Still in the vein of making up time from our Mazatlan stay, we arrived in Guanajuato with a plan of staying only two days. About two hours into our first day, we were trying to calculate how we could stay a whole week and take Spanish classes and still make it to Cancun to pick up my sister on March 7th. Needless to say, we found Guanajuato to be quite addicting!
When we arrived on our first day, we were delighted to see that the city looked just like it did in the many pictures we had seen! Especially the tiny roads suitable for motorbikes and mini coopers, not really full-size pick-ups with campers. But we made do and drove through town to the campsite that we had seen overlanders visit for years. This was one of the spots that we were most excited to get to because nearly everyone we followed had been to this same spot and gotten this same picture. See some of our favorites below:
From right to left, click pictures for links to their respective pages: Top- Drive Nacho Drive, Desk to Glory, Song of the Road (with Desk to Glory), Wake the Dead Diaries
Bottom - Vagabroads, Travel Amateurs (no not the same truck as Wake the Dead, but pretty darn close), The Next Big Adventure, Running From Monday (Hey, that's us!)
Now that that was taken care of it was time to see the city. The city of Guanajuato is built into a small ravine. The cultural center of town with the opulent cathedrals, theaters and museums is situated at the bottom, while houses and buildings covering the rest. It makes it an incredibly picturesque city, but one that wants to remind you how out of shape you are at every turn– and that you are at almost 7000’ elevation. A walk from one side of town to the other features several miles of hiking up cobble stone streets, down small pathways, and up and down thousands of uneven stairs. Oh and don’t feel bad when you stop, panting and clutching your sides, as a 90 year-old-woman carrying her shopping bags passes you. She’s just had more time to train for this than you…
We spent our first day visiting the many cathedrals, some dating back to the 1600s, and getting our bearings in this geographically confusing, but gorgeous town. We walked down the Callejon de Beso (The Alley of The Kiss) where the alley gets so small that two balconies almost touch. In a local legend, ala Romeo & Juliet, it’s said that two young lovers from opposing families used to meet on these balconies to exchange forbidden kisses. Eventually they were discovered and met a tragic end, and now tourists line up to get a picture on the same balcony making kissy faces into the air. Ah, young love.
We also walked across town (up a million stairs and back down the other side) to the Museo de las Momias. The museum is small, but features an extensive collection of mummified remains pulled from the town’s main cemetery just behind the museum. As they ran out of room in the standing crypts for more bodies, old ones were “removed.” What they found were not skeletons though, they were mummified due to the dry atmosphere created by their above-ground crypts. The first was removed in 1865, and more have since joined the collection that now stands at over 100. It’s a macabre scene to see these bodies and read the stories about the people they were. It’s just one more example of the Mexican people’s fascination with death. Apparently we share that fascination, since in three days we had been to the Museo de la Muerte in AguasCalientes and now the Museo de las Momias…
The following day was all about food. We grazed our way across town from the Empanada stand for an early lunch, to a coffee shop for smoothies and cappuccino fria (iced cappuccino with a healthy serving of whipped cream), to a small and hard to find bar that served very unique cocktails with a side of free tapas. We took a small detour to the movie theatre to see La La Land (I begged, and used the excuse it would be good for our Spanish since it was subtitled…) and then we went to our fourth roof top bar in Mexcio. This is one of our favorite ways to see a city, mainly through the view of a glass of something delicious. We met a couple nice people there who were traveling through Mexico. Glenn who had been visiting for years, and Luanna (I hope I remember that right) who was visiting for the first time. It was wonderful to meet someone like Luanna who was trying something new at the time in life when most people have seen all they want to see. I won’t disclose her age, but this woman is doing it right for sure!! Get out and travel people, however you can!
We took a very serious look at our schedule to see what we could fit in the next two and a half weeks before Chyanne visited, and we just couldn’t make staying longer in Guanajuato work if we weren’t going to skip the rest of Mexico. So we started looking at other towns we could stay and work on our Spanish and decided to look at San Cristobal de las Casas. That gave us a little over a week to get across about 700 miles of Mexico and to see a few of the places on the way we were most looking forward to. One of those places was the ancient city of Teotihuacan.
Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas with a population of over 80,000 at its height, making it the sixth largest city at the time, around 700-800 AD. It was a religious center, as well as a metropolitan city, as evidenced by the remains of the pyramids of the sun and moon and the many smaller pyramids, all of which would have held altars to their many gods. Exploring it now is like taking a walk back through time, albeit with hundreds of other tourists. The larger of the two pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed around 200 AD and measures 738’ across, and 246’ high. It required 3 million tons of stone and was completed without the use of metal tools, pack animals, or the wheel. It is the third largest pyramid in the world, but still just over half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. We walked to the top (so many stairs this week!!!) and were offered an incredible view of the remains of the city and the surrounding valley. How incredible it would have been to see the altars at the tops of the pyramids, and the city stretched out around it. At its height, the city covered almost 30 square kilometers, but an impressive stretch of 3 kilometers of cobblestone road and structures has survived to today.
Exploring these two places is exactly what makes traveling great to me. Both offered completely unique experiences, but both were extremely interesting and informative. As we continue further into our trip we hope to find places that we can stay longer, as we’ve come to realize that to get to the heart of a place you need to be there long enough to interact with the locals, get familiar with the layout and really understand the culture. Also we need to learn the language, but we are getting closer every day!
Next week KP will recap our trip to another ancient site in the city of Cholula and our trip to the jungle of Veracruz.