Hello from Cuernavaca – An excursion to Las Estacas, checking out orchids and a meeting at El Cafecito

After a beautiful breakfast in the garden at Roxana’s place with Helga, the young lab with shiniest black coat, dancing all around me, I went to my private tutoring session at the Ideal Language School where my teacher Estela and I talked at length about various dental procedures, funny doctor stories, and stories of unexplainable events and psychic happenings.

We also touched on the topic of personal security, and that a number of years ago there were quite a few kidnappings and robberies of buses. Additional security has brought the situation under control and safety has improved considerably. I also asked Estela about some practical safety advice for myself, traveling as a woman alone.

She gave me a few basic common-sense pieces of advice:
– don’t wear any ostentatious jewellery or extravagant clothing
– never walk by yourself at night
– never walk in deserted streets
– leave your jewellery, valuables and documents at home
– curry your bag in front of your body
– at night always take a radio taxi that is called from the restaurant where you are staying. They are much more trustworthy than street taxis.

Estela, my Spanish teacher and local expert

Around 11 am a local street merchant came by to sell typically Mexican sweets and I ended up buying thin sheets of oblates (obleas), stuck together with honey and decorated with pumpkin seeds. I also bought a square of peanuts glued together with caramel – all very yummy treats. I don’t know how the locals can resist all these tasty foods that are available everywhere….Then I headed off onto the public bus again and into downtown Cuernavaca. I had to change buses and exited one on the Zocalo and hopped on the second one below the Palacio Cortes. The Cuernavaca public transit system is a breeze for me at this point.

A demonstration was in full swing in front of the Palacio del Gobierno, local inhabitants of nearby villages were demonstrating and when I enquired, they told me it was about the fact that the government is developing areas in their villages which they would rather see designated as protected nature areas. The main issue, they explained, is a shortage of water and this issue has apparently being going on 70 years.

The bus took me to Martha Elena’s house who was already waiting for me and had put together a wonderful picnic basket. Then the two of us adventurous mujeres took off in her vehicle and we went towards Las Estacas, a local riverside resort that she had never been to.

I got a chance to see the southern parts of Cuernavaca, and the traffic exiting the city was the usual chaotic mess, but somehow it all works out. It would certainly take me a while to get used to the driving conditions here. People squeeze in wherever they can, particularly the drivers of the rutas, the small local buses. The bus in front of us squeezed in and cut across 3 lanes to make a left turn. This guy was certainly not taking any prisoners…

We drove out of town through a hilly but extremely dry area. All the hills were brown, spring surprisingly is the equivalent of our summer – everything is hot and dry with very little rain. The rainy season actually begins in late May, early June, and summer is cooler than spring. A strange concept to get your head around.

After about an hour of driving through Mexican country villages with horses and donkeys grazing right next to the street and men riding in the back of trucks, we arrived at Las Estacas.

We started our walk through the grounds, across a hanging bridge over a river with extremely clear and blue water. Marta Elena was explaining to me that the fish that we saw were extremely good for chowder, but not useable for other dishes since they contain so many bones.

Since it was about 1 pm by this time, we plunked ourselves down beside the river and unpacked our beautiful picnic bag, she had made three different types of sandwiches, brought a wonderful container of refreshing juice and some brownies, and the girls started to talk and compare notes about growing up in Mexico and Austria respectively. It’s amazing how two people can come from such different backgrounds, i.e. Marta Elena grew up in a very well to-do family while my family background is much more humble, but somehow we had a great connection.

We took a stroll through the grounds and saw the various swimming pools and playgrounds and also checked out an area containing 31 units with 3 bunk beds each which is used for children’s camps. A fishing pond was right next door.

After our nature outing we stopped at another local attraction: a well-known local market for orchids. Of course, Marta Elena is an avid gardener and I, although equipped with a black thumb, like to look at flowers, so off we went to look at several greenhouses full of different varieties of orchids. Marta Elena, being the expert, could tell me in Latin which varieties we were dealing with, I on the other hand was fascinated with the alien expressions on these horticultural beauties. Apparently these orchids are shipped all over the world.

The day was immensely hot and I was melting in the sun, so I sat down under a lovely palapa and I asked the lady working at the greenhouses to bring us some popsicles, and three popsicles later I finally felt that my thirst was quenched a little. As a small gesture of appreciation for her time and the lovely lunch, I got Martha Elena a special yellow variety of orchids for inviting me on this special outing.

With our aesthetic senses appropriately satisfied we made our way back through the dry mountains south of Cuernavaca and rejoined the hustle and bustle of the city. Marta Elena dropped me off right in front of the cathedral and after a cordial hug we decided to definitely link up again before my departure next week.

Alberto, my friend Vanessa’s cousin, and a local resident of Cuernavaca had recommended me to visit his friend Jose Manuel who owns a little café, appropriately named El Cafecito, right across from the main entrance to the Cathedral. I plunked myself down at one of the tables outside the café on the sidewalk and watched some of the colourful street life pass by.

Several local women carrying what seemed like hundreds of different necklaces approached me, displayed and promoted their attractive jewellery items. I caved in and bought several very decorative necklaces that were supposedly made of semi-precious stones like malachite, tiger’s eye, coral, etc. although I have a feeling for about $4 each they are probably made more of attractive plastic than real stone, but you never know….. I found them quite enchanting.

After a while Jose Manuel came and joined me at my table. He mentioned that me has a brother who is working in Toronto. This is not surprising, many local Mexican people that I have met have a Canadian connection. He even said that he has experienced temperatures of up to – 5 degrees in Arizona once, which was barely bearable for a Mexican who is used to 25 degrees + all the time.

Jose Manuel graciously called me a taxi, a “Radio Taxi”, which is highly recommended after dark which whisked me up into my beautiful residence at RX Villa in the Rancho Cortez area. Time for some laundry and for writing up some stories and resting up my leg for another day of discoveries tomorrow…

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