The Boulder Getaway
By Luis Alvarez
It’s a hot day in the city, spring break is over and everyone is returning to their daily routines. But I don’t have one, and I’m getting tired of the traffic and the smell of asphalt and rubber. I can’t get away from the city for so long right now, and the good thing is I can drive fifty kilometers to the Northwest and do a nice hike in what happens to be the third highest monolith in the world.
It is called Peña de Bernal, or Bernal’s Boulder, and it’s often listed also as one of the largest rocks in the world among the Rock of Gibraltar and the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. As it’s easily reachable and close to some vineyards in the area that recently opened to the public, the small town of Bernal is always a popular choice for weekend getaways from Mexico City and some other surrounding cities including Queretaro, also the name of the state where it is located. It is always as calm and relaxing as any small town can be, even though on holidays, vacations and weekends gets fairly crowded… but not today.
It is almost noon and a few shops are still closed. Some people are just finishing their breakfast or having an early lunch at a new café I didn’t know existed near the Main Square. It’s been a while since my last visit and I must admit that seeing Bernal with almost no people feels a little different. Or a lot. There are no vendors on the streets, no children playing with balloons, no people going to church, no tourists bargaining wool. My favorite eatery is also closed, but has a smaller venue open right across the street, phew! I’ve visited this town countless amount of times since I was a kid, and I never thought it would look good empty.
I start walking towards the rock to do what I came for, hike it. I can’t remember the last time I did it; it must have been about five years ago when I took a friend from the North who came to visit. I can’t even remember the last time I actually hiked! But asphalt and rubber are no more, the smell now is that of salty dirt and cacti, and I immediately start feeling good.
There are no people going up the boulder, nor going down. It is a very quiet day and now I feel like I’m in a really different place. Where are all the people that sell bottled water or juice to all the unprepared explorers on their way up? Well, it makes sense that if there are no hikers, there is no reason people should be selling stuff. The path is well marked and it’s not a complex trek, but I remember some parts being easier following everyone to the top.
Once I reach the highest place reachable without climbing gear, I can’t find a once single shade spot. Of course, it’s past one in the afternoon and the sun is burning in all its glory. But I don’t care, I literally have the rock for myself and I just sit on a random formation and gaze the landscape below, the very small Bernal, and the beginnings of the amazing Sierra Gorda.
It’s almost lunch time and a huge reward is waiting for me downtown Bernal. Blue corn gorditas with spiced cheese are the local specialty, and my favorite eatery is open at its smaller venue.
About the Author
Luis Alvarez is from Central Mexico and is a graphic designer and an aspiring foodie. He has traveled extensively throughout Mexico and has also spent time in Spain and Russia both working and studying. Luis, like all of us at Vagabundo Magazine, truly believes that travel can cure what troubles the world. Travel has a way of bringing people together and giving one an other a better understanding of different cultures and ideas.