Most useful packing items.

So we have been travelling for four months now! It’s crazy how fast the time goes. We have visited 15 destinations and eaten a whole lot of Mexican food. As we are only half way through the parts of this country we want to see it’s looking likely that we will have to pop out and see Guatemala or somewhere else nearby. This way we can return with a fresh six month visa to finish exploring Mexico. Any recommendations of where to go which would be an easy bus trip or cheap flight?

We are well aware by now that we packed way to much. Although a majority of the stuff in our packs has been utilised it was probably not necessary or is similar to something else we have packed; clothing I’m looking at you!

Our joke is that we carry our homes on our back like we are snails or turtles. They are all our worldly possessions available to us at the moment.

Our packs exploded and took over the room

Our packs exploded and took over another room

I thought I’d share the things we have found to be most useful in our packs so if anyone reading this plans on backpacking they can benefit from our experiences.

  • Packing cells – these are great for storing clothes so you don’t end up with loose undies etc. floating around your pack. They make for quick location of clothing and easier packing/unpacking. I have three as well as a stuff-sack for my puffa-jacket, and Tom has four. But this many is probably not necessary as we have too much stuff in general.
  • Sink stopper – for all the fun sink laundry you will need to do while backpacking. It’s unavoidable. Also a travel clothesline can be useful, ours is borrowed from Tom’s sister so hopefully we don’t lose it. The suction cups don’t really work unless you perfect the angle and only hang underwear but I’ve managed to rig it up in other ways for heavier items.
  • Utility knife – such as a Swiss Army or Leatherman (I’m sure there are other brands but these are all I know). We frequently use the scissors, Tom has used the tiny screwdriver to tighten the screw on his sunnies and the knives are fantastic for cutting up fruit for a snack. Just make sure you don’t forget it in your carry-on luggage on plane trips or you will lose it.

    Leatherman and a tiny first aid kit

    Leatherman and a tiny first aid kit

  • Roll up bag – we were given an Enviro-Sac by Tom’s mum before we left. It’s been great for taking to supermarkets and the mercado when we get food for cooking. Plus when not in use it’s super small. Though it is almost always in use as we end up carting food from town to city.
  • Merino or wool socks – they don’t smell, are comfy, durable and can be worn a few days in a row if needed. Actually any clothes made from merino or wool are amazing. We have quite a few t-shirts and jumpers which have been great additions to our packs.
  • Power board – along with our plug adaptor we packed a 4 plug board so we could charge multiple gadgets at once. It seems excessive but it’s used every day so has been worthwhile. If you are planning to travel with a camera, phone, tablet/laptop and others it could be a good choice for you as well.
  • Good walking shoes – I’m not talking about your Converse sneakers or pretty coloured Nikes either. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will be a saviour for your feet and legs. We both purchased Merrell branded ones which don’t look too obnoxiously like hiking shoes. I’ll wear mine with jeans, leggings or shorts and they are so comfy for both a long day sightseeing in cities or museums as well as climbing mountains, caves or pyramids.

    Our walking shoes. Super comfy ones by Merrell

    Our walking shoes. Super comfy ones by Merrell

These are things which for us have been very handy. Could we live without them,  probably but they do make some tasks easier.

I’ll also post about our tech travel items, of which we also have a lot and explain the pros/cons of travelling with these.

What are some things you have found super helpful while travelling short or long term? I’d love to know, maybe they will influence how we pack in the future.

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Mexican street food – Part One

Aha you say, here is the post we want to hear about! Food! Glorious Mexican food! This post will mostly be about street food, because that’s mainly what we eat on our backpackers budget. Yeah we still have the funds to splash out if we wanted to but we have been enjoying the price, availability and deliciousness (not sure if that’s a real word but I’m going to go with it) of street stalls and market vendors.

Food area of Patzcuaro mercado

Food area of Patzcuaro mercado

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Cuernavaca

After leaving Taxco we ventured closer to Mexico City to Cuernavaca which would be our last stop before finally making it to the capital. We had an interesting four days here, nothing too eventful but just full enough.

Plaza in centro

Plaza in centro

We didn’t have any accommodation booked but Tom had done his research and knew that there was a street which had a lot of budget hotels near to both the Centro and the bus station. I’m always happy when the bus station is near the center of town because it means I don’t have to lump my heavy pack too far. We soon found the hotel Tom had looked into and as it was cheap and clean we were happy enough to spend a few nights. Within 24 hours and after walking to and from the hotel a few times we clued onto the fact that there were some “working girls” who frequented another hotel a few doors down. Luckily we didn’t choose that hotel!

View of the plaza from the Palacio

View of the plaza from the Palacio

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Taxco es muy tranquilo

After happily leaving Acapulco we arrived in Taxco, a quaint colonial town perched on the side of a hill in Guerrero state. From the bus station we had no accommodation booked but knew there was heaps of hotels located around the zocalo. The problem was that the zocalo was up the hill from the station, up a steep hill in fact. Knowing that it would only be a short climb of about 500 meters we set off. Wow was it steep, even without my sore toe which was bandaged and jammed into my walking shoes it would’ve been a mission. But we made it with only minimal sweatiness and no other issues. Oh and if you are wondering why I have a sore toe check out our blog post on Acapulco.

Santa Prisca Cathedral

Santa Prisca Cathedral

Again taking up the assistance of a local, this time by foot we set off around a few streets until we came across a hotel where we were offered an apartment instead of a room. A bedroom, bathroom and a small kitchen sounded great and the small space suited us perfectly. Knowing that I’d need a few days to regain full walking capabilities with my wounded toe we paid for a week and settled in.

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Eventful Acapulco

Warning this post contains an event which may make some people uncomfortable. Also a slightly gory photo (towards the end), read on at your own risk. Needless to say Acapulco was eventful, hence the title of this post!

Travelling to Acapulco we passed another Army checkpoint where we were stopped. This time Tom was required to leave the bus and assist as the bags, ours included, in the compartment under the bus were all unpacked and checked. The inside of the bus was also checked making this the most intense stop we had experienced on a bus so far.

Acapulco we soon found out was busy and a lot bigger than expected. We didn’t have any accommodation booked but had a location to check out near Playa Caleta. Those places were all a failure and as we headed back to the bus (sore and sweaty with our packs still on our backs) we found a helpful taxi driver who offered (for a fee of course) to drive us around some hotels closer to the zocalo. We decided on a cheap local hotel. A budget hotel but clean and in an OK place across the road from the bay near the Zocalo in Old Acapulco.

Looking north along the beach

Looking north along the beach

Exhausted from the search for accommodation we ate at the restaurant right outside the hotel, a little overpriced for our buritos but at that moment we didn’t care. Continue reading

Zihuatanejo and beaches, beaches, beaches!

From Manzanillo we caught an overnight bus to Zihuatanejo another beach town further down the coast. We kinda did two no-no’s in this trip; a second class bus and overnight. Travelling through three States in the process, one being Michoacan again, is also not recommended. The bus was surprisingly comfortable for a second class and we decided it was more appropriate for it to be named a first and a half class. We were  stopped once during the night and armed personal of some description boarded and checked some ID’s but I was fast asleep,  Tom informed me of this after I woke. The bus made good time and we arrived in Zihuatanejo in the dark before 6 am. Our hostel would only be open from 7.30 so we sat around in the station for about an hour trying not to fall asleep.  After enquiring about buses or collectivos to the Centro without success we took the easy option of a taxi.

Beaches off Centro

Beaches off Centro

Arriving at the hostel we settled in to our room which felt like it was located in a jungle. The property had huge mango trees and gardens between the reception and the rooms. Unfortunately that was one of the only positives of the hostel. Though it wasn’t bad by any means we felt that it overpriced for what it was. To put it another way, I got used to cold showers while here. Continue reading

Manzanillo

So we made it to the beach! Manzanillo is only a short bus trip from Colima, made longer by the fact that we took yet another second class bus. All in all it was still only about 2.5 hours drive and we had accommodation awaiting us.

The ocean

The ocean

Sometimes when we arrive in new towns/cities the route from the bus station to where we are staying is easy and obvious, other times we need to ask for assistance and use Google Maps on our phone. Manzanillo was one of the later. It’s quite a large city and very spread out along the coast. I likened it to a lot of small towns which have merged together over the years linking up the coast line. Because of this we weren’t actually staying anywhere near the centro. Our hostel was in the Bahia Santiago, an area near some beaches but as we discovered not touristy at all. The touristy areas were both further down the beach near Playa Miramar and back towards down-town and centro. Overall we loved the area and stayed for a week as the hostel was fantastic as well.

At the beach! Sorry for the water drop in the photo

At the beach! Sorry for the water drop in the photo

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Colima

Via our longest, windiest bus journey yet we made it to Colima; with no travel sickness. Although an 11.5 hour bus trip sounds tedious it actually went by relatively quickly and we passed though some gorgeous mountainous scenery. There were many armed checkpoints on the way but we were only stopped at one. An armed officer boarded the bus and asked to see a few peoples id’s, ours included, and then the bus was allowed to continue. All in all we were stopped for less than five minutes and once the officer saw our New Zealand passports he wasn’t very interested in us.

Arriving at about 7pm without a reservation at a hotel or hostel was one of our less than successful ideas. We had an address of a hostel with great reviews which we headed for. On arrival the place had no lights on an no one seemed to be home. Quite strange for a hostel with an apparent 24 hour desk. So with nothing else to do we hefted out packs back towards centro and found a cheap hotel for a few nights.

Pretty building

Pretty building

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Uruapan, Paricutin Volcano and Tingambato

We made if from Patzcuaro to the larger city of Uruapan, still in the state of Michoacán, and still with travel advisory warnings. This area definitely had a different feel to it. The drive between the two was very pretty and the closer to Uruapan we got the more avocado trees we saw. Yum avocado! This was our first stop where we didn’t have accommodation pre-booked. We had some places loaded on our phone and once we made it to centro we walked around (yes with our packs on) until we found a suitably priced hotel. Not as tricky as it sounds, we were probably only looking for 30 minutes so I didn’t die from the weight of my bag. The hotel we decided on was on a street parallel to the main street. After dumping our bags we left to find food, settling on the easy option of tacos.

I was a little cautious about Uruapan. The area was a bit more dodgy than Patzcuaro and it was much bigger and dirtier. There was also a large and obvious heavily armed police presence here. All the pricier hotels had an armed police officer at the door for the protection of the guests. Luckily we saw and heard nothing untoward in our three nights here and actually saw some cool stuff. Continue reading

Patzcuaro and surrounding towns

From Morelia we ended up getting a taxi from the bus stop to Patzcuaro, being the same price as the bus and quicker we thought this would be a good idea. The driver was crazy, I swear he was driving at minimum 140kmh for the whole trip, although I have no way of actually knowing because the speedo was broken. This has been the sole time I have felt in any danger in all the time we have been travelling up to this point. So we just held on (oh and there were no seatbelts) and hoped for the best. Luckily the distance between Morelia and Patzcuaro is 40km so only a 20 minute drive.

Patzcuaro and lake

Patzcuaro and lake

The taxi dropped us at the bus station and we piled out very quickly grabbing our packs. It was a short walk to our accommodation which ended up being equidistant between the bus station and centro, very helpful. Although called a hostel the house had more of an Air-bnb vibe to it.  The couple who ran it were super friendly and the house fit our needs perfectly i.e. it had a good kitchen, was very cheap and we had a private bathroom. Continue reading