Saturday, July 24, 2004

Week 4 - Mazatlan to Queretaro, Mexico

July 17-23, 2004

Mazatlan, Sinaloa to Queretaro, Queretaro


Walked in down pouring rain, along the ocean, for 40 minutes at 6am to the bus station.  Arrived soaked but be leaving such a hot, humid area.  The rain was very refreshing - if it was not raining, we would have probably arrived just as wet from sweat.  The bus ride was amazing - very much like the Copper Canyon train ride - because we crossed the same mountain range (Sierra Madre Oriental).  We went through an area that was flooded from all of the rain...local boys were helping, directing traffic, and pushing cars that needed the help.

The road was extremely twisty and narrow that we had to back up, more than once, to allow an on-coming semi truck to pass as the bus and semi could not fit together.
The bus climbed higher and higher until we found ourselves in the clouds - for real.  The geography was much like that of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan - all logging going on. 

Once again, we lucked out and got a bus with a broken bathroom...and so...many stops upon request were made for people to use the bushes, other people's private homes, etc.
Arrived to Durango.  Met Radi from the Czech Republic and Alberto from Mexico at the Durango bus station.  We taxied together with our new friends to the center of Durango. 
Durango had a nice little center area and you can see families hanging out as always. 

The following quote is taken from Footprint Central American and Mexico 2004 pg. 233:

"The main street...reflects the 'wild west' image of the state of Durango, so often a backdrop to not only Hollywood movies but also the Mexican film industry at its height...modern classics include 'The Mask of Zorro 1' (1997)."

Here we lucked out and were able to attend a local annual fair that had rides, vendors, shows, food, discos, and tons of people.  We saw very few non-Mexican tourists.  Very fun. The fair also had an auction of pots and pans... 


Zacatecas (founded in 1548) is a very beautiful, colonial mining city that is built in a ravine.  Very very pretty. This next photo is taken from the tram that I talk about later.  

We found a fantastic youth hostel (Las Margaritas) for MP$180 with use of washing machines and roof top patio kitchen. The view from the roof top was unbelievable (see photo below).
Of our three days spent in this town, Kiko and I spent almost one full day on the rooftop - with nobody else there - relaxing, planning the next part of our trip, cooking, and doing nice. 
The city has a tram that goes from one bluff to the other - 650 meters long (around 2000 feet).  We took the tram to the highest place in the city (Cerro de la Bufa) - 7500 feet in altitude. 

In this photo, taken from our rooftop, you can see the trams in the background (very small in this photo).

After taking the tram ride, we got a private tour (with the help of our friend Alberto) of the weather station located on top of the bluff.  Very, very cool.  Here is a photo of Radi and Alberto at the bluff top.

Also, Zacatecas is home to what many consider the most beautiful cathedral of Mexico.  

The largest silver mine in the world in is Zacatecas.  We toured the "El Eden" mine. 

This mine operated for 374 years (1586 to 1960), extracting mostly silver but also some gold.
At the end of the tour, we got to ride a little train out of the mine.


Guanajuato is an extremely beautiful university town. Amazing.  A little medieval and a little colonial with many hills and small windy streets.  There is even an underground road-walkway system.

Brasil beat Uruguay and Mexico in soccer...Kiko was quite happy. Found a place across the street from our hotel to watch part of the Brasil-Uruguay game. Found out after we entered that it was in a traditional Mexican cantina...not knowing that it is a bar just for men...with the urinal right out in the open, with no doors...under the television actually - the same television that we were watching the game on. Interesting.

Street musicians (playing a hurdy-gurdy) in Guanajuato.

Went to the house that Diego Rivera was born is now a museum filled with a permanent collection of his work, his bed, and other household objects...very nice!  He was married to Frida Kahlo (his third wife and lifelong partner).


After Guanajuato, we spent a day in San Miguel de Allende.  Very, very busy with tourists, though very pretty.  Another gorgeous church in the center.


From San Miguel de Allende, we took a bus to Queretaro because Kiko read that we could catch a train there to Mexico City.  We got there, walked for hours in the big city, until we finally found the train station...that has been closed for the past 10 years and is now used as an art gallery and dance studio...really neat...but no train ride.  Worth the hike there for sure.

The city was nice, but we moved on as we only have about two weeks left in Mexico and we have other places we would like to see (the border agent gave us 30 days to spend traveling...if we go over the 30 days, we have to pay a fine). 

Nonetheless, I got to eat some good corn at a pretty tiled park.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

United States Map and Route

To track the route, follow the blue line...

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

United States - Commentary and Information

It was very interesting to go from South Range, Michigan to El Paso, Texas.  We basically went from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico.  Some of the biggest differences we saw involved the people and their environment.

The climate went from the high 60's to the high 90's - from semi humid to almost totally dry.  Geographically, as we went further southwest it was very cool to see a lot of dry river beds, rocks, cactuses, and many mountain ranges - some snow capped in Colorado and New Mexico.

Hot springs were also more prevalent in the Southwest.  Some states (Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, etc.) were so flat in comparison to northeastern Colorado and New Mexico, and even the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, that you could literally see for miles.  From Wisconsin to Colorado, you could see a switch from farming (corn, soy...) to ranching (cattle, horses...) and from green to brown.

Housing changes involved going from mainly all wood to adobe style.  The climate drives materials used for housing.  And for those of you who may be wondering...yes, you could build an igloo in New Mexico.  Hmmm... maybe that is something to think about.

Historically, Texas to California and from the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo) to Oregon were all part of Mexico until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo when the United States acquired half of Mexico's territory.  It was easy to see that when you cross this now ficticious line into "Old Mexico" (for example Texas and New Mexico) that people look differently - darker hair and skin - due not only to Mexican influence, but also to the high levels of constant sunlight that they get year round.  Also, a very high percentage speak Spanish.  Much like lots of Finnish is still heard in the Upper Peninsula... 

In addition, the story goes that the American cowboy image (cowboy hats, belt buckle, boots, etc.) is actually of Mexican origin.

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