Saturday, March 16, 2019

Skimboarding Still a Mystery

We had a chance to watch Melaque's big skimboard contest today. This is the big one of the year and is held the last few days during the celebration in San Patricio. We were not in Melaque last year for the competition, but the two years prior we gathered with the crowd and watched.

With three years as a spectator under our belt, I can say with utmost confidence that I still have no clue to what is going on at this competition.

Yes, I see the borders run down the sand and toss their board out in front of themselves. With great agility, they land on the board and skim across the sand and climb onto the incoming wave. Then they either swoop up and down the wave, flip the board under their feet, or shoot high into the air while grabbing the board in one hand.

When this is completed, the crowd applauds, fellow boarders pound on their boards and there is general ruckus acknowledging the trick. Somewhere under a RedBull Tent, the judges tally a score and the event continues.

This takes place over and over throughout the three days and we know nothing about the sport. It is fun to watch, I get some great photos, but if you were to ask me anything about what I witnessed I would probably look at you blankly and shake my head.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Mex ECO Adventure - Taxco

Previously, I mentioned the taxis in Taxco. Taxis in Taxco, sounds funny, doesn’t it?

Mexican volcano Popocatepetl viewed
out our bus window.
We left Puebla early on Wednesday morning of the tour. The cuota followed the base of the big volcano, Popocatépetl as we left the city. We had been seeing far off and hazy views of this volcano as we traveled around Puebla. Folks on the right side of the bus had a wonderful view of Popo’s peak most of the time during the hours we traveled.

Unfortunately, Linda and I were sitting on the driver’s side of the bus and had to dash across the aisle to get a look as it drifted past. Linda did a great job of chasing down photos when the opportunity arose.

Popo puffing!
We pulled into Taxco and off-loaded the bus. All the suitcases were loaded into a truck and we were packed into combis, the local minibus system. After some steep and winding turns we were deposited in the zocalo, the land of VW bug taxis!

By this time we were a close-knit group!
Our hotel, the Hotel Agua Escondida, was located on the northeast side of this plaza. The very first thing we learned as we checked out the hotel was that if you are going to exit a door or attempt to cross the street, you needed to look both ways and look carefully!  There were very few sidewalks, no stop signs or crosswalks, and no one stopped for anyone in this town! It was a system where walkers were observed, but it was their responsibility to move out of the way of traffic.

Entering the Hotel we climbed up to the reception area, got our keys and then climbed up to our room. We climbed and climbed up to our room. Over 80 steps from the street to our bed, this vacation is really one big hill climb!

Arriving at our next hotel.

The room was very nice! Looking out our window we had a panorama of the hillside of Taxco. It was breathtaking! Linda called my attention to the bed stand in our room. There, on a little note, were two sets of earplugs. The note explained that due to the nature of the Mexican people’s love of music and parting; and the layout of the hotel acting as a sound funnel, the rooms could be quite loud at night. This was the first room we have ever had that gave us a warning and a solution to the sounds of Mexico. We both smiles and shook our heads.

Our next two and a half days were spent exploring, shopping, and eating. All of these things we’ve become very good at. Silver was the big ticket item in this area, Taxco was famous throughout Mexico for its silver items.  I watched as Linda’s eyes lit up, knowing that we may not be able to afford to go home after this shopping adventure.

Dan doing another headcount.
The second day of our stay we loaded into six VW Taxis and found our way to the bus. Once loaded back into our seats, we drove to Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park and Caverns. There we walked down into the caverns and made our way 2.5 miles round trip through one of the largest cave systems in the world.

The rock structures in this system were phenomenal! Pictures do not do them justice and I cannot begin to tell about the immensity of these caverns.
This is a tour, well worth the small entry fee that is charged.

Watch out for those cars!
Our bus dropped us back along the main highway in Taxco. The bus could not go into the city of Taxco due to the narrow streets and sharp curves. Our driver Daniel had to stay down where he could maneuver the bus. Again we loaded into taxis and climbed up to the zocolo.
A group of us gathered and found VW taxis to take us to a gondola that services Monte Taxco and is the easiest way to visit this resort. The taxi ride was fast and furious through the narrow streets. I previously posted a blog post about this ride so check it out if you can.
Santuario Santa Veracruz.
We rode the gondola up to the top and then walked through the hotel to view the vistas of the town of Taxco. It was a great way to see the town and how it clings to the mountainsides.

For some reason, the ride back to the hotel was much shorter and more direct. A group of us met up at the pool bar and celebrated our final night of this wonderful adventure. Every night we were at our hotel there was music and dancing in the zocolo. We walked and had dinner and then enjoyed the music of Mexico before retiring for the night.

Looking out and up from our hotel window.
The next morning we did some final shopping, met our bus, drove to the airport in Mexico City, said our good-byes to our new friends and returned home. Our whirlwind adventure had come to an end.

Looking out and down from our room.
A very nice representative view of Taxco.
Looking up from the hotel, again.
Each night they had entertainment in the Zocolo.
Night from the hotel roof.
Hat vendor. Jacquie bought a beauty.
Caribs from the church.
Vendors everywhere!
A strange display with no explanation.
Grutas de Cacahuamilpa National Park.
Entering the caverns.

Linda after the 2.6 mile round trip into the caves.
Me, relaxing while others shop.
From our table at lunch.
The gondola up to Monte Taxco.
Views from the top.
Dean and Linda at the top.
Back at the pool bar at our hotel.

The hear of our group having drinks the final evening.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Taxis in Taxco

Our troop moved on and the bus delivered us to Tasco where we would spend the next two nights. The first thing that everyone noticed was the number of VW bug taxis scurring throughout the neighborhoods. It was so interesting! The streets were very narrow and every vehicle had to be much smaller than a normal city.  We watched the vehicles dance and swerve around corner after corner. At one point in our stay, we took a bug taxi over to the gondola when we explored one of the resorts at the top of the hill.  Of course, I made a video of the drive. Then there was the corner just outside the restaurant at our hotel where the traffic had to make three-point turns to get on up the street. Someone captured the dance of these vehicles and posted it on YouTube. I placed it below also.

Here is that little video from YouTube that shows the corner just outside the restaurant in our hotel. Yes, it was just like this!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Mex ECO Adventure - Puebla

Back of the plane selfe to begin our adventure.
Our time of winter living down in Melaque is growing short. The owner of the house we have rented for the past three months returned and the four housemates have become vagabonds for the final two weeks in the warmth. In one big move, we borrowed the Frog, Larry’s truck, and relocated to Las Palmas as our last home.

Grant and Jacquie have rented Hal and Gretchen’s casita and Linda and I are in the Pescado bungalow, formerly occupied and owned by Gary and Grace. We will stay one night and then we are off on our final Mexico exploration.
Looking down at Cihuatlán,
Rio Marabasco, and Aeropuerto.

Our group tour provided through a local company called Mex ECO, would take us to visit the cities of Puebla and Taxco. We have traveled with this group three times before so we know what we to expect. We are eager to travel but tired from our short move to Las Palmas. We were all hoping for a good night’s rest, but, this is Mexico and they like to party here. The very loud music lasted until about 5 AM, we all were getting up at 6 AM. So much for a fresh restful start to our adventure!
Farmlands between Manzanillo and Mexico City.

Somewhere in Mexico City.
We had a taxi pick the four of us up and take us to our rendezvous spot at Mex ECO’s office. At that time we loaded into rental vehicles and were taken to the Manzanillo Airport where we loaded onto an Aero Mexico jet for an hour flight to Mexico City. Everything went very smoothly considering the number of people traveling together, twelve from Melaque, two from Barra, and six from Manzanillo. This group met up with a second group made up of six people from Puerta Vallarta and finally two from Guadalajara.

The Manzanillo/Melaque group gathered at the bus just outside the terminal and waited for the second flight to arrive. The timing of this arrival was the crux part of our day. A late flight could throw the entire schedule off. We waited!

The tour company, Mex ECO, is co-owned by a very nice young fellow named Dan Patman. He is from Great Britain but is now a permanent resident of Mexico and shares ownership duties with a young lady named Ruth. Dan was the Mex ECO representative on this trip as he has been on all the trips we have taken with them.

 Smaller pyramids and temple bases @ Cacaxtla.
Dan spent the next hour on the phone keeping track of the plane and the final members of our tour. When they finally arrived, he introduced our tour guide Ofilia, and our bus driver, Daniel, and we launched into the traffic of Mexico City.

Guards at the gate of Cacaxtla, we are locked out.
Our first stop of this tour was scheduled as a tour of the well-preserved murals at the Cacaxtla archaeological site. These are said to be the best-preserved examples of murals painted on stone walls by the Olmec-Xicalanca culture. We were excited to get a chance to see this area. Dan was calling his hired tour guide to make sure we could get in the gates before they closed. It was very nip and tuck. Traffic was heavy, we were behind schedule.

The bus pulled into the parking lot at the historic site and we unloaded quickly. Dan’s guide met us and hurried us across the road and into the park through the front gates. It looked like we had made it before the gates were locked!  As we walked down towards the pyramid mounds we looked back and saw that the public gates were closed and locked. Wow! That was cutting it close.

A disappointed and tired group.
Our site guide started his speech telling us about the area and pointing out the numerous pyramid mounds that sat around the site not yet excavated. He explained that in Mexico there are thousands of sites that have been left covered by soil for the protection of the history. The area excavated here is just a fragment of what could be uncovered. As we approached the gate leading to the 25-meter-high Gran Basamento where the murals are displayed, two guards closed the gates and refused to allow us into the site. They said we were too late and the area was closed.

Artifact at Cacaxtla, but I couldn't read the explanation.
At first, Dan and the area guide thought they were kidding us or were expecting a “mordita”, a money payment. As the conversation continued we could tell that they were holding their ground and were refusing us entrance. The guide and Dan knew that the entire site was to remain open to the people of Mexico and all who visit while the sun was up. This was according to the Constitution of Mexico. Dan brought this fact up, but they refused. Words were exchanged and finally, we retreated about fifty yards away from the gate where our site guide explained what we would have seen had we been allowed to go through the gates.

We walked back to the bus, disappointed and a bit mad. Our next bus leg would take us into Puebla to the Hotel San Leonardo where we would spend the next three nights. This part of our travels was to take us about 45 minutes. We, however, failed to take into account the many Carnaval parades that were happening. Our 45-minute trip extended to over 2 hours. We were more than ready to be done with this travel day.

San Gabriel monastery at the top of Choula.
Monday morning we filed into our mighty steel steed and drove through the city of Puebla to the Great Pyramid of Cholula! From many miles away we could see the church set on the top of the pyramid. What an amazing site!

We filed out of the bus and wandered about the lower grounds, taking pictures and looking at the wonder of this place. As we neared the new museum, it became apparent that something was a bit wrong. The new museum was closed on Mondays!

There is a bit of an explanation for this mistake. This Mex ECO tour was first scheduled to be started one day later, but they changed the travel dates and pushed the tour back a day. Rumors spread about why the change, but nothing could be substantiated. Because of this change we were visiting the museum one day earlier in the week - Monday. The venue was closed that day, but Mex ECO was not aware of this weekly closure. So they went to plan B.
We visited the old little museum.

Once we looked around that building we walked to the entrance to the pyramid tunnels and entered the base of Choula. The pyramid stands180 feet above the surrounding landscape and measures 1,480 by 1,480 feet square. We walked through these tunnels for about a half mile to enter the archeological site. There were many off-shoot tunnels which were blocked from travel and used by the archeologists. It was a very neat walk if a bit claustrophobic.

The artwork on the grounds below
the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
After exiting the tunnels we walked around the site looking at the unearthed rock structures, steps and alters. It gave you a good look at what the Olmec-Xicalanca culture created. It made me wonder why the areas were the way they were and how they were used when the place was inhabited.

Gathering back on the bus everyone was talking about how amazing this site was and we also wondered what we had missed in the new museum. By this time we were becoming more acquainted with our traveling companions. Everyone was getting along fantastically. It is always fun to get to know everyone on these tours.

Mockup display showing the Great Pyramid.

Mural, like the ones we couldn't see the day before.

Great Pyramid tunnel entrance.

We were able to walk through
the Great Pyramid via tunnels.

The tunnels were about a half mile long.

Excavated area around the Great Pyramid.

One of the alters on the grounds.

Workers keeping the site cleared of vegetation.

Santa Maria Tonantzintla looks normal outside.
La Compania Tempo del Espiritu Santo from our
room at the Hotel Palacio San Leonardo.
Back on the road, we drove to our first church that we would tour on this trip, Santa Maria Tonantzintla. This was one of 7000 churches in the Puebla area and it also was an excellent example of baroque indigenous or baroque novohispano style. Unfortunately, we could not take photos of the interior of this church. Strike three for the photographers. 

To visualize the interior of this church I would suggest dropping a bunch of acid and turn your baroque mind loose. This is a pretty amazing sight and only pictures can give you the true essence of what was created. I inserted a short travel video that was created to attract visitors at the bottom of this post. Please scroll down and take a look.

We had a wonderful hotel in Puebla. It was clean and quiet; our room looked out over a labyrinth of stairs, passages, roofs, and two beautiful old churches. Each morning and evening that we were there I would gaze out over the city and imagine how the past and present all make up the Puebla of today.

We walked a lot while we were not bus touring. Our free time was spent sightseeing, shopping, and hunting for food. One of our tour events was a visit to the Fabrica De Talavera Armando and the Museum Armando Talavera Poblana where we were educated about the art of creating the Talavera pottery. They provided us a demonstration of the entire Talavera creation process, showed us through the museum, and then finally let us purchase some beautiful pieces.

At lunch, on our second day, an auspicious happening transpired.  As we sat down for lunch, a truck backed into sight on the street and opened its back doors. A full array of speakers was housed in this hold and they began to broadcast music. 

Suddenly from all around our restaurant seats, dancers started to gather. They were dressed in the most beautiful costumes with massive feathered headdresses and masks. It was amazing. A bit of confusion and flutter occurred and then dancers filled the street and more music blared.  I took a ton of pictures and even more video of this event. 

The dancers were there to celebrate the Festival Huehues. This festival is part of the overall Carnaval which takes place before Lent. These Huehues dancers gather and each type of costume is representative of their barrio and they are awarded feathers each time they performed.

Talavera pottery, we purchased one dish and a plate.
To us it was spontaneous magic; we were in the right place at the right time. By the way, we had a wonderful lunch. Linda discovered mole for the first time and is hooked.

Each day and night in Puebla was packed with great food and wonderful people-watching. Everything about the place was amazing and we had a wonderful time. Our adventure continued as we traveled on to the unique and beautiful city of Taxco. I hope you enjoy the photos and the videos I have created.

(Remember, clicking on the photos enlarges them for more detail.)
We visited a pottery factory.
This shows the five stages of firing
needed to make Talavera pottery.
Throwing a pot.
Painting a pitcher.
Painting a lid.
Spending more money!
Photo of a street market. 
A balloon vendor as dusk.

Inside a cool old library.
Library floor has worn down by ages of use.
The department at the highest, hardest to get to point
in the library. 

We took an open tour bus. The wires touched the top.
If you stood up, goodbye!

Love locks attached to a fence overlooking the city.
This lady pushed Grant out of his seat on the tour. 

Many buildings had plants growing from their walls.
Shopping again.
Huehues dancers gathering before their performance. 

The lady in red was this groups queen bee.

Our lunch, interrupted by the dance performance.
The second dance group performed in these costumes.

My little angel!

Yet another dancer moving through the streets.