Thursday, February 25, 2010


We stopped into an AutoZone on the way out of town, looking for a diesel mechanic who could resolve the issue of the van not starting in the morning. Every day begins with three or four minutes of black smoke and a lot of hand-wringing. We started at a place in Leon, then a VW dealer on the south side of Aguascalientes who sent us on to a place on the north side of town. We drove around looking for the Garcia Kubota dealership which ended up being the Garcia Bosch service centre. We emptied the van and went for a walk around suburban Aguascalientes to try to find some lunch. While we were gone, they checked the glow plugs, fixed some kind of relay and off we went. We've both had enough of big cities so we decided to give the city itself a pass. We'll be back.

Instead we drove on. We still can't get over the fact that so much of this country is at such high altitude. The high plains just seem to go on and on. The distant mountains that followed us to Zacatecas looked like they'd all had their tops lopped off. Closer to the road were gaping seams of red earth, the pale land covered in nasty-looking cactus and surreal joshua trees. It looked more like the landscape you find on the sea floor, like clusters of coral on a bed of sand. The only thing missing is the fish. A half moon rose over the plains as we entered the city, another colonial gem 8000 feet above sea level.

We made it up to the campsite, the parking lot of a hotel on one of the two peaks that flank the town. We jumped on the tiny gondola that links the two mountain tops and then walked the steep walk down into the Centro, using the cathedral steeples as our compass. A thousand steps down through narrow streets and alleys, the sound of distant music interrupted by a barking relay as the town dogs alerted each other to our presence, looking down on us from rooftops and balconies. The centro was beautiful. The cathedral's façade of carved pink stone ridiculously busy, in stark contrast to the white interior, stripped absolutely bare during the revolution.

We sat and watched the beginnings of a political rally for the Labour Party's gubernatorial candidate, Davi. A young woman stood on the stage and waited patiently for the technician to skip through a few songs before finally launching into her performance, with lots of clutching at the air overhead and pulling it toward her heart. The poor thing didn't realize her earnest emotion was being undermined by the technicians standing right behind her pointing past her discussing the best way to do something or other. We kept on walking through town passing the rest of the rally, five thousand people or more marching with a couple of bandas behind their candidate who waved at the passersby from horseback. Many of the marchers looked like they had been bussed in from the countryside, farm folk and labourers, white straw hats, chapped cheeks, babies bundled in piles of blankets. We found a good pollo asado in a cafeteria of sorts and then walked back up the steep hill to the van. We said good evening to some surly teenagers and instead of the snarled response we'd expect they offered some unsolicited advice about which set of stairs we should be on. It was the third time this week that someone had gone out of their way to keep us from getting lost.

We woke up to a cool sunny morning after a great night for all of us. When Wil pulled back the curtains he saw a familiar VW van parked across the way. The kids were thrilled to have their playmates back and we were happy to catch up with Lyne & Félix. It's always interesting to hear how different one's experience can be despite travelling the same roads. We made a tentative date to meet up at Cuatrociénegas to experience the desert hot springs together. Wil started (or rather tried to start) the van. Five minutes of anguish followed by the happy sound of the engine purring. Change of plans, we have to stick to the cities to try to find someone to fix this problem before we can go into colder climes. We retraced our steps trying to pinpoint just when the issue first arose, both of us secretly hoping that the elevation is responsible. Keep your fingers crossed.

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