“The streets are serpentine.” Hugh, our taxi driver told us as we stood outside the hotel on our way to the bus station. I’d heard that the city was rather like a labyrinth, but I doubted it could be worse than the medina in Fez. I’d looked at a few maps, but I just didn’t think that we’d struggle finding our way around.
And I tend to enjoy being lost anyway. I find the coolest thing when I have no idea where I am. And we always get un-lost. Technically, after all, as long as I know I’m in Guanajuato, then I’m not entirely lost. It’s hard to not know one’s general location. On an abandoned road in this country between somewhere and somewhere else, I’d still likely know I was in Mexico…or Latin America. Being completely lost is a rare event, so I don’t tend to worry about it; unless I’m sick, tired, hungry, or I have to pee really bad. Then, being lost can be pretty uncomfortable.
We had no particular place to go in Guanajuato, but on Tuesday night, we were going to go out and just wander around for a while. Initially, we were going to head toward the Alhondiga, an old granary with associations to the Mexican Revolution, but we got bored looking for it and headed a different direction. We stuck to the main drag which meanders through town and headed next toward a big basilica (Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guanajuato) that looks remarkably similar to the mosques in Morocco (it’s weird how the Arabic influence carried over in such an undiluted form to Latin American countries).
All around the giant basilica were older, fixed up cars labeled Carrera Panamericana. Again, there were throngs of people
and we wove in and out of the crowd, just trying to get to the other side of it. There are so many events going on here right now. When we arrived there was El Cervantino, an artsy event celebrating Miguel Cervantes (sort of). Four days later, the streets filled up with these old cars from the Carrera Panamericana. Tomorrow is Dia de Muertos. There seems to always be something interesting going on in this city.
It’s a great place to get lost.
And we did get very…very…lost.
After the basilica, we accidentally stumbled across the Jardin de la Union. We took some photos and just soaked up the incredibly picturesque little square. There was a church in the background and two side streets that beckoned. Which street should we take? All them were so inviting. Lydian wanted to see the Holy Santos statues inside the church so we walked through the basilica first. Then, we bumbled out the door and chose another street.
This was when we officially lost our way.
We weren’t going anywhere in particular, but there was always something else up ahead to see and before long, it was dark, we were hungry, Lydian had to pee and we didn’t know where we were. We all honed in on the task at hand and with confidence set off in the direction we thought would lead us back to the main street (Avenida Juarez).
On and on we walked until at one point, in a very distressed voice Lydian said, “Hey guys, we’ve been here before.”
Unphased, I reassured her that yes, we had been there before, but not to worry, that was just because we were on our way back the way we came. It was merely a landmark on our way home.
“No, Mom. I mean…we were JUST here.”
I started to argue, but then looked more closely at our surroundings. There were some plants. A bridge. A restaurant and people sitting at tables on the bridge. Oh God. I recognized it. We had spent the last half hour walking in a circle.
I suddenly felt confused by the surroundings. Which way had we come? Which way did we go the first time we came here? Which way should we go this time?
It was 8:00 PM and we hadn’t eaten dinner. We’d been walking for two hours. It was definitely time to get home.
Even in Fez, Morocco you could give a kid a coin to take you where you needed to go so you were never really lost. But in Guanajuato, there are no kids standing around on the streets waiting for hapless tourists. The best plan of action is to take a map and know how to speak enough Spanish to at least ask for directions. The people are at least friendly and helpful overall. We did eventually find our way. But even a compass on legs could get lost in this town.
The rule that newbies to Guanajuato follow is that if you’re walking downhill, you’re moving toward the main roadways of the city–the Centro. Uphill takes you away from them. Too bad we didn’t know that on Tuesday.