September 16th, 2009 – by: emsflynn78
N.B: There will be a blog about Houston, but it is going to be written by Tim at some point. He is particularly angry that we didn't get to go to the space centre, so prepare yourself for a rant.
Arriving in Monterrey was interesting. After a 10 hour bus journey that actually took 15 or so hours and included three bus changes (I slept most of the way, Tim not so much) we were both pretty knackered. We had decided to do the real backpacker thing and choose a hostel on arrival. So we jump in a taxi and tell him to take us somewhere cheap but half decent. He takes us to a posh hotel that turns out to be very expensive, and tells us to be careful because the area we're in is dangerous.
It's the middle of the day so we take a walk in the surrounding area and find only strip clubs and hotels that charge per hour. At this point we are not entirely sure what we've let ourselves in for, so on the sight of a hotel that doesn't charge per hour we book in. It was a dive, but it was fine as a base for one night whilst we did some research on where to stay for the next few days. Trying to find an internet cafe to do our research from, however, also proved problematic. Unlike Mahahual (a tiny fishing village with two internet cafes), Monterrey (the third largest city in Mexico) had nothing. We got talking to a guy who owns a restaurant and he drove us to the tourist area (why the taxi driver didn't take us there I have no idea) and we soon had internet and food.
We managed to find a decent hostel in the old colonial part of the city, with a very friendly owner, so we have been here two nights.
Monterrey itself is much like any other city, it has a lot of concrete. It's also ridiculously hot! We went to see one of the main attractions (a river) and it turned out it was an artificial canal. It was nothing special and not worth the visit. Monterrey itself is surrounded by beautiful mountains and national parks. We ask Cheche (our friendly hostel owner) and he informs us that Chipinque is easy to get to by train and bus follwed by a 20 minute walk. So yesterday (15.09.09) we do the train and taxi (buses only run on Saturday and Sunday) and walk for a long time and manage to find only very very big houses. So we get in another taxi and ask to go to the entrance of Chipinque, it was a 20 minute drive up a very steep hill.
Cheche is not a small or agile man, I don't know how he managed to do the walk in 20 minutes. The park was beautiful though, and off we set on a hike up the mountain. There are different routes up varying from easy to 'you need a permit to climb this' but our Spanish didn't stretch far enough to establish which was which, I think we did a difficult one though. Now bare in mind that I am more used to living in a cold country, and walking around London in pretty shoes, whereas Tim is used to hot countries and he tells me he hikes regularly in the bush, you can imagine how our hike went. Tim was bounding up the mountain as happy as Larry, I was lagging behind puffing and panting. We drank our water incredibly quickly and after what I believe to be an hour (it may only have been 20 minutes) I was so dehydrated I thought I might pass out.
Lesson numbers one and two, carry lots of water if you're going to climb a mountain in Mexico and don't climb a Mountain in Mexico if the last time you climbed a mountain was when you were 10 and it was Snowdon. I did break in my walking boots though, and I will be training before I try anything like that again! I personally think I just need to get used to the heat again. The views from the bit of the mountain I managed to get up to were awesome though, so I'm definitely glad I did it!
Yesterday happened to be the eve of Mexican Independence day! Cheche had random people over for drinks, a mix of every country with many different languages. There were a group of Mexican heavy metal fans, one of which had the names of his two favourite bands tattooed on each leg.
There was a Brataslavian girl, and other people from places I don't remember. We stuck with the Canadian guy who was in Monterrey with the Cirque du Soleil, he spoke English and that meant we were instant friends! An hour or so of drinking and stilted conversations with Cheches' guests then we went to the main plaza to watch a fireworks display. It was a bit like a bad new years eve, an average fireworks display went off at 23.00 (seems premature to me) and some bad signing from a small group of drunk Mexicans, we all found it amusing. We then went off to a bar, which turned out to be rock/metal bar (just my scene) but we had a very funny night with Ryan (our Canadian friend). So happy Independence Day Mexico.
We're off to Cuatro Cienegas in a few hours, so I'll update from there.