Back on the road after Tequila with surprisingly little hangover, ‘if only we had a swimming pool!’ was the consensus…nothing like a quick dip to liven you up. We again passed through Mexico’s second largest city Guadalajara, where we kept passing Pollo Asado and BBQ chicken roadside eateries. Matt, being the chicken fiend that he is, pestered the crap out of Sarah until she finally screeched to a halt at the closest one, right by the airport. Only 100 pesos (just over £4) got us a ginormous spatchcocked chicken, a plate of rice, salsa and ten tortillas. Yes, we love Mexican BBQ chook!
Moving, somewhat slowly after all that chicken, toward Guanajuato along the libre 90, we passed through picturesque villages before arriving in town and heading up a steep road and onto the Carretera Panoramica road. The road circles the hills above town, giving you a spectacular view of the colourful buildings spread throughout the valley below. It’s also quite narrow in parts, not the kind of place you want to get stuck in a face off with a taxi coming the other way when you’ve got nowhere to go (needless to say we won that battle).
Searching for the ‘Movil Van Camp’, our potential home for the next few nights, we kept our eyes peeled for KM17 and some signage, both of which we’d read we couldn’t miss. But somehow we did, and before we knew it we were on the other side of the valley winding back down towards town. A little frustrated at our failed attempt we pulled over when we spotted an internet café, with the intent of looking up directions and trying again. After failing to find any better directions we gave up on a second attempt when we realised sleeping on the side of the road, for free, in a relatively peaceful area with internet café alongside and a relatively high level of police presence wouldn’t be so bad.
Utilising the internet café to pin some sights on our Google Map for the next day, we finished and ventured out toward the centre of town in the dark. Quickly realising we couldn’t be bothered to venture too far after a long day on the road, we hit the first place that had Wi-Fi (an upscale bar) and were looked at strangely for ordering only Fantas. Finding the internet too slow we decided to retreat back to the van and call it a night, though not before having 80 pesos reefed off us for the pleasure of consuming two small Fantas!!! Be wary of anywhere that doesn’t list their prices on the menu. There’s apparently some pretty cool bars around town but still feeling a little jaded from Tequila we called it a night.
Guanajuato, you are gorgeous!! Arising early in the morning to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and minimum traffic, we took the hike up to Pipila and the statue of the Guanajuato legend. You can elect to take the funicular up for a couple of pesos, though with Guanajuato being a town that is best seen by getting lost, walking makes for a pleasing way to discover it. A final step brings you under the towering statue of the man himself. Pipila, as legend goes, was a local miner responsible for burning down the Spanish stronghold on 28th September 1810, after strapping a rock to his back to block the Spanish bullets, and he is now immortalised overlooking town.
Taking a different descent down to the back of Plaza Los Angeles brings you within close proximity of Callejón del Beso (Kissing Alley). The story goes that a rich girl and a poor boy lived across from each other, separated only by a 69cm gap in their balconies. The father of the rich girl did not approve of their liaison, vowing to kill his daughter if he caught them again. He did, and without word, than night plunged a dagger into her. Taking one last kiss from the back of his love’s hand the boy then took his own life in the mines in which he was employed, thus fortifying the story in folklore.
Passing through various plazas and amongst the numerous churches of Santa Rouge, San Francisco, San Diego de Alcala and past Teatro Juarez, we arrived at Mercado Hidalgo for some much needed food. Spending a measly 20 pesos on cheese, tomatoes, fresh basil and some blue tortillas to eat later for lunch, we plunged into the subterranean depths of the famous tunnel system. Originally built in 1883 due to the constant flooding that plagued the city, it eventually became necessary for the tunnels to be transformed for vehicle traffic. These days a walk around the tunnels with their overhanging buildings is a great sanctuary from the heat above.
In love with Guanajuato we dragged ourselves back up the hill to Porkchop, which we’d parked for free outside Hotel Dos Rios, to leave this beautiful city and head into the country side.
Taking the winding 110 up through the surrounding hillsides you pass through Santa Rosa, with its church dominating the skyline as it gazes over Guanajuato. From the highlands the number 15 drops down past the La Gruta Hotsprings and onto San Miguel De Allende.
San Miguel is another old colonial town where we spent the afternoon wandering it’s street facades painted in various shades of ochre, pink and yellow. Here you’ll notice the sudden change in the people that frequent this part of Mexico. Everywhere you walk you will hear the various tourist accents, partly due to it’s proximity to Mexico City. This was the first time since leaving the USA that we’d encounter throngs of tourist and we didn’t care for it too much.
Spending the rest of the afternoon taking in the many churches and plaza, we enjoyed the town and can see why it’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Back to our free parking on the outskirts of the old center, we got out of San Miguel trying to put as many kilometers under behind us as possible.
Being quiet far South in the country we decided that it would now be fine to start sleeping in the Pemex gas stations with the truck drivers, so we spent that night in one in San Juan Del Rio alongside of the 57D, with Matt cooking up a storm to celebrate Sarah’s actual birthday (yes, we spent Sarah’s birthday night parked up in a gas station). Busy enough with truckies that were friendly, we felt relatively secure and passed an uneventful free night.
Like our photos of Guanajauto and San Miguel? You can check out more on our Flickr page!