We have our first robbery, our first church service in Spanish, our first time meeting a guy with a machete named Feliciano along the side of the road, our first AirBnB….surprises abound. 🙂
Thursday, January 4th (cont.)
I arrived in Puebla and was immediately prepared to have a new experience: Staying in an AirBnB. This is something that I never even attempted while in the US and Canada. But down here, it is much more affordable. I found a gated place a few miles away from the city center for about $12/night.
My host, Vladimir, was great. He helped me plan what to see in Puebla and also gave me some potential stops for my future travels. I realize now I never got his picture. 😦
Friday, January 5th
I had asked the night before if Vladimir was a coffee drinker. I made my first Mexican batch of Swedish egg coffee in the morning. My bowl/cups in my cooking set have little measuring lines, so I didn’t have to fuss with any conversions. Vladimir was going to be leaving town, but was OK with me staying at his place while he was away. He really made me feel like it was my home.
I rode into the center of Puebla, looking for a safe spot to leave Annie. There was some street parking a few blocks from the center of the city. It was on a really major street, so I felt like it was a secure enough place.
After another cheap breakfast, it was time to check out the city square.
Adjacent to it is the Puebla Cathedral:
OK. I know all of you are probably getting tired of all the church pictures, but this one really blew me away. I promise that it is the only church featured in this post.
It’s maybe a little hard to see, but the center of the cathedral is occupied by the choir/organ section. This picture is looking towards the front.
I would have loved to have heard it being played!
Here is the interior of the choir/organ area, looking back the other way.
The “High Altar” is actually right in the center of the building’s cross layout. It really provides dramatic views when looking from the sides.
Some of Puebla’s former bishops are buried under this altar. (not sure if “former” was necessary in that sentence.) 🙂
Then we have the apse at the front. Wow.
I almost needed to take a vertical panorama to capture it all.
I was really impressed by this building. It’s truly a wonder.
Our next stop would be at a locale which has been suspiciously absent from this chapter so far: A library. Now that I normally have wifi in the evenings, my daily library stops are no longer a necessity. This has made me much more efficient, allowing me to do my internet work after the sun sets.
But this was not just any library. This is the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the first public library in the Americas. It was founded by a bishop who donated over 5,000 books from his personal collection.
Over the centuries, the collection grew to include over 40,000 works.
The library in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, still holds the record for fastest wifi speed, but I think this one now has the title of being the most ornate. 🙂
If you are looking for an ancient incantation to turn someone into a newt, this library is probably your best bet. 🙂
I also visited an exhibit of antique religious art. I guess I didn’t take any pictures of that, but there were some really nice sculptures.
What a great time I was having! I was really loving Puebla. But upon returning to Annie, I began to love it a little less. I could tell right away that someone had gone through my stuff.
All of Annie’s cases as well as the frunk have locks. These were new additions at the beginning of this chapter. The only thing that is insecure is the tank bag. Someone had gone through it.
I immediately started to take stock of what they took and what they left. I was only missing two items: My waterproof phone mount and my compact hip pouch (like a mini-fanny pack). The phone mount is worthless to anyone else since I modified it to be interchangeable with my regular mount (seen in photo above). The hip pouch only had some sentimental value, as it was what I was wearing during my best marathon.
They had tried to open the trunk, but then found it was locked.
I was a bit upset and I’m still trying process why. The items were not of much monetary value, but they may be difficult to replace. Maybe more than anything, I felt sort of violated. That someone had gone through my things and taken what they wanted. Maybe it was the audacity that it happened on a busy street in broad daylight. Whatever the cause, I can not deny that if affected me.
Additionally, I had felt so safe and comfortable in Mexico. I was really looking forward to being able to type the phrase, “I spent X amount of days in Mexico and had zero issues.” But I can’t do that now. My belongings were undisturbed throughout six months in North America, but did not last two weeks south of the border.
I was really trying hard to check my attitude. I ascribe to the belief that nothing I “own” really belongs to me anyway. If I truly believe that, I should feel no consternation about the loss of any material thing. I came full circle to the point of being upset that I was upset about such trivialities.
(I feel like I could just keep writing about this, but I’m going to just move on. You’re welcome. ) 🙂
I packed up my things and my bad attitude and continued to the next place on my list: The place where the Cinco de Mayo victory was won. Vladimir, my host, had an interesting perspective on this. He was pretty adamant that the Cinco de Mayo was a Puebla holiday, not a Mexican holiday.
In the US, it seems that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more than the actual Mexican independence day (September 16th). I do not have any theories for why this is. Perhaps people just really need an excuse to drink tequila in May.
There’s a nice park area on the grounds, which sit high above the rest of the city.
I decided to return back to Vladimir’s place for the evening. I felt a bit strange that evening when I walked out to grab some food. Because of what had happened earlier, I now felt less safe. Try as I may, I just could not shake myself out of it.
Saturday, January 6th
Possibly the least eventful day of the chapter so far. I basically just had two goals for the day: Catch up on the blog and watch the Chiefs lose their playoff game. I was able to succeed at both.
I did venture out to try a local cuisine, a cemita.
Let’s see: Beans, cheese, ham, fried pork, chicken, avocado, lots of vegetables, about the size of my head and only about $1.60 from the little shop where I bought them. I got one for lunch and one for supper.
The only highlight of the Chief’s loss was getting to watch the game with Spanish announcers. They can even make an extra point try sound exciting.
Sunday, January 7th
Time for another new experience: Spanish church.
I had quite a bit of packing to do, but was still able to get to the 10:45am service at Naciones Iglesia (Nations Church). I was greeted warmly by several people as I made my way into the sanctuary. I choose a spot over near the wall so as not to be a visual impediment with my gringo stature.
The worship music was really great. Additionally, I had a pretty easy time understanding it. Not many modern worship songs use words like “bulwark” or “fetter.” 🙂
I was also pleasantly surprised how much of the sermon I caught, probably about 75%. I guess it helps knowing the context. The message was about Jesus being the “La llave maestra” (The master key) to entering God’s presence.
I had some more nice chats after the service, especially with two young guys named Raul and Gabriel. I felt very welcomed at this church.
It was time to leave town and head towards my next city, Oaxaca. (whu-HOCK-uh, is the best way I can spell the pronunciation). I knew that going to church would probably mean that I wouldn’t make it to Oaxaca on this day, but I thought the city of Huajuapan was a reasonable goal.
I skipped the toll road and took a highway 190. It was pretty nice. I don’t think it ever went in a straight line for more than 1/4 mile or so. It wasn’t in great shape, so caution had to be taken. Not only did I need to be cognizant of the obstacles in my own lane, I needed to be aware of oncoming vehicles coming into my lane to avoid obstacles.
Quick question. Does anyone know what this crop is? I saw lots of it on the way.
I really love seeing the variety of succulents (cactus family). They’re the plant the grows where there should not be any plants.
I made it to Huajuapan an hour or so before sunset. I could have found a place to stay there, but I decided that I wanted to try to camping instead. South of the city, there seemed to be quite a few secluded trails that would offer me cover and keep me unfound.
It’s been too long since we had a “branch in the face while searching for a campsite video” here.
I found the perfect spot. It was basically a small livestock trail (judging by the tracks). It was not accessible by car, only motorcycle or foot could reach it. I thought the odds of me being found were nearly zero.
As I was mentally patting myself on the back for finding such a private spot, the privacy of the spot was suddenly compromised. Striding up the path was a gentleman carrying a machete in his hand. Though he was old and small (at least by American standards), he moved easily and purposefully. I had no idea what was going to happen next.
While he was still a ways off, I smiled and greeted him as warmly as possible. He responded in kind and approached. Though he did not seemed bothered by my presence here, I made sure to keep Annie between him and myself just in case he felt like using the machete.
I was able to use my Spanish fairly well. I did not tell him that I was camping there, rather I explained that I was looking for a place to camp. This distinction seemed important to me.
It soon became apparent that he meant me no ill will. He told me that this land was his and that he had no problem with me camping there. Still, I kept my distance. As we talked, he used the machete as part of most of his gestures.
Funny enough, I actually left my helmet cam running (I’ve only done this a couple of times on the whole trip), so I have a little video of the interaction.
This was how I met my new friend, Feliciano. He told me about his time in the Pacific Northwest in the 90s and we had some pleasant chats. He asked me to follow him on foot to show me another place where I could put my tent, next to his humble abode. Though I trusted him, I still made sure that he was walking in front of me.
The route to get there would be a little too tough on the bike, so I explained that I would just camp where I currently was. He seemed just fine with that. Finally, I asked if I could take his picture. I didn’t ask him to hold up his machete. 🙂
There’s still a bit more to the story of this evening, but I’m going to leave it there for now. This post is already getting long. This adventure continues to include ingredients that I never could have anticipated. Maybe this is why travel is a good thing. It stretches one waaaaay beyond the comfort zone of normal life.
Stay at a safe distance, everybody. 🙂
Realtime update: It’s finally time for me to leave Oaxaca City. I’ve had a safe, cheap place with good internet, so it’s kind of hard to leave. Tomorrow I’ll head south to the Oaxaca coast. Yes, I have my sunscreen, Mom.