If you read my post on Catemaco then you will know that leaving there we had a small problem with our onward travel plans. The station there was quite small and we had very limited options of onward buses. So we had decided to return to Veracruz where we knew they had a large station with heaps of bus options.
After arriving back in Veracruz we surveyed the bus timetable and decided to change our travel plan to the border to go through Oaxaca. At that time of the afternoon we couldn’t get a bus all the way to Oaxaca as it would arrive in the early hours of the morning which we wanted to avoid. Instead we took a shorter bus to a town called Orizaba which sits in a valley overlooked by the tallest mountain/volcano in Mexico. Sounds pretty right?
In the bus station of Veracruz we even had time to use the internet to look at Google maps for Orizaba as well as some quick accommodation research. With a definite plan we were feeling a lot more relaxed and happily hopped on the bus. For some reason this bus didn’t agree with me and I was travel sick for the first time is ages. I’d been doing so well with the buses until here.
Arriving to Orizaba we quickly oriented ourselves and set off on the hunt for a cheap hotel. After finding a few possibilities we still weren’t completely satisfied so continued towards the zocalo. Just as my back and shoulders were starting to complain (loudly) about the weight of my pack we decided to check out one last place before backtracking. The price of the hotel seemed too good to be true at $249 peso per night so we asked to see the room. Surprisingly it was really nice! It wasn’t huge but was recently remodelled and had both a fan and private bathroom. Sold! The reason for the price we assumed was because the upper floors were still in the process of being renovated so at about 9am it became a little noisy. That wasn’t a problem because we only had three nights so were awake far before this time.
Being a little late we only wanted a small bite to eat before bed. Surprisingly we couldn’t find many options for food but quickly settled on a small torta and an orange juice. The OJ was because Tom was feeling a little like he was getting the symptoms of a cold and wanted to battle it.
The next morning we had the same food problem, we just couldn’t find anywhere to eat. After walking for an hour (perhaps not quite so long but it felt like it) and getting really hungry we stopped at the next place we found before my hunger turned into hanger (hunger+anger). This happened to be a basic place with an old woman serving quesadillas with either a chicharron or zucchini flower filling with cheese. Not liking the greasy chicharron (similar to pork crackling and super popular in Mexico) I quickly expressed my order for only the flor de calabaza. Another orange juice for some vitamin C was also in order.
A little grumpy at the unsatisfyingly rudimentary breakfast I followed Tom to our destination of the morning. Our first teleferico (gondola) was a fun experience. I’m sure there was a way to walk up the hill but it would have been a slog and it’s not as fun as floating above the town getting fantastic views. It’s also fun seeing Tom get a little nervy about the height of the tiny box we hung in above the houses, trees and streets (insert evil laugh here).
At the top is the Cerro de Borrego, a kind of nature park. It has the best view out over the city with various viewing spots around the top of the hill. Some of the viewing points had a great view of the Pico de Orizaba looking perfect and snowcapped peaking over the top of other mountains. The city of Orizaba is named after this mountain of the same name. We spent about and hour and a half up there before boarding one of the small gondola cars to float back down.
The day was warming up a little but we were used to it by this point and after consulting our map set of up the side of the river. The sides of the river have been turned into a really nice walk about three kilometers long on either side. So about a six kilometer round trip if you walk up one side and back the other like we did. No wonder my legs were a little sore at the end of the day. In various places there are animal enclosures turning the walk into an eco-park. We saw jaguars, tigers, coyotes, spider monkeys and lots of birds in the enclosures. The jaguars were quite special as they were a mated pair and had a cub in a different enclosure; the first pair to successfully breed in the state. We happened to witness what looked like some more jaguar-baby making, but it was quite an aggressive exchange.
This walk took up the rest of the day and again we were hungry so we set off to locate some food. This time we found a cominda corrida and ate an early dinner.
The next day we ran out for some yoghurt to eat with our muesli as we didn’t want a repeat of the food-hunt from the previous day. We had purchased some fruit in the mercado across the road from the hotel the previous afternoon and combined it made a satisfying breakfast.
Not really knowing what else to do in Orizaba we investigated the Palacio de Hierro in more depth. This is an old colonial building with a difference; it is made of iron. Inside were a few small museums with different themes which we browsed through. Tom had a good chat with one of the museum attendants about the various presidents Mexico had over the years. It was interesting to see how short some of their time was; in one case it was a few days. Also in a football themed exhibit we found an old photo of the All Black’s as they played a game of soccer while on a tour in the UK in the early 1900’s. It’s quite strange to see references of little old New Zealand on the opposite side of the world.
Our next stop was the government building where we saw another mural. This one by Orozco and the only one painted by him in this state (I think, don’t quote me on this).
We had a small lunch of a torta which was more similar to a filled roll and had some potato chips in it (yum!). This broke up our day and we could decide what else we wanted to do.
After consulting our map we decided to pay a visit to an art gallery on the other side of town. It was a nice walk and took about half an hour to get there. The gallery was located inside an old church and convent which had been rebuilt after falling down due to various earthquakes in the area over the years. The paintings were interesting and different than we had seen previously. A majority were from Mexican artists. Our favourites were the selection of paintings depicting El Pico de Orizaba. Interestingly there were a few from the perspective of Veracruz city. Although the weather was overcast while we were visiting Veracruz we never had any inkling that the mountain could be seen from there. Possibly due to the air pollution it is no longer visible from there except on the clearest day.
Our day was pretty much done and we had run out of places to see so we headed back to the hotel. We stopped off at a convenience store for some beverages before getting to the hotel. We sipped on these as we relaxed and Skyped our parents for a Mother’s Day chat as we are good children.
All that remained of our last day in Orizaba was dinner and we found a small eatery which did the trick.
Our plan for the next morning was to pop out and get some supplies for the bus and breakfast which was an easy task. The only problem was juggling the fruit, yoghurt, bread buns and money by myself; I needed another set of hands. I enjoy doing little tasks like this by myself so I feel independent and can try use my Spanish without relying on Tom.
After returning to the hotel with my hands full of food we downed the yoghurt, finished packing and locked up our packs. Off to the bus station again for a medium length bus trip to Oaxaca.