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Waiting for take-off

Waiting for take-off

11 weeks in Mexico. 3 states, 8 check-ins, 10 rooms.
Maya has traveled 1/3 of her life and experienced more than some people do in a lifetime.
She has been the very center of this whole trip. I thought I would have time for other things but just as my paternity leave nothing has gone as I planned it.

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On my day at the plantation I did not stand around watching the workers loading bananas all the time. We also had a look around the domains and the savanna surrounding the cultivated land – And we were traveling with style.
On the back of a mule I saw plenty of the amazing nature and exotic wildlife of Tabasco. I was offered a horse, but haven’t been riding for 25 years a stubborn donkey felt safer than a bolting stallion.

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Previously posted in www.planningmexico.com

“Home is the place where it feels right to walk around without shoes”

I am back in Mexico. A painless trip, even Mexican customs and security went smooth. They ask me how I felt, I answered I am a babe, after some discussion they agreed and let me through without hustle.
Feels like being home again if only for a day. Arrived last night and tomorrow the adventure continue in Guatemala.
This #MexMonday as it is called on twitter I will spend in the Toluca/Metepec area.

I have some mixed memories from my visit here last year. If it was the local Metepec liquor Garañona or something I ate that gave me Montezums revenge I don’t know, but it was a very unpleasant (and messy) story. Besides that I had a great time, about 65 km (40 miles) west of Mexico City it feels very much like small town Mexico although the population in whole metropolitan area is closer to 2 million.

If you ever get around of course you should try the Garañona, it is a sweet, quite strong drink made out of 15 herbs, only served and sold on the bar 2 de Abril, downtown Metepec. But also take a morning ride on the road between Metepec and Toluca, pull down the car window and smell the chocolate and fresh roasted coffee beans from the industries along side the road, that is all you need for breakfast.
Hotel staying may be a problem for non-smokers, the cheap hotels in the industrial area are a big no, I checked out a few of them and turned them down one by one, even for a smoker like me the reeking rooms were just to much to take. Best chances for a better room are in Toluca, but even there you should ask to see the room before checking in. If I have to recommend something I would choose San Carlos in Los Portales, they at least try to get rid of the smell. The hotel is also close to Cosmovitral, the botanic garden which should not be missed while here.
There is a lot to see in the surroundings, to much to write about now (I have to make the most of my short visit), but if you’re not going to a tourist resort on your Mexico trip at least try to leave Mexico City for a couple of days.

Off to new adventures!

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Previously posted in www.planningmexico.com

Life is either a great adventure or nothing. ~Helen Keller

The first trip of the year goes to Maya country, Guatemala.

A beautiful country and undeniable a lot to see if you are interested in culture and history. And for a coffee addict as me it is the place to visit. Unfortunately I am just there for 8 days and will not have time to see that much, I don’t rush around when traveling I take the days as they come.
Of course I will make a stop in Mexico for a day, last year I found a restaurant serving a traditional Swedish dish, Pyttipanna, “put-in-a-pan”. Originally just left overs, but with time it became a dish of its own. It tasted almost as it does in Sweden although one key ingredient were missing so I figure I drop that off before I continue on my new adventures.

What is there to say about Guatemala? (Mom, you can stop reading now).
Some of my friends, they don’t say it flat out, but to judge from their look, think I finally done it. Crossed that border between adventurous to idiot. As they see it, or rather read the news, Mexico is violent enough, now I manage to find an even more violent country to visit. And my boss is a bit worried, probably not that concerned about my personal safety, but to loose a key member of her team.
How bad can it really be? Let’s see what the Swedish embassy [Link to Swedish] have to say about:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings
  • Avoid exposing jewelery and valuables
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash
  • Be mentally prepared for the risk of thefts and robbery
  • Don’t loose your passport

I don’t know, so far it’s pretty standard stuff. But then they go on with places to avoid:

  • In Guatemala City avoid zones 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. counting all 30 zones except 9, 10, 14 and 15. But they have a note to it, even zones 9, 10, 14 and 15 is no longer considered safe.
  • Avoid going to Antigua
  • Avoid Petén
  • Avoid Tikal
  • Avoid Lake Atitlán
  • Avoid climbing Volcanoes
  • Avoid swimming in the Pacific Ocean
  • Avoid driving
  • Avoid local buses
  • Avoid taxis

What is left to do? In short what they say is – Stay at your hotel room, but only if you have a safe. Preferably hide under the bed.

The usual holiday traveler looking for sun and bath would probably choose an other destination. All my trips usually turns in to adventures anyway so I say…

Bring it on, challenge accepted!

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Previously posted in www.planningmexico.com

“Bright light city gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire”
~Elvis Presley

Remember the time you went with a roll of film to a photo store and had it developed? I was cleaning out a closet last night and found a box of old photos. Bad quality, a lot of noise, but it was a trip down memory lane. Las Vegas 2001 was fun. I spent a lot of money, met some fun people and saw some impressing sights.
Oh yes, I got married but that’s a sidetrack, and as a true Vegas wedding it didn’t last very long.

One character I remember vividly is ‘Fast Eddie’. Off the strip far from the tourists I met this old school mobster who in his young days knew all the right people. I made the mistake calling him a wise guy (as I said in my previous post I’m not following my own advices about safety). Being in his 70’s he would probably still have taken me out back and beat me up if my newly wedded bride hadn’t been with me, and that is the best case scenario. As the rumor went he had buried bigger and tougher men than me out in the desert.
Luckily I wasn’t alone so I bought him a beer and we sat in the bar talking for hours, I had to keep my voice down because he had to hear what was going on around us at all time, old habits sticks I guess. Apparently Las Vegas was better before, the 60’s was a golden era. For the city or for the mafia I really don’t know, but it was better.

We manage to do some sightseeing too. Among other we saw Grand Canyon, actually flew through the Canyon. Mother earth do know how to create wonders. On the ground we were guided around by Native Americans, nice but so sad to see this once proud people standing on the side of the road selling cheap jewelery.
We were taken to see Eagle rock, a sacred place for the Hualapai people, I can see why. I had some mixed emotions about having it as a tourist trap though, sacred are sacred no matters which God.

Eagle rock - Rocky mountains. Photo: Dan Freed

Eagle rock – Rocky mountains. Photo: Dan Freed

Anyway it was a great trip which had it all. Married in Little White chapel, beer with the mafia, lost all my money (thank you Amex saving my last week) saw Grand Canyon and Hoover dam.
I think I got the most out of Vegas

Have fun, travel and go south. The north is to cold

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Previously posted in www.planningmexico.com

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.”
~Frank Herbert

This is a trip to Greece I went on a few years ago.
It was planned for two weeks, but I cut it one week short. Coming home it felt like a terrible vacation, but after a few days with some perspective I had some mixed emotions. It was an adventure, as most of my trips turns out to be.

It was summer, I had some vacation days to take but no plans. Than I read that Greece opened the water for diving, it has earlier been prohibited due to archaeological heritage and fear of treasure hunters. I booked a last minute ticket to anywhere in the Greek archipelago, ended up at Thassos, The green island of Greece, covered with pine trees.
The dive center was located on the other side of the island from my hotel, my first day I spent trying to find someone talking any language but Greek and help how to get around the island.
Next morning I took a bus to Pefkari beach and met the owner and dive guide. A crazy Greek. First he snort at my PADI-certificate, then he gave me way to much weights and a BCD (dive west) about two sizes to large. I went up and down like a yo-yo in the water trying to handle my west and avoiding to get the tank in my neck. Afterwards the crazy Greek whines I had problem keeping the depth… Yes, I wonder why….

In the evening I had some drinks, Ouzo and Retzina, drinking with the locals I had a little bit more than expected, so now diving the day after. I went around in the village tasting the domestic food. Unfortunately it’s garbage day, not a good day to smell Greece.
New morning and time to dive. On place at the crazy Greek in good time. Having breakfast and laying on the beach a couple of hours. About half an hour before we had planned to go out, he says there will be no diving today. Why? He’s a crazy Greek, he doesn’t need a reason. It’s about now I decide to go home early and save my free days for another time.
Next day I learned my lesson, I call before I leave. No diving today either. Why? Who knows, crazy Greek. He did promise it will be two tours tomorrow, Monday. 10 am and 4 pm.
Spending the rest of the day as a tourist, the beach a couple of hours, looking at ancient monuments, having some more of the Greek cuisine. They do know how to cook.

Monday is the day my trip turned from a bad vacation to an adventure. Being in Greece of course it starts a bit chaotic. It’s my last chance to dive, so I am up early. At 8:30am I start look for a rental service to get a car. I found two, none of them had any cars though. At 9 I start panicking and called a taxi. Asking the driver if he could be at Pefkari beach in an hour, it’s just 50 km, but with the narrow roads it’s about an hours drive.
“No problems,” I think he says, he only speaks Greek. And he drove… After running two stop signs, driving on both sides of the streets and speeding 120-130 km/h on roads with a speed limit of 50km I stop looking, I just lean back and holding on for the ride.
All of a sudden he turns inland… great I’m going to be robbed and raped, guess that’s what’s missing… It was actually a shortcut, I arrived after 25 minutes, with shaking legs and happy to be alive I tip the driver well and say a prayer I never have to be driven by him again.
It was well worth it, we got out at 10:30 and this time I got to choose suit, west and weight myself. It was a terrific dive. Warm clear water 20 meters visibility. Colorful fishes, squids and an enormous moray.
After the dive a dutch invited me to lunch in the village but I was sure to be back at the crazy Greek by 4pm for the last dive. When I got there he said he changed is mind, there will be no more tours today. I had to remind him he promised me one more tour, my last dive.
He offered me to go solo out on the reef. Dive alone in unknown water? Not to recommend but I do it.
I hovered between 8 and 5 meters when the moment appears, that moment you wish you bought a UW-camera. A shoal of about 500 little blue aquarium fishes shows up, totally fearless. I meet them nose to nose and for a few seconds the whole world is blue.

Back at the hotel I was satisfied with the day. My hotel neighbors was going home next day and that was my my last day so no more diving. We all go out and party as only Swedes on vacation do…. Not a pretty sight

/Damianos ~The Greek name I was given

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