Tiffany Hensley: Mexico Trip
Her experience exploring Monterrey, Mexico’s local climbing hostel, city and crag. “I was in Monterrey, Mexico last week.
I had been referred to check out a program by another Mad Rock athlete Chris Kalman, who admitted he wanted to visit firsthand himself, and suggested Mad Rock work with the program in some way. Knowing I had the freedom of mobility with Wall-E and could check out the program personally, the only thing I really needed was someone to drive down into Mexico with me.
I had been told by countless friends that it would be best not to go into Mexico alone, and a good friend flew in from New York City during his vacation, and we drove along the south of the United States to Laredo, Texas to take the plunge into new territory. He was ready for an adventure away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and I was lucky to have him along. Our trip south over the border the first time was easy.
We did our research, we followed all the rules. “Don’t”s for Mexico: – Travel at night – Ask for directions – Drive on free roads – Stop on free roads – Drink the water – Take the border Bridge III (Only 1 & 2 are public) – Travel without documents, visas, vehicle permit – Travel without cash
That said, Monterrey, Mexico was not quite the mess I expected. We had copies of documents, working locks, 10 gallons of filtered water, Mexican car insurance, and we were set. Traveling and climbing with a guide in Monterrey was also a breeze with our new friend from the hostal, El Aguacate. Only the driving was messy, which Wall-E and I found very exciting. We paid to stay at El Aguacate Hostal, one of the only hostels remaining after tourism dropped off two years ago from a brutal cartel massacre. Here I see hope for tourism to come back. The owner was friendly, vegan, and happy to show us the area, very hospitable, and has a family of dogs. Though I dropped my book on a cockroach, this was certainly a climber’s dream home with an equipped kitchen, big community refrigerator, den, many beds, fast wi-fi, courtyard, and extremely healthy food from the hostel owner.
Once outside, my partner and I did an adventurous multi-pitch in Huasteca, the area nearest Monterrey. The route was 5 pitches, and we disassembled parts of my van held up by a number of Mad Rock’s quickdraws to pack the gear for the route. On the way up we found a multitude of things trying to kill us, but the real kick in the seat of the pants was the descent. Bushwacking in Mexico, especially in Huasteca, is not recommended. Every leaf gives you some kid of rash like the “Mala Mujer”, every branch has defensive thorns up the wahoo, and every homely agave-looking plant will give you a sore muscle and instant black bruising like the Lechuguilla. My hypothesis is the prettier the plant is, the more people it’s probably killed according to Wikipedia. But I’m probably just am being dramatic.
Getting in and out of the city, speaking Spanish certainly helped. Oddly, we were never asked for copies of documents, nor given visas or a vehicle permit. I bought Mexican Auto Insurance for $60 and that was it. We stopped by the Mexican Consulate for visas and permits, and contrary to what everyone had said about hassled traveling, were told not to worry about either. I had also been told to take the toll roads for safety, and so we did. We were told not to travel at night, so we didn’t. A word about the city: The city runs on white concrete inside the nearby hills, Silla and Cerro de Las Mitras. This is the main material of the city’s architecture, and with such a limited resource, I can see how it’s difficult to make a city beautiful with this modern material. There is a large bridge shaped as an instrument using the concrete material with tightened cables, called Puente de la Unidad, but the real kicker is a palace using the more fragile outer rocks from the Silla range, called “sillar”. The palace is what a religious bishop built for his personal use, and at the time local people called it the “obisopado” mistaking the building to have a religious purpose. In truth, he just had a pimped out crib. – Tiffany Hensley