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Published: April 24th 2017
Well, what a wonderful invention these Cuota (Toll) roads are. Because we are charged as a bus they are possibly the most expensive roads ever, but still worth every peso, as they provide a trouble free journey, and the scenery still amazing.
We were heading towards Teotihuacán to visit the pyramids. This involved having to drive around Mexico City. Fortunately for us, since we were last here they have built the Arco Norte (think Mexican M25). Unfortunately it was not on our map! Thankfully the GPS had it, so all went well and the journey was generally uneventful.
We visited Teotihuacán when we were here last time, at about the same time of year, but the site is so impressive and interesting, we thought a second look was well worthwhile. Last time it coincided with the vernal equinox, so we checked the calendar, and yes it was the next week. This meant there would be big celebrations, so we decided we would stay a bit longer and see it again.
Luckily for us the RV Park in the nearby town of San Juan Teotihuacán (another Puebla Magica) was still there, we headed
that way. To gain access to the camp site you have to do a bit of a Mexican standoff with the oncoming traffic and in our case, in order to get in through the gate a bit of a bus shuffle as well. We caused a small traffic jam…….no one seemed to mind too much. The policeman watching us, took no notice whatsoever, the owner Mina came out to greet us, and a man appeared to help direct the traffic. I thought he was with Mina but once we were safely inside, he just disappeared. We had no idea who he was. Once inside, we parked up on the flat grassy area, which is essentially Mina’s garden. Later with a cold beer in hand I reflected… “I don’t remember it being that tight a turn last time, do you?” we decided that you must just remember the really good (or bad) bits!
The Park was also just an hour’s bus ride to Mexico City so we were positioned for culture, town life, cycling, pyramids, and by pure luck, as mentioned earlier..........the equinox. We settled in to stay a while, after all what more could you want? Oh,
View from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon along the Avenue of the Dead
the opportunity for some dental hygiene, Mina’s daughter had her dental practice in the house. We were due our yearly teeth clean so booked in. It was a sort of one stop shop really. .
We planned our days and decided we would stay for the Equinox. During this time, up to a million people, most dressed in white and red, along with Aztecs in magnificent headdresses, visit the site. They have traditional ceremonies, dance & chant and then climb the pyramid of the Sun to be energised. A sight not to be missed.
The Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, Olmacs, all built pyramids and cities in pre Hispanic Mexico. Some lie deep in the jungle having become overrun by nature, whilst some remain exposed on mountain tops, or huge open plains. All are different from each other, and all impressive. But Teotihuacán is different again and has long stood as the greatest of the Mesoamerican mysteries. It is the site of a colossal City and influential culture about which little is known.
The city was built between approx 0 -150 AD. The name Teotihuacán was given to the area and people by
Mina's RV park
At one point there were Australian, French, Canadian & French Canadian(must group them separately!) Belgium, German, Swiss and British (us) camping here. It made for interesting conversation, the dogs were bilingual too!
the Aztecs, who found the ruins of the deserted city sometime in the 1300s. The name translates as “the place where men become gods”
Whoever they were the Teotihuacán’s, were skilled urban planners. They built stone-sided canals to reroute the San Juan River directly under the Avenue of the Dead, and set about constructing the pyramids that would form the city’s core.
Avenue of the Dead is the long main avenue, and along each side stand many structures, but two dominate the site. At the north end facing the Avenue stands the relatively small 147ft Temple of the Moon, but the main and most impressive structure is the pyramid of the Sun. Standing at 226 ft it is the third largest pyramid in the world. It has been calculated that it was built approximately 100AD from three million tonne of stone, all moved by hand!
This pyramid was built over a cave shaped like a four-leaf clover. The cave was sacred to Mesoamerican cultures, and archaeologists believe that this particular cave was considered the womb of the universe, or the place the Gods created the world.
you can climb the 248 steps to the top of the Sun pyramid, which offers a stunning view of the site. In fact, being Mexico you can climb up all the structures……….. so we did.
This is an immense site. Currently they have excavated and exposed 2 km of the Avenue of the Dead, but the known total length so far is 5 km. When we cycled around, we saw bits of ruin incorporated in the surrounding villages, more exposed in the school playground, or ancient walls in the middle of the village street. There is much more to uncover, and currently there are several active excavation sites.
In 2003 a storm created a hole which exposed a tunnel. It had been sealed with large boulders about 2,000 years ago. The tunnel runs underneath the temple of the Plumed Serpent. So far along with some artefacts they have discovered traces of mercury, which they believe served as symbolic representations of water, as well as the mineral pyrite, which had been embedded in the rock by hand. In darkness the shards of pyrite emit a throbbing, metallic glow which looks like a distant galaxy. So,
Pyramid of the Moon, prior to excavation.
Picture taken from the Teotihuacán Museum
2000 years ago, and 40 ft underground, these people replicated the experience of standing amid the stars! And I thought the bit above ground was impressive.
Less impressive, but very useful, they have now built a cycle path all around the archaeological area, which provided us with a very easy way to view the site from all directions…. we used it on several days.
We first visited on a week day and were able to roam around the nearly empty site, which was wonderful, but we were lucky enough to experience it two other ways as well. Looking on the internet we discovered there was a “Son y Luz” (sound and light) show, this should be good we thought, so decided to go. We cycled down to the entrance to buy tickets. Not a thing, no sign saying which days, or what time it was on, or where or how to buy tickets.
We went back and asked Mina. Oh she said you have to buy the tickets in Mexico City! ..... Oh, so just to clarify we understand you, we have to take a bus to Mexico City buy the
tickets and take a coach daytrip back to here? Yes, Mina replied, “but I can probably get you some”….. “I will let you know.” Each day we waited to see if any tickets appeared, then one evening there was a beeping of a car horn outside the Rig and Mina saying “get in, get in, we go to the show, but first we have to find the tickets” We got in to her car and there were two other ladies in the car. We did our best “Buenos noches”, partook in a bit of a Spanglish conversation, then they all resumed chatting to each other. We decided they were probably friends.
After quite an exciting ride over the cobbled roads to look for the car supplying the tickets, U- turns executed at a whim, and stopping anywhere along the way, Mina seemingly unconcerned about holding up traffic…..we eventually spotted the car. Tickets handed over, Mina whisked us to the main entrance. She couldn’t drive in, so blocked the road & caused chaos to allow us to unload, and then she got out, opened the boot and took out a walking frame! Uhmm this should be interesting I
thought. It’s all cobbled or rough pathways here.
We were helping the ladies through the crowd, over the uneven surfaces, when we heard the frantic beeping of a car horn. Mina’s car appeared through the crowds, she had persuaded the Police to let her in. We all piled back in, and Mina drove to the entrance booth, leapt out, & organised (or cajoled) people to let us jump the queue! Already the evening had been entertaining……..we looked forward to the show. Mina agreed to pick us up after the show as well. I said it was a one stop shop, oh and the ladies were also visitors, she didn’t know them any better than us.
It was really atmospheric. The pyramids were illuminated, as we walked along the Avenue of the Dead listening to a commentary explaining the history of the city (using the Apple Iphone they gave us!). Then we sat down in front of the Pyramid of the Sun, which is used as the backdrop for the finale of the show. It was fabulous. I would have immediately watched it again. I would probably concentrate more, as I had been a bit
distracted trying to work out how to do all the extra bits on the Iphone. Technology & me.........!
There remains much to be discovered about this site and the people who built it. They had a sort of hieroglyphic language but no one has interpreted it, no one knows what language they spoke, what they called themselves, what religious, military or civilian groups they had, and what caused their demise. What they do know, is that around 750AD, the city was abandoned. Whether the crops failed, the people were killed in battle, or they just dissipated back into the local area & returned to their original homelands is also unknown.
Whilst cycling around the perimeter of the site, we were waved into a small craft/museum place. We were talking to the young man who was giving us a tour of the workshops, showing us the local art work and discussing the masks, some of which had almond shaped eyes. He pointed out he also had almond shaped eyes and a slightly oriental appearance, he explained this was an indication of a pure Teotihuacán desendant. Who knows? Maybe they are still all living around their
original city. They certainly have a different appearance to the Spanish Mexicans or the indigenous Indians.
“Don’t go, don’t go!” most people say (who haven’t been) when you mention taking a visit to Mexico City. You will be robbed, stolen, attacked or abducted! Well, how can you not go when you are just a short way from one of the world’s most interesting cities?
The 38 Pesos / £1.52 ticket for the air conditioned bus, whisked us directly into the main bus station that looks like an small airport terminal (last time we were just offloaded onto a chaotic street, so that’s a huge improvement), and a quick taxi drive deposited us directly in the Centro Historico.
Mexico City is a beautiful place. Historical buildings, parks, green spaces, wonderful museums (approx 170, second only to London), lots of art & sculpture, and right in the centre, Aztec ruins. Like London it is a city of many areas… “villages”, and like any city it is hot and exhausting. We chose the classic sightseeing resource of the “Hop-on-Hop-off” bus tour, hopping off at areas we had not visited before. First stop The Bosque
de Chapultepec, which is a shady park area accommodating many museums, art, and the Castillo de Chapultepec. The Castillo was the home of Emperor Maximilian & continued to be the Presidential residence until 1939, when it was turned into the National History Museum. It is built on the highest point and overlooks the city, so we decided to take a look.
We wandered around the park, enjoyed the sculptures, had a lovely meal in a beautiful old restaurant overlooking the Centro Historico and the day was gone. It was time to head home.
The list of things we wanted to do but didn’t achieve was much longer than the things we did, but it was a great day. Really you need a week to enjoy all the attractions.
We had one month left before having to return to the States, so from Teotihuacán we decided it was better to take our time heading north rather than go further south and then have to rush back.
Along the way there were many places to explore, so it wouldn’t be a problem using the time, just a problem choosing which
Bosque de Chapultepic Park
Translates as "Hill of Grasshoppers"
we were going to do.
The plan for one trip I really wanted to do, formed a few years ago, when I took a weekend course at West Dean House in W. Sussex. West Dean is now a college for traditional arts but originally had been the country home of Edward James.
Edward, son of two very wealthy parents, and the Godson of King Edward Vll was a poet, sculptor and patron of the arts. He was a passionate supporter of Surrealism and bought many works of art from, then unknown artists, in order to help them financially. He ended up with the largest private collection of Surrealist art in the world.
He felt he was never quite accepted as a true artist himself and eventually left England to live in Mexico. Here, he had a chance meeting with Plutarco Gastelum, which was to change his life. Together they created an amazing Sculpture park in the jungle in a remote area named Xilitla. At the college we were shown a documentary about his life and the sculpture garden, I was hooked, I wanted to go, but never thought I would be
anywhere near that remote jungle town.
Well, it’s a small world really isn’t it? We looked at the map and realised we could be (sort of) going that way. A quick bit of research showed there were no RV parks there or nearby. We needed a plan.
We decided to stay at San Miguel de Allende, another lovely arty colonial town, and consider our options. Some map reading and a few calculations later we worked out that Las Pozas was a mere seven hour drive away through the beautiful scenery of the Sierra Gorda , itself a highly recommended area to visit. We were mulling this over and mentioned it to our neighbours Jim & Sherri. They just looked at us and said “well, that’s not far “do you know how long it takes us to get out of our State?”(they are from Montana)
Soon after this conversation, the car & hotel were booked and we went off on a little holiday.
The Reserva de la Biosphere of Sierra Gorda is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It is known as the “green jewel “of central Mexico and
Looking over San Miguel de Allende
View of Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
is the most diverse protected ecosystem in the country. As we drove along the twisty, tortuous, switchback mountain roads (I thought of several friends who would have been a bit green at this point. You know who you are!), the scenery changed from lush agriculture land, to rocky semi-desert. We then passed through tropical forest, into cloud forest and back again. Along the way, seemingly in the middle of nowhere were several small vibrant towns or communities, and spread along the route are five Mission Churches with ornate elaborate carved facades, built by the Franciscans in the mid 18th
Century, and now UNESCO Heritage buildings.
As we continued to climb up the mountain road there was not much traffic around, then ahead we saw, then passed a yellow VW Camper. As we went by we noticed some stickers on its side but couldn’t quite read them, but did note the vehicle had Mexican plates. A bit later we pulled over for a stop, and soon after the VW pulled in alongside us. The occupants got out and introduced themselves, Lydia and Jaume from Spain. They are travelling through north, central and southern America, working along the way
when they can. They had a really inventive approach for work. Other than the usual travelling jobs you can do, the signs on the side of their VW were adverts for hairdressing or phone charging, we asked if we could see inside the Camper as they had fitted it out themselves. It was great. They had used pallets to make the fixture and fittings, really ingenious and cheap. We chatted a bit, and then wished them safe travels before all going on our way.
The journey itself was a great road trip, and there were several places you could spend time, but our destination was still a few hours ahead, so we drove on saying we would stop on the return journey.
I had found a bargain hotel deal in the town, but then Graeme saw “El Posada de Castillo”. This is the house that was built by, and became the family home of Plutarco Gastelum. When Plutarco was designing the Castillo, Edward encouraged him to build it in the Surrealist style to complement the sculptures in the gardens at El Poza, which is how this individual and surreal looking building came to be,
overlooking the remote town of Xilitla and cloud forest. It is now a small eight room hotel, still owned and run by the family We decided it was a “your only here once” moment, so booked it (Actually it was still quite cheap, but we have got used to Mexican prices)
What we hadn’t realised was that, because the town is built into the mountain, many of its “roads” are actually stepped paths. So when the sat nav said “turn right, you have arrived at your destination”, we couldn’t obey, as we were gazing up a steep set of road width steps. We got out and walked to find the entrance. As we peered in through the Posadas gate, at the set of white concrete footsteps leading into the garden, we knew it was an interesting choice
It really was an experience. We were told “treat it as your home”. As most of the time we were the only people there, we did. We wandered through the lounge, looked through the books, watched the Edward James DVD, explored the twisty staircases that didn’t really go anywhere and generally just enjoyed the place.
Chatting to Plutarco’s granddaughter, we discovered that the family still keep a relationship with West Dean House and she had visited there several times, so we spent a while discussing the two homes of Edward James.
Next day..... Off to the Gardens. One of the first things we noticed as we arrived was not the magnificent towering structure at the Park entrance but a yellow VW camper parked outside it. Obviously Lydia & Jaume had decided to come here as well, we hoped we might bump into them.
The Las Pozas project began when Edward James wanted to build his own " Garden of Eden”, and was looking for a location in Mexico.
In 1944 he had a chance meeting with Plutarco and hired him as a guide. They set off and soon discovered the isolated area of Xilitla. It is situated in semi cloud forest with amazing plant life, animals, natural waterfalls and pools. The story goes that whilst they were swimming in one of these pools a huge cloud of butterflies surrounded them. Edward took this as an omen that this was where his garden should be, and
purchased a large area of jungle, as you can if you are a rich titled gentleman. The project had begun.
Initially it was to be a horticultural project, a haven for his large collection of approx. 29,000 orchids, and a refuge for exotic wildlife. However in 1962 a rare snowfall devastated the plants, & he decided to build an “everlasting garden” instead. Spending millions of pounds, and creating employment for more than 150 of the villagers over many years, he set about designing and building surreal looking structures from concrete that resembled plants, trees and flowers. He named each sculpture / structure with names such as The Three Story House Which Could Be Five,The Room with a Roof like a Whale
, The Staircase to Heaven
and my favorite, Bathtub in the Shape of an Eye.
Now, how many times do you really want to go and see / stay somewhere, and when you do it is not quite what you hoped it would be? Well, this was not the case, I could wax lyrical forever about Las Pozas and Xilitla, it was everything, and more above my expectations. At this point I shall take
The Bridge to Nowhere
Overlooking the Stegosaurus column
the time to make no apology re the amount of photos included, but it still gives no real idea, because you need to experience the lush green jungle, heat, smell, perspective and scale of the place.
We wandered around the park exploring the maze like trails, each twist or turn offering up another stunning view or fabulous piece of sculpture. It is definitely a hands on experience, as you are allowed to climb up, on and over the steps, stairs, ramps and bridges of the structures. To recover and cool off, you can bathe in the river and pools. We spent about six hours wandering around. At one point as we were squeezing ourselves through the very narrow “San Pedro gate” when we met Lydia and Jaume approaching from the other direction. We chatted for a while and arranged to meet later for a drink.
Personally I usually find aging, blackened, urban concrete buildings a bit depressing, but somehow, when you see them in the jungle it sort of, well, just looks right. These structures just blended in with the surroundings. I couldn’t think how anyone would not like this unique place. I didn’t
Bathtub in the shape of an eye.
For bath time Edward James had the "pupil" filled with scented water whilst exotic fish swam by in the "iris".The view overlooks the waterfall.
have to think for long though because when we discovered that the gardener Monty Don had made a program about Los Pozas, we looked it up on YouTube to see how he presented it. He didn’t like it; he said he didn’t understand it!! I don’t think the borders were neat enough for him!
In the information we read and programs we watched, Edward James is always referred to as an “eccentric English man” But if you are rich enough to make your dreams come true, does that make you eccentric? Then again, he did once take his pet boa constrictors to the Hotel Francis in Mexico City and pay for them to have their own suite.
Edward spent millions of dollars on Los Pozas, at one point he had to sell his collection of surrealist paintings to continue the project. When he died he left no provision to maintain his life’s work, he was happy for it to return to nature. However, the Gastelum family cared for it until 2007 when a Trust bought it, and is working to maintain the sculptures.
We know the background to the Las Pozas,
who built it and why, but having seen the remains of these structures in the jungle, if you didn’t know the history it could have you guessing. What was that for, why was that built, what is the significance of this temple? Much like the pyramids we had visited, these structure originally were painted, and some still offer a tantalising glimpse of their original colours. Now here’s a thought, you know all these ruins, where academics, archaeologists & historians spend their lives working out who built them, what they were for, and why....... what if, just what if....... some rich, eccentric Mayan, or Aztec equivalent of Edward James, built the pyramids for no reason at all, other than, “why not”.......
....... Anyway, the other reason for this side trip was to visit the waterfalls of Huasteca Potosina. Because of the high calcium content in the surrounding rocks, the water is a fabulous aquamarine blue, it looks unreal or photo shopped. There are four major falls, we couldn’t visit them all so chose the nearest, Cascada de Tamul.
We arrived and were trying to find out how to buy a ticket for the boat (a
Cascada de Tamul
Yep, the water really is that blue.
common theme for us in Mexico), when a woman came up to us and speaking English introduced herself as Claudia. She explained the cost was per boat so we could hire a boat for ourselves or wait for more people to share the cost.
She also wanted to go but suggested we wait a while and see who else turns up. This turned out to be a good tactic in more ways than one. We had read that you get a boat and float up to the cascade; but we hadn’t read that you had to paddle. So more people = less paddling. After a short while a few more people turned up and we were off.
It was a lovely trip. We paddled (a bit) up to view the Cascada and on the return Graeme & Claudia cooled off by doing a bit of body surfing the rapids, and floated around in the lagoon area.
On our return journey we drove past the gardens again. It was a week end and quite busy. Just as I said to Graeme “it’s a shame Lydia & Jaume didn’t stay longer they might
Transportation to the waterfall.
How nice to drift up the river, I thought........ We had to row!
have got more hairdressing customers, and I don’t know why I didn’t ask her to cut my hair” we saw their van. We pulled over to see what they were doing. Lydia had her hairdressing stuff out and was drumming up customers, so I took my place in the queue. It’s amazing who you meet in the hairdressers, even when it is on the roadside in the jungle. An English guy at university in the States wandered by and stopped for a chat and I was speaking to a man from Arizona (we didn’t exchange names) who was with a woman from Germany called Heike. She was busy taking pictures of Lydia & Jaume, so I asked him where she was travelling from – to. Oh she is cycling around the world he replied; she had covered most of it as well! (Heike has a great website with fabulous pictures, take a look at www.pushbikegirl.com
,) a warning though, it could make you feel lazy or exhausted.
Having had my haircut & shared a beer, once again we bade farewell to Jaume & Lydia.
It is a good job there was not an RV park
here, because it would have been very difficult to leave, but sadly our mini break was over and we had to retrace our route back through the mountains. We had opted to remain a day longer at Xilitla, so on the return journey we only had time to walk to another Cascade, take a look at two of the Missions and do a quick pit stop to buy one of the Oh So tasty Pollo Rostizadas. Soon we were back at the Rig for supper. We haven’t crossed this area off our “places visited “list but added it to the “ must stay longer” one. We would definitely return to this area.
Before we left we had made an appointment to visit the “Chapel of Jimmy Ray” at The Casa de las Ranas a few Km outside the town It is the house of Amando McLaughlin, an ex pat American artist. I had noticed it on Trip adviser as an “off the beaten track, don’t miss” suggestion. We checked how to get there, we required a taxi. We decided that once we had returned the car we would organize the taxi early in the day.
Things just work out here. When we took the hire car back, Beto the car rental man said, if you want a taxi anywhere just give me a call. Oh well, we said we have an appointment to go to Casa de las Ranas @ 4pm can you do that? Taxi booked, simple.
Off we went, when we arrived, as instructed we went to the top gate, there was no handle, latch or bell, no way of indicating our presence. We checked the second gate and it was ajar, so we thought it had been left open for us to enter. We wandered in followed by Beto, who appeared anxious, he called out to get someone’s attention. Our conversation went as follows, Beto, You can’t just walk in. Its OK we replied, we have an appointment. No, Beto replied, it’s Mexico, someone might shoot at you. No, really we are expected and, the gate was open. It must be OK, we said. Beto called out some more. Eventually a door opened, “how did you get in?” the man asked. “We have an appointment, we replied, the gate was open, we walked in” “Well” he said, “it’s
lucky you didn’t get shot. Anyway follow me” We had just met Anando McLaughlin.
Having got off to such a good start, the tour went surprisingly well. Anando showed us around the garden, the chapel of Jimmy Ray (named after his father) the mosaic garden walls and the rather jaunty composting toilet!
It’s all a bit difficult to describe really, (I need your help here Emma) It’s a bit Gaudi, a bit Dali, a bit Mexican/Indian/new age, a bit 60’s psychedelic, collage/sculpture/ art. It’s a lot fantastic though. We thought the outside was wonderful, but then we were shown into the house (see pictures)
We really enjoyed San Miguel de Allende. It is a picture book pretty arty town that has quite a large ex pat community. We wandered around it, took the almost compulsory bus tour (it saved walking up the steep hill for the view) checked out the galleries and attended a gypsy jazz concert under the trees. Around the area we enjoyed wallowing in the Hot Springs and, with Jim & Sherri we visited the newly excavated ruins of Canada de Virgin, a really beautiful newly restored pre-Hispanic
Every home should have one
The Spirit guide for Anando McLaughlins home & garden, Casa de las Renas.
pyramid complex dating from 300AD to 1050.
We had two weeks left in Mexico, the people we were meeting were now all heading north, more focused on getting home than experiencing new places. Graeme was starting to think about and organising for the rig to be serviced and checked over. It had been through some bumpy roads and we had a small lean to the left. The interior needed a good clean up as well, the screens, fans and surfaces all covered with dust & grit. At least dusting is varied in this life. As we move around we get different types & colour of dust which occasionally I move around. A full spring clean was on the books.
It was getting nearer to Easter, and we had warning re the possible chaos of crossing the border at a holiday time, so we set off but decided rather than rushing to the border to cross before the holiday, we would linger a bit along the way. We decided to stop at Matuhuala from where we could get a bus to visit Real de Catorce. It was once a thriving silver mining town, but early
last century became a ghost town. We read you can only reach it through a small tunnel.
We had been told that Matuhuala had a good RV stop, it was a bit of a car park but easy to find and spacey with full hook ups. Sure enough, it was the easiest place to find so far and it was a bit of a car park, but a hotel car park with resources. Nice pool & restaurant, Wi Fi, walk into town, easy to get buses & taxis and ...........an excellent water hook up
The rig runs on “Full city hook up” of water, sewer and electricity, but also can be totally independent, using the inverter, generator & water pump. The water in Mexico has been really nice water but the pressure is usually low, so we fill our tanks and use the water pump.
We picked our space, not difficult as we were the only ones there, “hooked up” ran the taps and watch with wonder as water gushed rather than trickled out. We looked at the gravel surface we were parked on, a plan began to form.
We were 2 stops away from entering the States. There, when you pull into a park one of the first things they do (other than take a large amount of money ) is hand you a list of rules, One of which states “no Rig washing allowed” often with a sub clause of “unless you pay our team about $250”. In Mexico you pull in and they, well,.................... Nothing. Often you can’t find anyone to pay or if you do it’s “park where you like” or “pay when you want to”
As mentioned the exterior of the rig really needed a wash, but that required the, until now, sadly lacking water pressure for the hose. We might be in a “”car park type”area but the surface meant there was little dust so the interior could be sorted as well and all it would cost us was an extra nights camping fee. We booked in.
First though we had to organise our trip to Real de Catorce. We enquired about the bus times, they go at 8am & 10 we were reliably informed. Off we went to catch the 10am, no such bus, so
Real de Catorce Tunnel.....
I think the altar half way through is for those who didn't make it!
we enquired about the next day oh, 8,9,10 & 12. We purchased tickets for 9am.
Next day, we arrive in plenty of time for this 9am bus. A bus arrives, we are not allowed on. It is 9am we (tried) to say. Yes but it’s not the 9am bus, it is the (until now never mentioned) 8.30 one, that’s late. Ok, so we waited. Another bus arrived, maybe ours? Nope. This is the, also until now never mentioned, 8.45 bus. Another one arrives. No, it may be past 9am now but is still not the 9am bus. Sometime later the 9am bus arrived and soon after we were on our way. Later on we learnt why the bus may be delayed.
The bus chugged up the scenic mountain road until near the summit there was a traffic queue, which we joined. We knew there was a tunnel which only smallish vehicles could go through but were not sure how it all worked. We sat there, and then people started to get off. I asked another passenger, “do we walk from here?”, “a small bus may come and pick us up but you can walk,
it’s about one Km.” she replied. Well, that’s not far, so we got off and walked.
We were wondering how to get through the tunnel, when we saw some people set off on foot, & decided to follow. It was probably quicker to walk, after all how long could a tunnel cut into solid rock in the late 18 century be? Answer........ 2.3 km! So it was some while later we actually saw the light at the end of the tunnel and exited into the brilliant sunshine, & fresh air of Real de Catorce, once one of the richest Silver mining towns in Mexico.
The story goes, in 1772 a musician who was lost in the sierras, camped for a night and lit a fire to keep warm. In the morning when he went to clean-up the remains of his campfire he was surprised to find that as the result of his fire there were little streams of silver fused on the ground. By the early 1800’s it was the third richest silver producing district in Mexico. In its best years, up to $5,500,000 worth of silver was extracted.
was originally for the ore carts, but in 1902, at a cost of one million pesos it was enlarged to accommodate a trolley line that would connect Real de Catorce with Potrero. Unfortunately soon after, mining operations declined, and then, during the political and social instability generated during the 1910 Revolution, the mining was almost completelyparalysed.By 1920, Real de Catorce was nearly a ghost town, & only in recent years has it undergone a bit of a revival.
What a difference a day makes. If we had made it the day before we would have been able to wander around and enjoy this isolated town at its best. However, it was now Friday, Good Friday, in a Catholic Country. We started to wander along the cobbled streets only to be bought to a halt by a cheering excited crowd. We looked along the street to see Romans, some on horseback, some walking, holding back the flowing robed crowd following Jesus carrying the cross.
We walked up the hill to observe the “crucifixion” then wandered about a bit. It was so busy & hot, and we were not sure how the reverse journey worked, or
We meet again
Graeme with Jaume & Lydia
how long it might take, so we decided to head home. We were walking back, when suddenly Jaume & Lydia called out. Their VW fitted through the tunnel and they had been staying a few days. Today they had postcards of photos, they had taken, on offer for a “donation”. (All their projects do not have a price but ask for a donation). It was good to catch up with them.
No way were we going to walk back through the tunnel so we hopped into the back of a truck. It’s taken six months to eventually ride in the back of a truck, the common form of transport here.
We found the bus back, we were early, the bus was empty this meant we could take front seats, and see the great view down the mountain road. Eventually a small bus arrived with all the other passengers (so that’s how you do it!) and they piled on and on…….. Eventually the driver said it was full & turned people away. Excellent we still had pole position. We rejoiced too soon. A crowd of quite large Mexican ladies basically hitched a lift. They were
only going to the first village, so he let them all squeeze into the space in front of us.……. End of view!
Only a little overloaded, off we went. The driver took a little detour to the village where the women wanted to get off. He stopped at the junction and the engine just died. He tried a few times to restart, nope, got out did something at the back, nothing, eventually after a few attempts he decided it had run out of fuel!
I felt it not the time (even if I could) to suggest that, if your daily bus route is up a dead end mountain road and back again, perhaps you might want to check the fuel level before starting off? Anyway, as it happens no one appeared particularly bothered. The hitchhiking women decided it was quicker to walk home and left us. Most of the other passengers all piled off, and having found something to eat or drink (in Mexico you can always find something to eat and drink, no matter where you are) sat on the walls, chatting and laughing. The kids ran around playing.
driver was a little angsty but went off, called someone who soon appeared with a 5 gallon container of fuel. Most people took no notice of him struggling with the container, they were too busy enjoying the stop, so we helped him tip it in. Then everyone piled back on the bus……… It wouldn’t start. Now the driver looked really fed up, what now?
He decided to roll it down the mountain road to jump start it, with us all on board. Graeme quietly said “no engine, no power steering” Well no, oh well…….. As we rolled and bumped through the village we passed the hitching women all chatting outside the village bar.
Eventually after some coughing and spluttering the engine dragged itself into life and off we went. The couple seated opposite us slept through the whole thing,they didn’t know what they missed. Or perhaps they did, it might be a regular thing.
So, we didn’t quite get the experience of Real de Catorce we would have liked but we did experience a typical Mexican day out. It’s not always quite what you set off for but it’s always interesting.
A perfect ending to our six months here.
Next day we cleaned and scrubbed the Rig inside and out. It looked good for a while, but that didn’t last long. That night we experienced the most spectacular thunder storm we had seen for a long while. Still, at least it is new mud.
So with our freezer empty and as much of the in house bar drunk as possible in case customs took it away, we set off towards the border. Let’s hope there’s no wall.
………….. Next blog from the “Other side” ………………
So, as you might guess we have loved Mexico. It’s a huge, diverse and beautiful country.
The Mexican people we met have been helpful, friendly and so accommodating, they have stepped forwards to help us in many small ways. There is nothing that cannot be fixed or sorted. There is a tangible vibrancy to all the villages and towns we visited, which we love.
The food is great both in restaurants and in the markets & the street stalls are
wonderful. Most towns, however small, have family run restaurants and a market, which is the center of everyday life. We shopped at the markets wherever we have been. I can probably safely say, unless ice cream or alcohol contains E numbers, not one has passed our lips these last six months.
You can cycle & walk places, and when required taxi’s are easily available, and the bus service is good, especially when they have fuel. The weather has been just perfect.
In the blog I have shared just a few of the wonderful places we have visited with you, we have seen many more, and mentioned only some of the people we met along the way, who have helped us enjoy Mexico. It’s a great place to visit and overall, it’s just great fun
…… Viva la Mexico…….
Oh, two things we won’t miss ……. Topes & dodgy electrics.
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