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  • Day3

    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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  • Day9

    Yerbabuena - a village of 400, maybe..

    December 19, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Today the two of us walked a very dusty road to Yerbabuena, a tiny neighbouring town in the mountains. Wouldn’t you know it, but a 3 day fiesta to the Virgen de Guadalupe, was on it’s third day in this village and we arrived just as the mariachi’s started playing in the square.

    It is a tiny place with a pretty pond created by a dam and big houses on large lots. As we
    wandered around the town, one man invited us in to have a coffee. He lives in Zamora, the city that we lived in when we taught English there, 20 years ago!

    Several logging trucks, full of logs, passed us. One driver stopped to double check the straps holding the logs. He had some pretty steep roads to negotiate on his journey and for sure didn’t want his load to shift!

    There really isn’t much information about this village, whose name means spearmint, or why it is where it is, but we had an interesting walk through farmland. Two favourite Mexican birds of ours are the bright red Vermillion Flycatcher and the yellow Kiskadee with its black mask. We saw lots of them as we walked to town.

    It was around 2 pm when we got back to Mascota and it was the perfect time to eat some wonderful tacos at a roadside stand before getting home. A 9.7 km walk. Not bad.

    It is a tiny
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  • Day11

    Gnomes, or Mexican Duendes

    December 21, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    During the past few days, I have been checking stores in Mascota for items to make little Christmas gnomes for gifts. I had brought 3 pairs of fuzzy socks from home and now needed rice, string, thread, something for a beard and noses, decorations, and little elastics. I found most of the items in a store called Todo de Todo. It is like our $ store with a little bit of everything. I had to be a little creative though. Chris found a white fake fur child’s hat that when pulled apart provided me with material for beards, noses, stuffing and decorations.

    Gnomes, or duendes as they are called here, are a part of Mexican folklore. Apparently, a lot of people in the south part of Mexico believe that they are real. I started to wonder if a duende would make a good Christmas gift though...

    Here’s what I learned about them.

    Duendes are known as gnome-like creatures who live inside the walls of homes, especially in the bedroom walls of young children. They attempt to clip the toenails of unkempt children, often leading to the mistaken removal of entire toes... oh...

    Only few grown-ups can see them – unless duendes get drunk. Then they seem to lose all caution. If you catch a duende in that moment, you can keep him and have him do all kinds of chores for you. But, you have to treat him nicely and always offer him the first bite of your food. You do that by throwing it over your shoulder. If you don’t, the duende will get angry and spoil your food. In former times, people used to have a much closer relationship with duendes and offer them food and booze.

    Duendes aren’t very nice to naughty children. In fact, sometimes they kidnap them with the intention of eating them...

    Oh well, my duendes turned out pretty cute so I think that they will bring good luck and good health to the people we give them to.
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  • Day22

    Happy New Year 2020!

    January 1 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    On New Year’s Eve, Mascota gears up for night time festivities like every place that we have been. A dance in the plaza has been planned with a local band playing and lots of fireworks at midnight.

    Silvia, the lady who cleans our apartment and in general handles any issues we may run into, came at 10 a.m. to change our sheets, bring fresh towels and clean. She is a sweet lady who doesn’t speak any English but she is very kind and helpful. When she comes, we usually head out for a walk so that we aren’t in her way.

    Our landlords, Margarita and Andres, live in Guadalajara but are in Mascota visiting family for a
    few days. They stay in their big house behind our apartment. As we were going out, we met them and thanked them for the raicilla. They asked us how we had enjoyed our time in this town and then asked if we wanted to join them for the afternoon at their family’s ranch in the mountains.

    What a great offer and one that we could not refuse. Their nephew, Chuy, drove us all up, past the Mocajete volcano and onto a side road to a lovely spot overlooking a series of distant mountains and valleys. What a view!

    The family had purchased the property ( seven acres of avocado trees ) and built a beautiful main house there. They all have construction backgrounds so are now in the process of building several rustic cabins for visitors.

    The main house looked out over a pond full of fish, surrounded by a forest of oak and pine trees.
    Dogs, cats, chickens and geese lived together with the family in harmony.

    Margarita and Andre’s 3 nephews and their families are all working together to create this little piece of paradise and what an accomplishment! The oldest nephew, Roberto, is married and his wife is a wonderful artist. Her handiwork can be seen all over the house - paintings, sculptures, decorations, etc.

    After a tour of their place, we were invited to sit at a large table under the veranda, to continue our Spanglish conversations about life in Mascota and Mexico and Canada. We all got along so well together and really enjoyed our time together. The men cut and chopped up small pieces of bass, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions to make a huge bowl full of delicious ceviche. Another huge bowl had marinated shrimp. It all went down easily with Mexican beer - Modelo and Corona.

    We had a wonderful conversation with Roberto’s son who is in his 5th out of eight years studying to be a Catholic priest. Quite a young man. Roberto’s daughter joined us a little later and was just just as lovely.

    We had met Chuy before, as he had come to the apartment to fix a few things up. He spoke
    English quite well as he had worked in the U.S., along with his two other brothers. His son, another
    Chuy was quiet yet interested in learning about life in Canada.

    We were privileged to have shared the last afternoon in 2019 with this warm and friendly family. They live in a Utopia of their making and we wish them the best in all future endeavours.

    By the time that we got home, the sun was setting and it looked liked Mascota’s centre was ready for the big night.

    We decided to stay in (old foggies) and watch a movie on our one English movie channel before going to bed. Thank heavens, it was a good one! At midnight, the ruckus began with bells ringing and fireworks booming. Our balcony patio was the perfect place to watch the streaming ‘shooting stars’ and the big colourful sunbursts.

    Happy New Year 2020!
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  • Day14

    Christmas Eve

    December 24, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    It is busy in town today! Cars are being washed, people are in lines at the bank and the grocery store (Pepe’s) and we are sure that lots of cooking is happening. Tonight is the big night for everyone and then tomorrow will be quiet. Recuperating from hangovers?

    We were big spenders yesterday (haha) - had our laundry washed, dried, in the sun, and folded yesterday at the local laundry place one block away ($7), bought some coffee from Tepic which the store ground for us ($7 Cdn/kg), bought a bouquet of flowers ($4 Cdn), and ate an early Christmas dinner at our favourite restaurant called El Tapanco. We had an appetizer of squid rings with chipotle sauce, followed by a km rack of ribs, mashed sweet potato and banana and a delicious green salad and a drink ($40 Cdn which included the tip). Today, Chris had his hair cut ($5 Cdn) and we bought 4 sweet grapefruits ($1.50).

    The cleaning lady who lives next door was supposed to come today but asked if it was okay if she
    comes tomorrow, December 25. She has company today - feeding two truck loads of soldiers dressed in full army gear a Christmas lunch! She gave us clean towels and but will clean the apartment later.

    We met some people who were on tour from Puerto Vallarta and they were amazed that we found this town and on top of that a place to stay. In the last two days, two different people have offered us nice apartments to stay in for under $300/month! Our apartment is more expensive but we have a lovely clean apartment in a good location with solar water heating and everything that we need. The owner lives in Guadalajara but is easy to contact and acts immediately re any little issues or wants that we have.

    Last week, as we were walking to the village of Yerba Buena, we passed an open doorway. Chris complimented the lady who lived there by telling her that her flowers were nice. She promptly invited us into her home to show us her Charlie Brown Christmas tree, which she had just started to decorate. Obviously, she was very poor. The floor was part concrete and part dirt, the kitchen counter was a big stump and we have seen better furniture at the dump... but, she was happy to show us her collection of Christmas decorations and wish us a Merry Christmas.

    I decided that one of our gnomes would look nice with her tree and nativity scene, so we took one to her. Well, she immediately recognized us and once again invited us in. Her big son was there but was shy so quickly went into another room. She called him back and Chris took a photo of her with the ‘Good Luck” gnome. She was thrilled and wanted to put it in the manger scene! For sure, she will have a little story to tell her neighbours about the Canadienses who gave her the gnome.

    A restaurant in Mascota, called Navidad, is known for its soup called pozole. Pozole, which means "hominy", is a traditional Mexican soup or stew. Hominy is dried corn that has been soaked in a lye/lime solution. Grits are made from hominy. Pozole is made from hominy, with meat (pork or chicken, or both), and can be seasoned and garnished with shredded lettuce or cabbage, chile peppers, onion, garlic, radishes, avocado, salsa or limes. We got the basic soup as well as a big plate with all the garnishes so we could choose what we wanted in our soup. We managed to eat half of our huge bowls of soup and took the rest home. It is very filling.

    We decided that we would eat a simple dinner at our apartment, play a game of Quirkle and watch a movie. Mascota activities went on all night with bells and fireworks at midnight. Tomorrow should be a quiet day for a reason!
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  • Day1

    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!

  • Day10

    A Horse Cavalcade Parades through Town

    December 20, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    The little town of Yerbabuena is having a horse show today. Horses and their riders gathered in Mascota, paraded through town and then rode on to Yerbabuena . Riders will show off their horses and also their riding skills. All the food for the festival was donated to spectators.

    We were tempted by several people to go but we decided to just watch the parade as it went through Mascota. The horses were lovely.Read more

  • Day12

    Presa Corrinchis (Corrinchis Dam)

    December 22, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Today is the Sunday before Christmas. All week the carillon in the church has been playing Ave Maria and then We Wish You a Merry Christmas early in the day. Today, we see lots of people all dressed up and heading to the morning service.

    We decided to take a taxi to a nearby dam that we had been hearing a lot about.

    The Corrinchis Dam is an artificial lake fed by the Mascota River. Actually it is very similar to the Shand Dam and Belwood Lake, but surrounded by mountains and a lot deeper. The dam has a length of 7.5 km, a capacity of 30 million cubic meters and reaches 50 meters deep. Construction began in 1974. There are some islands. One bigger one is called El Conejo and another, El Beso. Bass, catfish, tilapia, carp, and otters live in the lake. On the edge of the lake, the vegetation is made up of oaks, pines, cacti, nopales and some deciduous shrubs.

    At one time, all the land in this area was owned by one land owner who grew sugar cane. Now,
    the area has corn fields, squash, melons and lots of cows and horses.

    The taxi driver dropped us off in the restaurant area. People come to eat here at noon so only one place was open and we enjoyed the beautiful views and had a coffee. The owner was complaining that ants had stripped almost all of his Christmas cacti of their leaves and red flowers.

    It was such a lovey day, that we decided to walk back to town along the dirt road. It is close to a 10 km walk, mostly downhill, with lots to see. We were pretty high up so the views of Mascota were great. Chris will have difficulty picking only 10 photos to put in this footprint!

    Our end reward was a cold green drink (celery, nopal (cactus), orange juice and pineapple) and a gourmet vegetarian pizza at the Cafe Napoles restaurant.
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  • Day18

    An Old Cinder Cone Volcano

    December 28, 2019 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Not every day is sunny here and today is one of those days. But cloudy days here are great for long hikes and for taking some good photos, so ...

    We went on a 4 hour walk to an old volcano called El Molcajete. A molcajete is a round basalt stone dish with three little legs used for crushing items, like chilies, used in cooking. (Mortar and pestle). The volcano that we saw, is cone-shaped and has a deep impression in it that can be seen in aerial views. It looks like a molcajete.

    Our walk, north of Mascota took us past fields of yellow sunflowers and red chilies. People were in fields with huge baskets on their backs, picking the peppers.

    The views were amazing! Rows upon rows of old volcanoes, just beyond the farmers’ field. It was exceptionally quiet in this area, as few cars drove on this country road so all we heard was the sound of birds, and the occasional sound of a cow, goose or rooster. So tranquil.

    It started to rain just as we returned back to the town. Perfect timing.

    As we had walked 10.5 km on a mostly cobblestone road in the mountains, we felt as a treat we would drop in for a delicious vegetarian pizza and limonada at the local Italian restaurant, Los Nopales. At the end of the meal, getting out of our chairs was a little difficult and it wasn’t just because of all the food...
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  • Day22

    Rain, Rain and More Rain.

    January 1 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We went out for a quick breakfast, along with lots of other people, to a restaurant in the Mercado.
    And as we were coming home it started to rain, and man did it ever rain! It didn’t let up for 22 hours. We were so happy that we had good books to read and enough food for meals.

    The roads here are cobblestone and there are no sewer grates. The streets have been built so that the water runs down in the streets in rivers to other streets and then down to the river. At cross roads, the streets become little lakes. It was something to see. Chris said he wanted to look for an ark.

    As we didn’t have any sun, it got pretty cold too. Our apartment has solar panels so we didn’t even
    attempt to have a shower. Brrr.
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