The Easy Way to Tour South America Lazy dad, hyper mum, four kids (one in nappies) tour South America for 6 months

The Easy Way to Tour South America
Week one and a half in Mexico
A rainy welcome to Mexico

A rainy welcome to Mexico

Casualties to date:

  • 1 pair sunglasses (Paola) lost somewhere in transit;
  • 1 suitcase left in airport – recovered;
  • 1 wandering child in Gatwick – recovered;
  • 1 bruised ego¬†– Iyas walks into chest-high cactus.

London to Cancun was a 10 1/2 hour flight on BA, during which Alvaro and Omar couldn’t contain their excitement at having an entertainment console (Alvaro – “a computer and television in one”) and proclaimed BA to be the best airline (or aeroplane) ever. Though with RyanAir and EasyJet as his points of comparison, the benchmark is admittedly a low one.

As we arrive in Cancun, and before we’re even off the flight, I’m asked to declare myself to security. This is even more efficient than the USA, where at least they wait until I’m in customs before pointing me towards “extra questioning”. While I was preparing my most indignant “is it because I’m an Arab” speech, it turns out that they actually called me because my passport number didn’t match their records. This merely serves to reinforce my impression of the lawlessness of Mexico – just where do you have to be born to be stopped at the airport here?

Simple things, beaches and swimming pools. And the children have been making the most of both in our few days of relaxation before hitting the travel trail. Joaquin, an American-Mexican boy I would guess, kindly left water guns for all to play with at the pool. By the end of the evening, this led to near bloodshed between his mother and I, as she was insisting when they were leaving that he leave the guns for the others to play with, and so learn about sharing. Meanwhile, I was trying to convince him to take them back, so that my children would learn that when something isn’t theirs, they can’t just assume they can hold on to it (though some would argue that many nations were built on that premise, but that’s for another blog). And so his mother and I narrowly avoided blows over who was trying to give their children the more valuable life lesson. She won, and my boys will have to find someone else’s toys to steal so that we can do that lesson.

We have started to take in the indigenous cultures of the area, and feel we’ve pushed to the very edge of civilisation.

The edge of civilisation

The edge of civilisation

I had a quick read of the dry, but very informative, book “The Maya, Aztecs, Incas and Conquistadores” by Bamber ‘starter for 10’ Gascoine. I highly recommend it as a quick overview of the three civilisations, and their eventual subjugation by the Spanish conquistadores. Fascinating histories, which were enriched for me later by a conversation with one of the mobile sages of every country, a cabbie. On a ride to a timeshare resort (the less said about this incident the better, but a free top notch breakfast for 6 and a day by the second largest hotel pool in the world was not to be sniffed at), I engaged one in a conversation about Mayan history. I learned that the Mayan language is now being taught by schools here in order to try to avert its extinction. Apparently, there are still some poorer villages where it is the prevalent language and Spanish barely gets a look in.

We visited¬†Xcaret, a water park based on Pre-Hispanic Mexico, which served as the ideal opportunity to share my new-found Mexican knowledge with the boys. So sat at an all-you-can-eat buffet (‘lots’ would be the answer if that were turned into a question), we started our discussion with the migration of humanity into the Americas from Asia during the last ice age, when the Bering Strait was walkable. And carried on through the various central American civilisations until we settled on the Maya, the Aztec, the Spanish conquistadores and the pirate Drake for good measure. Two shows we saw in the park seemed to have been made purely to back up this history and provide it with some colour. The boys have been doing a grand job of turning what we discussed into a video interview for their blogs to share with their school friends. The park was well worth a visit, though somewhat pricey, and the snorkelling we did there will be a great starter for more adventurous waters later on our trip.

Paola discovered a shopping centre just by the Xaman Ha, where we’re staying. There are more Haagen Dasz restaurants here in this one street than in the whole of London. On too many counts, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. She also found somewhere to replace the missing sunglasses (see above). Apparently, they need to be branded for travel around South America. Prada bag, but DKNY glasses.

Chichen Itza for the Mayan ruins. Fantastic pyramid with 91 steps on each of 4 sides, and one on the top to make a total of 365. Clever boys, these Mayans. This is where the boys went to town retelling the history of Mexico on video for their school chums, with frequent (and occasionally well-timed) outbursts of “human blood” from our 3 year old daughter. After all, it was, as Bamber informed me, the Aztec Sun God’s preferred diet.

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