Sometimes the overnight bus rides in Mexico are a breeze. The buses are usually not too crowded, and the seats lean back quite far. But other times it really just sucks. It has a lot to do with the seats. No matter how far back they lean, if the horizontal part of the seat is at the wrong angle, pressure builds on the backside and there's no way to hold yourself up. Constant readjustments are required and comfort is fleeting. Such was my luck for my journey to Guadalajara. It was an uncomfortable night, with little sleep.
When I arrived at 5:30 in the morning my phone was dead and didn't work without wifi anyway. Thankfully the bus station had a computer terminal and I was able to get online and check in with Leandrew, who, by some miracle, was online, having just woke up to check his messages. He said that I could come over right away, rather than wiling away hours at a cafe (or the bus station) until a more decent hour. I had his address, so I hailed a cab set out on an early dawn journey across Mexico's fourth largest city.
This was an impromptu visit, planned only days before at Anarchapulco. I managed to have a sit down with Leandrew and Kelsie, and they told me they had moved to Guadalajara. When they invited me to visit, I decided to take them up on it. I was heading back to Texas by bus, and while Guadalajara isn't exactly on the way, it wasn't too far out of the way, and I had never been there.
As I rode in the cab through the quiet city, daylight began to creep into the sky. I found their building and went up the elevator, looking out over the city from the balcony before going to their door. (Picture above.) I knocked quietly and a moment later Leandrew came to let me in. They had already made up a bed for me and I was delighted to get a chance to sleep for a few more hours, this time for real. I was sure thankful for such hospitality.
When we all awoke several hours later they showed me around their place, which was beautiful. Their building is brand new and very modern, and their furnishings were quite stylish, in a sharp black white motif. A spiral staircase leads up to the bedroom, and both levels have large balconies overlooking downtown.
Guadalajara is a massive city. The population is listed at 1.8 million, but everyone I asked in Guadalajara said it's more like 4 million. I’m sure it’s a function of suburbs and city limits, because downtown was at the center of a massive sprawl. In all directions I could see the reddish orange of tiled roofs atop white plaster buildings. Several clumps of skyscrapers promised good urban photography opportunity, and brownish desert mountains loomed in the distance through the haze. While certainly polluted, the air in city was relatively clean, especially compared to Mexico City.
With the large, wall length sliding glass doors to the living room balcony opened to let in the breeze and the sounds of the city below, we enjoyed a leisurely morning of conversation, eventually heading out to get some breakfast.
I had no idea, but Guadalajara is a really hip place. Leandrew and Kelsie were in love with it, and they told me all about the numerous organic and vegan restaurants that were all within walking distance. They live in an artsy district, with herb beds lining the sidewalks, interesting art on the walls, and cute cafes on every block. I also saw several art galleries, bookstores, and bars serving cervezas artesenal, craft beer.
I learned a little bit about Leandrew and Kelsie's business building and managing websites, and I got a good sense of how their days look. They've got a nice double desk set up, and they sit next to each other all day tag teaming development projects, jamming out to awesome music. I learned about a bunch of new music from my time with them, such as Lupe Fiasco and Looprat. I could see how having an endless stream of awesome music would help with that kind of work.
Once they started working, I geared up for a walk through the city. Taking only my camera and water bottle, I headed first for the large cathedral that was right down the road. I had no real sense of where I was going. I would just walk and come across what I did.
I walked around town for about six hours. No need for a play by play; you can check out the photos. I was impressed by the numerous examples of innovative technology. In several locations I saw rent-a-bike racks, which I later learned cost a total of fifteen dollars a year to use. And lots of people were using them. Most of the streets were one way, and almost every street had a bike lane.
I also passed a station for charging solar cars, right next to a large covered area with solar panel roofs. A fleet of electric taxis was parked there, some of them plugged in and charging. Also to the city's credit, waste bins of four separate categories (landfill, glass, plastics, and compost) were available on the streets. This is something that I’ve not seen in very many places in the U.S. It’s promising to see smarter systems being implemented. Taking more responsibility for our waste is a huge piece of the self-sufficiency puzzle.
When I returned in the evening, Leandrew and Kelsie were finishing up their work day. Eventually we went out to eat again, this time at a place called El Mercado Mexico, which was like a large food court of healthy, high quality food. We ate at a vegan restaurant and drank kombuchas. The atmosphere was lively and inviting. The food was superb, and unbelievably cheap. Even organic, vegan dishes were around five dollars a plate. Leandrew and Kelsie told me that most of these awesome restaurants they frequented were surprisingly affordable. Not very long ago, it was not at all easy to get vegan food in Mexico, but things are changing.
Guadalajara is high on my list of recommendations for unique destinations. So much is going on there, and the standard of living in the city center was not much different from what we're used to in the States. And so much color and art! I very much enjoyed the murals that adorned the sides of many buildings, a sampling of which I've compiled in the slideshow below. (You have to click or arrow-key your way through these.)
I stayed two nights, getting some writing done and going on another walk in a different direction. I also ended up taking a taxi to find a nursery where I could buy some plants. Kelsie and Leandrew had a nice little potted garden on their balcony, and they wanted to also fill a planter on their upper balcony. I like to look around nurseries in different climates and zones to see what they offer, and I wanted to give them a thank you gift for their hospitality.
We went out to eat one last time, this time visiting Lucuma, which was famed for its wings and pizza. The wings are not chicken of course, but fried cauliflower coated in wing sauce. Talk about delicious! The pizza too was excellent, with vegan cheese of course. During my time in the city we visited at least four different restaurants, all of which were vegan, delicious, and cheap. (As in $4-6 a plate.) Several places also boasted organic ingredients, showing how demand for such things is growing. Regardless of what we eat, being mindful of the source of our food and discerning with which industries we support is an important part of the process bettering our world.
For our last dinner I offered to cook us a meal. I went to a grocery store and got what I needed, planning a nice big spread. After some deliberation, I decided to go with Southern cooking, so I grabbed a big bag of potatoes, some green beans, corn, asparagus, beets, and mushrooms. I enjoyed cooking, and of course eating. The best part of the dish was the gravy I made for the mashed potatoes, using almond milk, mushrooms, olive oil and garlic.
We ate out on the balcony, enjoying the beautiful weather and one last conversation before I got on the road. Another overnight bus trip was ahead, so I enjoyed the comfort of dining with friends as much as I could, knowing that a long haul of travel lay ahead.
My next destination was Monterrey, where I would stay only a few hours before catching another bus to San Antonio, where my car was waiting for me. After a little more time with my family, it was out west. A great journey lay ahead of me, the purpose of which is far too complicated to get into. I did have some work lined up, but I was also meeting with a lot of different people about several different projects, all of which tie together in an intricate pattern. More on that to come!
Thus concluded my time in Guadalajara. I took a cab to the bus station and waited for the call to board. I hoped that maybe this time the bus would have more comfortable seats…