Monday, 1 August 2016

Contrasts


Guanajuato
Guanajuato is another of those magical towns crammed with lovely buildings. It’s smaller than its better known neighbor of San Miguel de Allende and maybe not quite as pretty but it’s a close call and it’s got character of its own that really grabs you. So much so that we made enquiries about potential properties and even went and looked at a dilapidated place with 6 bedrooms, three lounges, two kitchens, three bathrooms and huge rooftop potential for a patio overlooking the town. It would have been a lot of work but neighbours dogs constantly yapping and a steep 6 minute hike up a steep hill would probably limit it’s success as a guesthouse.



Guanajuato sits in a bowl of hills and it takes only a few minutes vigorous walking uphill to get out into the country side which stretches away forever. Low trees, cactus and wild grass on rolling hills.The town was a silver mining centre and there are remnants of the industry lying decrepit and hidden in undergrowth. The colonial styled town itself has small bricked streets, plenty of plazas and is crowded with mainly Mexican tourists. Consequently traffic could be a problem but this is got around by a network of underground roughly hewn tunnels that crisscross under the city. These and purely pedestrian tunnels are necessary because the houses are all crowded on top of one another and stop easy egress from one part of the town to the other.


We had a well placed suite of rooms (grand way of saying that the other two bedrooms were empty) so had our own living room and kitchen. A great find for only twelve quid a night and only minutes from the Centro zone with loads of restaurants, tat shops and a proliferation of men painted like statues who make tourists jump by occasionally moving. There are 29 churches in the town – mostly magnificent and my lovely wife (seemingly, a recent convert to church photography) seemed to seek out and click pictures of them all. It’s ok you won’t be subjected to them all because, like so many “adorable” dog images she has taken, they will be culled down to socially acceptable levels. Walking in the town is interesting although slightly challenging as the paths are thin and the people fat but, as I say, it’s got something and we walked nearly every alley.

Among those ‘something’s’ was the gruesome Mummy Museum.  This bizarre place is home to 119 mummified remains of people. Apparently a tax was imposed on living relatives to keep their loved ones underground. If it wasn’t paid the bodies were dug up and disposed of. Due to the extremely dry conditions of the soil the bodies did not decompose in their normal messy way and some of the better conditioned remains were acquired by the museum. These are now displayed in glass cabinets. Some wearing original clothes, many with just their boots and all with a lighthearted plaque introducing them. Stuff like “Hi, I’m Bob. Now look at my body and see if you can guess how I died…No? Well if you look at the back of my head you will see a hole because I was shot in the head, Ow!”


The mummy museum
Time for the beach. We took the overnight bus (very comfy) to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. First impressions – Shit, shit and shit. Its Benidorm for Mexicans and Americans. Hotels line the much too small beaches and, due the lack of space on land, people float around in the breakwater like jetsom and flotsam or whatever. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flotsam,_jetsam,_lagan,_and_derelict.

Anyway. Walking the promenade leaves one exhausted  having to say “no”, “no thanks”, “really no thank you” , or, the good old response and reason I wrote that book “F**k off!” to the numerous peddlers of stuff you don’t need, shops you don’t want to enter and taxi’s you don’t want a lift in. It really is not my thing,. Lets see how I feel tomorrow after a good nights sleep. Unfortunately we have paid for three days so may have to just hole up in our room, practice our Spanish and dribble on people from our balcony for fun.


Maybe I am getting picky - Vallarta beach
Update. Didn’t get much better. Although if you come away from the front a little it did seem more normal. But It was humid, rained from 4.00pm till 10.30pm each day and the studio apartment was opposite a tortillas bakery that started at dawn and played Celine Dion or similar at full volume from their open windows. Thank goodness. Only one more night to go and then we are off to San Blas – three hours up the coast. At least we did a lot of Spanish (and rum and cokes).

San Blas. 4 hours north of Vallarta is a mosquito ridden beach town that’s either dying or trying not too. There is a nice little square with stalls, shops, restaurants etc with roads leading down to the beaches. The roads are lined with closed or dilapidated small hotels. The main beach, which is lovely, wide, has good sand, palm trees and is lapped by a very warm Pacific ocean, has good Palapas (beach restaurants). The sea food is cheap and well prepared, the beer is cheap and once you have a table you can stay all day using it as a base from which to go swimming, walking etc. 

Apparently the beach is meant to be a feeding ground for No-see-ums but we haven’t seen ‘um’ probably because we have not been there in the evening or early morning. These vicious little flies give a really irritating bite that goes on for days and were the bane of lives in Borneo.

Unfortunately San Blas is also famous for its mosquitoes (belated research has revealed!!!!). Keep to the roads and don’t dawdle and you are OK. Venture into the shade, overgrown areas and you are done for. A lesson we first learned when we went down to the river estuary nearby to get a boat across to a wooded area and a deserted beach that runs for miles and miles north.  Sounded good but within a couple of seconds of getting off the boat we were attacked by so many mosquitoes we had to jog along whacking ourselves and the air about us with snatched foliage until we got to the beach. Between us we picked up about 25 bites. Which made the walk with no shade (too scared to enter the tree line again) less enjoyable than we imagined. Even so we wandered for a couple of hours up and down the deserted beach. After a swim, some of it naked. Well, I was naked, Rachel sensibly kept clothes on and therefore didn’t add sunburn to her collection of ailments.  


Beautiful beaches with no one on them - at a price
We are staying at a run down little guest house with 4 or 5 apartments surrounding a thin, shady (mosquito infested) courtyard. You feel a bit like you are entering a squat when you come off the permanently flooded street with overgrown vacant plots all around and that sense is confirmed inside. We have two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen and eating area so it is pretty spacious for 15 quid. However when it rains the roof leaks in a couple of places and we have had to move our bed to accommodate various buckets. It’s a sleepy, humid place to stay. The fans are not that good, there are spiders and cockroaches and gheckos wandering about in our room and the screens on the windows don’t quite fit but - staying we are.
The guy who owns it is a washed up hippy who smokes and drinks too much and has plainly spent a lot of time living a hippy life with all that that entailed. Hence why it looks like a squat and is falling down like the rest of the town. Apparently from an old moneyed family he ended up here 20 years ago and never left. He’s a man of good stories, easy nature and garrulous to the point of being self absorbed. Most days there are two or three Mexicans sharing a smoke with him or one of his long term guests. We soon adopted the When in Rome principle and as a consequence we have spent a mellow time here being chilled, listening to music, snacking and learning Spanish. We are really taking this language thing very seriously and are progressing well and, hopefully in a couple of months, will be able to write a Spanish blog. OK it won’t make any sense but we will have tried.


Probably staying here a couple more days (Maaannn! Ended up being a week).

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