Yesterday, Lydian and I decided that our afternoon activity between Spanish classes would be to get to Casa de las Brujas, a haunted location in Guanajuato. I had carefully planned our adventure. I had maps, my phone, and plenty of advice about how to get to Paseo de la Presa (the street where Casa de las Brujas is located). I was very concerned about getting hopelessly lost with Lydian, since this has happened to us before in Guanajuato. Although I don’t mind being a little lost, being hopelessly lost can be a little stressful, especially if you have a schedule to keep.
I didn’t want Lydian to miss her second Spanish class later that day.
Having a map seemed a bit superfluous for my taste. I really like to wander around aimlessly and find things by accident, but since we only had about 2 ½ hours to find the place and get back to the language school, the map seemed like an important tool. I carefully tried to orient the map to the layout of the city before deciding which direction to go. Lydian and I began our adventure at the Jardin de la Union. We headed in the only logical direction: left.
I still don’t know which direction is which in Guanajuato when I can’t see the mountains over which the sun rises each morning through our window. My initial plan was simply to find our way to various “checkpoints” as we made our way through the city. The first checkpoint was the Templo de San Francisco. We found this almost immediately, congratulated ourselves and then brought out the map for a quick reevaluation. Which way should we go next?
As you can see from a map, Guanajuato is not laid out in a grid. There is not even a semblance of a grid layout in any part of the city. Lydian calls it a “pile of yarn”. When we pulled out our map to look at our new location, it looked like the street we planned to take ended in mid-air. I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of the real-world. A man was standing on the corner eating a green apple. I decided to ask him for directions.
The man was very helpful, although he took his apple, stuck it in his mouth and simply chuckled at us as he pointed out directions.
He never spoke. He just pointed to the map and then pointed to the left, right, or straight ahead. Without saying anything (and the green apple still in his mouth), he indicated that we needed to return to the Jardin de la Union and start over again.
Starting over isn’t a big deal when you’re walking through a flat landscape, but Guanajuato is anything but flat. Backtracking generally means going up or down big hills or steps. It’s not a desirable thing to have to do. But we did it: three more times. From the Jardin we tried three more different directions. There were only five different streets that we could take out of there to begin with. We went underground into a subterranea and I felt confident that we would pop out headed in the right direction toward Paseo de la Presa. I asked a woman for directions and she told us to walk a little ways and then turn right. This we did, passing through a small cavernous passageway and up some stairs where we found ourselves face-to-face, once again with the Templo de San Francisco and the man with the green apple (who quietly chuckled at us).
Our fifth and final try at going somewhere other than the Jardin de la Union or the Templo de San Francisco was finally successful. The street appeared as though it would connect up with a direction we had already traveled already, but it didn’t. By this time, we had put the map away. It was useless beyond just getting a cursory understanding of the general location and direction of things. Instead, we followed maps that were placed at intervals throughout the city with a little asterisk and the words “Esta Aqui” (You Are Here). Some of the signs had been splattered with bird poo and were therefore subject to creative interpretation, but we finally arrived at Paseo de la Presa, nonetheless.
On a map, the distance between the Jardin and the Casa de las Brujas looked like quite a hike, but actually, if we had gone the right direction from the beginning, it probably would’ve only taken about an hour to walk from the Jardin to the haunt. As it was, we walked for about 2 hours. On our way back, Lydian and I stopped in at a big building labeled biblioteca publico (public library), excited to see some books and clean bathrooms (hopefully). There were no books, but clean bathrooms were available. It seemed probable that the building was actually a school. On the way out, Lydian tripped at the top of some stairs and did a funky little spin, not too clumsy, but it scared me a little. She landed near the top of the steep cement staircase, teetering on the ball of one foot.
“Just jammin’ out, “ she said, “that was just a cool break dance move…I meant to do that.”