Okay, enough with the suspense.
Leaving Durango just over a week ago, I came to the top of a hill to find a car parked on the side of the road and a man hailing me in English. It started out as the typical, cookie-cutter conversation – where are you coming from, where are you going, etc. – and I was eager to extricate myself so I could get to Nombre de Dios, the next town, and lunch. Cooper rode up, and Jaime (we´d introduced ourselves at this point) said he was going to a gordita place in Nomre de Dios and invited us along, which we immediately agreed to.
After buying us lots of gorditas, all different fillingas and all delicious despite being vegetarian (would you credit that?), he took us to a local mezcal producer, a friend of his, who still makes mezcal in the traditional way (mezcal is a local varient of tequila, and has nothing to do with mescaline). After a tour of the facilities and extensive sampling of the product, Jaime invited us to spend the night at his family´s house in El Potosi. One night turned into seven, each day being convinced, without too much resistance, to stay another. Jaime is a master woodcarver, making everything from wood- and linoleum-cuts for prints to masks to ornate boxes – don´t you dare call him an artist though. He gave us a workshop on wood-cutting, and we each made several prints.
Besides the lessons, we ate extremely well. Jaime´s sister and his wife are both amazing cooks, whipping up red enchiladas, green enchiladas, chilaquiles, tacos – the best Mexican food I´ve eaten. And always pressing us to eat more, an invitation I´m proud to say I have yet to decline. We were there for the inauguration of their new bread oven, hand built from volcanic rock, and we helped bake gorditas, semitas (a kind of sweet bread), and empanadas filled with squash or peach. My job was to manuever the baking sheets within the over using a long stick with a nail through the end. We baked for hours, long into the night, then ate it all in almost less time.
Words can´t, or at any rate don´t, do justice. It was an amazing experience, seeing a slice of the real Mexico, in a town that hadn´t seen a foreigner. Jaime´s mother, extremely devout Catholic but hasn´t lost the mischeivous twinkle in her eye, Sergio, Rosa, above all Jaime – all wonderful people who made us feel like family, truly at home for the first time in four and a half months. It was hard to leave all that behind, but the road was calling, and I didn´t want to abuse their hospitality. Also, camping when the moon is full is great, watching its enchanting rise. Another couple days and we wouldn´t see the moon until after the new moon, as it would rise after we´d gone to bed.
Since leaving, there´s not much to report: a visit to Parque Sierra de Organos, named for its organ pipe rock formations; an excellent campsite in an empty valley outside the Park, so quiet you could hear the distant lowing of cows, the heavy flapping of crows´ wings overhead; passing through towns that were founded barely 60 years after Colombus set sail; and, this morning, crossing into the Tropics.