Traveling with locals and no rumbo

23 Nov

The wonderful thing about traveling without “rumbo” – with no fixed direction in your mind – is feeling a beautiful freedom, enjoying the possibility to change plans at all times, crossing people who might tell you about places and direct you to see some places with the eyes of a local.

I decided to make a stop to my way to Oaxaca in Puebla and visiting Andres, one of the lovely neighbors I had met in Patscuaro for my birthday.

He is one of those people you get along with immediately; we had danced and listened to our favorite songs as pure music passionate. Among tequila and a mescal we had promised ourselves to visit each other soon. And so it was.

I took a two hours bus from Mexico City Tapo autobus station, and a lovely taxi driver took me to Cholula, where Andres live.

During the ride, it was nice to listen to the proud of the driver about interesting facts of one of the five most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico: Puebla.

Andres was waiting for me at his place with a cool, funny guy named Guillermo. We sat talking about my trip, Andres’ passion for photography and graphic design as well as Guillermo’s love for fashion and New York.

We went to Oxxo, the most important convenient stores in Mexico, we bought some beers and a bottle of tequila and brought them at Gui’s place: an amazing house full of cool, bizarre and unique art pieces and architecture.

As usual I enjoyed playing the dj, I played the “Patzcuaro playlist” adding some new entries like “Miura” from Metro Area, which Andres liked a lot. Who knows me understands that there is no me without music, no me without any kind of sound. And for me showing my new friends my music is somehow like talking about myself. And the same works when I listen to other people taste in music, it is always a way to understand who you have in front of you. A great people connector!  We danced from 6 pm until few hours later when we decided to head to Cholula main street for tacos al pastor: a kind of “mexicanized” doner kebab made of pork meat cooked on a vertical spit, served with onions and cilantro and wrapped in tacos. Sometimes it is also served with pineapple. Delicious. It was one of the best foods tried in Mexico and one of those things I had never seen in any Mexican restaurants abroad. It was kind of disappointing to find out that burritos are not Mexican but gringos, and that guacamole is not that popular, as I had imagined. But I think whatever you try in Mexico is absolutely tasty, with corn and chili flavor on any dish.

After have enjoyed a bunch of tacos al pastor, we went to a bar called Voodoo Mama and met other friends. I met a funny Italian guy, Mario, who was working at that bar while studying at UDLAP, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America where also Andres is studying. He seemed quite happy to meet somebody from Italy, since in that area you can’t really find any.

We had (not) few drinks there together with Elena, Guillermo’ s friend and Maria, a beautiful Mexican friend of Andres who could speak some Italian learnt at school. We had fun and we all ended up again at Guillermo’ s place for few more drinks. I woke up there the day after in a room with a quite unusual but super cool multicolor climbing wall. Yes, a huge climbing wall in front of the bed. I went downstairs in search of  a “normal” bathroom, all the others had  transparent glasses and doors which, even if I am a quite easy and flexible person, still founded that too bizarre for me.

While descending the stairs I bumped into different embalmed animals, but also a real big dog that looked at me wondering who I was. It was kind of scared, but a beautiful red piano attracted my attention immediately. I wish I could still play as I did when I was a kid.

Andres and Guillermo finally woke up. It was time for some tourism in the city but first we went to drop my laundry near his house. Living with few clothes while traveling is good so you don’t have to carry too much weight but you need to make laundries as soon as you see one. Sometimes is like a mirage! I washed one kilo of clothes  (It was the first time I washed my stuff based on weight) and when I collected it I discovered the pleasure of simple things like freshly laundered clothes. It reminded me home.

We first had delicious tortillas (again) for lunch and then drove to Puebla: a classic Spanish design city, centered on a main plaza called like most of the main squares of Mexico: “the zocalo”, with a huge Cathedral from the 16th century with inside two wonderful huge organs. I don’t remember to have seen a bigger one in my life.

We walked through the historic Centre of this really nice and colorful city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987. The historic centre is filled with numerous churches and buildings decorated with multi-colored tiles with hints of Baroque, Renaissance and Classic.

We visited a small shop where two men were producing cigars. I am not sure if this is an important activity in Puebla, but I had never seen that process and the lovely man inside gave us a really interesting explanation of the manufacture process. I can still smell that flavor.

We couldn’t miss to visit one of the oldest cantinas in Puebla, where you can delight the “pasita”: a sweet raisin liqueur served with a cube of salty cheese and a grape on a toothpick in the glass.

Not really my taste, but worth to try such a special thing here. I could see it was a popular antique bar, with lots o pictures of fans of that place. Actually, on the wall there were different pictures in black and white with men drinking a glass of pasita back in 1916.

We passed a cozy and beautiful boutique hotel called Mesones Sacristia and decided to visit it; Colonial-style architecture and rustic furnishings mirroring Mexico’s rich cultural heritage. I loved the pink stairs in its patio and we took many pictures, including one with Dora the explorer, whose shirt matched perfectly with the surroundings.

Walking through the handcrafts market we bumped into colorful skulls, mariachis dolls, as well as typical food: mole and many chapulines vendors. For those who are not familiar with this funny word, chapulines are grasshoppers toasted and eaten as a snack.

There was no hope for Andres to convince me to try those toasted insects. I kept saying him: “no Andres, los grillitos no, porfavor!”.

We also visited UDLAP and BUAP museum, both amazing but I definitely preferred Udlap colorful painting to the embedded newborn and an embedded behead of BUAP.

While going back home, we stopped for a snack at a cozy trendy bar called Ocho30 in Cholula with a unique Mexican colorful and flowery style. I had a bunch of Edamame beans, my passion.

At night we went to Andres’ friend place for dinner; I met lovely people such as Pablo and Luis Pablo; I had a nice and long chat with Diana, a lovely girl from Cabo who studies at Udlap as well. We talked about my trip, and gave some tips. It is amazing how people encourages you and even though doesn’t know you, express all the enthusiasm for your trip. I think that all this people I met randomly gave me a great energy and power to move on, therefore I would like to thank all the people I crossed during this already month and a half on the road. I appreciated the precious suggestions for my forthcoming trip to Oaxaca and the coast.

After  dinner we all went to another house party, which was ok, the good thing was that I could play some music and enjoyed seeing funny drunk dancers. We ended up in a club with electronic music. Seeing again Andres dancing and putting his hands in the head while moving is one of the funniest pictures I have in my mind.

The following day we finally went to one of the most important cultural spots in the region, the great pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl. Yes, this is the right spell. It is the largest archaeological site of a pyramid in the New World, a temple that has traditionally been viewed as having been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl.

Today the pyramid appears to be a natural hill surmounted by a church built by the Spanish in 16th century on top of the prehispanic temple. Many ancient sites in Latin America are found under modern Catholic holy sites, due to the practice of the Catholic Church repurposing local religious sites.

We climbed up to the top of the church enjoying breath-taking views on the city on one of the most active Vulcans in Mexico and in the world, the Popocatepetl, called Popo by the locals. We also had the chance to walk inside the pyramid through tunnels excavated by archaeologists. I was lucky enough since these tunnels were opened again to the public just two weeks ago, after many years of closure. It reminded me of “subterranean Naples” for its tiny passages and tunnels.

I had such a lovely time: nice food, music, easygoing people and incredible cultural sites. What else Giordana needs to be happy? Andres was a great host and companion, he took me around every single corner of his area as a perfect guide but also letting me live an authentic Mexican life with his people. I am so looking forward to host him soon in the old Europe. I wish we didn’t have the same sex tastes so he could be my perfect boyfriend: he’s beautiful, funny, smart and relaxed. We gave ourselves the same nickname: Africa. We are both warm-hearted, passionate and smiley. Far away from those who we nicknamed Antarctic, you may guess why.

It was time to proceed with my adventure. On my own. After a walk in Cholula food market I went to the Puebla Capu autobus station to take my 5 hours bus to Oaxaca city. I had some rest and surprisingly there was an old Italian movie playing on a tiny vintage bus Television. I even recognized, among the secondary actors, one of my best friends’ ex boyfriend. Fair enough.

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