Tag Archives: Zacatecas

Sod ’em and Zamora

29 Nov

JD, Mexico City, Mexico

The more observant amongst you will have noticed that we have added a map to the blog. The most observant will notice that said map consists of a single line following the roads we drove from place A to place B.

Let’s call it ‘creative mapping’. Had we added all the u-turns, dead-ends and the numerous circuits around ring roads while looking for the right exit, it would have given us RSI, been dizzying for you and made our beautiful map look like a child’s scribble or bad etch-a-sketch.

Talking of endless tours around ring roads we never want to go to Zamora again… I don’t want to talk about it. Suffice it to say it shall forever be known to us as sod’ em and Zamora!

Rodeo in Guadalajara

Yee ha: One Guadalajara highlight was spending an afternoon at the rodeo

But getting lost is just a small – and inevitable – part of an increasingly wonderful journey as we travel through the heart of Mexico. From the stunning silver city of Zacatecas to the buzz of Guadalajara, the picturesque indigenous town of Patzcuaro and on to the constantly amazing Mexico City – one of our favourite cities in the world.

Along the way we’ve over-indulged in our favourite past-time – people-watching – at the rodeo; joined in cheering for the good guys and booing the bad at the temple of kitsch, Lucha Libre; been confused by a rural roadside zimmer frame stall (do they get much passing trade?); and indulged in feasts of spiced-up tacos, ostrich fajitas and melt-in-the-mouth burritos. Oh, and the famous sweets of Morelia – chilli tamarind truffle anyone?

All these ingredients ensure life in the van is never dull. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve camped in beautiful bird-filled gardens and at petrol stations, creepy deserted campsites and hotel car parks with stunning views overlooking the city. And we’re kept busy pondering why the check engine light has come on again, why the doors have started locking by themselves, why the driver’s door has stopped opening or…

Jeremy, Salon Corona, Mexico City

Salon Corona, Mexico City: Mexican league football can be as nail-bitingly tense as a Spurs game


But for a few days we’re leaving van life behind. We’ve done the unthinkable and driven right in to the heart of Mexico City (population estimated at a mere 20 million). Not bad for someone who only passed their driving test less than a year ago!

We’ve got a few days work covering an international trade union conference and are booked in to the conference hotel (the room actually has a bath – which measures about the same as our whole living space in the van!!).

On Sunday night, over a few draft beers and the best tacos we’ve yet had, we congratulated ourselves on the first 3,000 miles, making it safely to Mexico City and meeting the only deadline we had.

Days: 57
Miles: 3,021.1
Things we always knew to be true: Posh hotels are outrageous. [Bottle of water in our room = 55 pesos. The 10 tacos we had for lunch before we got here = 50 pesos.]

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Devil of a ride

17 Nov

PD, Zacatecas, Mexico

If you’ve ever travelled to high places with someone who has vertigo, you’ll know it’s not exactly a relaxing experience, for either party. But sometimes it just has to be done.

J has the proper spinny-head fall-to-the-ground vertigo when faced with extreme heights. But he loves mountains too. Like watching a horror movie, he really really wants to see these amazing high places in the world, but they often have to be viewed through the slats of his sweaty fingers.

Devil's Backbone, Mexico

If the road has the word 'devil' in it, take the hint.

And so it was as we drove over the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains from Mazatlan to Durango. Four hours of hairpin bends, culminating in a section of road named the Devil’s Backbone. I don’t think any further explanation is required. It was both stunning and scary, and I was required to do all the driving. When we reached the ‘spine’ the clouds hung in the canyon below us – it was definitely an unmissable sight.

Several incidents en route delayed the journey. These included a few baffled circuits around Mazatlan and the highway coming to an inexplicable and sudden dead end at one point – one more u-turn for the list! We also had to pay an unexpected visit to a mountain village mechanic (check engine light, again) who stared blankly at the engine for 45 minutes before we gave up and drove off, crossing our fingers. About an hour later the light went out of its own accord…

All this ensured we arrived in Durango in the pitch black, breaking our rule of not driving in the dark. We got horribly lost and ended up driving through the town square in the middle of a fiesta. Even at the time we saw the funny side. But when we discovered our destination had had a name change and no longer allowed motorhome camping, we were less amused.

It was refreshing to move inland and upwards to slightly cooler climes, and we wandered Durango’s beautiful colonial streets in jeans and jumpers that hadn’t seen daylight for a while.

Since our last post we have waved bye-bye to Baja. The day before our ferry to the mainland we collected the van from the mechanic’s and, my, how we’d grown! The suspension had been lifted and new chunkier all-terrain tyres added, giving us another 4 inches in clearance from the ground. Who knew tyres and springs could be so very exciting? Rogelio Vazquez Castillo, of Geraldo’s VWs in La Paz, has been elevated to hero status in our house now. Thanks Rogelio, you are a VW genius.

Leaving La Paz, Baja, for Mazatlan on the ferry

We left a stunning Baja sunset behind as the overnight ferry departed

And while we’re on the Oscar-style teary thanks, let us reiterate our deep gratitude to fellow campers Bud and Joan Winters, from Canada, who led us to Rogelio, drove us there and back, fed us with soup and gave us numerous little gifts to help us on our way. Thanks again and happy travels.

After J navigated the van into a postage-stamp sized space at the end of a terrifyingly long and steep ramp into the bowels of the ferry, we set off from Baja amid a spectacular sunset and arrived in Mazatlan the next morning. Our very nice campsite there was full of Canadians spending the winter in the sun. Is there anyone actually left in Alberta?

Our journeys of late have given us the opportunity to taste some new local dishes. We see lots of signs advertising ‘birria’ but never got round to finding out what it was – other than looking in the dictionary, which says it means ‘rubbish’. Hm, sounds like a tasty snack. So we stopped at brunch-time in a village en route to Durango and plonked ourselves in a birrieria.

We asked, rather obviously, ‘what do you have?’. He said ‘birria – do you want two?’. ‘Yes please, and some coffee’, we said. The birria – a meat stew served with onions, lime and coriander – was a welcome sight, even at 10.30am. The coffee was more alarming. We received a large cup of hot pink water, and a jar of Nescafe. I looked down at the water and asked ‘what is this? Agua rojo?’. Neither of us understood the explanation though. J thought he said it was good for the circulation, while I just assumed he was saying ‘we put that pink stuff in there to cover up the taste/smell/rankness’. We drank it, and three days later we are still alive.

Gorditas (a little filled masa cake, like a pitta pocket) – which are everywhere here – are another newbie on the block for us. We’re working our way through the various fillings, such as tongue, pork rind, cactus leaves and peppers with cheese, mostly served with a liberal dose of hot chillies. Ouch. Yum.

And now we find ourselves in the stunning old silver-mining city of Zacatecas. We are ‘camped’ in a hillside hotel car park which overlooks the city.

Wandering around Zacatecas reminded me of my first visit to Brugge. Every corner you turn offers a gorgeous scene – beautiful colourful architecture, incredible cathedrals, pretty squares, hilltop views and lovely restaurants. It’s all ‘wow!’ and ‘look at that!’ until you run out of exclamation marks and have to sit on a bench to recover.

So all I can say is “Zacatecas, wow”.

Days: 45
Miles: 2253.9
Things we now know to be true: If you’re going to ask why the water is pink, you better know enough Spanish to understand the answer.