Okay, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Two guys attempted to snatch my bag and failed, and not long after I gave you all of that big talk about not being concerned about my safety in Mexico. I figured that as long as I was moderately sensible, as I usually am, that I wouldn’t be the victim of any crime. I stand by that still, but today I just wasn’t sensible. I am a silly boy.
Guanajuato is a beautiful hill town. One thing I really didn’t bargain on with Mexico is how darn hilly the place is. This can lead to some strolls that leave me breathless, but also to the most beautiful hill towns, and Guanajuato is largely considered the most beautiful of the bunch. Accommodation is more expensive in Mexico than it is in Asia, so I have been staying in people’s spare rooms on this Mexico trip to cut on costs. Here in Guanajuato I am staying at an old lady’s house – she can’t speak a single word of English and my Spanish is appalling and yet somehow we are getting by. And this house of hers, my goodness. It is perched right at the top of one of the town’s hills and offers the most spectacular views. I can’t tell if it is more stunning in the daytime, at sunset, or at night. Whatever time of day, I can bet that it is one of the finest views not only in Guanajuato but in all of central Mexico.
Of course, this hill top destination means that I practically roll myself down to the centre of town, and my way back up is a breathless slog. After a pretty shitty day in town (not because Guanajuato isn’t wonderful but because it was one of those days when things just didn’t go my way) I found my way to a café that had tortilla soup and Earl Gray tea on the menu – two things that light up my world even if they don’t really go together. As I tucked into the spicy soup, I was beginning to forget about the shitty day that I had, and by the time I had finished I was ready to go back up that hill and return home to my surrogate Mexican auntie.
By this time it was 9.30pm – not especially late but the climb up the hill leaves the bright lights of the busy town below behind and it can be a deserted walk. The most sensible option at this stage is to hop inside a taxi. The first one I flagged down had no idea where I wanted to be taken, and I suspect it really wasn’t his fault as my Spanish language skills leave a great deal to be desired. The next two taxis that I managed to flag were charging me more than I thought was reasonable – it was only a 5-10 minute drive up a hill but at this time of year there is a popular arts festival in Guanajuato and the taxi drivers hike up their prices.
I should have just got in a taxi, but stubborn as I am, I decided to climb the hill in the dark. In Guanajuato, there actually tends to be a greater number of people around in the evening than in the day and throughout the first half of the walk there were lots of people around. I felt silly for having worried at all and continued on my upward journey. But then the crowds stopped and it was just me walking and a couple of guys a little way behind me. Initially I didn’t suspect anything of them, because why would I? People need to walk home, just like I was walking home. But my suspicions were alerted when I saw that they were getting closer to me. I am naturally a fast walker – like weirdly fast. I know very few people who pace the streets as fast as I do and often have friends asking me to slow down when walking with them, so it was just weird that they were getting closer. And then, I could see them breaking into a trot. Shit.
One of them said something to me in Spanish. I didn’t want to seem like a vulnerable foreigner so didn’t say anything and kept on walking, but he then tugged at my bag (containing my laptop, camera, and Kindle – and I’ve never backed up a file in my life, I’m shit like that) while his partner in crime said something else. Thinking back on this now, they must have been pure amateurs who saw an opportunity. One of them could have hit me while the other grabbed my bag. They could have grabbed my bag with far greater force in the first place. At that moment a taxi came driving up the hill – I waved for it to stop but it didn’t. I guess there must have been people inside the car and the driver didn’t realize I was in a precarious situation. Even though the taxi didn’t stop, it enabled me to get some distance from the boys and I broke into a run. They ran after me, and fortunately a motorbike was driving towards me and when I waved for the driver to stop, he did. The boys started running away and the guy really kindly drove me back to where I was staying on his bike.
I am still not exactly fearful of crime in Mexico, but I certainly won’t be walking up that hill by myself in the dark again. And I was taught yet another lesson about the importance of kindness. If that motor cyclist hadn’t seen that something was wrong, if he had driven on instead of stopping to help me, if he hadn’t taken me back to safety I would have been screwed. That man will never read this blog, but a massive THANK YOU to him.