THERE’S A LOT MORE TO MEXICO THAN SOMBREROS AND PONCHOS: IT’S A COUNTRY WITH A WEALTH OF MYSTICAL FOLKLORE, SUPERFRIENDLY PEOPLE, DELICIOUS FOOD AND ENDLESS FUN
Every year for our anniversary, my husband and I escape reality and travel. We’ve been to many amazing destinations – though Mexico stands out. It took a lot of persuading before my hubby and I finally got to the land of tequila, tacos and churros. I’d always liked Mexican food and admired the beautiful beaches I’d seen on TV, and I was intrigued by Mexican culture. Cancún offered several wonderful highlights and must-do’s, but there are two downsides to remember: it’s so far away that it took us two days to get there and another two to return. It’s also a little pricey for South Africans, since most of the tourists are from the USA and Canada, and don’t have our crippling exchange rates to deal with. While the currency is Mexican pesos, most vendors prefer trading in US dollars.
There’s so much to see that it’s wise to do some research beforehand so that you know what your priorities are. These were ours: we visited the Mayan Ruins in Chichén Itzá using AllTour Native tours, which included an exceptional guide called Raphael, a swim in Maya Cenote (an underground river in a cave) and a traditional Mayan lunch. Chichén Itzá is extremely hot. Umbrellas are offered, but come prepared. It was fascinating learning about the Mayans and their rituals. Straight from there, we abseiled into the cenote cave and swam in beautiful, fish-filled water. There were Tarzan slides and platforms to jump from – I literally felt like a child again. Mexico apparently has over 10 000 cenotes across the country.
We then enjoyed an authentic traditional lunch prepared by the Mayan community who live in the area. From the honeyed potatoes to the chicken stew, burritos and Mayan ice-cream, all organically grown and prepared, it was a meal I’ll never forget.
If your budget’s limited to just one evening excursion, make sure it’s to Xoximilco. You’re transported to a place where several very large gondolas are lined up ready to take you on the ultimate Mexican party. As you arrive, a mariachi band welcomes you with great Mexican folk music and the revelry begins. Each gondola carries at least 20 people and is loaded with tequila, beer and soft drinks. However, it’s best to eat before you go, since the food might not be to your taste.
Once you leave the pier, you sail to several little man-made islands where different bands play local compositions. It’s basically a musical journey, as you hear various genres of Mexican music, all while playing drinking games and downing booze. It’s a pretty noisy, merry outing and great fun.
Cancún is a shopper’s paradise. You can bargain with most of the street vendors, but there are several malls to explore as well. I found a fabulous pair of Frida Kahlo pumps and a T-shirt.
If you’re planning to visit the Playa del Carmen city centre, wear comfortable shoes, as you can cover several kilometres walking past stalls and shops. Be careful though, because the locals may try knock you on the price.
And when it’s time to cool down, enjoy a margarita, a tequila and some churros at one of the stalls. Tequila and hot habanero sauce are also great gifts to buy for the folks at home, or you can visit one of numerous souvenir shops. If your budget allows, unique jewellery made with indigenous Mexican precious stones is available as well.
In all, Mexico was one of the best holidays we’ve ever had, exceeding all our expectations. Here are three tips to remember before you get there:
• Learn to drink tequila – even if it’s one shot. You can’t go to Mexico and not have a drop.
• Book an all-inclusive deal, preferably at an adultsonly resort, as this will save you money and make for a quieter stay.
• Take enough money for at least three excursions and shopping.
When she’s not doing international voice-over work, hosting a show on East Coast Radio or presenting Raising Babies on SABC2, Carol Ofori relishes being a wife and mother. Travelling is another passion that she indulges whenever she can.
At Xoximilco, several very large gondolas are lined up ready to take you on the ultimate Mexican party.