The Sierra Gorda and Good Friday
The Sierra Gorda
On Wednesday we left Querétaro for the rugged bioreserve of the Sierra Gorda. The Sierra Gorda is known for its deep canyons, lush forests, and steep mountain tops.
As we wound our way around the narrow cliffs toward the Sierra Gorda, we spotted numerous signs which made Mom a bit concerned.
We made sure to take it very slow and arrived safely at our destination of San Joaquin in the heart of the Sierra Gorda. 🙂
San Joaquin is a somewhat of a backwoods paradise. 😉
It is a small little mountain town surrounded by temperate forests brimming with vibrant conifers.
One of San Joaquin’s main attractions includes the Chichimeca ruins called Las Ranas.
These prehispanic ruins were inhabited during the period of 600-1,000 A.D. The archaeological site includes ceremonial sites, ball courts, and offers an enviable view of the Sierra Gorda.
The climate is very cold and moist, which makes for an interesting array of unique plant life.
For this overnight trip to the Sierra Gorda, we stayed at Cabañas Campo Alegre.
This campground is absolutely gorgeous! The property is full of wildlife and a great escape for the hectic city life. 🙂
We had a laid back afternoon relaxing at the cabin playing cards and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
The campground is such a beautiful place to walk around at night. We almost felt like we were back in Wisconsin due to our surroundings. So serene! 🙂
On Thursday, we started the day off at a rustic cabin restaurant in town for a quick coffee and a great view of this sleepy town.
This morning we were to meet with Ecotur Cuatrimotos for an ATV ride toward Misíon Bucareli.
These vehicles were semi-automatic and our route towards Bucareli was full of consistent inclines and declines, which made it quite challenging throughout. That being said, Mom and Dad were incredible on the ATVs! 😀
Check out this sweet little guy. 🙂
Along this route, we passed through the Río Extoraz before arriving at our destination. Way to go Dad! 😀
Misíon Bucareli is one of the main Franciscan missions that was established in the Sierra Gorda in the 18th century. The complete title, Misíon Purísima Concepción de Bucarelí was built by Franciscan Juan Guadalupe Soriano in an effort to evangelize the indigenous Jonaz people. The construction of the mission was never fully completed; however, its edifice is absolutely breathtaking nestled along the canyon basin tucked away in the hillside. While visiting the mission, we were able to tour the museum inside which held numerous original textbooks and religious artifacts owned by the monks during this time period, as well as, the partially completed place of worship.
Every year on February 4th, a mass is held at this chapel in honor of Francis of Assisi. Look at the angelic cherubs and stars scattered along the ceiling. 🙂
After admiring the mission and the gorgeous surroundings, we stopped for a breather at a small roadside fonda that overlooked the hillside.
We enjoyed delicious fried fish tacos while chatting with our personal guide.
Our guide, Baltazar Torres, had a very friendly and calm demeanor. He helps run this family business, Ecotur Cuatris, which currently operates 30 ATVs and offers six different routes through the Sierra Gorda.
This particular ATV route took around 7 hours from beginning to end for an affordable $70 each. We experienced a rush of adrenaline, while enjoying the beautiful mountain views. By the end, we were all sweaty, covered with dust, and smiling from ear to ear. 😀
That night we returned to Queretaro filthy and famished. After taking an obligatory shower we were cleaned up and ready for dinner.
We chose an Italian restaurant called Il Diavolo, which was fantastic! We ordered three gourmet pizzas to share: salmon with cream cheese and caper, artichoke with mozzarella and arugula, and pancetta with mushroom, and parmesan. The toppings were flavorful and we still had plenty for a leftover cold pizza breakfast. 🙂
Good Friday was spent enjoying the quaint colonial city of Querétaro.
Querétaro has a delicious Oaxacan restaurant called Maria y Su Bici, which offers traditional cuisine from the region of Oaxaca.
We tried a few drinks with pulque and mezcal. Pulque is a Mexican liquor made by fermenting and flavoring agave. Mom tried piña colada, which was creamy and strong like a pineapple Baileys. Mezcal is an artesanal version of Tequila. I tried in a citrus cocktail and Dad tried mezcal blended with pineapple and beer. We were also very gutsy and tried a regional favorite called chapulines, which are grasshoppers.
We ordered them with guacamole, which seemed to be the perfect pairing. The grasshoppers were fried, then finely chopped and salted. Absolutely delicious and chalked full of healthy protein! 😉
In the historic center of Querétaro there were a variety of vendors selling everything from hand sewn sweaters to handcrafted jewelry.
This particular day they had an impressive display of Devil piñatas as well. These symbolic piñatas represent Judas and are broken as a part of the holy week celebration in Mexico.
Since today is Good Friday, Querétaro also re-enacted the crucifixion of Christ through an extremely moving presentation of suffering and sacrifice.
At 5 PM we headed toward the Temple of San Francisco to find a good spot to watch the procession. People were already lining the sidewalks and Mom found a friend who let us sit with her on some of her cardboard. She was also very helpful in explaining parts of the procession. 🙂
The Procession of Silence originated in Spain in the 13th century and highlights the heartbreak felt by the Virgin for the death of her son.
It began with men in hooded hats dramatically banging on drums in unison.
At this point, men slowly emerged from the Temple of San Francisco shouldering crosses on their backs.
Gradually, those crosses increased in both size and weight. Soon not only were they struggling to bare the weight of the cross, many came out dragging thick chains bound around their ankles.
These hooded men could barely visually the path that lay in front of them and many needed assistance to safely walk down the temple steps. There were easily 500 participants from varying age groups. Some were merely young boys, while others were elderly gentlemen carrying a cross in one hand and a cane in the other.
The procession also displays the stages of Christ’s life, including birth, death and re-birth.
From the temple, these patrons began their 4-hour pilgrimage around the city so that they could feel the same pain and suffering felt by Christ.
There really are no words to explain the types of emotions felt behind this religious display. Their Catholic devotion is extremely profound.
While waiting for the crowd to die down, we stopped back at Maria y Su Bici to enjoy a few beers and sample some more regional eats.
This time we tried a Tlayuda, which can best be described as a Mexican pizza.
This dish is a flat blue corn tortilla slathered with black beans and topped with avocado, Oaxacan cheese, and salted beef. This bean sauce was slightly sweet which mixed well with the salty cheese, creamy avocado and crispy crust. Yum! 😀
Another full day of adventure and culture. The best is yet to come. 🙂