Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Central Highlands, Feb. 6-8th

Feb. 6th
A very special morning! Fernando wakes up early to make us all omelets before he leaves for work, so we enjoy a delicious breakfast! Then we accompany Frida a couple blocks to her school where she has invited us to speak with her first period class. She has high school students, age 16 or so, and they all listen attentively as we talk about our backgrounds, reasons for doing this trip, and of course funny stories. The school principle sits in as well, and asks some great questions. Frida tells us that he appreciates it when teachers introduce things outside the curriculum to enrich their student's experiences. Frida and Fernando, we can't thank you enough for everything! 

A bad quality photo of us with Frida's students 

After our time at school, we bike out of Leon. Luckily there are bike paths that take us a ways out of the city, including a special bike-only bridge over the freeway! 
Bike path! 
Special bridge, just for us!

However, after this we must merge onto a road with lots of traffic, no shoulder, and only a bumpy sidewalk to ride on. Things remain quite noisy and busy until we reach the town of Silao. 
In Silao we eat lunch, get a bit lost because the road we're supposed to take has been ripped up for construction, and eventually get on the toll road to Guanajuato. We climb up and down hills for 20km or so until reaching the outskirts of the city. To enter this historic place we must bike through two dark and noisy tunnels, then up down and around on cobblestone streets. 
The first tunnel. Not super bike friendly.

After being accosted by two "tourist guides" who try way too hard to help us find a place to stay, we decide on a mid-range hotel in the centro. We're tired and just want a place to put our bikes and have dinner.

Well fed and rested a bit, we go for a walk through the city. It's Friday night and the streets are teeming with people: tourists, venders, street performers, you name it. The ancient stone buildings and artful plazas are lit up in ways that highlight their beauty. We can see why this city is such a popular destination for Mexicans and foreigners alike. 
Some of the colorful houses of Guanajuato 

Feb. 7th
We sleep peacefully in our quiet, dark hotel room. In the morning, Danny sleeps in and I go for a walk to take some pictures. This city is a photographers paradise! Especially in the morning with the sun just beginning to illuminate the buildings. 
Statue high on the hill
The main theater 

Other colorful buildings 

When I get back, we have breakfast and hit the road. Luckily, the way out of the city is much easier than the way in. We coast downhill, push our way through a giant traffic circle and then ride off on a quieter road through the hills. The farther we get, the less traffic we see and we're actually able to talk and enjoy the scenery. Mostly we pass shrubby bushes and cacti with the occasional town or person on horseback. After lunch we find a shortcut that cuts out 18km or so! 
It's worth noting that for both breakfast and lunch today we enjoyed fresh corn tortillas with avocados and three-cream cheese, which is just about the most delicious thing ever. 
On the edge of historic San Miguel de Allende we hit steep hills and cobblestone streets. We end up pushing our bikes as we wander around trying to find the place to stay we've planned through warm showers. Finally we find David's place. Originally from Seattle, he now works down here as an actor and writer. Along with all this he maintains a beautiful small campground for cyclists and backpackers where we set up our stuff. Thanks David for this lovely place! 
The sign outside David's campground 

In the evening we wander around the city enjoying more impressive ancient architecture and street performers. 
This famous church was apparently designed by an architect who got the idea from a European postcard and then did drawings with a stick in the dirt for his construction workers.

Feb. 8th. 
We wake up and decide that we want to have a rest day. 
Delicious breakfast! This is called a gordita. It's a corn pita bread sort of thing filled with spicy chickpeas and nopal cactus. So good.

A little research shows us that there is a free bus to the botanical garden just outside the city. Off we go! The garden is very well done with hundreds of species of cacti, yucca, and agave. Peaceful trails lead through the arid landscape, down to a lake filled with waterfowl, over to a rugged canyon, and to multiple scenic overlooks. We see 25+ species of birds (Danny will be updating the list later) and tons of interesting plants. 
The lake
Cacti may be prickly at times, but they have hearts too. 

Back in town we visit the toy museum. It's an incredibly well-done museum showcasing hundreds of traditional Mexican toys made from all different materials- wood, ceramic, paper mâché, yucca fibers, metal, you name it. It's fascinating to see them, and we enjoy playing with some as well! 
Instruments woven out of grasses
Paper mâché jaguar 
Hungry for lunch, we purchase some Chinese food (just to have one meal without tortillas) and an extravagant ice cream cone. 
Yeah, the statue's angry he didn't get any ice cream. 

This evening we're relaxing a bit and then having dinner with a Canadian couple we met! 

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