čtvrtek 3. listopadu 2011

transportation and traffic in Mexico

First of all - it's crazy. Not as much as in Morocco (no donkey-pulled carriages), but still about the level you can see in Albania. Almost no drivers take care about the others and vast majority can't predict anything (or at least act like that). My appologies to all good mexican drivers. So what have I seen here so far:

  • a civil car with a siren - no clue what that could mean, no roof light, nobody in a uniform inside, just wailing
  • red front parking lights
  • blue indicators
  • double solid line doesn't mean you can't overtake
  • if the bus driver wants, goes on the red light...sometimes because he wants to drop somebody off on the crossroad
  • during one week i saw two Porsche 356
and later even this
  • you can see something near to a monster truck here

  • sometimes there are police/army roadblocks
  • in Mexico some drivers turn left on the red light
  • police cars' rooflights are on all the time
  • how to turn right on a 5-lane one-way road, when you remember too late you wanted to turn:
    • stop in the lane where driving
    • slowly reverse into the very left lane
    • when it seems possible, cross the other 4 lanes and finish the manoeuvre
  • all the situations can be solved by honking, especially when waiting for the green light
  • to move aside to make some space for an ambulance is something almost unknown
  • indicators: NEVER trust that the car will go the way it indicates - it's a trap. usually nobody uses it but if so, usually uses all of them at once
  • probably anything can get a registration number
  • another country, where they can't simply write STOP
  • I was told that in Mexico city they don't need to pass a drivind test, you simply get the license
  • new experince from today: My bus arrived to the bus stop where I usually get off, but because there were about 20 people waiting for it to get on, the driver decided not to open the door. He drove slowly through the crossroad to the other side and there dropped us off. Probably he didn't want to have any more people inside...

pondělí 10. října 2011

2011-08/09 central Mexico

So I've finally sorted out the photos (it was really a hard work) from all 9 days of my journey and already written the czech version so now it's time for the english one. This is more or less the route:
I know it looks like I've done almost nothing and it would be much easier by car, but 1950kms take some time by bus. I've divided the text into parts according to the places visited.
In the morning (let's rather say deep night, at 6a.m.) I set off. Of course I couldn't find the right local bus but taxi solved the problem. Worse was to guess the right bus terminal, there are 5 I think and at least at mine were about 50 parking spaces...simply huge. It makes sense, because in Mexico the train public transportation is almost nonexistent. There are a lot of bus companies, joined in alliances, so it's hard to make a choice - in a good way. Unfortunately, not all their web pages work properly. My favourite became PrimeraPlus, on this trip they gave each passanger a samll snack (a can of soda, bottle of water, sandwich and a sweet). I was a bit surprised, when a security guard started to scan us before boarding the bus. After entering the bus I waas suprised again, there were only 32 seats -> a lot of space for everybody! The prices differ slightly, but you can count about 1 mexican peso per kilometre.
comfortable :) 
1. Aguascalientes
The first stop was in a small town of Aguascalientes, I even managed to get quite accurately to the centre. The town museum wasn't much of a thrill, there were mostly religious paintings a of a local artist. The church right next to it was much more interesting. Then I found something truly mexican: a museom of death. One grim reaper next to another, all of them original creations.
this is the result of a strict diet girls :)

2. Zacatecas
This town is special by its location - in a small valley in the elevation of 2500m. It's very nice, the cathedral entrance itself is worth visiting if you drive by.
I was lucky enough to be there at a time of probably the greatest feast of the year, Moors' expulsion from Spain (which sounds a bit weird here in Mexico...) Anyway since the morning there was a parade, my guess is of about 2-3thousands people. In the afternoon they gathered on a hill behind the town and battled.

3. La Quemada
I took an advantage of being in Zacatecas for two days, so I visited ruins of an ancient indian town. It's not really easy, local buses usually don't stop and drive away in the fast lane. My solution was a bit complicated, but worked - I took a detour to Villanueva and from there to La Quemada.You can recognise the place by a big silver eagle in front of a restaurant.
The "town" itself is about 2km from the main road and they say there are rattlesnakes in the area...I didn't see or hear any, so no worries. When closing to the area it starts to look much bigger. From the hilltop I saw a storm comming, cool view :)

4. San Luis Potosí
A bit of a surprise, it turned out to be a city of about a million inhabitants with quite nice centre. On a street an older man approached me and we started talking. It turned out he used to work in a tourist office for 40 years and the first place he visited outside Mexico was Czechoslovakia. In the evening we discussed changes in Europe in past 25 years while having a beer.

5.Cascadas de Micos (Pago Pago)
On the way from San Luis Potosí to Ciudad Valles the nature changes quite a lot. It descents from about 1900 metres above the sea level to something like 70. So the weather changed from pleasant summer to insanity close to what I experienced in Puerto Vallarta. After finding a place to stay I decided to have a bath in a river, so I left for Cascadas de Micos. The bus driver stopped for me in a sharp bend and told me to follow the hydroelectric power station pipelines. Beautiful cascades with crystal clear water, just the stream seemed to be a little strong. The "peligroso" signs probably weren't there just as decoration. But it wasn't that hard to find a side stream where it was safe and nice. The downside were small fish which were constantly biting me. I've met there two mexicans and after a small chat they offered me a ride back. My first time in an original VW Beetle!

Jesus and his beetle

6. Ciudad Valles
is quite a dump, but it has its sleepy atmosphere. The map they gave me at the tourist centre was a bad photocopy, but it was enough to get by. In the north there's a recently reconstructed riverbank good for a walk, although already a bit neglected.
In the evening Jesus and his friends picked me up and invited for a couple of shots of tequila. Most of the converstaion was in spanish so you can imagine :) At the end they gave me a bottle of tequila, brand Cabrito which should be my surname in translation.
Photos: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-08_central_mexico_-_06_ciudad_valles/

7. Las Pozas - Castillo Surrealista de Edward James
Absolutely unbelieveable place; a crazy Englishman decided to build a few surrealistic buildings in a tropical forest in the middle of 20th century. It's pointless to describe, better watch this video:

The accomodation was very close, they offer tents (indian style) and cabins (very nice and unusual). By that time there lived Rudolfo (the owner), Kate from U.S. with her boyfriend Paco and thier baby. Very close there is place to take a bath in the river. At night it was raining for about four hours but certainly wasn't getting cold. This place is definitely worth seeing.

8. Xilitla
A charming village rather than a town, placed on a hill in the middle of forests. Walking time from the centre to Las Pozas is about 20mins, the way back closer to 40. Views from there are astonishing. The bus stop is just a slightly widened road (also the only place where they didn't accept credit cards).

9. Santiago de Querétaro
I spent eight hours on the bus from Xilitla to Queretaro, but it wasn't so bad. The way crosses mountains about 2500m high, so there's something to look at all the way. In Queretaro the buses are even smaller than anywhere else and you can feel it inside. At least I did when we started moving and I hit the ceiling with my head. Not a pleasant welcome :) The city centre is quite large and especially the aqueduct is very nice.

10. Tula
The journey there was funny, apparently the driver was new, so in every village somebody of the passangers had to advise him the right way to the station. Tula is very small with a big cathedral and an archeological excavation on a hill above the town - the reason of my trip. On one of the pyramids there are statues remotly similar to those on Easter Island.
Gallery here: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-08_central_mexico_-_10_tula/

11. San Miguel de Allende
One of the tourist centres, the guide says there lives a lot of U.S. citizens. There's probably something on it; there's even a tourist centre and a computer with city map at the bus station. As usually in the town there are many churches, mostly very nice and not exactly typical ones.
Photos here: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-08_central_mexico_-_11_san_miguel_de_allende/

12. Guanajuato
A town hidden among hills, where the revolution was beeing prepared. There were silver mines in the past and as a result there are many tunnels under the town, these days used as roads. One of the must-see in Mexico. Unfortunately for me the weather was bad so I left for Guadalajara the next morning.
typical bus stop

The trip was amazing, only by car it would be even better and I could explore more nature.

neděle 18. září 2011

2011-08-13 Tequila trip

Our saturday trip began already on friday evening, because the organisators threw a party so our livers could get used to it...Even though the start was scheduled for half past nine, I was the first of the students there, when I came at eleven. This evening is also the source of my terrible experience with michelada. At about 1a.m. it was very hard to get to the bar, so I, very responsibly, went home at half past one (the bar location was better than ideal, about three minutes walking from my flat).
In the morning I woke up early to catch the bus departure without any problems. After getting a bag with some snack and a great t-shirt "Yo no quiero agua, yo quiero tequila.", I found out there are two different trips that day and this isn't the right one.
After finding my group we hit the northwest road to Tequila. Our actual journey began quite finne, everybody got a can of coke with tequila and half the way there was somebody going round the bus and pouring tequila. Just before stop another delicious can and then the town tour.
excellent drink...
Tequila square
After the walk they drove us to a distillery. They showed us what to do with agave, gave us some samples to taste and a lunch after that. Then some of us participated in a typical mexican entertainment - pinata. The chosen one drank a shot of tequila, was blindfolded, spinned a few times and started to hit the pinata with a stick. I guess the pictures are much better than my explanation.
El jimador
an attempt to hit pinata
So the link to the gallery is here: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-08-13_tequila/
And also a video from the trip I found: 

úterý 13. září 2011

Something about the school

A couple of days ago I've discovered a very nice video from the university, so here it is:

Life in GDL update

So I have a place to stay now! If you'd like to send me something, this is the address: Vallarta 2759C, Arcos Vallarta, Guadalajara, Jalisco, 44130, Mexico (please, no drugs, it's a bit sensitive theme here-at least for the police...)
Zvětšit mapu
It's about 40mins walking to the centre and between 30 and 50mins by bus to school (depends on traffic, driver's abilities and mood). Very close there are many bars and pubs -> the locality is ideal :)
I can go to school only by bus 629B (or by taxi). The problem is it shares part of the route with lines  629A, 629-1 and 629-2, which end in other parts of the city. Considering they told me the agglomeration of Guadalajara, Zapopan (where the univeristy is) a Tlaquepaque has about 7 million of people (GDL itself 4), I have not much of interest in testing where they go.
Of course, there are almost no bus stops, you just wave at the bus and it stops. Or not. For this reason you can sometimes ride a bus for more than a kilometre and then stop four times in fifty metres. Once I took a bus, the driver drove us around the block and told everyone to get out. I guess he wanted to take a nap or buy something to eat.
The drivers tend to tune their buses, so many times you can read a quotation from the Bible or a picture of Jesus. Anyway there's no need for warnings that you must hold a pole...If you don't, you end up probably in blood within first acceleration or braking - they really race here.
If there's a lot of people in the bus you can enter the back door; then you send the money to the driver by other passengers. Sometimes a spicy fruit seller enters the bus and tries to do some business. I must admit, they are successful from time to time.

It's hard to spot, but there are spinners on the back wheels...

In any case it's quite common to see soldiers or policemen driving a pick-up while others stand at the back. They look quite serious with their submachine guns. I haven't seen a single policeman without a bulletproof vest yet...
Local police cars...I haven't had the courage to take a pic of them myself yet.

As for the weather, it's very nice for me almost all the time, from 25 to 30 degrees and a lot of sun. Now the sun sets a bit after eight.

There are some photos from a trip to the local canyon  (Barranca de Oblatos, a valley about 600m deep, unfortunately you can't go down to the river) and some from the school: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-07_mexico

I have to share the worst thing that has happened to me here: michelada. It's a mixture of spices, lemon juice, tomato juice and beer. I can't say it's terrible.It's much worse. To explain how much I was disgusted, let's say I's rather eat broccoli  than drinking this again...

neděle 11. září 2011

First moments in Guadalajara

So there's a brief review of what happened since I departed from Prague.

I'm alive and the 16 hours spent in planes wasn't so bad. I was just a little bit nervous in Atlanta thanks to a customs officer - still don't know if he did that on purpouse or was incompetent - tha fact is I had to spend an hour waiting in his line (which was disturbing knowing I had only two hours to change the planes).

Landing in Guadalajara (from now on mostly GDL) was without any problems, there was only a storm on the horizon. The customs in Mexico are partially a russian roulette - you have to push a button and a green or red light go randomly on. Although mine was red, the customs officer barely looked into the bag (probably was amused enough by talking to me in spanish...)

After that I started looking for a tourist information centre. What a surprise, there isn't any. As well as any person speaking english. Anyway I managed to get a cab for 270 pesos to the city centre. The driving style is quite different from what you can experience in the U.S. Just after moving off the driver showed me that he's not willing to be slowed down by other drivers, so he took a one-way road in the opposite direction. After that in 60kph limit (where everybody was doing between 80 and 90) he set the speed between 100 and 130.
After a few vain attempts to find the hostel I wanted I ended up in this hotel:

I guess this is enough for the first article. Sorry for the delay of english version, I'll try to catch up soon.
P.S.: link to my gallery: http://kubakozlik.rajce.idnes.cz/2011-07_mexico/