LoneStar: Real De Catorce... Deja Vu

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by LoneStar, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Mexico called and said it missed me.

    My friend MotoHank asked me come along with him on a short trip to Real de Catorce with two other riders. They had to get back quickly but I decided I'd stay a bit longer. I left DFW and headed south to Austin for lunch with a MotoBro, then on to San Antonio to meet a few of Hank’s riding buddies at La Tuna before ending up in Dilley for some shuteye. The next day at Hank's shop I had the bittersweet surprise of seeing my old 1998 R1100GS Anniversary and meeting it’s new owner from San Antonio. It felt a bit strange to see my bike rolling in with a different rider after all the years of adventures, but he turned out the be the perfect new owner.

    I'd sold my home in the Hill Country and most of my stuff to fund an open-ended road trip. To celebrate I decided to pick up a newer R1200GSA for the next leg of life's adventures. The 98 Annie was and still is a superb bike and it was hard to let it go, but it's new owner sold his Super Teneré for it and couldn't be happier.

    This being the first trip of any substance on the new-to-me R1200GSA, I was looking forward to getting some real road and terrain time on it, having spent time on it only in the DFW area where I'm camped temporarily. Sunday morning we four met at Hank’s shop, blew down I-35 and hit Nuevo Laredo for Immigration and Vehicle Importation paperwork. Sunday is a good day to travel as the immigration lines are minimal at the border and traffic is a little less in Monterrey.

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    We throttled out of the border town by 10-ish for our destination, Santiago, a beautiful and peaceful town a little south of Monterrey. Dodging and lane splitting in Monterrey is always fun, but there was no traffic and we moved through easily.



    The square in Santiago was in full swing when we arrived late in the afternoon, live music playing, families and children filling the park. The church overlooking the center had services going with a street festival on the flagstone road adjacent. Sitting in the plaza, I was struck by the wholesomeness of the scene - families laughing and playing, lovers holding hands on park benches, elderly couples dressed up and strolling slowly. It is a rich experience and one I wish I could see in the United States.

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    (Little Juanita runs in terror from the sudden appearance of Manuel the Archangel)
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    The fresh mountain air and a gentle midnight rain sang a lullaby through the open windows of the hotel that evening.


    Mañana...
    #1
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  2. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Thanks for taking us on your next life adventure. Great pics! :thumb
    #2
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  3. stevie99

    stevie99 That's gotta hurt Super Supporter

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    :stupid
    #3
  4. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Monday morning we had breakfast on the square, loaded the bikes and donned the heavy gear for the ride.

    Locals having a laugh
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    Our route took us up to Cascada de Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls) for a short hike up the canyon to the falls. Twas a beautiful spot for sure.


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    From the canyon we headed high into the mountains on a tight and twisty road that required some serious concentration. We were engulfed in the cold mist and fog of the high peaks, eventually clearing enough to see the stunning mountains and canyons with quick glimpses off the sheer edges. The tightest switchbacks I’ve ridden and it required something of the rider, with very narrow and tight canyons and curves, the occasional truck thrown in for fun. If boredom was a problem, there were pleny of random lumps in the middle of off camber curves. I can say it is one of the top three I’ve yet ridden - just a real treat.


    I shot a fair amount of GoPro footage and not many stills, as the sheer size of the scenery was difficult to capture.




    There were massive sheer cliffs and tight narrow canyons, windy open expanses with mountains and orchards.


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    We grabbed a short stop for an old church and a ramble down house straight from a spaghetti western.

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    The were some children playing outside the house, and I prodded Hank to ask if we could look inside, the smokestack spewing blue wood smoke. I'd have paid to see how they lived, but a hard look with suspicion from a face in the door answered the question. Our offers to give a few pesos brought deafening silence as everyone disappeared into the dwelling.

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    Eventually we made the main highway south for our next destination, passing through the checkpoints with just a wave. A couple of hours at 90 mph led us to the little town of Cedral, then the 14 mile long cobblestone road for Real De Catorce, a village from the 1700's sitting at 9000’ in the desert mountains.




    An unfinished church in the village of Portrero, just before climbing the mountain road to Real, wasted much time as we explored and shot photos, only worsening as we discovered a massive abandoned hacienda nearby and spent more time exploring and shooting. Larry, one of our group, is a well known landscape architect and city planner, so his input and enthusiasm in the ruins was welcomed.

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    Portraito in Potrero
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    As the sun fell behind the mountain we rumbled up, the noise of the engines were masked by the vibration of the cobblestones and the myriad contents of our side cases. The original cobblestone road is fourteen miles long, culminating in a dusty, cool and dank ride through a two mile long mine tunnel that ends in a wonderful mountain village at 9000’ elevation. The little town sits high, isolated and still remains in the 18th and 19th century, its steep cobblestone streets and stone block buildings much as they were when Real was one of the richest mining cities in Mexico.


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    From whence we came
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    Tunnel Into Town Montage



    The sun set as we climbed off the bikes and unpacked gear, the cold mountain air flowing down the streets refreshing after hours in the sun.


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    More tomorrow amigos...
    #4
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  5. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Tuesday dawned bright and crisp at the high elevation, with the sounds of roosters, donkeys, horse hooves on cobblestone and rattling pickups in the early light. A bit of wandering early for some images brought smiles and interesting encounters, followed by a breakfast of scrambled eggs and thinly sliced ham, with a great cup of café de olla.

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    GS Bros
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    Hank met a friend on the street who was adorned in Bohemian apparel and sporting big smile. I can’t pronounce her name, but she’d grown up in Real, then lived in Denmark with her Danish mother and recently moved back. We were introduced to a friend from Ireland, Brian, a photographer who was doing a documentary on one of the festivals in Real. We talked cameras for a while before our caballero whistled and motioned for us to follow him. We huffed and puffed up one the steepest streets in town to the ruins which served as holding pens. We planned to go up to the old ghost town - “Pueblo Fantasma” - above Real, the mine and buildings pre-dating Real into the mid 1600’s.

    It’s a long an steep climb, so the horse trek was well worth the 300 pesos per.

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    Feeling absolutely nothing like tourists, we plodded our way up the narrow streets on cranky horses, determined to injure or scare the rider.


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    The steep old road was slick and polished cobblestone initially, falling away to polished rock. The asshole horses pushed and fought, slipping and sliding along sheer drops, the burro mounted caballero yelling occasionally at one of them or the other. We bypassed the ruined Pueblo and went all the way over the mountain, descending what could only be called a goat trail in most places, seriously steep and narrow, our guide yelling at the horses as they proceeded to lurch and argue with each other. In some parts it was a bit harrowing. We passed through old haciendas and mine buildings, dynamite stores and granaries, eventually ending up at a church from the late 1600’s. Hank and I had tried to reach the church previously by motorcycle but had run out of daylight, so this was cool.

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    From the high place, we watched as a military convoy of Mexican Marines slowly wound their way up the mountain road below us and headed for Real.


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    After exploring the church and shooting a zillion images, we had to backtrack up the steep and narrow trail to the top, and I can say I wasn’t too thrilled about it. My horse was being a bitch and bashing me into another horse as often as possible.


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    We finally made the top again and the ruins of the original mine, it’s 1000’ deep shaft taking a rock ten seconds to strike bottom. The various building ruins related to the mining process for silver, crushing the stone and washing the product. A lone mine shaft brought us some silvery sparkles in the darkness, illuminated by the light of a cell phone.


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    The final leg down was as discomforting as the way up, the crappy horses fighting each other and slipping and sliding their way down the steep rocks and trail.


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    The guide was paid and tipped, the walk into town short and a sidewalk cafe provided pork pozolé and gorditas while we watched the folks on the street. Clumps of Marines walked past and spoke to us with big smiles and friendly faces despite the slung rifles and pistols. Seems the military enjoy spreading cheer… thankfully I might add...


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    Oh yeah baby!
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    After lunch we separated for various ways and I found a few photo ops on the way to the hotel. I bought a bracelet from a local artisan, for whom my 500 peso note was too large to change. He gave me the bracelet and indicated for me to go and bring back the money at a later time. As we attempted to converse, a vagabond couple walked up and began speaking to him in Spanish. I wandered away and eventually got enough small change to return and pay. The couple were still there and we spoke. Patricio and his girlfriend were from Italy, having flown to the Yucatan where an old Suzuki motorcycle left them stranded. They continued their journey all over Mexico and central America by bus, but he was excited to talk motorcycles with me. He and apparently the entire town were well aware of our arrival on the GS’s and where we were staying.



    Artisan
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    Patricio and his girlfriend
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    Towards the end of the day, the four of us headed for the roof of the hotel to watch the sunset and generally be stupid. Once the sun had dipped below the mountain, the cold air of nightfall drove us down and to the restaurant.



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    Earlier Patrick had seen 4 riders coming into town on adventure bikes and they were having a meal with us that evening. They had trailered to Del Rio from Kansas and then ridden to Saltillo where they met their guide. One of the riders recognized Patrick from a trip to ride the Himalayas where they’d been riding partners. Small world.

    We were all beat from the exertion in the high altitude and headed back to hotel to pack for leaving. I had decided to stay a couple more days and spend a little time kicking back and shooting some pics. My trips to Real had always been rushed and I wanted to savor the solitude and spirit of this magical town.
    #5
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  6. SIGGI ragnar

    SIGGI ragnar Adventurer

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    Man that is so awesome!!!!
    and riding one horse power is a big change there!!
    thanks for sharing the photos!!
    #6
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  7. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    The crew was up early to pack the bikes and get ready for the marathon day back to Texas.

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    At 8 am the restaurant opened for breakfast and the fatigue was showing a bit. Huevos revueltos con jamon were the order of the day before we said our goodbyes in front of the restaurant with a few final pics.

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    As the sound of GS’s slowly disappeared down the street, I took in the crisp air and sunshine in several deep breaths. The altitude plays a part and the steep streets don’t help. I had adopted the street style of the old natives, walking very slowly and with short steps - but I added the “Oh I must stop frequently and take this all in” move to disguise how out of shape I am.

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    Real is a place to savor, to breathe in, to set aside any sense of schedule and just to be. The bohemian travelers one meets all say the same thing… just let go of time. It’s easy to do here.


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    Having met such friendly people each time I’ve come, I must say I feel that somehow I’ve lost something that I desperately want to regain. I consider myself a caring, open, and honest person who lives by the golden rule until it hurts, yet the way people I’ve met open their homes and lives to a stranger just humbles and shames me. I’ll spare my thoughts of the hardness and futility of the American lifestyle, but I have to look deeper inside at the walls I live behind.

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    To a photographer’s eye, Real is an eternal landscape of textures, moments, light and juxtapositions. It's like being a kid in a candy store and yet exhausting from the number of images one takes... even more so the ones that are missed.

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    As my thoughts of motorcycles and goodbyes faded, I slowly walked the sunlit streets and felt a sense of complete freedom, no schedules, no agenda, nothing but the sun and the sky as friends. It was a rare feeling and I took it all in in deep breaths. I needed the oxygen too.

    I shot image after image, stalking figures both unsuspecting and aware, waiting for the moment… which rarely came or when it did was ruined by the sudden appearance of someone into the shot. Photogs you know the frustration.

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    As I walked up to the municipal plaza, the sound of drums came loudly as a series of groups of school children arrived, each marching down a different street carrying flags and banners.

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    My wanderings eventually took me towards the old original church and cemetery, but I stopped for a Coke and savored the flavor while sitting on the stone ring of the old bullfight arena, the Coke's lukewarm contents growing warmer in the stinging mountain sun.



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    I reminded myself to return the glass bottle to the tiny street-side shop where the lady and her daughter had stared wide-eyed at the big gringo filling the tiny shop. I found a tree stump along the road and hid the bottle until I returned that way.

    The old church was built in the late 1600’s and then abandoned when the larger one was built in the town that grew up closer to the tunnel. Though the large church is impressive, it is this original one that I fell in love with.

    Amongst the graves of the cemetery, which choke the entrance from the deceased’s desires to be as near the altar as possible, I saw the small, old gentleman who takes care of the church and cemetery along with his wife. As I approached him he looked up and smiled in recognition. He reached out and grabbed my hand with both his, squeezing hard and smiling a big grin. I said “Jose” and he replied “Alejandro”. We attempted to communicate as usual, not really understanding but knowing each other’s desire to be able to.

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    From the church I wandered down across the road and climbed down into a small canyon, following it to the edge of the cliff, but it was hot and I was getting tired as the day had passed away.

    I climbed back up, retrieved the bottle from the tree and made my way up the dusty street, passing an older lady sitting by herself on a step. She was an older Hispanic lady and dressed a bit like a tourist. I greeted her as best I could and she began speaking to me in Spanish. We attempted to talk and in her tiny bit of English told me “Toronto, Ontario, Hershey’s Chocolate, Houston” to let me know she’d traveled to the US and Canada. We laughed in our attempts to communicate and then she produced a large list of handwritten things to do in Real, pointing at each one and asking si or no? We had fun and in my attempt to say it was a pleasure to meet said “bonita’ or some other word trying express “good” - she laughed and feigned flattery. I laughed and walked on, depositing the Coke bottle with a man in the little shop who looked at me like I was crazy.


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    A few steps further down the road I met Brian, a young photographer from Ireland and his friend and assistant Raine. They’d hiked to the Cerro Quemado, the sacred high place of the Huichol Indians that draws new agers from around the world for it’s “energy”. It sits high above the plains that harbor peyote, a part of their ancient ritual.


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    I eventually made the main street for a coffee and a rest on the sidewalk out front.


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    Pleasantries were exchanged with a few passersby until I headed to the hotel... to download images, sort and rate, tweak, export, attempt to upload again and again, attempt to connect to the forums, attempt to edit and export GoPro footage and then upload to Youtube, then write something interesting to post, go to SmugMug and attempt to connect, wait for the uploads to complete, copy links for each photo and paste them into the ride report, check Youtube upload status, all while the internet connection stopping for 15 minute intervals, made even more fun by the hotel attendant randomly resetting the modem from somewhere downstairs… only to find the forum post has lost it’s “token” and I have to redo it all again. Sometimes I wonder why I do this… :O


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    #7
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  8. stevie99

    stevie99 That's gotta hurt Super Supporter

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    Thanks for your efforts. The photos are fantastic, as is the commentary.
    #8
  9. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Thanks Stevie!
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  10. jimmex

    jimmex Guero con moto Supporter

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    Nice report and very nice photos. R14 brings back memories of the first moto trip I ever took in Mexico, some 25 years ago. Saludos.
    #10
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  11. Old Yeller Moto

    Old Yeller Moto New to site, be kind

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    Great post, great ride! I wish I could have stayed a few more days. Let's do another one soon.
    Thanks for putting this up. Why do people fear Mexico?
    #11
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  12. 3xranger

    3xranger Adventurer

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    Great pictures LoneStar!!! Sounds like you guys had a great trip south. Hope I can join you on the next one....

    Thanks for your kind words regarding your old R1100GS. I am honored to take it into my stable.
    #12
  13. Old Yeller Moto

    Old Yeller Moto New to site, be kind

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    Stole a photo of me for my avatar, thanks- Here are a few of you... IMG_1666.JPG IMG_1840.JPG IMG_1681.JPG
    #13
  14. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Thanks guys - Jimmex I sure wish I'd started 25 years ago. .. I bet you've got some stories!

    Larry, no one ever expects... I've got more of you I'll email

    Ranger, it was truly a pleasure meeting you and I hope we get to ride some - especially here in Mexico
    #14
  15. The Breeze

    The Breeze Been here awhile

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    Talk about a small world…….

    So I was in Saltillo yesterday and was going to Real today. So last night at the hotel, I see your ride report and decided to get a preview of today's ride.

    While going through your report, I see a picture of a guy that I recognized….. I scroll back and think to myself….I think that's Patrick. Turns out it was!!! Ironically, I was on the same Himalaya trip when I met Patrick. Would have been a trip to roll into Real and see you guys there!!!

    Unfortunately, I didn't preplan/book a room and every hotel was sold out…..so I was only able to spend the afternoon in Real. What a place! I'll definitely be back. Great ride report.

    Indeed….it's a very small world !!!
    #15
  16. Balanda

    Balanda Been here awhile

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    Hi LoneStar, I've been reading your report and trying to follow your path on Google Maps. Just wondering if, after Cedral, did you approach Real from the north or the west?
    Where to now, the home is sold, the bike is bought (nice one too), and you seem adventure bound ?
    Looking forward to keeping up with you. Cheers, Balanda.
    #16
  17. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    Hey Breeze! It would've been too weird for all three of you Himalaya guys to have been in Real at the same time LOL. Any chance you were riding with three other guys today on 57? Or did you happen to be on a KLR?

    Sorry to hear the hotels were sold out, and mine was empty this morning. I believe the week of Semana Santa is going on?

    Hey Balanda! The cobblestone road is the north approach, and some maps don't even show it. The western road, which we lovingly call "The Road of Certain Death" from the valley floor and is a narrow twisting dirt road that can be somewhat dangerous at times.. Here's a photo I took of my friend Hank as I was looking back up the road on the lower section.

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    and heading down
    #17
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  18. LoneStar

    LoneStar WhoopDeDoofus Supporter

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    I awoke a bit draggy and later than usual, due to being up way too late trying to get uploads done with the sporadic internet here. I’d changed rooms in the hotel to a single to save money and the balcony doors open to the street on the second floor. Usually the echoing sounds of old trucks, roosters and the like wake me up but not this time.

    I spent some time trying to finish up the online stuff and get my camera batteries charged and ready so by the time I got on the street it was nearing 10:30. Again the sun was bright and the skies clear with a crispness in the air. I wandered the streets until I saw tortillas being made by hand on the grill in a doorway and went in for breakfast. Was the only patron at the moment, but café de ollá and dos gorditas con huevos y queso were a good place to start.

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    She made the tortillas by hand and watched the street, while the sound of music from the vendors echoed in the city. The tortillas slowly rose like puffer fish on the griddle until the steam poured out, the señorita quickly grabbing them, slicing them open and filling them with all the goodness I needed.


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    As the place began filling with patrons, I finished up and wandered across the street to the museum and paid 10 pesos for entry. It occupies the old mint, with an upper floor dedicated to the history of the area and some great old photographs of the Huichol Indians, along with artifacts and such. The lower floors are galleries and exhibits of artists and their works.


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    Exiting, the attendant pointed across to the large church and gave me hand signals where to go and repeated “milagros” several times. I thanked him and though I’d been several times, I wandered over to visit again. The church is much larger than the older one on the edge of town and is impressive in itself. It was empty save for four who knelt for prayers. I watched in reverence and walked slowly on the wooden plank floors which squeaked loudly under my weight no matter how slowly I moved. The loud echoes seemed a bit inappropriate with the piousness of the worshippers. And about those floors, there is some debate as to what they are, as they appear almost as wooden doors or lids with hand holds in them, the purpose unknown… or at least one purpose I discovered a bit later.

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    In a room on the left side of the sanctuary are hundreds or thousands of hand written and hand painted letters from those who testify of their healings and miracles. It is quite impressive to see.


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    As I made my way out, I stopped to change lenses and of course dropped a rear lens cap, only to watch it roll like a tiny wheel straight into the nearest hole in the floor. At last the mystery of the wooden floor and its holes was revealed.

    Crass as it may seem, I waited until the worshippers finally left before getting on my knees in the main aisle to see if I could find it in the hole. I could see it and actually touch the top of it with my finger, but my hand was too large to gain the extra 1/2” needed to catch it between two fingers. I tried to fish it with my sunglasses to no avail, and even looked around to see if there might be something I could use, but I’d have had to disassemble some holy relic so I decided not to... I prayed for a milagro to no avail. I was alone, but the thought of what it would look like to see a huge white guy digging in a hole in the middle of the aisle in their holy place seemed hard to explain, so I made sure my back was facing the entrance so that if anyone came in, it would appear I was kneeling or crawling in reverence towards the altar.

    After some time like a raccoon trying to reach something in a bottle, I decided I’d spent enough time on my knees in the main aisle and did NOT want to be known as the giant gringo who was kneeling in the aisle with his hand stuck in the hole and unable to leave. I can only imagine the legend that would grow out of that.. Anyways, if you ever need a Micro 4/3 rear cap feel free to figure which hole it’s in.

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    From the church I walked to the fountain in front of the municipal building, then down another street until I spotted a young vagabond couple, the girl wrapped like a gypsy and the boy dirty, burned dark and disheveled. In the U.S. I’d say they were homeless and living on the streets, but as I got closer they were in a heated argument in perfect English, debating their website's design, traffic patterns and promulgation as they worked on their MacBook Air laptops. Had to chuckle.


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    Aside from my tush, the only other casualty from our horse riding experience a couple days before had been the small camera pouch I used in my tank bag. My cranky horse chose to bash it (and me) repeatedly into the other horses with ferocity, actually ripping the seams on the innocent pouch. I’d been through a couple of shops looking for a suitable leather replacement the day after, but nothing was right. Again I went into a shop owned by an Italian leather maker to see if I might have missed something. He had been gone to lunch the previous time, but was in his shop today. In broken English we discussed my problem and he said he could make me a simple pouch to carry one body with lens mounted along with a second lens. He drew the design on paper and said he’d have it ready in the morning. I thanked him and wandered out, excited to get it the next day.


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    As I neared the hotel, a dog lay casually in the street and as I looked at him, a guy selling jewelry on the sidewalk spoke to me in a French accent, telling me the dog’s name. He was young and sported the gypsy look that is the style of young and old non-locals living in the area. He said his name was Guillaume and he was from Switzerland. While we spoke a darkened Hispanic man with tattoos and piercings arrived with tortillas, cheese and avocados. The man introduced himself and asked if I would like some of the food, as he, Guillaume and a third young man all lived in the same house in the little village of Los Catorce, shared their food and made jewelry to sell. Indeed each had a blanket with their own styles of handmade jewelry on it. I thanked him for the offer of food, and he responded that I was welcome to stay at his home the next time I came to visit the town. The three of us talked for quite a while before I decided to move along.

    It was late when I took my seat on a stone curb and watched the setting sun skim across the building facades and the faces of those who passed by.
    #18
    Uke, stevie99 and Balanda like this.
  19. Uke

    Uke visualist Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2013
    Oddometer:
    3,554
    Location:
    HouTex USA
    A resounding ditto!
    #19
  20. The Breeze

    The Breeze Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2010
    Oddometer:
    402
    Location:
    The Rockies
    Ya….that would have been a trip if we'd all met up in Real!

    In answer to your question, I was riding solo on a Tiger 800XC. I did see a red 1200 GS riding North (while I was riding South on 57 before turning West towards Cedral) though…..possibly you?
    #20