What is the worst thing you can imagine while travelling (worse than being murdered in your bed and losing your passport and all your money)? Correct! No photos. With just one day left to explore Mexico City I turned on my camera to...nothing. My battery was flat. Grrr! Has this happened to you and what did you do?
What I'm going to do is give you some word photos that would be way awesomer if they were actual pictures.
1. In a busy street, butchers offload the tray of a truck piled high with various cuts of meat. I'm talking a huge rounded pile of cow, sheep, chicken and pig flesh. Damn I wish I could show you this crazed meat frenzy. It's 27 degrees, flies are flocking and steaks and drumsticks are being hiffed into the shop past whole carcasses hanging at the door. You can imagine the smell. It is nasty.
2. At midnight two women serve at a tiny roadside eatery. The elderly lady makes dough with flour-covered hands, placing it in what looks like an iron toastie maker to shape and flatten it. Her daughter then deep-fries the tortilla before stuffing it with chicken, beef or potato - there're no mixed fillings here. The floors are made of rough concrete, the two tables are covered in checked orange and white plastic and the walls are grubby stucco. It oozes local charm and the owners are over-the-top friendly even though we can't understand one another. A simple and delicious feed for two for fewer than NZ$10? Perfect!
3. Peacocks shake their tail feathers at hens who don't give a damn about their showy beauty. We're at Museo Dolores Olmedo: once the home of the Mexican philanthropist of the same name and artist Diego Rivera's patron. Dolores turned her place into a museum in 1994, living in one small wing until her death in 2002. This place is seriously pimpin' - a peaceful oasis in the middle of a huge, bustling city. Despite the heavy traffic outside, all we can hear are the desperate mating calls of the peacocks as they roam the sprawling grounds. There's also a display of rare Mexican dogs - black, hairless and creepy.
4. Still at Dolores', a mariachi band takes the stage, resplendent in lime green outfits and sombreros. Mexicans love their music - the audience is huge and raucous. Playing trumpets, trombones, violins and a weird cross between a double bass and a guitar, the band knows every crowd request. Each man sings in turn, each voice perfectly pitched and resonant. One of the ubiquitous peacocks looks down from above and gives us a tail display. He's confident they're playing for him alone. Song after song, they hook us in until we finally have to drag ourselves away to see what we actually came for - the impressive Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo collections.
5. Mexican actress Ana Claudia Talancón gives an interview to media at the airport. She seems kind of a big deal, judging by the number of young men asking for her photo. I'm a sucker for a celebrity, even one I've never heard of (I have to ask the security guard who she is), so I get a bit star-struck. Above is a picture of her I pulled off the Internet (she looks much less glamorous in real life). She has starred in such things as Mexican soap operas, and Love in the Time of Cholera. Have you done some celebrity spotting on your travels? Do tell.
6. Hawkers on the metro move from carriage to carriage selling their wares, which range from highlighter pens to CDs. Many cart around backpacks with massive sound systems so passengers can rock out while they ride. They remain enthusiastic about their task despite the lack of interest of everyone else on board.
7. For such a massive place, Mexico City sure is pretty (didja like my rhyme?). Suburbs like Condesa are, anyway. The huge palm-tree-lined boulevards here make me feel as though I'm in a happy village.
8. The hordes of peeps on the way to the Zocalo (one of the world's largest city squares) in the Centro Historico overwhelm a smalltown New Zealand gal. I came here just before the camera let me down so I'm going to show you a real pic of this one (yes you may sigh with relief) - it's utter craziness.
9. Another rare picture for you (following some shaking and banging of the battery to squeeze out its dying breath). The canals at Xochimilco in the city's south are one big fiesta on weekends. They're the remnants of a lake and canal system that connected settlements in the Valley of Mexico. You can hire a boat for an exorbitant amount that I'm too embarrassed to mention (totally worth it though). Extended families (some boats can hold 60) clamber aboard vessels with names like Maria, Liliana and Ana-Luisa, and join the masses that take to the water for the day. They bring tablecloths and a picnic and party it up with on-board mariachi bands. Food and drink vendors punt alongside to hand out coronas and corn chowder. On the banks you'll see couples dancing, canal communities and stray dogs cruising for scraps. Our boat feels a bit lonely with just two.
10. Locals frequent a tiny Xochimilco bookshop, tucked between a fruit market and an Internet café. Despite not understanding any of the Spanish titles, I want to go in. But we are late for the train so we push on.
Memory bank photos - not as cool as real ones, especially when it's unlikely you'll be back. Tell me your camera horror stories. Where have you been when your camera failed on you? Have you accidentally deleted photos of a once in a lifetime trip? Or has some a**hole thieved your camera/computer and with it all your photos?
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