In the past, when thinking of Chihuahua, small, rat like dogs would immediately come to mind. I am not sure of the correlation between them, but it was to the city of Chihuahua that we now headed, capital city of the state bearing the same name.
I can’t recall exactly, but it was a 4-5 hour bus ride that took us from Creel and the mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental down to the dusty plains of Chihuahua.
Our original plan was to ride the bus all the way to the main bus station, thus giving us an idea of its location, as well as the opportunity to check the bus timetable for our onwards journey to Durango.
This all changed however, when at the first stop in Chihuahua, a kind, well-travelled (based on the country badges on his backpack) Mexican advised us in excellent English that if we were after the historic downtown area, this stop was much closer.
As this was our ultimate goal, we heeded said advice, grabbed our bags and began the surprisingly short trek to where we hoped to find a bed for the night.
Luck was with us, and in Hotel San Juan we also found our cheapest room of the trip thus far, at a mere 135 pesos for a double with private bathroom (that’s $6.50AU each)!
So why Chihuahua, and what was it about?
Well, it was the first of our true Mexican colonial cities, and has a rather large place in modern Mexican history, as the city where Hidalgo was executed (a priest and early father of the war of independence), was the seat of the Juarez government when fighting the French after Napoleon installed Emperor Maximilian I to the Mexican throne, and most importantly, was the home, and also the city in which that most famous of Mexicans, Pancho Villa was murdered.
So we did our most usual thing in any new city, we began to wander (with slightly hungry stomachs).
It was a pretty nice historic centre, with a grand cathedral and plazas, and after the cool mountain air of Creel, it was also a shock to be back amidst the heat!
Our wanderings took us past the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) which was also the place where Manual Hidalgo was imprisoned and later shot.
It was well worth the entry fee (ok, it was actually free) as the building alone was beautiful with many mural covered walls and a lovely internal plaza.
There was a shrine with an eternal flame at the site where Hidalgo was executed, as well as a small museum in honour of the man. As it was all in Spanish however, I’m sure we didn’t get as full an appreciation of it as we otherwise could have.
Finding lunch ended up a greater challenge than expected, as the few vendors with carts that were about, were selling ice-creams, and most of the shops were actual chain restaurants such as Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken (yep, here they use the KFC logo, but the stores themselves still have the old school Kentucky Fried Chicken name) which we weren’t that interested in.
For the record, we did end up having burgers for lunch, but at least it was from a more local kind of shop (we have noted, that Pizza, Hamburgers & Hot Dogs are a huge part of the normal Mexican diet…)
Unfortunately we ate too much, so it was with bursting bellies that we then decided to make the walk out to Pancho Villa’s former home, which is now a Museum to both he and the revolution.
We paid our entrance fee, and in we went.
It was actually pretty impressive, including many images, weapons and various other bits of paraphernalia including the car in which he was brutally murdered!
Sadly, I wasn’t sneaky enough to get a photo of what was possibly our favourite exhibit: An oversized, knitted vest ( very square block shape), complete with photo of him wearing it. I guess you just had to be there to see it in person… (Note: I’ve searched for that photo since, and not found it anywhere. Sarah thinks I may have become obsessed)
Despite our full stomachs, we did manage to squeeze in a quick, cold cerveza at a local bar (reputed to be female friendly, it was also host to rival shoe shiners, as well as rival mariachi bands), before catching an evening musical performance in a local park.
From this point we decided to embark on an expedition.
As mentioned earlier, we’d skipped the main bus station for the convenience of the shorter walk into town, and as such, after a little bit of research on Google, found the bus company we wanted, looked up their address, and began the proposed half hour walk to purchase some tickets for the following night.
The evening darkened, but it remained very balmy, so it was no problem. We found the desired road, turned a corner to where we expected to find a bus station… and… nothing. The street was dark.
Eventually we noticed the company logo on a darkened building. Turns out this was their office, and not the bus station address.
After that wasted venture, we decided on a night cap at a bar I’d earlier neglected to mention.
You see, whilst our hotel was an aged affair, the front section, possibly at some time part of the hotel, has been transformed into a venue for a rather trendy Mexican crowd.
We cooled ourselves over some beverages, and called it a night.
Now with another overnight bus journey ahead, we essentially had another full day ahead of us.
Perhaps foolishly, we’d rushed around a bit the previous day, leaving us far too little to do.
So how did we kill time?
Well, we found a couple of museums, one of which was the former home of President Juarez. All of the exhibits were in Spanish, but it was okay.
Took in the sights at the Casa Chihuahua (the old Federal Palace) where we were expected to pay an additional fee for photographs… I just decided to sneak a couple.
The two highlights of the day however? Incredibly large wedding parties at the cathedral (we spent a couple of hours in the nearby plaza reading), and the chance to sample a culinary curiosity, pizza in a cone!
How was it? Much better than expected!
Finally, still having no idea if there is/was a local bus to the bus station, we flagged a cab and 70 pesos later we were in the terminal, ready to grab our tickets to Durango.