Neil's in... Xilitla

by Neil on 23/05/2016


Leaving Grutas de TolantongoI left Tolantongo after a great couple of nights, leaving at 9 am after a decent breakfast and packing up.
GPS again giving me false readings telling me 4 hours to destination. Keep in mind the drive was just under 300km but through various mountain passes.  Up and down various times and the temperature gradually increasing and increasing to the point where I was suffering.
At one given point about 6 hours in (no stops) I miscalculated a bend as slipped into the oncoming lane, I’d say 6 hours, no break, baking heat didn’t help. I recovered from a head-on crash with a police car. I pulled over shaking with an overwhelming feeling of stupidity, also the heat was having its toll. Soon enough the police car I almost crashed into came speeding after me, arrived at a skid asking me what I had just done in the typical police rhetoric. I greeted the police with a handshake. Clearly, with the heat, the fright and now the implied accusation, I was now feeling pretty much defeated. I explained my situation that I was weary and made a miscalculation and that is why I had pulled over for precisely that reason.

I was feeling a bribe was on… The police driver went on about how to “[…]make both our lives easier and not go to court[…]” and here I was expecting the bribe. Instead, he told me to rest up and take it easy, and reassured me Xilitla would wait and I should take it easy. He shook my hand again and wished me well. I still was left wondering what the bribe amount was going to be…. As he and his colleague returned to the car and left with tyres spinning on the hot tar. And that was that, I sat in the shade of a shed on the side of the road, sipped water got a while and then got back on the bike. I drove very cautiously the remaining distance to my destination.


Casa Caracol


Eventually, 7 hours later, I arrived at Casa Caracol (snail house), a hostel almost facing the Edward James gardens.
With low blood sugar and dehydration under way, I went to grab a few fizzy drinks and a meal. Totally unlike the time I was here before, it was hot and (of course) humid!Hanging by the pool


That evening I met, Andrew and Anna two USA’ians backpacking around Mexico independently, that made their acquaintance the day before, we spent the following day hanging out in Xilitla together in town and at the pool of the hostel. Like I say, it was hot and humid.Puente de Dios


Following day I went to the Puente De Dois another water feature. Which was spectacular!Under the Puente de Dios


Followed by another rest day and more sun and more swimming pool time. Given it was Sunday, and the Edward James gardens were packed, I thought I’d wait for Monday for it to be more empty.

The Monday after, I went early to the Edward James gardens. To take some more photos and experience the space once more. Funny how the change in climate can change a space. It was everything as much as fun, if not more than it was at Christmas!

As the day got on, the place filled up with school kids and it was time to leave. I went that afternoon to visit the Cueva Salitre a cave under Xilitla

Cueva de Salitre, Xilitla

That was very impressive!

The following day I went to see the the Sotano de las Golondrinas, a large cave that homes thousands upon thousands of birds that perform a display every dawn and sunset, which unfortunately due to weather and it being mating season we totally missed it.

Following that I went to the waterfall of Tamul which was fantastic.

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Neil's in... Grutas de Tolantongo

by Neil on 18/05/2016

Hi everyone, I left Mexico City Tuesday, and had a nightmare getting to the Grutas de Tolantongo, the navigation programs I had on my phone were not working correctly the good app (Waze) wasn’t announcing the turns on my Bluetooth headset, the other app which did work with the Bluetooth had no idea where to go taking me into shady neighbourhoods in the wrong direction. Eventually, I got Waze to work, but I had set it to avoid toll roads which by the time I noticed what was happening I was miles off route, eventually when I set it straight I was taken on gravel roads down more shady neighbourhoods to join with the main highway. Not fun at all!

Grutas de Tolantongo

The good news, I arrived before sun down!
After searching for a decent place to camp I found a decent place to hang my hammock where nobody else was. Which from my Mexican camping experiences in Baja California told me was I wanted to be nowhere near other people.
Being that it is tropical here, I went to bed sweating and struggled to not be so hot in the hammock, eventually I had to get up to take down the fly down as it was trapping too much heat, at the risk of the inevitable tropical storms we’ve been having lately. Thankfully, no rain that night.

The sleep was great and after making a coffee that morning I took an early dip in the thermal pools before heading for breakfast. Given that the location is secluded between mountains, tens of miles from any town there isn’t any mobile coverage and the Wi-Fi at the reception isn’t good for much when everyone is using it… or even at all.

After a second dip in a few of the pools, I found the water temperature change significantly!
Itching for something to do, I took the zip line trail down the valley to the actual Gruta (cavern) at the bottom. The zip line consists of 4 lines making up to over a kilometre of travel.
At the bottom of the valley it was roasting hot, surprising actually!

I took the trek to the cavern, taking a couple of photos at the big leaning tree.

Then continued to the cavern, frankly, it was disappointing. Crowded and heavily controlled to the extent you had top leave all your valuables outside or in a locker at $50 (£2) a pop. So I didn’t go in. By that point the sun had been getting to me, so I remained clothed for the rest of the afternoon trying to see every last nook of the area I was at.

Admittedly, there was the river at the bottom boasting turquoise waters but as I said, remained clothed the rest of the afternoon. Also factor in the water is thermal and the valley was hot, I just didn’t fancy the idea much.

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Neil's in... Mexico City doing Easter with Friends

by Neil on 6/04/2016

Easter with Friends

Apologies for my last post, it was rather a downer.   I wish to share with you that this travel malarkey isn’t all high adrenaline fun fun fun as the photos seem to be of pure enjoyment.

Artisan junk at the market of San AngelAfter returning from my jaunt down to Guatemala and back, I started getting my ideas clear on what I wanted to do from Mexico onward.  I calculated the amount of time needed to finish off my video series I’m working on, in a realistic time frame and tie up loose ends in Mexico City.

A few days after returning to Mexico, Kyl and Heidi got in touch to tell me they were in town; Kyl had been travelling for a year and was finishing up his trip in Mexico City, Heidi had basically come to Mexico to make sure he did leave 😀  All the same, I was happy to have some companionship.

San Angel, Coyocan and Xochimilco

Market in San AngelFrom what I understood Heidi was desperate to buy something from the markets in Mexico City and she had researched and was informed that the Saturday market at San Angel would be the hot place to go.  Admittedly, I’m not one to buy frivolous knick-knacks at markets (with say, exception to a cotton hammock in San Cristobal which remains to be hung), and thus, I hadn’t been to the Saturday market in San Angel.

So we set off, soon it became apparent that it wasn’t all that, and we itched to see something a bit more exciting, I figured being only a couple of neighbourhoods away I’d take them to the market of Coyocan.

An Uber taxi later, we were there checking out the slightly more rustic market of Coyocan, being that it was Easter, not a lot of people were trading and it did take away a little from the buzz that the place usually has.  I figured with the day still young we could make the most of it and go to Xochimilco (pronounced: sō-chi-milk-ōh) , technically we weren’t going to be any closer to there at any other point from Coyocan.

Another taxi later, we were there in the absolute insanity that is Xochimilco, little had prepared us for this, it was pure madness.  More so the rates they wanted to charge us to charge a Trajinera (the boats you see on the water), having been on one before with my mum, we were charged 200 pesos for an hour and we gladly took 2 hours.  This time around being of a demographic that looks like you could extort, or maybe the time of year, they demanded 1300 pesos the first hour and 1700 for an hour and half.  After realizing they weren’t going to budge we took a stroll and cooled off from the hostility we had been treated. On the return walk a semi decent chap who I had previously talked to agreed to settle a deal of 700 for 2 hours, we counted our losses and took it.  Frankly, well worth it when you think about how crazy it was out there.  If you think Mexican traffic is bad you should see what it’s like to try and navigate one of these boats.

Zocalo and the Metropolitan Cathedral

Easter with Friends - Standing outside the cathedral The following day I figured I’d take the Australians out to see the city centre, I had thought try and repeat what I had done with mum, but upon arrival we settled for taking a roof top tour of the cathedral.

Of the few sight-seeing tours I’ve done in the city, this has to be the most affordable, for 20 pesos a person and a tour almost every 20 minutes which lasts about an hour it was fun to walk around the roof of the cathedral, while the guide was all in Spanish and the topic seemed to be much about how many people were killed by bells falling than anything else, it still made for an interesting  activity to do. 🙂

Rock Climbing

Since Chiapas, I’ve rekindled my love for rock climbing, and my endeavours to find local training places have returned fruitful.  Works out Kyl also was big into climbing and Heidi was also keen so off we went to explore.  First off we went to the local Qi Adventure centre nearby which for all the equipment and someone to belay you it was a reasonable deal at 230 pesos a person for the day.

The following day Heidi had a flight to return to Australia, and Kyl and I had a day to try the other climbing centre: Levitas, which is only bouldering and for 65 pesos plus 20 for boots was also a bargain.  I think both Kyl and I found the Levitas place a lot more technical and challenging which damn near killed us both, most of all, our hands.

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