Puebla & Cholula

Typical Puebla Brick & Tile Work

Sunday, 11 February 2007, Cholula, Puebla
It's a week since we left Costa Esmerelda in pouring rain and headed for Puebla - we are still here. I was worried that we would be driving toward colder and wetter weather by leaving the coast, but I have been proven wrong. Since arriving here the weather has been consistently in the low to mid 20's during the day, with sunshine and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm. By far the heaviest rain fell once overnight. The night-time temperatures fall to around 7°, which makes us turn our heater on in the mornings, but there have been no complaints from my cold-weather-hating husband about the weather here!!!
Before extolling the virtues of this quite amazing place, I should elaborate a little bit on our journey here. As previously mentioned, we left Costa Esmerelda in pouring rain at about midday last Sunday. We didn't take the major highway to get here which would have meant driving south to the city of Veracruz and then heading almost directly west to Puebla on a toll road. We try to avoid toll roads because they tend to be very expensive, but also because it is often more interesting to drive the minor roads through small villages - you see more of how the real people live. Instead we drove in a south-westerly direction which took us over less travelled roads. This meant a lot less traffic, but particularly a lot less trucks. However, the trade-off was some very poor roads.
We drove the 129 towards Teziutlan and there we made the choice to turn right when perhaps turning left would have been the wiser choice. To this point the roads had been quite good (I know I wasn't going to talk about roads again, but this experience needs to be recorded!), but then we arrived in Tlatlauquitepec, which is a reasonably large town, and had the worst roads we have experienced so far. The rain was still falling steadily and the potholes were full of water, which sometimes made it difficult to tell how deep they were. As we drove out of that town we were disappointed to discover that the road actually deteriorated. It wound through quite high mountains (perhaps 2-2500 metres), covered in rainforest, and there were numerous potholes and missing tar sections, as well as washed away sections on the downhill side - a bit nerve-wracking for me as I was sitting on that side. I wasn't driving as that would then have been totally nerve-wracking for both of us! I'm sure the mountain scenery through there must be quite beautiful but we were driving through rain and when the rain intermittently stopped we were totally shrouded in mist.
It was certainly a relief to come down out of the mountains onto some reasonably straight roads in comparably good condition. It was getting toward 5.00pm when we entered the town of Libres and decided to stay in the first hotel we spotted - there are no campgrounds available in this area and, as we were having battery problems again, it wasn't possible to just stop somewhere without power. It was still raining and we were somewhat relieved to be off the roads. Driving these roads in this weather is quite stressful and very exhausting. Behind the hotel were a lot of cone shaped structures which we discovered were actually silos for storing grain. They are made from stone and I wonder how they manage such perfect conical shapes with that building material.
We were pleased to find that the rain had stopped the next morning, and the drive to Cholula was relatively stress free - until we started to follow the instructions to the campground given in the 'bible'! The road was really bad in places, and its narrowness made it really dangerous as everyone wanted it to be two lanes, which meant there was no 'wriggle-room' to avoid the huge potholes! Sometimes the roads have changed since the book's latest update and I think that is what had happened here. We stopped and asked in a number of places and noticed again how helpful and friendly the Mexican people are. I know about 23 words of Spanish, other than numbers, but these people who had no English at all, managed to convey the necessary information to help us on our way. We eventually found the Trailer Park Las Americas and set up camp in the early afternoon. The sun was shining and it felt very good after the weather we had been experiencing in the past few weeks. Even an afternoon thunderstorm with some heavy but short-lived rain didn't dampen our enthusiasm.
On Tuesday we decided to take a look at Puebla. This is the capital of the state of Puebla and has about 1.5 million inhabitants. Cholula, where we are staying is only a few kilometres (about 40 minutes by bus) outside the city limits. We had been briefed on the public transport system by an English speaking Mexican who lives in the Trailer Park, so we caught the blue bus for 4 Pesos (about $A0.50) into Puebla. We liked it from our first step off the bus. There are beautiful buildings - many of them churches - and bustle everywhere. No-one hassles and we were free to just wander where we felt. The Zócalo (the central town square) is a beautiful treed place with benches to sit on and shops and restaurants on three sides. There is one of the many churches on the fourth side. We found the tourist info office behind that church and collected a map of Puebla and Cholula.
There were a number of places that we particularly wanted to see, but somehow we found that getting from one to another took quite a while - not because they were far apart, but because we kept getting sidetracked by things along the way
• a woman painstakingly trimming thorns from cactus leaf pads and laying them neatly on a cloth. I assumed they were for sale and that people eat them - today I finally had the opportunity to try them, and while they were ok I'm not sure they'll become my favourite Mexican food! Upon some further research I discover that the health properties of this food are incredible. Try googling cactus+nopal!
• a Volkswagen beetle with BMW wheels! Of course the streets are full of beetles and many of them are quite old. The VW plant of Mexico is here in Puebla.
• an open doorway leading to an amazing courtyard from which numerous apartments are reached. There are many of these here and an open door is always tantamount to an invitation in our eyes to check out the architecture of yet another courtyard. Nobody seems to mind.
• the endless number of shops that sell Dios Niños (god-dolls), and all the required accompanying paraphernalia. We are not sure what their use is yet but hope to find out someday.

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