So, now that the travel update is out of the way and you know what I’ve been up to, I am free to ramble on about the amazing foods I’ve tried over the last year on my travels. Mexico was a wonderful territory to revisit. When I say this I don’t mean that I’ve been there before, but that my parents owned two Mexican restaurants in my lifetime, one in Chamonix in France and one in St Barths, so it was a staple in our family’s repertoire. My dad had fallen in love with the cuisine when he was travelling in his 20s, and could never really shake it off.
Our arrival in Mexico was full of expectations, and we arrived at the border with our rickety old Jeep and our papers. We had bought the Jeep in Nicaragua off some friends that we bumped into in Leon. I had my doubts about driving through Central America but I am glad I squashed them with an iron fist – camping in the back of the car on beaches and in backyards, and driving from town to town made our experience so rich and our memories so vibrant that I would now never consider visiting these countries any other way.
Like most things in Central America, things were not straight forward and were never ever clear. The title for our car was under a different name – 4 purchases ago to be precise. So we had to show proof of ownership from the 4 owners before us, and explain that we now owned it… all in broken Spanish! Picture a couple of hot and sunburnt gringos in a Mexican plated old Jeep, with a smashed windscreen and a review mirror hanging off its side, a surfboard tied to the roof and obviously no air conditioning. Not a pretty sight. Border crossings were a real challenge, but by the time we crossed from Belize to Mexico, my little speech was rehearsed and my explanations were as concise as they would ever be. With a smile and a nod, the immigration officer handed our papers back to us and waved us on. The last country on the Central America leg – we were in!
As soon as we drove out of the immigration area, we were greeted by a familiar sight; a small cart swallowed by rust, a colourful umbrella erected sideways against the sun to hide a small dark man, the deep lines on his face accentuating the smile we could spot from miles away. We had to stop: he was selling fresh fruit, mangoes and watermelon and pineapple, coconuts and bananas. A mango on a stick, elaborately cut so that it resembled a rose (which by the way must be the best way to eat a mango), and I was happy.
We drove straight to Bacalar, where we set up camp in a hostel, parking the car in a spare spot and paying next to nothing to let us sleep in it. We were able to use their other facilities, which included a lovely bit of land by the blue waters of the lagoon, where we spent most of our days. Tacos galore, some horchata, some sun and some quick-witted new local friends, and Mexico was quickly taking first place on our Central America list. With an ease that was almost cocky, it slipped right into our hearts and made some room for itself, where it still remains and reminds me to go back at any chance it can.