Monday, 15 January 2007

Madness in Mexico City

Ever since I was a boy I've dreamed of visiting the Amazon.

Some kids want to be astronauts. Some want to be firemen. But not me. I wanted to be an Indian, living deep in the Amazonian jungle with some unknown tribe, who would accept me as one of their own and teach me the ways of the forest.

I think a lot of that came from watching a film called The Emerald Forest based on the true story of a boy who was kidnapped by a Brazilian tribe.

It fascinated me then - and still does today - that there are Indians living in the Amazon who have never had contact with the outside world. Unknown tribes, who have lived in the rainforest for eons, and have never seen or spoken to a white man.

When I was twelve, I resolved to save up the money I was earning from my paper round - which was about £2.60 a week - and use it to visit the Amazon.

I guessed that it would take me about six months to save up the necessary airfare. When I arrived in the jungle, I genuinely believed that I would come across a tribe who would 'see the light of the forest in my eyes' and take me in as one of their own.

I planned to spend the rest of my days living blissfully amongst the trees, bathing in clear lakes and flirting with bare breasted young women. Yup, I was a strange kid.

Well twenty-one years later, at the grand old age of 33, I am finally on my way to the Amazon where I will spend the best part of a month living with the Shuar people in Ecuador.

This is the latest part of my travels. I left London Heathrow on Saturday morning and spent five hours in Toronto before boarding a connecting flight to Mexico. My time in Toronto was too short for me to form any impressions of the city, but I will return in late February, on the way back to the UK, which will give me a chance to explore Toronto and give me a taste for Canada.

I arrived in Mexico City at half past eleven in the evening on Saturday night where I was met by my friend Cesar, from my days in York, who remains one of the nicest people I have ever met.

Yesterday I spent a very nice day in his car and his company, exploring the sprawling megalopolis that is Mexico City, one of the biggest, most violent and most diverse cities on the planet.

We visited the ancient city of Teotihuacan, getting lost along the way, which gave me a chance to get a taste for the 'real' Mexico, as we passed through forgotten towns where old men in sombreros stood around, killing time and drinking beer.

We planned to visit a bull fight, but ran into some fajitas on the way, and arrived at the fight as everyone was packing and leaving.

I am not quite sure how I would have reacted to watching a bull fight, but very much regret that we were too late, as I would have liked to have experienced it just the once. I think that killing animals for sport is very cruel, and I may well have been the only person there cheering for the bull, but I would have liked to have watched it once nonetheless.

As we were late for the bullfight, we visited a restaurant instead, where I tucked into some dead cow, so it wasn't all in vain.

In a few hours time I return to Mexico City airport where I board a flight that will take me to Ecuador in South America, where I will stay in the capital, Quito, for four days before heading to meet the Shuar on Thursday. You wonder why I visited Toronto and why I am currently in Mexico if I am visiting the Amazon rainforest. Well, it was simply the cheapest way of doing it.

A round trip ticket from the UK to Ecuador costs around £600, but I was able to find a return flight from the UK to Mexico for £299 (sometimes it pays to spend ten hours searching Google) and flying from Mexico to Ecuador costs just £230, albeit with a dodgy Panama airline, known for losing the occasional plane.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet Cesar again (before he visits me in Belarus in April) and spend a bit of time in Mexico.

I will return to Mexico City for two days in late February, before heading briefly to Toronto and then returning to the UK. I travel to Belgium the following day and visit Belarus a few days after that.

I think that I have learned a very important lesson in the past few months, and my time in the Ukraine has been a big factor in that. What I have learned is that life doesn't have to be about problems or suffering, life can be wonderful too, if only you let it.

True, for some people life can be very difficult, if you are terminally ill for example, and we live in a horrific world, but still, life can be lived to the full, if you don't let the bastards get you down.

With this in mind, I am leaving my hotel in Mexico City shortly and putting my faith in Panama aviation, hoping that I will make it safely to Quito in Ecuador.

Tomorrow I have five hours of Spanish lessons, followed by four on Wednesday, and then on Thursday comes the most difficult part of my journey, when I leave Quito and board a bus that will take me to a province from where I must make my way into the Amazon and to the Arutam Rainforest Reserve where I will meet the Shuar people.

The Shuar were once regarded as the most fiercesome people in the Amazon and were known for shrinking the heads of their enemies. Today they are much nicer though.

I will spend the best part of a month living with the Shuar, helping them farm their food, teaching the kids English, helping the men hunt and learning how to make wooden baskets. I will visit other tribes who live deeper in the rainforest.

I only hope that on Thursday the Indians are expecting me and they don't take one look at this unshaven Englishman, who will at that point speak about three words of Spanish, and say to each other: "We don't understand a word this man's saying. Let's eat him."

Providing that doesn't happen, and providing I make it there and back in one piece, I will write to you again from Ecuador in mid February to let you know how things went. If you don't hear from me again, you can guess that things did not go well.

Until next time, if there is one, take care.

Thanks for reading this.

Take care, Cesar.

From the memory box of a Professional Englishman.

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.