As this crazy year, 2020, comes to a close, we hope you’re staying WELL and still finding ways to have FUN and enjoy LIFE while socially distancing. We are grateful for Zoom and our Internet connection to be able to keep in touch with family and friends. And we’re grateful for being able to socially-isolate in our own little piece of outdoor paradise in Barra de Navidad.
We’re also grateful that the weather has finally “cooled off” enough to get in some early morning sunrise hikes again. Air temperature is so relative, right? At 78°F in Seattle, we’d be busting out the shorts and tank tops. Here in Mexico, we’re donning long-sleeve shirts or sweatshirts! LOL… And honestly, as much as we love the tropics, some of your photos of *s*n*o*w* are making us a tad envious of a white Christmas. But the views here are amazing and the colors are different every morning, and we’re grateful for that too. And if we want white, we can go to the beach!
Below: Sunrise views over the Isla de Navidad Resort & Marina. Note the Barra town Christmas Tree can be seen through the palm trees, second row on right. Click each image to view larger.
Barra de Navidad translates to “Christmas Bar”, meaning a sandbar, not a public ale house! And Barra normally puts on grand Christmas festivities. Since before we left Seattle five years ago, we’d heard stories of friends who’d spent Christmas in Barra. And we’d always looked forward to doing that.
We actually thought we’d be to Barra by Christmas 2015, our first year cruising. But thanks to many early winter storms causing port closings throughout California, we only made it as far as San Diego by Christmas that year! Each year after, we hoped to be here in Barra by Christmas, but the Universe had other plans. How ironic that we’ve FINALLY made it to Barra on the year that most of the Christmas celebrations have been canceled. Se la vie.
But we will be participating in the first annual Barra de Navidad Boat Parade this week with decorated boats parading along the waterfronts of Barra and the neighboring town of Melaque. Kirk has been getting Due West all decked out with blue lights around the lifeline perimeter, and multi-colored lights up and down the forestay and backstay. She looks great, but sadly our phone-cameras don’t do the LED lights justice and we have yet to get a good photo. Hopefully, after the parade, we’ll have one to insert here. And we’ve heard the locals are very excited to see the parade. Many of them have never seen a boat parade before, and it’s an easy, socially distanced way for the cruising community to give back to the local community.
Recently we saw a Facebook post and photos about a day-trip to Villa Purificación, a rural agricultural area with some old colonial towns, a few hours away from Barra. It looked really beautiful, and we decided our early Christmas gift to each other would be to rent a car and take a day trip. And what a FUN day it was. We left Barra in the morning and drove north over the mountains in the photo below.
After crossing over several mountain passes, we finally descended into a large agricultural valley ringed by mountains, which reminded us somewhat of a tropical version of Jackson Hole. Our first stop was a town called La Huerta (“the orchard”). We did a quick drive through this prosperous agricultural town, where many new buildings are being erected right next to old classics. This modern new furniture store on the right was literally a few doors down from these beautiful old doors and windows, below.
By the looks of the new buildings going up in town, the cars they were driving, and the way the locals were dressed, it doesn’t look like their economy is hurting much here. In fact, the agricultural areas of Mexico seem to be booming. Everyone needs to eat, right? On the other hand, we saw few to no masks being worn in La Huerta, and lots of people congregating in close proximity in stores. We wish them well.
After La Huerta, we continued driving on into the valley of Tecomatlán, best known for farming and agriculture. Farming here includes pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle, mostly Brahmans—Heidi’s farmer sister told us this breed thrives in high heat, and the hump on their shoulder can hold water like a camel—who knew? They also farm chickens and raise honey bees. Agricultural crops here include corn, sorghum, beans, rice, watermelon, sugarcane, tomatoes, chili peppers, and some citrus fruits.
Below top left: Baby chicks for sale in the feed store; top right: these little goat kids were trying to nurse from mama doe as she crossed the road; middle left: leather cell phone holders complete with chickens, horses, spurs, and rodeo bulls were a good fit for this agricultural area; middle right: we bought several seed packets and will attempt to expand our menu of sprouts; bottom brahman cattle foraging beneath the coconut palms. Click each image to view larger.
And we had to stop at this roadside watermelon stand below, where they give you a slice to sample before buying. Yum!
Sugarcane and Piloncillo
Fields of sugarcane and corn stretched as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, as in Hawaii, it’s very common to burn the cane fields after harvesting. And there was lots of evidence of smoke in the air. But as our resident landscape architect, Kirk, reminded us ecologically, “burning favors grasses, and sugarcane is a grass.”
Below left: cane fields burning in the distance while horses, cows, ducks, and goats mill around the pond; right: maize growing in the foreground with sugarcane growing in the distance. Bottom: who knew sugarcane flowers were so beautiful? They reminded us of pampas grass. Click each image to view larger.
Below: Piloncillo sugar cones are a Mexican staple made from unrefined whole cane sugar.
Piloncillo (“Pea-loan-SEE-yo”) has a very rich molasses-like taste. And according to IsabelEats.com it is made by crushing sugar cane and collecting the juice. The sugar cane juice is then boiled and reduced to a thick syrup (similar to molasses). Then, the syrup is poured into molds and dried. The word piloncillo means “little loaf”, which is a traditional shape in which the sugar is molded. Piloncillo cones are very solid and hard. And need to be broken up with a sharp knife or cheese grater to use.
As we were traveling down the road we came upon this sugarcane truck loaded to the gills, and actually skipped past our turnoff to Villa Purificación to get this shot. Then we sped around it to get the front shot—really surprised to see it was a dump-truck!? Kirk estimated the height of this cane truck to be ~20’+. See pickup truck at right for scale.
From the turn-off to Villa Purificación, we wound back up into the hills, passing several more rural villages and this roadside-shrine and then a church out in the middle of nowhere, decorated to the max with garlands and lights, as the Mexicans know how to do SO well.
A few years ago we attended a Christmas Eve Mass in a small-town church. On one side of the priest was a fully decorated Christmas tree complete with multi-colored flashing chaser lights. On the other side of him was a life-size Angel Gabriel, also fully adorned with flashing, multi-colored chaser lights. We were quite sure someone would have an epileptic seizure during the mass! And who could possibly keep their eyes on the priest? LOL.
Villa Purificación is a charming and clean little town. This hill-town above the valley is also the oldest town in the state of Jalisco, dating back to 1533. The little history we could find tells that the Conquistadors conquered the local Indios in the area in 1525, in order to build their town and church. Click each image to view larger.
In 1615 a plague ravaged many of the remaining indigenous living in the surrounding mountains. However, there were apparently enough Indios left to instigate an uprising in 1914 where they burned most of the town down. Sadly, we didn’t see any evidence of indigenous people in our travels, although there were probably many out working the fields. While some of the buildings in town appear to be quite old, there is also evidence of new construction, like the new municipal market building on the outskirts of town.
Below: Villa Purificación is a very colorful town, from old vibrantly painted buildings and hand-painted signs on stores, to weathered, peeling paint and new artistic murals. Click each image to view larger.
There was also a picturesque little river on the outside of town. Driving across a rickety one-lane bridge to get this shot, don’t’cha know we came head to head with a Coca-Cola truck! Not sure where he was going on this one-lane farm road?
And it wouldn’t be a road trip in Mexico without seeing Seattle/Ballard’s own Bardhal Oil signs everywhere! We’ve seen them from Cancún to Baja to Jalisco.
We’ll leave you with this Winter Solstice sunset, wishing you all the joys, love, and peace of Christmas and the New Year. May 2021 be a better year for all. Tosh & Tikka are doing great, loving life aboard, and send you all lots of kitty kisses! xoxo