Hasta la Vista, Centroamérica

Last week, I escaped the tourist throngs of Tulum by haggling for space cakes with a vagrant on a Mexican beach. This week would be my last, as I savoured the final few days of my voyage in the capital, before boarding a Boeing back to Britain.

Day 78 – Mexico City, Mexico

The start of week twelve, my last on this journey, consisted of a three-day tour around the sixth biggest metropolis on earth: Grimsby. I arrived at my ‘hostel’ in the capital’s suburbs late last night, and in somewhat of a daze, as I only discovered this morning that I was, in fact, staying at a wellness/salubrious/holistic centre for the aged (which became apparent when I was risen by the sound of innumerable idiosyncratic incantations). Although, if the mutterings hadn’t woken me, the Mexican chill certainly would have – five degrees Celsius? Now, that is more like Grimsby.

Having completely mastered public transport around the chaotic capital (it took me an hour to find a subway station), I had absolutely no problem catching a bus twenty-five miles up Highway 85 to the infamous Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan. Teo-ti-hua-can was once the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas, with a population well in excess of one hundred thousand souls. It would appear that that figure is now matched by the number of tour groups that inundate the grounds every day. Luckily, the site is so vast that it is still possible to get around without hearing the murmurings of an obese American complaining at the pyramid’s preposterous gradient (obviously not using the word: ‘preposterous’).

The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest polyhedron in the world, and it does take a few minutes of sticky effort to rise to its zenith (or an hour or two if your gut is as wide as its base). From the top, you are indulged with a superb view of its sister Pyramid of the Moon and the road leading to it, otherwise known as the Avenue of the Dead. It may need to change its name to the Avenue of the Dead Tourists judging by the crimson, perspiring faces of the sightseers trudging its well-trodden path. After a couple of hours avoiding over exuberant sombrero sellers, it was time to attempt a swift exit. Returning to the capital was far easier than departing (given everyone was heading in the same direction) and I was back at my lodgings just in time for mindful knitting hour. Needle gauge and bobbins at the ready…

Day 79 – Mexico City, Mexico

According to my crochet teacher, Mexico City has innumerable museums worth visiting. Although, with only time for one, the National Museum of Anthropology would be my most stimulating choice. Not convinced that an expert in all things knitting fully comprehended to word ‘stimulating’, I set off with plans of visiting the nearby Chapultepec Castle if the museum proved a damp squib. On arrival I discovered that the fort was closed for the day anyway, leaving me with one choice – and my god he was right.

Covering over twenty acres (no idea how big that is but it sounds impressive), the museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artefacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, including the Stone of the Sun (or Aztec calendar stone). This piece is widely considered the most famous Aztec sculpture in the world (by Aztec sculpture experts), and I’d certainly agree that it’s far more imposing than the Dachshund-a-Day 2019 calendar I received for Christmas (if not quite as loveable).

Having not yet had a chance to visit “Mexico City’s equivalent of Trafalgar Square” (how appealing does that sound?!), I hastily boarded a train to the capital’s core and basked in its festively-lit magnificence. The Zócalo (main square) was plastered with garish decorations and gaudy garlands, whilst the historic buildings surrounding the plaza were draped in more lights than on Louie Spence’s Christmas tree. Indeed, the iconic and succinctly named ‘Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into the Heavens’ could barely be spotted for the glare given off by Blackpool Illuminations on acid. Final night tequilas definitely required.

Day 80 – Mexico City, Mexico to London, UK

Well, here we are. The day of my return to beautiful Brexit Britain – oh how I wish I could stay until all that bollocks has blown over. As I arranged my backpack for the final time (making sure the liquid cocaine had fully permeated the pages of my Mexican comics), I began the part of the movie when the main character looks emotionally into the distance as a montage of his epic adventure begins. As this is not a movie, I had to contain myself with humming the soundtrack of Castaway whilst flicking through a myriad of indistinct photos on my laptop. Oh, what joyful time I have had.

On an honest note, it’s felt more like eighty months since my naïve arrival in Panama City, shiny-new bags and all, without a word of the language or any real idea of how to get from one place to the next. Enter my saviour: the common chicken bus. Avoided by all but the poorest of Central American society, this one method of transport has delivered me from city to city and country to country – through forests, over mountains, along dirt tracks and affording me meetings with some of the sketchiest people I have ever come across. For this, I thank you oh humble yellow school bus.

As is customary at the end of any of my adventures, I must reiterate how many life-affirming humans I have bumped into on the way, a number which greatly outstrips those who wished to punch me in the shins (astonishingly). I have been invited into people’s homes, offered hot meals and given tours, and I would like to thank each and every one of you beautiful people for assisting me in my expedition (and not murdering me in my sleep). You are the people changing the way we perceive different cities and nations around the world, places that often have a completely unwarranted reputation for the worse. Good on ‘ya.

A final word on Central America. It is a region I will remember for its utterly diverse landscapes, climates and cultures. Unsurprisingly, the people of Honduras are not the same as those from El Salvador or Nicaragua for the matter. Each nation may be small (forget Mexico), but these seven countries have almost two hundred years of independent history and are about as comparable as Britain is to France. What bands them together is a common love of fish, football, volcanoes and reggaeton, along with some of the friendliest folks you could ever wish to stroke sharks with. Until next time, Centroamérica. Adios mi amigo.

J

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