Monday, January 19, 2015
a weekend in the country
"Comparison is a sucker's game."
Some people quote Shakespeare; I quote myself. But the adage is no less true because of that.
We all know people who waste a lot of time comparing their lives with some celebrity or old school chum. In the process, they suffer in the comparison and miss out on what they have accomplished.
The same thing can happen to even the most seasoned traveler. We all know people who have peered at Alaska fjords while mumbling: "It's not much better than the river canyon back home."
I have found myself doing that now and then. It is a perfect method to miss the moment. And those moments are what travel is all about.
Yesterday we headed into the mountains to visit Coatepec, Xico, and the Texolo waterfall.
Coatepec was an easy choice. Dan and Patty love coffee, and Coatepec calls itself the coffee capital of Mexico. Add the fact that it is one of Mexico's current 83 Pueblos Mágicos, and it went on our list.
We arrived early enough on Sunday morning that our walk through the city plaza was rather lonely. People were beginning to move, but not many.
The plaza was what one would expect in a medium-sized Mexican town that catered to tourists. The usual buildings were there. A church. A government palace. A gazebo.
To give the town time to put on its Sunday face, we toured the back streets of Coatepec. That meant stopping in a couple of stores that specialized in coffee. Even though I am not very fond of sweets, coffee, or chocolate, I purchased a bag of coffee-chocolate candies -- and actually enjoyed them.
One special aspect of Coatepec is how it has preserved much of its surrounding woodland. Even at busy street corners, tree-topped hills are readily visible.
I had no idea that Coatepec was well-known for its orchids. And, since the vanilla bean is a dried orchid seed pod, it is also well-known for its vanilla. There were rows of vendors selling both on the streets.
Because it was Sunday, there was a lot of activity around the church. Not only for services, but also for food. We must have looked like starving refugees because several people asked us if we were interested in buying lunch at the cook tent in the church yard.
When we returned to the plaza, it had turned into a maelstrom of leiusure activity. Miguel Hidalgo, upon his concrete perch, must have smiled at how the independent Mexico he died to create had turned out.
We turned out of the city and headed to the Texolo waterfall. The main waterfall is around 80 feet high.
Even though the drop is not that great, the canyon the river has carved creates a spectacular backdrop. One of the most disheartening scenes from Clear and Present Danger was shot here.
Above the large waterfall, after a healthy hike, is a smaller fall. It is beautiful in its own right.
I had to wait several minutes to get that shot.
One thing I have learned to appreciate about Mexico is that if you want to go anywhere, you usually have the opportunity to share the fun with a group of your family or friends. Life here is not a solitary pursuit.
This is what the shot looks like just out of the frame.
I had a lot of fun watching my fellow visitors. Apparently, fashion will not play the maidservant to nature for some people.
But she had an easy climb ahead of her in those stiletto platform heels compared with this bride who was trudging up the mountain with her mother and groom in tow. I assume, to take photographs near the upper fall.
And no matter how high you climb in Mexico, there will be a vendor waiting to sell you trinkets just like the trinkets that are available in the Xalapa park.
I did run across something very unusual on our downward hike. Australian nuts offered for sale by a little old Mexican man. Macadamia nuts. They were about the last thing I would expect to see in the mountains of Mexico.
Having had our fill of waterfalls and lunch, we made our pilgrimage to Xico. I am not certain if we would have driven there if is was not the home of John Calypso -- a blogger I have known for several years now.
As you know from his blog, he is not in residence in Xico right now. Instead, he is enjoying the sultry heat of Puerto Escondido.
I had the pleasure of enjoying the cool, overcast day that Xico offered. Our stop was brief. We walked through the church, took a brief look through the Sunday market, and then set out for home.
On the way back, we impulsively took a right turn to visit Teocelo. We knew nothing of the place.
The road dipped into and out of a canyon -- a canyon that looked as if it might be an extension of the Texolo system. It alone was stunning.
As we entered the village, we ran head-on into a religious procession, complete with a barrage of cohetes. In this case, their purpose was to drive off the Dodge Ram that was threatening the sanctity of their crowd.
Our detour let us see parts of the village I suspect most people do not get to see. Unfortunately, my camera was holstered for our Teocelo jaunt.
All in all, it was a superb day. We experienced three communities none of us had seen -- and we had an opportunity to take a long hike to clear away the truck-bound cobwebs that have developed over the past weeks.
Next? Maybe Puebla. It seems like a natural choice.
Note -- The photograph at the top is of a coffee bush surrounded by banana trees. On our drive, we encountered several plantations with that mix.