Zacatacas

This will be a little different post. I keep reminding myself the is a motorcycle blog, far too many other bloggers write travel blogs and they are much better than this. But this time I wanted to include something about Zacatacas. Yes, we did ride our motorcycles there, it took us about 4 hours to ride the 180 miles from Durango to Zacatacas. We were on mostly two lane highway through farmland as we gradually gained elevation until we were over 7,000 feet at our destination.

Deby and I had visited Zacatacas once before but only had an evening before we needed to continue the next day. This time we booked two nights so we would have a free day to explore the town. Something about our last trip made us want to visit again. Zacatacas is a huge city of 1.5 million people but it has a fantastic historical downtown with beautiful architecture and easily walkable streets. And….. right in town is an old silver mine that has been converted into a tourist attraction. We weren’t going to miss that!

We arrived early enough for the three of us to set out for a walk around the historic el centro.

As an added bonus the Christmas decorations were everywhere.

Guarding the city was this huge rock structure called El Bufa that was crowned with a giant lit cross. This made a perfect landmark to keep us from getting lost in the tangle of streets as the sun set.

The origin of the word Bufa seems to be uncertain. I know we saw blow holes in Baja called Bufas and someone told us that this was called that because the rock was blown out of the ground. Wikipedia claimed some evidence that the word means Pig Bladder, and it’s called that because of the shape of the hill. Me, I have zero idea what a pig bladder looks like but I like that reason.

We stopped for an early dinner at a nice sidewalk cafe next to a museum and then went for another walk after dark. That’s when the beauty of the city really was amazing. Walking at night? In the downtown of a large Mexican city? Taking the back alleys? Were we worried? Absolutely not, it seemed like the whole town was out walking the city, enjoying the lights and buying ice cream and toys for kids. Whole families were out with kids running everywhere.

Year round they light up the sides of the buildings at night. Most of the buildings are built with the white rock we frequently passed in the surrounding area. Even without the Christmas decorations it’s a beautiful city at night.

All too early we made our way back to the Hotel Meson de la Merced, that was located right in the middle of town. We found that hotel on our last trip to Zacatacas. It’s a funny story that I will summarize here. We were lost when we came into town and decided to just stop and check the GPS. As we were on the side of the road a random guy pulls up on a scooter and shouts out, “Are you lost? Do you need help?” He knew a hotel he thought we would like (yep, probably owned by his cousin) so we followed him to Hotel Meson de la Merced. He ran in ahead of us and negotiated a rate that was half off! Great deal. They had secure underground parking and the location was perfect. I was glad to book the hotel again, this time we paid $60 per night, still a deal.

It’s a huge hotel and rather nice but it’s entirely possible we were the only guests…. Interesting for a city crowded with people. It reinforced my thought that these were locals out enjoying their city. As it should be.

The next day was Tuesday and we had a 10:00 AM tour booked to visit the Mina el Eden or Mine of Eden. Click on the link to read more about it. A small tour bus picked us up at our hotel and took us to the start of the tour at Bufa Hill. We had an English speaking tour guide and the whole bus just for the three of us.

We learned the history of the city and had some great views from the top.

That was all interesting but Deby (and I) were ready to get to the mine tour. There is a cable car from the top of the hill to another hill in town where we would enter the Eden mine.

More nice views of the city.

Interesting art was painted on the rooftops as we got closer to the mine.

Finally, the time we were waiting for, gearing up for the mine tour. Our same guide was with us in the mine, a personal tour just for us.

A quick notes about facemasks….. It’s a big deal in Mexico. They must be worn anytime indoors and probably 95% of everyone we passed outdoors had one on. Just how it is.

So, this was a really interesting mine tour. First, it was really organized, clean, well ventilated and had easy walking paths with plenty of benches for rests. The displays were well done and informative. The tour was more interactive than I expected. At a display of miners I was encouraged to get in the display for a picture.

Often when our guide was pointing out veins of silver or other mineral he would reach up and try to pry some out for us to have!

A big difference from the do-not-touch mentality of mine tours in the US.

Here is Richard and Deby with our guide. He was a young guy who dressed the part of a bandito, he was hilarious but pretty informative. We where shocked when he pulled out a wooden rod and started beating on the wall to get a rock for Deby.

We came across this guy, a reminder of how dangerous mining was, and still is.

Finally, one of the best parts of the mine tour was a HUGE collection of rocks from around Mexico and parts of the world. There were cases and cases of displays in tunnels in the lower section of the mine.

Have I mentioned Deby likes rocks? Oh yea, this was awesome.

We finished the tour with pilfered rocks in our pockets and smiles in our faces. Well worth the $20 tour.

We visited a great modern art museum near our hotel that was in an old mission from the 1500’s, admission- Free.

There was a series with feet, representing the plight of migrants traveling north through Mexico. This one was outside the museum. A powerful image if you think about it for a bit.

The sun set early and we were back exploring the Christmas nightlights around town.

We found a restaurant with a table overlooking one of the streets. We spent a long time watching the crowds below. Couples, families, children, motorcycles, vendors all kinds of action. Everyone was really in the Christmas spirit.

So that’s Zacatacas. I’m not sure why we like the place so much. It’s not really on the Gringo tour route and indeed we hardly saw many other people from US or Canada. It’s a lively city at night full of people having fun even on a Monday and Tuesday night. There are museums, restaurants, tours, double decker tour busses and nice hotels. It’s a very walkable city with parks, alleys and small shops to explore. It’s a little hectic navigating into the colonial downtown on a motorcycle but worth the effort. I think we’ll be back.

So what’s next……Right now we are in San Miguel de Allende, another colonial city in the central highlands. We have wonderful accommodations in a rental home in the heart of the city. I’m taking full advantage of high speed internet to get caught up with the blog and uploading megabytes of photo and video files. We are caught up on laundry, bathing and relaxing. Tomorrow we leave for points west before joining our children who are flying down for Christmas.

Our buddy and riding companion Richard flew home to Canada to have Christmas with his family and he will be meeting us again for more riding in January. Before he left, he took us to a nice restaurant with a view of the city. Another friend, Charley, took this nice picture of us.

I’ll try to get another post up before Christmas but it’s going to be slow riding for the next few weeks as we are meeting family and friends in Puerto Vallarta for the holidays.

Happy Holidays and thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

6 thoughts on “Zacatacas

  1. Another wonderful adventure. We once spent time in both Allende and Puerto Vallarta. But, it’s Portland for us for awhile, I guess. Happy Holidays with your families.
    Janice and Dave

  2. I am now a fan of Zacatacas with the lights and unique decorations. A festive lead in for you with Christmas approaching. Feliiz Navidad! Always best spent with friends and family.

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