Central America 2003

Costa Rica - Nicaragua - El Salvador - Honduras - Guatemala - Mexico

Tuesday, June 3

First Post!

My brother is in town this week for a friend's wedding, so we went over the itinerary together and reviewed some of the things we'd have to get ready: traveller's checks, backpacks, passports, etc. I ordered a copy of the Lonely Planet's Central America from Amazon - take that, Borders. Departure date is firmly set for early early Tuesday June 24th:

Mr Micah S Sittig
Aaron Sittig

Departing Flight(s)

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
LACSA # 610
depart 1:05am morning
Los Angeles International (LAX)
Los Angeles
arrive 8:00am morning
San Jose Juan Santamaria Intl (SJO)
San Jose
meal: Snack
cabin: Economy
equipment: Airbus Industrie A319 (319)
duration: 5h 55min
miles: 2734

This will be an interesting flight, hopefully we'll be tired enough to sleep the entire way.

Also, we've got some personal connection to Costa Rica now. Mrs Lastra from the high school mentioned that her sister and mother just came back from Costa Rica, and that she'd be able to give me some recommendations. Also, Aaron's graduate student instructor for Spanish Lit this last semester was from Costa Rica or thereabouts, and he wanted to e-mail Aaron with a few ideas. Sweet. Can't hardly wait.

posted at: 07:34 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Saturday, June 7

Stuff To Do

Saturday Morning - Drive up to Pasadena to:

  1. Get traveller's checks.

  2. Withdraw check to pay off credit card.

Monday - Go to Frys/camera store to pick up:

  1. Camera/film

  2. Computer speakers

And work on the trip scrapbook: get country reports done.

posted at: 03:58 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Tuesday, June 17

One Step Closer

I drove up to La Canada for a visit to the Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union, and withdrew a thousand dollars in traveller's checks, a check to pay off my credit card early this month, and enough cash to get me through a week or so.

We leave a week from today.

posted at: 03:08 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Saturday, June 21

Three Days and Counting

Aaron flies down to SoCal Saturday afternoon. We've still got to buy him a backpack, and I've still got to get my room a little more cleaned up so it's livable for Annie.

Travelling with Adam last year over National Holiday in China taught me to add a little structure to my travel. He insisted that he had three goals out of his trip to Beijing: to visit Tiananmen Square, climb the Great Wall, and eat Beijing duck. After that, he left the entire trip in my hands, insisting that he didn't care what we did then. I admired his resoluteness, and propose to apply it to this trip. In light of that, I've chosen two destinations for each country except Costa Rica which I want to make sure to visit:

Costa Rica: Tortugero.
Nicaragua: Granada, Leon.
Honduras: Copan, Utila.
Guatemala: Antigua, Tikal.

Mexico is optional, we'll wait and see what time allows. Students from tutoring recommend Campeche (or Parangaricutirimicuaro, just so I can say I've been there).

posted at: 01:58 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Sunday, June 22

Two Days and Counting

Aaron arrived at home today. He's pretty gung-ho about the trip, which is a good thing. I went to Mervyn's and bought myself a couple of t-shirts, and a pair of those pants that zipper off to become shorts. Dave Coyle has some. He's my hero.

Today I read a Costa Rica travel log by the very good writer, Tina Hancock. She's also the owner of volatile.org.

posted at: 01:21 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Monday, June 23

One Day and Counting

I sold the Volvo today so I'm rather sad, not to mention wheel-less.

On the other hand, I picked up an alarm clock and a camera, both very small and cute. The camera is an ELPH LT, basically Canon's bottom-of-the-line APS (drop-in film) camera. No zoom, but with timer, auto-focus, and in a stylish and rugged case. It better take some fine pictures, I got a lot of folks to show them to.

Our plan for tomorrow is to drive down to the Apple Store in Costa Mesa in my mom's car to catch the Steve Jobs' speech at the Apple Developers Conference. On the way back, we'll swing by the REI store in Santa Ana to pick up a backpack, sunscreen and insect repellent. In the evening we'll be going out with some old friends from Spain who are visiting this weekend, and then get a ride from the parents to their airport at 10 PM or so. The flight leaves at 1 AM.

Mad props to Julie for mentioning us in her livejournal.

posted at: 02:13 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Tuesday, June 24

We're off!

At the moment, I'm sitting in the Internet cafe of our hotel, a nice clean place near central San Jose. Outside, the rumble of buses and growl of motorcycles zipping down the street almost drowns out the Latin dance music coming from a small accessories store across the street. The weather is warm and humid; not terribly uncomfortable, and doing wonders for my skin. The people we've met so far have been very friendly, even the pushy taxi drivers at the airport pointed us towards the bus station when I asked. It's nice to be in a country that is so green: it reminds me a lot of the Philippines.

Glancing through a tour pamphlet, there are a multitude of different things we could do: kayaking, hiking, visiting national forests (jungles?), hot springs, volcanoes... The plan for today is to relax around town, visit the central market and have a good Costa Rican dinner. I've slipped out of our room for a bit - Aaron is napping, tired even after several hours of sleep on the plane.

For Mom and Dad, we walked down the central pedestrian street and ran into Pops ice cream; we didn't buy any but I got a picture of Aaron in front of the sign.

Hasta la proxima, Micah

posted at: 11:17 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Thursday, June 26

Turtles on Strike

Two days without email! We left San Jose early Wednesday morning on a bus to Puerto Limon, and from there we caught a bus to Moin, and from there rode on a small boat to Tortugero, an isolated town adjacent to the national park of the same name. That night we went out looking for turtles with our guide, Castro, but didn't manage to see any. They're on strike, maybe? Turtle season starts in earnest next month. We did get to see some exciting lightning from storms out at sea, and some fascinating algea that washed in with each wave and luminesced when it was stepped on, little sparks in the sand. Fun!

On the boat ride into Tortuguero we had a great guide, Shaki, who pointed out all sorts of animals to us: bats, herons, egrets, howler monkeys, even a few caymans (like small alligators).

Oh yah, and Caribean food is great: they put coconut in their rice and beans for a real subtle tropical flavor, and I had some fried chicken with it that was just heavenly.

We had a little adventure, in that on the way back the boat broke down and we had to get towed back to shore and take another boat home through a different town. Which was not all bad: a new route meant more animals to see, including turtles and a large cayman that was sunning itself on the beach.

We made it to San Jose tonight and checked into the Pension Otoya again. We just had dinner (arroz con chorizo y pollo, batido de mora) at a local restaurant, and as soon as Aaron is done showering we're heading over to the Teatro Nacional, the National Theatre, for a flamenco show.

We're still deciding what to do tomorrow, probably leave early for another national park in northern Costa Rica.

Until next time, Micah.

posted at: 18:31 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Friday, June 27

Following the North Star

Actually, this far south in the world the North Star is not visible above the equator. We confirmed that in Tortugero. Nevertheless, we continue to move North.

The flamenco performance at the Teatro Nacional was tremendous; a flamenco singer from Spain capped the night with a heart-rending performance.

I stayed up late working on the trip book (y'all can see it when I get back) and researching our next move: a trip to Rincon de la Vieja national park in northern Costa Rica. I wasn't too optimistic about making it to the hot springs there because it's a less-visited, though no less impressive, national park.

When we got to Liberia, we checked into the Liberia Hotel ($5 rooms and hammocks!) and the very friendly hotel owner Jaime arranged for passage and a discounted hotel room right next to the park for one night. Sweet! Next time I hope to write about the boiling mud pits, 90-foot waterfalls, and sulfuric hot springs we'll be taking a dip into.

In the meantime, we're sweltering in the heat and humidity of Liberia. Chinese food for dinner tonight, I think.

Hasta, Micah.

posted at: 16:20 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Sunday, June 29

Parque Nacional Rincon De La Vieja

Victor came in his beat-up white Hyundai at 7am sharp to take us to Rincon de la Vieja National Park. We finished up our buffet breakfast (rice and beans, eggs, toast, pineapple and orange melon) and grabbed our bags. The ride was real bumpy: folks with money rent 4x4s to take them on the rocky roads to the park. The lodge we stayed at was real nice, a big queen-sized bed for Aaron and a bunk-bed for me. We lightened our loads onto the bed, and Victor took us to the park entrance.

Just in front of us in line to register with the park rangers were a young Spanish couple — lots of Spaniards here. We trailed them most of the way on our hike. Cost was six dollars to enter the park. Aaron and I love a challenge, so we chose the longest and most gruelling hike for the first day: the active crater of Rincon De La Vieja volcano! We passed through several ecosystems on the way up: humid jungle, where we saw monkeys swinging through the trees; temperate forest, that reminded Aaron of northern California; shorter trees with gnarled branches bent by the high winds; and knee-high brush when we finally exited the trees. On the way we parked ourselves by a beautifully scenic waterfall and took some pictures. In fact, that day I took a whole roll of film! At a kilometer or so from the crater, the vegetation faded away and we started walking through rock-strewn volcanic wasteland. We reached a stony ridge that rose up to the highest point in the area. I asked Aaron to hike halfway up so I could take his picture, but by the time he was up there, about twenty seconds later, a cloud had rolled in and almost obscured him from view: we were basically at cloud level! I snapped the picture and jogged up to join him. We hiked the rest of the way up the ridge and found that we were indeed at the highest point in the area, and also found the Spanish couple sitting and taking in what they could of the view: clouds pretty much covered everything! But after about ten minutes of waiting they began to recede. The first landmark to emerge was the lake to our east: deep blue, against a mountainside of green forest. Pretty soon, the crater itself was revealed. The walls of the crater were striped red, black and grey in bands of different sediments, and decorated with occasional yellow sulfur deposits. The water was silvery grey, probably ash, or maybe just reflecting the cloudy sky above. We realized that it was possible to walk down to the side of the crater, so we did. At that point, the path shrunk down to a width of 3 or 4 feet, and dropped off on both sides in steep slopes! Thank goodness there was little wind that day, or we would have been in trouble. We reached the edge of the crater — no guard rail or anything, and took a bunch of pictures. Aaron even chucked a tennis-ball sized rock into the crater, and we watched it make a tiny little splash. It was pretty deep!

Gotta make this quick, my hour is almost up.

The hike back down was much more tiring, and pretty hard on the knees and ankles. Dinner that night was superb — the lodge had great cooks. Rice and black beans, pork chop, and our choice of several salads. We mostly sat around the nursed our aching legs that night.

The next day (today) we took off after another hearty meal — rice and beans, eggs, pancakes with syrup, various fruits — and hiked to the La Cangreja waterfall. We hadn't intended to swim and didn't bring our swimtrunks, but we when saw the huge waterfall and bright blue water we couldn't resist. We walked back in wet shorts.

Aaron settled down to watch France-Cameroon play for the FIFA Confederation Cup with the staff, while it began to rain heavily outside. Victor came to pick us up at 3:30, and we checked back into the Hotel Libera back in town (can't beat five dollars each per night).

That's it for the last two days. We are really glad that we visited Rincon de la Vieja National Park, we could have spent a couple more days exploring. We're leaving for Granada, Nicaragua tomorrow morning. Wish us luck.


posted at: 17:42 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Saturday, July 5

The Twin Volcanoes of Ometepetl

Hello again. Didn't get a chance to e-mail in a while because we've been away on the island of Ometepetl in lake Nicaragua, the originally proposed site of te Panama Canal. Ometepetl is formed by two volcanoes, so of course we took the chance to climb both (well, Aaron did both) and kayaked about a bit, swam on the freshwater beach, and took the chicken bus all over the island. Very fun and a chance to relax a little after running all over Costa Rica. At the moment, we're in Granada, a historic town at the north end of lake Nicaragua for a couple of days. I hope I can update this with more information on Ometepetl; and of course, I took a lot of pictures. Ask me when I get back.

posted at: 19:10 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Sunday, July 6

Granada, Nicaragua

> How is AA feeling by now?

I haven't heard him complaining lately, he seems to be ok.

> We hotels easy to find, satisfactory in Nicaragua?

They're plentiful, and pretty cheap. The Bearded Monkey in Granada is putting us in dorm beds for $3 a night. It's in an old colonial style building, with colorfully painted walls and high ceilings - very open, with a big courtyard in the middle for lounging and having deep conversations.

> Are you meeting any other Americans along the way?

Actually, a lot of Spaniards in Costa Rica. And right now we're travelling in a caravan of seven people: Aaron and me, Nicole (USA), David and Aaron (Israel), and Amanda and Josephine (Sweden). Fun group, although it's a little exasperating because it takes so long to make decisions — it's reminding me of the advantages and disadvantages of travelling with lots of people.

> Is there anything you wished you'd brought along that you need?

Not that I can think of - maybe an umbrella. In the last few days, we've been caught twice in torrential downpours that come out of nowhere, and I end up drenched with clothes drying all over the hotel room. Oh, and more film.

> Are there big differences between Costa Rica and Nicaragua?

Costa Rica was more developed and expensive, and we saw no street markets in Costa Rica. A "casada" in Costa Rica is a "plato corriente" in Nicaragua. It's going to take a few more days in Nicaragua before I can give a full answer to this question.

— Micah

posted at: 00:00 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Getting to Granada

On Friday, Aaron had climbed the Volcan Concepcion on Ometepetl Island, and I had gone kayaking in Merida and walked back to the hotel (2.5 hours) to get some pictures of the island. That night we slept well because Saturday was a travelling day. The whole group ate breakfast at our hotel (pancakes and fruit for me) and left for the ferry on the 9:15 bus, which was packed. Most of the public buses down here are old American school buses, complete with pop-out STOP sign—which usually doesn't work. The hour ferry ride back to the lake shore was fun but made me a little queasy. Sometimes the boat would lurch four or five feet up and down over the waves, ugh.

By then, it was around one o'clock. On the shore, we stopped for a quick lunch. After lunch, we took a taxi to the Rivas bus terminal, about ten minutes away, and boarded another crowded bus to Granada. Thankfully, most people got off on the way and we were relativly early to this one so we all got seats from teh beginning. We did have one nervous moment where a policeman came on board to inspect passports, while ours were in our backpacks on the roof of the bus. Luckily, the driver got impatient and almost took off with the policeman still on board so the officer got the idea and made a brisk exit before he got to my seat. Phew.

We arrived in Granada at 3:30 PM and walked straight to the Oasis hotel, recommended by some people on Ometepetl. Unfortunately, it was too rich for some peoples' tastes, so we sent out an exploratory party and ended up hiking down to another place for the night.

Last night, we didn't do much: walk around the plaza, have dinner at an OK place, catch the tail end of a music festival and get caught in a downpour on our way back to the hotel. Today we haven't done much either (remember what I said about travelling in a group?): get settled into a different hotel—they are a little indecisive—and take some laundry to the shop. Right now I'm waiting for the weather to cool off a little before we set off to explore the town. Nut much is open on Sunday anyhow, we'll probably see a few churches and museums and save the big exploration for tomorrow.

posted at: 14:07 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Wednesday, July 9

On The Road Again

We're on the road again, this time north to Honduras. But first a little summary of our time in Granada.

We did not do much exploring in Granada. One day, Aaron went out with friends to boat around Las Isletas, a group of islands in Lake Nicaragua just off the coast of Granada. Another day we took the short trip to the Masaya Volcano, and ended up in a torrential tropical downpour on the edge of the crater. Thank goodness for friendly people with pickup trucks that fit eight soggy travellers in the back!

Mostly, we spent our time hanging out with the hip folks at Granada's premiere backpacker hostel, the Bearded Monkey. This place has a bar and restaurant, pool table and board games, bookloans (Dave Egger's Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and Graham Green's End of the Affair, in three days), a courtyard with garden and hammocks, and bunkbeds int the dorm for three dollars a night.

Nevertheless, we left this morning, splitting the group we've been travelling with since Costa Rica and we're spending the night in Esteli. Esteli is a small city in northern Nicaragua, very close to the Honduran border. We changed our plan a little since there's not much to see in Honduras if we don't go scuba diving. Tomorrow we will catch a bus going west, cross into Honduras, and then try to catch the Tica bus to take us through El Salvador and into Guatemala City. From there we will have access to Honduras' Copan Ruins and all the cool stuff in Guatemala.

Getting a little tired of rice and beans,

posted at: 18:03 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Chicken Bus

That last post was a little dry, so in the 6 minutes I have left I'll try to give you an idea of what it's like to travel in a chicken bus. Chicken bus is what backpackers call the local buses that run from town to town. Personally, I've only seen a couple of chickens on the bus.

Most chicken buses are converted school buses from the United States, painted in bright colors and a strip painted across the top of the windshield announcing the destinations of the bus. Each bus is manned by a driver and a money guy, who charges you by how far you plan to go.

At many of the stops, people get on with snacks that you can buy. Drinks in plastic bags, water in plastic bags, little pastries, today for the first time little paper plates with chicken and chips in plastic bags. Today we even had a little kid come and serenade us with his coke-can-filled-with-pebbles maraca. Very cute. They generally stay on the bus for a stop or two, then ride back in the opposite direction, I imagine.

posted at: 18:09 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Monday, July 14

quick note

Just letting you know: we are in San Pedro La Laguna off lake Atlitan in Guatemala now, chilling out for a few days before heading up to the Mayan ruins in Tikal, in north Guatemala. Cheap food, clean lake, three volcanoes in the vista. Very nice.

— Micah

posted at: 14:40 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Thursday, July 17

San Pedro, Guatemala

Hi mom,

We're winding down the trip alright, but it's more of a cleaning up than a relaxing last few days. We've done a bit more relaxing on this trip than I had planned: Aaron managed to slow me down every once in a while.

We've spent the last three days in a small town on the shore of lake Atitlan, a little over two hours outside of Antigua. The view was amazing: a lake surrounded by three volcanoes and mountains that slope down almost straight into the water. One day we went kayaking out to the middle of the lake, and Aaron (the other Aaron) even went overboard and took a swim. As always, I got a few pictures. The town of San Pedro itself is up the hill from the lake, and the women wear traditional Mayan dress (the kind you see in the guidebook pictures), and most men wear jeans and a t-shirt. Only the older men still wear the traditional clothes. Down near the lake is a strip of hotels and restaurants that cater more to tourists—yes, San Pedro is a little touristy; but it's a backpacker type of touristy which means cheap food and drinks, thermal bath/massage/meditation centers, and bars run by older hippy types. Good food too: bought banana bread from vendor Eddie most days; Thai green curry with rice and veggies for dinner last night, fresh hummus and pita shared between us; dessert of chocolate-covered donuts filled with banana and strawberry slices.

We meet cool people on this trip too: in San Pedro it was Andrew (guy, Scotland) and Ronital (girl, Isreal). When I first met them, they were hanging out at bar "El Otro Lado"; Ronital was teaching Aaron to write in Hebrew and Andrew was playing backgammon with the other Aaron. Andrew is a master diver who was working in Mexico filming underwater videos when he met Ronital, and they decided to work their way down Central America together. They had a fantastic hotel room with a balcony onto a stunning view of the lake. I was very jealous.

But our time is running out—sooner or later every traveller has to confront that fact. Aaron bought his return ticket online; he'll be flying out of Cancun on the 23rd. Right now we're back in Antigua, and waiting for our bus to leave at 7pm tonight for the 10 hour trip to Flores, a small city out on a lake in northern Guatemala that is the departure point for visits to the ruins at Tikal—the most impressive Mayan ruins in Guatemala and the ruins featured on the cover of Lonely Planet's Central America guidebook.

After Tikal, Aaron will be busing through Belize and up to Cancun, and I'll head west to Chiapas, Mexico.

— Micah

posted at: 00:00 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Sunday, July 20

Palenque, Chiapas

Hi folks,

I got the e-mail about the big Brea gathering in a few days - sorry I won't be able to make it. I estimate to be home in a week or two.

On Friday morning, Aaron and I got up and were outside the hotel by 5am. He boarded a bus for Belize City (east), and I boarded a small minivan to Bethel, a Guatemalan city on the border with Mexico (west). Like I said, Aaron will be flying home from Cancun on the 23rd, to Los Angeles. Mom and Dad, I'll remind him to e-mail you with details.

I'm in Chiapas. But it's not hte same Chiapas you imagine, with peasant and indian uprisings. I'm in the town of Palenque, a short ride on a "taxi colectivo" from the ruins at Palenque. Not buried deep in the jungle like Tikal (did I talk about those yet?) and free on Sunday for Mexican nationals, they were pretty crowded but still impressive because of the concentrations of so many well preserved temples, pyramids and palaces in such a small place.

On the bus to Palenque, I met a couple of neat girls that I'm sticking with for the next few days—always good to make a few new friends.

Mexico has been a little bit of a shock because of the prices, especially for transportation. For example, my bus this evening to Oaxaca cost almost USD 40! Fortunately, food remains cheap. Last night I had dinner at Tropic Tacos; they have ordinary tacos, tortas and gringas (melted with cheese on flour tortillas), but we all ordered the special plates for USD 4 each—mine was meat "al pastor" (grilled and sliced off a gyro-type machine) mixed with green pepper, onion, bacon and cheese, and fried on the grill, plus five corn tortillas and a flour tortilla, and served with all the guacamole, pico de gallo, and lime you can eat. Washed down with an apple soda. Yum!

Tonight I'm busing to Oaxaca, which I hear is a beautiful place. Then I will take the bus to Mexico City for a few days to take in the capital, Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and hopefully a taste of the live music scene. After that, maybe a day in Aguascalientes, probably a bus to Guadalajara, then possibly a long bus to Tijuana and LA.

Hasta entonces—Micah

posted at: 12:10 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Forgot to mention

After San Pedro, we went back to Antigua for the afternoon and caught a 7pm bus to Flores, which is all the way across the country. Meaning that we got there at 4am in the morning. The reason we went to Flores is that the ruins of Tikal (featured on the front cover of the Lonely Planet for Central America) are best enjoyed from Flores. We quickly booked into a hotel and left on the 5am mini-bus to Tikal. The ruins there are very cool, spread out through the jungle, you have to hike from one temple to another. I got some very nice pictures of temples jutting out from between the trees, like stone giants that creep up on you from nowhere.

We got caught in the rain at Tikal, so after a few hours we headed for the exit. It's a shame, it's probably best enjoyed over two or three days. That night back in Flores we had pizza and Lemon Crush, a highlight of the trip. Seriously, the United States needs a good, widely-available lemon soda.

Next... (keep reading).

posted at: 12:25 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Monday, July 21

Oaxaca, Mexico

A fifteen hour bus ride got Adeline and me from Palenque, Chiapas to beautiful Oaxaca, in Juarez. Amazingly, we managed to be in town for a festival, something that usually doesn't happen without careful planning. So tonight we spent several hours at a big show that ended with a recreation of a famous local myth about an Indian princess who sacrificed herself for the tribe. Very elaborate, with much dancing and fireworks. It made me think of the Easter Pageants that are performed in those German towns, but the Mexican version.

For dinner tonight we had turkey with chocolate mole sauce, very strong stuff. At the moment, it's about 10:40 PM and the night is young: the main plaza is covered with people listening to the mariachi bands, eating tacos or pozole from the street vendors, or enjoying a coffee in the sidewalk cafes.

For Aaron, or the parents if they remember, coming through the window now is music by Jordi, that French kid. And today I heard a song by Alaska, from Alaska y Dinarama. It's a crazy world.

posted at: 20:43 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Tuesday, July 22

Mexico City, Mexico

I almost thought I wouldn't make it to Mexico City today. This morning I woke up early to use the ATM and buy the bus ticket, and the ATM at Scotia Bank ate my ATM card! Since the bank did not open for another hour, I walked back to the hostel and picked up Adeline for breakfast at a gorgeous pastry shop in an old Spanish building, run by an old lady who commanded a couple of young boys in operating the shop. It was cute:

"OK, I'm done."
"Did you sweep the courtyard?"
"Yes, I did."
"And did you mop it?"
"Well go mop it. And do a good job."

We had pastries and delicious Mexican hot chocolate for breakfast on their patio. I had a small custard pie topped with peach, grape, strawberry and kiwi, and an apple puff pastry. Yum!

We had to sit around in the bank for ten minutes or so—it turns out I wasn't the only one who had my card eaten! Eventually I got it back, and bought a later bus ticket. I said goodbye to Adeline and left at 12:30.

I rolled into Mexico City at about 6:30 PM, and got the last room at the second hotel I checked, the Hotel Zamora, near the Zocalo and big Cathedral in central Mexico City. I had to get there using the metro, which was extreeeemly crowded with people headed home; I felt like I was in the infamous Japanese rush hour. Now I'm down at another hotel using the Internet, before heading back to plan my day tomorrow. I'd like to see central historic Mexico City, visit the Temple of the Sun complex, and maybe visit the Friday Kahlo museum. I'll keep you updated.

Thanks to mom and dad, and grandma lo for the e-mails!


posted at: 21:03 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Wednesday, July 23

Still in Mexico City

And payed for three more nights this morning. Thirteen dollars a night for a big bed and private bath, right downtown.

Did Aaron get home ok? I spent this morning at the Anthropology Museum, huge exhibits on the different cultures of Mexico. This evening I'm going to explore the Zona Rosa shopping zone and Garibaldi Square, hangout for Mariachi bands.

I bought the lastest issue of the Economist, I'm a happy man.

— Micah

posted at: 15:26 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Thursday, July 24

Mexico City, Again

You can can tell I'm in a big city when I write my third report in as many days.

This morning I slept in late again. When I'm paying thirteen dollars a night I feel like I should take advantage of it, ya know? In typical Micah fashion, I walked in the wrong direction to the laundry shop for about 5 blocks before realizing it was south of the main square. Breakfast happened at a torta shop, which is like a sandwich with, in this case, leg of pork hot off the griddle, tomatos, avocados and hot sauce. Washed it down with a watermelon juice.

I borrowed the Fodor's guide from the hotel lobby a couple of nights ago and mapped out a walking tour of the historic distric. Well, I only got halfway through it but it sure was cool. First, a walk around the Tiananmen-like central square, or Zocalo. Then a tour of the Palacio Real, with its controversial Marxist Diego Rivera murals, followed by a walk through the Benito Juarez museum. He's like Mexico's Thomas Jefferson. It felt nice to think that our country has had the same Constitution for over 200 years now. Mexico had like, eighteen.

I walked through the cathedral next to the Zocalo. It's impressive, and yes it's sinking into the ground because Mexico City was built on a lake. Not too much, though. I sped through the museum of cultures, pausing briefly in the China and Korea sections. The China rooms had a diagram of the slantedness of the Oriental eye. *sigh*

Next, the Templo Mayor museum. In 1978 soem road construction workers uncovered part of a circular monolith with a Mayan goddess on it. They called in the archeologists, who then tore up a city block uncovering an entire temple complex. It's very cool, you can observe the ruins from the street, then buy a ticket to walk down through them and into the museum in the back. All this is within view of the cathedral and the street market next to it, so it is like a clash of civilizations. The museum is very well done, although all in Spanish. When I read Spanish, I have a hard time absorbing the meaning. I tend to just speed through it to prove that I can read it. That's why I get tired reading Spanish; actually having to concentrate and absorb the meaning causes mental strain. Nevertheless, great museum. Highly recommended.

On my way to the next destination, I stopped for lunch at a place called "Fonda El Generalito". A charming, bustling little restaurant with blue and yellow walls, the kitchen actually in the same room as the seven tables. Service was excellent, the food delicious, and only 30 pesos for a three-course meal, about USD 3. That's a good value; food can get pretty expensive in the nicer restaurants around here. The way the Menu del Dia works is that you have two choices for first course, two for the second, and four for the main course. This is accompanied by fruit punch, tortillas in cloth-lined basket, and a small plate of grapes for dessert. For the first course I had consome with an accent on the e, basically a chicken broth with assorted veggies: cucumber, carrot, onion, squash, etc. For the second course, chilaquiles—I had to ask too—tortillas soaked in tomato sauce, topped with white cream, crumbled cheese and raw onion. The main course for me was Cerdo al Serrano , two pieces of tender pork in a brown sauce, with lima and brown beans. With crumbled cheese, of course. I'm still enjoying the warmth in my stomach now.

So after lunch, I realized that it was probably better called "dinner", so I ran to pick up my laundry and got caught in a hailstorm. In Mexico city! Very unexpected, so I ducked into an internet cafe and I'm writing this e-mail. Half an hour has passed, and it looks like it has blown over so I think I'll sign off now.



posted at: 16:40 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Friday, July 25

Quick Notes

Being abroad reminds you of the nice things about the USA. Like, when you see a cute girl in California, there's not a fifty/fifty chance she'll be smoking.

Coming out of the metro today, I was behind a couple of high school sweethearts holding hands. As we came to the top of the stairs, a latin rhythm coming from the speakers of some street vendors surrounded us. So the girl whips up some dance steps, and pretty soon the boy twirls her around. They laugh, I smile. Very cute.

The bus trip from Mexico City to Tijuana is a fourty four hour deal. I'll be leaving tomorrow Saturday at 10:45am and arriving on Monday at about seven in the morning. Then an eight thirty Greyhound to Los Angeles, another four or five hour trip.

Thankfully, I finally seeked out a bookstore that stocked Arturo Perez Reverte novels. More correctly, I finally got some advice on finding his books. Mexican book shops (Spanish ones too?) tend to organize books on the shelves with the store owner in mind, rather than the customer: by publishing company, returnable book, not to mention the usual genre and author. Thankfully, a friendly book seller at a small, nae tiny, bookstore near my hotel directed me to a bigger bookstore and gave me hints on hunting for books. So I followed his advice, and now I think I'll need to pull more money out of the ATM to afford food on the trip home. I can see it now:

Read, sleep.
Read, sleep.
Read, sleep, suck on a towel.
Read, sleep.

Note to parents: I arrive in "Los Angeles" on Monday afternoon. I'll try to make it to the Fullerton rail station and give you a ring.

posted at: 18:23 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Sunday, August 10

Bus Ride of Death

Final bus ride: Mexico City to Tijuana, to Los Angeles, to Anaheim. Total travel time, around 55 hours. The bus was the usual for Mexico, a mid-luxury model with reclinable seats and a smelly bathroom in the back. The driver had videos on most of the time, so time passed quickly. Also, I bought those four books by Arturo Perez Reverte in Mexico City, so I polished off a couple of those. For meals we stopped at restaurants along the way, usually three or four dollars for a good plate of food. For the first half of the trip I sat next to a single mother going back to her kids, the military guy across the aisle who wouldn't give up flirting with her, and a cute lady in front of us who worked at the court in Mazatlan. We talked and joked around a bit, and they called me the huero or huerito because they couldn't remember my name. The most bothersome thing about the trip was having to stop and get off the bus at every state line for fruit fly inspections, or explosive and drug searches. They are especially annoying at 3 in the morning! Argh.

At the Tijuana bus depot, I almost had to make a mad scramble to pay my "departure tax". In case Adeline is reading this, I didn't have to pay! The clerk at the Greyhound desk told me not to worry about it, and I didn't even pass through a Mexican exit gate when I walked across the border into the US. I suppose Mexico isn't really worried about people leaving the country illegally—makes me wonder why so many other countries are.

Oh, and a highlight of the bus ride were some great lightening storms over the desert of northern Mexico. The wide open spaces allowed a great view of every lightning bolt. Excellent show.

posted at: 02:51 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry

Back in The OC

I've been back at home for a couple weeks now. The pictures came back from Walmart, except a roll from Guatemala that I couldn't find (where are you?!!). I'm in the process of gluing them into the trip book, so I can make a trip over to the La Habra Borders to show my ex-co-workers like I promised.

I've got the photos on my other computer, it's gonna take a bit to re-size them all and upload them. So folks who I promised pics to, have patience please.

posted at: 02:54 | path: Micah | permanent link to this entry


In which Micah and Aaron travel the width and breadth of Central America in search of good food, Mayan ruins, and relaxing hot springs.



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