We left Ronny’s safe haven in Monterrey on Thursday with our noses pointed in the direction of Matehuala. The drive out was spectacular as Monterrey is surrounded by bold mountains and high elevations.
The drive went by without any problems what so ever. The presence of federal police and military is high, and hence the presence of bad guys has been lacking. Let’s keep it that way! To stay safe and cut a bit of driving time we have stayed on toll roads whenever possible and will likely keep doing so.
We arrived in Matehuala, a city in the state of San Luis Potosi in the afternoon on Thursday. After going for a little drive through town we checked in at a hotel/campground. As darkness fell, quite a few cars pulled in, but none in the campground. We therefore have great facitilities to ourselves. Our amigos who work at the hotel are super friendly Mexicans who are keen to talk with us, even though are Spanish is still a bit rusty.
Friday morning we woke up before the sun to catch an early bus to the mountain town of Real de Catorce. Being at an elevation of almost 3000 meter the road there has a 1400 meter elevation gain. In addition it is known to be one of the longest cobble streets in the world. We decided to let Honey rest for the day and dive into the culture by taking the bus.
The bus suddenly stopped and everybody got off as we reached a hole in the mountain side. As it turnes out there is a 2.3 km long tunnel that leads to the former silver mining town. We jumped on the horse carriages that were lined up and payed the 15 pesos (just over $1) it cost. The tunnel was pretty dark and cold, but the stemning (atmosphere) was nice and warm. Plenty of horses were transporting locals and visitors to and from the town. This time of year Real de Catorce receives especially high numbers of visitors, as it is a religious destination for pilgrims wanting to see the image of St. Francis in the town church. Several high budget movies have been filmed in Real. Bandidas (Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz) and The Mexican (Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt) are two of these.
As we exited the tunnel we were greeted by a sight full of market action. People were coming, people were going, people were eating, selling and buying. Several religious items were being traded. Candles, ornaments and necklaces. But among these items there were also t-shirts with Angry Birds on them, Tetris games and string underwear for sale. Food stalls and restaurants with wonderful Mexican food were dotted between the sales booths and made for a lively athmosphere and great entertainment.
Music was being played all over town. Dueling banjos happened regularly. The only way to solve it is to raise the volume. No problem! We got to know a family who come once a year to Real de Catorce. They insisted on us joining them for a street dance. We gave in and gave the Mexican two step our best effort to much enjoyment and applause from the other people around.
After a whirlwind of impressions, smells and sights, we got back on the horse carriage through the tunnel. On the other side we waited a little while for the bus to come. We did not mind as there was plenty to look at!
We have met nothing but sincerety and kindness since we got to Mexico. Today we will be driving further South to San Luis Potosi, then head East on highway 70. Stay tuned for updates!