Published: October 8th 2008October 4th 2008
This is what I saw as I walked through downtown.
I arrived in Queretaro around 8:00 p.m. The hostel I stayed at was cool. The owner was a young dude that used to live in the States, so his English was really good, but we primarily spoke in Spanish. He showed me to my quarters where I met Christian (an Italian dude...he was cool). As me and Christian got to talking, he told me about this town he just visited where there was a huge rock he hiked to. The town is called Bernal. He showed me some photos and it looked really cool. He advised that I should visit the place. This is the cool thing about traveling freely (and its happened a few times), you meet someone and they tell you about a place they visited that you never heard of or ever considered. Next thing you know it, you make plans to go...which is exactly what I did. The next day I got to talking to Adolfo (the caretaker of the hostel during the day) and he too mentioned Bernal. He said I should visit the rock and hike up to it. The rock (defined as a monolith is the world's 3rd largest) is called La Peña de
Me vs. The Rock
Gettin' da guns ready. I need a haircut.
Bernal. Not only is the rock really high (8,200+ feet above sea level), but it also has figures imbedded in its structure. You have to have an imagination to see the figures. There's a face of an indian looking up at the sky, an elephant, an old lady's face with her hair tied back, an old man's face, and others. I have to say I was a little concerned climbing by myself in case I fell. I ate breakfast and said "fuck it...I'm going". You can't live in fear.
The town of Bernal is located about an hour away from Queretaro, so I had to catch a bus at the station. Only 2nd class buses travel to the small towns, so service ain't that great. The service suffices, but sort of sucks sometimes. Let me tell you what happened. We're traveling....and traveling, and about an hour and a half I get up and ask the driver how much further to Bernal. He's like, uhmm, we passed it about 20 minutes ago. I was like "what?!!". I asked him why didn't he announce when we arrived at the town. We actually just drove through it....the bus didn't stop at all.
Damn, this thing is pretty high. How the hell am I getting up there without any equipment?
(Note: Small towns like these don't have bus stations. People are dropped off and picked up on the side of the highway.). His jackass partner said well you should have said to stop. I turned to look at him and asked him if I look like I'm from around these parts. How the HELL would I know where we are (Mexico lacks signs and it's frustrating sometimes. There was no sign for the town.). Anyway, I was pissed. The driver dropped me off at the next town and I had to pay a cab to take me to Bernal or wait an hour or more for the next bus. I wasn't going to waste time doing that. You're probably wondering how I could not see the rock off the highway. You can, but only momentarily. The curtains on the other side of the bus were closed, so I didn't catch it.
So, I finally arrive in Bernal. As I'm walking through the centro (downtown) the image of the rock all of sudden appears out of nowhere. Wow! I stop in the middle of the road and just stare at the rock....admiring it's enormousness. I see a kid sitting on
Hanging on for dear life so I could take a damn picture for you people! That's the summit up ahead.
the sidewalk by the road staring at me. I turn to look at the kid and say, "Hey Paco or whatever your name is, see that rock up there (pointing to it)? I came all the way from America to climb that shit without any equipment. What do you think about that?" He looked at me with a blank stare....probably because I spoke to him in English and he didn't know what the hell I just said. However, I think he got the gist because he looked at the rock then back at me, then again at the rock and again back at me. Then he busted out laughing, so I kicked him in the nuts and ran off.
Climbing La Peña is no cakewalk let me tell you. Not only do you have to bring legs (as my friend The Jav puts it when it comes to physical activity), you also need to bring some ankles and lungs. The trail leading up to the rock is extremely rocky and is a constant climb. I started dying about halfway. The trail only leads you to the base of the rock, from there you gotta start climbing. I managed to
regain my conditioning as I kept climbing and climbing and climbing. I rested in an area where they have small altars for the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. The locals believe the rock has some spiritual meaning. To aid me in continuing climbing, the rock had some steel handles cemented into it. I think this is primarily used by climbers in order to attach their ropes. I was holding on to dear life as I climbed. I almost reached the summit, I could see the cross at the top, however, the next steel handle was about six feet from my grasp. I stopped and thought for a minute, I could probably grab on to the rock and reach that thing, but then I thought, "what about coming down?" So, I decided to stop there which was a little over 3/4 of the way to the top. There was no fear, but common sense kicked in. Not only did I not have any safety equipment, I was also up there by myself. If I fell, no one would know. I love being alive. So, I let the rock win this time around. Til next time.
Well, I guess I better
Strolling through Queretaro.
also mention the city of Queretaro where I mainly visited. The city has a lot of history and although it's downtown is not as impressive as Puebla or Mexico City, it was still pretty. This town also has plenty of churches and temples to admire. This town is where Emperor Maximilian was executed. I visited the Museo Regional and saw the desks where they signed the documents to sentence Maximilian to his death and the other where they signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 to end the Mexican-American War. Queretaro is also where "gorditas" originated from. I stuffed myself with this deliciously evil food. If you've never tried one, get one from a stand whenever there's a Mexican festival. Not sure if they'll be as good as here, but you'll get the idea.
History on Maximilian: Maximilian, 1832-67, emperor of Mexico (1864-67). As the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, he was denied a share in the imperial government by his reactionary brother, Emperor Francis Joseph. Maximilian served as commander in chief of the Austrian fleet and was governor-general of Lombardo-Venetia (1857-59), but he found no outlet for his dreams of liberal reform. When Mexican conservatives negotiated with Napoleon
This actually says, "One By One". Huh??
III to found a Mexican empire, Maximilian was persuaded to accept the crown. He and his wife, Carlotta, left their palace near Trieste and sailed (1864) to Mexico. The empire was a failure from the start. Maximilian, who had no real understanding of Mexico, found most of the country hostile to him and loyal to Benito Juárez. He alienated the conservatives by his liberal tendencies and others of his supporters by his decree (1865) ordering the summary execution of all followers of Juárez. Indeed, Maximilian's tenure rested solely on French soldiers, who drove Juárez and his liberal army to the north. The European monarchs, except Napoleon III, were lukewarm. The United States, irked by this violation of the Monroe Doctrine, was frankly hostile and was prevented from interfering only by the American Civil War. When affairs in France and the cessation of the Civil War impelled Napoleon III to withdraw (1866-67) the French troops from Mexico, the flimsy fabric of the empire dissolved. For a time Maximilian considered abdication, but he was irresolute. In 1866, Empress Carlotta went to Europe and vainly sought aid from Napoleon III and the pope. Maximilian, in desperation, assumed personal command of his forces, then
mostly concentrated at Querétaro. There, after a siege (March-May, 1867), he was captured and shot. He wrote Aus meinem Leben (1865, tr. Recollections of My Life, 1868).
Before I traveled to Queretaro, I found out the musician Manu Chao was playing there. He played at ACL less than a week before. So I purchased a concert ticket and planned my trip accordingly to be there for the show. It was awesome! Him and his band rocked it! It was my first concert in Mexico. Cool shit. The Mexicans were totally into the music rocking out and dancing everywhere. The scene was electric. I had a good time.
I totally recommend a visit to Queretaro. Very friendly people, pretty buildings, and delicious food. I also recommend the Jirafa Roja (Red Giraffe) hostel. The hosts were informative and friendly. I also met really cool travelers there, not only foreigners, but local Mexicans from other cities. Good times were had there.
Guadalajara here I come!!
full and happy,
There are more photos below