Saturday, July 17, 2010

The town of Xilitla - San Luis Potosi

My stay in Mexico city came to an end and it was time to head towards the state of San Luis Potosi, in Xilitla, North of Mexico city where my 3-weeks volunteer workcamp of an ecotourism project will take place. I took a night bus at 9:30pm which drove in 8h directly to Xilitla (a small town in the South -East of the state). Sleeping on a seat wasn´t easy so I had a broken sleep of maybe about 3h. Around 2am the bus stopped for 30 mins. The driver didn´t inform us of anything and apparently the road was blocked by a car accident. Fortunately it didn´t take too long and the journey continued safely.

The bus arrived around 6am at Xilitla where Norma, the coordinator of the workcamp, welcomed us and brought us to the "El Cafe´de las Flores", a restaurant run by a community of women. The main coltivation in this region are coffe and mais and thus are part of the local culture. So I ordered a good cup of coffee with leche... it was DELICIOUS! My perfect type of coffee: not bitter at all, very light and with a bit of sugar, WOW! While enjoying the coffee of my life Norma told us a bit about the project and the programme appeared to be very flexible and changeable if wished. The activities are varied from creating and promoting tourist attracions to sensibilize the environmental conservetion within the locals and playing with the kids. The 3 main activities regarding the ecotourism theme are 1. the creation of a book with local recepies and traditions, 2. paint a map of the village with the main natural attractions and 3. help women in the creation of jewleries made of local seeds and other manual activities. It sounded super interesting and hopefully us volunteers will be able to succed the project!
An hour later we went for a walk into the centre of this tiny town which is basically dominated by the main plaza with the church (see picture) and one main street packed with fruit stalls and shops of any types. Sunday is the day of the market in Xilitla. It gets super crowded with people of the communities selling and buying any sort of things. In the plaza there are guapangos (Mexican folcloristic band) playing and loads of people dancing away with the rythm soave (see picture).
Since I didn´t have any cash left I had to find a bank to be able to change my Traveller Checks and had to go all the way to Ciudad Valles, the closest big city about 2h away from Xilitla. After queueing up for about 20 mins and waiting for the long process (from Traveler Checks into cash) to get going, I finally have been told that in my case wasn´t possible because the signature on my Cheques didn´t exactly look the same as the one on my passport... ?!? Gulp! Great, so I went all the way there for nothing!
Once I was back in Xilitla, we moved our staff into the dormitory... and what a freaken dormitory! It was a 10 square metres room with beach mats placed all over the floor tile on which 7 people had to sleep for that night... I couldn´t believe it! This dormitory called the "Cooperativa" of Xilitla has to be shared between our project group of 5 people and the other one of about 5 people as well plus the coordinator for the next 2 week-ends. Also the only toilet in the cooperativa doesn´t flush properly which meant that if I need to have a number 2 (the solid version) I have to run out on the street to look for a toilet in a restaurant or an internet point!
My first night on the floor (see picture), after a night sleeping on the bus-seat, was absolutely AWFUL! I kept turning around trying to find a comfortable position that wouldn´t completely distroy my bones. I was extremely exhausted that I fall asleep anyway but woke up thousand times and got up at 8am with broken neck and back, puffed eyes and scared of thinking to sleep for the rest of my 3 weeks in similar conditions! NO WAY! The only moment of relief was a bowl of fresh tropical fruits (mango, papaya, pineapple and melon) with natural yoghurt and the so called granola (cereals) for breakfast... yumme!

Xilitla will be our place of resources for food, water, any sort of material for activities and any other essential needs which have to be purchased over the week-end (our time off). The project it self will take place in Pilateno, about 40mins by car (or so called "camioneta") from Xilitla.
By 12.30am the camioneta was waiting for us. Shortly a camioneta is one of the few private pick-up vans of the indigeneous of Pilateno that runs about 2/3 times a day and leaves whenever is full with people or with material. So there isn´t any fixed timetable... it leaves when it leaves. The camioneta doesnt have any seats for the passengers so we had to stay stand up holding eachother to the sides (see picture).
The way to Pilateno is for a small part of concrete road but most of it is pure soil with stones and when it rains of big maddy water ponds. The landscape in this area is a paradise of heavy green mountains and valleys. After climbing a bit we kept going down and down until we reached the community of Pilateno hidden in the middle of a humid tropical forest.

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