For those who guessed correctly that we are in Casas Grandes Municipality, Chihuahau, Mexico, I’ll buy you a margarita when I see you next! It has been a most interesting day. We chose this locale for a couple of reasons. Ky had been here with a motorcycle group out of Bisbee that he has ridden with several times now. They love to come to Mexico and this destination was one that he was excited to tell me about when he returned. It is also less than 100 miles south of the U.S. border.
The latter reason was important because as I mentioned earlier, there has been some recent news about fuel problems in some Mexican states. We decided that we would check out the veracity and severity of the problem ourselves from a comfortable distance from the border – comfortable in the sense that we would have enough gas to retreat if the situation warranted. Upon driving in to town, the first Pemex station was out of fuel… The next station, just a short distance further, was out of Magma, the regular gas. They did thankfully have Premium and we tanked up, and additionally we filled a five gallon spare gas can.
The fuel situation is real, but not completely drastic. However, we did not anticipate that there would be large protests and roads being blocked by semi-trucks. The government recently raised several fees all at once, including car registration fees, ticket fines and road tolls and probably most importantly, the gas prices which were previously fixed by the government, and the same at every station, were changed to open market pricing. The prices on Jan 1st jumped 20% – ouch. It’s understandable that people would be pretty salty! The forecast is that it may be as much as 72 hours of protests and road blocks.
Fortunately for us, we are staying in a wonderful place owned and operated by some of the most interesting people you could ever hope to meet. Spencer and Eli MacCallum, our gracious hosts have been living here for 13 years. Spencer first came to the area 40 years ago in search of an unknown potter whose work he admired. Spencer has spent those 40 years helping that potter become world famous and the leader of an entire village of artisans who create incredibly beautiful clay pots. The MacCallums own several places to lodge including Casa Roja where we are staying next door to them, and Casa del Nopal, a beautifully decorated 9 room hacienda, which you can find on Trip Advisor.
In addition to being a Princeton educated anthropologist, and author with a famous grandfather, Spencer is a tremendous story teller. He and his delightful wife, Emi, are much loved in this community and it has been a joy to spend time with the two of them.
The morning began with a tour of a Unesco World Heritage site, Paquimé , and it is truly impressive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casas_Grandes . It is a prehistoric archaeological site that has been expertly excavated and preserved. It alone would have been well worth the trip here.
Next we were given a private tour of a very unique church (to which Spencer has been given the keys). It has some glorious artwork inside which was done by their good friend, Grisel Ortiz, who was trained in Italy. It shows. They also took us by her eclectic studio for a look at her bottle house. Such a fun place! Art lessons anyone. She’s reported to be an excellent teacher.
As if that were not enough for a day, we made a visit to a private chapel on a hill above town and a “self-guided” tour of a manganese mine. In other words, Ky took us off-roading. When we entered we went through an unlocked gate (without a “no-trespassing” or “private property” sign) and to our delight and adventure it was locked when we returned! We backtracked to a humble one story home adjacent to some horse corrals and a motorcycle parked out front. When we pulled up, the home’s occupant came out to meet and greet us. He was very friendly and after he explained that the gate is normally locked to keep out those that would vandalize the chapel, he graciously drove to the gate to unlock it. He also offered his phone number to Spencer so that future guests could be let in. We find this friendliness and offer of help everywhere we turn here.
Last but not least, a fantastic dinner at a beautiful restaurant, Los Colorados with our new friends, Spencer and Emi. Another fine day in Mexico. We have spent about 3 months in Mexico over the last year and invariably at the end of each day Ky and I say to each other, “It was a really great day!” No worries at all about being “stuck”. There’s much more to see and do tomorrow 🙂