CUERNABUS, THE CITY’S NEW TOURIST SERVICE
CuernaBus began its city tours April 11, 2017, after its inauguration April 10 for officials and VIPs. I was not invited but I was able to grab a seat on the upper deck of the 70-passenger bus on its first run for the general public. The one-hour-twenty-minute tour of Cuernavaca departs from the zócalo daily at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 5 pm, and 6:30 pm. This is a private service owned by Pullman de Morelos.
For the time being, you will find it parked in front of El Universal café where waiting passengers block the sidewalk and inhibit entry to the café. I imagine the parking spot will be moved to the larger space adjacent to the Cortés Palace when construction there is finished. The tours are gratis during this holiday season April 11- 23. The ticket vendor could not tell me what the charge will be after that period.
There is a módulo in the Plaza de Armas is just a few meters from where the bus is parked. Get there at least 15 minutes prior to departure to get your ticket. One boards the bus according to the number on the ticket. If you want to take photos you need to be on the upper deck so bring a sun hat and wear sunscreen. Someone with a parasol was asked to put it away since it blocked the view of other passengers.
The bus departs the zócalo punctually and heads north on Calle Morelos where traffic is almost always bumper to bumper in daylight hours. The Spanish-speaking guide points out sites of interest with (in my view as a former guide) minimal information. The loudspeaker is adequate if the street noise isn’t overbearing, but this can’t compare with the plug-in earphones with narration in multiple languages one enjoys on tour buses in large cities in the U.S. and Europe. There was no mention of the sensational Museo de Arte Indígena Contemporáneo, and the old Casino de la Selva was described five minutes before we passed the site.
You have to be very fast with your camera because the bus barely slows down and does not stop at sites like the entry to the Barranca Amanalco, Parque Melchor Ocampo, and Teopanzolco pyramid, probably because it is followed by heavy traffic with lots of impatient horn blowers.
On the upper deck, one gets a view of many homes and gardens behind the walls, not all of them attractive, some quite the opposite. One treat this time of year is a great view of all the flowering trees. On the other hand, many of the streets taken are over-grown with trees whose branches lashed the passengers and at times someone had to move forward and hold the larger branches up with a pole to prevent damage to the upper windshield.
Frankly, the bus is too large for the narrow streets of Cuernavaca. In several places it had to back up and turn off onto another street due to construction or inability to pass when cars were parked on both sides of the street. In justice to the driver, some of the blocked streets were open the previous day. But we were stuck in the hot sun unable to move for ten minutes on Calle Leyva with angry drivers lined up behind us. I suspect the narrow streets prevent it from passing the Casa Maximiliano/Jardin Botánico in Acapantzingo.
I had taken the smaller Tren Turístico years ago and enjoyed its ability to maneuver more easily on the narrow streets, and that vehicle was more charming albeit lacking the views afforded by the upper deck on the new bus. The earlier service also allowed for complete stops including a walk in the Barranca Amanalco and the Cathedral grounds. The new one keeps moving at as steady a pace as the traffic allows with no stops at all.
I suspect that outside of the heavy tourist seasons like Christmas and Holy Week, the company will attract only a fraction of the 70- passenger capacity. For now, many residents are likely to take interest in the new service, but it is not such a thrill that there will be many repeaters. This is a good way for newcomers to the city and tourists from outside Morelos to learn their way around the city and see its main features. Knowing Cuernavaca well I did not find this a very enjoyable ride, but I do recommend it to first-timers in the city and your visiting house guests.