Saturday, February 21, 2015

A LAST DOSE OF SOLITUDE AND THE ROUND "PYRAMIDS" AT GUACHIMONTONES

February 13, 2015

Mexican Train Dominoes at the Marina
Knowing that my precious days alone to do whatever I liked (reading, drawing, playing the guitar, writing, studying languages, etc.) were almost at an end, I began hoarding my time.  No longer did I seek to fill my time with interesting activities.  La Cruz was a dilettante’s paradise and the variety of choices could get overwhelming.  I spent all day at home on Friday, only venturing out at 17:00 for the Mexican Train happy hour at the marina, which I enjoyed too much to forego.  We had a very large group and needed to form three tables.  I played with Eric and Vandy from my trip to the Alta Vista petroglyphs, Mike and Katrina, and a family of three.   The family had brought a set of dominoes with numbers instead of dots and everyone was appreciative of those.

Jan and Ramona were playing at another table and, when it finally got too dark to play, they decided to join Betty and me for dinner at the Ballena Blanca.  We were all hoping to listen to the band, but it started raining on the way over there and, being that the restaurant has only tarps for shade and no roof, the band couldn’t play.  We managed to meet Betty and eat a delicious dinner, but it eventually began to rain quite hard and we had to leave before we drowned.  Since Betty was staying at the Agave Azul, a guest house nearby, I went home with her and visited until the rain abated enough for me to dash up the hill.

February 14, 2015

Valentine’s Day was completely free and I didn’t mind spending it alone one bit.  I spent it being as productive as possible and completed my blog post for the week.  It was supposed to have rained all day, but the storm stayed south of us.  I stayed in, anyway, and enjoyed myself immensely.

Late in the evening, someone started playing very loud mariachi music.  The sound of the tuba rattled my bones.  This went on until midnight when they must have had some guest artists playing because they rapidly cycled through country, electronica, hip hop and even zydeco music before returning to mariachi music again.  They kept me awake until 2:00 when I was finally tired enough to sleep even though they were still going strong.

February 15, 2015

La Cruz from Above
Sunday morning, I was relieved to awake to the relative silence of roosters and traffic noise.  The tuba was silenced.  I had left my sweater at Betty’s place, so agreed to meet her at the farmers’ market on Sunday morning.  We met about 10:30 and chatted and listened to the band for an hour or so before buying some peanut butter and strawberries and then taking a stroll along the marina and through the vendors in the plaza.  I usually went to the Mega on Sundays, but decided to just grab the essentials (eggs, bananas, beverages) from a tienda in town and pick up the few items I needed from the big store on the way to pick Pat up from the airport on Tuesday.  My time was growing short and I didn’t need to buy a lot of food.  I spent another wonderful afternoon at home and ate leftovers for dinner.

February 16, 2015

My only real complaint about living in La Cruz was that I didn’t sleep well.  Loud music and/or the neighbors tended to keep me awake at night and the mattress was so hard that, even with the memory foam I had brought, my hip bothered me when I lay down.  Since I tended to be a night owl anyway, it didn’t take much to make me stay up late.  The only problem with staying up late, since I really didn’t have to get up early, was that I needed to exercise in the morning before the sun came up and it got too warm.  Lack of sleep was cutting into my running and I wanted to keep up my endurance because I had agreed to train for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on my return to California.  I got up early on Monday morning and ran around the marina and back up the hill.  It was remarkable how much I could sweat in 3.25 miles, even before dawn, in La Cruz’s humidity.  I had to down a Gatorade immediately on my return to stave off intense cramps in my calves.

La Patrona
I spent the morning on my usual pursuits and then met Ramona to take her to see my hairdresser.  Ramona needed a haircut and wanted to start growing a little braid like mine, so she wanted me to come along to provide an example.  We went to see Gabriela at the salon on Huachinango and she did a nice job of cutting Ramona’s hair, leaving her with a cute little pigtail in back.  From there, we walked up to the stationery store on Coral so that Ramona could buy some rubber bands for her braid and then we parted ways and I returned home to spend my last solitary afternoon writing and playing the guitar.

I had plans to meet Betty for dinner and the show at La Cava.  When I got there, I discovered we had grown to a group of ten.  I already knew Evan and Mary Lou, but I enjoyed talking to some other sailors down at our end of the table.  Once again, La Patrona was playing typical music from Jalisco.  The singer had a wonderful voice and a beautiful costume.  She sang songs about the wonders of Guadalajara and joked about how superior it was to Mexico City.  After dinner, Betty, Evan, Mary Lou and I walked up to Philo’s, having heard there was a blues jam happening.  When we got there, the music was a little too country for our tastes.  We decided to call it an evening.

February 17, 2015

Tuesday was my last morning alone, so I did 110 squats and a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups and then spent the morning drinking coffee and studying languages.  I practiced the guitar for a while in the early afternoon and then set off to meet my friend, Pat, at the airport.  Her plane arrived on time.  We took the bus back to La Cruz.  Pat had a heavy suitcase, so we had a time hauling it up the 134 stairs to my apartment.

I wanted to take Pat to La Glorieta de Enrique for a welcome margarita and coconut shrimp, but they were closed on Tuesdays.  We ended up going to the Ballena Blanca for shrimp burritos and then took a walk around the marina where I ran into almost everyone I knew.  By the time we finished our walk and returned home, we were ready to hit the hay.

February 18, 2015

We drank coffee and listened to the net.  Then I ran down to pick up my laundry and buy a few things for breakfast while Pat got ready.  I told Sonja, my friend at the laundry, that we were going to Guadalajara for the weekend.  She was from Guadalajara and gave me some tips on what to see and where to shop. 

The Beach at Bucerias
We had smoothies and hard boiled eggs for breakfast and then set off for the beach in Bucerias.  We took a collectivo over there and then walked down through the center of town to the beach.  Pat enjoyed seeing the square and we started to walk through the market stalls but were quickly discouraged by the vendors’ aggressive sales tactics.  We beat a hasty retreat through a crowd of tourists and walked down to the beach.  We strolled along the sand for a while and then stopped at a restaurant with chaise lounges under umbrellas where we parked for the morning.  We ordered soft drinks and lounged in the shade.  We took turns swimming in the ocean.  Pat went first.  As she waded into the waves, she stepped off a sudden drop and tumbled over backwards.  Our neighbors later informed us that it was better to walk a bit further to the right before entering the water.  The bottom there undulated, but didn’t have any sudden drop offs.  I was able to wade in far enough to start swimming without any major mishaps.  We lounged there until noon or so and then decided to head the other direction to eat lunch at a palapa restaurant on the sand.


We ate lunch at Mariscos El Gordo or Fat Boy Seafood.  When we had arrived at the beach, we had been greeted by a fellow who gave us a coupon and told us that the special was lunch and a margarita for 110 pesos.  That sounded like a good deal, so we went back there.  When we arrived, we discovered that the coupon was actually for five beers for 110 pesos and the waiter denied that there had ever been any such deal as lunch and a margarita for 110 pesos.  We had both clearly heard the guy.  His tactics had worked, however, because we were there.  It was a nice place with a gorgeous view, so we stayed anyway.  We ordered mahi mahi filets and pina coladas and the fish was well prepared.  We sat and enjoyed the view until it was time for us to head home and clean up for the evening’s activities.

We crossed the highway and grabbed another van back to La Cruz.  We needed to wash off the sand and get dressed in time for the Mexican Train happy hour at the Gecko Rojo, which started at 17:00.  Pat had never played Mexican Train before, but she won the first game.  We had a rather small and somewhat subdued group, so it was a good opportunity for Pat to learn how to play.  We had a drink and played until about 18:50.  Then we walked around the corner to Philo’s to see Luna Rumba.
Luna Rumba at Philo's
I could have listened to Luna Rumba every night, but I was pleasantly surprised when they played a very different set from the last time I had seen them.  They played some traditional Mexican songs with a twist and some new material.  Geo, the violinist, even played a string quartet all by himself using looping technology.  It started sounding familiar after he added the second part, but I didn’t place it until he finally added the melody at the end.  He was playing Eleanor Rigby!  I got a good laugh out of that because my cousin Tiffany and I were amazed at how often we heard Beatles songs in Mexico.  It seemed we couldn’t go a day without hearing one.

February 19, 2015

Church in Mascota
April picked us up at the bottom of the hill to leave for our trip to Guachimontones.  We continued on to PV Sailing to collect the other members of our group.  We had quite a crowd because there were not only the eight of us in the van, but also a family of five from New Zealand.  Most of the others in the van were already friends.  Even the one couple I thought I didn’t know turned out to have spent Christmas with Scott and me in Chiapas.

Plaza in Mascota

It was a long drive to Guachimontones and we were in somewhat of a hurry because we had to get to the pyramids in time to see them before they closed at 17:00.  We stopped for breakfast in Mascota and ordered sandwiches there to take with us for lunch.  We completely overwhelmed the café and ended up spending much more time there than we had planned.  As a result of that, we ended up eating our lunch in the parking lot of an Oxxo where we stopped to use the restroom.  Still, we made it to Teuchitlan in plenty of time.

Museum at Guachimontones
Betty and Kat with Their Tattoos
Our guide was due to meet us at 16:00 and we were early, so we visited the museum at the archaeological site of Guachimontones first.  The museum was brand new and had a lot of very interesting interactive displays.  One of the docents at the museum painted temporary designs on Katrin and Betty’s forearms.  After we walked through the museum, our guide met us and took us on a tour of the site.  No one knows what the people who built the structures there were called, since they left no written records.  Today, the civilization is called the Teuchitlan Tradition.  Their architecture was marked by the construction of round “pyramids” of concentric circles, surrounded by a ring of smaller temples.  A tall pole rose from the center of the main “pyramid” and men performed the “flying” ritual while suspended from that pole.  The flying ritual is performed to this day and I had seen it the previous year at Playa Linda near Ixtapa.
Unexcavated Pyramid

The site was also equipped with several ball courts, some of which were only for practice.  This society apparently used the ball game to settle disputes rather than to determine who got sacrificed.  However, since the hard rubber ball weighed between three and six kilograms and the game was, like soccer, played without hands and lasted from sunup to sundown, injuries were often fatal.  Most of the male skeletons found at the site had hip or leg fractures.  Archaeologists had reconstructed one of the pyramids and surrounding temple platforms, but most of them remained untouched and looked like unnatural little hills.  We climbed up the largest of these, which was a serene spot covered with trees and offered a fabulous view of the reconstructed area.  Our guide was interesting and told us stories of weird occurrences around the site that had led the employees who worked there to believe it was haunted.

Round "Pyramid"
We stayed until the site closed and then piled back in the van and drove down to a restaurant called Soky next to the lake where we had dinner.  The restaurant was a beautiful, huge, open structure inches from the water.  A natural spring flowed into a lovely swimming pool there.  The lake was choked with water hyacinth, which made it look more like a field than a lake, although they were rumored to blow from side to side as the wind shifted.  It was still a very pretty view and we saw egrets and white pelicans.  The service was appalling and the food fairly mediocre unless you ordered something pulled from the lake.  The frog legs and trout were good, although everyone else had finished eating by the time they finally brought my trout.  Still, we had a nice time eating dinner with the group.

Pool at Soky
After dinner, we repaired to the Hotel Teuchitlan, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  It was a very nice, modern hotel and, aside from the usual rock hard mattresses, quite comfortable.  We rested for half an hour and then some of us went for a walk down to the plaza.  Teuchitlan is pretty dead after dark, but we found an open ice cream shop where we bought popsicles.  We took our goodies into the plaza and sat all in a row on a long white iron bench.  It was a pleasant evening and we were all happy to be with good company in small town Mexico.

Hotel Teuchitlan



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