Day 6: Pyramids and Tequila!
We hit the road on day six of the Maya Rally 2012 journey looking for pyramids! Not those overdone square or rectangular pyramids, mind you, but ROUND pyramids. Our camp host in Ezatlan told us of Guachimontones an area representative of the Teuchitlan architectural tradition. This pre-Columbian society came to power sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD and the round architectural style is unique to that area only.
Following our trusty GPS we’ve affectionately named BackStabber, we were led astray once again into the town of Teuchitlan where we got funneled into a series of progressively narrower and narrower streets until we reached an empty corn field, a pack of mean looking street dogs, and some locals who must have thought we were completely nuts. We turned around and headed back to the carreterra libre to get our bearings and try again. Jeff and Monica broke off and decided to head to Guadalajara because Jeff’s family was there celebrating the graduation of his cousin from medical school. We set up a time to meet them in GDL at 4:00 that afternoon, giving us plenty of opportunity to do some exploring.
We finally found the pyramids…without the help of the GPS…on the absolute other side of the town of Teuchitlan (thanks again Garmin). We pulled in an explored the site for a couple of hours while imagining the society that used to live there. I have lots more photos over on Facebook if you’re interested!
On our way to GDL, we stopped in the town of Amatitán, another good lead by our camp host. She told us that Amatitan was way better than the town of Tequila, and she was spot on! We cruised through the town around 1:30 and immediately saw the signs for Fábrica Tequila Herradura, knowing they make some fantastic tequilas, we decided that we were definitely going there for the tour! Unfortunately we didn’t have time for the full tour as it was over two hours long, but we were able to see the beginning of the tour which wound its way through the fábrica vieja or old factory which was an incredible treat! The old factory was straight out of a James Bond film, full of dark, moody spaces and lighting that screamed dungeon! We learned about the entire tequila making process from the jimadors cutting the agave, to the steaming of the piñas, to the crushing of the baked piñas under a stone wheel drawn by a burro called a tahona, then to the final step of distillation. The distilled alcohol is then bottled or barrel-aged for up to three or more years. I have tons more photos of the Herradura Factory over on Facebook, check them out!
After a quick tasting, we had to high-tail it to GDL to meet Monica and Jeff and decide our next plan of action! We belted down some shots and hit the road for the hour drive to Guadalajara! Once in GDL, we met up with Monica and Jeff after another run in with the GPS that was out to kill us, BackStabber. We met them at a hotel and they said we were invited to dinner with Jeff’s uncle Mario and his family. We couldn’t pass this up, could we? Hells no! We immediately agreed and wondered about what kind of exotic restaurant we would dine in that evening.
Jeff informed us dinner would be at P.F. Changs. P.F. “What?” I replied, “P.Fucking Changs?” “P.F. Changs.” he reiterated. Now, I’ve gone my entire life without eating at an asian chain restaurant and I wondered what cruel trick the gods were playing on me that my first experience eating there would be in Mexico of all places. We convoyed down to the posh Zapopan area of GDL and parked our rigs out in front of P. F Changs for a photo op. I have to say, dinner wasn’t half bad, but the conversation with Jeff’s uncle was incredible. It was a fantastic night!
We left dinner and drove about a hour outside of the city to stay at an aquatic park with hot spring pools. This was the first (of many) times that we drove in the dark in Mexico and even though we were warned to not do it, it went off without a hitch…well, except for that damn GPS.
Day 7: Guadalajara
The next day we just couldn’t get moving. The pools were being filled with hot spring water and the wifi was decent so we all did our own thing. I took a long swim, Bryon worked on blog post, Monica organized their Land Cruiser, and Jeff slept in. Around 1:30 p.m. we headed into GDL to visit Jeff’s other uncle in an arts enclave of the city called Tlaquepaque. Jeff’s uncle owns a fine furniture manufacturing business named Antiqua de Mexico. We got a first hand tour of his operation and then explored a bit of Tlaquepaque before returning to the shop. Jeff’s uncle urged us to spend the night in the centro of GDL, saying we couldn’t miss it. His staff found us a fantastic hotel, in fact the oldest hotel in Mexico called the Hotel Frances right in the historic centro. The hotel was built in 1610 and has been doing business off and on for over 400 years! We parked the Land Cruisers in his warehouse, jumped into a cab and had an awesome night exploring the downtown area, eating dinner and having drinks in the hotel bar!
Day 8: Arrival in Guanajuato!
The next morning, we left the hotel and made our way back to Tlaquepaque to retrieve the Land Cruisers from lock down, say our goodbyes to Jeff’s uncle and drive the 292 kilometers to the end of the first leg of our journey, Guanajuato!
Entering Guanajuato is surreal and strange as you pass from the cuota (toll road) into the colonial centro. The road changes from paved tarmac to cobblestones as you begin to wind your way through the narrow streets and alleys, through the many tunnels, and up impossibly steep and narrow hills designed for horse and cart traffic, but now handling two way traffic from cars, pickups, buses and delivery trucks. Driving in Guanajuato is a challenge! The buildings look as if they were just draped over the hills of the city and glow in incandescent hues of tangerine, brick, ochre, emerald, cerulean, and rose.
Our arrival at the campsite, delayed by more faulty directions from BackStabber treated us to an amazing view overlooking a valley as bombs exploded in the air welcoming the festival of Guadalupe later in the week. Dogs across the valley would begin barking inciting other dogs on neighboring hillsides to join in the fracas until literally EVERY dog in Guanajuato was barking in chorus. I fell in love with this city the moment I saw it and as I stood there taking in the sights, sounds and smells, I could feel Guanajuato getting into my blood.
Next up, new friends and working with the Muskoka Foundation and Los Niños de Irapuato!