This is the story of my 6 months of studying in Arizona in 2010 and subsequent travels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting lost in Guanajuato - Day 10

Leaving Casa Lita had to end with stately meal of course, so I had quesadillas and cereals for breakfast, with the usual fresh squeezed orange juice. :) Im gonna miss that and my lovely host, to whom I had bought three yellow roses the day before. She called a cap for me, and then I was off to the bus station around 8 AM with all my luggage.

I got a bus ticket for Guanajuato, 4 hours away. I knew it was THE best bus company, and that I could have gotten a cheaper ticket, but the 335 pesos turned out to buy me an adventure in itself. The ETN bus was incredible. First of all I got a soda can and a sandwich before boarding. The seat was so wide that they can only fit 3 on each row, and the space to the seat in front is long, that I can barely touch it with my legs stretched out. It has a footrest that supports the entire leg, and the seat comes with headphones and a pillow. The drivers cabin is closed off by a wall, and in the back of the bus there are two restrooms and a coffee machine. If the slogan of this company isn’t already “ETN – make your journey a destination”, it should be!

On the road I got some interesting insights into Mexico. First of all leaving Guadalajara I noticed again the blanket of smog that is covering the city. No wonder my nose is acting up with all the pollution. Secondly I noticed how gas stations and shops off this large road are not connected by exits, but literally on the side of the road where cars can pull over when needed. Interesting. My third discovery was some sort of pilgrimage taking place on the highway. That part I still don’t get. There were thousands people walking along the road, and to judge from the amount of garbage in the grass, it had been going on for a while. I have no idea where the people were going or why, if anyone knows, please let me know! :) Most people were not carrying much, some nothing, others just a backpack. There were hundreds of shops and vendors along the road to feed the walkers… Very peculiar!

Soooo after 4 hours I got to Guanajuato. I knew the bus station was a bit out of the way, so I was surprised when the taxi driver asked for 40 pesos for the trip! But well… Good start! He was a really nice guy and tried to make conversation in Spanish. I understood must of what he said (2nd or 3rd time he said it, or reexplained ;)), so it was actually a good practice lesson for me! On the way to the destination he stopped to drop something off with a friend (!), I doubt it was actually on the way, but I wasn’t in a hurry, and the price was already set. Back on the road, which was insanely narrow and twisting between the houses on a mountainside, he asked me where I was gonna stay. I told him, and he advised me something else, very close to the original destination. The trip there included a dive into the submerged streets of Guanajuato, looks like mining tunnels, but were apparently carved out by an ancient river.

The driver took me to the Teatro Principal after pointing out my initial choice of accommodation. Then we started climbing up some stairs on the side of the theatre, got to a plaza, turned a corned, hiked up a hill, turned again, and then finally, with me gasping for air under my heavy backpack, arrived at Casa Bertha. 110 pesos for a single room with shared bathroom, internet and rooftop terrace included – yes thank you! :) Paid and tipped the driver, then checked in with the nice older man in the reception. Jorge. Started speaking English, but I asked him to speak Spanish for some practice. Was really nice actually, he was really patient and spoke slowly, and (yeay) I understood all of what he said! Incredible what a week of practice can do! :) Then he showed me the terrace, so nice with a great view of the city!

After unpacking a bit I went to explore the city. First I went with a bus (though I think it would have been faster to walk!) to the museum with mummies, a quite bizarre place. The mummies are from a nearby cemetery, and around 100 years old. The bodies are preserved because of a certain mineral content of the water people drank and in the dirt. Then when the families are no longer paying for the burial site, the bodies are excavated and if in good condition put in the museum… Nice, huh?!

I walked back to the centre, grapping some bread from a bakery. I strolled around for a while, went into the churches I passed (they are beautiful!), and concluded that the guidebook was right when saying that Guanajuato is one of those cities where when you take a street you think is gonna take you somewhere, you end up somewhere else! Has its charm, and who cares where you are anyway, when you are exploring? :)

The city itself really is charming. Those narrow roads and old buildings, theatres, churches, restaurants, etc. I walked around for a while, and saw a museum with an art exhibition of Don Quijote. Not sure about his story, but I am intrigued to look into it after the experience! Was really nice. I also passed by Mercado Hidalgo, a large building from 1910 housing a market with foods and cheap stuff... One of these places where the food smells amazing, but which I kinda have to stay away from to protect my stomach! Which btw is doing just fine so far, even without an extreme approach, avoiding ice in drinks, salads and stuff like that.  

When I went back past one of the theatres a crowd has gathered to watch a mime perform. I was passing well behind him with some other people, but he spotted me, and brought me into his performance, walking arm in arm with me, pretending to be having a conversation. The crowd were yelling “Beso, beso”, beso meaning kiss, and I got a “kiss” on my cheek. Then I was let off the hook! I had dinner in a restaurant with a student menu, including a salad, a drink, and a delicious chicken with mushrooms and rice. Oh, and a peach for dessert. Back home I sat on the terrace for a while, before going to bed, exhausted from the trip and the sightseeing!

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