Mezcal-icious

Hi again, I believe I left off last time on my way to Guadalajara. Well, to jump right into it, the trip there was fine, but, unfortunately, the next leg proved to be a little trickier. I was supposed to catch some obscure city bus 9 km to the city centre but, after waiting half an hour, I finally gave up on that plan and started asking the driver of any bus with a likely sounding name listed on it. Eventually I procured what sounded like an affirmative response and grabbed a seat, far from confident in my decision. Luckily for me, it didn’t take long for my innate “weirdo magnetismo” to take effect and I had soon been well-advised on the logistics of Guadalajara navigation. “Jijean” (my best guess) was around 50, had a sharp white sweater draped rakishly around his neck and had a radio, a very loud radio, hooked to his belt. He was able to explain to me exactly where and when I wanted to get off the bus without once breaking the stride of his seat mambo. He was also constantly scanning through the stations to find a better song and became extremely pleased with himself when uncovered some Supertramp – “Canadianse, no? Yes? Yes!”. The least I could do was act delighted.

As for Guadalajara itself, the city centre is about ten square blocks of beautiful cathedrals, squares, museums and other colonial buildings. Everything else I saw of this multi-million person sprawl (mainly out the window of the bus) could be summed in one word – squalid. Or maybe two words – colourfully squalid. After seeing all the affluent Mexican tourists in Puerto Vallarta this kind of poverty was a real eye-opener.

Anyway, the sights were impressive but one evening and the following morning were enough for my attention span and I decided to ditch my roach-infested hotel room and head to Zacatecas, one of the famed silver cities left behind by the Spanish. The bus ride went smoothly, all except for being subjected to a horrible b-rate action/romance (come to think of it, aren’t almost all b-rate movies action/romances?) that was dubbed into Spanish and starred the one, the only, Erik Estrada. Ooh la la.

Zacatecas: I settled into one of the four-person dorm rooms at a hostel that I had been told was good. It seemed nice enough, until the other three guys all stumbled in at various times at night, all in particularly raunchy shape. By 5 AM I had to get up and open the door and windows just so I could breathe, and possibly stop dreaming that I was lying on the floor in a bar bathroom.

So, a bit of a shaky start, but my perspective took a rapid 180-degree turn once I defected to the side of Fools and Drunkards. I think I was fairly miscast in my original role anyway. Actually, even before I started in on the good stuff I was incredibly impressed with the city. It’s a really beautiful place, with the downtown core made up entirely of preserved colonial buildings crammed into narrow, hilly, cobble-stoned streets. Festivities of one sort or anther seemed to take place several times a day. Case in point, about eight of us were drinking on the roof of the hostel (which has an amazing view of the city), when Ernesto Jr, one of the brothers that run the hostel, comes up and says, “finish up your drinks, we have to go”. We were a little confused, but it didn’t even occur to us to ask why, we just followed along. The next thing you know, we’re part of a huge “callejonada”, a crazy procession during which a mariachi band, followed by assorted revelers in various states of consciousness, tramps all over the city amongst tiny alleys and side streets playing music. Apparently these go on all the time in Zacatecas. Small ceramic mugs were tied around our necks and filled with mezcal by any one of the several guys carrying ten-gallon jugs of the stuff. And filled with mezcal, and filled with mezcal, and filled…. By the end I was making sure I always held my cup as though it was full, sometimes even taking pretend sips, just to keep the “Mezcal Hombre” away for another couple of minutes. Eventually we ended the night in a “disco” built right inside the old silver mine (“Miña el Eden”). We rode way down into the mountain in this tiny little train where a guy in a tux ushered us into a hazy, strobe-lit, wildly surreal cave. While most of us immediately began pounding back beers, completely oblivious to any sort of line that could have been drawn, Guillermo (another hostel brother) was making out with this girl from New York like they were thirteen years old and at their very first dance. That is, until he got a little too enthusiastic and banged the back of her head against the rock wall. It turns out that that’s a mood breaker. Something to keep in mind. All in all, a very bizarre night.

Well, gotta go, I’m now on my way to Guanajuato, but I’ll fill you in on the rest of my Zacatecas adventure later. Talk to ya soon.

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