If you want to get out of Guadalajara for the day, the Tequila Express train tour is an easy one-day trip through Mexico`s most famous traditions: Mariachi, traditional local cuisine, folkloric dancing, charreria (Mexican rodeo) and, of course, tequila.
As one of the mariachis, Jesus Gonzalez, explains: “It´s all about the tequila, the mariachi, the folklore, being happy and looking at the stunning landscapes.” (See the video here.)
The tour, sponsored by the National Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism of Guadalajara kicks off early at around 9 a.m. at the train station in Guadalajara. The mariachi group suddenly breaks into song for the awaiting passengers, a diverse group of about 200 people. Most are Mexican, including a group from one of Mexico’s largest adhesive-manufacturing companies, while others are from all over the world.
“We`ve come from all over Mexico, we`re the sales team,” says Alejandra Gomez from Morelia, invited by the company as a team-building exercise. “It’s a great motivator,” he says.
As the train leaves for the 90-minute, 60 kilometer (36 mile) ride to the Casa Herradura distillery in Amatitán, drinks are handed out and the mariachi group makes its way through the carriages. The unkempt outskirts of Guadalajara soon change into rugged countryside. Then, about 45 minutes into the journey, the blue agave plants from which tequila is made flash by with increasing frequency and eventually dominate the landscape.
Once at the distillery, a tour guide (English-speaking if required) gives an up-close look at the l factory that now produces tequila in huge vats, and then takes the group back in time to show the rudimentary ways the Mexican firewater was made in years gone by. In a dark, dungeon-like room the guide points out a pit with a big circular stone in the middle. Here, a donkey would drag around the stone which would crush the central “heart” of the agave plant and force the liquid from it. One part of the process that has not changed: workers still harvest by hand with the use of a simple tool.
After the 90 minute tour a buffet featuring traditional local cuisine is a welcome rest, especially after being out in the sun for a while. Drinks flow as the mariachi group is joined by ranchero singers, folkloric dancers and even members of the audience.
Back on the train ride home, you get the feeling that there will be a few sore heads the following morning. The Mexicans belt out the famous mariachi songs with all their force, while foreigners look on amazed at the passion.
Lonnie Richardson, an American living in Guadalajara and working in the electronics industry, took his wife and in-laws on the trip and was impressed. Richardson says he would also consider bringing clients. “It`s a great atmosphere, a good place to bring people and I`d definitely recommend it for my business,” says Richardson, who has lived in Guadalajara for one year.
For further information and schedules, or to purchase a ticket, visit the train’s Web site. A 1,200 pesos (103 $USD) ticket includes all food, drinks and entertainment.