Sunday, September 26, 2010

End of week 7 - Hiking La Pena, Gunajuato

The transportation system of buses in Mexico is spectacularly effective, but impossible to comprehend. There are hundreds of different public buses in Queretaro. Each has a sign in the front window with the route number and a list of places it goes. They pass by constantly, and you never have to wait more than 15 minutes for the same route-numbered bus to pass by again.

I appreciate this. It all makes for easy getting around. What's confusing are the bus routes themselves. In the US, a single bus travels along main roads and follows somewhat straight lines, in a systematic way, connecting major destinations to each other. In Queretaro, your likely to have two or three buses with different lettered or numbered names that travel along very similar routes, and the routes are nonsensical - they zig zag between main roads and side roads, turn on tiny side streets, go up, down, and in circles, and eventually go everywhere but still get you to where you need to be. It works, and maybe there is some logic to it, but its tough to find!

Eventually, it seems, each city bus makes its way to the central bus station. When traveling between cities, there are many different bus lines to choose from, all at ridiculously low costs. You get these buses at the central bus station in Queretaro, which looks more like an airport for buses than a bus station; there are security lines, separate terminals for different bus companies, hundreds of buses, and yes, even a large mall. You can buy a bus ticket to any city in the country, large or small, direct or indirect, first class or second class. First class direct buses are a little more expensive and are a lot  like first class airplane seats - the seats recline, they have meal service (two hot dogs - salchichas - in a small plastic bag, without the bun, but with "salsita"), and a separate compartment to put your feet... It's all a little hard to explain.

Last weekend we traveled to Bernal to climb La Pena (with a squiggly over the n, but I still don't know how to type the Spanish accent marks), a large monolith (rock) like Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

La Pena

The bus ride was about an hour long but only cost 33 pesos, or less than three dollars. This was not the first class bus, but no complaints (or salchichas neither)! The climb up La Pena was tough - straight up for about an hour - but the view from the top was worth it.

Afterwards, we wanted to go to a nearby town to visit their ferria de barbacoa, the grilled sheep taco fair. We took a city bus, but got off at the wrong stop so never made it to the fair. We had to chose between going further to the fair, or backtracking to a winery, and we chose to backtrack.

The vista.

The winery was interesting, crowded with Mexican tourists, but there were no free samples. This simply would not do in the US. Why would you go to a winery if there are no free samples? After we bought a bottle of wine and shared it in the parking lot (there were nine of us, not just Ana and I), we decided to head home. To get home, we stood on the side of a highway and flagged down one of the buses heading back to Queretaro. Do you think a greyhound would stop for a bunch of hitchhikers on the side of the road in the US? Well, it works here!

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