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 delegaci√≥n (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!

A Hiking Adventure: Little Bandera Mountain

Two weeks ago my life went from routined to busy and full of new adventures and it all began when I joined my new church’s outdoor group. This group sets up various outdoor adventures throughout the year and last weekend they planned to head to the southern Cascades for a moderate (or difficult) hike at Bandera Mountain. Since moving the Washington, I have became very interested in researching places I’m going and this was no exception. What I learned about Bandera Mountain wasn’t nearly enough to prepare me for what I was about to experience.

This hike, Little Bandera Mountain, located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Snoqualmie Pass Corridor-West), was a 7-mile round trip with a total elevation gain of approximately 2,850 feet, totally at 5,050 feet above sea level. Below is a quick summary, click here for more information.

Little Bandera Mountain tricks you at first with a gradual elevation gain/incline on an old logging road through the trees, but slowly turns into a steeper path. As you continue to climb, the scenery becomes less dense turning from trees/forest to meadows and flowers before hitting the point of no return- the 2-mile marker. Here is where the fun begins. The meadow/boulder-like trail runs right straight up the side the mountain to the ridge compiled of granite boulders, which you have to physically climb over at times (well, I did. Camera in hand too, mostly). At the summit of Little Bandera, you can enjoy panoramic views scanning the Cascades and an overview of Mason Lake, which is a break-off trail from Bandera. And if you think I’m joking about the “side of the mountain bit”, go check out the photos here.

Besides the amount of effort this trail took, one of the best parts to this hike was that I wasn’t alone. I was joined by 15 fellow Christian hikers, who I learned more and more about as the day went on and a few who became good friends. It was a different experience for me to hike with that many people but it felt pretty wonderful having others to share in the beautiful of Mother Nature and experience some of the beautiful land God created for us to enjoy. We all might have had different levels of skills and endurance, but the final destination was the same. Hiking alone might be something I’ve done in the past, but I quite enjoy the company and am excited for another Outdoor Group adventure.