A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!


Visit Expedia…

Expedia is my favorite place to book airfare, and they handle hotels, car rentals, cruises, etc. I like the organization of the site for figuring out what flights I want. Click on the suitcase to take a look.

I was very pleased to win an award for this blog! Even better for you: click through for lists of all sorts of award-winning travel blogs.

Tripbase Blog Awards 2009

Tripbase Blog Awards 2009
The volcanic plug rises above the town of Bernal.
La Peña of Bernal

We didn’t plan to go there. We had never heard of Bernal or its rock.

But the brief description in our Lonely Planet Mexico was enticing. The guidebook said Bernal, in the Mexican state of Queretaro, had about 5,000 inhabitants and was a “cute little town with a thriving tourist trade. The attraction is a rocky peak called Peña de Bernal, a natural pyramid believed (by some at least) to impart a cosmic energy. It’s said that Bernal’s residents enjoy extraordinary longevity.”

When I read that, we were camped by a warm-water swimming pool near the town of Tequisquiapan, where we had been relaxing and writing after Teotihuacán. Bernal was only about a half-hour’s drive away, so off we went.

As we drove toward Bernal, I noticed a huge peak, a volcanic plug, sticking up from the surrounding hills. “Bet that’s it,” I guessed. “I’ll get a picture of it from here.” I took three photos out the window and then looked at the digital camera. The peak didn’t show in any of them. “Twilight zone time…” Kelly said.

There were several condominiums on the edge of town. This was not going to be a typical rural village. We pulled off the highway and found a nice flat parking place for Cando, then set out walking. We noticed immediately that the streets were exceptionally clean and that there were trash containers everywhere. The houses were prettier than average, and there was virtually no traffic. It was a Monday, and most Mexican tourists only travel on the weekends and during Semana Santa (Holy Week, the week before Easter) and a few other times.

Bernal is a clean town in the state of Queretaro, Mexico.
The streets of Bernal are unusually clean,
free of traffic (except on weekends), and pretty.

Some little walking streets led to a pretty central plaza. I wanted to ask some of the local people about the energy, and I was drawn to a shop right on the plaza, La Chicaroma, which sold mainly quartz, other minerals, and jewelry.

I went in, looked around a little, and asked the woman who was running the store if she could explain to me about the energy in the town. She used the plural, las energias, as she told me that they were calming, and that the heart of the rock contained amethyst crystals. She encouraged us to go up to the rock and feel it ourselves.

Ana in her shop with her grandchildren
Ana in her shop, with two of her grandchildren

We talked a while longer. I was following most of her Spanish, and it became clear that she was saying things like, “It is no accident that you are here.” I told her that I and many of my friends tended to think that way, but I had not encountered it in Mexico before. She smiled and assured me that many Mexicans also thought that way. She told me that the rock was a sacred place, and that many Mexicans and quite a few foreigners came to it. Every year on March 21, the Spring Equinox, thousands of people come, and there are ceremonies and conviviality throughout the town and on the rock. We were there in late February, and almost everyone we talked to urged us to come for the big event. We had to be home before then, though.

Kelly and I walked up to the base of the rock and had a good time climbing around a little. We sat down and felt the energies… hmm… Using our regular senses, we didn’t really notice anything, but when we used our intuitive processes, we felt that there could indeed be something to the stories. We felt that the way the rock stuck up, it brought a very slow-moving, calming energy welling up from the earth. The rock also seemed to be a kind of contact point for the vast creative forces of the cosmos. Both natural skeptics, we were a little taken aback by this experience, and concluded that we would just go with the flow here and see what happened.

There was a lookout building, seemingly run by the town, which offered tourist information, so I asked the man working there if he could tell me about the energies the rock was said to have. He seemed to stiffen a little at the word “energies” and told me that scientists had found that it was magnetism. La Peña is the third-largest volcanic plug in the world, after Gibraltar and the famous one in Rio de Janeiro. He said that the rock had a positive charge that had a beneficial effect on health and promoted relaxation. The charge did not affect radio communications, watches, or other things of that sort, but it was measurable.

He had something more to say, but I could not follow the subtleties of his Spanish enough to know if he was saying that people believe what they want to believe or that whatever you believed, that’s what you got from the rock. He added that the rock was popular with Mexican rock-climbers. There are said to be seven ways to climb it.

He also told us that we were welcome to camp overnight in the parking lot right there above the town, and we did for a couple of nights. Bernal had no RV facilities otherwise.

Energies or magnetism, everyone we talked to around town seemed to agree that Bernal was very tranquil. It seemed to us that we saw an unusual number of very elderly people out walking around, but maybe we were just noticing them because of the comment in the guidebook.

Kelly and I were beginning to get excited… in a calm sort of way, of course. This town was appealing to us as a possible place to spend more time in the future. I wondered if there were any Americans who lived here.

[Next: more conversations in Bernal, and some daydreams]

7 Responses to “The Magic of Bernal”

  • Wendy says:

    I enjoyed your article! When you were in Bernal did you notice a clean hotel or motel? We would like to stay over night.

    Thak you



  • Rosana says:

    Wendy, we were there in our motorhome and it’s been several years, but I do remember quite a nice place — name not remembered! — on the highway, plus some others around town. It’s a very clean town so chances are very good that most places would be. It is always acceptable to ask to see a room.

    Because it is a Mexican tourist destination, accomodations may be easier to get during the week.

  • Teresa says:

    I live in Cadereyta about 20 minutes from Bernal. We just went to Bernal this past weekend and enjoyed an entire day with our kids just blowing bubbles.

    It is a perfect place to visit, and just relax.

  • Rosana says:

    Thanks, Teresa! We went to Cadereyta when we lived in Bernal!

  • ashley says:

    hi my name is Ashley i recently moved bk to GA from Queretaro,Qro mexico and while i lived there for a short time i went to bernal with my family …I was very excited when i reached the point of being about 75 to 100 ft from the tip top .. im 15 and that was a great expearence…

  • Rosana says:

    That’s way further than I got, Ashley!

  • Marco Espinosa says:

    It's a very nice story. I live in mexico city but I have a house there for weekends. It's a real magic town and I love it!

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