|Guanajuato's main Cathedral in the heart of the city.|
Guanajuato is a gorgeous town about an hour due west of San Miguel, and a very different town. San Miguel is the classic colonial town of the Bajio (the central highlands of Mexico), and by classic, I mean more than just the fantastically preserved colonial architecture and cobblestone streets. San Miguel is, despite the presence of many tourists, artists, and retirees from the North and a sizeable population of 80,000, a rather sleepy, country town in the middle of a dry and dusty valley. Guanajuato, on the other hand, is much more alive and hectic, boasting a major university and a significantly more active middle class scene. Both towns are Unesco World Heritage Sites, but for quite different reasons.
San Miguel, as mentioned, was awarded Unesco World Heritage status for its perfectly preserved colonial arhcitecture (think tree-less cobblestone streets with lush courtyards hidden behind the walls), whereas Guanajuato is much more European in appearance (architecturally and with its numerous cafe-filled plazas that pop open randomly amongst the winding streets). The difference is striking and largely due to the incredible wealth extracted from its nearby silver mines for nearly three centuries (just one of the mines outside of town, the Valenciana mine, produced over 60% of the entire world's silver during 1800's). Evidence of the former wealth is obvious in the rather lavish Baroque-style architecture of the central part of the city, and images of the brightly colored homes built upon the steep hillsides (the town is built within a river gorge) are more reminiscent of the Cinque Terre of Italy than of the Bajio of Mexico. Here are some favorite shots:
|Home security system.|
|And I had to get a closer look...|
|One of the numerous winding streets.|
|Looking uphill from one of my favorite little plazas.|
|If I didn't know better, I'd think I was in Northern Italy...|
There are many reasons to love Guanajuato, and for me there's the added bonus of the town having been built literally in the shadows of a monolithic range of cliffs called "La Bufa" (which in translation either refers to a "clown" or to the "snort" of a bull which is how the wind sounds as it whips around the main promonitory). La Bufa is more than just eye candy - it's the site of some of the best rock climbing in Mexico. So adding it up, you've got a world class sport climbing site with amazing views and a lifetime's worth of climbs, a gorgeous & vibrant city whose down town is a 5 minute drive (albeit a harrowing one), the best 50¢ tacos and $1 cold beers waiting for you after the climb, perfect weather, and amazingly interesting & friendly people. What more can you want?
|From below. It look's small. It's not.|
|... and this is just one of the climbing areas. I'm gonna have to spend a few years down here...|
Unashamedly selfishly, I have organized a few excursions to visit Guanajuato for some serious climbing, dragging along anyone else I could convince to spend the day up in the hills overlooking a huge swath of this region.
|Always gotta stop in Sauceda on the way on load up on tacos!|
|It's a steep hike up about 1,000 feet. Guanajuato in the background...|
|Janan & Jenny Hensley. How much farther??? Almost there...|
|Jenny on top of the world.|
|The last leg of the approach.|
|Todd Hensley, aka Pablo, cranking up the face.|
|Jenny looking like she's done this before (she has).|
|Pablo enjoying the view.|
|Janan high-stepping it & making it look easy.|
|There's nowhere else in the world I'd rather be right now.|
|The Hensley's dog Indie - pregnant at this time (see later blog for results...)|
|Looking west towards Saloa & Leon.|
So this was just the first of what have turned out to multiple trips to Guanajuato, and there will definitely be more....