Dancing with a beer on your head

Mexico is an old country and hence has a long history. It is also a big place and each of its 31 states has its own culture and heritage expressed in languages and dances. Both mix and showcase the complex contradictions that is now Mexico.

Mexican folklore dancing has always been a way of honoring and celebrating the religious and cultural beliefs in the country. It is, as well, a representation of the struggles and joys of daily Mexican life. Its origins can be traces to the mesoamerican times when dances were used to apease the gods of the Mayans and the Aztecs. With their invasions, Europeans brought other dances that influenced the indigenous forms of dance. With time, Mexican folklore became what we now know and enjoy.

Dancing is not only the choreography but it expands to costumes and particular steps or “zapateado”. Each dance and region has a unique atire and representation

Generally, men wear black trousers with a bright red tie and a “sombrero”. And, women, are often clothed with long, bright skirts and dresses. Areas in Mexico that have a more indigenous background tend to have more of a simple dance garb that incorporate linen cloths, body paint, or even feathered hats. Other times, dances may use prompts such as swords or bottles of beer that must be balanced in the dancers heads. It is all part of the Mexican flavour!

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The Sistine Chapel of Latin America

Set up by Bishop Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo to look after orphans, the disadvantaged and old people. Its construction started in 1805 and the finished building has 23 courtyards, 106 rooms and 78 halls. From 1937 to 1939 Jose Clemente Orosco painted frescos throughout the building. In 1997 the site was declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Bishop Cabañas died with $3 pesos in his bank account.

The impressiveness of the frescos is two fold. On one hand, the murals have perspectives that moves around as you move around. On the other, Jose Clemente Orosco only had one hand as he lost the other when he was 17 in an accident playing with fireworks. Orosco’s frescos reflect his ideal that the world needs “evolution” not “revolution”.

Lob not love

The greatest food of them all is a tortilla wrapped or rolled around a filling. Tacos predate the European invasion and were really invented by indigenous though they were not called “tacos” back then. In those days, between 1,000 and 500 B.C., tacos were really just a kind of edible spoon: using a tortilla to scoop a filling. It is thought that as corn was seen as a religious symbol by indigenous, it was incorporated into their cuisine to honor the gods. Hence making its appearance in tacos. There are also records that Hernan Cortez back in 1500s referred to the tortilla in one of his reports back to Spain. The word tortilla comes from the Nahuatl “tlaxcalli” and Hernan described it as a “corn flat bread sold in local markets”.

So now that we have history sorted, let us get one fact straight: real tacos come from a stand not from a sit-down restaurant. And it is always better to have a recommendation from a local. Like this place, commonly known as “tacos Lob” because they are outside the Mexican clothing chain “LOB”.

Thus, as you enter Mexican lands that is the one thing you must do – direct yourself to the best nearest taco stand. Who knows maybe you get to try a new filling – like tongue or lip!

Penguins point has no penguins

I took up running over 10 years ago now. I am by no means a running junkie but I do clear my head whilst hitting the road. I guess if ever a lion chases me I wont be the slowest runner. Apparently elephants and pigs will be slower. So long it is not a cheetah at my pursuit…

Culburra beach is the perfect place to find a route out to Penguins point. With a 40 meters incline above sea level the view out the point is incredible. Most of the year you can see the whales migrating up and down the coast. Not during summer though.

I use Map my Run to search for routes around when Im away from home and found a great 5km route just at our doorstep. And so I ran. Did you know it takes 200 muscles to take a step when you run?

The largest of them all

Culburra beach is a tucked away town north of Jervis Bay National Park. With a population of 3,500, this little beach town was originally designed by Walter Burley Griffin, the same architect who designed Canberra. Culburra was known until 1916 as Wheelers Point until the first white settler, when became Culburra – meaning sand in the local Aboriginal dialect.

As in all Australia, good coastal beach towns aren’t complete without good fishing. And around good fishing there is always Australian pelicans lingering about to catch some fish, or at the very least, scraps of fishermen cleaning their catch of the day.

Australian pelicans are the biggest pelicans in the world and have the longest bill of any bird; it measures 49 centimetres in length and can hold up to 9 to 13 litres of water.

Australian pelicans can measure around 1.6 – 1.9 metres in length and have a very large wingspan of 2.5 – 3.4 metres.

Male Australian pelicans are bigger than the females and can weigh up to 10 kg in some cases, but 8 kg is a more usual upper weight.

Australian pelicans do not have much waterproofing oil on their feathers and can become wet and cold. No wonder they search the warmer locations.

Not everything is what it seems

The Blue Mountains were formed around one million years ago. There is no wonder there is so much history around this area. The Blue Mountains is densely populated by oil bearing Eucalyptus trees. Thus the atmosphere around them is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil, which, when combined with dust particles and water vapour, make a blue visual effect.

The Blue Mountains are about a 90 minute drive from Sydney. There are eight connected conservation areas in the World Heritage area, all full of dramatic scenery of cliffs and waterfalls and full of amazing walks and hikes. Free for all to enjoy nature and even spot a few creatures. Though be careful not to step on snakes or legless lizzards like this one! (See if you can spot the ears)

The right way around

In Evans Lookout Road in Blackheath, about fifteen minutes drive up past Katoomba, is a walk called the Grand Canyon walking track. It is often considered as the most impressive walking trail in the Blue Mountains. It has, however, some very steep sections and there is an easy way around the circuit and a hard way which ends up in steep inclines and never-ending uphill zigzags.

The Grand Canyon bushwalk was constructed and opened to the public in 1907. Since then thousands of walkers make the ~6km bushwalking adventure around rainforest, creek crossings, waterfalls, huge sandstone walls and rock overhangs. Including us.

And just if you are wondering, we went the right way around…