Having finished up in Jalcomulco, we headed to Xalapa for a day to check out the nearest big city to our future basecamp. Xalapa turned out to be a confusing city to navigate, with lots of one-way streets, five-way stops, and steep hills. But, we found a hotel within walking distance of the reputable Museo de Antropologia, and went to check out the museum. It specialized in the history of the state of Veracruz during pre-Colombian times, and was well-organized. Probably the coolest items in the collection were the “Colossal Heads,” which were enormous sculptures of, you guessed it, heads.
It was also promising to find Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Officemax, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc in Xalapa. While we prefer NOT to shop at these stores and instead strive to support smaller local businesses, they can be helpful in a pinch. We also found and enjoyed a movie theater… one of our favorite pasttimes while traveling.
Trying to leave Xalapa, we ran into our first hiccup with the bikes. Kristin’s bike is notoriously cold-blooded, and doesn’t like to start up immediately in the mornings. As we worked to get it started, we wore down the battery. So, we tried to jump it using my bike, but its battery wasn´t strong enough to jump it. It took some frantic, sloppy Spanish to find someone to let us use their car to jump the bike… several people told me they “couldn’t” do it because of the computers in their cars. But, the bike fired right up once we had the jump.
After we left Xalapa, we started heading north. We made a stop to investigate “El Tajin,” an archealogical site filled with ruins of the vanished Totonac civilization. This site is famous for having the most ball courts… in this civilization, apparently winners of the ball game were ritualistically beheaded to appease rain gods. Yikes! Anyway, it was a very interesting site, well-maintained and very photogenic. We are interested to read more about the history of the Totonac.
After Tajin, we drove to Tantoyuca, getting even further than we had planned. Today, we hit the road relatively early (to be honest, our hotel last night was pretty cruddy) and made it all the way to Matehuala. Today was probably our longest day in terms of mileage, with something over 300. However, we got off the road relatively early, since we are now cruising on the cuotas (toll roads).
Back to the States all too soon…