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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Road journeys up the Central Spine

MEXICO | Friday, 26 February 2010 | Views [1149]

Zacatecans aren't content with standard bars...

Zacatecans aren't content with standard bars...

The next journey was up north three hours on the bus to Queretaro through an increasingly dry and desert landscape.  Queretaro was once a centre for opal and silver mining, and it shows in the lovely painted mansions and town houses in the centre.  The city has many winding streets and alleys, punctuated by shaded squares with tinkling fountains.  The first evening Rachel and I went to a free show in the main Zocalo – a rather strange mixture of Aztec warriors dancing (read fat blokes with feathered headdresses jumping up and down), some rather alluring flamenco dancing (which Daniel probably appreciated more than Rachel) and a whole lot of Mariachi.  The main singer strutted around singing his stuff, and then in between each song would stoop to kiss adoring teenagers and elderly women alike, accepting innumerable flowers.

We’d got a room in a cheap hotel for the night – which was fine, except that our room faced onto the main corridor from the entrance, with no glass in the window, so we heard everything ranging from the night-watchman rhythmically tapping a pipe for an hour, to members of staff having a conversation outside our room at 1.30 in the morning, to our next-door neighbour leaving, noisily at 3.00am!  Next day we checked out and wandered next door to the much nicer, much quieter and much more pricey tourist hotel.

A faithful dog fountain in Queretaro

One reason for stopping off in Queretaro was to find some fire opals to buy and take home.   Rachel and her mum had seen some lovely set stones in Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan, which had been sourced from mines here.  They didn’t buy them as they were Playa prices – but maybe they should have, as in actual fact, numerous net searches and walks around town revealed only a few jewellers selling local stones, and none were quite as nice.  Saying that, the one’s we managed to purchase were still beautiful – veins of red, yellow, greens and blues running through polished stones, reminding me somewhat of hatching eggs (dragon eggs?).  It was fun rummaging through trays of semi-precious stones – and they were cheap – the most expensive was only £25.

After several fine meals and many good cups of coffee we said adieu to the silver town and caught the bus north again, up through the centre of Mexico to the upland, desolate town of Zacatecas.  Our journey this time was rather more eventful, the bus departed half an hour late, then it was two hours up the highway to San Luis Potosi before branching off across an alien, hard country dotted with yucca trees and little else.  Each town we passed seemed to have trucks full of balaclava-clad, assault-rifle touting troopers – a visible reminder of the drug war.  On our way the driver announced every stop… except for Zacatecas, meaning that we eventually got off the bus an hour past the city in Fresnillo, and then had to get another bus back – yikes!  Luckily, when we eventually arrived, the youth hostel had one room remaining which we snatched up and crashed, exhausted.

The superb view of Zacatecas from the teleferico

Zacatecas got rich in the 18th C from silver mining again – and the rich owners ploughed it into lovely stone town houses in the local red sandstone and a totally OTT baroque cathedral façade, carved with a confusion of saints, squirls and motifs, although the interior was actually quite understated.  It’s a pretty town in the middle of the desert nestling between two knife-edged hills with Mexico’s only cable-car (made in Switzerland) linking the two.  The ‘teleferico’ provides fantastic views of the old town.  The peak of the Cerro de la Bufa has a small chapel and observatory perched on its cockscombe-like peak, along with some impressive statues to the heroes of the revolution – with Pancho Villa striking a dashing figure on his rearing horse.  Apparently he took the city off the imperial forces, massacring the garrison in the process – not a particularly nice guy, even if he was an amazing general.  As with nearly all the revolutionaries, he met a sticky end at the hands of his rivals.

Our last evening we had a meal in an italian restaurant, run by a very effusive guy from Cancun – the restaurant used to be his living room, and it was covered, floor to ceiling, in paintings, which he explained and interpreted with great pride.   Next day we got the overnighter to Chihuahua, something like a 12 hour journey.  This time it was uneventful though – we both even managed to sleep all right – and we weren’t missing much, just innumerable mile after mile of desert…

Pancho Villa still doing his stuff..

For more photos of Queretaro and Zacatecas, click here

Tags: chihuahua, mexico, queretaro, zacatecas


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Argh!  Well, maybe not pirates this time, but dig the colour-coordinated bandanas!

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