Mexico 41, 31st May 2004

I got into the plaza about 8.30 and found parking space. Nice plaza. Then I moved off to the museum and waited until it opened at 10 am. OK, but not worth a special trip.

I noticed a tyre shop and asked if he could replace a front tyre. Well, I've been asking the question a few times, I could do to replace it. The Mexicans say it's OK but then lots of Mexican vehicles would not be allowed on the road in most any other country! The front tyre size is hard to match, the tyre shops keep suggesting near equivalents! I asked also he could replace one of my rear tyres, which is not really urgent. He said could I wait 5 minutes, he'd try to get either one or both tyres, and bicycled off down the road, and returned a little later with a tyre over his shoulder. Unfortunately it was a rear tyre but after a little haggling I had it fitted for 750 pesos which is a pretty good price for a tyre of this size.

I stopped at a small town on the road, I think it was Tepeaca, I was attracted by a church.

Notice the colour of the sky. Later I was plied with samples of every variety of ice-cream a vendor had in stock, about a dozen! They were all good, hard to choose which one. Then, in between some stalls, a wedding group was approaching a church.

Well. I have to add (in August 2005). At the time I thought it was a wedding group. But about a year later a certain G Baker read this report and put me to rights. It's not a wedding group at all, it's a celebration of a young woman's 15th birthday, something rather special in Mexico. She would normally be escorted by 14 couples, or, in this case, it seems, by 14 young men. So I stand corrected, with thanks. I've left the other paragraphs as I wrote them at the time since this is meant to be my account of my travels as I wrote it at the time, and you can therefore see my errors!

I think the groom is on the far right, don't know who the guys in bow ties are. They look as though they could be heavies, friends of the bride, there to make sure the groom doesn't change his mind!! I'm probably being unkind to them.

They had a band with them in the procession.

I mentioned the colour of the sky. Just after I took this photo the heavens opened and it rained rain the like of which you don't see in England.

I reached Puebla and decided I didn't like the town, there was absolutely nowhere to park in the centre, I drove around for an hour. It was now getting dark so I drove out of the centre to look for somewhere to stop for the night. I noticed a signposted car park and drove in. I noticed a police car in the car park which was a good sign, then realised I was high up, with, once I'd scrambled up a bank, super views over the city. On the way out of the car park, to check on views round the corner, I noticed a couple of policemen in a car. Is it OK to stay the night I asked. Yes they said, OK, but move to the other side of the car park. No problem, I did.

Some while later, bang bang on the side of the van. Hello I said to another policeman. Seemed he was not happy that I was parked there. We laughed over our inability to communicate and he called on the radio and told me someone was coming over who spoke English. It seems that the car park, although signed as a car park, is not a public car park, it belongs to some government establishment, and my English speaker was actually head of security. It also seems that the policemen I spoke to earlier were not policemen they were security guards, and as such had no authority to give me permission to stay. No problem says the chief, my man here will show you where you can park..

We drove about 100 yards up the road to a place with an even better view over the city. I was introduced to 2 policemen who were there for the night, they would watch over me they said, and we spent some pleasant time not communicating verbally but with many handshakes and smiles!

That's just a small part of the view, it doesn't really show on a photo.

I got down town before most people, and there was loads of room to park just outside the tourist office. When it opened I found two very pleasant gentlemen inside, they showered me with information and leaflets and joked with each other and me while they practiced their English.

I wandered around the town much happier now I am safely parked for the day.

That's the cathedral from the main plaza. Now David Tanzer had told me he had had the best meal of his life in Puebla and gave me the name of the restaurant. One of my guide books suggested that this restaurant had gone downhill a little since achieving fame, and the tourist guys suggested another locally, which they said was as good, but cheaper, so I decided to go there for lunch. Before lunch I popped back to the van, and heard music coming from the nearby cultural centre. I went in and listened for a while, it was good. So was lunch. I wouldn't exactly describe it as the best meal of my life, but it was good. I looked back at the culture centre. The musicians had gone from the small plaza, now there were dancers, different groups one after the other. These girls took my eye.

I went to the famed Amparo museum, mostly pre Hispanic art (that means before the Spanish came a conquering) and there are also decorative objects and furniture from the later Spanish period. All beautifully presented but didn't quite hit it off with me, went over my head, I preferred the railway museum I went to next. Not a lot to see there, some trains and carriages including this engine but I liked it.

It was too big and heavy (285 tons) for most of the Mexican railway, and could only be used between Mexico City and Ciudad Juarez in the north.

I headed off to my last night's spot for the night then realised I would be near a Sam's Club so diverted slightly to do some shopping. It came on to rain heavily again, with thunder and lightning. I don't know where I got the idea Mexico was arid and dry and there was never any rain. The roads turn into rivers, there are floods up to a foot deep even on the main roads. Since most Mexicans don't slow down for floods there's usually a car or two sitting at the side or even the middle of the road after these floods. They are presumably wondering why their car doesn't go any more. One bus passed me at speed, creating a wave of spray which totally engulfed my van.

Anyway, no problem I thought, I know where I am going, and it's only about 3 miles. Ha! When I left Sam's Club I couldn't get to the other side of the carriageway to get back. There must be a way, but I couldn't find it. I saw a sign to a road I knew. When I reached the 6 way junction I took off on the wrong road and got hopelessly lost. You remember it's dark, it's absolutely tippling down with rain, the roads are flooded, Mexicans drive like bats out of hell, signposts are almost non existent as are markings of road names, and maps are, being kind, rough approximations. I guess I drove about 20 miles to get back here, after asking directions at 3 petrol stations.

The police aren't here tonight but I guess it's OK to park.

Best regards

David Barker

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