Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hot Weather and Smiles

I was up early in the morning to catch the 9 AM bus to Papantla. Much to my delight, the movie of choice was High School Musical 2. Great. Good thing I had my headphones and the outside view. There were beautiful landscapes everywhere, and I started noticing an abundance of palm trees as we got closer to Papantla. When I got off the bus, the heat was too much for my light jacket. I got my bags and asked around to find the hotel. The hotel was only a few blocks away, but it was all uphill and I took plenty of wrong turns.

I got to the hotel, feeling exhausted from the hike. I know I was sweating profusely. It was very humid, so I took a shower before heading out to the archeological ruins of Tajin. Tajin was the reason I went to Papantla. I had some tacos at a local market, which were 3 pesos each. They were tiny, but they were still 3 pesos. I took a local bus to Tajin, which took me through many hills and plenty of curves. It made me feel very much like a local.

Once at El Tajin, I step out of the bus and start walking. The bus had stopped right next to where a dog had been run over, lines of ants and flies were already all over the body. It was a shocking sight and it stayed with me for a while. The walk was about 15 minutes, but it was so hot and humid that it felt longer.

Once at the ruins I was lucky to see the voladores de Papantla. The voladores climb a tall pole, then descend by spinning around the pole with rope tied to their feet. I then entered the ruins and was impressed by the beauty of it all. The area is huge, so there was plenty of walking around to do. I probably spent two hours there, enjoying every minute of it. Oh yes, sweating every minute of it too. My mind was just flying imagining how people used to live in the now ruins, so many years ago.

As I left the ruins, I prepared to walk back to the bus stop by the road. I bought a raspado to cool off and start walking. The bus ride felt a little faster this time, and I got off next to a big church. I walked in to the empty church and took a few pictures, noticing that there was a huge metal fan near the altar. I felt it looked odd next to the Christ statue, but after that day's heat I understood why that fan would be necessary.

I got back to my room and showered yet again. I went to hang out in the zocalo, just enjoying the people-watching. I see an older man walking with a megaphone, selling newspapers and reading the headlines of the day. There were plenty of shoe-shine chairs lined up along the sides. There were kids feeding the pigeons, people talking and relaxing. The zocalos are always a good place to relax after walking around all day. It's as if time slows down when you're there. One thing to note is that there was plenty of security around the zocalo (as in most of the zocalos that I've been to). Some of it was police, some military.

I proceed to have dinner in a place next to the Zocalo. I picked a dish but was regretting it later, as it was super spicy (I should have expected that since it had the word 'chile seco' in the title). I had a couple of beers to help with the spices. There was a novela playing on the big screen next to me. Right before I finished, they changed it to the soccer game (Mexico vs Honduras). I was one of the last people in the restaurant, so I decided to go to a bar instead. There was excitement since this was one of the last games that would decide if Mexico would be in the world cup.

I walked around and saw a bar that sounded pretty loud. I walked in to the packed bar, not seeing a place to sit, and stood next to the bar. People were glued to the TV. I ordered a beer and noticed they were 12 pesos. By the decoration, I could tell the bar had been there for decades. I found a table later on and watched the game next to two locals. The game was very intense. There was so much tension in the air, and there was complete relief when Mexico won by a penalty kick near the end.

I walked out of the bar after a number of beers and decide to have some ice scream at the zocalo. There I was approached by an older man in designer jeans. We talked about many things (he was the one talking most of the time, since I was exhausted). I got the feeling he was hitting on me (maybe the jeans made me think so), but allowed myself to enjoy the chat. It had been a wonderful day and I was headed or the city of Veracruz the next day, although part of me wanted to stay in Papantla longer.

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