The Four Amigas

OK, I know. You are thinking I have that title wrong, it’s Three Amigos, right? (The movie with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short)

Well that was a funny movie but no, I mean Four Amigas, the Mexican chickas who adopted Blue Bear for a day of Taxco adventure.

Four Amigas, MontetaxcoBeing a gringa, with a poor command of the Spanish language, it can get rather lonely at times. One might be surrounded by people, talking, laughing, and having a good time, but you are all alone because you do not understand what anyone is saying. AND because they think you do not know the language, no one makes much of an attempt to speak to you other than to kiss you on the cheek and ask, “Como esta?” (How are you?) After the mutual “Biens,” they do not know what else to say, and since you do not have enough Spanish to ask a question that would start a conversation, which you probably wouldn’t understand much of anyway, that usually puts an end to the interaction.

So imagine how pleased I was to be invited to join my friend, Vanessa, and mutual friends from Chilpancingo (all of whom speak English) on an afternoon on the town. Just what I needed – eye candy views from the top of town and ear candy — English conversation!

Though I am nearly twice their age (it’s the blue that keeps me looking young), we had a great time laughing and joking and just enjoying being together.

Thanks for a great day amigas!

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Crash Landing!

Sorry I have not been around the last few weeks. It is a long story but I will try to make it short.

I was happily adding pictures to my Blog post one day when all of a sudden my computer screen went black. No matter what I did, it would not let me reboot, restart, or anything. The modern version of the “blue screen of death.”

A friend, who works with computers and is trained as a tech, came over and could not get it to work either. Finally I had no option but to go without until I got back to the States 6 weeks or so later of  to take it to a computer repair person.

Now having a computer failure in the States where I speak the same language (well sort of) is difficult enough but trying to explain the situation in a language you barely speak is another thing altogether. Even my tech friend did not recommend I go anywhere in Taxco. Thank goodness for the father of my English students, a successful business man about town, who knew a skilled repair person and was willing to act as my translator.

To make a long story short, the hard drive failed. We were able to retrieve my data. Whew! I had just moved all my photos over to the computer to save space on my phone and make it faster and had run out of time to back it up. That could have been a disaster. Lesson learned, the hard way.

I now have a new hard drive but being in Mexico I have a Spanish version of my operating system (which is not the same) AND more challenging yet, an unfamiliar Web browser and Windows Office in Spanish.

Did I say, I don’t speak much Spanish?

The worst part of the situation is that I lost all my programs. So for the time being I am somewhat limited, especially in the adding photos to my Blog department. I am working on solutions that are accessible from here without the program CDs or proof of purchase documentation. Please bear with me.

Blue Bear & Friend, Taxco, Mexico

You know, the concept of going paperless sounds great until something like this happens! And there is only so much you can do on/from a smart phone.

Do you have and electronic nightmare you wish to share?

A Walk in the Country – El Ocotito, Mexico

When visiting El Ocotito recently, my hostess wanted to take me for a walk (ir de pie) to a place outside of town where there was a lake. It was hot but carrying water and my parasol (not to be confused with my paragua, which are one and the same unless it is raining) I was up for the walk. Dipping my toes in a lake sounded MAHvelous!!!

So we walked a few blocks to where the cement road ended and a dirt road began.

Not the end of the world but you can see it from here, Ocotito, MexcioWe walked through a tunnel under the autopista to Acapulco, which was filled with jumbled  rocks and ruts, and came out the other side to what looked like a double walking path.

tunnel entrance, El Ocotito, MexicoWhile inside the tunnel, which was treacherous on foot, a car came bouncing along, scraping bottom every so often. Then a little further down the path, a walker in a hurry to get somewhere passed us by. Then we were met by a man on horseback, people with wheelbarrows and machetes, people on bicycles, and people herding livestock. Apparently this was a major thoroughfare from one town to another!

Along the way we discovered a horse and foal in the field, a tamarind tree ripe for harvesting, people making adobe bricks which were drying in the sun, a young man harvesting sand from the river bottom, escaping  goats, a spooked colt, and more. Take a peek below.

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After we had walked a good ways, we came to an area that had a little water covering the road. We sat under a tree, drank water and rested, letting the breeze refresh us. When we arose, it was determined that we needed to return to the house.

But what about the lake? Only after a long hot trek home did I find out that near the muddy spot on the road was where the lake used to be. It dried up and only the wet trickle that muddies the road and trickles into the neighboring field remains.

As with many things Mexican, things are not always as they at first seem.

 

The Singing Rocks of Teloloapan

As the sun lay low on the horizon, we took a little side trip to a massive uplifting of gigantic stones that tower above the city. Some of the rocks in this area are known to “sing,” emitting a deep, resonant musical tone, like a large bell, when struck with another rock.

Singing Rocks, Parque de Campana, Teloloapan, MexicoThe locals have been coming here for centuries to make the rocks sing, and as with many such places of uniqueness, a legend has grown up to explain the phenomenon. Like Romeo and Juliette and so many other legends, this too has an element of unrequited love.

According to one version of the Aztec legend, on the death of King Azteca Ahuitzol, in order for his son, Tecampa , to succeed him, he had to conquer more land and bring more people into the empire. Tecampa conquered many peoples but when he came to Mexicapan, the chief, Texol, and his people battled with Tecampa for nearly a month.

Though Tecampa did not capture the city, he did succeed in capturing the springs that were the only water source, thus the people of Mexicapan were dying of thirst. Texol’s daughter, princess Na, who was always at his side, even in battle, feeling that the life of the warriors was more important than her own, volunteered to go and get water for the people, even at the cost her life.

With her maidens to accompany her, she set off for the pile of rocks where the  springs were located. When she arrived, she found a strong, young warrior, the king of the Aztecs, “contemplating the infinite.” He fell instantly in love with the beautiful princess, and granted her request for water for her people under the condition that she return the next day at sunrise where he would give her not water, but his heart.

She returned the next day and Tecampa asked her to go with him to the center of his empire near the mountain of Toluca, where together they would make his people happy.

But King Texol followed his daughter that day, and upon seeing her in the arms of his mortal enemy, his heart was broken and he angrily uttered a curse that the two young lovers be turned to stone. Immediately the two bodies were merged into one large stone, one seemingly holding the other, forever. Now when a stone is touched to the rock, the young lovers sing with tenderness.

Now named Parque de Tecampana, what used to be just a local attraction, where you scrambled up the mountainside on a dirt path to climb the rocks and make your own music, the city has decided to create a real tourist attraction, with gates, paved paths, a playground, an amphitheater, bathrooms, and even exercise area at the top (though really, just climbing the hill is exercise enough!)

 

Main Entrance, Parque de Tecampana, Teloloapan, MexicoLove this accessible entrance, don’t you? There is no way you could push a wheelchair up this ramp, nor the pathway above; I don’t think even my friend Shelley’s electric scooter would make it. But if you ask, the locals, they will direct you to a back entrance that is a fright to drive but takes you to a much more level path to the singing rocks.

Amphitheater, Parque de Campana, Teloloapan, MexicoAmidst all this “beautiful,” new construction, is an old shack. It seems that the land is owned by a young man whose family has lived there for generations. The city wanted to buy the land to make it into an official park, but he refused — it was his ancestral home. Finally they made him an offer he could not refuse. Let them improve the area into a park and they will build him a better home and let him be the caretaker. A win-win — he and his ancestors, who may just be related to Tecampa and Princess Na, can continue to make the rocks sing, at least for his lifetime.

FYI — I did some research on what might make the rocks sing and came across an article by someone with some scientific background that determined that it is a combination of the type of rock, crystalline diabase, and the fact that the ringing rocks are supported on points of other rocks thus allowing them to ring rather than thud. If you want more information on ringing rocks, which occur in various places around the world, see this article about Ringing Rocks Park, in Pennsylvania. Or follow this link to hear them ring. (They kind of sound like the bell the trash collectors ring in Mexico.)

Teloloapan

A little over an hour, and two buses, north and west of Taxco is the town of Teloloapan,  where mi amiga ,Vanessa, lived when she first came to Mexico.

We went for a special event and stayed with Pedro and Bonfilla (hope that’s spelled correctly) and their family, whom Vanessa had gotten to know in the States.

The family runs a tienda, a little neighborhood store, high on a hillside overlooking town, though not quite as high as his parents’ house which has a fabulous view of the city.

They literally live “above the store,” which is only a few steps from the open door to their living room. Rather than having to sit and “man the store”, this arrangement allows them to be doing something in the living or kitchen area and still hear and greet customers as they come in.

Tienda, Teloloapan, MexicoLike a PDQ, they sell a little of everything — things one might need immediately, avoiding a time consuming trip to the big market downtown. Children come in for candy or snacks and are often sent to get milk, cheese, or Coke  for the meal while mama is cooking.

 

 

Grinding corn into masa, Teloloapan, MexicoThe day starts early as, each morning, neighborhood women bring their corn to be ground into masa so they can make fresh tortillas for the day’s meals.

The family, their parents, and even neighbors up the street, hosted a house full of company from other towns, far and wide. Everyone congregated at their house for a simple dinner of beans and hot homemade tortillas with fresh salsa roja (red) and, of course, Coca (Cola.)   We laughed, we talked, we shared photos of family — a good time was had by all. Every bed in the house, and even makeshift pallets on the floor provided a good night’s rest.

Making breakfast the following morning proved to be a bit of a challenge as we discovered that we had run out of gas for cooking and heating water. Being Sunday and not being able to get more until Monday, cooking was done the old fashioned way — over an open fire.

Calabasa (squash), Teloloapan, MexicoAn overhang in the yard protects the cooking area from rain and the relentless sun. A big pot of corn boiled away in the corner (to be ground into masa later), water was heated for baths (aka bucket showers) in the other, and in between tortillas were made (even we gingos got in on the act) and a pan of hot coals cooked other breakfast items — huevos (eggs), frijoles (beans), salsa, and a huge pot of calabasa (squash).

Cooked slowly with piloncillo, cones of natural brown sugar, the squash  turns into a delectable, mouth watering treat, to be served, sometimes with milk, for breakfast or as a snack or desert. MMMMMMM!

After breakfast, we all piled into the car and drove to the assembly grounds, where an old quarry site was transformed for the day with the aid of a makeshift tent, made out of corn and flour sacks, which provided much needed shade from the hot sun. I loved watching the wind ripple through the floating panels to the end where, with a poof, it escaped once more to the open air. Almost as interesting as cloud watching.

I am always amazed at the resourcefulness of the people here; nothing useful ever goes to waste.

Perchance to sleep

I am a simple bear. When I travel, I like to just throw the sleeping bag in the back of the van and hit the open road. I have the freedom to go where I want, when I want to go, and stop or change directions whenever it suits me.

I also prefer this type of travel because of my chemical sensitivities. Hotels, in addition to being expensive, are filled with the residue of cleaning chemicals.

Because of the extensive storm system I have been dodging, I have been rained on at times. Other than the raindrops falling on my roof, which can actually be quite soothing, a little rain is only a mild annoyance, sometimes requiring me to wait out a shower before getting out and enjoying the clear light and fresh smell of a newly washed landscape.

With the concerns of loved ones and threats of thunderstorms last night, I opted for a hotel room. The storms never materialized, at least here, and I feel like a truck ran over me while I was sleeping, but I got the benefits of a hot breakfast, a hot shower (even if I did have to go to a different room to take it), and this view when I opened my eyes.

Morning forest view Almost as good as camping. Next time I will opt for the real thing though.

“Take me home, country road…”

Circumstances are such for my hostess that she has asked me to depart today rather than Monday as planned. So I guess I will be spending the holiday weekend and all of next week meandering. I am not exactly sure where I am going or where I will spend each night but as long as I travel in the general direction toward where I need to be on April 26, does it really matter?

Cocoa Beach, stormy surf

I am reluctant to leave the beach behind, as I have expressed many times this past month — sunny, cloudy, rainy, or cold, there is no better way to start the day than sunrise on the beach. So I will travel up the East Coast toward Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, be a Southern belle for awhile, and then decide when and where I will cross the mountains. I have a hankering to return to the Smokies (my first sojourn away from home) and I’ve heard great things about Asheville, North Carolina.

Not sure if I will make it all the way to West Virginia’s “mountain mama;”  you will just have to follow along to see where this meander leads.

I walked Cocoa Beach one last time today; all the way to the pier and back (5 + miles). It wasn’t pretty — heavy cloud cover, but it sure was therapeutic. Eventually the sun’s rays came shining through — at least a little bit. Here are a few photos for you:

So long Cocoa. Another adventure awaits.

Ode to the Road

Late winter dreary, cloudy and cold
Driving toward spring
Endless prairie, dotted by white barns and farms
Thin sliver of light hints at promise of sun and warmth

Rivers and lakes – water sparkling like diamonds
Meander through forests – sun flickering through the trees
Eagles soar overhead as red tailed hawk eyes me
Clumps of daffodils nod to a coming spring

Wiggle and waggle southward
Narrow roads with no shoulders
Houses with wide porches, doors open, folks rockin’
A church on every corner like gas stations back home

Signs of spring – grass greening
Apple and almond trees shimmering white
Wild plum and redbuds – splashes of color amidst dark, leafless trees
Creeks tumble over rocky beds, rushing with snow melt

Over Mont Eagle, down toward Nickajack Lake
Warm sunshine entices, stop to hike
Cloudland Canyon, home of the Cherokee
Waterfalls over ancient rock faces – awe inspiring

Winter fingers reach out to nip at fingers and nose
Run, run, run to warmth
Meander lost
Georgia stretches on and on at break neck speed

Florida at last – slow lane once more
Cracker style houses, horse farms, and forest green
Live oaks drip with Spanish moss
Wildflowers paint the roadside – purple and pink, yellow and white

Pines and palmettos
Give way to salt marsh and sawgrass
Ocean views and beach stretching on and on
Journey’s end

The Scenic Route

In a favorite book of mine, “Blue Highways: A Journey into America,” William Least Heat-Moon wrote, “Had I gone looking for some particular place rather than any place I’d never have found this spring under the sycamores.”

That describes the beauty of taking the scenic route, getting off the Interstate — typically miles and miles and miles of straight, flat, and boring — and onto secondary roads, county highways, or better yet, those thin, wiggly lines on the map that wind around a lake, over a river, or through the forest.

Case in point, if you drive the Interstate North to South through Indiana, you travel through miles and miles of ancient lake bed, now flat land, however, go a few miles West and you traverse hills and rivers, past huge rock formations, Amish farms, and small towns — a wonderland that the average traveler, bad mouthing the boring drive, never realized existed.

At the beginning of his journey, Heat-Moon wondered if “Maybe the road could provide a therapy through observation of the ordinary and obvious, a means whereby the outer eye opens an inner one.”

Meandering backroadI can attest to the  truth of those words. Instead of flying past everything, seeing nothing, “meandering” the back roads forces you to slow down, see the hawk soar over the trees, hear the water babble in the creek, and snatch glimpses of another slice of life — horses grazing, children playing, the old folks rockin’ in the shade of their porch.

Blossoming trees, Georgia

 

Instead of billboards advertising gas prices or the next fast food restaurant or tourist attraction, homemade signs announcing “maters and taters” or asking “Are you willing to take a chance with your soul?” You literally go over the river and through the woods, whether to grandmother’s house or not. And you breathe — not only slower, as the stress of everyday life melts away, but cleaner, filled with the scent of apple blossoms, fresh grass, crunchy leaves, tumbling water, or pine.

Heat-Moon shares his father’s philosophy that “any traveler who misses the journey misses about all he’s going to get,” that a man’s (or woman’s) observations and curiosity, make and remake them.

Taking five full days to travel from Wisconsin to central Florida may seem like an eternity to some. “I could do it in 2 ten-hour days!,” they boast. This isn’t Name that Tune, so I will not respond with how fast I could drive it because for me, it is the journey that matters.

This was not a true meander; I had a particular place to be in a “reasonable” amount of time. That time expectation and the cold, blustery weather kept me moving southward, hundreds of miles a day. In the end, it was more like Heat-Moon describes as “turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still.”

Since each day, I took time to stop, look, and listen — watching wildlife, lunching by pristine waters, hiking trails past awe-inspiring rock faces and to roaring waterfalls, sitting by the campfire, and star gazing — I did not mind watching the movie that unfolded before me at times. In the end it was a good journey.