Friday, October 09, 2009

Notes from abroad: a summing up

Now that I'm back in the land where the fajitas don't (usually) sizzle and the choice of chelas is more restricted, it's time for a few reflections on my recent trip north.

It was probably a unique opportunity to enjoy a Mexico still depleted of tourism by swine-flu jitters and the habitual dip occasioned by the season of stormy weather, which this year — gracias a El Niño — was a lot more benign than anyone had expected it to be.

Almost everywhere I went I was able to negotiate accommodation for around half the Internet-advertised rate and/or secure an upgrade. (At the Baluartes in Campeche I was offered this 'master suite' overlooking the Gulf for the price of a standard room at the other side: $65.)

Playa was still packed with local fun-seekers but my five day stay at Las Ranitas had overtones of the Robinson Crusoe experience. (I've reviewed my pics from 2006 and although the beach still appears deserted there were a lot more footprints around.)

Aside from the delicious Pollo Sian Ka'an I ordered at Om (I now regret that the most positive thing I have said about this tremendously cool establishment is that it isn't as bad as it sounds!), I stuck to a pescatorian diet, learning along the way that the only place on the Yucatán peninsula where prawns are truly local is Campeche.

It was a real pleasure to traverse Chiapas from Palenque to San Cristóbal on HW199 during the daylight hours this time, passing the Mayan women in their bright white blouses and navy skirts tending to little herds of cattle, goats and pigs. There was hardly a moment when I didn't want to just stop and gawp at the scenery, so perhaps next time I will take my own car after all. It would come in particularly handy in Tulum where the best stretch of beach is 10km south of the ruins and a further 4km perhaps from the main town.

I'm done with travelling for a while, I hope. I'm supposed to set off on a 4-city Asian tour early in December — something I signed myself up for in the Spring — but it's a lot to fit in before (and during) Christmas so I'm going to try to push that back as far as I can into 2010.

Here are some of the things I'm glad I brought back with me:

  • Ron Fandango Añejo ($2...yes that's $2)
  • Don Ramón Tequila Reposado - the bottle is going to be just perfect for my olive oil.
  • A stack of Marina Azul tuna sachets
  • Melinda's habanero sauce
  • Queso de Oaxaca
  • Organic chipotle and serrano sauces
  • Assorted típicos including a 'zebraffe'.
And I avoided consuming the pozol de la muerte that almost dispatched me back in February.

Indeed, in spite of a number of quite serious mishaps and zemblanities on this journey, nothing can match the catastrophe that almost befell V while I was away — the old guy she'd paid to chapear around one of our terrenos and then incinerate the rubbish almost contrived to send the neighbouring finca up in flames.

Thankfully someone with a 60m hose turned up in the nick of time, because V and her guacal and the viejito suddenly hopping up and down like a man thirty years younger, were never really going to stall this conflagration on their own.

They grow pascuas in there, so not only our own Christmas festivities would have been diminished by this disaster.

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