Home Planning a trip Travel Stories Mexico travel stories

Travel stories: Mexico

Temple in Mexico

Travelling in lovely Zacatecas, Mexico

By Dan Chalmers

Sunday the 20th of June is not a day of rest for my sojourn in lovely Zacatecas, 7000 feet up in the northern Mexicans mountains, has come to an end and I must make my way down the centre of this country to Mexico City. A nine hour bus journey with screaming babies all around awaits.

We are currently holed up in a dusty petrol station cum cafe somewhere on the way to the big, belching city on what seems like a high, sparse plateau. It is very flat and there seems to be nothing around but dust, the occasional ranchero in his open-backed truck and mile after mile of cactus bushes.

In the very far distance we are ringed by jagged mountains and it all seems to be very high up because the clouds seem very much nearer (an odd comment, I know, but it really seems that way). The sky is the biggest I have ever seen and I feel very alone. Alone in the sense that under the earths enormous cover I feel my place in the entirety of this planet : this interested young Englishman standing on a high plateau in the middle of the Mexican desert and feeling the rest of the expanse of the World around him. And feeling good about it all.

Some policeman just drove past on a bicycle : what the hell is he doing here? We must be miles away from absolutely anywhere and there is no one here but the people on this bus going into the big City. Maybe there was some bloodshed in the washroom. Some Huichol Indian cleaner woman got lairy on a customer with a mop , ' you mess with my floors, I mess with you!'.

These journeys are nothing, it is simply a matter of sitting and waiting: all the coaches are air-con, deluxe, reclining seats, half empty beasts that command fine views of the high plateau countryside and purr along the fine, smooth roads with the mountains in the distance appearing and disappearing, complete rainbows of which I can honestly see the end (and no, it wasn't a crock of gold, it was a car repair shack or a cart selling tortas y frijoles like everything else in this country. And then on comes some terrible Hollywood action film starring Jean Claude van Damme and $500 billion dollars of special effects and no plots that blares out constantly and is terrible, frankly.

But it passes the times at least.

There is nothing else to do except look at the pregnant lady across the aisle and wonder about the wonder of birth for a while or wonder why her other kid will never, ever shut up or wonder why my trousers are never clean or stare at my nails and become absorbed by the lovely orange folds of my T-shirt and then suddenly flick out of my detailed, packed-with-minutae life and realise that we are soaring at what must be 8000 feet on this improbable cactus-strewn desert that is ringed by scarps and ridges showing all the folds of years and the pressures from the earth. The sun is burning bright and there is nothing for miles around apart from a suddenly-appearing pink stone chapel and tower with enclosed courtyard that is near enough to see into. I wonder what shape the peoples' lives within take and think how perfect, how completely perfectly designed that single view is. Nature and Man.

I drift off into hot sleep. And then reappear as all this beauty starts to fade away and the scrubby, messed-up industrial backyards that must be Mexico City hove into view made all the more poignant by the almost-purple thunderclouds that have been turned a bizarre and surreal shade of orange by the sun that sets behind the horrific tenement blocks that line every hill around. The city is chaos. Even at 8.30pm on a Sunday evening. By-ways and free-ways. Car parts and sad tarts. Everything lining the street.

In a taxi now, a sudden, lost glance of the enormous presidential palace and Zocalo and then into my hotel. And then downstairs into the Cafe El Popular, which is. It is like a patisserie with more varied food and tables and I sit at the counter and order a beer and the pretty waitresses are laughing and flashing dark eyes at each other. The Aztec soup is perfect and then the main course of cheese wrapped in tortillas covered in a very bitter dark chocolate is decidedly bizarre. A finely-voiced local fills the place with his picked guitar and peaceful harmonies. It keeps filling with people. It is 11.30pm and they keep coming. A fine entrance into Mexico city indeed. I am here now and it is absolutely buzzing.


You can contact Daniel for further information or for writing opportunities at: Danchalmers@hotmail.com

More travel stories

More travel stories

Highly recommended tour companies

Responsible Travel tours

Support local communities and protect the environment

Find tours

G Adventures tours

Exciting and responsible overland and adventure tours

Find tours


Superb group adventure tours and exciting short breaks

Find tours