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high desert. small house.

Our First Day in Tepic, Mexico

We had survived two intense days of travel and were most grateful to have arrived at our destination. Unfortunately for us, Trooper did not share in our exhaustion. He woke us up around 1am (around two hours after we fell asleep) with an urgent bathroom need. I could understand how their inactivity of the prior two days might cause some irregularity in their bathroom timing. I felt bad for him and kept my grumpiness to a minimum. With heavy fatigue, Brian and I went to the back door. It took several minutes to get the series of locks (all of which required different keys) unengaged. We let the dogs out and both immediately pooped. We went back to bed.

Trooper woke us again about 2 hours later with the need to potty again. Same routine – struggled with the locks, eventually let them out, both dogs pottied and back to bed. FINALLY!

The water truck woke us the next day announcing aqua on a megaphone while driving down the street. I’ve read accounts of travelers and expats being bothered by the morning announcements. However, I think it was about 7:30am, which on a normal day, is plenty late. With hot days, I think most people in this region wake early, get stuff done, siesta and then party at night.

We got out of bed and I attempted to take a shower. Brian fiddled with the hot water heater and eventually got it to work. To my surprise, the heater being functional did not translate to hot water being immediately available at the shower (at the far end of the house). Because I had wrongly assumed there would be little delay, I was already nude and half doused. I decided to just grin and bear it. I took a cold, refreshing shower and as I did my final rinse off, the hot water arrived at my location.

This picture is oddly appropriate given that I just described taking a cold shower. But it was actually unrelated. We saw this giant ice cube alongside the road.

What is funny about this house is the aesthetics are amazing and the tile work is topnotch. The utilities, on the other hand, are borderline barbaric. There is also no heating or cooling system. The house makes use of thick walls, fans and open ventilation to stay cool. I don’t know if they ever need heat.

The hair dryer did little to get the moisture off my hair. The air around us was just too humid. I got the drippiness out of it and called it good, once again glad I had packed towels. Based on our experiences in the USA, we had assumed our AirBnBs would have towels for us and had packed all the extras for the dogs. And while our first house in Los Mochis was indeed equipped, this one was not.

We let the dogs meander in the backyard while we drank coffee, then we crated them (inside the house) and went to find breakfast. We were mad hungry.

Thanks to an English Trip Advisor review, we were able to find a restaurant that reportedly had a great breakfast buffet. Parking was challenging as the only options were parallel on the street, with motorcycles, buses and many cars flying by. We managed to park and walked the 6 minutes to the restaurant.

As expected, nobody spoke English, but we were getting better with our Spanish. The buffet was colorful and exciting. So much good food! And as much guacamole as you could eat! We each filled our plates with things we did not recognize and ate most of it. Brian had a cup of coffee that we were surprised to discover tasted a tad sweet and strongly of cinnamon or cardamom.

Vegetarian breakfast buffet. We barely scratched the surface of what they had to offer.

The food was good and diverse but a tad on a bland side. We understood why when the check came and we learned that it was a vegetarian restaurant. So no lard, no bacon and no meat. $210 pesos for both of us and Brian’s coffee. That is about $12 USD, so not bad. But next time, we will definitely go somewhere with meat.

We stopped in a jewelry shop on the way back to the car. They had a few pieces made with natural agate. For the most part, everything was really big and colorful. I thought it would be nice to find a piece that had natural stones in it, but everything was decorated a little (or a lot) too loud for my taste.

The lady slowed down her Spanish to talk to us about how we could order something custom made and it would be ready whenever we wanted. Once we started to indicate we could understand her, her Spanish doubled in speed and we lost all hope. We told her it was our first day in Tepic and if we wanted something we would be back. She and her helper (son?) smiled brightly, said okay and wished us a good day.

It was a very pleasant sales experience and not at all pushy.

We went on another wild goosechase for CapitalOne Allpoint ATMs on the way home and were frustrated to find none. We gave up and got $2000 pesos at one we found in a shopping plaza. We also opted to try a local grocery store for the dog’s meat. We tried a new cut of meat (rodadilla???) and also picked up livers. (I don’t really remember what the cut was called in Spanish, but it translated to the rump of the chicken; it had too much bone to be ideal for a Raw Meaty Bones diet.)

We noticed that the pastries in Mexico are held to a much higher bar for creativity and excellence. This is a dessert at a regular old grocery store. Everything available for purchase was made from scratch on site and finished with artistic details.

The dogs enjoyed their meal, primarily because we gave them double livers, and we promised them we would try a different cut of meat the next day.

It felt good that we figured out the downtown traffic and procured food for the dogs. We hung out at the house for awhile and each enjoyed a cup of perfectly roasted decaf. I think we were still catching up from our days of starvation, because we were hungry in less than two hours.

We decided to try a restaurant recommended by our host. It was called El Marlin and focused primarily on seafood (although there was also a small section on the menu titled carnes y aves – meat and birds). I can more readily eat something from a section labeled pollo (chicken); birds on the other hand, bring to mind Fred bird.

Instead of a basket of fresh tortilla chips, we were given two packages of chips – one made with flavor of dried shrimp and the other some type of thick wheat-y cracker. We were given a bowl of green salsa and one of red and were warned that the green was hot.

Limes, lemon juice and chip appetizer

I caused another confusing conversation when I ordered water with lemon. LIME is what I should have requested, but I forgot and also did not know that word in Spanish. Our waiter sought clarification by asking if I meant lemonade. I said no, just water with lemon. Brian said el mismo – the same. We were given two bottles of water, two glasses with ice and two shot glasses with lemon juice concentrate. Hahahah!

We should have just ordered water because with our chip appetizer came a giant bowl of sliced limes. It seems they expect each person to consume a whole lime with their meal because our bowl easily had two.

They were so concerned that I mis-ordered my drink that shortly thereafter, they brought me out a whiskey glass of something that appeared to be an elixir of the gods. The waiter dipped a stir stick in it and brought it toward my face; understanding, I took it and tasted it. It was sweet and subtly flavored of lemon. My guess was that it was the sweet lemon concentrate they mixed with water to create lemonade.

I made a gaggy face and said “SWEET” – Yes, an English word. But thankfully, this waiter was a man with some grasp of English. I modified by saying “comme azucar” – like sugar. He immediately understand the use of my adjective, sweet, and wanted to know how to spell it so that he could use it with future foreigners.

We later learned that this particular gentlemen had moved to the Los Angeles area in 1986 and lived there for nearly 20 years. He had to eventually leave because he did not have papers. He was from Ajijic and had lived in Guadalajara. When we asked why he chose Tepic to settle in, he said his father had bought a house here. And then all his brothers and sisters moved here.

He was easily older than 40 years old; yet he moved because his parents moved. Or perhaps, they all still lived together. I had heard that family comes first in Mexico, so this was an interesting illustration of everybody moving in order to stay together.

We ordered the special dish of Nayarit – the Zarandeado. It was priced per kilogram and we confirmed with our waiter that one dish would work for two people. The fish that came out was a whole fish, sliced strategically to present the most meat, head intact and with spines down its back. We don’t know what type of fish it was but it tasted fabulous! Rico – Rich/delicious

Zarandeado, a classic dish of the state of Nayarit.

Because we were so hungry, we had eaten all of the crackers they gave us – both packs were empty. Sensing that we were unusually hungry, we were asked when they delivered the fish if we wanted to add on a second plate. I said no and then asked if they had desserts. They understood that I was saying we wanted room for the sweet stuff.

The fish was served with sliced onions, tomatoes and cucumbers and had a towel-wrapped basket of fresh tortillas. I asked our waiter, “Es correcto, hacer taco?” which is really bad Spanish for, “Is this correct? I make a taco with this stuff?”

His vigorous head shaking indicated we were on the right track. The fish was SO GOOD. I ate two tacos and then switched to just piling it on my plate with the vegetables. The tortilla was okay but it masked the subtle seasoning that had been given to the fish. What I enjoyed the most was piling together flakes of fish, slices of vegetables, generous lime extrusions and the red salsa. And then eating it with my fork.

The fish was spectacular. The entire meal, desserts and water included, was something around $300 pesos (less than $17).

When it was dessert time, we were directed to follow our waiter to a dessert case. They told us what things were called, but it was hard to understand what they really were. Even if you do not know the Spanish word for fish, when they show you a fish, you understand what you are ordering. But looking at foreign desserts that are being described with unknown words; you do not immediately jump to a point of understanding.

Because of our confusion, or perhaps as a normal part of their salesmanship, they gave us small spoonful’s of whatever we were curious about. !!!!!!

Anybody reading this…..take a moment and appreciate what just happened. We were given samples of all the desserts!

When was the last time you were in a fancy restaurant that let you taste everything before you committed to it!?

The especial de la casa was some kind of jelly-texture sponge cake with coconut flakes. It was beautiful but not my cup of tea. The weird pie/cake made with the small fruit datils was odd but quite good. It tasted like it contained chocolate but did not. We ordered a slice of that and because we were in Mexico, also ordered a slice of the flan.

The datil cake/pie was good and the flan was amazing. In my experience, the flan in the US is crap. I don’t like it and never have. But I understand that there is a distortion effect that happens when foreign foods are modified to cater to the local (American) palate. It can result in food items that may not be authentic or good. Knowing this, I was eager to try the real stuff. Boy…it was good stuff.

Datil baked object and flan

We had a lively discussion with their staff about trying to rent a movie. Renting movies to take home is not a thing it appears. They said it used to exist but stopped due to people copying them. They said that we could just buy them for 20 pesos ($1.00 USD). (Based on the low price, we assumed they were talking about pirated copies.)

We decided to just go home and try to take the dogs for a walk. Our landlord/host had emailed us a few options. The nearest had some really bizarre cues for finding the trail-head.

We had been instructed to CROSS THE FREEWAY, walk to the right for a while and then take the ‘old road’. Before taking the dogs, we decided to examine this ‘crossing the freeway’ and found it to be absolutely ridiculous and unsafe. So, we packed up the car, drove north along the freeway until the median disappeared, did a U-turn (yes, on the freeway) and started crawling along in the shoulder lane, looking for a place that could possibly be an access point to the ‘old road’.

We tried a few roads but nothing looked quite right. We ended up pulling off near where a maroon VW bug was parked. The owner was picking avocados. We asked if the road went to El Pichon and he said yes. We first started north but within 200 feet the grass was so tall that we could not easily walk through. The sky was darkening and the rain was starting, both things we were okay with; but I was not really interested in getting my shoes soaked and potentially finding ticks on me so that I could claim I bushwhacked through the tall grass. It was higher than Sydney, which meant she was likely unable to see anything.

We headed in the other direction and were able to walk about 8 minutes before we turned around. We were clearly walking along a path designed for the farm hands and were traipsing about in somebody’s farm. By the time we got back to the car, it was really raining and the ‘trail’ beneath my feet was rapidly disintegrating.

We went home and slept from 8pm-8am. What a day!

One Comment

  1. You guys still alive? Hope all is well

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