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Pete and Elaine's Travels

Hello all,
Welcome to our Travel page.
This is where we will try to keep a record of our travels beginning in 2011
-we will update it as often as we have time! Of course we are not continuously travelling, we come home after each journey!!!

Our first itinerary ;-
20th January to 23rd January, San Francisco
23rd January to 19th February, touring north and south islands of New Zealand
19th February fly to Sydney, Australia where we will be staying until 25th February,
26th February, land at Heathrow airport

Second journey;-
We took the caravan through Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, when we did lots of walking, sight seeing, painting and reading.

Third itinerary;-
To celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary, on Wednesday September 7th 2011, we fly direct to China, with a short stopover in Dubai. On arrival in Beijing, we join the tour with Wendy Wu, spending the next month travelling the length and breadth of China.
We finish off the holiday with a couple of days in Dubai, returning home on October 7th.

Fourth journey;-
29th January to 16th February, South Africa
16th February to 20th February, Zambia

fifth journey:-
USA, September 4th to October 7th 2012

sixth journey:-
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flying January 19th 2013

Seventh journey:-
India and Nepal, flying November 21st and returning December 5th

Eighth journey
Chile, flying January 22nd and returning 4th February

Ninth journey
Namibia, flying on July 24th and returning on August 11th

10th journey
would you believe it, the 10th and off to Western Australia on July 6th finishing off in Singapore on the way back

And so to the 11th adventure, Secret Lapland, January 20th to Monday 25th January 2016

Well unbelievably the twelfth journey, we fly 18th March to Myanmar via Bangkok, and cruise on the Irrawaddy until April 3rd

And onto journey 13, from October 7th to October 18th, the Silk Road in Uzbekistan.

Journey 14 begins on Monday 6th March, 2017 when we travel to Southern India.

Now Journey 15, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,
May 14th to May 22nd 2017

Journey 16, Copenhagen and Stockholm, September 6th to September 14 th 2017

Journey 17. Peru and the Amazon

Journey 18. Russia, September 29th to October 14th 2018

Journey 19, Armenia and Georgia, May 8th to May 21st, 2019

Journey 20, Alaska, July 14th to July 26th, 2019

Journey 21, Jordan and Jerusalem, September 17th to September 26th, 2019

Journey 22, and it is Mexico 2020, here we come

Diary Entries

Monday, 02 March 2020

Location: Chicken Itza, Central America

A long day today. We set off from the hotel walking into the site of Chichen Itza at five thirty to see the sunrise rise over the ancient monuments. The walk took us about twenty minutes, passing by numerous ruins on the way. Apparently there are more Ancient settlements in Mexico than the are in Egypt. They seem to be everywhere.
From our balcony we had a clear view of a building known as the Observatory.

And so, Chichen Itza said to be the best preserved on the peninsula and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and as such is a World Heritage Site.

No one is certain when the first settlement developed here. Myths told of how the first settler was the Toltec god, King Quetzalcoatl. In its heyday it was a thriving commercial, religious and military centre supporting over 35,000 people. It survived until the thirteenth century. It was thought be run initially as a confederacy but that cannot be verified. There is abundant evidence of the presence of the military in the detailed bas relief and carvings. Much can be learned from the intricate headdresses and costumes of the commanders and the gods. Slaves and prisoners have their hands tied behind them, heads bowed waiting to be decapitated.

In spite of the grisly history, you can't help but be overawed by this impressive complex. Everything is aligned with the sun and the stars and the carvings take on new meanings when linked to the astrological concepts behind them. They had an advanced knowledge of astronomy for their time. The engineers were very skilful in calculating the movement of the stars to align the buildings with no metal tools were available to carve these intricate patterns, perfectly symmetrical.

At the centre of these complexes we found El Castillo, a 24 metre high Pyramid, dedicated to Quetzalcoatl. It dominated the site and with the sun rising behind its striking geometrical designs was spectacular. Various features of this building corresponded with the Mayan calendar, too numerous to remember!

What you can't miss are the four staircases each made up of 91 steps plus the temple at the top made a total,of 365 steps. At the bottom of the north staircase said to lead to the main entrance to the temple, we found two serpent heads guarding the temple. Thousands of visitors arrive on each equinox to witness the play of light and shadow which cleverly makes them appear to crawl up the Pyramid to the temple at the top.

And in spite of the numerous ruins, excavations are ongoing and remarkably another smaller perfectly intact Pyramid has been found inside the El Castillo.

To the front of the north face, we found the main altar, and to the left of that the platform dedicated to Tzompantl...this is covered in depictions of skulls sitting on top of one another. Here the skulls of the sacrificed were indeed lined up on top of the platform, maybe as a deterrent or also as a sign of prowess.
The skulls all seemed to be grinning at you!!

Some way along a path behind this area we found one of the twenty five Cenote, huge natural wells twenty five metres deep. These were sacred places. Many skeletons, skulls of adults and children, offerings of jade and gold and body parts, arrow heads and much more have been found here. These were places used for human sacrifice particularly to the revered rain god Chac.

On the way back to the main complex, we wandered through the ball court which was much bigger and beautifully decorated than we have seen in other places.
On each side are the replacas of the teams and their captains, with scenes of those bound for sacrifice with hearts and heads separate from their bodies. It is has never been proven that the winner was to be sacrificed but it is widely believed that the person to be sacrificed had been determined before the ritualistic game had begun.

And so this was our last visit ofnthe tour. And what a way to end the holiday at a place like this.

Later in the day, we packed up and journeyed the four hours to the airport to get the flight home from Cancun with our minds full of information and our hearts full of so may memories of yet another country..

Sunday, 01 March 2020

Location: Chicken Itza, Central America

Traveling today through the coastal plain of the Yucatan peninsulA. It is a flat area covered in impenetrable vegetation some of which is quite in hospitable such as the poison ivy.

First stop was the town of Izamal, named after one of the most important gods, Izama. He was apparently a sort of genius in mathematical and writing systems, so much revered that when he died, he was worshipped as a god. The name Izamal itself means city of hills referring to the many Mayan temples originally built here.
We were taken to have a look round the St Franciscon monastery which was built overlookingbthe main square on top of a Mayan temple. It was quite a disappointing place but it was undeniably fascinating to sit in the square and watch real Mexico pass by on its way to the local market.

As we travelled on today we passed through several small villages with very basic facilities. Passing one primary school, the school gate syndrome took on a new meaning altogether, with whole families crammed onto a moped or into a tuktuk.

Our hotel was a superb place, the Maryland Resort with its own private entrance to the site of Chichen Itza. Originally before the hotel, the owners of the land built a hacienda with some of the ancient monument stones used for the structure as they were in many places around the country.

There were many such haciendas in fertile areas and it is hard to believe looking at these lovely friendly people how many of them are descendants of slavery.
Apparently life was worse here than it was for the back slave trade carried out in the USA.
The haciendas workers were paid a determinate amount for a period of time but the salary was very little and they could barely the haciendas each used their own currency, money earned could only be spent in the stores on the plantations where prices were double. And so the workers got more and more into debt which was impossible to repay and they became owned as slaves.
One ritual was that when two workers got married, the new bride had to be spent with the hacienda owner!

Later that evening, five of us took a taxi into the site of Chichen Itza for a sound and light show... and a bonus, we got in for half price as OAPs .... it was a fabulous evening and one which we will remember.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

Location: Merida, Central America

We had a much more favourable opinion of the Gulf of Mexico this morning. The air was clear and the bright blue of the sky reflected in the water as we drove a little way along the coast road.

We soon turned inland to discover some out of the way places in the Yucatan peninsula.
Today has turned out to be another fabulous day. The road took us through small villages full of rural Mexican life.
There were few cars on the road, with many villager riding mopeds or bikes, or just walking. You have never seen a beginning and end of the school day like these have with the school gate surrounded by mopeds or three wheeled bikes......several adults, children and babies piled onto single mopeds looked a bit precarious but the only way probable to manoeuvre the narrow streets.

Our first destination was a gem, the Mayan site at Kabah. It was a very small well preserved and maintained site Codz Poop named as the main building. It is a semi restored place. There are more than 250 masks representing Chac the rain God withnhis distinctive crooked nose. Iguanas ran about amidst the huge array of sculptures. At the entrance were large cisterns for collecting watery as there are few opportunities here for other water supply.

The temperature had reached thirty degree by the time we arrived at our next port of call, a traditional Mayan village called Santa Ellen's, so it was very hot in the Mayan house. In these villages the main language is the local Mayan dialect. We visited the house of an elderly couple who welcomed us and showed us round his plot of people land complete with his own well. Here there were a series of thatched rooted single roomed dwellings, examples of how many Indian popiulations use local materials to build their houses in styles particular to their region. Rooves are steep and thatched with palms or grass whilst overhanging eaves protect the walls of poles and wattle and daub. Many houses in the Yucatan here have walls of rubble and masonry.
This was a fascinating insight and a privilege to be in their house. He showed us round with pride before demonstrating the tradional Mayan method of rope making, sisal, from the agave leaf whilst his wife made us tortillas on a stone in a smoked filled hut.Nothing was wasted and everything is for a purpose:-the gourds grown to use as eating vessels, the silk cotton plant, the monkey nut trees, a shrine to remember deceased family members and worship...all in a small plot of land crowded with everything the family would need. Amazing.

Last stop was the most amazing of all. The most magnificent archaeological site of Uxmal. Once in their lifetime, women were supposed to visit the oracle to aid fertility. Did it work, who knows?
The city's history is uncertain but most buildings have been dated back to 7-10th century. The scarcity of water in the area is evident here with the discovery of the same water cisternas as at Kabah and again richly elaborate and detailed has relief and carvings devoted to Chac, the God of rain.
The most striking monument is called the Magicians Pyramid. It stands at 35 metres high and its sides are incredibly steep. Legend has it that it was built in one night by a dwarf with supernatural powers, i.e. The magician. In actual,fact the building shows that this could not possibly be true as there are five clear stages of construction. The biggest cravings of Chac are at the temple at the top with the mouth being the entrance to the temple....symbolically once the priest entered here, he was leaving the earthly world and moving into the supernatural.

The masterpiece of the architectural site was held to be that of the nunnery given its name because the Spaniards believed that the seventy four small rooms surrounding the courtyard were monastic cells.
So much rich symmetrical low relief work with images of Chac on every corner, his Hooked nose pointing up when asking for rain and pointing down wards to deliver the water to the earth.

Everything here is extremely well preserved including the ball court and the governors palace. The climb up here was well worth it as there was a stunning view of the whole site.

Another fine example of the most clever engineering and skill.

From here we went onto the city of Merida, a very different world entirely.
Nicknamed the white city it has many fine colonial buildings in the centre. Our bus did an orientation tour before dropping us at our hotel in the centre, as it is too big a place to walk round. It was Avery important city in colonial times and many huge mansions line the main boulevards. It is said to have more millionaires per head of the population than any where else in the world, which is why it has so many parks and statues and squares and wide boulevards.
It s wealth came from the industrial development of making sisal, which it exported worldwide. A world away from the ancient traditions.

Again we are reminded of the diversity of this country,.....

Friday, 28 February 2020

Location: Campeche, Central America

We left the rain of the rainforest to travel a very long way over to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

It was dry and bright although very windy on the coast but the waters looked grey and not the usual aquamarine as we are told it usually is.
That couple with the litter along the coastal road certainly did nothing to enhance the place to us.
We had lunch outside the fishing village of Chapoton which was interesting because of the numerous pelicans sitting on every structure where they could find a perch. Apparently there are huge numbers of birds and dolphins here because of the multitude of catfish in the waters so plenty of reason for them to stay and breed.

The lunchstop hotel though empty was lovely however. Whilst most went inside for seafood, we sat on the beach and had a picnic after a quick paddle in the Gulf of Mexico.

It wasn't long after this that we arrived in Campeche for an overnight stay. Not impressed with this city either or the hotel which though convenient to walk to the centre is by a busy road so it is very noisy. A bit of a shock after the lovely rainforest resort.

'This city is know as the Fortress city of Campeche. It was built with defensive walls and bastions. Once it was the main port to export timber and roots to Europe for dye making so it's prosperity grew and grew. So much so that it's waters became a target for pirates, hence the need for fortification.

So off to find somewhere to eat!!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Location: Palenque, Central America

Well the mood has certainly changed today.

Our beautiful resort is just a few minutes from the ancient ruins so a relatively easy day today.

We had an early rise to visit the World Heritage Site of Palenque, wonderful in its jungle setting. We had heavy rain overnight and the low prevailing mist was perfect to set the scene for this ancient site. Solemn and imposing and so well preserved.

Palenque is everything that an archaeological site should be. A remarkable treasure trove.

With grey stone being the dominant colour, it is difficult to envisage the vivid red walls and brightly coloured carvings of the original buildings. It is a marvel to ponder on the amazing stories and engineering skill of the people who built these sites. The discoverers years later could not believe that the local people could possibly have built such structures and huge complexes.

The Mayans first settled here in 100BC and society reached its height between 6-800 AD when it was the regional capital. Then it fell into a precipitous decline and by early tenth century it had been completely abandoned for the forest to reclaim it. The majority has been excavated, with discoveries of ruins emblazoned with fine sculptures and splendid stucco.

As with the other sites we have visited, these complexes were the domain of the royals and the wealthy. We were allowed to explore this palace which was quite challenging to get round on the steep slippy steps.
The royal place is distinguished by a four tier leaning tower which probably served a as watch tower. The building was the home of the royals and their immediate entourage and dominates the site. It is a complex of courtyards, corrodors and rooms.

The massive carved stones of the Temple of Inscriptions are most imposing. This is the tallest building and contains the funerary crypt of the ruler Pakal. Originally red and decorated with vivid colours, it must have been a sight to see.
Pakal was entombed at the bottom of the steep pyramid. His body as that of his wife in the adjacent tomb was bathed in red paint. Although the flesh has long disappeared, the skeleton is still stained and infused with red. Articles of jade and other expensive materials have been found in the tomb. There was also a sort of air duct leading from the tomb to the top of the Pyramid....apparently linking the souls with the outside world.

We followed the archaeological path leading from this complex down to the parking lot. It was a fabulous three quarter of an hour walk, through ruins where the ordinary people would have lived. One was a very clever sort of a spa. Very ingenious. The path passed by the river and a spectacular waterfall which would have supplied the palace and also removed the effluent! Has to go somewhere!

Once finished exploring here, we drove onto to visit the Cascade de Misotha Waterfall. We got soaked as the path lead us down and behind the cascade but it was great fun.

Overall another great day.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Location: Palenque, Central America

A very very long days travel today with a drive over the mountains to get to Palenque.

It was a stunning ride with views of mountains covered in tropical forests. Here there were only isolated houses and settlements.

When we eventually came down off the mountains we travelled into the state of Tabasco, and on into the coastal plains. Apart from the palm trees we could have been in the Uk, ranches of cattle and horses and fields full of grass.

This again turned into the swamps and then on into the forest passing over the widest of rivers full of fish farms. Tilapia is one of the main catches here. Such a diversity of terrain.

It was a welcome site to see our next place to stay, a fabulous jungle resort. We have individual lodges with individual terraces leading out amongst the tree.
Brilliant.... and to cap,it all we have the tropical storm. We hope that the heavy rain has lapsed by tomorrow....

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Recent Messages

From Katie
Looks like you're having a fab time mama and dad. Don't get sunburnt in all the heat! xx
Response: It's certainly been very hot but there is a cold front coming across overnight, of 19 degrees!! Still not lik ethe wet of home. Have a good time in Bakewell, hopefully it will have stopped raining for you to get out and about
From sister
Brilliant, as usual. xx
Response: You would love it here, not only is it hot, not a cloud in the sky and mid to high twenties with no humidity as yet... but the history of the place is fascinating!
Keep well, Euan is growing up fast!
From sister again
One of the most fascinating, if not THE most fascinating accounts you have ever written. xx
Response: It's such a lovely country and am glad you are finding it as fascinating as we have. And a bonus is the sun but a bit too hot at well above thirty on some days
From sister
Absolutely fascinating account so far. xx
Response: Younwould love it here, such a fabulous place. It makes the situation in the surrounding countries all the more sad. We can envisage Syria being similar in many ways.
From angela
brilliant photos and such dramatic scenery. really enjoyed seeing them all
Response: Xx enjoy your visit to Canada
From Jayne
Living vicariously through your words. 😊
Response: We are glad that this has reached you across the water
From sister
Hope you have arrived safely and I look forward to reading the blog. I always enjoy my vicarious travelling. xx
Response: We are here and safe and sound, with lovely blue skies and a very pleasant place to be.xx
From Little babbie
Hello Parents,

Have you tried guinea pig yet. They were displayed on all the market stalls when I went. Usually with a red pepper or apple stuffed in their mouths. Sounds like you’re having a great time.

Have emailed several times but they are all bouncing back xx
Response: Hello babbie, we have seen several roasted and live guinea pigs, we plan to taste one before we leave, we have had alpaca, found that a bit tough!
From Sister
Glad you are safely there and look forward to reading your blog. XX
Response: A week gone already!!
From Your sister
Enjoying the vicarious travel, as usual. XX
Response: From inside of your dry home we presume
From Mike and Anne
Hi glad your holiday is going well. Enjoying reading your blog interesting as ever. Looking on the bright side a 'dry' March will help with the medication xx
Response: Dry and searing heat, but much better than rain although there was a terrific downpour in the night. Hope all,is well
From Sister
Maybe it is really me, accompanying you surreptitiously to keep an eye on you. I have never been called 'scary' before, even by students. X
Response: Mmm, how do you know that!!
From sister
Looking forward, as always, to accompanying you on your journey. XX
Response: We have an Aunty Dotty look alike with us in the group, mannerisms the lot! How scary is that!!!!!!
From Sister
Delighted to be back on my vicarious travels. Sounds fascinating already. XX
Response: It all seems a bit surreal to be standing in these historic places dating back to the first century BC!
From Kathy & Ken
So jealous - looks like you had another amazing adventure x
Response: Keep stashing away the money whilst you work!!!!!
From Angela and Gilbert
What an experience, can't wait to view the pictures
Response: It was indeed! Now waiting at Bangkok airport for the flight home
From KB
Hola parents,

You look like are having a fab time. Just catching up on your blog. Keep safe xx
Response: Hello babbie
Am trying to get blog up to date, wifi very iffy, hope you had a good easter
From Sue Brockwell
Happy Easter. Sounds a fascinating hol. Now in Isle of Man. House with lovely views out to sea. Drive across island and lunch out next plan. X
Response: Ooh, we liked the Isle of Man, it was like going back in timehope the sun shines for you. It has been forty plus degrees here and feels hotter!
From Sister
Fascinating. Look forward to seeing the photographs. I think I would have been annoyed at being kept back because I was a girl, though. That would have gone against the grain. However, we have to respect cultural differences if we are visitors! XX
Response: Fascinating is the right word to use. Something to see at every turn
From Sue and Les
We are having a BBQ tonight a bit nearer home in the illustrious Padstow. We now have full family complement so not a dull moment. Glad you are having a great time. We are enjoying reading the updates.
Response: I hope it's Aussie style BBQ with plenty of steak and fish. Hope the weather is staying kind for you all, you must be well into the school holidays by now, looking forward to seeing you when we get home.
From JB
Brilliant story on 29th July Mother; did Nana never teach you not to get in cars with strangers (particularly naked ones)!
Response: Nan never knew any naked men I am sure!! I can just imaging her comment!!!! And
Well, I wouldn't have minded but he was over seventy and every inch of skin was a chocolate brown colour! When he got out of the car when we got to dad, his comment' I hope you don't mind your wife travelling in a car with a naked man' Father's comment..'No'
You will be pleased to know that your father has tried to outdo you with the hobo look, as he refused to shave, except he didn't look suave, just a slim version of Santa Claus in the making. Once it got hot, it started to itch and it all came off!!!!'no staying power
From Sandra/Dave
Pleased to read you are enjoying yourselves. Nipped round to yours, everything fine, lawn green and neatly trimmed. Weather here not good at the moment, rained most of yesterday, slightly better today. X
Response: Ouch, rain not good, we are now in the heat, 35 degrees, this has been quite an adventure with lots of stories to tell!!! Off,East tomorrow, we are finding that Australia doen't like yahoo so we are finding it difficult to get and send emails. Thank you so much for popping round to the house.
From Anne & Mike
Enjoying your blog. Glad your having a good time xx
Response: Hello both, tried to ring you before we came away but I guess you had not returned from your travels..hope you had a great time. We are now in Exmouth, wifi very difficult, am sitting in the visitors centre with 30 mins free wifi, will try to update blog when I can, all good here, have had a problem with a broken windscreen, stone from a road train didn't like us, all taped up, trying to get to Broome to sort it out...britz tried to send us to the nearest repair place which was 500 miles from here in the other direction! Just going to book a glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, they are trying to get us to go snorkelling but we wouldn't look cool with the woggle under our arms as we are not that confident swimmers
From Lynne
Looks like you are having a great time. It all sounds amazing. We look forward to reading some more! Continue to enjoy x it was lovely to see Christine and Charles We had a good catch up xx
Response: Are your jaws aching then???
You would also like it here! Just finished the first leg of the holiday, now for the northern bit and the heat. Ironic to be away in the British heatwave!
From Sister
Sounds fascinating. Interesting that Elaine's ancestors may have been among the earliest emigrants-albeit compulsory ones. XX
Response: I think compulsory might have been right, dodgy stock as Pete says!!