few hours were boring, but when we started climbing the scenery became very nice. Too bad I was siting on the wrong side, as every gringo, and going backwards – I hate that.

On the train I had my first real gringo contact, with a German couple, Helge and Stephan. They were also going to Creel, as were all other gringos, and we decided to see if we could share a room, to share the price. The most famous hotel is that of Margarita’s and so we went there, now accompanied also by Jay, a very experienced traveler from America. All four of us have just started the past week on our trips heading south for at least six months.

So there I was in Creel, sharing a room with others and even sharing a (double) bed with Jay, a stranger. We all got along really well and talked into the night.

One thing I didn’t realize was that Creel lies at 2400 meter (7,874 feet) altitude – it really got cold at night. The lady of the house even had a fire going in the living room. We all slept in our thermal underwear, which I didn’t think I would use until the Andes.

We only paid 70 pesos per person, including breakfast and diner. This we would eat at big tables with everyone else, and it was a great way to meet other travelers.

The next day we took a day tour to the surrounding area lakes, waterfalls and villages of the local Indians.

The second day in Creel (I decided to stay another day) the four of us decided to rent off-road bicycles and go to a nearby thermal hot spring. This was my first time, and later Jay told me that what we did was very advanced stuff, even for him. We went up and went down and up and down and came back very late since we got lost after it was dark and it was cold and hot and difficult to breathe. You get the picture. We did find the hot spring – and this is why I’ve had a bad cold for the past two days.

On the third day we got up with aching muscles, and all of us took a bus to Chihuahua. Helge, Stephan and I said goodbye to Jay and took the bus to Mexico City (22 hours, phew).

After the long ride we arrived very tired the next afternoon and found a hotel room, which we shared (50 pp), in the Zocalo district. We didn’t do much, and Helge and I were starting too feel sick by now anyway.

For those of you who have noticed, I skipped both Chihuahua and Zacatecas and went straight to Mexico City. I had been thinking: I know I am not really a city person. I mostly like being active at the beach or seeing natural or archeological places and sites. So this I will do.

The first day in Mexico City we wanted to go to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, apparently one of the most famous in the world. But all museums are closed on Monday. Helge and Stephan would be spending the next two nights at a girlfriend of theirs and she sent her bodyguard/chauffeur (yes and in a big car as well) to pick us up and show us a around a little .

The second day (yesterday) we met at the museum and also walked a little through Chapultepec, the big central park of the city. After this we said goodbye to each other and planned to see each other again next week in Tulum on the beach.

Later I went to the eastern bus station and bought my bus ticket to Palenque. I always like to do this, so I know where to go the next day when I feel more vulnerable with my big backpack.

This morning I took a bus to Teotihuacan, the big archeological site north of the city. Here is also the Pyramid of the Sun, the third-largest pyramid in the world. Very nice, especially since I was very early and was almost walking alone through the ruins.

I do think the worst of my cold is over, and I hope the long bus ride tonight will not make it worse again.

Mexico City is very, very big. There are more people living here then in the whole of Holland, which is one of the most populated countries in the world! Safety is a big issue here, for both locals and gringos. The security business must be really big here in Mexico, and the police one of the largest employers. I have never seen so much security people (both police and private), all with heavy weapons and bulletproof vests. Everywhere! There are also many searches of both luggage and body. I have stopped carrying my Swiss army knife for the moment, so I won’t have to give it away somewhere.

Mexico City is also above 2,200 meters (7,217 ft) and is not as hot as I thought, though the smog is there. I will now be heading towards the lower lands and will be in warm country again. After Palenque I will go to Merida (buying hammock and going to Uxmal), Chichen Itza and then finally taking a break on the Caribbean beaches. Back to top

Budget Awareness
The biggest thing to hit me in the last week was becoming aware of my budget. I now understand why long-term travelers are always fussing about money and it being a favorite conversation topic.

In Los Mochis I examined my spending and was horrified to find I had already spent 50% of my Mexican budget (around USD$1000) in just the first six days (out of 28)! This freaked me out, and I started to really see and feel the need for tight budget control. I have to make choices. Everything really adds up when you look at 190 days of travel.

The highest costs are those for transportation, I hadn’t really looked at that before. The more you travel, the more you spend.

Luckily I am not alone with this. Talking to my fellow travellers I discovered the same things happen to them. The first two weeks are always the worst, until you start adjusting (and you will adjust) to your new (budget) situation. Back to top

New Friends
In the last week I finally had contact with other gringos. I discovered that there will be three different types of people (gringos) I will meet on the road. The first is a small group where there is some kind of connection for a while, and you can really get along well and might even travel together for a while. These are your friends on the road.

The second and largest group is the many people you will meet, talk with, drink with, share experiences with, etc. just for some hours or a night, having fun.

The last group are those you don’t like much, for whatever reason. Back to top

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