Theres blood in the streets of San Luis Potosi
Posted on July 10, 2012 by Wiley
There is a general "travelers path" taken through Mexico, which I have tried to avoid for a bit this time. I am still hitting spots others have been to, I am not discovering anything "new" necessarily, but generally people take the west coast area down and then swing through Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Mx City, ect. Pretty much what we did last time. From Zacatecas I can jump back into that path and try and find some gringoes from North America or Europe by heading south….nah, not yet. From Zacatecas I decided I wanted to delay the inevitable heat I eventually have to face, and decided to try out San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes 1st, before making my way down to Guanajuato. I have previously been to Guanajuato, its a great place that I would recomend, but I don't feel I need to revisit it, though I am confident I could at least meet up with some Europeans, if not some North Americans there if I got bored. As far as SLP and Aguas, I have read they are nice, nothing too spectacular, but I dont know much about them so could be wrong. So, here is an idea of my rough plan, which has lots of backtracking, but hey, I am not in a rush. Hit up SLP, backtrack to Aguascalientes, head south, and then back west to rehit a few places Paul and I blew through for some surfing and beach life. The map should help for those who are unfamiliar with Mexico.
San Luis Potosi, Mexico
For those traveling SLP has much more restricted parking around the centro with green and yellow zones all over, something I hadnt encountered elsewhere yet. White or non painted are what I grab for the stealth camping. I think I got lucky again and found a good place a few blocks away but was ready to hit an RV Park as there was no parking anywhere near the centro. That said there are pay lots that were crazy cheap, but bad asses dont pay. Im not really sure why I am making it more difficult to be honest, I saw one for 6 Peos an hour, which means they are almost paying me to park there its that cheap.
As soon as I got here I knew it was a mistake. Now SLP is nice, has all the plazas and centros that other cities have, and is famous for their red tacos and enchiladas from the chili packed dough I guess. I certainly dont want to discourage anyone, if its on the way go for it. Either way, I was centro-ed out. I got to one plaza, snapped a photo, moved on to the next, snapped a photo, walk, click, repeat. I just didnt have it in me, vacationing can be tough. I have read it on other blogs, but sometimes it all starts to feel the same. So, I went back to the van for an early night. I am fully aware traveling is going to have its ups and downs, and not every place is going to be great, but what a bummer to go out of your way for a place that just didnt do it for me, especially when I know it was more mental than the city itself. Slightly annoyed that I went out of the way, and would have to backtrack from this place to aguas which may or may not be more of the same, the wheels started turning as I lay there in bed. While I really want to see Morelia, as its apparently a beautiful city full of college girls, I mean students, there isnt much point in going to a university town in the summer, and other that that one city it would mostly be revisiting previous destinations. Remember that map up above, to hell with that plan, I am headed east! What can I say, thats how I roll. Great, I will be a lonely ****** forever, or probably at least until Oaxaca.
The next morning, knowing I am headed for the countryside, I decide to try and find a walmart as I needed over 20 litres of water, and thats the easiest way to get that much that I know of. I try and avoid ****** stores, but sometimes you gotta hit them up, I will occasionally, with my head hung low, eat at a McDonalds, Burger king, or even a Starbucks which I rarely frequent in the states, for the wifi. For most things down here I try to go to a local store, I even avoid the OXXO (think 7/11) since they are just another chain, but it had to be done. Now the question is, where is one around here? Since I lost my navigator Paul, I picked up a cheap garmin to use for visual reference as things can get hectic driving in a Mexican city. I picked up some free maps of Mx and Central America here (http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl/
) They have helped greatly and surprising I have yet to get lost, what the hell Paul, you suck. It certainly is not perfect, it did say route 40 for the devils backbone was north when I knew it was south of Mazatlan, but they are free and available for most of the world. I figured hey might as well try it, and proceeded to type in Walmart: 1.5 miles, sweet it worked!
Just as I get to the main road where I can see a Home Depot, Sams, Costco, and Walmart, I see a man in the street, and literally said to myself, that guy looks angry. There are several cars stopped due to a light, but a taxi and grey car in the center lane seem to be a bit in the way and almost bumper to bumper (turns out the taxi driver was standing in street). I am about 4 cars away coming in from a side street at an angle so the view was good. Suddenly the taxi driver throws his hands in the air and kicks the bumper of the grey car in front of him. That was it, it was on. Suddenly the guy in the grey car jumps out, while the taxi driver adapts the classic fighters stance, and I notice these were two pretty good sized dudes, and looked evenly matched. Now since the two cars were so close it was one long barricade, with each fighter at opposite ends. The grey driver runs towards the taxis driver side so taxi driver moves around the other side keeping his distance. Its all happening pretty fast and I am fumbling for my camera as I keep it locked and loaded for these spur of the moment treats. Suddenly the grey car driver reaches into the taxis window, why I dont know, but I figure its Mexico, maybe theres a gun, think I will leave the camera out and try and move on. Other people had the same idea and cars start to slowly go around, which means I cant move. While the grey driver is hanging half in the window, why he would do this during a fight I dont know as it put him in a very vulnerable position, the taxi driver runs around the car toward him. Suddenly a box truck goes by blocking the view, and finally I see the taxi driver bear hugging the grey driver from behind, while blood is pouring from grey drivers head. Meanwhile I see a man walking some poor old lady to the side of the street, I can only assume she was a passenger in the taxi during all of this nonsense. Grey car driver is clutching "the club" so I am not sure why he is the one bleeding, but the blow to his head seems to have knocked sense into everyone, as the fight suddenly ends. Then it gets really bizzare, taxi driver lets go of grey driver and they have a few words, and shake hands. Its clear the fight is over, the taxi driver didnt look worried at all about retaliation, so whatever was discussed was successful. Then grey driver and taxi driver both calmly get into their vehicles and slowly drive to the Pexmex on the corner. I can only assume they were going to hug it out. I proceeded to walmart, where I could have, and in hindsight should have, gotten my car washed from guys with buckets in the lot while I shopped, just to make the story that much better!
Side note, I have commented to people on the lack of road rage in Mexico, especially considering some of the crazy, though often well played moves these fools make. There is however a lot of honking, usually taxis just trying to pick someone up, though occasionally someone gets angry and it seems to last for 30-60 seconds. I wonder if they are just really pissed or the poor bastards horn gets stuck and they look like a jackass, who knows. Road rage seems to me anyway, a fairly rare occurrence in such large cities here, but maybe that is just because I lived in Boston for a few years, and those guys are always pissed off since their sports teams suck.
A few hours from the city of SLP, is a unique, though extremely small clear lake, Lago Media Luna. After being centro-ed out this sounded like a great place to re-energize. The water comes from a spring I believe, and as it is not very deep the water is warm, not hot, but for a lake its nice. People come here to snorkel and scuba dive in the clear blue water, though aside from lilypads and one species of invasive fish it is pretty much devoid of life. There is also a shallow river/aqueduct which provides a great place for the familys to relax and let the kids swim around. The river is only maybe 3-5 feet deep at most, but there were tons of people with life preservers. I dont know, I would think this is a great time to learn to swim, but they clearly had safety in mind, and that was a first for me here in Mexico. The entrance fee is 30 pesos a day (2.22 USD) and there is camping for 70 pesos (5.19 USD) within the park. When I got there I asked if I could sleep in my van, assuming I would pay the small camping fee, but the girl said it was free to sleep in my car since I would be in the parking lot, not within the gates, read sleep at your own risk! Sweet, I would rather stay with my stuff, plus I have a bed and fan! There is apparently a security gaurd but I think your pretty much on your own for others who are considering this as I never saw him.
You can also use the showers for 5 pesos (0.37 USD) and bathrooms for 2 pesos (you have to divide by zero for that total). Definitely a one day stop, but as I had some minor stuff I wanted to do to the van the next day, and there was a good amount of shade, I stayed 2 nights. A good amount of the people were there the 1st day, and even more the next as it got closer to the weekend. I was either there wed/thur or thur/fri, so I bet sat is a zoo this time of year. It was a good decision to unwind, but now I was ready to roll, its off to the real reason I scrapped the western pacific portion of Mexico, and had decided on a wim to head east, and that reason is found just outside of Aquismon.
Aquismon was a cool little village, a fair amount of people for such a small village, though not a whole lot to offer, as the main lure is the surrounding area. As soon a I got there I hit up some food, I was not feeling great and figured it was due to being hungry. I spotted a busy little restaurant and decided that was the spot. I ordered up some chicken asado and it was the bomb! I got half a chicken, some tortillas, grilled onions, and some salsa. Yup, no silverware, you tear that sucker apart with your hands and enjoy. It was delicious, and after that I took a quick lap to see that aquismon didnt have much to offer, but the location was incredible as its built at the foot of some pretty large, lush green mountains. Still not feeling right, but figuring it was time to move on, I headed for the reason this small town is probably even on the map.
Remember when I was lying in bed in SLP, not very pleased that I came out of my way to get there, of course you do, unless you are terrible at reading. Well I started looking into reasons to continue east, and this was the one that got me. So, last minute game changer, and I find myself atop the largest cave shaft in the world, and Mexicos 2nddeepest pit. For those of you BBC's Planet Earth lovers, you may remeber the opening sequence of the Caves episode, where fools jump into this open air pit cave, a whopping 160 by 205 feet wide, which opens up to a greater diameter below of approximately 995 feet by 440 feet. At a depth of 1,220 feet the empire state buildings roof would protrude the entrance by about 30 feet, yup only 30 feet, that is DEEP! An interesting phenomenon here is the thousands of birds (technically not even swallows) which live within the cave. Each day at dawn they begin their 45 minute ascent circling around the cave climbing higher and higher, and then coordinating their exit with some voodoo bird language, 50 to 100 birds at a time will take off at once exiting the cave to head for the coast for food more than 100 kilometers away.
Yup, this should hold me. Think I should have paid more than 10 Pesos so he would have double knotted the rope.
They then repeat the process in reverse at dusk returning home. Interestingly enough the fools free diving are not the only ones doing it. The birds begin their circular pattern on their return, and once crossing the opening to the cave tuck their wings and legs for their own free dive, pulling out when they get to the appropriate level with their nests. Its a pretty enormous cave, though due to the size and darkness, it is hard to grasp just how big it really was. Due to the road condition getting up there, they mostly get tourists from the local vans or truck taxis, so there are only 20 or so spots to park, but of course I was the only one. You then pay 20 pesos (1.48 USD) and walk 15 minutes down some stone steps to the cave. There are some guys there who will tie you up loosely with rope and let you crawl out to the edge for pictures for 10 pesos (0.74 USD). I had the place to myself for about 30 minutes, then another couple came along, but it is dead this time of year on weekdays.
I did whoever feel terrible, for about 4 hours I had a crazy headache, dizziness, and came close to losing the delicious chicken lunch I had. Who wouldnt want to be on the edge of a giant cave during a dizzy spell? I know it was not the altitude as the cave is only at 3000 feet, and I had spent the past few weeks much higher. I also didnt get food poisoning so I am not sure what was up, but due to this I did not stick around for the birds to return at dusk as it was only 5, and the sun has been setting between 8-9 here. I managed to fake a few pictures though…so it was good enough for me. The parrots which also live in the cave do the same ritual all day it seems, so I got the idea as one group after another would circle their way up and out I then decided to move on and find a hotel in Xilitla to recuperate in case I was coming down with something. It was a very interesting experience to say the least, though I do wish I could have stuck around to see what its like to have thousands of birds crapping on your head.
The State of San Luis Potosi is full of rivers and waterfalls with crystal blue waters, caves, more ruins, and great hiking. Since this decision was last minute I was unable to locate the Puerte de dios which I had seen signs for, which now having googled it looks pretty impressive. I saw signs for it when going to a local waterfall, which was pathetic, and not knowing what it was at the time did not want to waste a day looking for it and being let down, not to mention the rain had started in and I was going up a mountain on a dirt road for whatever this thing was. I also did not want to go even more out of my way for any of the local ruins, as there are plenty of those to see in Mexico. There is so much diversity here in Mexico there is absolutely no way to see everything, so while I saw some awesome things, I do fear I missed even more great stuff. From here to Oaxaca I have no game plan, so I expect to miss more great things, but figure I will head to the hot and humid coast to check out Veracruz, the ruins of El Tajin, and then make my way inland to Oaxaca. That probably means I will really head north, then west, then make a left turn somewhere, as I have been way off on where I thought I would be going, but that is the general game plan as of now.
If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby
Posted on July 17, 2012 by Wiley
Starting to get closer to Oaxaca, I cant help but get excited. I am Still very far from it, but for some reason, even though this is all new territory, having stopped there makes me feel like the trip doesnt restart until I return to Oaxaca. I also dont know what to expect out here in this part of Mexico, though so far there has been plenty to see.
If Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby… thats right New York, get over it. So yeah, if Dr. Suess and Walt Disney had a baby, and they gave that baby mushrooms, Las Posaz is what I would expect that baby to create. I had read Xilitla was used by people as a jumping off point for some of the outdoor activities I described in the previous post, so I knew there would be decent hotels. Not feeling 100% I figured after all the stealth camping I had done I had earned a bit of real downtime. Driving into Xilitla I knew right away I liked the town, it was another small town built in the mountains, and it was hectic for such a small town, the only way to be in Mexico. Actually getting into town though I quickly realized the streets can be a real pain. Every street should have been a one way street, but most of them went both ways, which meant I had to be extra careful of which ones really were one way, as well as getting out of the way of other cars coming at me.
I pulled both mirrors in which helped, but what didnt help were all the cars double parked in the worst spots, and the vendors with carts in the street, whos umbrellas were lower than what my Astro can clear. I did a lap through the town looking for the cheapest hotel with parking listed in Lonely Planet. While I did not find the street I was looking for, I had managed to successfully navigate the gauntlet without ripping off any umbrellas or going the wrong way down a one way street. As the town is very small I also realized it was pretty easy to figure the layout. The second round I was able to park and walk to find the hotel. The "parking" listed was actually only a few spots on the street out front of the hotel, pretty much all taken from random people. I told them no problem, I wasnt confident I could find the place again without getting into trouble, so I would leave the Astro were it was and risk it, which turned out fine, no one messes with an Astro.
After living in a van for who knows how long, the hotel was great, and only 175 pesos a night (12.72 USD)! Oh, and it was huge! Ok, not really, I got a small single room but again, after the confines of the Astro I felt like a king. The showers had hot water, not that you needed it in this warm muggy town during the day, also had a TV, a fan, and wireless internet for the 1stday I was there. Naturally it went out the second day never to return. The view looking out on the mountains wasnt too bad either, and while I didnt have a balcony the walkway to the 5 rooms on my side was basically a giant balcony so I could just leave my doors open while I was there, enjoying both the view and cool evenings. I figured since I was not feeling well, but already starting to come around, today was the prefect day to finally cave into the craving I had fought for weeks….pizza. Yup, I decided to get a pizza in Mexico, you can only eat so much Mexican food.
I went to the local place down the street, and got a Mexican pizza, I figured they couldnt mess that one up. Not sure if it had been my long break from pizza, but overall it was pretty good, which was a relief since i had it for dinner, breakfast, and then lunch the next day. The town kind of shuts down early, so I ended up getting a second one the next day due to lack of choices as most restaurants were empty or closed. It wasnt good enough for another pizza two days in a row, but it wasnt bad enough for me to test the lonely open taco stand that no one seemed to be eating at. This time I went with Hawaiian which might have been even better. What can I say, if I am going to cave in to my cravings I might as well go wild.
Reading lonely planet they mentioned yet another bizarre thing of many in Mexico, Las Posaz. Apparently Xilitla is known for this art structure thing that some English guy built here in the middle of nowhere….eh, not for me. Well I am here, so I should check it out, especially since its a great excuse to stay another night at this cheap hotel. I also read there was another cave here with parrots so I figured I would rather check that out, but it was recommended to see it at dusk, so I head to los Posaz around 5, figuring 20 minutes would be more than I needed for this craptastic tourist trap, and then I could head to the parrot cave. Naturally I walked, so I didn't get to Las Pozas till 6, as I got slightly turned around, stopped for some ice cream, and then found the dirt road and began the mile to a mile and a half walk into the unknown.
For those of you who dont know me, I am pretty much a kid trapped in a studs body, and Las Posaz was right up my alley! Holy crap, this wasnt art, it was an amusement park. But unlike a US amusement park, there were no guards after you paid at the gate, no ropes, no rules, just pure joy. This English dude basically had way to much money so he pretty much built his own version of the drawings you see from that Escher guy, with stairways that go nowhere, end abruptly, and spiral out of control. Of course some of this is 30-50 feet above the ground, but this is Meixco, so climb away kid. There were paths through the jungle leading you who knows where, so as I still wanted to check out the cave I bee-lined it through this park in about an hour since I had gotten there at 6, and it closed at 6, woops. They said they dont kick people out till 7 or 7:30, but I had no idea how big the place was so figured I would fly through and then once i had my bearings relax and enjoy it. Of course I only saw 10 people, and they were all swimming in the natural pool, so I had this gem more or less to myself. I ran around for awhile snapping pics and climbing things that people should not be allowed to climb. Then I saw it, a pretty good sized waterfall here in this jungle park. It looked awesome, and I knew there had to be a way up there, no way was the English dude Edward James was gonna let me down, and of course he did not.
I found a path leading up… and up, and further up, and continued on to the top…while getting drenched with sweat, this is the jungle after all……score! After some pics, and a rest, I saw another less traveled path going higher and figured hey, so far so good, lets keep going. Further up and I stumble on a wooden tree fort sitting perspicaciously on the edge of a cliff….a tree fort! The only downside was the shoddy workmanship, I was not convinced it would hold up and figured both it and I may tumble down the cliff to my death, but hey, after the crappy tree forts we used to build at my grandmas how bad could this one be? It had a great view of Xilitla, so I climbed on anyway for more pics. It was here I dropped the lens cap to my camera, and of course it bounced through the wooden floor down below, which was the previously mentioned cliff. Crap, that is gone, I hope I dont scratch this lens up. Well, its kind of an expensive lens for a guy living in a van, lets take a look. There it is, sitting on the edge of a piece of wood inches from the abyss. Now if just stick my foot on that tiny tree growing out of the cliff wall…maybe reposition this way, look back for something to grab, nope nothing to grab, ok gonna go for it, success! After driving through multiple Mexican states, standing on the edge of one of the deepest caves on the planet a few days earlier, and driving multiple crazy roads full of crazy drivers, this was by far the most dangerous, dumbest thing, I have attempted yet, all for a crappy piece of plastic. I then ran around a bit more before heading back home…I had so much fun I scrapped the parrot cave completely, as I was beat. So maybe this wasnt an amusement park, but it was by far one of the best things I have done in Mexico since I love unexpected surprises, and one of the pluses to having things entirely to myself the past few weeks.
El Tajin, Mexico
Eventually I continued on through the Hausteca area, named after the indigenous people, which means I drove the painfully slow roads. I had read this was a slow route, but assumed it was due to trucks and winding mountains, the usual Mexican slow free roads. No problemo, I am getting to be a pro at passing these guys. The problem down here is the majority of indigenous people do not have cars, and rely on taxis and van transportation to get around. This also means they are all over the edges of the roads here, waiting to be picked up, or walking to their destinations. Because of this the speed limit is 40 KMH (25 MPH). Yeah, 25 MPH, for all of route 85, you could have mentioned that in the guide book dicks. The first trip through Mexico I mentioned topes, which sometimes have warning signs, most times do not, and rather than painting them they are left the normal asphalt color to keep you on your toes. They can certainly do real damage to your vehicle if your not paying attention, the couple from the RV park we previouslt met had lost their rear axel on their trailer one day from these. And let me tell you, it is hard to pay attention when your taking in the sights, as well as the sensory overload from all of the cars, people, and sign in another language in a new country or city. Well the route I took through Mexico this time has not had many topes, and when they did they were not very bad ones. I had wondered why that was, and thanks to this drive the answer was clear. Mexico simply ran out of topes. Through this area south of Xilitla there are small indigenous villages every 5 minutes, so there are literally hundreds of topes on this 25 MPH road, it was F'in ridiculous. I get that it is for their safety, and suppose I am glad they are there, but it was terrible. If you ever find yourself in that area, you will be pleased to know that after Huejutla which is a few hours drive they run out again, and it returns to good relatively tope free roads heading out onto the emerald coast.
Finally making it to my next destination around 5pm and glad I had started my day early, I arrived at the ruins of El Tajin, where I was able to camp in the lot for 30 pesos (2.27 USD). Tajin means "lightning" "thunder", or "hurricane" due to its proximity to the gulf its easy to see where the name came from, and got a small display of this that night, though its rained pretty much every day since the rain season began so I am getting used to it. This site flourished from AD600 to 900, and was abandoned around AD1200. The site is known for its square niches, multiple ball courts, and sculptural depictions of human sacrifices. Its a good thing Brady didnt face Eli here, that guy would have been toast as its believed the captains of the losing teams were the ones to be killed at these things. Sorry Brady, rules are rules. Site opened at 9 so I headed over 10 minutes before, and of course as it was a weekday it was myself, and a family of 6. Yup, nothing like having ancient ruins to yourself. I went into speed mode clicking away at everything while there were no people to ruin my shoots. I figured I could go back after I got to the end and retrace my steps at a slower pace. Well, the gods had other plans, and about 5 minutes after I had finished with my picture taking they opened up the heavens on us, so I headed back to the Astro, glad I had taken the speed tour and seen it all.
The only downside was the flying voladores would not be preforming, and i was looking forward to seeing that since its right there and only a small donation of 20 pesos (1.50USD) is expected. Basically its a couple of Mexicans with no regard for safety playing with physics. 5 mens in ceremonial clothing climb a giant *** pole, 1 dances and plays a musical instrument on top while the others twist up their ropes, only to then fall back in a graceful slow descent to the ground, having something to do with a fertility rite, and the four corners of the universe. This was previously carried out once a year, but in the name of tourism its now down 3 times everyday…yay for tradition. Cooled off from the rain I headed to the gulf, Veracruz to be exact, back to the city life.
Of course on the way there I was going a bit too fast, it happens in Mexico, you slowly start to drive more and more like a local. Next thing I know I have the fedarales on my *** with their lights on, great, this will be the second time I am being pulled over for a legit reason in two trips to Mexico. There is nowhere to pull over so I continue on, but they stick with me. Well I finally hit a spot and as I pull over they finally pass me, and carry on down the road. Turns out a couple miles up a truck had flipped and they were on their way to that, close call for me, not so much for him…hopefully everyone turned out ok, not sure why they stayed behind me though, they could have passed me as no cars were coming from the other lane.