Suitcase and World: Las paradas del resto.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Las paradas del resto.

We traveled by car on this trip and we had a lot of long drives. That means a lot of road stops to stretch our legs and to go the toilet. Ordinarily, road side stops are nothing memorable but on this trip, we had several.

My favorite stop was on our way from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Agua Azul. It was about mid morning when we made our pit stop. I think poor Juan Jose needed a break from driving over a million and one speed bumps!

We pulled over on the side of the road and walked towards a building that looked like it was combination of a restaurant and a souvenir shop.  The place was empty.

Their own orchard.  It was obvious that Francisco had been here before.  He knew to walk around side the building.  There, it felt like we were in someone's backyard and I think we were.  There were tropical fruit trees planted everywhere.  We saw banana plants, mango trees, guava trees, papaya trees, citrus trees, a loquat tree, and even a soursop tree.

Awww....macaws! In the far end of the yard, there was a wooden structure with corrugated tin roof.  From a distance, I saw a large red bird on the roof.  As we walked closer, the bird was beautiful scarlet macaw which are native to this part of the world.

At the beginning there was only one bird.  Before long, we had caught the attention of a second bird.   They were beautiful...brilliant red with splashes of bright yellow and varying shades of blue.

Both birds came close to the edge of the roof to check us out.  Francisco decided to pick a small guava fruit and hand it to one of the birds.

As expected, the second bird wanted a bite of the fruit and the two birds tussled over one tiny guava until Francisco went and picked a second one.  We then had two contented birds. They were so cute to watch.

Neither bird flew so we presumed their wings had been clipped. 

There was also a third bird inside the animal coop but we figured the door must have been closed because it didn't come out.  Feeling sorry for the poor thing, we also handed it a fruit.

Inside the coop there was a small deer in one section and in another, chickens and a turkey.  I'm guessing that the fowl was for food.

Here's Ayşe's *tour*, narrated in Turkish, of course :-)

We did stop so we could go to the toilets so those who needed to went to the facilities.  The rest of us headed back inside the restaurant where Francisco ordered a small bite to eat and Juan Jose had a cup of coffee.  My brother decided that we needed to *thank* the owners for allowing us to spend time in their backyard so we bought a couple bags of chips to tie us over til lunch. 

Tollbooth tamale.  Another of my favorite rest stops was on the way to the Sumidero Canyon.  That break was so we could get some awesome tamales.  Yes, they were awesome and who would have known that you could get them a convenience store/restaurant located beside a highway tollbooth?  Juan Jose, that's who.

We walked up the hill to the little convenience store and left it up to Juan Jose and Francisco to do the ordering.  We all wanted the chicken tamales and I was not about to share mine so we ordered one.

We didn't have to wait long before our food arrived.  The tamales had been unwrapped and were served on a Styrofoam plate with a plastic fork.  Hmmm....didn't look like much of anything.   Could this really be any good? Juan Jose had yet to fail us but there's always a first.

Tamale from heaven.  Looking at the shape of the tamale, I think the tamales were wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks.  I took one bite and I was in heaven. The corn meal had been cooked so it was soft and airy.  The chicken was well flavored and perfectly stewed in the slightly spicy chili sauce.  The proportion of chicken to corn was just right so you would get a bit of chicken with each bite of corn.  So simple yet so tasty.

I really tried to eat slowly to savor every bite but was just sooo good.  And to think, I had doubted Juan Jose.  Never again from that point forward.  By the time I finished my tamale, there was not even a single grain of corn left on the plate.  It all ended to fast and we had to get on the road so no time for seconds. Now, if I can only figure out how to recreate this delectable dish at home.

Not your usual gas station stop.  On our long drives, it wasn't unusual for us to have to pull over to a gas station to fill up, use the facilities and then we would hit the road.   In Champoton, we did that and went for a walk.  Something that Francisco wanted to do on the spur of the moment.

We had arrived into the small seaside town of Champoton which lies just a short distance from Campeche.  This time, we were at a gas station that had a small convenience store attached to it.  Same thing as what you would find in the US.

The skies were an ominous gray as we pulled into the gas station.  Juan Jose did the needful while the rest of us went inside the convenience store to check things out.

When we all regrouped in front of the van, Francisco decided we should take a walk.  Juan Jose would drive the van and meet us down the road.

We followed Francisco out of the station parking lot and crossed the road to a sidewalk that ran alongside the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Francisco, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are very calm in this region.  So calm that there are no waves.  Indeed, there were no waves, just gentle ripples.  If I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was standing on the shores of a lake.

Raindrops were starting to fall but Franciso continued walking and so we followed him.

It was late afternoon and the fisherman were calling it a day.

Seafood anyone?  The state of Campeche is known for seafood cocktail.  Who knew?  All along the road, we saw street vendors selling their versions of the cocktail.  Some vendors even had small tables set up to serve their customers but most were just motorcycle driven stands.  The seafood was stored in the coolers.  None of us was sure about the safety of eating the stuff so we all just walked on by.  I would get a taste of this local specialty later on at dinner. 

By the time we met back up with Juan Jose, the rain was starting to really come down.  Perfect time to hit the road again.   Soon we would arrive into Campeche.

Last but not least, we had the road stop encounter with a really, really large cactus.  This one was on the way from Cholula to Oaxaca.  We took an unplanned stop at the Reserva de la Biosfera Tehuacán-Cuicatlán (Biosphere Reserve Tehuacán-Cuicatlán) which is named after the two main indigneous populations in the area.

Now, that's what I call a cactus!  Juan Jose pulled over on the roadside and all got out and followed Francisco across the road where we were greeted by a cactus "forest".  Lots of cacti as well as plants native to the region.  Nothing amazing until we came across this specimen, a mammoth sized cactus!

Ayşe decided she wanted to swing from it and so she grabbed on with both hands and made a go at it! :-)

On the way back to the van, we peppered Francisco with questions about Mexican cacti.  Bro was especially curious about the ones that were fruiting.  Could we eat the tuna?  According to Francisco, not all cactus produce tuna that is worth eating.  Too bad because there were a lot of fruit to be had.  Back in the van and off to Oaxaca.

The next time I go to Mexico, I hope I get someone like Francisco to show me all the interesting road side stops.  Makes the long drives so much more enjoyable!