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Taxco -there's silver in them thar hills

sunny 23 °C

Taxco is a city that makes you work to get there, and as a result, the majority of tourists are Mexican, many from Mexico City, which is about 2 - 2 1/2 hours north. It's not really near anywhere else, and is situated high up in the mountains, accessible by driving first through the dreaded Toluca (or Cuernavaca), and then flinging yourself through the spin/dry cycle of twisty mountain switchbacks for another hour and a half. The upside is the roads are in excellent shape, traffic is light, and the views are breathtaking. The other upside is that just before you arrive in Taxco, you pull over to the lookout and see this:

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We spoke to the gentleman at the lookout information desk, who was very appreciative of our visit, and thanked us for coming. He was curious to know where we were staying and when I said, La Casa del Laurel ( low-rel), he stared blankly. After I spelled it out, his face brightened, and with a big smile, he said, "Ah, si, - La Casa de Law- rel". This is yet another thing I love about Mexicans - they are so quick to help you with your language and pronounciation. Tourism took a hit here after the murder of the 43 students a year ago September in Iguala, which is just south of Taxco. After those murders, the governor and his wife and the chief of police were jailed, most of the police force were fired, and the perception of calm has gradually been restored. The state of Guerrero has a troubled history, so it may just be a case of replacing one set of bad actors with another, but we were reassured that this year all is safe. Wherever the dark corners of Taxco may be, we have not yet encountered them. In fact, the city looks more like a tidy burg in Switzerland - all red roofs and white walls and neat storefronts. This was our second impression as we drove in:

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Our first impression was less favourable. Due to the narrow streets and volume of traffic, you are forced to creep along, and we were immediately beset upon by a gang of young boys who wanted to sell us "information" ( a photocopied map available for free everywhere). We were whistled at, flagged down and yelled at from storefronts, parking garages, restaurants, and everywhere else that it might be possible to extract a peso from a tourist. One little fellow ran alongside our car, with us as his captive audience for a couple of blocks. My heart sank - this aggressive approach makes me anxious, and with Taxco boasting more than 100 silver shops, I was sure our entire time here would be spent in defensive posture. Not at all, as it turns out. We blew off the drive and the welcoming committee with the sight of our hotel:

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We checked in, and were shown to our room. We had our pick, as it is a small hotel, and I think we were the only ones there for the first night.

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This is the view from our room:

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Taxco was once one of the most important silver mining area in Mexico, but there has not been mining here for a few years now due to labour disputes between the government and the workers. The silver now comes in from Pachuca, but the silversmithing is done locally. I was very interested to see the creative work, but with the exception of one or two shops, every store sells variations of the same chains, necklaces, bracelets, keychains, earrings and rings. As well, everything is priced at least double the price that the shop owner wants, and then the game begins. "For you, a 30 percent discount, today only." "How much you want to spend?" "This is my best price." And so on.

I had three items I was hoping to find - a silver cuff for my mother, a silver chain for Dan (at his request), and one fabulous piece for myself. I couldn't find any cuffs that would suit my mother's small wrist and not look like a christening bracelet, and for fabulous - I will have to wait until I get back to Gabriola. Our silver artists have a lot to be proud of, in terms of artistry. Taxco has an international clientele, and I suspect the money lies with store owners who are buying great quantities wholesale.

I did find one thing - Dan had asked us to pick him up a silver chain, and I found a lovely one. It started at 995 pesos, and I bought it for 420 pesos - around $35. It has the 925 mark, as well as another distinctive Mexican silver mark, so as much as I know about silver, I am assuming it is the real thing.

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There is not a whole lot to do in Taxco if you're not silver shopping, other than a couple of small museums, but it is quite amusing to just be part of the street scene and take in the quirks of this extremely hilly Pueblo Magico. For starters, every road is narrow, cobblestoned and almost vertical.
There are no sidewalks, and the cobblestones are treacherous - try as they might, no Mexican woman could navigate these streets in their customary stilettos. These are the cobblestones that break ankles:

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These are the hills that test brakes:

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While there are delivery trucks and other assorted vehicles on the roads, the main mode of transport here is the flotilla of white VW taxis (the originals) that buzz and swarm up hill and down dale. They are a sight to behold - defying gravity as they take on every imaginable elevation. I guess the brakes are not the originals?

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It is very easy to engage people here. (Even if they do have something to sell)

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As we were walking through the market, this young man pointed to himself, so I snapped his photo.

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Walking up to the zocalo, we saw a rather comical sight. Frosty appears to have had it with the festive season.

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Santa Prisca cathedral is the centrepiece of the zocalo - a Baroque confection that, like cathedrals in most Mexican towns and cities, dominates the landscape. The zocalo is the meeting place for locals and tourist alike - fun for people-watching and ideal if you're in the market for a helium balloon of Batman.

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We had quite an adventure yesterday - we grabbed a bus and headed a half hour out of town to visit the Cacahuamilpa Caves - one of the largest cave systems in the world, and "live" - meaning the stalactites and stalagmites are still growing. The height of the caverns ranges from 20 to 80 metres high, and out of 90 "rooms", about 20 are open to the public. We were part of a tour that lasted two hours - we walked through for over two kilometres on a wide path that was lit enough for safety, but still let us appreciate the beauty. Stephen took most of these photos, as my camera just doesn't have the resolution to capture images in the semi-dark.

Our group as we entered into the cavern:

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Heading deeper into the cavern, the entrance gives off the last bit of natural light.

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As we make our way along the path, you can see how enormous this cavern is.

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Our guide spoke only in Spanish, but every once in a while the crowd would laugh, or they would all go, "AH!", so we sort of followed along.

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The experience was so encompassing, that our lack of language didn't really matter. At times we were cool, at times hot and humid, but fully engaged - it is hard not to be impressed with the scale and grandeur of something that has been in formation for thousands of years and continues to grow and change.

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We caught a collectivo back to Taxco and this is where the fun began. Collectivos are a very democratic and inexpensive way to get around Mexico. You wave one down, pay a nominal fee and hop in. Collectivos are often smallish sedans in various states of repair, but Taxco's collectivos are, in keeping with the VW theme, white VW buses (also original). This one had been retrofitted with fiendishly uncomfortable bench seats, no seatbelts and passenger numbers limited only by size (of passenger). As we started up, with Stephen sitting closest to the sliding door that remained open, I wrestled with my two selves. One Ginny said,"Excuse me, but the door is not shut." The other Ginny said, " Keep quiet, don't say anything, go with the flow." The latter Ginny won out, and away we went - nothing between Stephen and the pavement, trees and shrubs rushing by.

Stephen took this video to give you all an idea.

I'll leave you with a night shot - Taxco is just magical at all times of the day.

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We head out tomorrow morning for Oaxaca. We'll be there for two or three weeks - time to unpack for a while, shake off the road, and enjoy the rhythm of that beautiful city.

Hasta pronto!

Posted by millerburr 16:13 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

Thanks for the tour - a place on my to-visit list; the caves are as amazing as have been described. Best in O; snowed here yesterday, gone today, b

by Bruce Mason

As entertaining as usual my friends, with beautiful pics to boot, thanks a bunch!
Derrill's sister and partner are also going to Oaxaca in February for a couple of weeks, you will probably just miss each other! They were trying to convince us at Christmas to join them!

by Laurence

"Santa Prisca cathedral - a Baroque confection". Love!

by Alexandra

Love the video..not sure that I could have kept quiet!! We're enjoying the ride.

by Hawkson

Hi Ginnie and Steo]pen. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. Right now we could use the car washer you found in Mexico. Saw my first bald eagle today a young one. He nearly hit my car diving into the bush. I stopped and we just stared at each other for a few seconds before he left. Exciting back on Gab as well.

by Gar

Not only do we get amazing pictures and a storyline that rivals any bestseller on the market today, but we get to ride along with you on a collectivo! I'm just glad Stephen is alive and will be able to accompany you to Oaxaca, Ginny!

by Heather

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