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Mexico Southbound – Los Mochis, Mexico

We lost an hour when we crossed the state line into Sinaloa so we arrived in Los Mochis around 9pm. We had been told to go to the jetty in Topolobampo, 30 minutes outside of the town center, and our Airbnb host would meet us there. As we approached the sea, traffic started to get crazy. Food vendors were parked along one side of the street and parallel parked cars were parked along the other. The two directions of traffic crawled along, frequently interrupted for pedestrians and people trying to park. I noticed a sign for baños a few different times and a cost associated with their use; a woman acting as guard usually sat out front taking money.

This was clearly the party scene of the Los Mochis area. Youth from teenage years up to mid-thirties (my guesstimate) parked their cars, sat on their trunks, blasted competing stereos and drank their beverage of choice. There were composed drinkers, smiling and talking among friends; and there were those who had pre-gamed before their arrival, and could be found dancing solo under a streetlamp, their eyelids heavy and their arms in the sky.

The older the attendees, the more reasonable they were behaving – similar to our experience in the US. Behind one sedan, two couples had gathered together with a few young children. The two women sat in the trunk (they weren’t really in the trunk but the trunk was popped and they were sitting on the inside lip) and there was one child of less than a year old bouncing along in one of those crotch sling bouncer things with wheels (where the kid is suspended but can push with his feet), hanging out between the trunk of the ladies and the hood of the next car. The two guys stood with casual posture, each with a beer in hand. A toddler was running around. All of this occurring immediately adjacent to the constantly moving line of traffic.

The party road along the water was much quieter the next morning. Imagine food carts all along the right and parallel parked cars along the left.

We finally connected with the family who owned the house and we followed them to it. It was a home right on the oceanfront (not beach – it was a cement sort of esplanade with the ocean just beyond), but its entrance was on a tiny little road accessed through harrowingly narrow streets. One corner was so narrow, with the added challenge of having a steep ramp, that we had to reverse and straighten out several times before our line of approach ensured we did not scrape parked vehicles or cement walls. A short while later, we had to drive up on a low curb in order to get around a parked car. Brian’s driver’s mirror was about an inch from the bars on the neighboring home’s window.

One example of the crazy roads we had to navigate to reach the front door of the home. This picture does not do it justice.

Once we parked, we unloaded our stuff. Then the landlords told us to follow them back down the hill and they would show us where we could park. It was challenging, but not impossible.

We parked at the bottom of the hill and took a steep flight of cement steps that were built into the neighborhood infrastructure. Between every home or every couple of homes, cement steps provided passage from the road below to the next one above. Halfway up would be a sort of alleyway where you could ‘get off’ the stairs and access other entryways into the homes.

Just as the people came alive with the night, the dogs were most active then as well. Two mixed breeds lived across from our rental. They were the size of a chihuahua crossed with beagle. And yes, they yapped a lot. But they did not come all the way down their stairs and they did not bother our dogs. However, they did place their poop right in the middle of the road.

The house stank of overused air freshener. Perhaps I am more sensitive to smell than others. I do think I have a strong sense of smell and that it helps me in our artisanal line of food work. But it also means I perceive offensive odors where others notice none.

Los Mochis was so humid that when we had opened our windows to talk to the car containing our host, the inside of our windshield had immediately developed condensation. And the interior of the house had defined zones of dry, air conditioned air (in the living room and in the bedroom, where there were window AC units) and suffocatingly humid areas (the bathroom and the second bedroom). The humid air seemed to hold the stank better so I kept those doors closed.

In our fatigue, we forgot to ask some important questions while the owners were with us – namely, is the water safe to drink and how do we make the gas stove work? Brian was reluctant to embrace the toilet paper into trash policy and he wished we had verified that has well.

(We knew that the general rule of thumb for Mexico was that the tap water was not safe to drink. Our indecision about the water situation in Los Mochis, specifically, stemmed from the fact that there was no water jug base in the kitchen and there was internet chatter about a water purification plant nearby that supposedly made the water safe to drink.)

The décor of the house was reminiscent of antiquated Italian (says Brian) or in my opinion, my grandma’s house when I was very young. There were white lacy covers on the furniture and statues of Mary and other religious figures on every surface. The walls had religious images as well as school photos in black and white. It seemed that this house was furnished with leftovers from wherever the family was now living.

View of the living room.

Speaking of the family. The young woman who manages the Airbnb communication is the daughter of presumably, the home owners. She appears to be in her mid-twenties and has some physical characteristics that indicate she is Mexican – namely her youthful dress, hair highlights and make-up choices. Her parents, on the other hand, looked very Spanish. Clothing-wise, they were dressed conservatively and somewhat old fashioned. He was clean shaven, neat, wore dress slacks and fancy shoes. She wore a long dress that appeared to be tailored; her hair was pulled back and her makeup modest. Neither spoke English. Before departing us for the night, they made sure to have their daughter translate for us that we should feel free to use whatever was in the house, “including the olive oil”.

(I realize my description of their clothes do not bring to mind people of Spanish descent. I guess you’ll just have to trust us when we say they looked Spanish.)

Back at the house – we could not find a definitive answer on the internet as to whether we could drink the water. We decided to play it safe and boil it.

But then….we could not get the stove to light! Hmmm, we were in a pickle. The dogs were crazy thirsty (and likely a little hungry because they did not get fed that day) and were following me around asking for something to drink. They kept running over to the bowl and looking in it. We were low on water in the car, were unsure about how to purify the tap water and did not want to repeat the driving/parking routine in order to purchase more.

Since we had no way to make lots of hot water, we got the jugs out of the car, gave half of our reserves to the dogs and rehydrated ourselves very modestly. I brushed my teeth with the tap water as an experiment. The next morning, we had enough water left to have one (10 ounce) glass of water each.

Thankfully, the dogs did fine in the middle of the night. As we unloaded and walked the stairs, I had noticed that there was literally no natural surfaces around the homes. It was a great big hillside neighborhood of concrete. There were a few patches of dirt under skinny trees, but nothing anywhere near a house. I guess that is why those other dogs poop in the street. I would have been mortified had our dogs pooped in the street, so it was nice to make it through our visit without them needing the bathroom.

It was hard to sleep because the wind picked up and started slamming around a pane of glass in the sliding glass door in our bedroom. Eventually, Brian used a match to wedge it into stillness. The air conditioner was also much louder than we are used to, given that our mini-split at home is virtually silent.

I opened the porch door the next morning for the dogs. Trooper was initially apprehensive about crossing the threshold.

According to Wikipedia, Topolobampo (where we were staying) is the second largest natural deepwater port in the world, and is known for its commercial fishing and increasingly important role in shipping.

Beautiful view.

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