Time to say goodbye to the beautiful warm Pacific Ocean and head back in to the centre of Mexico. i shall be visiting two towns for the next week and a half. The first stop is the wonderful sleepy town of Zacatecas. The bus was meant to take just 7 hours to get from Mazatlan to Zacatacus but being on Mexican time this overran by two hours. This was due to picking up passages on the side of the road and dropping them off at small mountain villages on the happily named ‘Devils Backbone’. This section of Mountains is the very end of the copper canyon mountain range so you can imagine the view was quite beautiful. My favourite part of taking buses in Mexico are the hawkers that stalk the bus once it enters a village. These hawkers sell the most divine tacos and other Mexican delicacies. I’m always tempted to buy something from them but i know I would pick up some kind of bug or something. Best play it safe as this second class bus doesn’t have a toilet on board.
After a few hours climbing up the long whined road the road flattens out on to a large desert Plato, at this point our bus was stopped and searched by the police. These ‘special’ law enforcement offices are on the look out for Colombians biggest export, Cocaine. 98% of coke that ends up on streets in the US comes through the Mexican boarders. Its such a problem the US pay the Mexican government for these patrols. It doesn’t do much good though as many off the top counter drug squads are corrupt and get paid off by the cartels. Luckily I’m travelling south through Mexico as I hear from other travellers that you will get stopped far more often. The other thing about these stops a lot of the time they are looking out for out of place travellers…. Yes that’s right out of the whole bus they pick me out and body & bag search me. I wouldn’t have minded if I didn’t have another cop pointing a rather large assault rife as me as i was getting search by his buddy. After they found nothing and one of the worst baggage searches i have had (thank god they don’t have a job at Heathrow) I was allowed to carry on my journey. After all these stops I made it to the capital of the state of Zacatacus, named…… funnily enough… Zacatacus.
The moon was bright that night as it seem to light up the whole town in the distance with its ghostly glow, surround the town where small mountains with some of them with Christmas decortaions and others with giant holy crosses lighting up the sky. I hoped in to a taxi and drove to my hostel, the most beautiful small cobbled streets lined with sad rusty looking VW beetles, the maze of streets and crazy one way system really confused me and my sense of direction was complete in tatters. One minute i thought we are driving north and the next minute it felt like we where going in the opposite direction, I have no idea where I was. We finally pull up to a old faded pink colonially building on the edge of the street which had the feel of streets you would find in Coronation Street. It looked shut up but really after banging on the door I was greeted by a friendly face and a beer. The hostel was great, it had the most beautiful balcony looking over the whole city and my room even though it was so cold at night it was worth it just for the view of the flood lit pink stone cathedral in the centre of town. Yes I can see myself enjoying this town. But it was time for bed, far to much travelling to go out tonight.
The morning I was greeted by friendly faces of travellers I had met in Creel as well as new faces that have rolled in from all over Mexico. This hostel gets the prize for being the most atmospheric of this hostel so far on this trip. To be honest the whole time of i was at Zacatacts i didn’t really see or do much, but that’s not the point of this sleepy town, with its brightly colourful buildings it is just to wonder to walk around a people watch. There is a great view from the top of Cerro De La Bufa which you can take a cable from one side of town to the top of the mountain. Its a wonderful 7 minute ride to the top as the cable car drifts over the colourful matchbox houses below.
The thing i love about hostels is you get put in this big melting pot of people who all have different views and opinions about everything from world issues to how tequila tastes. Some people you met can fascinate you and other can just damn right piss you off when they open there mouth for the first time. As I said you meet people from all walks of life and people you would never hang out with at home. From the very friendly and outgoing Canadian girl called Tamara to the 51 year old retired teacher Dom who was a fascinating guy and had some great travel tales from the world. Another wonderful person I met and would be my travelling friend for the next two weeks Ying from China. A shy girl at first but she was always up for a laugh and had a great sense of humour once you got her out of her shell.
Margarita night was upon us on the Thursday. Pay $20 (Pesos) about $2 US and its drink all you can. Once I started I couldn’t stop after about 15 of them chugging down my throat it was time to hit the bars with a posse of international travellers…….. and yet again we start the night off at another gay bar…… now this isn’t funny now. That’s nearly four gay bars in a row now! But hey it wasn’t very gay and it wasn’t very busy so after been thrown around the dance floor by a butch Mexican Lesbian who was trying her hardest to teach me the salsa we were off to another hot sweaty Salsa bar. The great thing about this town its a college town and they love meeting new and ‘exciting’ drunk people. I had a great time in there and let me put it this way, if Michael Flattley was there, I have no doubt in my mind that he would have signed me up for River Dance or Feet of Flames. But in reality it was just a pissed up Random Sam who was throwing himself around the dance floor and some how managed to bang his head on the side of the wall. This gave him the nick name which was funny at the time Sammy two heads. Not very funny now.
The next day was a full on recovery day, i must have stunk of alcohol from the amount of Tequila at was getting thrown down my neck. But it did get the chance to hang out with my fellow travellers and show them my movies. After watching my Scotland movie where I’m swearing and being a bit rude, Ying and a Korean Girl called Judy told me “Sam, You are not like an Englishman” English men are meant to be Gentleman and Charming…… Are you sure that you are from England?”
In my best Hugh Grant accent “Why girls, you don’t know me well, I am really the Charming Traveller of London” followed by a wink.
“You are crazy traveller Sam” one of them piped up. Bless them.
I was met with giggles and shaking heads from this point. and from now on I named myself the Charming Traveller of London. Brilliant!
My last full day in Zacatactus and a few of us decided to go to a small town about 1/2 hour outside the main town. Driving along a dusty highway we find ourselves in the very interesting little place of Guadalupe. Stepping of the bus in the bustling market, between the vegetables and chip stalls I find myself in some kinda of crazy Summer Wonderland with thousands upon thousands of Christmas decorations. Not our western style Santa Claws or Mr Snowman, Mexico is very old school with all there wooden figurines of Jesus Christ and the nativity scene. Its a welcome change to see that not all countries has not sold out there beliefs to the massive commercial gain of the west. I’m not religious but Christmas has got out of hand in the west. We are all to busy rushing around and getting stressed out making sure that we get our loved ones the latest ipods or other crap that we don’t want or need and end up selling on ebay a few months later. Watching the relaxed way the Mexicans do there ‘Christmas’ Shopping makes me think that we all need to stop and take a good look at ourselves and see what a monster Christmas has become. Bar Humbug, Sam! In the main plaza is a beautiful Convent which is now a museum and had a wonderful photography exhibition about all the different images of the Virgin Mary, it was very interesting to see the virgin depicted in many different ways, from photos of Drug Gang Members with Tattoos of the Virgin on there back to clouds in the shape of the Holy Lady.
There was also an international film festival on in Zacatecas that week, the main documentary film ‘Crossing Arizona’ which I’m gutted i missed as it had its premier the day I arrived. The Synopsis is about Mexicans crossing the boarder in to the US and the Minutemen, armed citizens taking border security into their own hands trying to stop them. its a kinda of Michael Moore documentary. It looks a great film and brings up some very interesting points about the whole Mexico/US boarder issue.
The night was spent with a bunch of travellers, A guy called Fredrick who had some wonderful photos of his trips in Mongolia and China and was in Mexico on a motorbiking/photography trip. Suddenly like a whirlwind crashing in to the group we were joined by a traveller called Chris, a right laugh with some shocking and quite brilliant travel stories….. little did I know that I would be travelling with this whirlwind for the next two weeks, and what a ride it was.