The prospect of our boat without guests seemed bleak, but getting back to a marina with a few more boat items to tick off the list held our attention. Ron's voice over the La Cruz cruisers net also reminded us of a side trip we definitely wanted to do! He and his partner assist cruisers with VHF radio checks and provide assessments that improve radio reach. Ron also personally invites cruisers to check out a very different experience in the mountains rising behind Bucerias. We called him to schedule a visit. Truth be told, he had to have faith that we would actually show up when we planned because we chose to travel by local collectivo, then coach bus, then taxi to get to this out of the way paradise. **Thank you again, Ron and Maly, for creating space in your busy work days for us.**
Once we got out of the metro city traffic, it was IDEAL that we had to neither drive nor navigate. The mountain scenery, as we began climbing, morphed in a similar way to Sky Island climbs. Houses shift to ranches, cars yield to pick-up trucks and horses, plants and what you plant change the higher you climb. We happily found ourselves in the heart of Tequila country and it is a beautiful shade of blue-green spiking from light brown hillsides. There were moments when we may have preferred our own car, only to be able to stop for photos or drop into a roadside tasting area of a distillery. But honestly, letting the guys who know these two-lane roads have the wheel, provided both comfort and freedom to take it all in.
This was dry season, before their summer monsoon rainfall, and it was evident that water comes down hard and fast when it falls. Ron told us the summer waterfalls are extraordinary, it can dump 12-16 inches in 5 hours. Rock sheers, gully cuts and landslide remnants all along the road underscored we were visiting in a good window of time. It was also wonderful dry temperatures during the day and night. Arriving in Mascota at noon, the sun was high but not the temp.
Mascota is a beautifully well maintained town that is the business and social hub of nearby ranchers and farmers. The town architecture is colonial with colorful, mostly adobe buildings abutting roadways. Behind those large gates, high walls and balconied windows there are gracious courtyards and gardens within. Every once in a while, we would get a peek behind that curtain of privacy and our imagination spiked.
So, we are not quite "there". Once off the coach, get the taxi in Mascota to make the final hour climb up above 8k feet to Ron and Maly's property. (Have the driver speak to Maly to be sure he knows the directions, we are not going to Navidad yet.) Now this road was more one lane than two, if someone was coming from the opposite direction both vehicles had to move to their own shoulder to get by. As with all kinds of traffic, every where, the bigger vehicle has right of way... but move they must because there are no multi-lane passing zones. Our driver proved expert and so we made our way up to the pines!
Ron and Maly's property was familiar to our taxi driver: he remembered all the apples he and his friends "borrowed" from that property when he was growing up. It's a beautiful sloped property full to bursting with fruit trees of all variety: cherry, pear, apple, mango -- Maly works her green-thumb magic, grafting some and adding more. She reminds me of a hummingbird herself, so high energy and on the move. It makes me smile that she surrounds herself with all these flowering, fruiting plants.
Ron and Maly's hospitality extended to sharing some time and a great meal with a family from the rancheria, Juanacatlan. This small village is comprised of 16 or so farming families who own plots of land and share water resources and village governance. We met Rufi and Noe in "the house that Maly built". It is known that Maly and Ron have adopted this family into their care and sharing a meal with them was a highlight. We also met, on foot, a couple of local volunteer firefighters returning from their watch down valley. They are responsible for providing all their own food, gear and transit to the location of a fire. Everyone was treated to a refreshing icecream.
Ron had arranged for us to stay at a new hotel in Navidad, just down the mountain. The church and central plaza were striking for such a small town. Apparently, there is a generation of young people who attend top universities in the States, bring their incredible work ethic to companies and share their bounty back home. In fact, July is home-coming month each year and all the hotels are completely booked: Navidad is not the only mountain town population that swells from 800 to 4,000 in July. It is a month-long families-reunion party.
We had not realized just how perfectly timed our mountain visit was!