Published: July 7th 2005June 23rd 2005
One for Alex - Fireworks !
This was the structure in production for the evening's fireworks.
Thursday 23rd June - Off to Guanajuato
Slow morning packing, having breakfast etc
Taxi to Norte terminal. Must be our lucky day. The next Guanajuato bus is in 15 mins. Through the farmland, then the dry hill country north of Mexico City.
Taxi from Guanajuato terminal and we get our first taste of the network of underground roads said to follow the route of dried-up rivers.
Check in at Casa Mexicana and I pay less than expected. It is our lucky day ! Alberto does not speak much English but we manage. Room is spacious, there is an adequate kitchen and an attractive terrace area outside our upstairs room complete with tables and chairs.
The 'historic' Guanjuato is fairly small, and pleasant to walk around. It is not in a grid layout, the first place in Mexico we have visited without one. Despite that it is easy to navigate on foot.
We stroll downhill and pause for beer outside the theatre opposite the Jardin de la Union.
We keep going with one eye out for the Tourist Info Centre. We do not find it and end up at the market where I buy cheese
(which turns out to be the only Mexican cheese I like so far), limes, garlic, avocados, broccoli and tomatoes.
We pick up tortillas elsewhere and I treat myself to a bottle of (Chilean) red wine from the 'Vinos y Licores' shop.
We feast on tortillas, cheese, bean puree, toms and broccoli as the sun goes down.
Friday 24th - Fiesta of San Juan
I am fed up of paying for coffee and being given a cup of hot water and a jar of Nescafe. I buy Mexican (Veracruz) ground coffee from the shop on the corner and make some hot mud in a saucepan to accompany breakfast. Deb strains it but it still is more like mud than anything else.
Today is the fiesta of San Juan but there is not much sign of it. Deb, Rory and I head for the funicular railway. It is not particularly spectacular in itself but it does save an uphill walk in scorching sun. At the top is the monument to El Pipila, the footsoldier who enabled the storming of the Alhondiga fortress by setting light to the gates while wearing a stone slab to shield him
from the defenders bullets.
I take a few photos of the town below then we head back down via unlabelled alleyways and flights of steps. Near the bottom we happen to pass the 'Kissing Alley' full of camera-wielding tourists.
We establish that today's fiesta 'action' takes place at Presa de Las Ollas. To get there we hop on a bus in the tunnel by the market. As it nears Presa it gets more and more full. We do not know exactly where we are going (what's new) but suddenly the streets are full of bunting and more and more people walking uphill alongside the bus. It does a 90-degree turn, halts and everyone piles off.
We follow the crowds uphill to a reservoir, alongside which are fairground rides for small children. Further on the food and souvenir stalls begin. At the top end of the reservoir is a small park surrounded by stalls and temporary eateries. Rory has a go on a 'bucking bronco' and comes to no harm. Further up is a smaller, more natural reservoir with locals doing stunts on their bikes alongside. There seems to be a path up the hillside to a lighthouse.
Without Owen I have no walking partner and we carry on mooching around the fiesta site.
We come across a wrestling ring in preparation but no indication of performance times. Further on there is a team of men building firework platforms, perilously close to the crowds who are already (mid-afternoon) crowding the park gardens. Rory and I have some chips while watching the crowds stroll by. They are not expensive at 15 pesos but I think the price is extortionate considering they are selling hamburgers at 15 and hot-dogs at 3 for 10 pesos.
After a while we have had enough of the heat and the crowds. We walk back to Guanajuato as it is all downhill. We never found out what the connection was with San Juan.
Saturday 25th June - Adapt or Bust - or - Adaptor Bust
I try again with the coffee. As I am making it a young man comes in the kitchen clearly looking for something. He is Mexican and speaks very little English. I think he was expecting inclusive breakfast or at least coffee. I offer him some of mine.
While waiting for the water to
boil we have a disjointed conversation. His name is Raciel. I did not realise he was Mexican at this point and ask him where he is from. He thinks I'm asking where his name is from. He answers 'biblia'. It being early in the day I do not twig, trying to relate it to an ex-Soviet republic or similar. He adds 'from the book, biblia'. I then understand but I do not remember anyone called Raciel in the Bible.
We move on to music. He asks if I like 'The Biddles'. Again I do not twig until he starts singing 'Blackbird'. I then teach him how to pronounce Beatles.
The coffee is an improvement on Yesterday.
As we left Mexico City our 3-to-2-pin adaptor broke. Without it use of the PC is restricted so I decide I'll scour town for a new adaptor. I try an electrical goods shop, a games console shop, 3 hardware shops and the market - nothing.
Later we stumble across a UK-style supermarket and they have a round-to-straight 2-pin 'european' adaptor. Just the part we need. And what is more they have tins of chick peas, heaven.
We find our
way to a disappointing green area (green on the tourist map). Deb suggests we go to the mummy museum which is sort of on the way back into town. These are not ancient Egytians they are locals from around 1800. The local soil contains just the right blend of salts to preserve bodies. The bodies were discovered when the graveyard was excavated to make room for more in 1865.
We reach the museum and it is 50 pesos each. I say I am not particularly interested. Nor is Deb. Rory would rather spend 50 pesos on ice cream. We turn round and make our way back to town, avoiding the hawkers of ghastly skeleton souvenirs.
Sunday 26th June - Breakfast in Van Gogh's Ear
Deb's birthday. I make my best coffee so far. We hand over the nominal presents of chocolate and a notebook with a huge-headed dog on the cover.
We are leaving for Zacatecas today but we have time for breakfast out and a quick visit to the Alhondiga fortress.
Maybe because it is Sunday there are hardly any cafes open at 09:30. We end up at 'Van Gogh's Ear'. The service
was poor, the coffee warm and the 'cereal with fruit' was Frosties with a couple of slices of melon on it. I did not tip.
We start to walk uphill to the Alhondiga, with me taking up the rear. Suddenly I notice my leg feels damp. Horrified I see what at first looks like bird droppings down my legs and on my back. A couple of bystanders try to get access to the toilets in the church immediately adjacent but there's a service on and we cannot get in. The man leads me through the market to the WCs where we wipe off the worst of it. It crossed my mind that it might be a 'throw the mustard' trick to relieve me of my wallet. It certainly looked like mustard (French) but I did not test it. I thanked the man and left with my wallet securely zipped in my trousers.
Needless to say Deb & co have no idea where I am. I cross the street and find Rory looking for me. We find the others and return to the hostel where I shower, simultaneously treading on my clothes.
Clean clothes on and we are
off to the bus station fo Zacatecas. While waiting I risk a stuffed chile from the local food stand - it was fine , and no ill effects.
There are more photos below