Feliz Aņo Nuevo de Morelia!!!
First off, happy new year from Morelia!!!
The ride from San Miguel de Allende was stunning. Partly because I was finally able to ride without rain, which was a first in some time, but also because the scenery and roads were perfect. Another shout out for BiciMapas, which is the 3rd party map set I purchased for Mexico and Central America. It is working flawlessly and routing me through some of the best this beautiful country has to offer.
I'm staying at Hotel Del Carmen, which is a decent spot. The rooms are a bit cramped, and the bathrooms look similar to what I would imagine they offer in prison, but the price ($27 USD/night), location, and secure parking make it all worth it. In addition, the staff is very nice and did I mention the location? Two blocks from the main plaza, which is close enough for a brief stroll, yet far enough to avoid the crowds. Briefly, if you end up visiting here, don't eat in the main plaza. You will pay approx $20 USD for a meal w/ drink. Head a few blocks in any direction and you can find tons of incredibly inexpensive restaurants/kitchens. I had a wonderful quesadilla plate yesterday w/ rice and beans w/ drink that cost me approx $3 USD.
This city is stunning! In fact, all of these colonial cities are stunning. I can't get over it. Although not quite as large, the beauty in Morelia and SMdA rival any of the cities in Spain (at least within proximity to the city centers). It's hard to believe these beautiful small cities are even in the same country as places like Tijuana, and some of the other cities I've passed through in years past. It really is a shame that Mexico gets such a bad reputation from mainstream media and most Americans. There really are some absolute gems here. Not just the cities, but the people, history, culture, music, women, cuisine, etc, etc, etc...
Yesterday I spent the day walking around checking out the sights. I followed this Frommer's walking guide. After putting in some miles, I went back to the room and read for a bit. I'm currently reading Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham. One of my good friends Peter back home gave it to me as I was about to set off on my journey. This guy can seriously write! Although Andrew was on a bicycle during his adventure, I can certainly relate to the rigors of travel... "Touring solo on a bicycle (or motorcycle), I discover, is an act of stupidity or an act of divine belief. It is intense stretches of isolation punctuated with flashes of pure terror and indelible moments of friendship. Mostly, it is dirty work particularly suitable for the stubborn masochist. I was suckered into the adventure, the elegant simplicity of its execution, and yes, even the glory of its agony."
Last night I went out expecting a right piss-up, since it was New Year's Eve and all. Well, turns out they don't celebrate it here like we do in 'Merica. Back home we get dolled up and go out with the expectation that it will be the best night of the year. We spend twice as much on dinner for food that is only half as good. Then we wait for what seems like hours amongst throngs of others in line at the bar for an overpriced drink. Here it turns out, they close most everything and spend the night in with family and friends, where the booze and food are cheap, and easily accessible. I'm starting to think we have it all wrong. Hmmm... I did end up meeting a really cool guy named Luis at a bar who invited me to a spot he knew about with live music. It turned out to be a really good time. Luis is quite the ladies man and introduced me as "Fuser" all night (the name will make sense for those who've read/seen Motorcycle Diaries). He was set on showing me a good time and did just that. If you read this, thanks Luis!
Today I was going to take a day trip to Patzcuaro to see the town, and the nearby lake. However, I'm quite content exploring more of Morelia, and am currently writing this while sitting on a bench in a quiet park taking it all in. Tomorrow I head to Mexico City and am staying with a gracious CouchSurfing host named Lianne. I'd like to explore the city a bit, attend a CS event, possibly catch a bullfight at The Plaza, and maybe see some of the nearby ruins. We'll see. From there I'm not exactly sure what the plan is. I've been in touch with an organization in Oaxaca that I'll probably spend some time volunteering with (Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots). Then I definitely want to make my way over to the Pacific coast to lounge on the beaches of Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel. Ahh, decisions, decisions! Life definitely does not suck at the moment. :)
Since I left on my trip I've been writing down one 'profound moment of the day' in my journal. Well, yesterday I had two, so I'll leave you with those. First, as I was wandering aimlessly around the streets of Morelia I randomly came across a man. He looked like an old hippy who had been traveling for years and years. I said hello and immediately got a sense that something was very interesting and different about him. Something wise in his eyes, calmness, and the creases in his weathered face. As we chatted a bit, dogs started coming up to him from all directions (he started out with two and ended up with around 15). As I was saying goodbye I wished him a happy new year. He replied with "no existe el futuro, el futuro es hoy", which obviously means the future does not exist, the future is now. After saying that, he turned and walked away slowly and disappeared with a trail of obedient dogs following along behind. I sat there and thought about what he said for what seemed like an hour. It dawned on me that instead of putting such an emphasis on making grandiose resolutions for the upcoming year, I should simply live in and enjoy the present. So I sat there, in that park for a long time just enjoying the breeze and watching kids run around and play amongst themselves. It was a magical moment. I asked several locals and that man is a mystery. Apparently nobody knows why, but dogs love him and come from all around the city and simply follow him. Strange.
The second profound experience came as I was sitting at a bar near the plaza having dinner. I had finished my sandwich and had a plate of fries remaining. There was a guy trying to sell handmade jewelry from table to table, but since he was a little dirty, and obviously not well off financially, people kept shoving him away. When he got to my table I was tempted to do the same, but instead I offered him a seat and my plate of fries. He sat down and was incredibly grateful. His name was Jose and we ended up talking for about an hour. He was patient with my broken Spanish, and gave me a lesson of sorts. He thanked me for the fries, and said "people rarely show me this kind of generosity". I thanked him because I realized that it was the first time that I'd had an hour long conversation in Spanish, and it made sense! Turns out, he gave me the gift. It seems all I needed was to get over the fears of simply trying to have a full conversation, and of sounding like an idiot. I did just that and Jose and I had a wonderful conversation. He gave me a pair of earrings for the girl he says I'll meet someday on my journey (hoping that prediction comes true!) and refused any payment for them. It was an amazing interaction, and definitely taught me that sometimes I should push away my initial thought/reactions and make an effort to get to know others more.
I guess that's it for now... Ready to get back in the saddle for another ride. More to come from Mexico City soon,