More Mexico: Perspectives on Perspiration
Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink
Let me tell you a story about air conditioning. For most of my life, I didn't live in a home where it was installed. Our family didn't even own a automobile with AC until I was fifteen; all of our other vehicles were well furnished with the four-sixty model (four windows down, sixty MPH) and that worked just fine. We certainly traveled and went on vacation to places where we used AC (Hawaii, southwest US, etc) frequently, but it was never something I had in my home or was a basic requirement (1st word problems right here) to be comfortable.
Then I moved to Singapore. EVERYTHING has AC there. There are even cafes with outside seating where AC units blow cold air on the guests. Even with that, after a few months I got used to the heat and humidity; the average temp is 25c/85f to 35c/95f and 85% (at night) to 95% (daytime) humidity. 365 days of the year, since Singapore is a few km away from the equator. I started sleeping with the AC off (until Clo moved in, at least; then we compromised and it was on about 50% of the nights). I started running, and even some crazy times when I did triathlons. I walked 15-20 minutes to work on occasion. After a while I really didn't mind it and came to embrace the conditions, though I always appreciated visiting or working in places without the humidity.
Ok let's set things straight right here, right now, no need to go further. I don't sweat. Of course not. I am a girl. So I don't consider this article to have much to do with me. I will let Matt explain how sweaty he is by himself. ;-)
Now I have a whole new set of experiences. Singapore was nothing. Imagine the same conditions as Singapore but the only AC you have is in your home... but only when your home is moving. And that's only for a few hours a day, at most. Many days our home doesn't move at all. So unless we are in a nice airbnb, hostel or some restaurant or shop with AC, we are constantly in the elements. And we likely haven't had a shower in a day or more. Are you getting the picture I'm painting with my sweaty fingers? I have never longed for and/or appreciated air conditioning and/or cooler temperatures so much! And rain? My gosh, like mana from heaven. Except then you have to get in the back our home smelling like a stray dog and your clothes will stay odoriferously moist for who knows how long.
And we're just two months into this lifestyle. As we spent our days in Hermosillo, I loved and absolutely adored the airbnb we were in with air conditioning and huge shower. We explored Hermosillo and I went running a couple of times, but I always loved coming back to our little cool and cleansing oasis. Thankfully it was dryer in Hermosillo compared to the Baja and the rest of Sonora along the Sea of Cortez, but it was still hot and humid. When it came time for us to depart Hermosillo, I was sad because we were leaving this wonderful place (and our delightful host) behind, but excited because we were headed away from the humidity and into the mountains!
If I had to choose, I am definitely a mountains sort of guy instead of the ocean. I enjoy both but always feel more at ease in the cooler climates, relative lack of humidity and more vertically interesting scenery. As much as I was longing for the mountains, we did decide sort of at the last minute to visit the supposedly beautiful town of San Carlos along the coast (about 1 hr from Hermosillo) before we headed inland.
I'm glad we did! We enjoyed the beautiful views, did a small hike down to a secluded beach near sunset, drank some deliciously cool beers overlooking the ocean and watched a bunch of other tourists.
<When it is about drinking I have to say something!! : I am so glad we did go there!! San Carlos was a really cute little stop. Going up the hill to get to a view point we drove past dozen of cars parked in the shade on the side of the road, lots of locals with their trunks open, some catchy music and cold beers in the hand. That might be what made us want to stop at the next bar for a cold one. (or maybe it was the call of WIFI... that in the end didn't work!).
But we don't drink much anymore so that was gooooood!!>
After which we went right back to our regularly scheduled programming of marinating in our own juices as we slept in the back of Wilbur, parked right on the (admit-ably beautiful) humid beach.
But the marinating was worth it, look at that we view when we woke up:
I was very excited to start driving the next morning, since the nose of our steed was pointed directly east towards Parque Nacional Cascada de Basaseachic. Oh, and we had the air conditioning at max. Heaven.
As the long day of driving continued, my smile became increasingly wider and more frequent. The sand dunes and cactus were replaced slowly by the rolling hills of scrub and cactus. While stopping for a sweaty lunch on the side of the road, I could see actual mountains in the distance. Energy restored and the AC back on, we continued driving east into ever growing hills. After a couple more hours, I glanced down at the outside temperature and giggled like a small boy who just discovered he could aim his urine. It was less than 80f/27c!! I quickly turned off the AC to... nope, still too hot for no AC. Stupid sun, heating things up. Every twenty or thirty minutes I would repeat the drill, just to see if it was time for some four-sixty AC (more like four-twenty, given the road conditions).
Finally, after a long and slow climb up a steep and pothole-filled incline, we were able to turn off the AC for good. It was also getting late in the afternoon and we still had a few hours until our destination, so at the next small town we came across we found the cheapest hotel (we had two choices, it wasn't difficult) right as it started to pour down rain. I could tell we had finally arrived in the mountains, because this (actually rather nice) hotel didn't even have AC in the room. Halleujah! Oh, and a shower. Showers twice in three days, we were really living the life of luxury now. Goodbye sweat!
The next afternoon we arrived at the Basaseachic Falls in the middle of the Sierra Madre mountains. We weren't sure where we wanted to sleep while we were here, but we ended up in a spectacular spot; the parking lot at the overlook! The park ranger closed it around 7pm, wished us a good night and asked if we were leaving earlier than 8am. That's when he was opening the gate at the bottom of the road. Perfect! And the weather was even better than perfect. It rained every few hours, but it was cool and so, so beautiful. No sweating. We even used the comforter handmade by my grandma (she died quite a few years ago, and my mom gave us this beautiful comforter to take with us on our trip) for the first time since we started. Awesome.
So awesome we ended up staying there three days/two nights. The second day we started to get to know a local family who had a small stand in the parking lot; they sold a few handmade crafts, elote (corn on the cob) and drinks. The father actually slept at the top in his truck (though not as comfortable as us; just in his cab) to make sure nothing happened to their goods (it was an open stand and too much to move up and down every day), while the wife and kids worked there throughout the day. I practiced my very poor Spanish with their kids, Clo had entire discussions in Real Adult Spanish, and we shared our food. Ok, actually they mostly shared their amazing homemade tortillas, bbq chicken, grilled pork and cheesy veggies they made for their own lunch and dinner. And all of the eating with no sweat except what we caused ourselves by adding hot sauce.
The day before we left we decided to hike down to the bottom of the falls. Yikes! I guess we were too accustomed to feeling hot and sticky, so we needed to create something we were missing. The way down was actually quite sweat-free (though our legs were jelly by the bottom... it was very, very steep), but once we reached the bottom the fun started. Besides the clouds of heavy mist from the falls themselves, it started to rain. We waited around for the heaviest rain to pass, then started hiking up the hill. Ouch. Being cold on the outside from the mist, rain and temperature, but sweating like crazy under my clothes. Weird feeling.
Luckily at the top it wasn't raining as heavily, and there was an overhang (where the family had their little stand) we could use to towel ourselves off and dry a bit before we needed to get in Wilbur for the night. Personally I'll still take these types of hikes any day over anything in the humidity and sand! We enjoyed another night at the cool Basaseachic overlook and departed the next day for Creel. We explored the city a bit and tried to decide what to do next. There are many canyons in the Copper Canyon area and it was hard to choose where to start. We decided to head to El Divisidario first and see the Copper Canyon itself, then head off to Urique.
Did I say I liked sleeping at Basaseachic Falls? Scratch that. We spent the night at the most beautiful place I've seen yet, literally a few meters from the edge of the Copper Canyon. Spectacular. I feel I'm throwing around these amazing adjectives, but I don't know how else to describe it. It was amazing. I did actually sweat a little from some of the overlooks (especially the one where you are about 1000m/3000ft above the canyon on a see-through wire mesh) but nothing too crazy.
The next day is where the crazy started. We decided to drive to the Urique canyon, which is supposed to one of the nicest and most remote of the canyons. We knew the road was a bit tough, and parts of it were dirt. The overall distance was about 100km/60m. We expected it to take a few hours. How wrong we were. The first half (distance-wise) was a fantastic (and brand spanking new) paved highway. Lots of ups and downs and curves but paved. Easy. The next quarter was a dirt road like we expected. Easy for two trucks to pass. Wide. No washboard.
Then we arrived to the last quarter, which took us longer to drive than all the other parts combined. I honestly am at a lack of words to clearly describe it. I think the easiest thing to say is that I have never in my life been more nervous or careful. I was sweating like a pig with the air conditioning on, and it wasn't hot outside. I'll let Clo say some things about the jaw-dropping views, but my jaw was firmly closed while I navigated a very heavy truck down a very steep road in 1st gear. For hours.
You know those driving shows you see on TV? Ice Road Truckers, Death Road Truckers, Outback Truckers, etc. This road couldn't be featured on that type of show, because this road was too small. It only fits 4x4's. The turns are too sharp. It's too narrow. Since we started planning this trip I've had the fantasy of driving on some crazy roads. I thought it would be in South America though, maybe Bolivia. Now those roads only look dangerous because of the amount of traffic (we passed ONE other vehicle) and bigger trucks (simply not possible to drive on this road) sharing the space. This road made me sweat more than anything else on the trip so far.
I have to confess it was also extremely exciting. Combined with the nervous sweat was a heavy dose of adrenaline. Once we finally arrived at the bottom of the stunningly gorgeous canyon in the picturesque Urique, the first building we saw on the main street was a small restaurant that seemed full of people. Pouring sweat and mentally exhausted, we parked Wilbur on the side of the surprisingly busy main street of Urique and walked upstairs. Sunday (the day we arrived) is apparently the party day! There were nearly twenty people, mostly four families and then another table with two grandma-type ladies who had apparently been there a while. They had eight open cans of Tecate beer on the table in front of them, the only fan in the room blowing on them, and working on the ninth and tenth beers.
Our kind of place. We spent a couple of hours here relaxing, eating, watching people, relaxing, drinking, relaxing and finally realizing we were very cheap drunks, then driving eleven (I counted) meters down the road to the only open hotel in the city. We spent a couple of days in the warm, tropical climate (it's like being back by the ocean, but without as much humidity) at the bottom of the canyon. We took some walks. Took lots of showers. Had no cellular data. Glorious.
Time to go back up the side of the canyon. My tummy started getting the nervous excited feeling in it again. The way up was much faster though, less than half the time, and not nearly as scary. We reversed our path until we were back at the Copper Canyon, where we spent another beautiful and once more cool and sweat-free (and comforter-covered) night. The next day we decided to go for a very long hike down to the bottom of the canyon itself. You know, like the one we just drove down? But this time with our own four feet. You guessed it, more sweat. This was no small hike, either; the canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon. It was a long eight hour day of solid hiking, more than 10km down and then 10km back up. Lots of sweat.
I want to do a small aside here to talk about a little fellow we met on the way. It was the second time around that we stopped here. We parked at the same place, a week before a little dog came begging in the evening for a couple of hours, I called him Blacky (just because he was white with a black spot around the left eye!). Very cute dog. This time we park at the same spot and right away a dog comes begging too. No signs of Blacky but this one is super cute too. All dogs are so friendly here, no aggressivity whatsoever, always coming to you the tail going crazy. This one is light brown, a cute mix, super friendly. It starts raining but it looks like he just lays down under the car. Funny one. Then what a surprise when we woke up in the middle of the night for a little bathroom break and we see his head popping from under the car!! Hahah he is really sticking with us. And the most funny part is that he stayed there all night (and both nights) guarding us. Barking at some point for I don't know what, but obviously taking his job very seriously.
The next morning he kept on following us around so I had to give him a name. And Stalker came naturally ;-)
We planned on a long hike that days... well Stalker came with us!! The 20 km! The 8 hours!! Poor thing I don't think he expected this. But of course we shared our rations with him. He got some sardines and tuna along the way. I am glad there was a few small falls he could drink from, I put a lot of water on his head and neck to try to cool him down at some point. I hope it helped him!!
I don't really know why I got so attached to him. I almost had tears when we left the next day. It might be that the only affection we have (give and receive) is from each other with Matt since 2 month now. It's really just the both of us. Having an extra soul to take care of was a really good feeling. But maybe I am thinking too much about this. It's just felt good to have this little cutie following us around and being part of your team for 2 days. Here are a few pics of Stalker:
We baby-wiped (these things are AMAZING; we depend on them for many purposes) ourselves as clean as we could after we got back and fell asleep around 7pm. After a deep but not long enough sleep, we packed up Wilbur the next morning and headed towards Creel. Our plan was to find a spot to relax and shower for a day or two, and then finally continue heading east towards Saltillo. We needed to be there at the end of July, so I could do a few weeks of intensive Spanish lessons while Clo took care of a few things in France before we continued south.
I am going to enjoy a few more days in the wonderfully cool mountains before we get back to the flatter, drier and hotter plains. Hopefully without much humidty.