A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Back to Nature in Zipolite, Hualtulco

sunny 40 °C

Hello Readers,

As much as we appreciate how lucky we are to have enjoyed visiting five Cities back to back, Ross and I felt spent after Los Angeles and having just about settled into our new time zone, we arrived at Mexico City feeling less than enthused about City number 6!
A cheap flight to Hualtulco was the order of the day (a very good and timely decision we'd soon discover) and just a few hours later, we arrived to one of the most charming little airports either of us have encountered, which gave Ross good vibes that we in for a treat...he was right. The shiny new airport was tiny, with a thatched roof (slight fire hazard maybe, but cute) and a small token gesture of a conveyor belt that was rather pointless.
This was Hualtulco, on the Gulf of Mexico and within minutes we were on our way to Ziplolite, which has been 'home' for the last ten days.

The region is beautiful, albeit arid in it's current dry season. Zipolite is one of a number of picturesque and very typically Mexican villages, with just a handful of grocery shops, no post office, ATM or tourist in sight. The main street is lined with colourful low-rise shacks and houses, while the beachside is lined with cabanas and hammocks. We climbed far too many stairs with our backpacks to be greeted by Katia, a Germany/American expat and her family in their beautiful 'outdoor home', and shown to our amazing Cabana. We were in backpacker nirvana! We had negotiated a low season rate with Katia, which meant that we were officially living in luxury on backpacker prices. Our cabana is full of character, with a lovely bedroom (complete with wardrobes that enable us to unpack - hallelujah) a fully equipped kitchen and a huge outdoor shower and bathroom. We couldn't believe our luck, but it just got better in the morning when we realised that our hammock-strung patio has uninterrupted views out to the pacific, with shutters from the bedroom and kitchen to enjoy the view from every angle. Ross and I also tried out the Yoga here, which takes place every morning and is something of a yoga retreat in high season. Ross concludes that Yoga is definitely not for him,(!) but good on him for giving it a go.

We spent our first two days just enjoying the space, which was amazing, and for the first time in 5 months, I was able to cook!
Once we prized ourselves from our hammocks, we ventured to Zipolite beach where we quickly discovered we were immersing ourselves in nature in more ways than one. There were bits everywhere, young and old, big and small dangling everywhere with great pride - yes, our local beach is a nudie! Stunning though, with a laid-back Mexican vibe about it - small cabanas and beach huts playing reggae, chill-out massive attack and the like, which we have lapped up day after day drinking Mojitos. Swimming is virtually impossible here as there is a huge rip tide; the waves are incredibly powerful, so much so that even surfers avoid it. But everyone has plenty of fun being thrashed around at the shoreline. Our days have been spent looking out to sea, spotting Dolphins and watching Pelicans feeding.

Every Monday is Market Day for everyone in the region of Hualtulco, so the young devout Catholic locals, with their large, young families, flock en masse to Peluche, the main town for the region. We got a free ride in from Deiter, the owner of the Cabana and he gave us the low-down on his experience of living here, the entrapment, bribery, drugs, corruption and poor education; but clearly he and his family love it here. Peluche was bustling with colourful buildings, smiling locals and bright fruit and veg stalls...it was great to see it all in action.

The people, vibe and atmosphere of this place is brilliant - a perfect balance of tranquility and laid-back fun that we haven't really found on our travels to date. Of course, we have visited quieter places; more exciting destinations and many other beautiful beaches, but we both agree that there is something magical about Zipolite, with the vibe, stunning sunsets behind casts jutting out of the ocean, friendly locals and stunning wildlife in action. For the first time, we don't really want to leave!

Today we visited a worthwhile and meaningful village known as Cooperative Ventanilla. This is a community of around 25 families (ex-turtle egg poachers and turtle hunters) who have, for past fifteen years, made huge progress turning around a generation of mindsets about poaching as a means of sustaining theirs lives here. These families no longer hunt or poach, but instead protect turtle eggs and release them to the ocean as soon as they have hatched. They preserve and protect the red and white mangroves here too which are home to dozens of species including primates, crocodiles, iguanas, turtles and birds. We were privileged enough to get our own private tour with Nicholas - a Mexican ex-poacher who now waxes lyrical on his love of the natural habitat, the animals and mangroves, as well as the challenges he and is family have faced in turning around the attitudes of others in the area - he does so by providing jobs within conservation. We were so inspired by his story, (which he told as he paddled us around the mangroves in his boat) not just because of the benefits of conservation, but the passion he had and his clear realisation that he and the other families are now completely self-sufficient. The trip itself was superb - one of the best nature-based trips either of us have experienced. Completely natural, free from the touristy feel, no money grabbing tactics, just a beautiful education into the lives of these creatures, their habitats and the communities that protect them. Nicholas also talked candidly about the improvement of the local social-psyche & community spirit of the area since the Hurricane in the 1990's that destroyed everything and made them realise they need to cherish what they had previously taken for granted - a common lesson for everyone. It seems to be working. We donated what we could - not a lot(!) but I thought it was worthwhile to mention the place in this blog as our way of contributing to them. We had a fantastic day, finished off with a visit to Mezunte beach - another beaute...which has completed a wonderful time here.

We are off tomorrow, heading South to San Cristobal for the Easter break - sure to be a cracker of fiestas!

Love to all

Charlie & Ross
p.s, we didn't join the naturists!

Posted by charlieandross 20:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)


overcast 10 °C

Los Angeles was always one of the destinations that fascinated me most before we embarked upon on this trip. The fascination was not really to do with an overwhelming desire to see the city and sights, but more to do with the fact that I was really curious about the people. Would they be as animated and crazy as I had envisaged them to be? Would every seemingly insignificant daily task be a melodrama broadcast on TV? I could not wait to find out!

Staying in an art deco hotel, the Cecil, in Downtown (10th street and Main) we were officially staying in the historical district of LA. Although if I am honest - the way the city is sliced up into districts, the cynic in me thinks, this is a ploy by the city council to make the relative parts of the city seem more appealing to the tourist population. This historical district was clearly on the juncture of the nicer side of LA and the slightly more run down suburban areas and the atmosphere from our arrival to departure was certainly one of an underlying tension. It was hard to actually put your finger on what that tension was but suffice to say I have never quite seen such a big city with so few people on the streets. It was eery to say the least!

Either way, Charlie and I were determined to explore and see the infamous Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica and also whilst we were in town get to an ice hockey game. If I am honest Hollywood was very underwhelming. Aside from Charlie getting to see Matt Damon's star on the boulevard, the place was very commercial and slightly soul-less and after one hour of jet lagged cement-star spotting we headed back on the metro to our hotel.

The ice hockey on the other hand was actually good fun. 18,000 over the top American sports fans packed into the Staples centre to see the LA Kings defeat the Nashville predators 4-2 was quite entertaining. Unfortunately both Charlie and I were firmly in the grips of jet-lag driven sleep deprivation by now and we left a short way into the third quarter with the scores locked at 1-1. It was great to see a live home grown American sport though!

On our last day we thought it would be fitting if we could get to a real diner. Charlie sourced one out in Santa Monica (Cafe 50's) and we headed over there for our last lunch. Unfortunately the club sandwiches did not quite live up to the billing and the turkey, gravy and mashed potato that turned up on Charlie's plate left us both gobsmacked. Not in a good way either! On the plus side, the chocolate milkshakes were superb and we got to see two young tykes pepper spray each other in the face on the metro home. Every cloud!

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 08:28 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Mexico City earthquake - we are safe

sunny 27 °C

Morning everyone! This is just a quick note to let you know that we are fine. There was an earthquake in Mexico City yesterday but thankfully we left the city the day before. We are now in Huatulco on the coast, further South, and whilst the weather has been particularly windy here everything else is as it should be :-)

We will update you all on our LA experience in the next blog entry.

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 07:03 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Farewell Asia!

rain 9 °C

The Asian chapter of our magical journey has come to an end and both Charlie and I feel more than a little melancholy about this. We have no reason to feel sad as we are heading onto Central and South America and, no doubt, both destinations will provide equally interesting and also varied experiences. However it does feel rather symbolic that the first part of our trip has ended especially as Hong Kong was our last destination and one which left us both feeling so enthused about the city/country. I know that Charlie had always yearned to visit Hong Kong and the fact that it fully lived up to her expectations acted as an amazing footnote to the first four months on the road.

However, to try and summarise the seven countries we have visited in this entry seems rather futile. There have been so many great and wonderful experiences - as well as the not so great at times! We have learnt that our own experience has been tailored by our own decision-making. Our journey is unique in the sense that no other individual or couple would/will ever have the same experience as us! How amazing is that? So whilst, in theory, anyone can visit the likes of the Taj Mahal, Bangkok, Hanoi Opera house, Singapore, Hua Hin beach etc. and as great and wonderful as they all are it is the journey that you take for yourself that really adds the 'colour' to the overall adventure. The tiny, vile, and ridiculously hot room (with no air conditioning or fan) that was our home for four nights in Mumbai, the ten year old dented maroon and ant infested Proton that we drove through Malaysia, or the use of a kitchen for seven nights at Jack and Odette’s flat in Singapore are the daily elements that glue the whole thing together. Sure, all the aforementioned sights that I mentioned are great and I am really pleased to have seen them but I do find myself thinking and talking to Charlie about the small, others would suggest possibly insignificant, details much more. For me this has been as important as seeing as much of the world as I have seen so far.

The trip has been mind blowing there are no two ways about that and Asia has certainly been an amazingly educational place to kick start the adventure. I sincerely hope that the Americas can offer us half as much - which I am sure they will!

Oh, I forgot to mention earlier that on our last night in Hong Kong we went to Happy Valley racecourse. Charlie picked the winner in the first race and I picked the winner in the second...

...The next two races did not go quite as well but we still ended the night £1 richer!

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 10:25 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

Hong Kong takes the Crown!

rain 10 °C

Hello Everyone,

After enjoying the luxury of a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong we took a bus from Hong Kong airport to the Causeway Bay area on the Island, our home for just over a week. Arriving early evening, the scenic journey approaching the panoramic views of Hong Kong Island filled us both with excitement. We were dropped off at stop number 14, outside mix of tacky Chinese jewelry shops and the lovely Vivienne Westwood. We realised we would be staying in shopping central and the buzz of our street - known as 'Fashion Walk' reflected our feelings. We were both prepared by the dire accommodation that awaited us, but to our delight we were immediately offered a private double room with en-suite (caravan size shower-over-toilet bathroom) when they realised we were a couple. We instantly got a good feel for this guesthouse, and the friendly communal areas with wifi and a kettle, made up for our pokey room.

After a poor sleep on the hardest mattress either of us had ever known, we were ready to embrace Causeway Bay. Every turn we took gave us a sensory overload - modern high rises; run-down tenement blocks; bra's and knickers 'drying' in the damp, cold fog that is the weather here; bespoke, boutique fashion houses; trams; old buses; new buses; trendy fashionistas; City workers and dim-sum hawkers.....it goes on and on. We spent the day exploring the streets and then on to Times Square where we discovered a reasonably priced, but excellent vegetarian Cantonese restaurant on the 10th floor of the World Trade Centre - the food was excellent, tasty dim sum, Chinese tea, friendly service and a city-worker lunchtime buzz that you can't beat. We rounded off the day with a trip on the Star Ferry to Kowloon, munched on bakery treats and treated ourselves to a glass of wine, under patio heaters enjoying the panoramic view of Hong Kong Island.....it was quite magical.

Yesterday was one of those long, memorable great days out. We took the metro to Central (Soho) - another sensory overload of sounds and smells. The main market is legendary - live fish; dried fish; butchered meat of all kinds (see photo's - but don't if you're squeamish!), floristry stalls, row upon row, street upon street. The landscape of this area is really interesting, incredibly hilly, yet withstanding tall tenement blocks; the views are fantastic from any hilltop you choose, of the streets below. We stopped at a very traditional, old Chinese teahouse for traditional dim sum from trolleys in a take you pick and pay later style. Of course, I had no idea what I was choosing and poor Ross wasn't able to indulge, as everything was meat based. After trying at least one bit of everything, I was informed by a helpful local that I had eaten pork and fish stomach wrapped in pig hoof skin...nice! I also enjoyed a char-sui pork bun, some beef and spring onion meatballs and some sweet sponge cakes - at least Ross got one of those! The food was ok, but the experience was fantastic - old fashioned, noisy, rough and ready - the place was sprawling with locals reading their broadsheets, talking loudly, using toothpicks with dangerous speed and some of them laughing at our perplexed faces and lack of language understanding - it was very good fun. Ross was fascinated with the Chinese tea crockery...more to the point, how it was used...the hot water bowl to keep the cups warm and to wash the spoons, was also the water that made the tea.... defeated the point of washing anything. As Ross rightly commented, our tea pourer looked like he's worked there since he was born - huge bags under his eyes, a tired expression, he shuffled from table to table, in his tea stained whites, wiping and pouring, slamming down the cups and plates. He seemed content though.

We went from one extreme to the other, this time to an uber-cool New York style cafe - dark wooden floors and trendy lighting. This was a vegetarian, vegan, onion-free, garlic-free (I'm assuming this is for the Hare Krishna's who eat nothing grown in the dark), wheat-free, gluten-free place; we were intrigued to know how good anything could taste. A decent wrap, dahl soup, and quinoa cake later washed down with some flaxseed shakes....we had eaten well today!

We finished off the day in a tapas-style bar for a glass of wine and some free nibbles (got to grab it while you can!) before heading to Backstage on Wellington street (a quirky restaurant and gig venue) to see Craft Spells from San Francisco. The band (after a 2 hour wait) were actually pretty good and need all the help they can get after their promoters and sound engineers (Songs for Children) let them down badly. We left at midnight to catch the last tube back - all in all, another perfect day.

So far Hong Kong takes the Crown as the most seductive, stimulating and fun City yet on our world trip. It's the sort of City that just makes you smile, even though you can't really pinpoint what you're smiling at.

Hope you're all well back home - I believe it's warmer in the UK than here right now!!

Much love,

Ross and Charlie

Posted by charlieandross 22:14 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (3)

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