Saturday, June 29, 2019

Weekend In Tequila - Tour And All

We left early Thursday morning meeting the group at the airport in Monterrey.  It was early as the flight left at 7:00 a.m.  Everyone was there on time and VivaAerobus makes sure you do that or you don't get on the flight.  

The airline is a super-discounter but they charge for every possible extra.  No printed boarding pass, that's $10 U.S., you want an assigned seat that's another 60 to90 pesos, 10kg of carry on includes your carry on and anything else you have in your hands.  Over that, without previously declaring will run you up to $50 U.S. plus the cost of the weight.  I was .2 kilos over my weight but they asked who I was traveling with and one person had less than the 10 kilos so they let me go.  We did pay for all of us to sit in two rows to reduce confusion.  Some are not very seasoned travelers so it was worth it.

We rented an AirBnb and we were on a group budget, but low-budget.  This place is low budget.  But it works for the two nights we will be here.  I'm going to report it to AirBnb when we get home.  We needed three bedrooms and at least two baths.  It works and we have had a meal or two prepared here at home.  Anything beats a hotel when you are traveling in a group because it's hard to communicate with each couple and make decisions.   We had a project in mind when coming anyway so the target was looking for birth and death documents.  We pretty much hit a dead-end but it helps to put some things to end and bring comfort.  

Several in the group have trouble walking long distances so we took a traditional tour.  The guide took us in a trolley to a tequila plantation, walked us through the agave and explained how the plant grows and produces the precious liquid for making tequila.  Then back to town for a tour of the town and historical places.  After, we picked up another group and we went to a distillery and toured the production, took pictures, toured the gardens and did quite a bit of tasting.   We were gone for over three hours and the tour was 150 pesos.   We started at 250 per person and we agreed for the group 150 pesos was a good deal.  It was! 

The town is really beautiful, well-maintained, good streets and sidewalks.  Lots of history, museums, and of course Tequila.  The production is controlled by the government although now there are only two producers that are still Mexican owned.  The Japanese bought one distillery and it is now a very commercial operation.

Tomorrow we head back to Guadalajara around noon to catch our 4:40 p.m. and when we get home we have a wedding to go to.  The wedding is our near our house so it will be fun and we won't be home too late.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Back Home - Where To Now?

As I had said, we were going to drive without stopping.   Well, we stopped many times along the way.  Friday afternoon I had the worst attack of food poisoning ever.  I don't know where it came from, what I ate or what I drank.   I almost gave in to stop and spend the night in Matehuala.  Taking turns driving we made it in less than 11 hours.  I haven't driven that much in over 40 years.  Today is Monday and it's early in the morning and I feel fine.  I thought it would never pass.  Update:  Looks like it could have been a flu virus going around.  Many people have or had the same symptoms in the last two weeks.

When I woke up it was already 30C inside the house.  We slept with the A/C on and will continue to do so at night.  The water in the pool is warm now and we aren't even in the month of July.  

We leave for Tequila on Thursday morning coming back Saturday afternoon.  I have things to do to the trailer should we decide to sell it.  

We are looking for a van now and getting estimates on importation as an option. I doubt I want to do a conversion in this heat.  We have three more trips before the end of July and we are looking forward to SMA sleeping in cool air not to mention very elegant accommodations. 

I've talked about what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I'm not really sure but I've had such a wonderful life and it has been relatively easy though it has taken lots of hard work and like any human being with its ups and downs.  I watched a couple of videos about the life of Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper from CNN and they were both born with gold (not silver) spoons in their mouths but they too have/had tough times.  No life is perfect except in the fact that you have one.  

I feel I need to do something humanitarian.  I never had kids although I've always wanted some.  They never had to be my own because I've never believed in that.  Any child can be your child.  Giving someone an opportunity, sharing your knowledge, giving a hand to those who have less and sharing with them things that will improve their lives.  My dream has always been to help those that I see on a daily basis everywhere I've been, be it in Mexico, the U.S. or Central/South America who suffer from maladies such as a badly repaired cleft palate, a lazy eye, dental problems that keep young men and women from building their self-esteem and character.  It doesn't cost a lot, I'm not looking for fame, but give someone that hand they need to move past those difficulties that society sees as a detriment.   If I'm lucky I may have another 25 years on the planet and want to leave knowing I wasn't being selfish.  I've seen that in so many retired rvers over the years.  They just pass the rest of their life sitting on their laurels and some even say, "to heck with everyone else, I've earned it and I deserve it".   Human beings weren't made that way unless it is an illusion and as the famous Mexican song says, "la vida no vale nada".  (Life has no worth).  Let's hope not.

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Time Has Come - Heading Home

I can't believe the six weeks went by so quickly.   It was fun, relaxing and gave me time to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I'm not interested in flying to the Moon until they rv shuttles and I really don't care to skydive, climb Mt. Everest or do something that would jeopardize my 62 years.

We're going to try and make it home in one day because there are so many things to do before we leave for Tequila on Thursday.  The heat is currently in the "off the radar mode" so a few days here and a few days there will make it bearable. 

We're going to miss the dogs.  They were fun but the last week we have been weaning ourselves and them off of the friendship as they will not have access to the house but stay in the barn at night and roam around during the day.  The worker loves dogs so I'm sure they will be okay.

More later.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

I Really Wanted It - He Wouldn't Budge

We just took a drive into town to take a couple of pictures before we go on Saturday.  One more round of the place and there it was.   This old Class B has been turned into an ice cream truck.  The only change was that the furniture and appliances were removed and he installed a freezer.  The original rv lights and wiring are still intact and the space for the water heater is accessible but I don't know if the heater is still there.  

It's in excellent condition and I asked the guy if he would be willing to sell it and he refused.  I even offered to negotiate a price but he wasn´t interested.  A real jewel in the rough.

I have been studying diligently on how to do a conversion.   There are a few high top vans around Monterrey but I want the extended version like the one above (Dodge) or the Ford Econoline extended version.  When we get home I need to see how much a fiberglass top would be and the installation.  

I bet he would have taken $1500.  A very nice guy and I even stopped by a second time but no go.

Monday, June 17, 2019

What's Behind The Wall? - TzinTzunTzan

 We took a drive to another small town near Pátzcuaro, TzinTzunTzan.  The town is typically small, many indigenous people with their stands selling artisan works, and Mexican pottery.  There is a ruin as you enter the town.  It has a museum, theater, and the ruins.  The only thing is, you have to pay to use your camera.  It's not expensive, but it's the idea.  60 pesos to enter and 45 pesos to use a camera.  They have senior and teacher rates at half price but the guy wouldn't accept our IDs.   Mexico now has a senior ID called INSEN and we just haven't gotten ours.  That's what we will do when we get home next week.  He then offered two for one and we should have taken it but this is a government installation maintained by INAH (National Institute of Archeology and History).  We left and headed to the town.

This is the scenic route that you will find typically here in this area.  The roads are in very good condition and I wouldn't hesitate to rv around here.  

I had taken the time to check online for things to do in TzinTzunTzan but only came up with the ruins.  I was bored with knick-knacks and wanted something more.  We asked where the church was and we were directed to this giant wall.  My first thought, boy those religious folk really knew how to take advantage of the locals.  Here I am at the entrance knowing I would find a church inside.

I wasn't expecting this.  

Atrio de los Olivos (The Olive Tree Atrium) is an ex-Franciscan convent located in the heart of TzinTzunTzan here in Michoacan.   It was founded by the Franciscan Friar Jacobo Daciano in the early 16th century (1525).  You can only imagine what he found upon his arrival.   He started with just a small one-room house made out of adobe and thatched roof and over the next 30 years the convent or monastery was built.   Embedded in the walls are Purepecha petroglyphs carved out of basalt.  The convent was adopted by a group called Adopte Una Obra de Arte (Adopt A Work of Art) and reconstruction or remodeling was started in 2002.  Truly amazing how the grounds and structures have been so well-preserved over the years.

The Purapecha natives who inhabited this area of Michoacan were slowly converted to Christianity and boys 12 to 15 were recruited for a year to see if they were able to convert to the life of a monk.  As most orders in the day, the monks were dedicated to prayer, work, and silence.   The walls are covered in original murals and trim decorated with figures of angels, demons, flowers, and plants.  I’m sure they were enthusiastic to pick up a brush and paint, how else could you maintain silence for such long periods? 

Olive trees were planted here in the 16th century and some still survive today.  The atrium is dotted with trunks as well as the constantly sprouting offshoots.  Incredible.  You can see just how big the trees were.

A funny thing happened.  As we toured the convent, we saw a door open leading to the church.  We ducked inside and found a beautiful hand-painted ceiling.  We walked around the pews and all of a sudden this old woman who had a holy card stand in the church, starting yelling at us to leave saying we had no right come through the door.  She had left the door open when she left to go to the bathroom.  I reported her only because she shook her finger at me.  NOBODY shakes their finger at me.  

As you approach the convent there is an open altar.  Jacobo Daciano said mass on this altar.  Hard to wrap your head around history sometimes.  I doubt my blog will be around in 200 years 😎

The first thing you see as you walk in are murals.  Some of them are dated and go back to 1603.  

The hallways around the courtyard are filled with murals and religious motifs.  It is an art museum in itself.

This is the dining room where the monks had their meals while a lector would speak to them about the glorification of God and how to be a good monk.  No more comments.

At the entrance to the dining room are the washing areas.  Water ran down into bowls that had a drain to the edge where the gray water would run into buckets.  There is a square on the bottom left.  This is one of the 42 Purepecha basalt carvings that are embedded throughout the convent.

The interior hallways are a labyrinth of dormitories and small rooms.   We had the opportunity to peek into one of them that was empty.   

Imagine living in such small quarters with just one window, dark at night maybe with just a candle. Fun but a bit creepy.

There are some informational plaques in both Spanish and English but it doesn't tell much of the history online.  I asked the girl that manages the front desk if there was a guide because we would like to return.  There isn't.   I want to learn more about this place and we still have a few days.  I am trying to reach someone at the city offices in the town that could guide me to someone.  That would be worth paying for.

And this is how we end our days here on the ranch!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Day Trip - Capula, Home of the Catrina

I'm being lazy lately by not posting all of our day trips.  On Wednesday we drove to Capula.  Capula is 60 km from Santa Clara and 30 km from Morelia.  Funny, we haven't been to Morelia on this trip although we have been there many times.  

Capula is home to the famous Catrina calavera (skeleton) art.  Jose Guadalupe Posada was a satirical cartoonist from the late 19th century who died a pauper in 1913.  Although he was well-known for his political cartoons using the skeleton image of politicians he was forgotten in his last years.  

The town of Capula dedicates itself to creating statues of famous people, professions of all types, as well as continuing the tradition of political figures.   

As always, our first stop was the town square and the church.  I know that the past wasn't in black and white but it helps me to capture the feeling of what things may have been like at that time.  After all, everything we have seen from the past in photography has been in black and white including most of my favorite movies.  

The churchyard is quite large and has a certain air about it.  There was just one kid there on his cell phone but it makes a great place to take a nap.   Surrounded by high walls there is very little street noise inside.

The first shop we entered had a wonderful display and if you should go there they are in the main square with the signage up above of the word Capula.  Excellent quality, a bit high on price but we didn't see anything else that quite met the artist standard they acheive.  

All of the work is done by hand.   I was surprised thinking that they purchase some of the work from a factory or at least the clay figures and then paint them.  They really work hard and do an incredible job.  I'm sorry we didn't buy one but no more "stuff" in the house.  They also do some very good dishware that is sold individually and in sets, and I am not talking about the traditional brown-fired clay but very colorful and tasteful pieces (not like talavera).  I'm sorry I didn't get a picture but I may have one from a store in Patzcuaro. 

Every year they sponsor the Feria de Catrina which, obviously, is held during the end of October through the middle of November.   They say the streets are filled with vendors selling all of these fantastically beautiful pieces.   There are murals on the outside walls of the shops that depict various scenes of catrinas.

Oops, I guess this sourpuss mug was confused with one of the murals although there is still too much meat on the bones. 

The new town square.

 We had a wonderful day and of course, we had lunch there.  This is a very small town of only 5000 people so we only found two food vendors on the street.   The one restaurant that was recommended to us was closed for the day.   We each had a tlayuda for lunch and split a soda for 50 pesos, $2.50 U.S.  The drive from Santa Clara is truly scenic and we enjoyed it quite a bit.   Lots of lush green fields with cows and horses along the road, people working the fields and kids coming and going from school.  

Yesterday we took a drive to Tzintzuntzan.   We weren't expecting much as we haven't found much information on the internet regarding the town.  They do have some ruins that have been reconstructed from over 1000 years ago but there is a hidden jewel I will share with you if haven't seen it.  That's coming up.

This is the house we have been sitting here on the ranch.  We have enjoyed it immensely and our stay is coming to an end.  We have one more week and hope to take advantage of it.   We will miss the dogs as they have loved our attention as much as we have theirs.  

Once we're gone there are some things I want to share that were good and some not so good about the areas we have explored.  I shouldn't say not so good but disappointing to some degree.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The White Elephant Has Appeared

Please read the following.  

If you’ve ever flown in or out of the Mexico City airport, you are familiar with the cramped, overcrowded terminals, the lack of runways, hangars, and space in general.  The airport sits in the middle of the city and you fly directly over skyscrapers.   Fortunately, there has only been one accident in the last 50 years, a Western Airlines flight from Dallas aircraft plowed into several buildings after taking the wrong runway which was under repairs.

Aeromexico has its own terminal that is less than 10 years old and the original terminal, which includes international flights was first establish in 1911 and has continued to expand on the same site to a size which now includes 26 national and international airlines as well as 15 cargo carriers.  Last year alone, 47,000,000 passengers passed through the 74 gates and over 500,000 tons of cargo.

A new plan was developed to build a new airport outside of the city in Texcoco relieving traffic conditions on both city streets and airport runways Nuevo Aeropuerto Internacional de Mexico (NAIM).  There are only two air strips in the current airport and at peak hours it is said there are a takeoff and landing every 30 seconds.

The new plan included room for expansion, reduced noise and air pollution with a train service that would take passengers into the city at low cost or no cost.  The actual construction was started three years ago and 78% of the foundations have been laid. 

Now the trouble begins.  Our new illustrious president and his 4th Transformation (the Mexican Revolution was the 3rd) decided the airport would cost too much and he now wants to turn a nearby Air Force base into the new airport in conjunction with airports in Toluca, Puebla, and Queretaro.   Sounds like an interesting plan but one that was developed in only a few months and will be built by the military (Yikes).  Three private construction firms that met the president’s guidelines all refused to take on the project for obvious reasons.

First and foremost is the cost of the current construction.  5 billion dollars (U.S.) has already been spent on the construction of NAIM plus another 4 billion dollars (U.S.) to demolish the foundations and pay out the contracts that were signed and promised by the government.  The new addition to the Air Force base will cost upwards of 4 billion dollars (U.S.) bringing the total to almost 14 billion dollars (U.S.).  

The president says that the new plan will eliminate corruption and bring things under the control of the government and help the poor.   The reason the new airport was under construction was to allow for increased investment in Mexico, create a true working airline hub that would last into 2050 with plans for expansion beyond that date.  In reality, it is retribution for all the years that the president ran for office and was held down and out of the process by major political parties.   There are now 147 lawsuits from construction firms, the 42,000 workers involved in the project, suppliers of materials, food trucks, the landowners who lost their homes (although paid at fair market value) under eminent domain pending in the tribunal courts of Mexico.

As of last, there has been a change of plan. The airport (NAIM) under construction at Texcoco will now be flooded and made into a lake instead of spending the money for demolition.   Imagine, now there will the cost of creating a lake added to all of the above.  

Also, the new plan at the Air Force base has run into legal issues as the Mexican supreme court issued a stay claiming that the environmental impact studies have yet to be done, and that there is a mountain at the end of the runway which obviously will present problems. 

Socialism at its best, as Aunt Bee once said as she ran for council ship, “if it is the will of the people, it shall be done”.  Unfortunately,  people never had a say in this one.

As of this writing, Mexico has lost over 200,000 jobs in the first six months of this year.  The airport construction made up almost 25% of those jobs lost.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Janitzio - The Rest of the Story

Things didn't turn out as planned.  We had come home Thursday afternoon and the car started acting up.  We were in Opopeo, about 20 minutes from the ranch when the car started stalling and the EPC and check engine light came on.   We made it home but found a mechanic in Páztcuaro who would take us in on Friday morning early.   

So, Friday morning we ditched the gym and headed for Pátzcuaro.  There were no lights on and it ran fine.   We stopped at the Autozone first to have them do a scan and the one possibility was a dirty air intake.  There is a video on Youtube that shows how to clean it, in fact several, but the guy at the Autozone didn't recommend it.  This happened in 2008 when we had the Pathfinder (great SUV that hauled our first Funfinder and we sold it with over 465,000 km on the odometer) and the MAF sensor went out.  Very expensive to fix but we found the part cheap and it ran forever after.   

The mechanic cleaned the intake as I had seen in the video and we took off.  Ran great for a few miles and we were back again.   One of the diagnostic results from the scan was the ignition coil.  Sure enough, that's what it was and we spent most of the afternoon farting around waiting on parts from Morelia.

Saturday we kicked back and did some odds and ends around the house so that Sunday we could return to Janitzio.   Which we did.

For starters, the name Janitzio means flor de trigo y maiz (wheat and corn flower).  The island is one of five that covers the lake which is 50 by 30 km, about half the size of Lake Chapala.   Like most areas of the world where people trample the land, the lake has suffered deforestation of the surrounding pines and that in turn has affected the water levels, water quality as well as the wildlife.  The lake is home to over 200 species of birds and 10 distinct types of fish.

While we were on the docks the other day, we stopped for a cold beer (I didn't but he did, as you know, I don't drink during the day).  We were talking to the woman in charge of cooking in front of the restaurant.  I saw shrimp on the menu and I thought that sounded suspicious.  Her response was that the lake was salt water and the shrimp came from the lake.   Did I fall off of the turnip truck or what?

The lake is famous though for a small three-inch fish called a charal, that may look like a type of sardine.   There is an expression, como un charal which in English means, "as thin as a rake".   Everyone sells them and the lake abounds in Charal.  They are served lightly breaded and in a cup with lime juice.   I don't eat heads or feet meaning tails for that matter so I wouldn't even try it.  But, everyone had a cup in hand and downed them with a cold beer.

Imagine during Semana Santa and Día de Los Muertos, all of these boats are on the lake taking up to 90 passengers at a time to the island.  I was really more interested in the other four islands as Janitzio, although interesting, is a tourist trap.

A little background about the monument.   As you are well aware, we are stuck on the Mexican Revolution.  We eat it, play it, pray it and live by it.  That said, it has been killing Mexico since it ended in 1917.   I have proof and I will be sharing that will all of you in the next week.  Lazaro Cardenas, the eighth president after the revolution, made the decision to build the monument.  Work was started on it in 1933.   All the materials, mostly masoned stone, came from the mainland.

The charal fishermen use the same nets as they did over 1000 years ago.  I stated in an earlier blog post that the canoes were honed from a wood trunk.  Very few are and the one I posted is, but now most are made of a fiberglass material but maintain the same shape and dimensions.  The nets can be seen in historical drawings, paintings and photographs from the early 20th century showing the use of the nets.

Sesi janongue means "welcome" in Purepecha.  You hear just about everyone speaking their native language on the island.  Truly amazing to listen to.

The tourist area at the docks on the island side that are truly very good and highly recommended.  The prices are high and we opted for something more local which you will see in a minute.

The cemetery that, during Día de Los Muertos, can be seen from the mainland lit up with candles, lights and of course, lots of flowers.

The interior of the monument documents the life of Morelos.  As you can see in the following pictures, I was busy reading each one as people ran by to get to the top for a photo op.  So much history and no one seems to be interested not knowing that this is what has shaped us into who we are today be it good or bad.

A shot of the lake from up above.  I forgot to mention that the statue is 53 meters high, or about 160 feet.  

Every good Mexican community has a church.  This church on the island dates back to 1822.  I like visiting churches, they are a place of serenity, tranquility, and peace.  A great place to meditate, take a break, or even a short snooze no disrespect intended.  A lot of nostalgia as a Catholic kid growing up, the smell of incense, pageantry, and mystery. 

Now we're down to the nitty gritty.   The restuarants you saw earlier on the docks have meals from 120 to 280 pesos, $12 to $15 U.S.   These two meals below cost us 50 pesos each and well worth it.  Prepared by locals, homemade tortillas, and the best beans every.  The chile relleno Juan had was one of the most memorable ever.   

There are different routes to the top of the island.   We chose the local route which happens to be one of the easier yet still difficult walks.  You get a chance to see what life on the island is like even though almost everyone is involved in tourism.  Unfortunately, most of the items for sale are purchased from somewhere else and not made locally.  Great souvenirs from the island but not for me.

There is music on each of the boats.  This was a group of five and this older gentleman was the lead singer.  It made me a bit sad, he stopped for a while and put his head in his lap for a quick 10-minute nap.   Not knowing his past, he is a very, very good singer, exceptional.   He looked tired and worn out, and most likely, never went to school, defied the rules and this was his path in life.  Wish I had a million to give him.  Not sure where Mexico is going, but the world is passing us by.  You will be seeing a short political commentary by me this week that I think is a must read.