A Travellerspoint blog


updates from Zapatista territory

Paul and I have been traveling for the past little while in the Mexican state of Chiapas. We are seeing lots of amazing vistas, incredible mountains, and learning about the politicized Indigenous groups that inhabit the region. From what I am able to understand, though Chiapas is an oil producing state, ensuring a decent income for some, it is a place with much disparity. Many people struggle to attain adequate healthcare, education, access to land, and to live with basic human rights. There are many non-Spanish speaking people who have distinct cultural needs and practices. Beginning in 1994, when Mexico signed on to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), these people began asserting their rights publicly in the form of political protest and armed combat. The group has named itself EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation).

When we visited San Cristobal de las Casas, I was particularly interested in learning about the EZLN and what has become of the high profile uprisings of the 90s and early 2000s. I learned that the concerns of the Zapatistas are similar in nature to the inequalities First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people in Canada face. These include, but are not limited to: little recognition of land tenure, lack of political sovereignty and access to culturally appropriate healthcare and education. Bloody clashes between armed Zapatista groups and Mexican authorities left many dead, including countless women and children. Some of the images we saw during the documentary film Zapatista, crónica de una rebelión were definitely hard to stomach. Some of the more memorable These included: women in beautiful traditional garb and balaclavas violently pushing and swearing at soldiers sent to their town, Zapatista negotiators entering a political meeting with white ribbons tied around the barrels of their guns, and the streets of San Cristobal covered in bodies. It was a very powerful documentary that will take a while to digest.

Chiapas is not only home to current political tensions (the Zapatista demands have still not been met in any meaningful way in the public political sphere), but also home to some impressive and ancient Maya ruins. We checked out the ancient site of Palenque where waterfalls, jungle enshrouded ruins, and vertical architecture enchanted us. We are seeing nature and jungle like I have only ever dreamed of: teal waterfalls with trippy jungle vines, incredible bugs and animals, and wonderful agriculture and food. We have also managed to pick up a few stray travelers. We ran into Paul`s work buddy Moki on the beach in Nayarit, and he has been traveling with us since Oaxaca. We also have a few of his friends, Brittney and Brittany, hanging out and meeting up with us since we have been in Chiapas. It has been fun to travel as a bigger group for a little while, but are likely going to be back to two as we head into Belize in the upcoming week.

We closed in on the halfway mark, and now are on the downslope. It is hard to imagine that the next two months will take us through seven other countries (hopefully), but we are moving into some super small places in comparison. Mexico is such a populous place with so many different and interesting regions to explore that it deserves many many more trips. Mexico City, the Yucatan, and the Copper Canyon are just a few of the places we would have loved to spend time, but have our sights set on the end of the road. We have resolved to not fret about what we “miss”, but to enjoy what we see knowing that there will be more time and opportunities to check things out again.

Here are some photos from the southern end of Oaxaca and from the state of Chiapas. Some are taken by Moki (included with his permission)Enjoy.

-Susie and Paul















Posted by SusieMiller 13:24 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

About Mezcal

Tequila's bastard cousin

So Paul and I tend to focus our travels on eating and drinking. I figure there is no better way to take in a place than to taste and drink locally produced and in-season dishes and drinks. When we first got into Mexico we were excited about the cheap and good quality Tequila. We started a ‘tequila log’ rating the flavours and value of each bottle we sampled, but since being in Oaxaca we have discovered a much cheaper local drink- Mezcal. The lonely planet describes mezcal as “tequila’s bastard cousin”, and after sampling a few drinks, I would tend to agree.

On the drive up from the coast to Oaxaca City we passed by several booths advertising mescal, though you can buy it at most corner stores. We pulled off at one of the booths and discovered a micro-distillery under a house. We got the man who makes it to siphon some into an empty bottle that we had for the low low price of 35 pesos (about 3 dollars Canadian). Apparently mezcal is most often “enjoyed” straight. We experimented with a few flavour-masking mixes discovering that the flavour is very hard to mask. Our favourite blend is mezcal and Clamato, aptly named the ‘Bloody Mez’.

In the small mountain village of San Jose del Pacifico, we checked out a mezcal bar serving over 30 types of the drink with various fruity, sweet, and savoury flavours. After tasting several we decided that it was an acquired flavour.








Posted by SusieMiller 13:27 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

From Baja to mainland

The first few weeks in the rest of Mexico

sunny 27 °C

I can’t believe this is our first post since we have been on Mainland Mexico. We have both been neglecting the blog since there has been so much to see and do, but finally, here is an update of the past three weeks.

We started off with a six hour ferry ride from La Paz to Topolobompo in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Getting the vehicle import papers in order and buying our tickets was fairly easy and surprisingly inexpensive (around 200 dollars for both of us and the Trooper). Once we got moving, we had to make decisions about whether or not to take toll roads. I find there is so much misinformation and there are so many opinions around about what is safe to do in Mexico, what parts are to be avoided, and what tactics we should employ to stay safe that it is hard to decipher fact from fiction. We decided to err on the side of caution and have, as a rule, taken all toll roads provided they go to where we want to get to. These roads are often wider, better maintained, faster and apparently safer.






We started making our way south through the state of Sinaloa and into Nayarit. We hit some beach towns and got some sun, but headed inland after Christmas towards Guadalajara (Mexico’s second biggest city). Before we hit the big smoke, we stayed a few nights in the town of Tequila… I am not sure if the city is named after the drink or visa versa, but yes, there is a lot of tequila in Tequila. Distillery tours anyone? I loved the agave cactus fields, and enjoyed hearing about the process of distilling, aging, and distributing Mexico’s signature spirit.



We hit Gudalajara on the 30th of December and were lucky enough to be invited to stay with a couple we had met on the beach in Saylulita, Viviana and Michael. The city is extremely beautiful, and incredibly hip. Lots of murals, art, markets, and stylish people make it easy to pass days just wandering around. On New Year’s Eve we were welcomed into Viviana’s gradparents’ home for a family meal and celebration. We partook in some Mexican New Year’s traditions, eating 12 grapes at midnight for each of the upcoming months, walking around the block with a suitcase to ensure travel in the upcoming year, and eating a spoonful of lentils for money. At about 1 am we were invited to hit the club, and danced harder than we have since the trip began. Hello 2012. Thank you Viviana and Michael.






Our next stop was in a beach town called Boca de Pascuales. We rolled into a great little campsite run by a Kiwi man named Dave Stanley. His Mexcian wife runs a restaurant in Tecoman (10km from Pascuales) and his two kids are bouncing between. He was a gracious host, and an interesting guy. Later on in the night a bus full of travelling street performers rolled up and parked while they were waiting for another act to show up from Guadalajara to join them on the trip to Nicaragua. We spent four days relaxing and getting to know eclectic assortment of people in the camp. Lots of fun.




We are now in the state of Michoacan heading south. We are planning on zooming through the state of Guerrero into Oaxaca where I am told the food is Mexico’s finest. My Spanish is ever improving, as is Paul’s surfing. We are super excited to head deeper into Mexico and are getting a real interesting look at the various regions within this diverse country.

Hasta luego, que ustedes vayan bien.

For the photo captions, go to my photo gallery.

Posted by SusieMiller 15:58 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)



We crossed into Mexico without incident at Tijuana after we finished up with our errands in San Diego. We ended up with a couple of new boards (6’8” fish for Paul and a 7’2” hybrid for Susan) to fill the Thule box along with a handful of other stuff that is easier to obtain north of the border. We stayed the night just south of Ensenada before trucking all the way to my favorite point break about 500 kms south. The surf was decent on arrival though it deteriorated rapidly and we weathered a day or two of bocce ball on the beach along with a few Pacifico Ballenas (1 litter beers) until it cleared up and the waves started breaking in our favor. Leaving the Pacific would have been a lot harder if my shoulders weren’t completely worn out from paddling, so we drove to the inside of the peninsula to do some snorkeling and fishing.
We stayed at a somewhat isolated free camp site on the Sea of Cortes for about a week. The snorkelling and fishing were very relaxing. Susie got a nice sunburn and Paul got to take the speargun out for a spin. Now we are at a cheap, cavernous hotel in La Paz with ferry tickets and vehicle importation for the mainland. The plan is to head up the coast for a bit more relaxing on the beach before heading over on the ferry just before Christmas.
Here are some photos from the last few weeks on beautiful Baja.












Posted by PaulTodd 19:44 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Slab City

The strange and amazing camping experience.

So this is a little late since we have been in Mexico for several weeks already, but I wanted to post some pictures of the most random and whimsical camping experience we have had yet.

After consulting a free camping website, we found a spot inland in southern California near a town called Niland by the name of Slab City. If you have seen the film 'Into the Wild' you may be familiar with the spot. It is a random spot in the desert with a bunch of people living for free in an ecclectic spontaneous community that attracts a pretty full spectrum of people. It is kind of like burning man that never ends (minus the burning of the man).

We rolled in, following a mustang convertible with six hippies (plus gear and musical insrtuments), and set up to find out that Slab City has its own radio station, cafe, bar, book exchange, Holy site (salvation mountain), pet cemetary, and welcoming committee. The 'town'is a plowed down military base in the desert, of which only the cement slabs are left. Many people set up and live in school buses, RVs, and other mobile accomodations.

After wandering around (and being threatened by many angry dogs who were luckily chained up) we decided that it is a bit like a microcosm for a bigger city. The inner city, which once bustling and busy, is full, almost exclusively, of young crusty punks. There is a lot of trash left behind from likely many decandes of people living in mobile rigs. People in fancy larger RVs have expanded to the outskirts of 'town'.

It was a real interesting place to spend a night. I would not hesitate to return with an open mind and a lot more time.

Here are some photos of Slavation mountain and Slab City:





Posted by SusieMiller 19:08 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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