It didn’t take long after my arrival in San Miguel to realize I was in hiking withdrawal. After a couple of walks all the way across town to the Mega Supermarket “just to have some place to go,” I realized the cobblestone streets of Centro Historico were not going to be enough to satiate my need for perpetual motion that had plagued me since retirement in October. I still seemed to be suffering from “restless leg syndrome.”
I learned about the San Miguel Sunday Hiking Club from an email exchange with one of my blog followers (Thanks, Les!) The club meets every Sunday morning at 7:45am at the Pemex fuel station on the Ancha San Antonio. This would be an unholy hour regardless of my need to commute 45 minutes across town just to reach the Pemex. But I made it to the hike early each week in spite of the 6:15am wake-up call, still a half an hour before sunrise. This should be an indication of how badly I needed a hiking fix!
The 45 minute walk across San Miguel at early morning light was almost as redeeming as the hikes themselves. Rare is the hour when one can walk down the narrow sidewalks without having to constantly give way to oncoming foot traffic. But at this hour, not only is there no foot traffic, it is rare to see a car on the streets…just the occasional taxi cab.
The streets take on an entirely different ambiance when one does not have to jockey for position on the sidewalk between the iPhone-wielding tourists and the oncoming buses, carts, and trucks all playing a game of “chicken” through the intersections. The polished cobblestones gleam at the first light of sun rays, as warm tones reflect off the golden ochre, sienna and russet stucco walls. The only sounds that can be heard are the slow, steady wisps of the brooms from the street sweeper people as they whisk away remnants of the festivities from the night before. And if the wind is just right, the dragon’s roar of hot air balloons can usually be heard in the distance.
It was with some trepidation that I approached the group of hikers huddled near the Pemex. It’s not easy approaching a group of strangers, asking to be invited to join their weekly event. I was not sure what to expect, whether the “hike” would be just a walking tour around town, or even to the nearby botanical garden. So I was somewhat relieved to see packs, hiking shoes and poles. This told me that these were serious hikers, out for more than just a Sunday morning stroll.
News starts to filter through the growing crowd as to what destination has been chosen for today’s hike, and how far the commute. As the eight o’clock hour approaches, people begin to look around nervously counting heads to see how many hikers versus seats in cars that have shown up. We will be carpooling, and there is a risk of more riders than rides. While waiting on the group to assemble, I have made friends with an Aussie woman from Canada who instructs me, “Get your butt in a seat quickly, so you don’t get left behind.”
I never got left behind, thankfully. Each hike was a fascinating journey in its own right. From the obstacle course of hurdling stone, barbed wire, iron, and tree-limb fences of Rancho Tovares, to the groomed loop trail of La Joya Parque Ecológico, there was always varied terrain, flora, and culture of the local villages to provide interest. In addition to the local color, each of the hikers had their own story to tell, all with a mutual passion for travel.
I hiked with this group every Sunday, and I must say it was the highlight of my three weeks in San Miguel. It was such a treat to get out of town for a few hours and see some of the countryside. I am appreciative of this experience, as I not only got to travel to some areas I would have never seen otherwise, but I also met some very nice people from all corners of the globe…Australia, Lebanon, Spain, Canada, the UK….all brought together by the mutual love for one cool, colorful, colonial town.