Dusty pueblos adorned with adobe houses, each with a man sitting against a wall, a large sombrero tipped over his face, heavy snoring sounds emitting from underneath that hat; barefoot Indian women and children walking through the dusty, cobbled streets. These were the first images that came to mind when Ian Middleton thought of Mexico. But was it really like that? He had read James A Michener’s historical novel on Mexico, and it had portrayed a country of rich cultural diversity. These are the things that had ignited in Ian a burning desire to see this country for himself.
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As a novice traveller this was an extremely daring move. Especially as he would be travelling alone. Ian knew nobody in Mexico. Although he’d travelled the year before for the first time in Australia, he’d had the advantage of knowing people there. This would be his first real trip in a foreign land completely alone.
Yet as Ian was to find out, there is no such thing as being alone on the backpacker trail. The meeting of two Canadian girls soon threw him into the backpacker scene, and by the time he finally crossed the border into Mexico, was part of a small group of people all with similar intentions.
The first two weeks of the journey were spent in California, which actually used to belong to Mexico before war with the US ended in Mexico ceding all of its north-western territories to the US. Upon entry into Mexico Ian soon found himself in exactly the land he had imagined: dusty pueblos, men in cowboy hats, barefoot Indian women and much more. But that wasn’t all. Over the next four months Ian was to really discover the diversity of this land: the mountainous interior, the deserts of the north, the tropical lowlands of the south and the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan. He met a variety of people from backpackers from all walks of life to local Mexican people, many of whom humbled him with their extreme kindness and generosity despite their poverty-stricken lives. He soon discovered that Mexican food was a force to be reckoned with, a force that on two such occasions won pants down, so to speak.
Whether hitching a lift through the Baja desert with an eccentric old American named Leroy, chugging through the mountains on a train straight out of the Wild West, being fed and entertained on buses by local people, or travelling five weeks through the Yucatan Peninsula in a van with a couple from California, Ian discovers the wonders of travelling in this diverse country of rich culture and wonderful people. The book shows how it is possible to travel anywhere and always find a place to stay. It shows how easy it is to get about in foreign countries and how sometimes it can be much more fun to do it yourself rather than arrange a package tour. It shows the hardships of budget travelling, but the rewards that it can reap. It shows how diverse the country is and how it is not as dangerous as people might imagine. And it shows that this country is just how Ian had envisioned it, and much, much more.