As many backpacker travelers know, plans can change at the drop of a hat. We were to go to a small “ghost” town called Real De Catorce, but with no vacancies due to the Easter weekend, the hostel owners in Monterrey recommended the capital city Zacatecas. A last minute cancellation secured us a room. A mountain resort town, founded on a silver mine, Zacatecas worked out for the better since it is a much bigger city and they had a huge festival going on all weekend.
Taking the local bus (which the driver popped the hood and hand-cranked) into town, we arrived around 7:30PM at “Hostel Las 7 Cueves” ($23/night) which was more like what we usually expected from hostels: peeling paint, rock hard mattresses, no toilet seats, etc, etc. In English, “Hostel of the 7 Caves” was appropriately named because every little sound became a booming echo, esp. the gonging of young Mexican ladies in heels going up and down the metal stairs (thank goodness for earplugs).
We found a nice little cantina that had 2 for 1 beers (they literally serve you 2 when you order 1), which is about 88 cents a beer. Needless to say, we spent some time there over the weekend, mostly working on the blog and journals. They gave us a free bowl of a spicy snack mix of peanuts, some oblong yellow things and little dried green things. The yellow and green things were so hard we nicknamed the dish “rocks-n-pebbles“. We spent a lot of time picking the peanuts out from under these rocks.
That evening, we came upon the Easter Parade. For crowd control, they used an interesting technique of having a rope on either side move along with the parade. We thought it as quite clever until we saw the anchor menâ€¦
Saturday we toured the silver mine â€“ closed in the 1950’s (almost 400 years of operation) after many people died (up to 5 a day) from mercury vapor poisoning, accidents and other diseases. Each visitor was issued a rather nice hair net (eat your heart out cafeteria ladies) and a hard hat. I thought the hat was just for affect until I heard “WHACK! rattle, rattle, rattle” and turned to see Warren scrambling after his hard hat – it having been dislodged after connecting soundly with a low portion of the tunnel. Ahhh.
The city has some beautiful sights which include a cathedral, old aqueduct, large squares, fountains and an amazing old convent (in ruins but beautifully landscaped and manicured â€“ is that a dichotomy?). Enrique Park had a fountain shooting water to music (video 6.5Meg wmv file). Returning to the festival, we enjoyed seeing the kids “craft” corner (piñata making, clay working and chiseling stone). Later we enjoyed some international entertainers including a Mexican a capella group(6Meg wmv File). Not feeling like a sit-down dinner we went to a kiosk. Hamburger = 1/3 lb ground beef slapped flat until you have a tortilla.
On Easter Sunday we climbed “La Bufa” – the mountain next to the city where the revolutionary Poncho Villa held off the government troops over 100 years ago. We decided, after sucking wind up the trail to the site, how it was probably easy to keep people off this hill. The city itself is at 2500 meters (8200 feet or 1.5 miles) above sea level and the hilltop even further. The manicured stone path now leading tourists up the hill has 7-foot tall stone crosses every 20 yards. We dubbed them “Prayer Stations” – “Please, God, let me make it to the top!” The climb and the view at the top were quite breath-taking.
For more Zacatecas Pictures visit the Zacatecas Gallery
Next stop : San Miguel de Allende