Tequisquiapan, San Bernal & Jalpan

Two days after enjoying the sights and wonders of Queretaro we took an hour’s worth drive with our hosts to Tequisquiapan: Queretaro’s gorgeous pueblo magico famous for its artesanías. We made a quick stop at a store and bought a cheap tent and then we were on the road! Our hosts could only drop us off at the pueblo as they had a previous engagement, but before they did they urged us to try the local bread. So off to a café we went and ordered a piece for each of us. It was heavenly, so much so that we bought two more pieces to take with us.

Jalpan

Previously everyone we met had suggested we visit Tequisquiapan for it’s crafts, so after bread and coffee we went a-hunting for crafts. Unfortunately we arrived here on a Wednesday and only about half the stands in every market were open, yet the abundance of crafts was just as impressive, plus we got to witness a vendor during his process of making his hand-crafted baskets. If I could I would have taken a bunch of crafts with me, unfortunately there was little to no space left in my backpack.

From there we finished exploring the rest of Tequisquiapan. A small but colorful pueblo, there was little to explore but plenty to admire. The best memory I can take form here is how some streets are covered with various shades of bugambilia and make for beautiful scenery. I spent the walk daydreaming of one day owning a house or place (café, shop, what-have-you) that would be just as colorful and just as covered in bugambilia.

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Our next stop was another pueblo mágico: San Sebastian de Bernal (or Bernal for short). So we headed out to the road, stuck out our thumbs and waited for a ride. Nobody stopped for a while, and then a guy who had parked nearby came over and asked where we were headed. He wasn’t going to Bernal, but he was able to drop us off at the next pueblo, and from there we took a local bus and asked for the stop in Bernal.

Our first impression of this pueblo was “wow, that’s one big monolith,” and at 433 meters it’s one of the tallest monoliths in the world, so our impression was justified. Our second impression was how good it looked while the sun was setting, and you have as proof our pictures and every other past traveler’s pictures. It really is an impressive piece of rock, and apparently mystical. So much so that it is a yearly tradition to hold a ceremony during the spring equinox at the base, where everyone is dressed in white, hold hands to form a circle around the monolith, and meditate to absorb its energy. Unfortunately the main event was on Friday and by then we were planning to have hitchhiked our way to the Sierra.

After coming down from the Peña de Bernal, we were followed by a stray dog. At first we thought it was on it’s way to it’s master, but it followed us all the way to the town, then through the town itself. It also kept barking at people who approached us, mostly at men rather than women. It was like he was keeping an eye out for us.

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He kept pausing when we paused to take pictures, he’d run off to smell a dog then come immediately back to check on us. And whenever he turned towards us he looked like he was smiling. No matter were we went he followed, and it became slightly problematic when trying to go into buildings as he insisted on going in too.

Later on, a local told us it was the village dog, and he normally follows different strollers around, like a guard dog. To this citizen’s belief, it was the reincarnated spirit of a man who lived in the streets, come back to turn his life around with good deeds. In a place like Bernal were the giant monolith looms from the edge of town and seems to emanate such energy and spirituality that people make pilgrimages to get here, it’s not unlikely that a nameless dog like this one exists.  I hope he achieves what he is after.

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The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed back towards the road. I was a bit confused as to how early it was, mostly because the mist was so thick it felt like dawn. But it was around 7am, and once we got a ride (it took less than five minutes), up and up the sierra we went and to my delight I found out the thick mist was very much a part of the Sierra Gorda. The higher we went the thicker, more humid and darker the scenery turned, and it was magnificent: slightly eerie, reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie, but overall deliciously mystical and green. If hadn’t been so frozen at the back of the pickup truck that picked us up (no pun intended) I would have probably taken video of it all.

After about half an hour of snaking through the sierra’s curvy roads we arrived in Jalpan, another Pueblo Magico and to whom I can award the prize of second best gorditas. We did our usual raid of maps at the tourist info booth and got details of the various natural attractions that the lady in Queretaro had suggested. We even found a couple of waterfalls that she hadn’t mentioned at all. But before we went off on our own we explored the sights, and in about fifteen minutes we were done. It’s not a very big pueblo, and most of the [tourist] attractions associated with it are the ones in the forest surrounding it. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful sights, but few.

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We then visited the market area for some camping supplies since we were lacking everything but the tent. We didn’t buy much, just the bare necessities, but out of all we bought the blanket and the little pot have survived to this day. Since we were backpacking we didn’t really have a chance to pause, unpack and repack everything so it would all fit. In fact according to the way we had organized everything before we left Queretaro nothing else could fit in there. So all that we bought we carried with us in our arms.

From the edge of Jalpan we hitched a ride with a man who is owner of a local newspaper. On the way he told us about his already grown up children, he seemed really proud of his children, and they sounded quite cultured, adventurous and free. It somehow gave me hope of communicating to my future children this idea of freedom and culture that is theirs for the taking, no matter who you are or the limits people give you.

He dropped us off at the entrance of the small road towards the waterfall… and off we went!

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