Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Saltillo Day 2 - Museo del Desierto

It was cold again in the morning and we huddled over coffee and oatmeal while working with TelCel to get our new phone working.  I managed to get someone on chat at the TelCel site who was able to chat in English with me - we finally realized that the phone was not working yet because we had to buy more minutes.  He completed the activation and helped me navigate the site to purchase minutes and now we have a working phone with a Mexico phone number and data as well as an account that we can use to buy more minutes/extend time when we get back here in March.  This is a big achievement toward our future travels.  One of so many hurdles and experiences.

We decided to go to the Desert Museum and have lunch there as I had read that the restaurant just inside was a good place to eat and also on Tuesday the entrance fee was reduced. At the museum you have to take a ticket at the entrance to pay for parking as well as the entrance fee (the fee for the over 4 hours that we were there ended up being 30 pesos - a whopping $1.50).  We saw that the entrance fee was 90 pesos each and there was no mention of a special Tuesday price (nor a senior discount which we always see in USA) so Gerald handed over 2 x 100 peso notes, the lady gave him back 100 and rang up our entrance fee giving him another 50  back as change.  Wow Tuesday entrance fee really is cheap @ 50 pesos for both of us ($2,50 for two people ??).

Once inside the museum entrance I was able to ask (in Spanish) directions to the restaurant that I had read about on trip advisor and we sat down for lunch.  It was very quiet there as we looked at the menu - there was only 1 other person eating and his lunch looked good so I asked the server what he had, it was the meal of the day so we ordered one each.  Just look what we got for the princely sum of 75 pesos each ($3.75) - soup, bread, meat with vegetables and rice as well as a drink (aqua fresca of the day).

The museum is well worth visiting- we couldn't help compare it to the Sonoran Desert Museum that we had visited in Tucson while on vacation with Ian and Sian.  This one wasn't not as classy but it still had a lot of good exhibits both indoors and outdoors and we were captivated for about 4 hours in spite of the fact that all of the signs/information was in Spanish.  We sometimes spent time trying to understand as much as we could and sometimes just enjoying the exhibits without working on our language skills.

The dinosaur exhibit is big and that is to be expected since Coahuila (the state that Saltillo is capital of) is 'the land of the dinosaurs' according to the license plates that we have seen on the cars here.  The Dinosaurs skeletons ranged in size from T-Rex to a little 10 inch (25 cm) one (second photo).

 The cactus exhibits are fascinating with some strange and beautiful cactus varieties.

There are huge greenhouses where they propagate many varieties of cactus and sell them to raise money to aid the maintenance of the museum and to maintain the lands and the cacti on them. 

The live animal exhibits were interesting but nothing really special.

Except this cute line of turtles going nowhere !

There is also a good reptile exhibit,

We met three really cute and excited triples who were happy to pose for a size comparison photograph.

What on earth is this?  A snake with legs?  We could not really figure it out from the Spanish information but it is certainly fascinating.  I bet Ian could help us out with this one!

These two 13 year olds from Mexico City approached us because they had been spotting us as being from the USA - they spoke good English and were smart, confident boys.  I never did see them with any adults but they were really enjoying themselves and we enjoyed some good conversation with them.

In spite of all the people (though not really crowded) and the children, I was amazed at how quiet everyone was.  In museums and tourist spots in USA I am often disappointed at the noise, the constant loud chatter and squealing, that is everywhere.  Here people are more quiet and respectful, not at all what I had expected after constantly being warned about the noise in Mexico and Central America.  We are also finding that people are generally very friendly and forgiving of our lack of Spanish, so many times people have translated for us without us even asking for help. 

After we left the museum we had planned on going to the Cathedral and the Main Square but it was already after 5 and we decided to do a drive by to see where it was so that we could visit it another day.

Can you imagine driving these roads on your commute home each evening - the traffic was very heavy, not so fast on these backstreets (actually stopped most of the time) but there is a courtesy that is very surprising - people somehow get in and out of lanes and side streets without any sign of stress or road rage.  Another thing that really hit us was that we were expecting to see dirty streets with trash all around - as you can see, these streets are clean and not at all like we were expecting.

We did find out however that just because it looks like a 1 way street, it doesn't always mean that it is - it is just narrow.  There was one place where Naggy told us to turn right and then left and we saw 3 lanes of traffic facing us on that right turn street, we backed away and went a long way round get back on track but as we were heading away, we saw a taxi turning to the right but going to another street on the left, it was actually a skew cross road.

Navigating the traffic is something of a challenge with seemingly crazy drivers changing lanes at flat out speeds, making split second decisions.  Actually they are all really good drivers in crazy situations but you have got to, as Gerald puts it, "drive like a 'loco'".

The drivers are courteous and will let you squeeze in, all you have to do is use your indicators!  And watch out for the wild drivers that don't think twice of making a left turn across 2 lanes from the right most lane!  One of those "If you don't like the way I drive, stay off the sidewalks!" drivers!  The Mexico map card that we bought online for our Garmin GPS is really paying for itself over and over again and we got to the museum almost effortlessly with "Naggy's" help.  The biggest challenges are 1) the posted street signs don't match whats in the GPS or there are no street signs, 2) One way streets - not very well marked but it seems like if you need to go a short distance the wrong way on a one way its ok, just avoid the on coming cars!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying your blog and proud of you all for taking the leap of faith to hit the road south. Hopefully we'll meet you guys somewhere out there. We're starting our 3rd tour soon through Central America, but this time we will cross the Darien Gap and head all the way down to Argentina. Subscribed, keep these great stories coming. Cheers and safe travels.