I hope Hogmanay was a hoot and 2015 has been like an especially gratifying foot massage so far!
We brought in the new year in the low-rise tribute to Asia – San Cristobal. The town rests up in the clouds, about 2000 metres above sea level, with tiled roofs and people dressed like they came straight from Tibet. There are key differences of course, in that they all eat tamales and still play Mariachi music WAY TOO LOUD – but the place made for some interesting comparisons. The town is also home to the Zapatistas, a group of Chiapan rebels who’ve been fighting for indigenous rights against the suits in Mexico City for 20 years. Nearby villages had banners all over them declaring their freedom from national rule and the armed police and soldiers were notably conspicuous by their absence. Weirdly though, they’re obsessed with coco-cola. As in they include bottles of coke in their religious ceremonies (which also include chicken sacrifices). Not sure what the marketing department are up to at Coke HQ but one of the “ethnic villages” we visited had a huge red advertising hoarding at the entrance that read “Welcome to Zinacantan – Drink Coco-Cola.” Carbonated rebel stronghold aside, the villages were pretty depressing and run-down in comparison to San Cristobal, which had plenty of bars for us to drink in the new year. Strong word of warning – don’t drink Mezcal. Mexicans everywhere are ditching tequila for this new popular spirit as it represents the old way of life and supports smaller businesses who make the stuff. It also tastes like tractor fuel and the hangover will melt your brain like a Salvador Dali clock. It’s not a drink, it’s an ordeal.
Onwards to a huge waterfall called Misol-Ha, which we swam under in the morning, giving us the full cascade to ourselves (and some monkeys that growled like bears). Then on to the Mayan ruins at Palenque that were festooned with tourists but understandably so. The place was lost to the jungle for 800 years so it appears everyone and their dog is making up for lost time. It was exactly as I imagined – temples, pyramids and various carvings depicting death. Great stuff.
We’re now about to leave Campeche on our way to Merida, which perches on the north of the Yucatan peninsula. G has already left for Cancun, where his girlfriend is arriving very shortly. This meant for the first time in 3 and half months I have been separated from my dear Gina, a harrowing episode that will be resolved next week when we reunite again – I may buy her some flowers (Gina, not G’s girlfriend). The highlight of Campeche was probably yesterday when Catriona, Ellen and I decided to have a beer in a traditional cantina. Swinging through the saloon doors we noted all of the barmaids were A) overweight and B) dressed like prostitutes. Upon ordering the beer we realised there were posters of half-naked women all over the walls and some customers were being led into a mysterious room at the back. Maybe these barmaids WERE prostitutes. Then the TV blared into life. More naked women writhing around to Mexican rap. The patrons all watched intently, munching on their nachos like they were at the cinema. Was this a waiting room? We tried to finish our beers quicker but one of the “barmaids” brought us a snack to share, which tasted like cigarette ash and fish poo wrapped in tortillas – they resembled giant rank cigars. As the video got more sordid we chinned our Coronas and bailed, too prudish for Campeche and too sad that finally we’d finally found some inedible Mexican food. Strong start to 2015!