14 degrees and no hoodie in sight

Our alarm woke us at 8am – today’s the day we headed to Pátzcuaro, so were excited to get up and on our way. We wandered the streets near our hotel to find a convenience store for supplies, and hopefully somewhere serving breakfast. We came across multiple “Oxxo” stores – the Mexican version of a 7/11 (though they have those, too) – and bought some water and snacks for our bus trip. After walking a few more blocks and finding nothing open for breakfast, we headed to another Oxxo and bought a sandwich and a burrito for breakfast – anything to fill our empty stomachs!

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Dia de Muertos decorations at Hotel Fornos

We’d realised last night that Alex had forgotten his hoodie in Australia and only had one thin jacket to keep him warm. This wasn’t ideal, given we’d just googled “weather in Pátzcuaro” and realised it was significantly colder than we’d been expecting. We had a brief look for shops selling jumpers on our morning walk, but to no avail. Never mind, we thought – we’ll try again when we get there.

After checking out of our room and asking the receptionist to order us a taxi, we met an American man in the lobby who struck up conversation with us and asked us where we’d been, where we were going, and how we were finding Mexico. It turned out his family was originally from Pátzcuaro, and he said we were going to love it. He wasn’t wrong!

On our taxi journey to the bus station Central Norte, our driver asked me a heap of questions about myself and Alex, and, upon hearing we were heading to Cuba, told me about some of the differences in pronunciation, accent and words between different Latin-American countries. He then gave me lovely compliments on my Spanish, which was a real relief after losing confidence in a conversation with our hotel receptionist the evening prior.

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View from our bus

We booked our tickets for our bus to and from Pátzcuaro, and were lucky enough to get the last two seats together. We had been nervous that we wouldn’t get seats on this bus at all, as we had been trying to book online for a month to no avail – it would seem you can’t book tickets with Primera Plus buses without a Mexican credit card; or at least, we tried four different credit cards and had no luck. At our hotel last night we were watching the bus book up quickly and knew there was a chance we’d have to wait a couple of extra hours at the station for the next bus. On top of this, we hadn’t heard from our accommodation (which we had booked in March) to confirm our reservation. Given that Dia de Meurtos was one of the biggest drawcards in our trip to Central America, we weren’t happy with the idea of missing out! Luckily for us, one of the lovely receptionists at our hotel, Hotel Fornos in Mexico City, phoned Hotel Posada Camelinas in Pátzcuaro for us to confirm our reservation. In the end, all was well and our reservation was confirmed, and we had seats on the bus we were hoping to be on!

On top of this, the bus was as nice as any plane, with TV screens in the back of each seat screening movies (though Alex was disappointed they were only in Spanish), air conditioning with controls for each seat, wifi (not great), on-board toilets and they even provided us with a sandwich, a drink and a snack. Though it cost roughly $35 each one way, it was well worth it for not having to swap buses in Morelia (as it seemed you do with every other company), and for the amenities and cleanliness, as well as the security, I’d spend the money again.

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View from our bus

We had a couple of hours to kill at the bus station, but there were plenty of food places and shops around to peruse – we chose to sit and people-watch instead, which passed the time quickly. When it was time to board our bus, we had to pass our bags through X-Ray scanners, and ourselves through metal detectors, before being frisked by security guards. We then had our large bags checked in underneath the bus and were given tags – hot tip, do NOT lose this tag, as it’s your only proof of which bag is yours and we’ve heard it can be very difficult to get your bag back without it. Our carry-on luggage was searched manually, and we were scanned again by hand-held metal detectors before being allowed onto the bus. All of this made me feel a lot better about the trip, which turned out to be completely uneventful and enjoyable.

From Mexico City to Pátzcuaro we went through about seven checkpoints/tolls. Every time the bus slowed down I had flashbacks to the horror stories I’d read about buses in Mexico being stopped by armed groups who would then go through your luggage and take what they wanted, if not worse. Every time, I was wrong. We arrived in Pátzcuaro with minds full of beautiful scenes we’d seen along the way, and hearts full of excitement for the next few days.

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Our hotel’s street

After wandering around for a little while thinking we knew where we were going, and asking several locals for directions (they’d never heard of our hotel), we gave up and caught a taxi. The ride through town was breathtaking – cobblestone streets, so pokey you could barely see around the corner before you were upon it; street vendors selling traditional Mexican tacos, enchiladas, cups of corn kernels and a multitude of other delicacies we’d never heard of before; Dia de Meurtos decorations strewn everywhere; and endless streams of people with somewhere to be.

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Chorizo tacos

After checking in, we set out for a walk to where the people had all been heading – and soon saw why they wanted to be there. Markets set up in a big square, filled with clothing, jewelry, toys, and lollies to give local children trick-or-treating; miniature pony rides down the cobblestone streets; food everywhere; and so much more to take in. We stopped at a taco vendor and bought Alex his first real Mexican chorizo tacos – he loved them! We then headed over to try out pizzas from a cart with an oven tucked away inside, and found them to be just as delicious. We can’t wait to try everything we missed tonight over the next few days!

12,685 kilometres…and counting

“Your new adventure starts now” declared my Dad, at 6am on the long-awaited 28th October 2016. It was time – the day had arrived! We still felt like we had a lot left to plan, but we had our passports and some money, and figured we’d see what happened!

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No turning back now!

We had a few hiccups along the way from Brisbane to Mexico City, with each airport throwing an obstacle our way, but in the end all was fine and we made it safe and sound. We’re currently approximately 12,865kms from home, and after our 25 hour journey to get here, including two flights, lots of waiting in airports and the longest taxi ride to our hotel, it sure feels like we’re that far away!

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Our American Airlines boarding passes

All the advice we heard about needing to speak Spanish before we arrived has proven pretty accurate so far – from booking the taxi in the airport, to ordering our dinner, and plenty of conversations in between, my brain is definitely going into overdrive trying to remember all those university Spanish classes – so far so good, though!

We were standing at reception at our hotel having just asked for a map when a 22-year-old Australian girl with fire engine red hair asked us if we spoke both English and Spanish. “Kind of!”, I replied, before trying to translate between her requests about taking a taxi to the airport, and the receptionist’s attempts to accommodate her without being able to understand her English. We got there in the end (with the help of another Latin-American man passing by), and ended up speaking to her for a while about her incredible journeys around Central America that had led her to this point. We took notes on the unmissable adventures she had in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and hopefully will be able to give other people we meet in future our notes on the places we’ve been!

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Our first beers in Mexico

We had our first meal in Mexico in our hotel’s restaurant, which included fresh (but cold) bread served with butter, fresh lime, and chili salsa; pollo Cordon Bleu (obviously Alex couldn’t walk past a $7 Cordon Bleu!); mushroom soup; queso panela (not what I was expecting but still tasty!); and two Mexican beers we hadn’t tried before – Victoria and Pacifico. All up our dinner cost us about AUD$14 – can’t complain about that!

We headed back to our room with grand plans of having a deep sleep before waking to explore Mexico City the next day… Around 20 hours later, we woke up, and realised it was already getting dark again here and probably best to enjoy another hotel dinner before our day tomorrow headed to Patzcuaro! Not exactly the most exciting first day in Mexico, but we feel better prepared for the rest of our journey now with much needed zzzs fuelling us for the excitement ahead!

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We made it!