This blog post is gonna be a little whiny. You’ve been warned! I’m only writing about this to show that not every day in the life of a traveler is sipping fruity drinks on a beach. Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned.
My day started in downtown Zacatecas. My destination was Aguascalientes, about 75 miles south of Zacatecas. I needed to take a bus from the city center to the bus station. I didn’t know how much the bus cost so I watched the girl get on before me to see what she paid and to my surprise she didn’t pay anything; she just got on and sat down without paying. A free bus, wow! I took a seat too. Then I watched as every single other person got on the bus and paid the driver. Okay, woops. That bus driver must have really not given a shit if he doesn’t say a word when two people get on the bus and don’t pay. Possibly the best thing to happen to me all day!
I made it to the bus station, paid for a ride, and had a pleasant ride to Aguascalientes. That’s when things started to become difficult.
Typically before I go to a new city I save the Google Map of the city to my phone and mark on the map where the hostel is located that I’m going to stay in. Apparently I forgot to save the location of the hostel this time. To make matters worse, for whatever reason my GPS wasn’t working. I arrived in Aguascalientes, which is a pretty big city (1.3 million people), and had no idea where I was or where I was going. It was exactly noon and my shadow was directly under my feet. I couldn’t even tell north from south. The bus dropped me off at the intersection of two major roads, and I couldn’t even see another street. I was good and lost.
I asked around for some help locating myself and got a very vague area on my map of a huge city. It took about 30 minutes of walking around 8 lane highways to figure it out. I started walking north. I knew about where my hostel was supposed to be. I figured I would walk toward it and whenever I found a cafe I would duck in for a beverage and WiFi to figure out the specifics. Though after 45 minutes of walking I was nearing the area I thought my hostel should be and I hadn’t found any place that I thought would have WiFi. As it turns out, taco stands usually don’t.
I finally found a bar that claimed to have WiFi so I sat down and enjoyed the most expensive beer I’ve had so far on my trip. But with a hostel location in hand things were looking up.
I walked another 15 minutes to the hostel and rang the doorbell.
Ring ring ring
There’s a sign on the door that says 24 hour reception. The 24 hours has been either scratched off or faded off. You can tell that it once said that, but it’s not very visible now.
Ring ring ring
Hmmmm. For the record, I didn’t make a reservation to stay here. I never make reservations–it’s low season for Mexico and my hostels so far have been totally empty.
Okay, it’s around 2pm. Sometimes hostels close in the afternoon until 3pm or so. I decided to walk around and see what I could find. There was a famous park and garden near the hostel so I checked it out. The downside of not being able to check into a hostel is that you can’t leave your big bag there. I’m a light packer, but I still have quite a bit of electronics that make my backpack weigh more than I like to carry around a town. Plus at this point it’s peak temperature and I am HOT. There’s a reason that people do siestas every day in the afternoon. You don’t want to be toting a heavy backpack in the sun at this time.
I checked out the cathedral and discovered that there was a fair going on. Paella stands everywhere. What am I, in Spain? Droves of people everywhere.
At 3pm I head back to the hostel to try again. Still nothing. At this point I’m wondering if the hostel is even still open. There’s a bar next to it so I go in and ask the bartender if the place is has closed or what. She has no idea.
“Do you ever see people going in and out of it?”
“I’m not sure…”
She explains to me that the fair going on in the city at the moment lasts a couple weeks, and that the city is packed because of it. She says that if I want a hotel I would have to take a taxi to outside of the city. Like, really far. Where I was standing was at the heart of the fair and there was no way there would be vacancies anywhere in the vicinity.
Thankfully she’s super nice and let’s me use the bar’s WiFi. I still wasn’t sure if the hostel I was trying to use actually still existed. And I wasn’t finding anything else available. It was tough, but I made the decision to leave the city and head to Guadalajara. The alternative of getting a taxi to stay in a shitty hotel miles outside of the city was just not appealing to me. I looked up a hostel and checked twice to make sure it saved to my phone and took off. I walked back to the bus station the way I came–which was not a good route, but the only way I could remember how to get back. So after another hour of walking I paid for another bus ticket to Guadalajara.
My GPS started working again in Guadalajara and to my dismay I found out that the bus drops you off not in Guadalajara, but way the hell outside of Guadalajara. So I got on an inner-city bus to get to downtown at about 7pm–in other words, rush hour in Mexico. It took another hour to make it to the center, where I got to walk another twenty minutes to my hostel.
Thankfully there was a big, comfortable bed waiting for me in the best hostel I've stayed at in Mexico. I asked where to find food and went to an amazing taquería.
Seriously though, all in all it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I had four buses, and spent several hours walking totally lost under the hot sun with my heavy backpack. But at the end of the day I had beer, tacos, and a place to sleep. It could’ve been worse.
Traveling isn’t always carefree relaxing on the beach. But it’s always worth it in the end. :)
Penned on May 18, 2015 by Kevin Sweet.