Monday, July 19, 2010

Surprises in store

Have you ever wondered about Cinco de Mayo and why it's such an important date in Mexican history? Well on May 5, 1862 Mexican military forces won a huge and unexpected victory over invading French forces at a fort in the city of Puebla. Mexico's 4th largest city, Puebla is a place we have long wanted to visit so we knew it would be a stopping point on this northward bound trip from the very beginning. Supposedly known best for it's beautiful tile work and talavera pottery, I was very curious to take it all in.

colorful talavera

Being that there is only 1 legitimate, albeit outdated, RV park in the Puebla area, the choice was made for us. To our surprise when we pulled into Las Americas Trailer Park, we were not alone. Even though our US plates have been a rarity thus far, European plates seemed even more unique to us, and it turns out that our new neighbor was actually from Germany.
Tuesday morning we drove into the city and began exploring. We've learned that nice way to see the outlying areas of cities is to hop on a city tour bus, so that we did and spent the next hour and a half taking in the sights. Unfortunately this tour wasn't so informative, as the sound was completely garbled coming out of the speaker up on the top deck, but once we got on we were stuck and we tried to make the best of it. Afterward we hoofed it around the zocalo (main square) for a while and even tried to track down some of that awesome pottery, but to no avail.

The central zócalo in Puebla

That evening back at the trailer park, we chatted it up with our German neighbor. Klaus was his name and he had his vehicle shipped from Holland to Nova Scotia where he began a year long adventure driving the Pan American Highway, a dream he had had since he was a teenager. His story is actually really cool. You see, he had always knew that he was going to drive from Canada to Argentina on the Pan American Highway, but had always thought he would do it in his retirement. One day in speaking with his father-in-law, who had always had a "to-do list" for his own retirement, he was shocked to learn that his FIL hadn't completed any of the things on his list. Klaus decided then and there that this was not going to happen to him, and he better not wait to retire to live out his dreams, so he quit his job, purchased a delivery van, converted it into a "RV" and off he went. So, as we were heading to places he had already visited and vice versa, we exchanged highlights and tips one cold evening alone in Las Americas Trailer Park.

Determined to make this stop worthwhile, Wednesday morning we set off to explore Cholula, a suburb of Puebla that isn't far from the trailer park where we were staying. Cholula is know best for it's churches. There are 365 of them in the small town of approximately 50,000 people. Right in the center of Cholula there's a giant cathedral set way up on a hill that can be seen from miles away. Way back when the Spaniards built it, they didn't realize that they were building on top of ancient pyramid. Today the pyramid is somewhat excavated and has an extensive tunnel system that can be toured. The town itself if cute too, and we actually enjoyed it more than the more popular Puebla. We browsed the knock-off talavera (but didn't buy a thing) and lunched on a local seasonal specialty, Chiles en Nogada, fruit & nut stuffed chiles in a splendid creamy nut sauce, topped with pomegranate. So delicious! We also tried the locally made liquor, pulque, that kind of tasted like a spiked lemonade.

not the best photo, but it's the church on the hill

the view from the top of the hill

just hanging out until we were told dogs were not allowed
the church atop the hill

another church in the main square of Cholula

sipping the pulque

chiles en nogada

Still early in the day we knew our next destination was only an hour and a half away, so we set off for a bit wilder of an adventure. The day before we had seen signs advertising a drive through safari nearby and since we had already camped in the jungles of Mexico, why not go on a safari too? Africam is what it's called and it was actually a whole lot better than we had ever dreamed. Before they would let us in, we had to take down our giant yellow bag that lives on top of Dewey's roof - something about the monkeys messing with it. It was determined that the door wrapped in plastic (also living on the roof) and the Yakima box would be fine.

For 2 hours we drove Dewey though winding gravel road where wild animals lounged nearly tame, in the surrounding grasses. Check out what we saw.

our car was used as a similar playground

dismount from windshield

The monkeys seemed to love all the interesting additions to our car. They climbed all over it!
It turns out that while the monkeys were using our car as their jungle gym, they were also stealing a few of the stickers from our box too. Guess it's a good thing we took the bag off or who knows what they would have ran away with!

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