Heading south and out of Northern Mexico we stopped in the colonial town of Zacatecas. It was an old silver town and we went because we’d read in a magazine that you could buy some kind of cool home made shoe there but when we got there we couldn’t find any of the frigging shoes. We toured the sites ranging from the old silver mine to the historic bull ring that had been recently transformed into the fanciest hotel in the city. Looking back on it, we did all the things that by the end of the trip we tried to avoid because they simply bore us.
On the other hand, this was also a region that helped to shape how we would travel long into the future. With a group from the hostel we set off on our own to hike in the nearby mountains and check out the random street festivals we happened upon in the lead-up to Semana Santa. We started to shop for our meals in the actual markets rather than in tourist centers and we enjoyed cooking with ‘authentic’ ingredients; one night we enjoyed a cactus salad at our hostel with some other travelers. (Just for the record, it was kinda weird.) Mostly though, we started to get into the rhythm of passing our days by enjoying the city parks and public spaces and watching as local life passed by right in front of us.
Those were the good parts.
This was also the time where we really started to appreciate just how difficult our lives were about to become. We spent an entire day trying to contact an outfitter that we’d be able to go kayaking with and then working to figure out the rest of our time in Mexico so that we could book our start date for our Spanish classes in Guatemala…we needed to choose a start date to make a reservation. If that sounds like a run-on sentence its because that’s how we felt…we weren’t used to dealing with all these planning factors and stressors all at once yet and it wasn’t so easy. Oh, and Semana Santa was due to start in a week…no bus tickets available then….
Things weren’t all bad though, once we worked it all out and left Zacatecas we were with two other traveling souls who wound up in kayaks going over a few waterfalls with us, an incredibly fun day and one of the best of the entire trip and had the added benefit of introducing us to another region’s cuisine. After the ride down the falls we visited the strange yet beautiful site of Xilitla before continuing onto the urban feel of Jalapa where we did some more kayaking and exploring of archaeological sites. These parts of Mexico are some of the reasons we loved the country so much, one day in a kayak (Jill got destroyed on a some pretty large rocks) and the next day touring an archaeological site. Jalapa itself was a university town and we enjoyed a meal of falafel and shwarma for dinner one night….quite a change from the Mexico we’d come to know so far and a world away from the one portrayed on the nightly news back in the USA.
One of those two with us at the waterfalls was the same Swiss girl was who had been with us in the Copper Canyon and had been with us ever since we left Baja. She was our first ‘backpacking’ friend, most of whom we’ve completely lost touch with. We stayed in our first two hostels with her and shared a great many laughs and memories. Suddenly, just as soon as we’d met, it was time to part ways. Like I said, we’d only been hanging out a few weeks but as we said our goodbyes the road suddenly seemed so much more lonely. Sure Jill and I were still together but the realities of the road really started to settle with us and began to make us very uncomfortable. We knew we’d meet people along the way, but suddenly I felt far more lonely and homesick than I did even on that first day of the trip….but stay tuned, it wasn’t long before we found our mojo.