Thursday, November 1, 2007

Car Trip 16

Tuesday morning arrived and we enjoyed an early breakfast in the hotel and then out to the street. We were looking for a "collectivo", which is usually a VW van that carries passengers. Like a mini bus. We found the bus stop and got on the one that would take us to our destination, the Anthropology Museum.

This museum has the best collection of Olmec artifacts in all of Mexico. After spending several hours looking at stone statues, stone toys, stone faces, stone this and some more stone that, I was beginning to feel about the Olmecs what I feel for Mayan ruins. I don’t care if I ever see another pile of rock walls or Olmec statuary again! That said, I must make it clear that it was interesting. It was just overkill and one can quickly OD on a museum that is totally devoted to one subject.

After the museum, we decided that we could walk to our next attraction. The official name of where we were going is Parque Ecologico Macuiltepetl. I call it the Volcano Hill from Hell. The book said it was about a 200 yard walk from the Museum so we decided to walk this short distance. Unfortunately, it was 200 yards of another uphill climb! I would like to meet the person who measured the distance too. I think he really underestimated the distance! It was on this walk that we passed a shop with the TV on and we learned that the Pope had died. Anyway, this dead volcano on the edge of town is now covered with a dense forest and has a path that spirals its' way around and around, ever up and up to the top of the volcano. More uphill!

B and I were quickly getting pooped but kept putting one foot in front of the other until we reached the top. Or close to the top. There was a set of steps going up the final bit to an observation tower on the top of the volcano. B decided to wait at the base of the steps and L and I headed up. I wanted to climb that tower and get some pictures of the what I thought would be a great vista. I don’t know how many steps there were, but it was a lot and they were all unlevel. Upon reaching the top, we then had to negotiate the winding staircase that went up the tower. That done, I emerged out onto the observation level and took a look around. I was very disappointed to say the least. The view from our hotel window was almost better. No attempt had been made to clear the trees that had grown up over the years around the tower. So we got a nice, good, close up look at a bunch of trees! All that climbing for this? I guess not every adventure has a happy ending!

We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and went to lunch. Xalapa also has an abundance of little restaurants, specializing in "comida del dia", or meal of the day, specials. We chose one and had a great, filling meal of bread, soup, main course, dessert and coffee for only $2.50 each! I was feeling quite full and wanted a siesta rather than another activity. But the afternoon was to be devoted to the Science Museum. I was sure it was going to be a boring waste of time anyway.

I was in for a quite a surprise. The Science Museum was something else. It was great, hands-on fun exhibits. There were three that I particularly enjoyed. The first was a digital beach volleyball court. This virtual volleyball would be hit over the net to you and you had to hit it back. Just like the real thing except you were reacting to pictures on a screen. I got hit on the head three times in a row and it was game over. I was a little ticked off. Next up, L. First serve to him, he hits it back. The virtual teams lobs over an answer. Whack! L hits it back. Crowd roars. So on and so on until L got 21 points and beat the virtual team! In fact, his final score was in the top 3 all time scores! I think his head must be smaller than mine and not such an easy target! (well, until he got his name on the scoreboard, then it swelled considerably!)

The second was a bed, similar to the examination table in a doctors office. But this one was full of tiny holes and made out of metal. With more than a little trepidation, I lay myself down on this bed. The attendant pushed a button and the bed frame started to descend. And then I started to feel the nails. Lots of nails. Lots of sharp nails. Because my weight was evenly distributed on the bed, the nails did not pierce or break the skin. But they sure did poke into it! I could feel them poking into my back, the back of my head, the back of my legs, the back of everything. The attendant pushed a button again and the bed frame rose again, in effect covering the nails and leaving me again on the plain metal frame. I got up and looked at myself. Indeed, I did have dozens and dozens of tiny indentations in my skin, caused by the sharp ends of the nails. But nowhere was the skin actually pierced. The whole thing was worth it because now I can say I have lain myself down on a bed of nails!

The third thing I liked was simple bubbles. Like the kind you can buy in a jar and take that stick with a hole in it and blow on it and make bubbles. Except these were done in large scale. It was great fun to make these huge bubbles, the size of basketballs, and then catch and hold them. Oh, the simple joys of being a child again! One part I really, really liked was they had you stand in the middle of a circle, surrounded by a moat of bubble soap. Two guys then raised this ring up and around you, completely enclosing you inside the bubble! It was great!

We also took advantage of watching the IMAX 3D presentation of "T-Rex, Era of Crustecea". We were the only three people in the theater! What a bad, bad production. If it ever comes to an IMAX near you, give it a miss.

We grabbed a taxi back to the hotel from there. I noticed that the driver had a bag of suckers in the front. Passenger treats I assumed. I told him that I had been a good boy and he laughed and passed me back a sucker. He also gave one to B and L, and they didn’t even have to state whether they had been good or not!

Later we went to dinner, looked at and admired the lights of the city all over the hills and went for a cup of coffee. All in all, a very good day.

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