“The release of Fred”
The Aunties had said that we could go release baby turtles into the ocean as part of a conservation project if we got up early enough.
Beth and I arose early and went to the beach and listened to the talk of saving the turtles. It is said that this area would now be devoid of a few of the species had one man not started this project nearly fifty years ago. Lalo and Syd awoke and joined us just as we were getting some baby turtles to release. They said we could name our turtle, send them good wishes and let it go at the edge of the beach. I named mine Fred and while he got washed back into shore with a few of the first waves, he finally made it out far enough to begin his grand journey in life. I hoped for a long one for him/her.
We came back and went and got coffee and then jumped into car and went to check out El Tajin which is an important archeological site. It was closed, but we got to see the Tajin Fliers – Voladores de Tajin. They perform an amazing ceremony atop a 100 foot pole. The ritual consists of dance and the climbing of a 30-meter (98 ft 5 in) pole from which four of the five participants then launch themselves tied with ropes to descend to the ground. The fifth remains on top of the pole, dancing and playing a flute and drum. This is an ancient ritual that was created to ask the gods to provide rain and protect their crops. It was amazing to watch and while I have a video of the ceremony, it doesn’t seem to be loading well and so you may just have to google it to see the entire thing.
Back thru the countryside we drove to the nearby city of Papantla which is big cityfounded in the thirteenth century built up and down the cerros – steep hills – it resides within. It is also considered the heart of Mexico’s vanilla growing region.
We circled up and down the streets of the hillsides trying to find the route to get up to the statue of the indigenous guy that was the flute/drummer in the Tajin fliers. The streets are so narrow and even when sometimes designated as two way, you needed to just approach it as a one way street.
We found a parking space one hill over and walked up and down and up to where the statue resides. It gives a great view of the city. We could see the main square and all of the other hills that make up the city.
After walking back to the car, we stopped for lunch at the restaurant called El Pardo. If you go, know that there is a parking lot behind the restaurant accessible through a small opening between the buildings. It cost us 40 pesos for our parking – two dollars very well spent in a town with little extra space. Beth and I split the Molcajete de Mar Y Tierra – chicken, pork, chorizo, queso asada, nopales (cactus), tortillas and salsa. I tried the local brew cerveza Totonaca – a porter and then tried the ale. I had tried my first Molcajete in Denver not that long ago and was blown away with how good it was. This one also did not dissapoint.
We then drove to the vanilla factory and took the tour and learned of the vanilla species and propagation and process. It hotter than hot and we were all feeling as if we might just melt into the walkways as we walked along.
We purchased some vanilla and I also got some honey. I mistakenly bought all vanilla paste instead of extract but luckily we hadn’t left yet and Lalo and Syd went back in and got it exchanged out for me.
We then were just happy to jump in the car for some welcome air conditioning and the beautiful ride back to Tecalutla.
The family had already eaten their main meal when we returned, but the food was still out, so I had a tamale and a relleno which was stuffed with cheese and chicken. I never wanted to miss the opportunity to try the foods as they were prepared by the family or in terms of the regional influence.
We talked for a bit then went down to the main zocolo (town square). Lalo got a jobo (sounds like Hobo) water, another new type of fruit for me. It was good.
We sat in the park talking and the birds were just wildly active in the nearby tree. Beth and Syd were sitting on a bench near, but not quite under this tree with all of the birds. As fate would have it, one bird still managed to get above Beth and defecate on her head. I assured her that is was a sign of good luck. At least that is what I have always told myself since I had the same thing happen to me one year while camping.
We laughed and Lalo cleaned it up and we moved to a safer bench on the other side of the park. I was somewhat uncomfortable from the meal and decided to head back to our room. Rosaura and Luzma were sitting at the table when I returned and invited me to join them. I sat but wondered how the heck we could have a conversation without my interpreters. It is amazing what can be given and gotten with hand gestures, a bit of google help and trial and error. I shared what happened to Beth in the park and we talked of some of our travels that day with the help of some pictures, a bit of google and Uncle Willie doing some translation as needed as he had come in and sat down to eat during our conversation. Rosaura began teaching me the feminine and masculine of some of the words (Rica and Rico). It was a fun exchange to be taught some basics and with several examples, I finally started understanding. I had mostly felt my way through many of the conversations between the family members, as many times, there were multiple conversations happening when everyone was gathered around the table. It always amazes me how much you can gain from a discussion by the movements, tone and expressions of the speaker and audience.
Lalo, Sydney and Beth arrived back and we talked some more and then headed to bed. It was another great day.