Travel

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

Destiny - - Contents - BY Carol Ofori

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.

SIGHT-SEE­ING

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.

NIGHTLIFE

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.

SHOP­PING

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.

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