Queretaro Part 2
Next day, after an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we took the shuttle to the airport. Traffic near the hotel was bad, but once we got onto the highway, we were fine. The driver was chatty, and gave us a lot of useful info.
At the airport, rented the car after usual delays (make sure to rent on a US deal site like Orbitz.com otherwise, local rates were more than triple what I paid), we took off for Pena de Bernal, about another 30 mins drive. This is a huge monolith rock (3rd largest after Rock of Gibraltar and Rio), that juts straight out of the earth. The town of Bernal is a nice small picturesque village, clean and prosperous fro the tourist trade thanks to the monolith.
Drove through the village and went to the trail head where the trail started to climb up part of the way up this rock. The climb was steep over rock but well worth it to get half way up the side of the monolith where the trail stopped. Stunning views of the surrounding countryside, with visibility for miles.
Had lunch of Gordita’s at a local place in the town of Bernal, with black corn flour and white corn flour. Gorita’s are the specialty food of this region.
Then took off for Tequisquiapan; which is supposed to be a picturesque town with nearby wineries and hot springs. After about a 30 min drive, arrived and found the downtown area. Beautiful Square in the town center, complete with a nice historic church. Found a tourist info place, where the lady spoke excellent English. She recommended “El- Geiser” for a hot springs bath experience, which was outside the town (actually in the next state of Hidalgo). Told us it was open 24hrs, so off we went.
This time, the drive was through the Sierra Gorda mountain range, with beautiful scenery from semi-arid to mountain landscapes. After driving through several nice towns, we eventually found El Geiser in a deep valley surrounded by hills. Since it was getting towards evening by now, decide to stay at this place, which also had accommodations in addition to the Geysir/hot spring baths.
The accommodations were quite basic, with a small room and attached bath; but all clean neat. Towels, soap and toilet paper supplied. The bed was actually a raised concrete slab, onto which a queen size mattress was deployed. A little hard but not uncomfortable. Cost was $30 for the room, and $7/person for the use of the facilities. Unfortunately they only took cash here, and since no ATM’s around, changed US$’s at a poor rate. In this place, we were the only foreigners as this is a little remote and only used by locals and Mexican tourists.
Found out that El Geiser is a geyser which they have capped, with 2 huge release valves. Out of these valves comes out super heated steam and water at high pressure; this then cools and the water is fed into multiple pools (different temperatures and kid activity pools) for people use for therapeutic use and for outdoor bath fun. So used the hot pools and the “outdoor steam” showers till evening. Had dinner at their local restaurant (also open 24hrs), and went to sleep.
Next morning, we woke up to find that a number of people had arrived overnight and set up tents all over the place. Being Friday night/Saturday morning, these were Mexican tourists from other parts of Mexico, including Mexico City. Used the spa facilities again, and left to drive back to Queretaro, this time visiting Wineries and Cheese places on the way. Once outside El Geiser, we saw several local food shacks, offering Rica Barbacoa and Consomme; which our hotel shuttle driver had told us not to miss.
So we sat down and ate Barbacoa and Consome. Barbacoa (origins of the BBQ word) is an earthen/concrete stove with a grill on top. They then put agave leaves on the grill, place goat meat on top, cover with agave leaves again on top. This is then covered by cloth, and covered with dirt. The cooking begins in the evening, and is slow cooked overnight. Next morning, the meat is tender and is served for breakfast until noon lunch. The Barbacoa was simply delicious and tender.
They sell this by the kilo or in taco’s. So had taco’s and they provide cilantro, chopped onions, lime and hot sauce to add; which was simply delicious. Consome is a soup they make from stock from goat hooves and add in rice, and several vegetables, and beans; again delicious. Payment time came and negotiated in US$’s as they only took peso’s. For $10 US, we had a very filling lunch for 2 people.
After this brunch, drove off and went to a couple of Wineries for wine tasting and cheese sampling. There were many people enjoying the wine tasting; seemed like we were in Europe wineries.
Winery in Queretaro region
Drove back to Queretaro, and headed off for the obligatory haircuts, the Mercado, a Panaderia, and to catch one more historic church; before calling it an early night as we had an early morning (6:45AM) flight back to DFW.
All in all, this area of Mexico is very nice, clean and very civilized, with very nice helpful people. There are a lot of nature things to do and need to spend more time doing that next time. Highly recommended off the beaten-tourist path.