Mexico 42, 3rd June 2004

In the morning I made a quick tour of the cerro which is the hilltop park, with a few forts, interesting, and pleasant in the trees.

I had been noticing a whirring noise when I turned the steering to full lock, now I realised it was there all the time. I opened up the bonnet (if you're not English, work it out!) and had a look and listen and check. The power steering fluid reservoir was showing no content. Oh Oh. I found an auto parts shop, bought fluid, and topped up. That problem solved. Then I noticed a biggish tyre shop so I asked about my front tyre. He had 3 available! I selected the cheapest, 950 pesos, not a bad price. I've had a good start to the morning. It won't continue!

I drove out to Cholula, I wanted to see the pyramid here, the widest ever built, measuring 450 metres along each side and 65 metres high. It's now just a grassy mound and has been like that since before the Spanish arrived. Archeologist have dug tunnels through the pyramid, first north/south then east/west, with side tunnels 8 km in all. Took around 20 years of careful digging to make the tunnels and as you pass through you can see the different construction stages.The construction is different to most of the Mayan pyramids. In each case there were several stages of construction, each time a larger pyramid being built on top of the previous. But here the infill between the various stages, and also immediately behind the stone facing, is adobe, a modified, strengthened, earth. The Mayans used stone as infill. Of course, they are not really construction stages. A pyramid is built, then another, entirely new one is built on top. They calculate it took 800 years more or less constant building to get to the final stage........................

There is a superb small museum with models of the pyramid showing some of the different stages. The Spanish built a church on top.

here is an idea of the tunnels.

And here is a view of the plaza south of the pyramid.

This fellow was sitting just on the right of the above picture. The head is about 3 feet high, he's not a midget.

The view from the church is nice

and so is the interior of the church.

I called at the tourist office and again got welcoming smiles and a lot of help. Most Mexican tourist offices are hardly worth bothering to visit, they don't have a lot of information, and seem to treat tourists as just part of the job. Here, and in Puebla, I felt I was getting individual treatment, special favours of this map or that piece of information. Nice!

I headed off north. I did say the morning's success would not last. I hit a tope at about 35 mph. It was round a corner, exactly the same colour as the road, no warning signs, in a quiet stretch of countryside, high, in front of a small closed up factory, and I probably wasn't paying enough attention. Grrr! The back end of the van crashed on the road, there were bangs and crashes, things fell around everywhere.

I bought a 4 litre bottle of wine yesterday at Sam's Club. In the rain and such stuff last night I just temporarily stowed it, and forgot to move it. It tumbled on to the full 17 litre crystal glass bottle of drinking water I had just bought a couple of days ago and both smashed. I'll get plastic next time, that's 21 litres of red liquid sloshing about! Could have been worse though, most of the wine and water mixture was collected in a big plastic container the water bottle was standing in. The air conditioning cover, which has been gently breaking for some time, fell off. Took a while to sort it all out, to rinse things off. My vacuum cleaner, real handy present from Danny in Des Moines, got drowned, it was in the plastic container with the water, hopefully it will dry out.

Then it rained. And rained. Heavily. I pulled into a village square, next to a pretty church, asking if it was OK to park. There were rivers running down the road, over the depth of my tyres where I parked.

You know, I used to think it was always dry in Mexico. How many times have I been caught in heavy rain here? Maybe a dozen times, in 3 months? I've been in rain forests and jungles. Last year in the USA I don't think I saw rain, except for East Texas, and the balloon meet in Albuquerque.

It rained most of the night, but just regular rain.

On the way into Tlaxcala I passed an interesting fountain.

I drove around the centre of town a few times but couldn't find anywhere to park so gave up. Pity, there were two adjacent plazas, both looked nice. I went to visit a church on top of a hill, where it is believed the Virgin Mary appeared in 1541, and where a local man in the 18th century spent 25 years decorating around the alter.

Outside I spotted an official electricity company vehicle and a man up a pole, making a new connection for a house.

He was just crimping his wires on to the open lines. That must be how it's done. Neat how he climbed the pole, using a couple of looped ropes.

I replenished my wine supply and headed out to my planned campsite passing through superb pine forests on the way up.

The site is at 10,100 ft in a national park. When I used to balloon over the Alps, we would switch on the oxygen about this altitude!

Good view from my parking spot. Good price too, 32 pesos! It's actually a cabin and camping resort run by the government. The view was nice at night too, little lights twinkling all over the place.

I've managed to keep my CD writer working, I've now cut another 5 CD's from my hard disk stock of mp3's. The tune I've been playing over and over for the past couple of weeks is Ken Colyer's "Goin' Home". Ken Colyer is sort of the father of British Trad Jazz. He didn't start it but he was the real enthusiast, he worked his way to New Orleans on a cargo boat then came back and played, introducing the style and also many of the players that started the Trad boom of the late 1950's. As well as liking the tune the words sort of reflect my current ideas, if you want to hear it I've put it on my website for download. It's 3.1 Mb and CD quality, it is on the opening Mexico page. You'll have to scroll down to find the link though, I've sort of hidden it from the riff raff!

While writing it's come on to rain again, just steady rain, the views gone, it's all cloud...........

Well it rained all night, again, and I was cold in my light sheets and blanket. Not cold enough though to dig around in my storage for my sleeping bag, which I packed away for the summer a long while back! I'll have dig it out now though, since I can't drag myself away so quickly from these views and this forest, I've just booked in for another night. And how nice to have a real hot shower instead of squeezing around in the van, or having an outside over all wash using a bowl.

The mountain behind, La Malinache, a dormant volcano, is the reason for the national park.

At 4460m, or 14,630 ft, it is around the same height as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.

I walked around a little through the forest, I drove a short distance to charge the batteries in the van, it came on to rain heavily in the afternoon, so I relaxed and read, and looked at the view, and fiddled with my computer.

Next day was much the same, except for the drive, it's now late afternoon and there is a pause in the rain, it might even have stopped for a while, so I am going to pop into the local town to check emails, and it will let the batteries charge up properly, since there is a good chance I might decide to stay here tomorrow as well!

Best regards

David Barker

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