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November 24th 2010
Published: December 4th 2010
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from the terrace of the hostel
The thing about travelling is that you have to travel. At the moment we're moving pretty quick – not more than two nights in any one place. We're well aware that this can't be maintained for the whole time, but we want to have a bit of a look at Mexico before we move on to Central America.

It does tend to give the budget a bit of a hammering. Bus travel, while cheap here, still costs. On the other hand, there is something to be said for sitting on the bus, appropriate music playing through the headphones (so far, appropriate has been everything from Lightning Hopkins, Blind Melon and Chisel), cruising through the country.

Catorce to Zacatecas was a long day though, no doubt. Catorce to the end of tunnel, change buses, then to Matahuala, new bus, then to San Luis Potosi, new bus, finally Zacatecas. One good thing is that we managed to not ever have to wait more than about 20 mins for a connecting bus.

We arrived in Zacactecas, a mid sized town (about 120.000) siutated in a valley, the Centro Historico towards the bottom of the valley. You tend to get a feel for a place as you get off a bus. Often these feelings are dead wrong as the bus station is often in a crappy part of town and you've just done a long day of travelling. This place felt pretty good and this time first impressions were borne out. Opting once again for the cheapest place in town we found ourselves at a nice little place, multi storied, set amongst the cobbled back streets surrounding the main cathedral. We sprang for a private room rather than a dorm. A quick tip here, this is often cheaper if you're travelling as a couple as the dorms charge per person. Not always, but quite often.

Dumped our bags, and headed out to have a look about. The centre of Zacatecas is UNESCO World Heritage listed, and you can see why. The buildings are well maintained, and none of them have been modernised. There are a multitude of little alleys and streets leading here and there which could be in medieval Spain, a very impressive cathedral, and a giant sideways head. Dunno whose head it was, but it was big, metal, and on its side.
The centre is also packed with abogados (lawyers), they had offices everywhere. But that, of course, is a very good thing.

We found a place to have lunch finally you need to keep in mind that 3 in the arvo is siesta time – as they tell you here “Siesta before Fiesta!” There was a football game on the telly, so we settled in to watch it. Or rather, I settled in to watch it, Klaire being rather less enthusiastic.

Then some Americans walked in. now, I wanted to avoid bagging Americans, but it's sometimes hard to avoid. Don't worry, I'm sure there are plenty of other blogs here which bag Australians.
And I'm sure it's unintentional on their part, but I've noticed that Americans are very often the loudest people in the room, as was the case here.
Then, they asked for the channel to be changed. I glanced at the waiter as he walked over to the telly, studiously avoiding eye contact. It was almost as if he knew he was doing evil. He reached up the button, his very own hand clearly shaking as it resisted his wrongdoing.
He pressed the button...

NFL - what a bloody stupid sport. And this from someone who's been known to watch darts on ESPN. I mean, I get why rugby or Aussie Rules fans think football is boring. I don't agree, but I get it.
But when NFL fans say football is boring...well, it's got me buggered. 10 seconds of action followed by at least 5 mins of nothing. It's basically one long ad punctuated by very occasional shots of bloke prancing about in shiny pants. And the worst thing is, the further we go north the more it's on telly here and there.

The next day we were woken early by the random clanging of church bells, and dudes advertising a range of things from the giant speakers on top of their cars. Honestly, I've got no idea who came up with the idea that shouting at people would encourage them to buy your stuff, but they weren't thinking of me. I just put a ban on them, people that carry on like pork chops (seriously, Harvey Norman could be selling stuff at half price and I still wouldn't go, their ads s__t me that much).

As Zacatecas is a pretty place, streets undulating up and down and old houses creeping up the hillsides, we had plans of catching the cable car from one side of the valley to the other to get a better look at it all. The first hurdle was the notice posted on the wall at the hostel.

WARNING!!! Don't go up there after 3 pm or you'll be stabbed and shot and used for pig food and all your stuff will be stolen!!!...or something along those lines. This didn't fit with our plans so we interpreted it thus: “Much nicer to go have a look up the top in the morning”.

One end of the cable car was just up the hill from the Centro Historico, so we walked up there. Slowly. Having been born in the lowest continent in the world except for Atlantis we don't do so well at altitude. We made it though, taking the time to take a couple of photos of the place.

Looks quiet.

Must be low season.

We walked up to the ticket part. There was a guy stretched on a bench having a snooze. Next to him were scattered what looked like most of the parts for....well, it looked like stuff that made the thing go. We peered around corners, inquiringly. Finally, a bloke with a broom appeared. Actually, not so much appearred – he had been there all along but had been moving so slowly I thought he was part of the display.
“No funciona?”I asked.
“Hoy? No. Quizas mañana.” Seems that a lot of things in Mexico are 'maybe tomorrow'.
So we took some photos from the top anyway.

The entrance to the mine was nearby, and they did tours, so we went to that next. Hopefully it was operational.
It was, and we bought our tickets. We could have had an English speaking guide, but that had to be pre-arranged, so in the end it was us and a family from Monterrey who said hello in perfect American accented English, then spoke not another word in the language.

The tour was excellent, I must say, and I understood more than I thought I would. Klaire, not so much, but it wasn't really necessary. When the guide laughed, and the family laughed, we chuckled, and when the guide pointed out a display showing the slave conditions of the indigenous Huichol and their children that were forced to work by the Spanish, the meaning was fairly clear. In truth, English feels a bit like cheating at this stage. You see people using it, gringos mainly, but it's better to speak a bit of Spanish. Folk that tell you that you don't need to bother aren't completely talking out their arses – you could get by. However, it would take a lot of pointing, miming and blank looks, and , frankly, it's just bloody rude. You are also a hell of a lot more relaxed and confident about travel if you can speak at least a few words.

Just an aside – it seems to me that many Mexicans may have a similar blind spot to many Australians when it comes to the treatment of indigenous people. Mexico is celebrating both 100 years since the revolution, and 200 years since independence from Spain this year. Just as some Australians imagine that what happened the local population when the English arrived 200 odd years ago has nothing to with them, the Mexican line seems to be that the oppression of the “Indios” was all down to the Spaniards, and all was well with the world when they got the arse back in 1810. As you walk around town too, it's very clear that the lighter skinned you are the less likely you are to be poor.

Anyway, really a very well set up mine tour. It's a mine that was first opened around 1610, an operated for almost 400 years, so, I'm sorry, but it was a touch more impressive than the last mine tour I did – Mt Isa when I was a kid.

And, no kidding, at the west entrance there's a a nightclub. A pretty good one from what we could see through the doors. Unfortunately, it wasn't open, being a Monday afternoon, but we bought some La Club Mina tequila glasses to replace the cut down Tecate cans.

Next hiccup – the mine tour ends at a different spot than the start. After buying our shot glasses and listening to some guy play a Mexican-tinged Nothing Else Matters on his acoustic guitar we really were a little lost.

We found our way back to the Museo de Zacatecano – and were the only people in there again. The staff were very excited to see us, ran ahead turning on exhibits, switching on lights, and we felt obliged to wait and watch everything. It took two hours to get through the place, and we know a lot more about the Huichol, modern Zacatecano art, music, ironwork, architecture, military history, the mint....

Eventually they let us leave, and we made it back to the hostel in one piece.

Back at the hostel we finally got to meet Ernesto, who is mentioned in the Lonely Planet, and his lovely dog Lara – a sort of mongrel black lab. He was a pretty nice bloke. He pointed out that we had missed out on the vibrant Zacatecano nightlife a bit by rocking up on a Sunday and Monday, but said we should go and check it out anyway.

We ventured out and found a bar playing some decent trance music, overlooking the street, got ourselves a balcony table. Clearly pissed people have a habit of dropping beers on peoples' heads so there were massive holes drilled into the thick wood tables that overhung the street for you to put your bottles in. One thing about this country – the beers you buy in a place like this bar aren't that much pricier than from a bottlo. You'll pay about 15 pesos for a beer in the bar, and maybe about 10 pesos from a shop (we're talking $1.20 vs 80c in AUD).

Back at the hostel again I had a quick chat to a couple of older blokes that had rocked up on bikes – a BMW R1200 and a V Strom; both long distance touring bikes. They were kitted out like Ewan McGregor and his annoying mate so maybe they would be interesting.
They kept saying “Owh Owkay” in that funny accent so I proceeded to offend them by asking if they were Canadian. The indignant reply came.
“No, we're American, from Minnesota, you've probably never heard of it.”
Righto, mate, not everyone is as insular as you lot.
But I actually replied “Sure I have. It's where Donna Moss is from”.
So far their excellent adventure had taken them over 1000 miles in 3 weeks. I would have chatted longer – goodness, that's almost as far as Brisbane to Cairns! - but we had another big day of travel in the morning, so I left them to their devices.

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23



I was holding the pistol, and that's not a euphemism
Love Triangle, ZacatecasLove Triangle, Zacatecas
Love Triangle, Zacatecas

The kid on the right was keen, but out in the cold, poor fella. Que pena!

4th December 2010

I was once forced to wear a hair net on a tour... and then had to wear a face net to protect my beard from whatever evils were on the tour... Seems like you got a pass on that one. Unclean. I am saddened to read of the price of beer on your travels. I just went to the Waterloo and they have those 1 litre cans of Asahi, and they're $14AUD and charging $130 odd for a carton!
4th December 2010

good on ya
My favorite Midnight Oil blurp too....Nice Blog, great pictures! Enjoying your trip and all your travel.
4th December 2010

Pretty sure that Steve Sjoberg came from there as well. I hope you asked after him and his family.

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