Day 3: “You Can’t Be Scared All Your Life”
…is a saying I heard from my Dad on many occasions. Working in security, you learn a few things about international travel.
- Obey US Department of State warnings. They are there for a reason. Much of Mexico outside areas of tourism are off limits to US government personnel due to continuing drug problems. A friend of mine was assigned to the Monterrey Consulate and some of his stories are chilling.
- Always know your route and destination. If things go wrong, you’ll have an idea of how to get home.
- Stick to the populated areas.
We had signed up the day before to go on a trip to a local farm. The brochure had mentioned chocolate. No other convincing was needed. We were to meet this morning at 8:00 am to leave. Johnny, Playa Viva’s tour guide/bartender/concierge/translator/purveyor of awesome, was to be our leader.
Today we will be taking ATV’s (four wheelers) to the farm. It will take about 1 and 1/2 hours. If you look at the farthest mountain ridge on the horizon, that is where we are going. There is no electricity. We will space out the ATVs because of the dust on the dirt roads that lead up to the ranch. Two people will sit on the back of each ATV and I’ll take two small people on mine. –Johnny
Rural, mountainous Mexico, check. Arrive at unknown destination via backwoods dirt roads, check. Disobey warning of the US government, check. All aboard!
(Note: At no time during the trip did I feel as though my life were threatened in any way. Playa Viva has round the clock security plus the Mexican Army and Marines had stepped up their patrols in the area prior to our departure.)
Farming Like It
After seeing the electric poles end, we crossed over the top of a mountain ridge and arrived at the farm. Jesus, the owner, quickly stepped off of his front porch and greeted us all warmly. We were then escorted to an outdoor pavilion adorned with hammocks and colorful plastic chairs. Jesus talked to us about the farm and his family while Johnny translated.
The farm primarily grows coffee and cacao but also has a huge variety of crops. He told us no chemicals or pesticides were used on any of his crops. All crops are fertilized with natural fertilizer, and the only crops that get any other type of fertilizer is the corn because the government sells corn that requires it. Any corn he tries to get elsewhere has poor yields. Incidentally the government will sell you the fertilizer as well.
They raise all manner of animals: pigs, chickens, cats, donkeys, and birds. While we were there, we noticed the baby chickens and the kittens eating under the table together. When we asked how this works, Jesus said they are content to be this way.
Because of their remoteness, they have a pavilion on the property to host a local church and also due to the remoteness, the newest member of their family was recently born on the farm. The baby was so new when we arrived that he didn’t even have a name yet.
After talking to us for awhile, Jesus then took us on a tour of the farm showing us trees, produce, farm animals, and the land. He explained that the farm did have electricity. They had acquired a solar panel that charged a 12V battery. This was there sole electrical power source. As we continued to follow our guide, the ladies of the farm were busy preparing us lunch starting with the corn.
As we walked corn was ground into meal, the meal was worked into dough, and then the dough was shaved into the best tortillas God has ever let grace planet earth. As we ended our tour, lunch was served. Rice, beans, BBQ goat, salsa, and all manner of delights that I lack the skill to pronounce were laid before us on a covered, wooden table. As the meal progressed, fresh coffee and chocolate were served. Then fresh coffee and chocolate were sold. Four pounds of chocolate later and we were headed back to the ATVs.
One More Thing I Wasn’t Supposed to Do
Jason, whatever you do, don’t do any cliff diving. We want you back in one piece. –My Boss
Before we loaded up, Johnny asked us if we wanted to see the waterfall. What waterfall? The waterfall in the middle of the jungle between here and Playa Viva. Yeah!
A short 20 minute drive later, we dismounted. After ducking behind a lady’s back yard, walking through a cow pasture, hiking through the forest, and jumping over pipes that gravity fed water to the houses below, we emerged into a fresh, cool lagoon.
The water was clean and refreshingly cold. After swimming, then came jumping from the boulders. The jumping got progressively higher until towards the end several of us, including Johnny, had trekked to the top of the falls.
Stick it to the man. Check. Sorry boss.
Me: Johnny, if the farm we visited didn’t have electricity, then how did they know we were coming? Who told them to get everything ready?
Johnny: They didn’t know. We just show up and they take care of everything.
In the next post I’ll be discussing my ignorance of soccer, no football, no fútbol. Miss the start? Then click here.