Wandering: Solo travels through Mexico
Brittany Murphy is an Australian reporter and photographer, stepping out of the regional newsroom to embark on a soul-shaping three month solo journey through Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. First stop… Mexico!
As I write this, legs crossed on a cement hostel bed, I can hear the sounds of the streets below. Taxis rumble up and down the winding cobblestone. A brass band is echoing. Children laugh. Merchants whistle. I’m in Taxco, the colonial terracotta city famed for its silver.
It’s the seventh of my 100-day journey through Mexico, Cuba and Guatemala and this place has captured my imagination.
It was a stormy Tuesday afternoon when I arrived to Mexico, diving in head first with a cab driver that didn’t speak much English at all. Feeling way over my head and grappling with the inevitable question of “what have I done”, I took to looking out the window to escape my anxiety.
Hazey light, filtered through the methane and grill steam, fell on the streets in a way that made it seem a dream. Gritty, colourful, untouchable Mexico City – a place travellers are always cautioned of but one I now think is a must-see. Streets of squished-in houses lined narrow roadways, dotted with quaint garden plazas and musicians trying to make a quick peso. Between the rendered buildings a mosaic or a mural popped. Painted tiles from the days of old lined windowsills and antique wrought iron furnishings were the only street furniture to be found.
Coyoacan, a bohemian borough to the south, is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the federal state. Once home to prominent artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the area is distinct for its colonial architecture and artisan culture. It was here we spent my first true day in the City… Wandering aimlessly, peeking through guarded gates and musing over Frida in her home-turned-museum.
We ate quesadillas in an alleyway market, bought home-cooked churros from a man with a basket on a street corner and navigated the streets in a bus I was sure was going to fall apart at any moment.
The next morning, I took on the City solo. Once the centre of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, the Zocalo is the chaotic heart of Mexico City.
I stood for a moment in the shadow of the Catedral Metropolitana and then later for an hour in the Palacio Nacional studying every inch of Diego Rivera’s murals – “Mexico a Traves de los Siglos” (Mexico Through the Centuries).
That night we ate street tacos and drank red wine on a rooftop. I’ll never forget how the clouds glowed against the black sky, illuminated by the city below.
Now I’m in Taxco, a small city built on high rolling hills in the Guerrero state. Mopeds and white VW bugs whiz up and down cobblestone paths and local men, women and children host street stalls to sell silver they’ve crafted themselves.
Maze-like markets fill the spaces beneath the streets. The Zocalo and neighbouring Parque is inhabited by artisans and young lovers at sunset. Bougainvillea and geranium flower atop stone buildings, petals litter narrow rocky paths and my skin rejoices in the sun… The warm, steamy Mexican sun.