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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

November 29, 2010

Guadalajara and the Route of Independence

Thanks to Daniela for hosting us and to Alejandra for taking us around the city. Guadalajara is a very large city with about 4 million people in the greater area. One of the districts we checked out was Zapopan and it was beautiful. Of course there were more outrageous Catholic statues, in my opinion, but in general the construction and atmosphere of the area were fantastic.

The Bike and Rider
The owner of the bike guarding it from speeding
traffic, with his life!
We had the pleasure of getting to witness most of the process of a traffic accident.  It went about like this: Pizza delivery bike makes a wild U-turn in front of a speeding car, car hits bike and then pulls over.  Bike is knocked down, rider is injured (likely a minor injury to the leg) and pinned easily under the bike, 125cc.  General duty cops show up and stand around waiting for the traffic cop to show up, 30 minutes later Paris Hilton shows up with shades and thin moustache, gold chains, etc. and proceeds to ask the driver of the car what happened with the owner of the pizza bike standing there.  Both vehicles had been moved around by now but not enough to avoid obstructing traffic.  The vehicles and the bike, guy removed by paramedics, stay on the road way even though there is no damage until the judge shows up to see what has happened.  The guy in the car who was likely the real victim here has to wait to see if the judge determines, based on the ‘evidence’, if he is to go to jail or not.  Regardless of the verdict his car will get towed away and he'll have to pay to retrieve it.  Meanwhile people are just ripping by, not signalling, driving without caution or helmets or seatbelts, making wild U-turns and nearly running over the police and people around the scene.  None of the witness statements or evidence was preserved and the vehicles were still blocking traffic (in an effort to preserve evidence but nobody asks why).  The police that first showed up, all give the next guy a homie handshake then leave to cruise the block without ever giving statements (not their job?).  Basically the scene is unsafe, insecure, evidence and statements are not preserved or tainted, there's no continuity, everybody is delayed and after two hours of watching this Deya and I left without seeing the judge show up or finding out if the guy in the car was going to jail.  Brutal!

We set out early to avoid traffic leaving the big city, one of rules was not to get into big cities and trying to eliminate the high risk of traffic is a major concern. Despite our best efforts it took almost two and a half hours to get free from the city; on the way out a delivery driver made a dangerous and unnecessary pass and actually brushed my left pannier very lightly with the box of his truck. Deya was impressed how well I kept it together but secretly I had some rage brewing. I won’t rant right now about the drivers here but needless to say, Brutal!

Off the main road the GPS was only giving us arrows to waypoints, we ended up down some pretty rough roads and cobblestone streets in little communities that were blanketed with fog. Winding our way along Deya was getting nervous and I loved it. We had full tanks of gas and it was only a matter of time before we circled into another waypoint. The traffic was slow and light in these little backwater communities and everyone was on their way to work. For me this makes for a great ride and feels safe. Dudes on their way to work or working makes for great travel partners, men hanging around during the day with nothing to do, do not.

As we emerged from the fog, Mexico began. I say this because the route became beautiful and I had, for the first time since we arrived in the country, a feeling that I had arrived now in Mexico. It was tranquil and there were farmers, beautiful views, clean communities and kids going to school. There was no pressure and the tension that permeated the air during the rest of the journey was absent. Both Deya and I felt it and the people expressed it as well. We were now on our way to the Route of Independence.

One of the first little communities we stopped in, for agua y baño break, was the community of San Diego de Alejandría. It was a bit magical and both of us thought seriously of staying for a couple of days but our destination for the day was Guanajuato. As we stood near the bikes several people stopped to talk, one of the guys was Edgar and he invited us to stop by his work for a couple of medical supplies that we might need. Edgar is a paramedic for the region, supports two hospitals and three communities. When we came over he invited us in and told us about his own adventures. Edgar is a like minded soul and has done some impressive trips via cycle.

Edgar you are Awesome!
The medical station where our friend works is common in Mexico and we learned that if you go to them they can help you with some basic supplies for free, they are called “Centros de Salud”. We received a bunch of electrolyte pouches, medication for basic ailments like muscle pain and soar throats and some first aid supplies. The government of Mexico provides this service for anyone, very impressive.

Having fully stocked up on the basics Edgar offered a taco for lunch, my rubber arm had already twisted itself and he brought us into the kitchen in the back. In short order the stove was going and we had fried beans, pork chops, salsa, tortillas but no cheese for quesadillas. No problem, Edgar jumped on his bike and rode down to the store and back with a couple hundred grams of good cheese before the tortillas he was warming burned. It was a feast and we even had leftovers. Deya and I were blown away, we had only been there 10 minutes and had been treated super well. It’s the simple things like what Edgar was doing that are very meaningful for travellers, and that brief kindness with no need for return is not even explainable. Edgar only said he’s just giving back and you could tell that somewhere in his mind or his heart he was repaying a debt of kindness offered somewhere by someone who didn’t need to. Thanks Edgar, I hope that we have the chance to pay this forward as well as you have!

We left the town encouraged and fully recovered from our near miss in Guadalajara, restocked and re-motivated, sipping on electrolytes and marvelling over the beautiful route before us. We were not far from the tourist city of Guanajuato and just looking at the map it seemed interesting. Edgar had called his sister who is a doctor there and she recommended some places we might stay.

As we entered Guanajuato we had to go through a series of tunnels, it was like a dragons den of passages some going deeper into the mountain, some going up and some just going on into the darkness. There were interceptions in the mountains and every time you emerge from a tunnel you find some other cool part of the city. People were everywhere walking around and the place had a very artistic feel. Having arrived in such a cool place after a good ride made me a little awestruck and super impressed. A World Heritage Sight, we decided to spend two nights even though it is a little expensive for our budget. You can find places to stay from about $200 pesos per person to as high as $2500 pesos. You can stay right in the heart of the city for $700-$800 pesos, which is pretty good. We found a place near the Mercado (Market) for $350 pesos and it had the secure parking we desired.
We met several good folks and toured around the town on foot. I think that this would be a great place to spend a couple of weeks just walking around and exploring. They have a large university and hospital and plenty of things to see and do, even just hanging out at one of the parks drinking coffee would be a great way to spend time. There are theatres, museums and many other attractions worth seeing as Guanajuato is famous for the Route of Independence. We checked out one piece of property and it was in a wicked area for about $350,000 CND. It would probably need renovations of (I’m guessing) no more that $100,000 CND and you would have a blow me down cool place or business right in a major part of the city. Anyways, Guanajuato is an awesome place to visit and I would recommend it as one of the coolest cities I have ever visited.

In the maze

Deya had to take me to an epic alley of romance; it had to do with a young Mexican miner who was not of sufficient class to court a young Spanish lady of status. So in order to be with the girl he rented the home across from her, the homes being so close together that the young couple could kiss at night from their windows. One evening as they embraced, the father of the girl saw them and with a knife stabbed his daughter in the back for shaming her family; her last action was to reach out to the young miner who kissed her hand as she expired. As the tradition goes you have to kiss someone in the alley. Since there were only dudes hanging around I had to kiss my wife but it wasn’t so bad.

After two short nights we left this little gem in the mountains and headed for the city where Independence was declared or known as the Cradle of Independence, Dolores Hidalgo. Here you can get ice cream made from tequila, beer and all kinds of other stuff, it is actually pretty good. Padre Miguel Hidalgo coined the most famous phrase (Grito De Dolores) in Mexican history in a city called Dolores, “Death to the Spaniards” triggering a push for independence which ended in his execution, Independence and the naming of the city after him.

As we entered the town we visited a tile manufacturer that produces some beautiful products, this type is called Talavera. It was an excellent visit and the owner is a fantastic character with a long history of craftsmanship. His products have an international market and are warranted for 50 years! All handcrafted with painstaking detail and care, these products are made with the original passion and commitment of a 9 year old boy with no father for over 70 years now. It’s quite a story and a fine product too. In the town center we hung out for a bit and had a torta (sandwich). When we returned to the bikes Steve from England had left us a good luck note; thanks for that Steve.

We headed out and onto the next stop which was San Miguel de Allende. The city of San Miguel de Allende is another artsy kind of place where a purse snatching would be big news. The city itself was declared a National Monument by the Mexican government in 1926 and by 1938 Stirling Dickinson (American artist) founded an art school. It’s not as dramatic as Guanajuato which also has a proud school of arts but is very nice and has a great vibe. We only spent a few hours around but you can tell right away it is a place to return too. Instead we checked out some property in the area and there are some fantastic homes around here. Can I say beautiful?, this place has some fantastic homes. We looked at some homes in a golf resort nearby, 18 magical holes with beautiful vistas and fantastic homes starting around $230,000 CND; includes a 15 years membership to the golf club, very secure and your neighbours are two of the wealthiest families in Mexico, WOW!!! You couldn’t get a home this cool in Vancouver for any price. It’s not what Deya and I are looking for but we just about didn’t leave.

We spent too long in San Miguel de Allende to make it to our next stop of Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo so we ended up in Queretaro City (in the state of Queretaro) for the evening. A little lost and tired we found the cheapest place we could get. I’m glad we found a place because my guts where grumbling and it would be a long night riding the Route of Independence.

1 comment:

  1. Looks and sounds like your travels are going along well enough; fun. Starting to plan my "big" trip. Just need to determine a start date. Perhaps I should let the start date find me... Looking forward to more posts as they are posted. Love your recommendations and observations. They are helping to settle many options and considerations of my own. But I'm still planning to do Baja. Take care...

    (Bisbee, AZ)