Querétaro, Jalpan, Bernal, and la Sierra Gorda.
We left Los Ayala at 7:20 in the morning and almost missed the bus. Our good friend Gerardo had to rush us to the Primera Plus bus station at La Peñita. The trip to Querétaro with a stop in Guadalajarafor for 1 hour and half took almost 12 hours. The new highway going to Guadalajara shorten the trip by one hour and we arrived past 7pm. We did not reserve an hotel room in advance but we knew we wanted to leave early morning for Jalpan. I asked a nice cleaning lady if she knew a reasonnably priced hotel and she gave me the name of one hotel : « Juan », I understood Juan. We bought our taxi ticket then waited outside for the taxi. It was rush hours and we waited for a good 20 to 30 mn. When he arrived, our taxi driver did not seem in a very good mood but my husband talked to him and he warmed up a little bit. He drove us to hotel One, not « Juan ». The price was too high between 1200 and 1500 pesos a night, I rushed out and told our taxi driver to bring us somewhere cheaper and not too far away from the bus station. 15 mn later we arrived at El hotel de Querétaro at a walking distance to the old Centro. Our driver asked for a tip, it was the first time we were asked for a tip in Mexico. We always tip well anyway, so our efficient driver got a good reward for his effort. It was already past 9pm, we were tired and our room was quiet, clean with a very good Internet connection, a treat. The morning after we took the bus for Jalpan at 8:00 am. We met Carmen, one of the owners of a B&B in a little village in Tilaco, Landa de Matamoros in the Sierra Gorda, one hour past Jalpan. Breakfast and supper are provided and made from scratch of organic ingredients but she did not answer when I asked the price for a night. She said : » call me if you are interested »; then she slept through the whole trip. The trip was fascinating and also scary. We went through la Sierra Gorda on a narrow road, like a shoe lace with deep precipices both sides and up to close to 3000 meters to go down the other side. It took 4 hours and half to go 170 kms. To give an idea, the speed limit was at 40km/hour. We went through semi-desertic landscape : cactuses, shrubs and Joshua trees, through high mountains with pine trees, oak trees, then the tropical vegetation : palm trees, banana trees. In some places, we were in the clouds. Jalpan does not offer much by itself. It is overpriced, the hotels were full because of the Semana Santa and we had to change hotel. Only the center is beautiful. The mountains around are gorgeous and you would think it would be cold there but it is so hot and humid, it almost put me in a bad mood. My husband and I were eager to hike in the mountains, but we were not allowed to go alone and the tours did not seems interesting, plus they barely gave you any informations and nothing is priced. Usually it is a bad sign, you pay by your look and we were the only foreigners in town. We stayed 2 nights there and desappointed we called Carmen but her B&B was full. We decided to go back to Querétaro and do day trips. We were quite well there, the hotel Querétaro is good, clean, inexpensive and we have finally good Internet after 2 weeks without and bad internet the whole time. Querétaro has a good feel even if you have to run for your life crossing a very large street and have only 13 seconds to do it. It is clean, beautiful and seems to be spacious and calm for a huge city but it is hot. The good side of being so hot is we could wash and dry our clothes quickly in the room. There are some French people established in Querétaro. We found a French restaurant «Chez Julien» with a Normand menu, the dishes we eat in Normandy but did not try it. They have very good Italian coffee, it is a big chain but it is another treat from sweet coffee in Jalpan. Definitely there is an European influence there.
We took our first tour with Vaco Tour : « ruta de queso y vino », cheese and wine tour and a stop in Tiquisquiapan and Bernal. It was very enjoyable even if we were supposed to be at the lobby at 8:45 am but waited almost an hour thinking they had forgotten us. They did not, they had too many people and had to get another mini van. We had the best vehicle and shared it with a nice Mexican family with a teenager and a young 5 years old boy. The boy was shy at the beginning but I talked to him and teased him a bit, after a while he was sharing his candies with us and was tickling my husband. We spent our day with them and often had to wait for them because they bought lots of things, contributing to the local economy. Tiquisquiapan is a very beautiful town where we had a good lunch at the local market and time for a walk. Talking to our guide, we realized we shared the same interests : energy work, Reiki and healing. Then we arrived at the mystic Peña Bernal. Peña means also rock. It is the third largest monolith in the world after Gibraltar and the Corcovado in Brazil where there is the big statue of Christ. We decided to come back to Bernal before leaving Querétaro for Mexico city. We came back late that night in the city but happy with our day. The day after, we took a day off to visit the city before going back to Bernal. Then, excited, we went back to the central bus terminal. I don’t remember how long was the trip to Bernal, probably less than 2 hours, but I remember we had to take the bus back around 4:00 pm or we would have to stay for the night. We crossed the village to find the trail up to la Peña, then started our climb slowly. The way up was dusty, that very fine powdery dirt and, because of that it was sleepery under our feet. Lots of people climb la Peña: young kids wearing flip flops or other inadequate shoes, old people, the whole family. Not all of them climb all the way up, I mean up to where you need climbing equipment and hire an Alpine guide because at a certain hight, the cliff is vertical. There are some signs asking to be careful because a fall would be deadly and a few deaths occured in the past but not too many. That was very reassuring...The massive rock, formed when the magma solidified after a volcanic eruption, is close to 400 meters above the ground. Pilgrims come for celebrating the equinox and get the benefit of the positive energy. I chickened at the end and climbed few meters from the end of the trail, Chris went to the end then told me than was almost the easiest part. Next time, if there is one, I will finish it. Then it was the time to come home and I did not feel ready yet, not eager to leave Mexico.