Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo Leon and has about the size of the Swedish capital Stockholm. It is around Monterrey where the landscape switches from desert (north of the city) to green (south of the city). It is surrounded of beautiful mountains. My picture of the city will always be coloured by the memories of my fantastic couch surfing experience, but one after the other:
22nd March 2018
When the bus was close to Monterrey, the mountains got higher and closer up to us. Wind power turbines could be seen as well. The last was definitely a sign, that Mexico no longer is the poor and undeveloped country from former days. That does not mean, of course, that there are no longer poor people in Mexico. Even in Monterrey are areas of poor people, but you need to know a local to see, where the poor lives. When I saw the multi coloured area on a hill, I just loved it. Later on my host told me, that it is an area, where poor people are living.
It was getting dark – it was around 8pm, when the bus entered the city and I was thinking about my former host and friend in Tijuana, who told me, not to go by bus during darkness. The woman from Chile, who sat next seat, told me, that the area on the left hand side is not safe, but also, that it is more dangerous during the night. My host and I agreed earlier this day, that I will wait for him at the bus station, because he had to work until 10pm. I did not really now, what I had to expect. After I had tried to find a host by requests and had not got a positive answer, because people were not at home, I had made my dates for Monterrey public on http://www.couchsurfing.org. Juan invited me. He does not write a lot about himself in his profile, but has references in Spanish. Actually I had not checked them, even I normally do. Though, when Antonio in Saltillo asked me about my host, I could not really answer him and he told me, if there will be any problem, I can call him. He has friends in Monterrey as well and can help me, to get a host.
Juan was in time, but outside the bus station. When he messaged me, that he was “here”, I thought, he was in the bus station. I described, how I was dressed and my green backpack. Actually there are really few with backpacks or suitcases in the green colour as mine. By the way, that makes it also always easy to get it out of the buses’ cargo area. He texted me, that he has a white BMW. Therefore I understood, that I have to look outside. To the left were the area for the taxis, in front of me was no parking possible, but to my right stood cars in two rows. Juan stood in the second row and I understood immediately why he was not looking for me inside. He helped me with the backpack and put it in the trunk. I was sitting in the front seat, which was long back and also the backrest was really long down. I changed that as soon as possible. He told me already in the car, that he is a surgeon, specialist in cancer treatment and he spoke Spanish with me. His English is like my Spanish and I was happy to have a chance to improve my Spanish.
Juan lives quite central in an apartment house with security men. A key is needed for his apartment door, the boom in front of the garage is automatically opened by the security man. Sometimes Juan had to waive with his hand, that the security man will open. For the elevator and the port for pedestrians an electronic card is necessary – both for upwards and downwards. Juan’s home has two bedrooms, one of them has the shower en-suite, but he never closed the bedroom’s door and let me use that shower meanwhile he used the bathroom, which was closer to the other bedroom. The kitchen and the living room have open access to each other and even from the entrance hall. The wardrobes, the kitchen itself and the walls are all in white. He has no paintings on the wall – no photos either. On the window sill and the dining table, he has somevbooks. Amoung them books of Nietzsche and Einstein. When I asked him, for how long he livs in that apartment, because he has no decoration, he answered me: “Two years. I need a woman for that.” When I talked with him about the books, he told me, that he has not read them. They are only decoration.
The apartment is really clean, which made me very happy and also fits with his occupation, of course. When I asked for a cover, because I thought I will freeze during the night without one, he gave me his, told me, that it is the only one he has and that he anyway sleeps with only a sheet as cover.
Juan prepared a meal for us with ham, cheese and vegetables. We also had a chat to get to know each other a little more. We were going to bed around midnight.
23rd March 2018
My first view out of his big panorama windows disappointed me. It was foggy, even it was already +30°C. I could not see the mountains. Juan served coffee and gave me biscuits and strawberry jam. He did not have much time, because he had an appointment with a doctor. He was soon back and prepared breakfast with eggs, ham and cheese as well as vegetables and fruits. He also served a smoothie. If I remember right, it was done by oranges.
I asked him about mosquitos and Malaria, but he told me, they do not have that problem in Mexico and outside the rain season, the have no mosquitos at all. Afterwards he asked me, if I have influenza and need medicine. He could give me a description if I need something. I told him, it is allergic that I have to sneeze often and in addition to that, I have a vaccination as well as vaccinations for other illness. That he should understand better, I showed him my leaflet, where all my vaccinations are registered. He told me, that it is very good, but that there is no yellow fever in Mexico.
After breakfast he went with me by car to the view-point “Mirador Opispado” close to his apartment. On the view-point the Mexican flag is and also poles for historical flags of Mexico. In addition to that, there is a sign for the state “Nuevo Leon”, which Monterrey is the capital of. Unfortunately there was still no good view, though we did not stay there for a long while.
Juan drove now downtown and parked close to the “Canal de la Santa Lucia”. We were going by boat on the canal, walking the park at the destination of the boat and going back again by boat. I tried to pay the fee for the boat trip, but he told me: “next time”. I like that area of the canal really much. There are some bridges crossing the canal and there are not two of them which are similar. In the park one can walk, run, use roller blades, special cars and go by bicycle. A few old buildings make the park perfect. On the way back to his home, he were driving through the old town “Barrio Antigua”.
Juan had to be at work at 2pm. He is working at a PEMEX owned hospital and works 6 days a week, totally for 48 hours a week, but he told me, that he could choose if he want work 5 days a week and totally 40 hours a week. He chose the alternative, which gives more money, but thinks now, that money is not all. He would like to travel more and also have more friends. His parents told him, that he should work hard, but he does no longer agree with it. We had a mango (with totally yellow peel – they are usual here) and a sandwich.
On the way to his work he left me close to the Cathedral. He had already given me a key and an electronic card for his apartment. Well there I took photos of the Cathedral and walked then to the “museum for contemporary art = MARCO”. I spent around three hours there – until it closed. Fun fact at the museum: Only photos med help of cellular phones are permitted.
I felt hungry, when I left the museum and was looking for a cheap restaurant. There were taco and hamburger places, but it took a while until I found a restaurant, which offered other Mexican food. The restaurant was on a second floor in the pedestrians area. It offered buffet for 89 EUR including water. I ate “all I can eat”, but moderate. There were different kinds of meat and vegetables. Even vegetables in cream, which I liked. I forgot my hat there, but was walking back soon. The waiter had already taken care of it and met me with a smile and the hat.
I took a taxi back, because I had not realised yet, how simple it was to find the way back and that it only was a 30 minutes walk from downtown. The taxi was for 30 MXN only. At the house, where Juan’s apartment is, I tried the card for the port, but did not know if I have to open the left or the right door of the port. I tried with the left, which was wrong. A man arrived and I was entering with him. What I did not know was, that he was one of the security men. I was stopped! Even I told and showed them, that I have the keys to Juan’s apartment, because he is working and told them the number of the apartment, I was not allowed to pass. They tried to call Juan by his home number, though I told them again, that he is at work. Finally they asked me for my ID. When I gave them my passport, they looked surprised and did not even open it. Now I was allowed to pass.
In the apartment I ate some papaya and a half avocado together with a rest of a salad, I found in the fridge. Juan had told me before, that I am allowed to take, what I find in the fridge. The time I had to wait for Juan, I used the Internet. I first looked for a hostel in Ciudad Victoria and found one, but did not book yet. I still hoped for a host. Afterwards I sorted my photos and wrote about another day in my blog. I am still a week back, but reduced it now by one day.
When Juan came home we had a chat and a light meal. He also told me, that he has to work the whole upcoming day – from early morning to 10pm. He was not happy about it and asked me, too, when I will leave on Sunday, because he has the whole Sunday of and would love to show me the surroundings. I told him, that I do neither have a host in Ciudad Victoria nor booked anywhere, though I can change my plans. If it is OK for him, I could leave on Monday instead. He agreed. We were to bed at 11pm, though Juan should get enough sleep.
24th March 2018
When I entered the kitchen at 8am, Juan already had prepared breakfast. He had enough with time to have company with me during breakfast and a little more. The breakfast was similar to the day before, but good. Juan asked me, if I also have mosquito bites. I answered one – on my feet (even I only slept with a sheet [and short clothes], because it is around 25°C during the night, I really had only one bit). He showed me, he had multiple on both legs. That was the truth of “no mosquitos at this time of the year” and actually there were none the following days.
When Juan had gone to work, I updated my couch surfing profile with photos, sent a request to a host in Poza Rica (a town between Tampico and Veracruz), showered and also charged my phone before I was walking downtown, where I first took some photos of the Palace of the government and surroundings, checked the stalls on the plaza, bought “elote” (sweet corn) as well as chocolate (for coffee, but tasted good without coffee as well 😉)
and entered then the museum of the palace. I was lucky, because the entrance was for free this day. As usual I stayed until closing time. I tried to buy a postcard of the building, but the souvenir shop did not have any postcards. They told me, that another museum, close by, maybe would sell.
Though I was going there. They did not have much to choose and the only postcard with the old government building showed also two other museums and therefore the old government building only partly. Anyway I bought some of them and kept them for another time, when I have more and can send them together in an envelope.
This day was also a dance competition held for groups of traditional dances. I only saw the last two groups. One of them was fantastic and did show more dances than the other and even had more themes. They won the competition.
I was tired, when I took a taxi back to Juan’s home. Unfortunately I did not ask, how much it would cost nor tell the driver, that he should start the taximeter. He did drive around town and had to ask twice, even I told him and showed him on Google maps as well. Finally I asked him to stop, because we were close to the apartment and by the one way road we could not come closer. He asked for 80 MXN, though I told him, that I had paid 30 MXN for the same direction the day before and offered him 50 MXN, but he did not change his mind. He told me “no way” and I offered 60 MXN. He did not agree, but I was waiting, thinking if I should tell him, I have no more money or pay the amount he asked for. He was going down to 70 MXN, but I did not have more change, though I had to pay with 100 MXN and only got 20 MXN back. Afterwards I tried to find a way to get him told, that his charge was not fair, but the site there is, was not working. Even on twitter I did not have success, but it is stated, that it should be possible.
Well at home I had a light meal with some pieces of fried chicken and was writing my blog. Later I told Juan about the high charge and he told me, that I always have to ask before going by a taxi, how much they will charge. He prepared a heathy meal for us this evening as well.
25th March 2018
It is Sunday, the temperature already 30°C+ and Juan has the whole day off. I awoke early, but tried to update my blog a little more. Even this day he prepared a healthy and similar breakfast to the other mornings. He served a smoothie of papaya, strawberries and one more fruit. We agreed to go to the “Grutas de García” (Caves of García, which is named after a village close to the caves). He also had told me about the waterfall “Cola de Caballo”.
It is a quite long ride to the caves. One comes closer and closer to the mountains – there are beautiful views. Up to the caves goes a gondola. Sporty people can walk instead. Juan bought the combined ticket for the caves and the gondola, which was very filled on the way up. Before entering it, I told him, that I am afraid of high. He was the perfect gentleman and partner during this excursion. He always had an eye on me. In the caves where stairs with handrails, but not all the way, though in parts, where they were missing, he offered his arm or almost his hand. I did not need to ask for it.
The caves are really big. Before we entered I thought: One more cave – OK it may be different to the caves I have seen so far. And it was! They (it is a system of caves) are even much bigger than the Frasassi caves (Grottas de Frasassi) in Italy, which I thought are big. The stalactites and stalagmites are huge as well. Some are huge in high, some in wide and they have very different formations, but it is dry, totally dry in the caves and the stalactites and stalagmites are not building up for the moment – maybe again during the rainy season.
Outside again, we enjoyed the views. I was looking down and saw the path, though I was wondering if we could walk down. It seemed easy to do. Juan was in. The start was really easy, but soon the path got worse with small gravel. I was wearing sandals and the soles of Juan’s shoes were not good either for the gravel on the path. Juan did always walk on the side with the steep, though he changed side often. In addition to that he hold my hand all the way down. It felt so good! Twice he was gliding, but fortunately I was able to hold him. I was thinking about, if my marriages had been such a good partnership I would still be married and only once.
Down again I bought a bottle of water and shared with him. Juan drove to the village García. He did know a restaurant there with good service, but it had closed down. Not even the name was left. Juan also asked people around, if it maybe has moved, but it did not exist anymore. Though he asked me if we will go home to him and eat. I asked instead for the waterfall and we may find something on the way. We were going to the waterfall!
On the way he made a short detour to the village of Santiago, a “pueblo magico”. He drove through only, but I was OK with it.
A short distance before the waterfalls is a hotel with the same name as the waterfalls. I think, both are called after the mountain. I was really hungry now and was happy, when Juan stopped there. It did not seem to be cheap, but that did not matter for me in that moment. We were welcomed by a lot of peacocks in the garden, one showed his feathers in all it’s beauty.
I was thinking about, that peacocks may be on the menu, because there were so many – both male and female. The restaurant as well as the waiter did not look as good as the building and the garden. In addition to that we became aware, that the waiter has had his best days. He did not remember, what we had asked him for – a glass without ice to my bottled water. Juan asked him three times, before I was served. The prices of the meals where like in an excellent high price restaurant. I chose a little meal: Mushrooms with chorizo and cheese. Juan chose a meal with fried chicken, vegetables and rice. When we were served he asked to share, that means to taste the others meal. He had already asked the waiter for two small extra plates. It surprised me, because I was not at home, but I recognized, that people are similar in all parts of the world.
We also shared the bill. I gave 100 MXN and asked him, if it was OK or if I had to pay more, because he did not show me the bill. He was OK with it, even he paid 250 MXN on the top. Though the bottled water must have been expensive.
We continued by car to the area of the waterfall. To come to the waterfall we had to enter a kind of park with lots of places for barbecue. There were also souvenir shops. We had to pay 40 MXN each as an admission fee and 30 MXN in parking fee. I paid my fee and tried to pay for the parking as well, but that did Juan not accept. From the waterfall came a river, which many people had their feet in and small children more than that. It looked good and I also understood it, because it was +35°C now. Finally at the waterfall it was crowded, but I was lucky to find a space soon, because a family was leaving. Juan told me, that there usually is more water in the falls, but it was nice anyway.
We went home directly afterwards. Juan asked me if it is OK, if he will leave for a while. He would like to give a book to a female friend, who will leave Mexico the upcoming day. I agreed, of course. He was soon back and told me, that she will arrive in around 20 minutes and prepared the evening meal. Carolina was in time, she speaks English well, but I tried anyway to talk Spanish, so Juan also can understand what we are talking about and participate in the conversation. You have to know, that he also was an excellent teacher for me. He tried to talk all the time slowly and proper, so that I could understand him.
Carolina, Juan and me had dinner together and talked about our travels, especially Carolina and me. Juan showed her my “business” card and she took a photo of it. She also invited me to visit her, when I am in Costa Rica. She has her own profile on couchsurfing. She did not stay for very long, because she was tired of all packing and organisation for her move the upcoming day.
26th March 2018
This day started with the same temperatur and fog as all the days I have been in Monterrey. The fog was even worse, than the days before. I was awake at 6am, though Juan told me, that he will go to the gym, but be back soon. At 8:30am breakfast was ready. He also played Mariachi music by his TV. We had talked about before and we both like it. The songs were only instrumental. Songs like Chiquitita of ABBA and Strangers in the night of Frank Sinatra were among them.
At 9:30am, after we told each other, that we would like to see each other again and Juan accepted me as his friend as well as a big hug, he drove me to the bus station, where we arrived around 10am. Remembering the last ride, I chose the Frontera bus company again. There were long queues at the Omnibus de Mexico desk, but not at the Frontera. I asked for the next bus to Ciudad Victoria and have bin told, that it will leave at 11am – we had perfect timing to reach that one without stress. When I bought the ticket, the assistant explained very clearly, that it is a “Futura bus”, which will go the route, wrote done the number of the bus as well, from which stop it will leave (number of it) and which destination will be shown on the bus.. It was fantastic and the bus number was right, too. Juan was not leaving before I had to go to the bus and, as Mexicans do, I have got another hug and a kiss on one of my kinds.
The bus arrived at 11am and departed 11:08am. I am getting used to it, that the stated departure times are the arrival times. My seat was occupied. In Mexico it is usual to choose seat while booking, I always have been asked for, which one I want of the available seats, similar to taking a flight. The woman on the seat – on the seat beside her, her husband seems to sit, told me, that she had got that seat number four and that the seat on the other side (number one) was not occupied, though I could take that one. It did not matter for me and I was happy to have a seat with none on the side of me. Usually people do not start a conversation, but need space and take of mine, though I like to have the freedom of not sharing. There were no person on the other seat during the whole trip.
It was still foggy. I only could see the mountain “Sierra de la Silla” when we were very close to it. For a while I wrote my blog, but the road was very uneven, though it was hard to write. I had my eyes on the surroundings often, of course. The mountain range continued for a long time. The landscape was green. There were fields as well. I also saw a big ranch with 100s of cattle, too.
The bus stopped in Lineares, the last town in the state of Nuevo Leon. Two sellers entered the bus: One with snacks, sweets and soft drinks and the other one selling burritos.
Please follow me all the way to Ciudad Victoria by following the link for Tamaulipas