Joined: Sep 2011
Location: Somewhere in Latin America
17. Guanajuato - You Cheeky, Beautiful Place
After a couple hours of riding I made it to Guanajuato. I donít really have any expectations as I literally know nothing about it. All I know is that a friend recommended it and that thereís NO availability in the entire town this weekend. Something about a 3 week long festival? I could only find one place that had one night available. Make do with what you have.
Alright Guanajuato, thatís a little bit of a grandiose entrance donít you think?
After entering the city I set out to find my hostel. I had my GPS but there is no normal city grid, so it took quite a while.
Lots of the streets are one way streets, and are small enough that you canít just bomb down them and squeeze by if a car comes. This one is on the larger side for example.
The city is made of hills and terraces so there is a pretty neat tunnel system. The tunnels are also really old. Busses, cars, walkers, etc all use it and there are lots of little entrances to them throughout the city for walkers. Pretty rad. The problem for someone who doesnít know them though (like me) is that they are elaborate enough to have stop signs in them and lots of options for turns etc. My GPS goes dead when I go into the tunnels, so I end up guessing which ways to go. I guess Iíll make a left here. I guess Iíll head up this tunnel, and down this one.
Most times I pop out in a totally different place than I thought I was going to. One wrong turn and the reroute adds 20 minutes to get you back to where you were fucked up just so you can give it another whirl. Sometimes I make the same mistake, sometimes I make a different one. Getting lost is a great way to see a place though, and this one just happens to be beautiful. These streets are very old and very interesting.
Eventually I found the hostel.
And found a spot down the street for my bike.
After I got settled I started to learn about the location I had found myself in for the day. Guanajuato is a colonial-era city. Back in the day it had mines that did very well and made the city have a very affluent upper class. These people wanted to be entertained and have things to throw their money at so the city developed a rich cultural art scene. Plays were performed in the plazas and artists flocked here to perform their crafts. Eventually a festival came about called Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC), mix in a lot of federal support to bring in international artists and you have what it is today, a three week long extravaganza of international culture and arts. FIC is seen as the most important international festival (key word is international, there are many other great festivals that are not international in nature) in all of Latin America. In addition, there are only 3 other major events of this type in the world. Fun fact, among other big Latin American sponsors, good olí Microsoft in the US of A is also a sponsor.
Alright then, looks like I stumbled upon a good place to be. I just have a night so I left to go explore. Although it feels like a city because of all the activity and interesting things to do/see, I should really call it a town. It has all the culture of a big city, but is very condensed into a relatively small area and population. Walking is the perfect way to get around.
Today is just a Thursday and only the second week of the 3 week event. Even so, performers are everywhere and it feels like a Friday night in any other big city.
Everywhere you turn there are alleys that lead to other areas, and little hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants. The entrances to these places can be very small and obscure, but once you step through the door they open up and can be huge inside, sometimes with several floors and many rooms. Here in these places you can find a whole other world of people and activity. I follow the noise and keep my head on a swivel for alleys to go down and check out.
The night goes on and I meet up with some locals and new friends from the hostel. We grab more drinks at a locals apartment, getting a feel for what it would be like to live here. Later we grab more food and then head to a club type place. Buildings are packed close together and everything is built up rather than out. Itís hard not feeling like you are still in the colonial era, besides the bass heavy electronica music of course. Really cool to party in architecture like this. Whether in the colonial era or the modern day, we are still doing the same thing, getting drunk, meeting other people, and dancing the night away.
Bars donít stop serving alcohol until around 3 or 4 in the morning here it seems. If the party is good and the drinks are flowing, theyíll keep selling them past that. I donít exactly remember what time we headed back, but the sun wasnít too far from rising. If this is on a Thursday, I wonder what Fridays and Saturdays are like? Although I just have the one night it was still a good one. Topped it off with some bomb food.
In the morning I woke up early to walk around more and see the town in the daylight. The girl that ran the hostel said she could show me the good spots to see the city from so we took my bike and went for a ride. Man is it helpful having a local guide for these roads. ďderecho aquiĒ, ďizquierda aquiĒ, etc, etc.
From a high vantage point I canít capture the place in one photo. Is it a town, or is it a city? I guess Iím not sure. Here it is in two photos from right to left though.
She had to get back to work so I dropped her off and set out to see more of the area.
Everything is colorful.
Being a cultural arts hub, itís a big city for art students, obviously, and there are several universities. Lots of young people.
Little corridors lead to places, all unknown. Itís impossible to see them all.
I met an older lady while walking around the steep streets. We chatted (still in broken spanish for me) and I walked with her as she went to the market. Really nice lady. She told me about the history of the town and what the different areas have. As we chatted she would constantly pause to greet other locals as they passed. An embrace with a kiss on the cheek was the most common. Everyone seems to know everyone here.
Eventually it was time for me to check out of the hostel and find a different place to go see. Maybe Iíll head SE to Queretaro, I heard it is also a pretty old town.
I brought the bike down the alley where my hostel is and parked it out front. My panniers are heavy and itís easier to load the bike when itís close. After finishing packing I came outside to leave and found a Honda 230 dirtbike parked near mine in the alley. A guy was standing next to my bike and we said hey and shot the shit for a few minutes. Said he had a KLR himself and just came to say hey. He asked how long I had been in town for, I said that everything is booked so unfortunately just the one night. He said thatís ridiculous and not enough time for Guanajuato. He said he grew up here and his parents have a place near town where he was staying for the weekend, I should just come stay there. Tomorrow he can show me around the area and show me the other side of Guanajuato that travelers donít normally see. The offroad riding side :-)
Deal. Meet Jose, his amigo Dano, and his pops who just so happens to be an ex-competitive enduro racer.
Tomorrow, time to hit the dirt.