Made it to Mexico!
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
77Trip End Feb 22, 2012
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For the third day in a row I got up at 4.30am and waited outside the hostel in the dark, hoping that my 'shuttle’ (i.e. cramped, pimped up minibus) would turn up. This time I was leaving Guatemala and going across the border into Mexico by bus, with the ultimate destination of Queretaro on 23rd December to spend Christmas with my friend Dulce and her family. Dulce and I have been friends for 10 years, since we met on an exchange program at university in Canada! So far everything on my itinerary for Guatemala had just about gone to plan so I was on track to make it on time.
I decided to cross the border overland, having made the decision to ignore the offical ‘advice’ on this region otherwise I might as well have turned around and gone home
So, Part 1 of my journey …. sure enough the bus turned up and about 10 of us embarked on a 3 hour drive to the border, stopping for coffee and tortillas at a roadside shack. The Guatemala border control is small building with a few border officials inside. Our bus pulled up outside and we went inside to get our exit stamps. One girl had some problem with her passport so she just stayed on the bus and nobody noticed nor cared that she didn’t go through control. Our driver was not bothered that he had effectively smuggled somebody out of the country. I was surprised to see that there were absolutely no police, no military, no security at all. Now that we had left Guatemala, on to Part 2 … a boat down the river. We all piled into a small canoe style boat with a motor, with our bags, and after getting stuck on the banks a few times we were on our way. For 45 minutes we were in no-mans-land, having exited Guatemala but not yet entered Mexico and travelling down this narrow river surrounded on either side by jungle, it did cross my mind that we were sitting ducks for anyone who wanted to ambush us … but the worst thing to happen was that the motor gave up a few times
The tourist information office told me that the ruins were open until 18.00
Onto the second phase of the journey – a 12 hour overnight bus from Palenque to Mexico City, or D.F. as it’s more commonly known as. I was disappointed in the ADO ‘luxury’ bus service, because it cost $90 for a normal bus with seats that didn’t even recline more than a few degrees. Needless to say it was an awful night’s sleep, waking up three times when armed police got on and searched the bus halfheartedly with a spotlight. The only good thing about the bus was that I made friends with a woman from the city, Yuliana, and we agreed to meet up when I visit the city later on.
The next morning we arrived in Mexico City and I took a taxi across to the airport in order to pick up the final bus of this journey, a 3 hour (short journey!!) trip up to Queretaro. I took a bus with Primera Plus and it was great – they give you a little goody bag with drinks and snacks and it’s very comfortable with big seats and leg rests, and, WIFI
In Mexico they celebrate on Christmas Eve and it’s a family affair. We had two Christmas dinners with different sides of the family and it’s a very different version of Christmas dinner – pasta and cake instead of roast potatoes and Christmas pudding! Dulce’s grandfather is 101 years old and I had fun playing chess with him. We spent a lot of time just hanging out with the family, eating meals in the garden and relaxing. On Christmas Day they had a celebration downtown in Queretaro and we watched a fireworks display. The city was alive with a salsa band playing and people dancing in every available space, and the biggest nativity scene I have ever come across in the main plaza. The streets were lined with men playing ‘Mariachi’ (traditional Mexican music) and food stalls. Best of all – stands selling Churros!!! Churros are like long doughnuts and the most delicious thing in the world, especially served with chocolate.
Queretaro is a beautiful colonial city, especially beautiful when the buildings are lit up at night. We visited the Convento de la Cruz where an old man showed us around for a tip and the monks were in the courtyard preparing a BBQ, funnily they had gelled hair and mobile phones and were wearing jeans under their robes. A plant grows here, with thorns in the shape of the Cross. Interestingly the thorns also have marks of the crucifixion. They say that if this plant grows anywhere else, it has a different appearance.
Time has flown past. Here in Mexico life is very laid back and it’s a bit of an adjustment. In the holiday period we visited a few other towns, San Miguel and Bernal. Bernal we visited on New Years Day and it was a great way to kick off 2012. It is a small town under the shadow of a huge rock. Thousands of people flock here because they believe the rock is lucky and they want to touch it to feel its power. The path up to the trailhead is lined with vendors selling everything you can think of including barbequed cactus and beer, not the best thing before climbing up a mountain! This town feels like a set out of a wildwest movie and I loved it.
After a couple of weeks relaxing into family life and enjoying the sunshine, there were a few more things I wanted to do in Mexico before I left so I packed up and hit the road again …