From Mexico city I flew back to the US. As I gazed down from the plane I saw some beautiful sights down below.
I don't think I'll ever get over the sense of wonder that comes from gazing down at the earth and seeing things from a great height - so much higher than any bird would fly.
I went to Los Angeles first for a short stay with friends and then headed back up north to Wisconsin.
The next day, I headed off to the Museo de Frida Kahlo. I was to take the subway, which I felt slightly apprehensive about, but I was also armed with a map and detailed directions from the nice folk at the hostel.
The subway was very easy to use and before I knew it I was nearly at Frida Kahlo's house. In her lifetime she was not well known as a painter, and more known for the fact she was married to the famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. As I rounded the corner to the street her house was in, I noted that it is safe to say that this has changed. There was a very long queue to get into her house and there was even a 'FRIDA' tour bus parked outside, letting off yet more people to join the queue. I joined the queue, shuffling along and nibbling at snacks that the street vendors were selling.
After 2 hours of queueing, I was happy to be able to purchase a ticket and enter the museum. Inside there was a colourful internal courtyard with a garden, fountain and precolumbian indigenous art that Diego and Frida collected.
It's easy to see how their political ideas influenced their art, they wanted to move away from spanish colonial influence and celebrate mexican indigenous culture and folk art, and the artworks collected in their house reflects their interests.
Inside their house, some of Frida's art works are on display. She began painting after she was badly injured in a terrible tram accident, which led to health problems and many further operations throughout her life. She painted during her long and boring hours of recovery, and used her painting as a form of self expression. I think that the personal nature of her art works is part of why they are so appealing to so many people now.
Although Frida Kahlo only lived to be 47, she had lived her life to the full and had a very colourful and interesting existence. Before she passed away she was often in a lot of pain and confined to a wheelchair, but she still continued to paint.
I think one of my favourite paintings of hers is a still life of watermelons. Shortly before she died she added the words 'Viva la vida' - Long live life!
From Merida I headed up to Mexico city. I was happy to be settled for my first night in my colourful hostel. The next day I spent the day exploring the city by foot. Mexico city is huge, with 18 million inhabitants. The part I was in was teeming with people and many of the streets are closed just for walkers, so it makes it a very good place to walk around and explore.
As I wandered towards the Museo de Bellas Artes (the museum of beautiful art) I saw lots of Spanish colonial architecture, with ornately detailed, giant doors. I glimpsed the Mexican parliament and peeked in the door of some gilded churches, and a particularly pretty post office.
I made my way to the Museo de Bellas Artes. Inside it had an art deco design but with some Toltec designs incorporated as well. I saw some paintings by Diego Rivera as well as some Toltec and Olmec artifacts.
The site offers glimpses into so many aspects of ancient Mayan life. There are sites devoted to the worship of different deities, burials sites, an observatory, sites for market stalls and so on. It is interesting to note the links between the Mayan religion and other asian cultures which it evolved from - features like animism and the balance between male and female feature prominently. The importance of the mayan calendar and numbers is also reflected in the architecture of the site. The great pyramid for instance, has 365 steps up to the top - one for each day of the Mayan calendar. On the way around the site we also saw an iguana who was climbing out of some 2,500 year old ruins.
One of the spectacular sites among the many pyramids is the temple of the warriors. It is surrounded by hundreds of stone plinths.
On the way back we passed some cenotes. The Yucatan peninsula has this unique feature, limestone sinkholes that provided fresh water all year around. The cenotes made the Yucatan peninsula an ideal place for habitation, and many of the cenotes were believed to be sacred.
I really liked the food however. In one meal alone I had 5 types of fruit and vegetables I've never eaten before, and they were delicious!
From Northern Guatemala I took a shuttle over the border to Belize. It didn't take long to cross the border and before I knew it I had arrived in Belize city. Belize seemed quite distinct from Guatemala. As a former British colony everyone speaks English and it is also pretty ethnically diverse. From Belize city I left almost immediately for Caye Caulkner - an Island off the coast. The boat to get there was a speed boat and it didn't take long to get to Caye Caulkner. The water is the most amazing azure blue and the beaches were soft white coral sand. Before long I'd arrived on the Island and set up. The island of Caye Caulkner is only small, but seems very friendly and colourful. The next day I headed off on a snorkelling trip to some of the nearby reefs.
It was beautiful and we also swam with some (vegetarian) sharks and giant sting rays. The sting rays liked to take playful jump out of the water and even seemed to like being patted!
The water was very warm and also very salty which made us very bouyant. We saw a huge array of sea creatures that lived on the lush coral reef.
On the way back we saw some eagle ray courtship displays where they fly though the air gracefully. It kind of looked like this.