Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Laredo to Saltillo 2012-10-12

Friday & Saturday to Saltillo 10&11 Oct 2012   2432 miles

Crossing the border into Mexico turned out to be much easier than we expected. We took the advice of friends from Oaxaca, Lisa and Carlos, and crossed just west of Laredo, Texas, at the very small town of Columbia, Mexico. We felt a twinge passing the sign at the Rio Grande that said "You are now leaving the USA."

The crossing station was pretty much desserted and we were the only car that crossed there during our brief transit. Immigration and customs were a snap. The officials were very friendly and helpful. They never even looked at our car, let alone inside it. In a gas station just on the Mexican side of the border, we had a nice conversation with a bilingual man, Martín, who lives in San Antonio, Texas, and in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. He was on his way to visit friends in San Luis Potosí and filled us in on how best to get going on our southern journey. He turned out to be just the first of many very, very helpful people who we have encountered here.

Not wanting to stop anywhere near the border, we drove south to Saltillo and then rested up there for two nights. The city of Saltillo (founded in 1575)  in Coahuila State, has proven to be an unexpected delight. The first afternoon, just after arriving, we visited the downtown area. It was abuzz with people. We went to a museum of serapes, which had no fee for admission, where we saw some incredible weavings. 

Our friend José in Potter Valley is of Purépecha origen, so we were delighted to see that his culture was represented in this exhibit.

Then, a photo exhibit at the Modern Art Museum, these are Richard's iPhotos of two of the exhibit's photos,

 and the huge, beautiful Cathedral.

We had read about a restaurant here in an online site run by a man named "Mexico Mike." His website has proven to be a font of information. At his site, he wrote that Saltillo has the "fourth best cabrito restaurant" in Mexico, "El Mesón Principal" -- so we tried it on the way back to the hotel.

As we were trying to park on the street in front of the restaurant, a man in jeans and a casual shirt came up to us and suggested that we park in the parking lot. While Pattie, our principal, designated driver, was parking, Richard, navigator, struck up a conversation with him. He turned out to be one of the owners of the restaurant and a well-known figure in Saltillo. His name is Juan Luis and he was a gracious host. When Richard told him that "Pattie loves cabrito," he asked, "What part of the goat does she like?" He invited us in and proceeded to give us a tour of the restaurant and the kitchen. Before we could enter the kitchen, he had us put on gauzy head coverings.

Each time we asked him what part of the goat he liked, he responded, "every part." Finally, Pattie picked the head and Richard picked the thigh. This turned out to be more than we could eat, especially since it came with guacamole, chips, and an appetizer consisting of a delicious melted cheese and a really complex salsa. A few hours later, we waddled out completely stuffed.

The next day, Juan Luis picked us up at our hotel at 10 AM, as planned, and drove us to the Desert Museum. He acted as our guide for two and half hours and we toured the history of the world as seen through this location. It was an evolutionary extravaganza, replete with loads of gigantic dinosaur skeletons excavated in the nearby desert. Also, there was a conservatory with native plants of the region, a Mexican cactus collection, and a small zoo. The exhibits were extensive and beautifully done.

Afterwards, he took us to a scrumptious seafood buffet that was plentiful and inexpensive. 

By ourselves in the afternoon, we visited the Bird Museum. We were taken on a detailed, fun- and information-filled tour by two delightful 16-year-old girls.  They were very knowledgeable and took turns explaining the exhibits.  Although the birds (all of Mexico) were stuffed, we got an idea of the enormous avian diversity of this country (among the top ten on the planet) and a preview of some of the birds we hope to see.

Looking at the local newspaper, we couldn't help but notice that there are still problems here, as you are aware. Even if you aren't conversant with Spanish, it's not too hard to figure out that asesinos = assassins, a word with an interesting background. The headline reads: Broadcast photos of the assassins of Moreira. Their nicknames, sometimes the only name that they have, are  revealing: 

a murderer of an important person in a surprise attack for political or religious reasons.
• (Assassin) historical a member of the Nizari branch of Ismaili Muslims at the time of the Crusades, when the newly established sect ruled part of northern Persia (1094–1256). They were renowned as militant fanatics, and were popularly reputed to use hashish before going on murder missions.
ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French, or from medieval Latin assassinus, from Arabic ḥašīšī ‘hashish eater.’]

Sunday to San Luis Potosí 14 Oct 2012   2714miles

We left Saltillo in the morning and arrived in San Luis Potosí mid-afternoon.  Richard took a swim in the pool and we relaxed and unkinked for the rest of the day. We decided not to take in the sights. This is a large city, spread out, and mostly industrial.

Monday to Tula 15 Oct 2012 2933 miles

Today's drive was from San Luis Potosi to Tula, Hildago, Mexico. There were lots of interesting sites along the way. As we neared Tula, it became more mountainous, rocky, and green.  The highest pass we drove through was 8750 feet.  Driving through the high desert and into the mountains, there were large drifts of wildflowers and clouds of butterflies for miles. We were told this is the season for butterflies.  We've never seen so many.  

We also saw lots of cowboys and shepherds with their flocks right next to the 4-lane divided highway.

In comparison to Oaxaca, there was not a lot of military presence, but it certainly wasn't absent.

Quite different from our little Prius, aka Trinquita!

Tula is set at 6,750 ft. As we drove into town, we drove under a handmade, wooden suspension bridge hanging between bluffs on both sides of the road.  There was a roadside shrine nearby with Santa Muerte, a saint unique to the Americas and now the patron saint of drug runners.  It was odd to see it here.

There is a large cathedral across the street from our hotel. It served at one point as a fortress and it looks like one.

Once again, the people here are incredibly friendly, gracious, and helpful.

1 comment:

  1. Love the weavings, and the cactus spine photos are really cool. I've enjoyed goat several times, but have never eaten the head. Sounds too boney. I'll be interested to hear about it.