We were back on the road and on our way though the state of San Luis Potosi. The weather was what I would consider perfect and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped for breakfast at the side of the road where a small food cart run by a woman and her daughter was parked. They were nice to talk to but the food was mediocre and if we had ordered meat, we would most likely have become ill from it. We then rode through the state capital, also named San Luis Potosi. It was a cute city but it was a bit too busy, and it didn't help that the roads were narrow and difficult to ride because they were made of cobblestone. We tried to find a place to park but weren't able, so we decided not to stop and instead we just rode through.
We rode into the state of Querétaro and continued riding until we reached the capitals city, named Santiago de Querétaro. I had contacted a guy on couchsurfing.org and we were welcomed to go stay with him and his family. We arrived at his home shortly after dark and I loved the introduction. Alex sat at the dining room table as his mother finished applying home made paint to his face, making him look like a skeleton. Alex was about to participate in a flash mob taking place in the city's center, in celebration of Dia De La Muerte. Meaning, Day Of The Dead, Dia De La Muerte is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, dedicated to friends and family members who have passed. The holiday is celebrated by building beautiful private altars honouring the deceased. Graves are visited and gifts are left, such as sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favourite foods, beverages and possessions of the departed. People gather at cemeteries as if it were a family park and they eat, drink and pray, some even spend the night. In most regions of Mexico, November 1st is to honour children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honoured on November 2nd.
We quickly freshened up and joined Alex, his mom, Bachiz, and his dad, Luiz, to the city center. Querétaro is simply beautiful, it is possibly my favourite large city and that says a lot considering I'm not a fan of cities. The city center was surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings with romantic balconies above patio cafes and outdoor restaurants. It was a Friday night and the city center was filled with people roaming around. There were groups of people performing, some were selling or buying things, some where singing or playing instruments and some were even peacefully protesting. We tried some delicious, twisted, sugar and cinnamon donut like treats called Churros and a bread covered in caramel, called Roles. The ambiance and energy of this city was awesome.
The Next day, Alex took us on a tour. While walking through the city, I decided I needed a haircut and walked in to a local salon. My hair was getting damaged from whipping in the wind, wearing my helmet and not using conditioner. I wish I had known how to say in Spanish, 'please trim it straight across' because my hand gestures were instead interpreted as 'chop it up in random chunks using texturing shears'. I wasn't upset though, it just felt good to get it cut.
We continued our walk and visited the ridiculously enormous statue of Benito Juarez, a former Republican president who resisted the French occupation of Mexico and overthrew the Second Mexican Empire. We walked through a museum that taught us of Maximilian, a former Emperor who was barely recognized by other countries, we visited the hill where he was executed and the small chapel built in his honour several years after his death. We then visited the aqueducts, the most prominent feature of the city. It consists of seventy five arches, each twenty meters wide, 1,280 meters long and an average height of twenty three meters and was built to bring water to the residents of Querétaro from the city La Cañada.
It had been a really nice and eventful day spent with Alex, but it wasn't over yet. We went back to his house to meet up with the family and freshen up. We were introduced to Betty, Alex's sister, and we were invited to her fiance's house for a BBQ. It was mid afternoon, the sun was warm, everyone was kind and the food smelled and tasted delicious. Suddenly, Rocky got up to excused himself and disappeared for a while. I found him laying in the shade moments later, it turns out that he wasn't feeling well and he had been puking. We had eaten some precut prickly pears when we were at the market earlier that day, I'm guessing that it may have been the culprit. Luckily, Bachiz was a nurse and practiced with natural medicine. Once we got back to the house she mixed a few ingredients she had bottled asked Rocky to take drops of it under his tongue. I'm not sure what the recipe was, but Rocky felt better a few hours later.
We woke up early the following morning and Rocky and I rode to Guanajuato city in the state of Guanajuato. It is a very cool looking city where many of the city’s streets and alleys run partially or fully underground through tunnels to follow the extreme irregularity of the terrain. The city is filled with mostly colonial era buildings, restaurants, bars, cafes with terraces and small plazas. We walked around for a while, stopped for lunch in one of the markets, watched a bike race through the city and even went to church (not really, we just peeked inside for a picture).
Getting out of Guanajuato took a few attempts. The roads are like a maze, making it very easy to get lost. I think it's funny that they have signs posted “Sal si puedes” which means 'Exit if you can'. Once we finally made it out, it took a couple of hours before we reached a city named San Miguel Allende. It was very pretty but difficult to ride on the cobblestone roads, especially when they became extremely steep. San Miguel Allende is known for its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures and has attracted many artists from around the world. It is now populated by many foreigners. We were only able to ride through the city because it was starting to get late but I was exhausted anyway and ready to go back to Alex's.
The following morning, we were invited to eat a delicious breakfast prepared by Bachiz. She made chilaquiles! It is quartered tortillas fried with onions, garlic and salsa, topped with cheese, sour cream and served with a side of refried beans. It was truly delicious. After we ate, we packed up our things and said our goodbyes. Bachiz even prepared us a goodie bag filled with snacks for our travels in case we got hungry. It was a great experience to stay with this kind family in the lovely city of Querétaro.
Back on the road, we went on our way to Mexico City. It only took a few hours to get there but driving through the thick of the city seemed to take forever. Mexico City was extremely congested. I don't think it would've mattered how bright the sun was shining because the smog was thick enough to hide it. As we rode through the city searching for a WiFi connection, we stopped at four different McDonald's before finding one with Internet that worked. OK, it barely worked, but what else is new. After many attempts, I was finally able to respond to a couple I had contacted on couchsurfing.org and I wrote to tell them we would be arriving shortly. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a lie. When we got to the bike we noticed that the front tire was completely flat.
It would soon get dark and we had no choice but to take out the tools and figure out how to fix the problem. It was the first time that we had to do an emergency repair to the bike and I felt a bit anxious. It obviously took a moment to fix but I was surprised by how quickly Rocky was able to take care of it. Before long, we were on the bike and on our way to meet Damian and Lilian. It was just past 10 pm when we reached their home and we weren't even sure it was their home. They lived on the hillside and there was a maze of small roads with houses numbered randomly. After final figuring it out, I felt bad about how late we had arrived but I was very happy to be there. Lilian and Damian are a beautiful, young couple that live with their adorable Doberman Pincer, their two cats and a tiny little kitten. Since it was almost 11pm when we arrived, we were given a quick tour of their gorgeous home and then went to bed.
Have you ever woken up in a strangers home? Cuddling their pet, and feeling like you're cheating on your cat. No? Well it's kinda weird. Especially when the home owners aren't even there. Damian and Lilian had to go to work in the morning and they let us sleep in. Since Rocky and I have been on this trip there have been a few times that strangers had left us alone in their homes. It is the kindest compliment to be treated with such trust. I felt as if I woke up in an art studio, their house was extraordinary and i couldn't help but look around. Damian is an artist and his work was presented throughout the entire house. From the renovations to the oil paintings to the sculptures and the metal work, I was in love with the creativity that surrounded me.
Rocky and I spent some of the day removing the front wheel off the bike. The tire was still slowly leaking so we decided to replace it instead of patching it because it was time for a new one anyway. The following day we took a taxi through the city to stop at a ktm dealership. All the taxis seemed to be old Volkswagen Beatles. Since it was a two door vehicle, the front seat was removed for easier access into the back seat and* there was a lever like the kind used on school buses for the driver to conveniently open and close the passenger side door. It was an interesting cab experience but because Mexico City is very busy, it took much longer to travel through by car because it can't lane split.
The following day was spent replacing the tire and when Damian and Lilian returned we went downtown and enjoyed tacos at a great little restaurant. I even discovered a new favourite drink named Horchata, made from rice, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, it is delicious. After walking around the city and picking up some Churros for dessert we dropped Lilian off at the bus station. She worked restoring art and had to go away for a few days.
With the bike ready to ride, we decided to spend the next day exploring while Damian was at work. We rode out to the town of Tepozteco, a popular tourist destination near Mexico City. Famous for the remains of a temple built on top of the nearby Tepozteco mountain but also for the exotic ice cream flavours prepared by the townspeople. As soon as we got there we stopped at a small shop for coffee and ice cream, of course.
I was really excited to see the pyramid of Tepozteco, I had never seen one before. It was located at the top of a cliff and we were about to burn all the calories we had just eaten. After climbing up steep trails and some stairs for about an hour, we were greeted by somebody collecting an entrance fee. I found it humorous because I doubted it mattered what the cost was after the hike to get there. I wonder if anyone has ever reached the top and said 'I have to pay to see this? Screw that idea, I'm turning around.'
We paid 37 pesos (approx. $3) each and we were granted access to the top of the pyramid. It was all well worth it. The view of the Earth, from that height, was truly sacred. I sat on a ledge starring out into the horizon and I imagined the history of at least 5 centuries worth of humans to have possibly sat exactly where I was seated, admiring the beauty of nature. I also wondered if anyone had ever been sacrificed on the highest ledge of the pyramid but my thoughts got interrupted by by a cute raccoon looking creature (Coati) standing a couple of feet away begging for food.
Tired, from the days adventures, we headed back to Mexico City. The ride seemed to take much longer than earlier and it didn't help that it started pouring rain. We were drenched and unprepared for the downpour. Traffic was horrible and the rain hit so hard that my thighs felt like they were being stabbed by hundreds of knives. Rocky was lane splitting through most of the traffic but there were many times that he wasn't able. I felt that it wasn't safe to be on the road but the rain wasn't about to stop any time soon and we weren't that far from reaching Damians, house. At one point, Rocky thought that he should pass on the right side of the vehicles along the shoulder but that was a bad idea. I noticed a meter long rectangular sewer hole was missing one third of its grates just as Rocky rode around it. I told him that I was glad that he also noticed the hole and he responded by saying he didn't, he was just avoiding the bumpy edge. We made it back to Damian's house alive and all I could think of was a hot shower, comfy dry clothes, deli sandwiches and a couple of beers would be a perfect way to end the night.
The next morning, we went to visit more pyramids. Teotihuacan is an enormous archaeological site containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. It was the sixth largest city in the world during its period of greatest prosperity, according to an estimated population of 125,000. The city seems to have functioned for centuries as a well-developed urban center until its rather sudden collapse, possibly in the seventh century. We walked approximately two kilometers down 'The Avenue of the Dead', the main street of Teotihuacan. We climbed the steep steps to the top of 'The Pyramid of the Sun', were we had a great view of 'The Pyramid of the Moon'. And with a birds eye view, it was still difficult to absorb the enormity of the city.
After a lot of sight seeing, we rode back into Mexico City to meet up with Damian. Since it would be our last night in Mexico City, Rocky, Damian and I took a city bus downtown to enjoy a nice dinner. We walked through the city before arriving at a really nice restaurant that featured live music and mainly served Italian food, it was a nice a change. After dinner, we had a fun late night roaming around. Mexico has a lot of entertainment on its streets, whether people are singing, playing instruments, performing in a fire show, cooking, crafting or juggling, something always seems to be going on.
Once again it was time to pack and say our good byes. Damian and Lilian* were such kind hosts and our experience in Mexico City was awesome. I won't miss the traffic but I will miss everything else.
Paula & Alex in Querétaro’s city center
Paula in Querétaro
Inside the Basílica Colegiata de Nuestra Señora de Guanajuato
There happened to be a bicycle race on the streets of Guanajuato on the day we visited the city.
Two Mexicans on the streets of Guanajuato
Inside Damien’s Home
Damian & Lillian
Climbing The Pyramid of The Sun
Atop The Pyramid of The Sun
Resting Atop The Pyramid of The Sun
Paula on The Pyramid of The Sun
Riding the bus in Mexico City
Walking the streets of Mexico City