freedomtravelers

The travels of Lucky & Tegan

Month: September, 2012

Ballestas Islands: the poor man’s Galapagos

The Ballestas Islands are often called the 'poor man's Galapagos' because of the cheap price and easy access from mainland Peru. The Ballestas Islands are home to a wide variety of wildlife such as sea lions, fur seals and the endangered Humbolt Penguins. There are also colonies of up to 600,000 birds which nest on the islands nearly all year round.

Due to the large numbers of birds in the area there is literally tons of bird poo covering the whole island. Unfortunately our boat was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a flock of birds flew over and dumped poo on the whole group.

Visiting the Ballestas Islands was an eye opener into the impact excessive tourism can have on fragile marine environments. We visited the Island on a busy Peruvian national holiday and it was a little shocking to see so many speed boats driving close to animals which are considered endangered. Although this form of tourism brings revenue for the local community, the limited tourism regulations may cause long term problems for the vulnerable animals.

 

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Swimming with the sharks

The Belize Barrier Reef is a 260km stretch of reef which is second in size to only the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. The reef has one of the most diverse reef ecosystems in the world and is one of the last reefs to remain in an almost pristine condition.

We went snorkelling on the reef and had one of the best days of our trip so far. We got to swim amongst fish, turtles, stingrays, dugongs and even a group of sharks!

 

Happy Birthday Belize

After celebrating Mexican Independance in Bacalar five days earlier we couldn't believe our luck when we stumbled into town just in time for Belize Independence Day.

Caye Caulker celebrated the day with a colourful parade through the town and then some crazy festivities later that night.

Bacalar, the lagoon of seven colours


After leaving the more widely visited parts of the Yucatun we felt very lucky to come across some unexpected surpises in the small town of Bacalar.

The Bacalar lagoon which has been long described as the lagoon of seven colors has been inhabited since Mayan times when the local population believed it held special powers. Then in the 17th century, pirates sailed the lagoon using it pillage the usually isolated towns. These days Bacalar is a humble town sitting on the most breathtaking lagoon of vivid clear blue water.

Casita Carolina Jetty

We arrived in Bacalar on 15 September, which is one of the most celebrated days on the Mexican calendar, Mexican Independence Day! During the day we walked around town listening to 'viva Mexico' being screaming from passing cars. In the evening the fiestas began.There was dancing, singing, and drinking. We had a great night watching the Mexican girls dancing in their colorful traditional dresses while drinking sol beers for 15 peso and eating delicious freshly made tacos and tostadas.

With the fiesta starting at 7pm and not finishing untill the early hours of the morning some took things too far and we witnessed a couple of local drunkards being carried away by the police after a few too many cervezas. VIVA MEHICO!!

We had noticed a few strange blonde haired people lurking about town, occasionally passing us on a horse drawn buggy. Who are these people wearing old fashioned straw hats and overalls? They did not seen to respond to 'hola' and certainly didn't resemble the average mexican we had come to know. After some investigations we realized that the people belonged to a Mennonite or Amish community which was located close to town.

After speaking to our new friend Fernando, from Mexico City he told us that the group's original decendants originated in Germany and have been living seperated from mainstream society since the 1920's. He mentioned that the community have only been in this part of Southern Yucatun for 10 year after leaving Northern Belize in search of more land. Fernando kindly offered to drive us to the ranch where the community lives to buy some of their homemade cheese.

Upon entering the community it felt like we had time warped going back a few hundred years. It was a hot, humid day of 35 degrees and the men wore long sleeved thick shirts and long pants while working the land and the women long thick dresses revealing no skin. What a bizarre sight, Amish people living in the ancient Mayan heartland.

After a surreal 15 minute drive down a dirt road, we decided to take our chances and pull in to one of the ranches. When we reached the front door about 8 children with very curious faces and one very weary mother came towards us we then attempted to communicate our desire to purchase their homegrown cheese. After the first phrase of English was spoken we realized there was a strong communication barrier. Luckily Fernando was educated at a German school and could understand their German dialect!

After Fernando's conversation with the mother he explained that the cheese could be bought from a ranch 10km's north of the pine trees. We set off on our search for this glorious cheese once more. After trespassing on three more ranches, one communal food stop and recieving a dozen confused looks by the stern blue eyed men we realized we may have overstayed our welcome. Empty handed but enlightened by the experience we realized we had now gained so much more then the cheese we had come to find.

 

Tulum, Mexico

Mayan Ruins of Coba & Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula is the land of the ancient Maya, people who built grand temples to honor their Gods. Without the benefit of modern tools they mastered the skill of architecture, building elaborate pyramids and sprawling cities.

While traveling through the Yucatan region we had the opportunity to visit the Mayan ruins of both Coba & Tulum.

The Mayan ruins of Coba were built between two lakes during the Classic Period of (600 – 900 A.D). At this time it was a very large city spread over 80 square kilometers. The main pyramid, “Nohoch Mul” meaning “Large Hill” is 42 meters tall and is the highest in the Yucatan peninsula.

Climbing Nohoch Mul, 'Apocolypto' came to mind. As we climbed from rugged rock to rock we could not help but think of all the human sacrifices that had occurred in this very place. The steep steps to the top were a little daunting especially as we thought of human heads rolling down the very steps we were climbing.

Nohoch Mul

The top of Nohoch Mul

The Tulum ruins were a complete different experience to the Coba ruins as they are set right on a beautiful beach. Here are a few photos of our adventure through Tulum.

Finding the best spots to take photos, even if it means creating your own tour track over a rope into a thick bush!

 

Welcome to our travels

Playa Del Carmen

Hola Amigos! We are two Australians traveling from Mexico to Argentina over six months. We have created this blog for you to follow us on our adventures.