Arriving in Zacatecas during the afternoon rush hour was complicated enough but the road Garmin wanted me to take was closed off by the police because of an accident causing us to continue in the wrong direction for a couple of miles. As I closed in on the city centre again the narrow, hilly cobbled streets were mainly one way. Garmin was either unaware of this or trying to kill me as on several occasions I was prompted to ride into the oncoming traffic. Eventually we were only a short distance away from the Hostel Don David that we were heading for when Garmin suggested I continued straight ahead up a flight of steep steps to arrive at my destination. I opted to overrule Garmin yet again and rode around the block to park outside the hostel.
The GPS Wanted Me To Ride Up Here To My Destination
I initially booked to stay in Zacatecas for a week but liked the town and the Hostel Don David so decided to stay an additional month to allow a new cash point / ATM card to be forwarded onto me from the UK. I had switched UK banks to Lloyds TSB prior to setting off on my trip because the local branch assured me they would ensure I had no problems using my credit and debit cards overseas. Sadly for whatever reason the debit / ATM card has been blocked by “security” every thirty days which involves a very long, very expensive phone call to a call centre in the UK to get the card reinstated. Initially I had my credit card stopped and was “fined” for not making payments when the bank failed to use the direct debit set up with them to pay the bill each month. I have now ordered a pre payment travel card from Caxton which I am hoping will allow me hassle free access to my money.
My New Home - Hostal Don David, Zacatecas
Another reason for staying in one place for a while is to allow some infected mosquito bites I picked up on my last day in Texas to heal. The bites were aggravated by wearing boots for riding the bike or walking so hopefully staying in Zacatecas for a while will give them a chance to heal. I went to a doctor, a luxury I couldn’t afford in the United States who prescribed some tablets and a course of seven daily ‘shark liver’ injections. The doctors consultation and prescription cost $2 and the tablets which turned out to be vitamin A and D supplements were $1.25. I was a bit sceptical about the ‘shark liver’ injections but when I went on the internet it turned out that shark liver is one of the best sources of Omega 3 which boosts the immune system. I reported to the hospital I was told to go to for the injections but was redirected to another hospital 25 miles away and decided that I would aggravate the bites more travelling to and from the hospital than any benefit gained from the injections. Instead I put myself on a high Omega 3 diet. Four of the seven bites have now healed so hopefully time and more tinned tuna and salmon will fix the remaining bites.
Zacatecas is obviously on the main Pan American route. I had only met two foreign bike riders since starting my trip in March 2009, a German in Canada who had ridden across Russia on the road of bones and a New Zealand couple in Creel, Mexico who had ridden from Alaska. In Zacatecas European registered bikes along with a number from the USA are coming and going all the time.
An annual Mexican car rally, the ‘La Carrera Pan Americana’ which normally runs through the country from Tuxtla Gutierrez in the south up to Nuevo Laredo on the Texan border was finishing in Zacatecas this year due to the drug gang border wars further north. Rigo my landlord, an avid car fanatic and I went to see the cars and four competing motorcycles cross the finish line. Rigo led the way through the barriers right up to the official finish line amongst the TV and press photographers so that we got soaked when second place driver Michel Jourdain Sr. sprayed his champagne. Check out the rally website www.lacarrerapanamericana.com.mx
After Three Years Of Competing In Motorsport This Is The First Time I Got Wet From Champagne
Winner Harri Rovanpera
That evening a street party took place amongst all the parked rally cars in front of the cathedral with Tamborazo bands playing and mescal being served from large jars on the backs of donkeys. The Tamborazo bands tend to play enthusiastically rather than musically moving from street to street playing all the while. When two Tamborazo bands meet they play louder and compete against each other rather than harmonise. It’s a great atmosphere though, as soon as the band stops walking a circle of spectators quickly forms and dancing commences.
Rigo Temporarily Forgetting He's A Happily Married Man!
Zacatecas was the scene of one of the most decisive battles in the Mexican Revolution in June 1914. With the federal army holding the high ground of La Bufa and El Grillo, two hills on the outskirts of the town. Pancho Villa, the revolutionary leader and his 20,000 Division Of The North troops bombarded the hill tops with heavy artillery. El Grillo was quickly taken as smoke from the artillery bombardment concealed the elite revolutionary forces advance. La Bufa was captured later the same day with the federal troops retreating into the town as the officers discarded their uniforms knowing that all captured officers would be executed. A federal colonel detonated the arsenal killing himself along with dozens of revolutionary soldiers and destroying a city block. This enraged Pancho Villa’s forces on the hills who started raining gunfire down into the town. As the federal forces were fleeing the town they were pursued by the revolutionary cavalry which slaughtered them as they ran. During this retreat towards neighbouring Guadalupe the federal troops ran into 7000 fresh revolutionary troops blocking their path who completed the massacre leaving piles of federal corpses by the roadside. Surviving federal officers were summarily executed and enlisted men given the choice, join Pancho Villa or die. Not a hard decision to make I wouldn’t have thought. Well over 6000 federal troops were killed in this one battle.
In October the week long Festival Internacional De Teatro De Calle (International Festival Of Street Theatre) was held with usually three different performances each evening at the numerous Zacatecas Plazas. The Festival opened with the local opera and dance companies which included my landlady Violeta combining to perform a history of Mexico which I thoroughly enjoyed. The six year invasion by France (1861 To 1867) was covered by a lone actor nervously walking on stage humming the French national anthem and being chased straight back off by the Mexicans! The most moving part was a fairly recent film screened onto the stage backdrop of a 103 year old man being interviewed then singing a patriotic Mexican Revolution song. He had obviously lived through the revolution although whether as a child or soldier my limited Spanish was unable to detect.
Festival Of Street Theatre
The finale of the Festival was a performance of Romeo y Julieta in Spanish by an Italian theatre company in the Plaza De Armas with the Cathedral making a stunning stage backdrop. In this version the star cross’d lovers are reunited after death and live(?) happily ever after which had me going to my temporary home with a warm glow although I did wonder whether Shakespeare would approve of someone tinkering with his immortal script.
Plaza With La Bufa Hill In Background
The number of free events in Mexico is amazing. There are regular free concerts and performances in the open air plazas and here in Zacatecas in the indoor Casa Municipal de Cultura. Last Saturday evening I wandered between an outdoor rock concert and a traditional Mexican dance performance followed by two guys singing and playing acoustic guitars which can be best described as the Mexican Simon and Garfunkel performing in the Casa Municipal de Cultura.
Giant Head In Front Of Zacatecas Cathedral
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