South by West- camping from Alaska to Nicaragua

Travel time: January 2003 - January 2008  |  by Jerry Bazant

11- Hills of Taxco

Taxco-National Monument; No parking; Help from Heaven; Sinners Beware! VW King of the road; Steep street, tight corners; Street garage;Garbage;
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The road to Taxco crosses Sierra Madre Occidental, the continuation of Rocky Mountains, and is forever climbing over steep hills and deep valleys. Luckily the road was freshly paved and the only scary moment happened when a bus bolted out of a curve. Buses in Mexico are modern and comfortable but some drivers are maniacs.
Taxco is located close to where the first Spanish mine in North American was established in 1531. Later rich veins of silver were discovered and the town grew on hills around silver mines. The Mexican government has declared the entire city a National Historical Monument to preserve its colonial-style architecture and heritage.

...the statue of Christ [upper left corner] greets visitors long before they arrive to the town...

...the statue of Christ [upper left corner] greets visitors long before they arrive to the town...

According to the Lonely Planet "... the old silver mining town Taxco is a gorgeous colonial antique and one of the most picturesque and pleasant places in Mexico. It is clinging to a steep hillside, its narrow, cobblestone streets twist and turn ...very few streets are defaced with rows of parked cars, because there's simple no room for them....".

I could not agree more. As we were coming into town, streets were getting narrower, traffic heavier and places to park hard to find. We passed a Pemex gas station full of cars and across the street I spotted an empty space in front of a Farmacia. I parked there but the owner came out, waving hands at me.
"No parking here, it is a bus stop."
"Just for few minutes" I countered, but he was insisting that we have to move.

Then somebody knocked on the door and said in English: " I work for the Tourist information office, can I help you?".
Well, maybe he worked for the Tourist office, but he came from the Heaven. He got out his phone, made few calls and soon we had a hotel room with a balcony overlooking the town.

...view from our balcony...

...view from our balcony...

From the balcony we could see houses built into the hillside, houses stacked up on top of each other like boxes and steep, narrow streets. Above the town is a big statue of Christ with outstretched arms, looking down, watching the town. I could visualize invisible lines stretching from Christ's hands down to teetering houses below. He is holding the whole town in his hands saying "Sinners beware !!"  Should Taxco become sinful, he would let go of the lines and half of the city would slide into the abyss at the bottom of the hill and disappear like Sodom.

..." Sinners Beware I Am Watching You "...

..." Sinners Beware I Am Watching You "...

 
The next day we took a taxi to the statue of the Christ. In Taxco, the VW Beetle is the king of the road. The passenger front seat is removed so it carries only two passengers and with the rear engine it climbs like a mountain goat. The view from the statue was incredible, hills, ravines, cliffs and mountains sprinkled with buildings. The only visible flat ground was a soccer field.

...city perched on steep ravines...

...city perched on steep ravines...

I complimented the taxi driver on his driving, giving him my spiel about the good drivers and the dead drivers.  It was a mistake, because he decided to show us that he belongs to the former category. Suddenly we were going downhill on a roller coaster and I was digging my hands into the roof to stop me from falling into the hole where the front passenger seat used to be.

...the only flat ground seems to be the soccer field...

...the only flat ground seems to be the soccer field...

 
Public transportation in town is provided by "collectivos", a fleet of VW buses, some quite old. There are three rows of seats inside with room for 14 (fourteen) passengers! To provide air-conditioning, the sliding side door is removed. The fare is 2.5 pesos or 40 cents. Some streets have corners so sharp that the VW has to back up to turn the corner.

...street to the Zocalo is steep, narrow and full of VW's...

...street to the Zocalo is steep, narrow and full of VW's...

The Town square or Zocalo is the focus for tourists, shoppers, street vendors, kids selling trinkets and locals going to the church. Endless line of VW taxis, and buses crawling through, stopping, discharging and taking people. The richly decorated church dominates the Zocalo and shops are selling locally made silver jewellery for which Taxco is famous. Don't bother to come on the weekend, hotels are full with people from Mexico City, coming here to buy jewelry for bargain prices.

...the Zocalo has flat ground and sometimes parking space...

...the Zocalo has flat ground and sometimes parking space...

The taxi driver gave us a tour of the town. One street was full of garages and car shops fixing mainly VW. Some work spilled outside and engines were changed right on the street. Some hydro poles looked like a Christmas tree, wrapped with electric wires. In places water lines run on the street instead of underground. How the garbage was collected in steep, narrow winding street is a mystery to me. However the town was clean, right up to a viewpoint on the highway. From there the highway was littered with garbage a shocking sight for North American traveller.  

...electrician's nightmare...

...electrician's nightmare...

Plastic bottles and sheets, cans, car wrecks, tires, pieces of furniture, everything is dumped beside the road. Occasional, there are gangs of workers along the highway, they chop grass with machetes and pile the garbage in the ditch. When the pile is big, it is burned. Many times we had to slow down because of the acrid smoke was obscuring the road.
 There are many billboards along the highway urging the drivers not to throw out garbage, sign like "Keep Sonora clean" or " Keep the road clean the future of ecology is in your hand" but ironically a lot of garbage is underneath.

...the king of the road is VW taxi...

...the king of the road is VW taxi...

Mexicans are not dirty people, they are just stuck in the plastic revolution.
When most of the garbage consisted of degradable material like paper, wood or steel cans it was not a big problem to throw it out. It would soon rot, rust or be burned. Also there were not that many cars on the road.
Then came plastic, pop bottles, aluminum cans and other stuff that lasts forever. People are still used to chucking everything out of the window and it stays there. Occasionally you will see a guy beside the road with a big bag full of squashed beer cans but he does not begin to make a dent into the roadside garbage.

...first impressions of Taxco: narrow roads, slow traffic, many VW and few parking...

...first impressions of Taxco: narrow roads, slow traffic, many VW and few parking...

...and street of VW garages...

...and street of VW garages...

© Jerry Bazant, 2009
You are here : Overview The Americas Mexico 11- Hills of Taxco
The trip
 
Description:
This journey in our pick up truck camper took us West from Ontario to British Columbia and Alaska, then South to Nicaragua. Later we trailered a sailboat and cruised the coast of BC, Alaska and Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
Details:
Start of journey: January 2003
Duration: 5 years
End of journey: January 2008
Travelled countries: United States
Mexico
Guatemala
Belize
The Author
 
Jerry Bazant is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 12 years.
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