Mexico & New Zealand - 2019/20

December 2019 - March 2020
From the known to the unknown. Read more
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  • Background Info about our Winter Trips

    December 9, 2019 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 5 °C

    Fergus, Ontario, Canada

    Each of our travel blogs have included an introduction similar to the one below with a new add-on at the bottom regarding new plans. This introduction has been growing and growing but I like to keep this going as a summary of our life’s major adventures. This year's winter trip is number 15.

    Here's how we caught the travel bug...

    In 1999, after taking a one year leave of absence from our teaching jobs, selling our house and purging most of what we owned, Chris and I packed our bags into a van and headed to Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, to teach English to Mexican students. Our youngest daughter Caitlin had already left home to perform for a year with a traveling group called Up With People. Our other daughter, Amy had studied Spanish at school, so she traveled to Mexico with us, helping us navigate our way to Zamora. Shortly after we got to our destination, she flew home and started her 3rd year of university. She lived in a townhouse, with two other students, that we had purchased to store 1 roomful of our valuables and to have a place to 'come home to' when we returned. During that year that we taught in Mexico, we fell in love with its daily blue skies and sun, and the latino lifestyle. We promised ourselves, that in our retirement we would return.

    Four years later, after retiring from teaching, we went back to Mexico. We spent four months on the shores of Lake Chapala in Mexico, in a beautiful house where we made lots of wonderful friends.

    The second year we backpacked through Central America from Guatemala to Panama taking a puppet theatre and puppets with us.

    The third year we focused on learning more about the Mayan culture by spending a month in the Yucatan Peninsula, a month in Guatemala, a month backpacking from San Cristobal, in the Chiapas, up the Pacific coast of Mexico to Puerto Vallarta. Along the way, we had several visits with friends. Finally, we ended up once more in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, where we stayed for a month.

    The fifth year, we felt that we wanted to venture a little further south so we did something a little different. We headed to South America following a three week layover in Guatemala where we spent Christmas and New Year's eve with our daughters and one of our future son-in-laws. We took and distributed 300 pairs of reading glasses, continued to learn Spanish and volunteered for two organizations in needy communities in both Guatemala and Ecuador. We helped to paint a huge mural on the side of a coliseum with artist, Susan Shanley. The highlight of our trip was the creation of a Grand Circus of Puppets which was performed by all the children in a Biblioteca (library), as well as 25 volunteers, in Banos, Ecuador.

    Year Six was a favourite of ours. We spent a month in Peru, three months in Bolivia and then returned to Peru to see Machu Picchu. Because we had enjoyed volunteering in the Arte del Mundo library in Ecuador the previous year, we looked for another library to help out in Bolivia. We were able to find another wonderful, non-profit organization called Biblioworks, based in the capital city of Sucre.

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    The North Carolina group who runs this project provides disadvantaged Bolivian communities, in the vicinity of Sucre, with access to books and learning materials. Since 2005, they have been able to build 12 community libraries, support teachers and students, and put countless books in the hands of adults in both North and South America. The eighth library opened when we were there and we took part in an exciting inauguration with our amazing 'boss' from South Carolina, Matt Lynn. What a wonderful organization.

    Our very good friends, Pat and Gail, who we met in Mexico in 1999/2000, joined us in February and March. Due to the generosity of many of our good Ontario friends, we took down 6 puppets which were used in a puppet show, puppet-making workshop materials (so that 200 children can make simple rod puppets), an educational parachute for games, and 200 pairs of
    reading glasses. Four classes at Greensville Public School, near Dundas, Ontario, prepared artwork which we took to Bolivia as part of an art exchange. Fun!

    The next three years were spent back in Mexico. Year Seven was in Ajijic, helping at the Tepehua Community Centre. A fantastic lady, Moonyeen King, was trying to help out the extremely poor people in this part of Chapala by forming a centre where people could eat a hot meal and have a shower once a week, get medical aid and feel that they were part of a community. We helped out by distributing food, playing with the kids, performed a Xmas puppet show and organized the painting of a huge mural on the side of the building, once again led by artist, Susan Shanley. We also travelled to the beautiful Sierra Gorda where we met two very special people, Margarita and Juan, as well as a traveling group of puppeteers. Two hundred pairs of reading glasses were also distributed.

    Year Eight saw us in Queretaro, Mexico - a beautiful old city, just on the west side of Mexico City. There we studied more Spanish and helped out a young puppeteer, Diego Ugalde. Once again we traveled into the amazing Sierra Gorda and then went north to ride the El Chepe train in the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.

    Year Nine. Back to Mexico, but this time in a city south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca. We stayed in a lovely house with beautiful gardens, hidden behind high walls. We started this trip by flying to Manzanillo and spending a week on the ocean with our friends, Pat and Gail. Then off to Cuernavaca where they joined us for a week. We flew to Puerto Escondido for Chris' birthday and saw our friend from Panama, Scott, as well as cottage neighbours, Dale and Michelle. We helped out a young artist who was setting up a business in Cuernavaca. From him we learned how to make traditional Papel Piedra dolls. In March, we flew to Los Angeles and did something that we have never done before. We rented an ESCAPE campervan for a month and camped through South California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Fabulous!

    Year Ten had a big change... Where did we go, and why? Well, I happened to read a blog entry entitled, "Ten Reasons You Should visit Namibia" by fellow Canadian travelers, Kevin and Ruth, and I was hooked.…

    I easily convinced Chris, and without much effort, in the way of coaxing, enticed our friends, Pat and Gail, to join us in Windhoek, Namibia? We went off on a camping safari trip extraordinaire in Namibia and Botswana! Of course, we took puppets for a travelling puppet show, ukuleles and a parachute to give away to a needy community. Pat and Gail flew home in February and we had a few weeks to kill so flew to Capetown, South Africa, where we rented a car and drove a couple of thousand kilometers along the beautiful Indian Ocean coast staying in guesthouses along the way.

    After that amazing trip, we had to rethink where we would like to spend a winter and we came up with a crazy plan.

    When we were in Ecuador, we heard stories from travellers about the thrill of sailing through the San Blas Islands in Panama and the rugged beauty of Colombia.

    So Year Eleven in 2015, was the year that we saw for ourselves what others have been talking about. But Colombia wasn't the only place we visited. The Yucatan and Cuba were also in the picture!

    President Obama recently made the decision to allow Americans to legally visit Cuba and we know that major changes will take place. We wanted to see the real Cuba before those changes took place. It was an eye-opener.

    So, as we ask ourselves every summer, "Where will we spend our winter this year?".

    We are in good shape, physically, and are still up for some adventure so for Year Twelve in 2016, we decided to go back to Colombia and see some of the beautiful areas that we did not get a chance to see on last year's trip. The difference will be that we will meet up with our good friends Pat and Gail and do some parts of this trip together. Ahhh, more Colombian coffee, birds plus the Amazon and good times with our travelling friends.

    Year Thirteen, 2017. We have missed visiting Mexico but still want to continue heading south in South America. So this year, we will spend a month in Uruguay (and a few days in Buenos Aires) and then fly to Mexico City. We have rented a beautiful house for 3 months in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Dear Texan friends live there. We haven’t seen them for at least ten years. It will be a wonderful reunion. Pat and Gail may also come down for a visit and we hope our daughters will have the time to come down too. (These plans sadly didn’t happen.)

    Year Fourteen, 2018/19. A big change in plans this year. We are heading to Portugal! Not just the mainland, but also to the lovely islands of Madeira and several of the Azore Islands. In fact, our daughters and their families have already bought their plane tickets to Sao Miguel in the Azores and will be joining us during the March Break. What fun we will have!

    Year Fifteen, 2019/20. Back to Mexico where we will spend Christmas and New Years close to Puerto Vallarta, in the tiny mountain village of Mascota, then three weeks with our travelling buddies from Bellingham, Washington, Pat and Gail, in the Pacific beach village of Chacala. But that’s not all. At the end of January, we will fly to New Zealand for an action-packed, two month road trip. A great place to travel for Chris’ 70th!

    P.S. We are contemplating a trip to Mongolia ....

    NOTE: The blog will be written and left in draft form. The way that you see it, is the way it was written.
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  • Writing this Blog

    December 9, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C

    Welcome to our 2019/20 travel blog. No photos yet, but there will be, soon enough.

    As we are doing so much travelling, in the time we are away, we plan on making two books - one for our 6 weeks in Mexico and another for our 2 months in New Zealand.

    During the next few months, Chris and I will try to post entries and photos on this NEWish blog site as we travel to Pacific Mexico and New Zealand. This is our third year using Finding Penguins as our travel writing template for blogs. We can write, post photos, show our location and at the end of our trip, we can order a hard-covered book of our blogs. Also we can work on the blog offline - a big bonus when we are in places with limited or no wifi. Every year that we have travelled, we have had our blogs made into a hard-covered book that are dedicated to our family. Yes, it is a commitment to keep up the blogs, but once we get into a routine, it isn’t so bad. The books are great keepsakes.

    We have realized that writing a blog is a good way to provide ourselves with a record of our travels, a place to store some of our favourite photos, to give family and friends some information of where we are and what we are doing, and maybe to inspire a few 60+ year olds who want to try long term traveling with only a carry-on bag, a day pack, (and maybe a ukulele or puppets) while trying to keep to a budget. We do try to travel economically - shopping for and cooking most of our own food and staying in small local hotels/guesthouses that have been recommended to us by other travellers. In all of our adventures, we have always come home ahead of the game, in the financial area. It's a fact. It has been cheaper for us to travel than it is to stay home over the winter! And what wonderful places we have visited!

    Finding Penguins has some good little features. It has been designed as a place to record ‘Footprints’ or special moments. So we can write a little or a lot and each blog has room for 6 - 10 photos that can be viewed in a slide show. If you click on one photo, it enlarges and you can scroll through the others. Last year, we did not take a camera. We used our phone’s camera and at times the iPad’s camera and the photos turned out fine.

    You can choose to LISTEN TO OUR BLOGS! Highlight and copy the text, then paste it into the left pane of Google Translator at this address ...,

    When you do this, it will automatically appear in the right pane (I.e., English to English translation). Then, just click on the little speaker icon at the bottom of the right pane and you'll hear it.

    We always love receiving short comments and we especially like the questions that some of you have asked about the countries we are in. If you click the "post a comment" button at the bottom of our entries, you can easily send a short message. Remember that the blog is available for anyone (in the world) to read, so be mindful of what you say. Over 30,000 people have read our past blogs. You can still send us an email at, if you want to.

    Before we head out on December 11th, we plan on brushing up on how to use this site by posting a few entries from home which will include our itinerary and our packing list. Then, we'll be ready to go!

    By the way, if you don't want to receive these pages, please ignore the notices from Ladyandtramp or take yourself off the list. We won't be offended!

    Have a wonderful holiday and keep in touch. Your little comments keep us connected with home. We love getting them.

    Connie and Chris
    a.k.a. Ladyandtramp 2019
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  • Our Projected Itinerary

    December 9, 2019 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 3 °C

    This year, we are heading to an old favourite and on to a new destination for us. The plan is to spend 6 weeks in Pacific Mexico and another 8 weeks on a road trip around New Zealand’s north and south islands. We will join our long-time travel friends from Bellingham, Pat and Gail, in Mexico for 3 weeks. Our friend, Donna, who lives in Elora, will be joining us for several days in Cambridge, Rotarua and Taradale on N.Z.’s North Island.

    Here is our plan so far. We will take a Red Car from Fergus to the Hamilton Airport and then fly to Puerto Vallarta (SWOOP) and then catch the local ATM bus east to Mascota where we will stay for 3 weeks. On January 3, we will meet Pat and Gail at the P.V. Airport and take a shared taxi north to Chacala.

    December 11 - MASCOTA - Apartamento Callie Morelos #92 (Margarita) - Air Bnb

    January 3 - CHACALA - Private 2 bdrm apartment shared with Pat and Gail
    - we will be meeting Pat and Gail in P.V. and sharing a taxi to Chacala

    January 29 - PUERTO VALLARTA airport - Fly to L. A. with Air Alaska
    L.A. to AUCKLAND through Fiji on Fiji Airlines

    January 30 - AUCKLAND - Grey Lynn - Air BnB
    — Rent a car at the airport Apex Car Rental

    February 3 - PAKARAKA - - Air Bnb

    February 7 - TE PURU - - Air BnB

    February 12 - CAMBRIDGE - with Donna at her friends’ house

    Feb. 17 - ROTARUA - Donna will stay with us here

    Feb. 19 - TARADALE - Donna close by

    Feb. 22 - WELLINGTON

    Feb. 23 - Return rental car to Apex 1:30 p.m.
    Feb. 24 - Pick up rental car from a Apex 4 p.m.

    Feb. 26 - Blueridge ferry to the South Island to MAPUA

    March 2 - GREYMOUTH

    March 3 - FRANZ JOSEF

    March 5 - WANAKA

    March 9 - ARROWTOWN

    March 11 - TE ANAU

    March 13 - INVERCARGILL

    March 15 - DUNEDIN

    Mar. 17 - TWIZEL

    Mar. 19 - CHRISTCHURCH

    Mar. 22 - HANMER SPRINGS

    Mar. 24 - BLENHEIM

    March 26 - FERRY to WELLINGTON

    March 26 - NEW PLYMOUTH

    March 28 - AUCKLAND

    March 30 - Return rental car to Apex 4 p.m.
    - Fly to TORONTO 7:30 p.m.
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  • Day 1

    Packing List for 4 months

    December 11, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ -5 °C

    Before we go on our longer trips, we have a routine that we follow. We always get our hair cut, get flu shots, then head to the dentist who checks for loose fillings or potential problems. Then a visit to the doctor to get prescriptions for antibiotics for stomach, ear or respiratory issues. This year, I sprained my tooth two weeks before our trip! Imagine a sprained molar! I had to get a night guard ‘splint’ made and some meds to calm down the ligaments.

    It seems that we always pick up a cold about a week into our trip (the flight?) and it is best to be ready for it, so...I packed Tylenol p.m. tablets, Neocitron, and Ricola cough/sore throat candies. We have found that a good night time decongestant or cough suppressant has been hard to find in some countries.

    From what we have read, the weather in Mexico and New Zealand will be very pleasant with daytime temperatures in the 20s C. and cooler nights. Perfect. No reason to take heavy clothes.

    By the way, just for some interesting information, here is a basic starter list of clothing I found on one of my searches, which just about covers everything:


    2 long sleeved shirts
    2 short sleeved shirts
    2 tank tops (shells) for layering
    1 lightweight sweater, preferably merino, (or cashmere)
    1 fleece or down vest
    1 pair jeans
    1 pair long pants
    1 pair capri/shorts
    1 pair leggings
    1 skirt/dress
    7 pairs underwear
    3 pairs light socks
    1 pair heavy socks
    3 bras
    bathing suit
    waterproof travel jacket and fleece

    -------Connie's Packing List-----

    Main Pack: eBag TLS Mother Lode Weekender Junior Convertible (3 lb 11
    Travelon Packable Crossbody Tote (personal item, laundry bag, grocery bag, Packable)
    Red Kipling crossbody purse


    Eagle Creek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #1 - Contents
    1 sleeveless top (black) (light-weight, loose-fitting, quick-dry)
    4 short-sleeved t-shirts (Blue, grey, green, black)

    Eagle Creek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #2 - Contents
    1 black long sleeved T-shirt
    1 black leggings
    1 Eddie Bauer skirt
    1 loose rayon dress

    Eagle Creek Pack-It Cube #3 - Contents
    6 pairs of underwear
    2 bras (black and beige)
    1 pyjama bottom
    2 pairs of light socks
    1 pair of Smartwool hiking socks

    Mesh Bag
    1 - 2 piece bathing suit - bottom works as short shorts

    Bottom of Pack

    1 pair of Kuhl Splash quick-dry hiking pants
    1 pair of grey lightweight The Northface pants
    2 pair Kuhl capris/shorts (grey, beige)

    In the pack pockets

    Marmot Precip rainshell
    Skechers Gowalk sneakers
    iPad Air 2 and keyboard
    Led Flashlight (Mark’s)

    Toiletries in a Toiletry Bag and a Clear Bag for Liquids

    3 oz of shampoo/conditioner
    Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF 30 sunscreen
    Toothpaste, toothbrush and cap, and floss
    Small bar of soap
    Razor and blades
    Finger nail clippers
    Makeup (eye shadow, mascara, blush, eye liner, lipstick)
    hair clips,elastics
    Safety Pins, 2 clothespins, rubber bands
    Laundry soap, line and flat stopper

    Wear on plane

    1 black tunic top
    1 blue thin cardigan sweater
    1 pair of lightweight black jeans
    1 light black fleece jacket
    1 pair of compression socks
    Running shoes ON Cloud (new)
    Passport pouch

    Personal Item - Packable Travelon Crossbody Tote/ Laundry bag

    Kipling purse
    Small packs of kleenex and a change purse
    Alarm clock
    Luggage combination locks (no keys!) and a few plastic zip tie wraps
    Passport, ID Photocopies of front and back of all cards and page 4 of passport
    Health Insurance cards
    Eyeglass prescriptions
    Money (Euros)
    ATM card/VISA cards (Note: 4 digit ATM pin)
    N.Z. Guidebook and a small map; trip information
    iPad mini

    Addresses and phone numbers on ipad
    Family and Ontario photos on the ipad
    Mini calendar and small pen
    2 Moleskin books
    Extra Pens/pencils
    Door stopper (for security)
    Ziplock freezer bags
    Airline Tickets

    ----------------------Chris' Packing List ---------------------

    Main Pack: eBag TLS Mother Lode Weekender Junior Convertible (3 lb 11 oz)
    Day Pack: Onsight 15 L Daypack (1 lb 1oz)


    Eaglecreek Pack-It 1/2 Cube #1 - Contents
    3 short-sleeved Icebreaker Tech T light Tshirts (light weight, loose-fitting, quick-dry)
    1 golf shirt
    1 blue plaid long-sleeved shirt

    Eaglecreek Pack-It Cube #2 - Contents
    5 pairs underwear (Saxx)
    1 pair of pyjama bottoms
    4 pairs socks

    Mesh Bag
    Bathing trunks
    Ball cap

    1 pair of black, lightweight Arterex pants
    1 pair of green Arterex quick dry pants
    2 pairs of Kuhl shorts
    Marmot Precip rain jacket
    Haviannas flip flops

    Wear on plane
    1 pair of Levi 541 denim jeans
    1 Belt
    1 Icebreaker t-shirt
    1 Icebreaker hoodie
    1 icebreaker full zip jacket with zippered pockets
    1 pair of Smartwool socks
    ON Cloudventure Waterproof trail shoes
    Passport pouch
    Motorola G5 Plus phone

    Travel Necessities

    Wallet and Change purse
    Luggage combination locks (no keys)
    Passport, ID and Photocopies of fronts and backs of all cards and passport
    Health Insurance card
    Prescription for eyeglasses
    Money/ATM card/VISA card

    3 oz containers of shampoo/conditioner
    Small packaged hotel soaps were put in Pack-It bags (keep clothes smelling nice)
    Toothpaste, toothbrush and cap, and softpicks
    Razor/blades/tube of shaving creme
    Eye glasses prescription

    Gear organizer bag
    Mini Anker portable battery charger
    Sony mini bluetooth speaker (love it!)

    Personal Backpack

    Small First Aid kit (with only a few of each of the following) - Tylenol, Ibuprofin, Aspirin, Peptobismol, Gravol (Dramadine), Imodium, Hydrocortizone, Bandaids, Chapstick, Alcohol Prep Pads, Polysporin, Eye drops, Ear drops, Vaseline, Benadryl night, Sudafed, Cepacol lozenges, allergy pills, Magnesium for sleep, Small Sewing kit and Eyeglasses screwdriver

    LED flashlight
    iPad mini
    Snacks - Coconut chips, nuts, chocolate
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  • Day 1

    Fergus to Mascota via Puerto Vallarto

    December 11, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ -6 °C

    Well, today is the day that we set out on our 15th grand winter adventure. All the flights have been booked, the accommodations reserved, the car rental and ferry crossings in New Zealand made and now we are ready to go.

    We arranged to have a Red Car cab take us to the Hamilton airport at 4:15 a.m. and the driver was right on time. He said that he had to pick up one other couple in Guelph who were going to Florida. We arrived at the airport at 5:45 a.m.

    We had booked really inexpensive one way flight tickets with SWOOP, who we had heard poor comments about, but we have no complaints. All went smoothly and we had an empty seat between us to use. You do not get any extras, including water, without paying, but we knew that going in. We took sandwiches and had a coffee in the airport lounge.

    Btw, we love the little Hamilton airport. It was a breeze to do what we had to do and at 7:30 a.m, we were in the air.

    By 11:30 a.m., we arrived in steamy Puerto Vallarta (28C). It was -20C when we left Canada. We did get a dreaded red light to check our bags but there were no problems and it was done quickly.

    Outside of the airport, there is an OXXO where we got our Mexican phone chips charged up.

    Taxis in airports are usually more expensive so we went outside and took the pedestrian bridge over the Hwy to catch a taxi there. On the other side, there is a wonderful burrito restaurant called Tacon de Marlin. The food is amazing! We shared a shrimp burrito and had 2 Modelo beers before catching a yellow taxi to the ATM bus terminal in town. It cost us 130 pesos, about $10 and much cheaper.

    Timing was pretty good. There are only 4 buses a day and one was leaving at 2:40 pm. It cost us 165 pesos (around $11) each for the 3 hour trip Into to the mountains. We arrived in Mascota at 5:30 p.m. there is still lots of sunlight at that time.

    Mascota is a small town of around 8,000+ so it is not very big but in a lovely valley surrounded by mountains. We used Google maps to find our apartment which was only a 5 minute walk away.

    The lady, Silvia, who will clean our place and tend to our needs was there to give us our key and show us things worked. We contacted our landlady to ask her a few questions (re water, garbage, recycling, cleaning days, etc.) and then headed to the square for our first authentic tacos in 2 years.

    We feel that we picked the perfect little Mexican town for our first three weeks.

    We got back at 9:10 pm Ontario time) and were fast asleep in minutes.
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  • Day 1

    Our Flat in Mascota

    December 11, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Here is what our flat (Calle Morelos #92) and the town looks like. The whole town takes pride in keeping the town in shape. Yes, it is dry time and the roads can be dusty but daily cleaning is obvious. Our flat is amazingly clean. The landlady wants us to be happy. We love it!Read more

  • Day 2

    Day 1 in Mascota - A Hike and a Parade

    December 12, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Our flat is in a great location, only about 2 blocks from the centre so it is close, but just far enough away for some peace and quiet. This is Mexico, you know! Always a cacophony of sounds.

    The first thing that we always have to do, is a basic food shopping. So, we wandered around a bit and found Mascota’s grocery store. It’s not big but seems to have a little of everything, including ... blocks of cheddar cheese! This area is an agricultural area with lots of cows in the valley so there will no problem finding dairy products.

    We couldn’t resist stopping at a taco stand on the way and the tacos were so good. A good decision, as we could not ignore the yummy smells coming from the stand.

    Food shopping was a breeze. If the store didn’t have something, like Bailey’s, the very helpful attendants pointed us out in the right direction to find those things. The people here are very helpful.

    The rest of the morning was spent cleaning everything in the kitchen to our standards. Now we were ready to settle into the next three weeks in Mascota.

    We ate ham and cheese sandwiches and then went out to explore a bit. The town is small but spread out. It is in a valley surrounded by mountains. People have lived here for hundreds of years.

    Last night we could see a lit cross high up on a small mountain, called Cerro de la Cruz. If there is a cross on a mountain there is probably a path leading to it. We walked from the main square, down our street to the beginning of the trail. The first part of the walk is on a rough road and then you go through a small gate to the trail. The path for the first part of the walk is wide and not too steep. About halfway up, 600 stairs (I counted) continue to the top and have been made with the names of Mascota’s families written on the face of the stairs. A cool idea.

    You pass a few horses and a few people walking their huskies and then you reach a place where there is a beautiful view of the city and a small chapel with archaeological finds placed around the site. Then the walk becomes steeper. At the top is the cross and a view of the entire valley. Not a long walk, but we are up about 4,500 ft and I am out of shape. Haha. Good exercise and a reward of a beautiful view at the top.

    We walked home at around 6:30 pm and it was still light outside. Once the sun goes behind the mountains, it gets dark quickly.

    Today is a big holiday for religious people in Mexico - Virgen de Guadalupe Day. I love the story about this Mexican virgin who is loved by all.

    Church bells have been ringing all day and fireworks scaring away evil spirits. In the early evening, people were walking to the centre as a long parade was going to take place. We joined the crowd and enjoyed the closeness of all the people. A real community. So many people were at the church that the service was held inside the big church as well as outside in the courtyards.

    Today was a nice introduction to the lovely little village of Mascota.
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  • Day 3

    Unfinished Temple of the Precious Blood

    December 13, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Today, we woke up to the usual morning sounds in Mexico - the church bells, a chucking gecko, roosters and cars rumbling by on the cobblestone street. For some reason, there doesn't seem to be many noisy dogs here. The sun was shining as we walked to Dona Esther’s in the market for breakfast.

    We stopped at a tourist kiosk in the Centro to ask about a calendar of events. Lots of activities will be going on here during the Christmas holidays. The posadas start on December 16 and Christmas decorations are being put up all over the town.

    Breakfast in Dona Esther’s was good old fashioned Mexican fare - scrambled eggs, chorizo, beans and fresh tortillas. A green juice for Chris and a giant strawberry smoothie for me.

    We had an extra apartment key made at the hardware store and walked on to the ruins of a huge unfinished cathedral, Templo Inconcluso de la Preciosa Sangre.

    One minute we we walking on a dusty cobblestone street, admiring a couple of beautiful roosters (fighting?), watching as a cowboy rode by on a beautiful black horse and the next minute we entered the huge stone ruins of what was planned to be the largest cathedral in Latin America. We walked through a stone gate into a lovely garden, filled with bougainvillea and bird of paradise plants.

    I read this little blurb about the church:

    “The first stone of the Preciosa Sangre church was placed right at the end of the 19th century, but most of the rest of the construction dates to the first decade of the following century. The idea came from a citizen who wanted to build another big temple for the town. Construction was halted when the Revolution broke out and probably not resumed because of the continuing post-Revolution conflicts, especially in Jalisco."

    We were lucky to meet a Mexican man, Pedro, who took care of the gardens. He was happy to take us around and point out the details used in constructing this incredible building as well as to give us some Mexican history lessons about what was happening in this area during and after the Revolution.

    At present, one small section of the church has been completed and is used as a seminary for first year (18 year old) students. There is a chapel with a beautiful altar and one of two old statues in the world showing Christ bleeding on the cross.

    As we were coming home, it got hotter and hotter. It is quite cool in the mornings and evenings but a little too hot for us now at around 2 pm - siesta time!

    In the evening, the square was hosting a ceremony for recognizing raicilla makers in the area. Raicilla is a distilled drink made in a way similar to tequila. Here’s a little blurb I found about one company’s Raicilla made from a wild agave plant called Lechuguilla:

    “Estancia Raicilla Lechuguilla is made with the wild agave Lechuguilla in La Estancia de Landeros, about one kilometre above sea level in the Jalisco foothills. The agave used in this Raicilla are roasted in an adobe oven for two days, and Old Jack Daniel’s bourbon barrels are used to ferment the cooked agave. Once fermented, this Raicilla is double distilled in copper alembic stills.

    Estancia Raicilla is made in the highlands of the Sierra Madre Occidental. In 2014, Rio Chenery left New York City for the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico with the hope of making his family’s favorite drink. The legend goes that in the ‘60s his grandfather, who worked for the Tecate beer company, came across a rare agave spirit in the small mountain town of Mascota on a business trip and fell in love with it. The locals called it Raicilla, and over the years it became a family favorite. Estancia Distillery is founded with the vision of bringing this rare agave spirit to the world.”

    I will write another footprint about raicilla in a later blog. It is uniquely from this area.
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  • Day 5

    The Archaeology Museum

    December 15, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Even though Mascota, is a small town, it has an excellent museum which is located right around the corner from where we are staying and housed in a former mansion. We thought that today, Sunday, would be a good day to learn more about the history of this area.

    We were greeted by a lady who went scurrying off to get us a booklet in English that explained all the displays. It was great having the booklet as the displays, written in Spanish, included numerous photographs, petroglyphs, contents of tombs and more than 600 archaeological pieces dating from 800 BC to 300 AD!

    The exhibits are the result of excavations in the region, some of them supported by the National Geographic Society and led by the American researcher Joseph B. Mountjoy. The archaeological digs were conducted in an almost thousand-year-old cemetery called "The Swamp" - a place that has a great cultural value in the area and believed to be a lake more than 2,000 years ago. Some of the artifacts were also from the sites "El Embocadero "and" Coamajales. "

    We especially liked a petroglyph with a game board carved into the rock called Patolli. Apparently, it was played like snakes and ladders. There were game boards for long games or shorter games. The game involves throwing dice and moving four pieces around the board, any of which can be “killed” if an opponent’s piece lands in the same space. Ancient patolli players, it seems, would bet blankets, jewelry or even their homes on the outcome of the game.

    We weren’t allowed to take photos in a few of the rooms but the ones that we did take are sufficient.

    Walk along river and suspension bridge
    8km in total
    Dinner at Navidad restaurant
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