Well. I do think that Guanajuato is possibly the most bizarre place I have ever been to in the whole world. Takes a bit of explaining how I got here though.
We got kicked out of our cabaña on Monday by the doc (more on that in a Tepo blog) and so were staying in Cabaña 8 right next to the dining room. So I was awoken at some ungodly hour of the morning by the becarios on Wednesday (I know it was ungodly because I couldn´t even open my eyes properly to see my watch). I chilled out and got up later than usual, then headed into town to get some brunch and do some shopping. I bumped into two of the younger girls, Lesli and Nancy. It was dia del niños on Wednesday, so they got out of school early and had bags full of goodies. Nancy gave me a traffic light lollypop, and when I said, no, it´s okay, thanks a million but I ate way too many sweets yesterday, she ignored me and shoved it in my pocket. Anyway, after buying a grande agua de horchata (the drink of god. Well, Urbano says that actually, the guy who invented coca cola sits on the right hand side of god, and he is looking forward to meeting him in heaven when he dies, so maybe horchata is a bit lower down in the spiritual line of drinks), I headed back to camp and sat in the shade somewhere unobtrusive to do some lonely planet reading, as we have until tuesday off because of national holidays and stuff.
I say unobtrusive, because there were a million maintenance staff about, preparing things for some huge family that will be staying at the camp until sunday. The huge family for whom the becarios cabañas weren´t good enough, so we got kicked out of ours so they could stay there..... grrr. Anyway, as we always say buenos dias and como estas to all the gardeners and cleaners, we made an effort to say hi to all the special ones on loan from mexico city, and so they now feel able to wet themselves laughing when one of the legendary cleaning señoras asks me why I didn´t bring her back a beer from town and I don´t get what she´s on about until the 5th repetition with lots of hand actions. (I think my response was something along the lines of... nice girls like me don´t buy beer!!! they thought that was also hilarious).
Anway, so, unobtrusive spot. Where was I going to go on my five days off... and then, Matías appeared. He asked what I was reading, and I held up the Lonely Planet, and said I didn´t have a clue where to go. He asked what kind of place I was looking for. Anything that is less than 12 hours on a bus Matías. Well Becky, why don´t you try Guanajuato, you´ve been to Morelia right? Guanajuato is similar, another colonial town, don´t know if you´re interested in that kind of thing..... I´ll have a look, thanks Matías!
So, after 5 seconds reading, it was there I decided to go. You can tell that when there are 10 pages and lots of jokes dedicated to a place in the Lonely Planet, it must be a top destination.
After battling through Mexico City yesterday (there was a HUGE accident on the autopista on the way in. Mashed up lorries and barriers and everything, and then the middle part of the main road that the trolleybuses take between the south and north bus station was closed, so I had to get a trolleybus, metro and normal bus to terminal norte. what a mish!) I arrived in Guanajuato bus station. Hopped on a centro bus outside, easy enough, and then the tunnels started. I knew that there were tunnels cos it was built in an impossible valley, but I was slightly worried when people were actually standing at a bus stop INSIDE the tunnel! ohoh. I saw a sign for the plaza that I needed to get off at, and fortunately a couple of other guys where getting off, so the bus stopped and I legged it to the back to get off. Climbed the stairs, and was confronted by the busiest plaza I have seen yet!
It´s amazing! The whole place was completely buzzing with people! Loads of trees and a fountain and on every other bench, there was a different group of musicians tuning up or playing to the tables at the cafes round the edge. And all the buildings are old colonial rich spanish ones. But they are painted every colour you could ever imagine, and they are crammed onto really steep sides of the valley.
However, as I really needed the loo, I went in search of a hostel, managed to find the one I was after quite easily, rang the bell, and some woman in a toddler/baby shop through the door on the left answered me. What a wierd reception desk. She was really nice though, and gave me very precise directions on how to get to the dorm, and said take your time, no hurry, dump your stuff, get changed, have a shower, whatever. I dropped my bag off and went back downstairs, where I did the whole sign the book and paying thing. There were two lads working there, who I think may be her sons or some kind of relatives, and she bossed them about making sure that they got me a towel and that they had the key ready to give me when I came back after going out for a bit etc. It was a proper comedy sketch. I felt like an honoured guest indeed....
So, after checking out all the squares and getting an agua, I spotted a comedian clown guy with a huge crowd sat on the steps of the main theatre. So, I watched the rest of his show. My god. That guy was a genius. He took the mick out of anyone walking past anyone sitting in a nearby restaurant, gave out lollypops to any kid who could give him a bank card from their parents etc. sketches of dancing with girls, fat people on buses, it was mad. Grown men were crying with laughter.
I then grabbed some tacos, and sat and waited for a callejornada, as recommended in the Lonely Planet. It was basically a group of musicians who led a group through all the tiny alleyways of the city playing music and telling stories and jokes and stuff. They were selling tickets for it, but LP said you didn´t need one, and they were really expensive, and all I saw you got for it was some dodgy wine and a wierd thing to drink it out of. Some of the music was ace. They did Blue spanish eyes, but the spanish version, and it was really pretty. Some proper dancing music too. And after that, back to the hostel and had a chat with the american and french girl who were studying in Guadalajara.
Had a bit of bad nights sleep, mainly cos I´d had a huge nap on Wednesday afternoon, and on the bus too, and also because of the shrieking girls on the street at 3 IN THE MORNING. Argh.
But this morning, I had some pan dulce, fruit (with slightly too much chile lime and salt on, my tounge hurt a lot), and then wandered round the market, the Alhóndiga (some old grain factory/stage for major battle of independance, turned museum) and then la casa de diego riviera (nice link after seeing his murals at the weekend in el DF). After that, as I was falling asleep, I went back to the hotel and had a nap, and was awoken by another american girl who was standing with one of the maybe-hotel woman´s sons, who wanted to check how many nights I was staying for as the Señora wanted to clean the room. I leapt up, and said something about how I was just having a nap, should really go and eat some lunch, and mumbled some excuse about how I didn´t sleep very well last night... blah blah blah.
Then, on my way out, I got beckoned into the toddlerbaby shop by the hotel owner, and, in front of the cleaning lady and her two sons? she asked me if I would like to change room cos I didn´t sleep very well last night! hahaha! I was a bit taken aback, and said no, no no no, esta bien, no me molesta mucho el ruido, and I tried to say something about sleeping too much on the bus etc but couldn´t quite get the words out, so stuck to, no really, I´m fine, but thanks for your consideration. Big smile to my audience, hasta luego, and I legged it out of there. Oops.
So, just had lunch in the only reasonably priced cafe I can find, and after planning to climb up the hill to see amonument, changed my mind because of the incredible heat, and ended up in an internet cafe, listening to the beatles.
So, more on Guanajuato adventures in a couple of days. I´ll let you know if I get adopted into the family of the hotel owner or anything.... it´s looking likely...
well, I´ve arrived back in Tepoztlan, but here´s the rest of Guanajuato...
Well, after writing the last blog, I wandered round the town and had an elote, which is basically bolied then grilled corn on the cob, and then they put butter or mayo, cheese, chilli and lime and salt on it for you. It´s delish. Sat in the plaza for a bit watching the swarms of people that gathered there, and then, (hows this for a bit of culture) I went to a concert by the Guanajuato university orchestra. The players were all really old though, so I don´t quite understand how it´s a uni orchestra, but hey. Beethoven and Bruckner I think. They´re doing my FAV piece of music in the whole classical world in their next concert, but a 7 hour journey is a bit much just to go and see them :( never mind.
After the concert, I headed back to the hostel, where an australian guy called james and an american girl called kathy were chatting over a bottle of tequila, squirt, and coffed mugs. I was invited to join them, and we talked loads about our various adventures. I declined the tequila though. Just the smell....
We were joined by another american and a mexican, and then, strangley, two guys from japan who where here on holiday for a couple of weeks. They were called Shin, and (Get this) HIRO! I have actually met a japanese guy called Hiro! how chido is that!
At one point, I was called over by the older of the two sons who works in the hotel to translate for another japanese guy who was having trouble communicating, as he spoke no spanish and the hotel owner lady spoke no english, but I think they managed with the phrase book, and so I wasn´t needed after all. haha.
After the tequila had been drunk (mainly by Shin and Hiro) we decided to go and checkear the nightlife in Guanajuato, so we went to a couple of discoteca bars and had a dance, then headed back in the wee hours of the morning. The good thing about this was, I was not woken up at three int he morning by people leaving bars...
On Saturday, I walked up the very very steep hill to el pípila, the monument of the guy who strapped a stone slab to his back to protect himself against being shot, and went and burned the doors to the Alóndiga de granaditas where all the spanish army were barricaded in, and ended up winning the independance of the city. Very interesting. All gleamed from listening in to the conversations of other people´s guides. haha. Then I went off to visit the Mummy museum, museo de las momias. Very very creepy. Basically, there´s something in the soil in Guanajuato that causes people to be mummified really easily and naturally. And, because space is limited, the government exhume all the bodies from the graveyard after a certain number of years if the family cannot pay to keep the plot, and they burn them, or put them in the museum if they are ´display quality specimens´. Very bizarre. Anyway, there were like, old men with all of their clothes, and a pregnant mummy with her tiny little baby, and they all had their mouths open like they were screaming, and there was one lady who´d been buried alive. I don´t think I´ll go back there to be honest, but it was worth a visit just to be so grossed out. oajala. (translate that one chris!)
After mummy time, I went for a wander round the shops and stuff (got an ace guanajuato hoodie. it´s bright red. Although, thinking about it, I don´t think that this particular garment will be very well accepted back home. it is very mexican I think.
After looking in every cafe I could find and not being able to encontrar ninguna tipa de comida que era barata o rica, I decided to eat at the market instead. I had enmoleadas de pollo con arroz y frijoles, really nice, then I headed back to the hostel and chatted with one of the american girls there for ages, and read a few magazines in french. I have practically forgotten everything I learnt in school, i swear.
Walked back up to el pípila in the evening to watch the sun set and see all the lights in the city, it was really beautiful, and then after a quick agua and another elote (got to eat your veggies dontcha no) I headed back to the hostel, and fell asleep fully dressed. I woke up at 3 o´clock on the dot, and got changed into my pjs (oops) then after a nice breakfast at a fairly posh hotel (I knew I wouldn´t eat till the evening so I treated myself!), I headed to the bus station, and began the extremely enjoyable (not) journey back to base camp.
And there endeth my guanajuato trip. Photos to follow when I find some pilas para mi camera!