The Sun and The Moon

How can one city be so noisy in the morning? Oh wait there’s more than 10 million people here that’s how. In all honesty it didn’t really matter because we had another early morning, rise and shine, wake up call. We had to be on the bus by 8AM to begin our tour of Mexico City.

Getting on the bus this morning was a little different as we were joined by, I believe 22 more tour mates, who all are just starting their tour. As best we could, the original Mexican Contiki family gathered into the very back of the bus. Segregation did occur and we may or not be okay with it, but only in this context. We didn’t want newbies. We liked our original crew but we adjusted quickly to the change, as I knew we would. I was a bit bitter for most of the day because I was leaving and wasn’t in the mood to make new friends, which lasted for about 30 minutes.

We started off our morning, driving through different parts of downtown Mexico City, making our way to the main cathedral and National Palace (government building). As we drove, we learned about the various round-a-bout status and their meaning. None of which I remember. Brain was in full overloaded at this point. When we arrived at the National Palace, we exited the bus and divided into two groups. At this point, we did have two tour guides due to Mexican law, which was a little sad because Ish has been it for us for a whole week, but again we learned to adjust.

Entering the National Palace, after the metal detectors, you walk into this open courtyard with a beautiful fountain. Ish was explaining to us the history behind the fountain and the building itself, which is still used for government purposes today.The main stairwell and the walls of the second floor are covered, ceiling to floor, by grande fresco murals designed and created by Diego Rivera. The murals located on the wall are jointly titled “The Epic of the Mexican People”, created between 1929 and 1935, to demonstrate the various stages of the Mexico culture. The main stairwell mural is a combination of different images that depict the History of Mexico from 1521 to 1930.  In the middle level of the National Palace is another set of 11 panals by Diego that are part of a series depicting the pre-Hispanic era. Due to Diego’s passing, this series was not completed and the walls remain blank. Looking at Diego’s collection of frescos at the National Palace is quite impressive and reminds mea little of Michelangelo and his work at the Vatican. 

After exiting the National Palace, we were off to the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City, commonly referred to as Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral. This main cathedral located right next door to the National Palace is the largest cathedral in the Americas and built in sections between the years 1573 and 1813. The church is designed and built in the Baroque style, common throughout Mexico. Like many popular historical places, the cathedral has suffered some extensive damage over the past century. A fire back in the 1960s destroyed a large portion of the interior requiring restoration that uncovered some important documents and artwork (seeing the positive from a negative situations). Built on soft clay soil, the churches foundation was beginning to create a sinking affect and threading the structural integrity, placing this cathedral on the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Thankfully, following restoration, the Mexico City metropolitan Cathedral was removed in the year 2000.

Before parting ways with the center of Mexico City, we stood outside the cathedral and captured our Mexico Contiki Tour group photo (minus several tour mates who came down with the flu bug).

Once back on the bus, the introductions between the old and the new tour mates began. We had to sit next to one of the newbies to merge the old with the new. I sat next to a young Aussie named Jacob, who reminded me a little of my brother with his long hair. He was quite the surfer boy and was there for a good time. Many of the new tour mates were there to PARTY, after all they are heading to Cancun for 4 days. We did introductions the entire bus ride out to our next included excursion, Teotihuacán.

What is Teotihuacan? Teotihuacan was an ancient pre-Columbia Mesoamerican city located just outside of modern day Mexico City. This place is known to many for it’s extravagant archaeological structures and two grand pyramids. These pyramids are dedicated to two Gods the ancient people of Mexico worshipped. The larger of the two is known as Pyramid of the Sun and the smaller one is known as the Pyramid of the Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world, after the Great Pyramid of Cholula and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Thanks to restoration efforts, both pyramids are able to be climbed by tourists and is the most visited archaeological  in Mexico. This archaeological site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Ish began to explain to us, prior to lunch and entrance into the site, that Teotihuacan was one of the sites nominated for becoming one of the New Seven Wonder of the World. However, because not much is truly known about this archaeological site, that it did not end up qualifying for the final seven. I find it fascinating that for as much that is known about Teotihuacan, their is still more unknown about this grand site.

BUT…before we entered into the archaeological site, we made a pit stop at a local craft market/shop to learn a little about tequila and about their acclaimed volcanic rock art pieces. We learned about the process of turning agave, which varies from region to region into tequila. The men who harvest the agave plants, jimadores,  use a tool called a coa, and are taught to be able to identify a plant ready for harvest versus those that are not. They maintain adequate heights of the quoites, which are   high stalks that grows from the center of the plant. Did you know that if the quoites were skinned away from the stalk, the material is actually as strong as paper, and can in fact be written on? I wouldn’t have believed it myself if she didn’t show us.

Once identified the jimadores carefully cut away the leaves from the piña, the succulent core of the plant. This is when the process of heating, cooking, draining the juice, fermenting and so for begins. After all the processes are complete you’d have tequila, which THEN becomes classified into the 5 commonly known types:

  • Blanco (white) or plata (silver): white spirit, unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels
  • Joven (young) or oro  (gold): unaged Blanco tequila that is colored and flavored with caramel
  • Reposado (rested): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size
  • Añejo (aged or vintage): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels
  • Extra Añejo (extra aged or ultra aged): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels, this category was established in March 2006

We also tried our hand at a delicious cactus beverage called pulque. Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting the sap of the maguey (agave) plant. It’s a bit milky in color, but tastes delicious.

After our tequila lesson, the guide began walking us through their process of creating volcanic glass sculptures using various minerals and stones located around the region. This particular volcanic glass is known as obsidian. It is a naturally forming glass found within the margins of lava flows where the chemical composition nduces a high viscosity and polymerization degree of the lava, thus creating obsidian. Obsidian is hard and brittle and was highly used throughout the pre-Columbia Mesoamerican culture (click here for further information regarding the uses in Mesoamerica). I had no idea lava could become a natural glass and the designs and sculptures put together at this store were breath-taking.

After our “quick” and educational stop at this shop, we headed towards our lunch destination. We dined at Restaurant McCoy Artesania, which was a buffet style restaurant. It was a little pricy and wasn’t anything spectacular but did has some wide variety of traditional dishes and entertained us with an Aztec style dance. I think at this point in the day, as it’s like 1 o’clock, we were all ready for the pyramids and were happy when it was FINALLY time to enter the site.

When we arrived and exited the bus, we were given a little bit more history about the site, but I was in complete “awe” starring at the centuries old ancient buildings. I don’t even know how to put into words this feeling of utter amazement. Have you ever been somewhere that was so historic and beautiful? This feeling has only happened to me once before in Pompeii and even then I couldn’t formulate words. We walked towards the Pyramid of the Moon, which you are able to climb half way and the steps were so steep you practically had to crawl up them and coming down you had to hold onto a rope. The Moon rises to 140 feet towards the sky, and I estimate that we climbed to approximately 100 feet high (as I have no idea). Not going to lie, I was actually afraid I was going to fall.

Once down, I continued my way through the Plaza of the Moon with John, Mark and Stef and down the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Sun. The Sun rises 246 feet (75meters) and Stef and I climbed ALL THE WAY to the top and the view was astonishing. It was exhausting climbing but worth ever ounce of energy. At the top, Stef and I met up with Jimmy, Amy, Darren and Todd and had some entertaining photo opportunities including many selfies (typical). We weren’t able to spend too much time at the top, but even just the short 15 minutes was enough for a life time.

Back on the bus for our hour long drive back into the city, which I’m pretty sure was spent in semi-silent as many of us, myself included were completely spent. I was planning on grabbing a nap at the hotel in prep for the night’s festivities, but once back at the hotel many of us gathered in Jess and Nick’s room for pre-evening drinking and socializing. I must say, the new tour mates were in party mood and rearing to go. We didn’t have too much time before it was off to dinner.

Dinner tonight was INSANE as we added about 20 more people to the crew. We dined at a restaurant called “El Refugio” fonda where we were served a choice of soup from a selection of three (chicken, chicken and veggies, and veggie) and a combo plate, which included a stuffed chile, a chicken enchilada, and a taco. Talk about selection. Plus, all of this was ended with dessert. I could barely make it though the main plate of food. The best part of dinner was trying to figure out what was going on. There were so many new faces and with the tight quarters it got loud quickly. This was just the beginning of our night as many of us decided we would “party hardy”.

After dinner, Ish directed us to a local bar called Tamaulipas, via taxi, where I jumped in with Mark, John and Jimmy. Let’s just say the night escalated from here in so many great ways. Taking tequila shots with Stef and Amy to start, dancing with the crew, to “ditching” (I say that nicely) the newbies and making our way towards an Irish pub, where we proceeded to dance and talk and laugh. We ended the night screaming at the top of our lungs to our tour song, “Get Lucky”, and I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to end this tour.

I knew then that the next day would be the final goodbyes (which ended up being me completely hungover), but having one last go round was more than I could have asked for. This entire experience, trip and everyone I met on my Mexican Adventure with Contiki was perfect. I have had the time of my life, accomplished something I never thought was possible, met so many amazing people, and learned more about a culture I grew up right next too.

Thank you to the entire Contiki family including Ginny and her team, who worked behind the scenes to set this up; to Claire for making my time in Cancun so wonderful and traveling across the Atlantic to support me as I concurred my fear; to Celine and Capkin for taking time away from your son to help make my No Regrets day possible and the amount of time spent planning and filming this trip; and to Ish and my tour mates for providing me with an amazing tour filled with knowledge, laughter and an all around once-and-a-lifetime experience. Lastly I want to thank my entire support system- God, my family, my friends and my follower for coming along my journey with me and supporting me with everlasting love and faith. I don’t think I could have done any of this without each and every one mentioned. I cannot wait till my next big adventure- transitioning my life into a new city and new job.

Largest City I’ve Ever Been To

Waking up in Taxco was quite magical. The view even better with the sun rise than it was at sunset. I cannot explain how beautiful this mountainside mining town was and pictures don’t quite show its true beauty. Mindful of the view, we still had a early morning deadline to get to breakfast then onto the bus. I’m not going to lie though, I was pretty eager to head back into Mexico City, the 9th largest city in the world. This city is the largest city I’ve ever been to, by a long shot.

Once on the bus, we headed northeast through some mountains before our first stop of the day, Xochimilco. Xochimilco is one of Mexico City’s 16 delegación (boroughs) and is best known for its canals, which are the remainders of the pre-historic Lake Xochimilco (where the city originally settled). The canals weave throughout artificial islands called chinampas and attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola style boats called “trajineras”. With this intricate mix of islands, canals, and trajineras, Xochimilco has been elected as a World Heritage Site, however degradation has placed Xochimilco’s status in question.

As we unloaded ourselves off the bus, we headed down to the water front to enjoy an included excursion on our very own and very colorful trajinera. Each trajinera is designed to have a long table with chairs lining both sides, easily accessible to the chalupas (smaller “canoes), who ride up along the sides of the boats and sell their goodies. In today’s economy the boats are brightly colored, however in the past these boats would be completely decorated with real flowers in different design patterns. We were blessed with a mini-parade of historically decorated trajineras and I was blown away. I couldn’t even begin to explain how many flowers these boats had on them, plus each boat was tossing flowers at every boat that passed by.

Following our little canal tour, we hit the road for a quick 30 minute drive to another suburb known as Coyoacan. This suburb is actually where our tour guide grew up and gave us the inside scoop of the “must-dos”. One of the unique facts about Coyoacan is the fact that it’s the home to Frida Kahlo, who was born, raised and died in her “Blue House”. It was getting close lunchtime (okay, past lunchtime) by the time we exited the bus and this time Ish took us to a local taco stand for some authentic tacos. I was most excited for these because we haven’t had the opportunity to try our hand at some taco stands. This particular stand offered three different varieties of tacos- papas (potatoes), frijoles (beans), and pork and you can believe that I tried each one, papas being my most favorite!

After we inhaled our tacos, we were off (following Ish) on a little churro/coffee run. The churros in Coyoacan, as Ish was explaining, are some of the best churros in Mexico City. He may have been a little biased, but they were DELICIOUS. I got mine filled, yes filled, with caramel and after chugging my frozen Mocha just minutes before I was on my way towards a sugar rush. Following our churro/coffee run, the crew split into smaller groups and ventured off. I joined in with the Stiffs and South Africans and we headed to the main cathedral for a walk through and then to the handicraft markets. After a little time shopping, Stef, myself, Mark and John decided we would take a tour through Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. I know it seems fairly cheesy and touristy but I remember studying and learning about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera throughout my childhood and I was in awe the entire 20 minutes it took to get through her home. Plus, you only live once and I may never get this chance again.

It was back on the bus for the crew and off to the final hotel of the tour, where I would spend our final two night in Mexico and close our my Mexican adventure, Mexico City. Mexico City is the 9th largest city in the world with an estimated 23 million people, who commute into the city center on any given weekday. I don’t know about you, but that’s A LOT of people. It’s a bit smoggy because of the amount of pollution but doesn’t take away from the mystic atmosphere of the city.

Mexico City is my Mexican adventure story takes an interesting turn. The Mexican Contiki tours are all connected. The tour I’m on is called the Mexican Fiesta, which is the first part of the Mexican Grande tour and arriving back in Mexico City is where the second half, or Yucatan Highlights, begins. We knew that once we arrived at the hotel there was a chance of meeting some of the new tour members, who would be joining for the second half. It’s kind of an interesting dynamic because they are just starting and we are finishing. Once arrived at the hotel, I changed quickly and headed up to the rooftop pool and laid out in the sun for a solid hour and met several of the newbies.

By the time dinner rolled around, several of us weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We knew we would be having a long and busy day tomorrow and weren’t planning on “going out” but we were hungry. We ended up at P.F. Changs and it was a nice change in cuisine from the traditional Mexican food I’ve been consuming the last two weeks. Spending quality time with my tour mates never gets old and this dinner was just that, quality time. I know that my time Mexico is coming to a close but my adventure isn’t quite over. Tomorrow is a big last day and I can’t wait for you to read all about it!

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to Taxco we go

Goodbye Acapulco. Goodbye beautiful beaches. Goodbye ocean.

Hello Taxco. Hello mountains. Hello silver and jewelry. Hello haunted hotel.

Are you singing it? “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go” from the famous Disney movie Snow White. I bet you are now. I use this play on words in the title for 2 reasons: 1) To introduce our next spot on the tour, Taxco, Mexico, and 2) to give a reason to WHY we are visiting this town.

We left Acapulco bright and early to head back inland with EVERYONE! Always a plus when leaving Acapulco. We were headed to Taxco, a small town on a mountain side southwest from Mexico City in the state of Guerrero. This small town of 50+ thousand people is best known for it’s silver mines, jewelry, and silverware industry. These, along with its colonial constructions and the picturesque scenery are the reasons why Taxco is another one Mexico’s Pueblo Magico towns. I couldn’t even begin to describe to you what I was thinking when I first laid eyes on this mountainside town. When I looked out the window all I saw were white buildings with reddish colored roof tiles and it took my breath away. 

While on the bus just outside the town, Ish was explaining to us the unique design of this town and how the roads are all over the place. Because Taxco is a mining town, back in the heyday, families and miners would just build house wherever the could in the city, which has caused the road system to be all twists and turns. This fact is why the bus had to drop us off on the outskirts of town along the one major road outside a local jewelry shop, and honestly the only cars that can make it efficiently through this town are VW bugs. This jewelry shop was our first stop in the city and it was here where we learned about the history of silver and how to identify false silver from pure silver. We learned the differences between .900, .925, and .999 silver and the specific mineral, silver gardenia, mined in Taxco. Once out of the mines, the mineral is than processed and the silver mental is extracted and transformed into the jewelry and silverware seen around the city.

During our educational lesson of silver, we were provided with a welcome lemonade refreshment, made from honey bee, lemon juice, mineral water and 7.5 drops of tequila, as 8 drops would be dangerous. It was quite strong but delicious none-the-same. Following our lesson, we did a little bit of shopping and began our way into the Zocolo, centre of town. This was the start to our walking tour.

On the walking tour, we passed by the Church of the Ex-monastery of San Bernardino de Siena. This church is the oldest in the area and was constructed at the end of the16th century. Sadly, it endured the wrath of a fire and in the 19th century underwent a restoration. On the backside of this beautiful church stands three beautiful religious sculptures. As we continued our way through the windy roads, we passed by a couple of smaller churches and common areas, and at one point, Stef and I got a little lost because we sort of, well had too much fun taking pictures. I know, I know, this is a complete shocker! 

We took a break in our tour and enjoyed some delicious grub. I use the term grub because it was here where Ish introduced us to our second Bug of choice, the stinkbug, commonly known as jumiles. Jumiles are small stinkbugs that can be consumed roasted, fried, ground, or even raw (yuck). At this particular establishment, they combined the bugs in a salsa form and it wasn’t too bad actually. Crunchy would be the word I would use to describe this particular delicacy.

Following lunch, it was off to the main cathedral in town, the Parish of Santa Prisca y San Sebastían, commonly referred to as the Santa Prisca Church. This church was built by José de la Borda and is one of the few Baroque buildings in the state. Interesting fact, despite Borda’s fortune, made from the silver mines, the construction of this church practically put him into bankruptcy. Could you imagine spending almost your entire fortune on the building and development of a church? Talk about love for a building. Then it was off to a few other popular jewelry stores for more shopping!

We were given a little bit of free time to explore, and thanks to the lovely guidance from Ish, I ventured off to an overlook of the church and zocolo. Walking shortly behind me was Bec, John, Mark, and Glenn and we continued to walk upwards though the zig-zag roads. Once we reached a specific point, we had the BEST idea that we would jump into a 3 person taxi, a.k.a. VW bug. I’m not sure if you’ve done the math but there was 5 of us and it required a little bribing from John before the taxi-driver decided to accept our business. Let’s just say that was the most entertaining 7 minute cab ride.

It was back to the zocolo where we met up with the rest of the crew and made our way to our hotel. Oh, our hotel. Hotel Posada de la Mision. This was probably the greatest lodging we had on the entire tour. Reason being, it’s a known HAUNTED HOTEL. The history behind this hotel is actually very difficult to explain in words (hopefully I’ll get the video done soon) but I’ll try to summarize. Way back when, this location was that of a mission where people would venture too for a number of reasons, wounded soldiers or even exorcisms, which has caused many spirits to remain in this particular location.

Once we were checked in, Bec and I headed up to our room and it took us all but 5 seconds before we realized “the view.” Yes, our view was unbelievably stunning. I don’t even know if words could describe the beauty of Taxco. Since the day was amazingly sunny and hot, many of us headed down to the freezing cold pool to relax, which as usual ended up in many laughters and the introduction to our new tour mate, Pedro. Pedro is our dolphin friend (inside tour joke) and remained with us the entire remainder of the trip (including the Yucatan Peninsula). With a little hilarity down by the pool, we all went our separate ways to prepare ourselves for dinner.

Dinner was at local restaurant and included a lot of delicious cuisine and an amazing view of the city and church. Our first course include a fabulous chicken tortilla soup complete with avocados, tortilla strips and cheese! Next came a delicious multi-meat dish in a stone bowl paired with cactus and although I was stuffed before the entree came out, I ate a fairly decent amount and it was 100% worth it.

One of the best part of dinner, besides the amazing food, was the view. It’s to put into words, but all I can say is that it was pitch black and all you could see were lights from the houses and stood high above all the rest was the magnificent Santa Prisca Church. It was quite the dinner!

After dinner, we decided that tonight was a perfect night for a pool party/story time. Ish is not only an amazing tour guide, but a wonderful historian. We spent several hours listening about the history of Taxco and the Posada de la Mision hotel, which ended up with personal stories about spirits, afterlife, and family. These moments and nights are those memories that I cherish among the rest. Just hanging out laughing, talking and getting to know each other on a more personal note. What a way to end an amazing day in the beautiful town of Taxco and tomorrow we head back to the big city of Mexico City.

 

Time to Dive (Again)

Another full day in Acapulco and another day out on the water. Can you blame us? We are in Acapulco after all. What we did on the water varied depending on what each of us picked from the optional excursion Contiki offered. We were to select from kayaking, snorkeling or diving. As I won this trip because of my fear of the ocean, and I concurred that goal via scuba diving, it was only fitting that I dove. I was originally the only one who selected this option, which kind of bummed me out but Stefani decided after sometime to join in on the fun. What I didn’t know is that regardless of which optional you selected, we were all together for the entire day.

This optional was set up with Acapulco Scuba Center and they provided us with everything we’d need. In total, 15 tour mates opted in this adventure (minus 2 who was unable to join due to the bus-virus); 4 were suppose to kayak (1 opted out once on the boat), 8 snorkeled and I scuba dove solo because poor Stef was one of the 2 who got to bug. It was quite the group and there was plenty of laughs!

We boarded the boat and relaxed a little as our guides prepped all the equipment, including fitting me with a very tight and snug wet suit. It took us nearly 45-60 minutes to actually locate a location to start our water adventure because of the amount of jellyfishes in the water. We attempted 4 different locations around Isla Roquette and each location we went too had so many jellyfishes on the surface it almost looks like the night sky. These jellyfish were about the size of a dollar (if even that big) and although not poisonous, they do pack a punch. At this point, I especially was a bit on the hot side because I’m still wearing the wetsuit (halfway) and was getting bummed that they were going to cancel the dive. Luckily after launching the kayakers and relocating the boat, it was time to get into the water.

To enter the water, we use the giant leap method, which I actually practiced and landed perfectly. Unfortunately, I forgot about my red filter on my GoPro and I turned the entire video red. Lesson learned. On this dive, I was joined by my dive master and another straggler, who was just learning to dive. It was quite frustrating diving with someone who was just learning, but in reality I became in a daze when underwater. It was fun searching for all the creatures, though if it wasn’t for my dive master I probably wouldn’t have seen half of them. The water was a bite muggy but I learned this was pretty typical for this time of year because of the temperature. In total I saw: blowfishes, stingrays, starfish, a sea-horse, a frog fish, eels and various other types of tropical fishes. We surfaced once during our dive because of the other man I was diving with, but in total we were underwater for about an hour. Click for pictures- Can you spot the animals?

Once back on board, I found out that a few of my tour mates became bait for the jellyfish. I felt really bad and they told me they couldn’t really see the fishes because of the clarity of the water. Regardless, everyone appeared to have a wonderful time. We left our dive spot and started to venture around the island in search of the kayakers. We were unable to locate them right away and so we headed out towards the open waters, and their right in front of us were BLUE WHALES. OMGOSH, could this day be any more wonderful. BLUE WHALES. I didn’t bring my big DSLR camera (lesson learned) but I was able to capture a little bit of the whales jumping out of water. We all were in complete excitement. We even saw a wild sea turtle, who kept embracing our presence by peaking its head above the surface. I think in total, we relaxed on the boat staring into the ocean watching the whales for nearly 20 minutes before the captain decided it was time to find the kayakers.

We located them and once they re-boarded the boat and asked us where we were, we headed back to land to continue with our last and final day in Acapulco. As we got back to our hotel fairly early and while some people hit the pool, I took a little nap/transferred photos onto my computer. This didn’t last too long and I was up and ready for dinner. I actually don’t remember what happened for dinner on this night but I do remember the crew gathering for a hotel party. Our tour guide called us “boring” because many of us chose to go to bed vs. heading out on the town. A few of the decided to, but I was very happy with going to bed. Tomorrow was another fun day on the bus heading to a small mining town.  Stay tuned.

 

Releasing baby turtles

Staying up until 2:30/3 AM was probably not the smartest idea in the world when you had a full day packed with outdoors/wildlife activities planned. This optional wasn’t a very popular one, but when Ish told us what we’d actually be doing, 4 of us jumped at the opportunity. It was the Stiffs, myself and Aimee.

The morning started with us girls getting into an unmarked white van with our tour guide in the drivers seat. His name was Roger Doger. I wasn’t sure at this point what to expect but it’s Mexico so I just went with the flow. He drove us towards south Acapulco to a popular location known as Barra Vieja for a motorboat ride along Laguna de Tres Palos. This particular freshwater lagoon is a very common location for many different exotic species of tropical birds and is a sanctuary for the variety of wildlife. The boat ride lead us south through the lagoon for a good hour where we enjoy the opportunity to try our hand at bird watching, the most popular bird was the white heron. Poor Steph had a difficult time, but was able to spot a few beautiful birds by the end of the ride.

Throughout this boat ride, Roger Doger was explaining much about the wildlife in this particular location using his very own hand drawn images. It’s a compilation of the specific birds that he’s seen in the region. Quite impressive of a tour guide. It shows the passion he has for 1) what he does, and 2) for his city. I was able to capture many of the species of birds we saw and I wish I could name them, but due to the late night, I was struggling to give my full attention.

Once we reached the end of the lagoon, we entered into this small mangrove tunnel that lead us to a open water filled with water lilies and lily pads. I was at a loss for words. I felt like I was in the scene from the Notebook. When I looked towards the captain, he had his hand in the water. At this point I was questioning what he was doing until he lifted a lily onto the boat and proceeded to manipulate the stem. In less than 30 seconds, the stem became part of a lily necklace. I was quite impressed. We continued our way back to shore and the entire ride back the four of us girls were talking about how we could spend our whole day with the fresh breeze in our hair.

We left the lagoon and headed towards part 2 of the optional: Campamento Tortuguero. Campamento Tortuguero is a conservation and protection camp for marine turtles located in Barra Vieja on a stretch of beach known as Playa Larga. This conservatory is ran by a local biologist/environmentalist, who spends his time rescuing, releasing and educating others regarding the three different turtle species located along the Guerrero coast line, include the endangered Tortuga Golfina . By doing this, he has increased the survival rate of these turtles from 1% to 5%, which is a huge increasing for these creatures. Campamento Tortuguero is a hands on conservatory, meaning after a little education regarding turtles, you are able to hold and release your own adoptive Golfina sea turtle into the ocean. What I learned from our 15 minute introductory lesson was how the sex of the turtle is based on the location and temperature within the nest. Males on top, females on the bottom. 

Turtles are probably one of my most favorite animals and given this opportunity to hold something for fragile and endangered was more than words could say. Sea turtles are so tiny and they just rest in your hand flapping their little fins. Talk about adorable. I named my turtles, Hercules and Merida (if you watch disney movies you’d understand). Steph gave her’s redneck names (I can’t remember specifically what she named them) and the other Stef named her’s Michelangelo and Raphael. This was diffidently the highlight of the trip thus far.

At this point, all four of us are beginning to fade, and although we technically had one last stop to a botanical gardens (after our quick stop lunch), our tour guide accidentally started to head back to the hotel. None of us complained and we were happy to end our tour after the turtles. I don’t think you could really top adopting and releasing turtles. Instead, Amy and Steph took a nap and Stef and I headed down to the pool to meet up with some of the other tour mates. It was quite the afternoon of lounging around and drinking beers/margaritas in the sun.

My day didn’t end here. Tonight was another exclusive Backstage Pass inclusion offered by Contiki. We had the opportunity to board a party boat for a sunset cruise around the Acapulco Bay and Isla Roquette. The party cruise lasted about 90 minutes and while some of us were enjoying the complimentary beverages, others were struggling/recovering from last nights extravaganza. I luckily wasn’t battling a hangover like others so I was able to enjoy some free beverages, however because I chose to opt in the scuba diving optional the next day, I was on a drinking time restriction. It didn’t take away from the experience and I really do love boating on the water especially at sunset.

Once the cruise ended and we hopped back onto the bus, we headed towards a local restaurant for our dinner. By this time, there were about 3-4 tour mates who started not feeling good and they chose to head back to the hotel verse coming out to dinner. We are 5 days into this tour and we’re dropping like flies. One by one, people have been beaten and bruised from this bus-curse of a sickness and I feel horrible for those who’ve missed out on tonights meal.

Ish told us about this place and how they have fabulously delicious chicken, steak and pork items including quesadillas and tacos. During dinner, I enjoyed another yummy Mexican traditional beverage, Horchata. Horchata is a rice-based milky style drink that is a combination of sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. And pretty darn delicious. It didn’t help that the restaurant over looked the coast line with the sunsetting behind the hills. For dinner I enjoyed delicious steak tacos with an order of guacamole (my all time favorite).

Once dinner ended, we made our way back to the hotel and quite frankly I don’t actually remember what we did. I think I called it an early night. I couldn’t drink and everyone was just trying to recover. I’m pretty excited though because I thought my last time diving for a while would have been in Cancun, but I am going diving in the morning! Yay for surprises (sort-of). Can’t wait for another day out on the water for another scuba diving adventure.