Ahuacatlan - The Not So Long Way Down - CycleBlaze


Dea and I had booked a hotel in Ahuacatlan for ten nights, with a plan to spend Christmas and New Year together. In between, from the 26th-30th, she would take a bus to Mexico City to visit some friends from home that would be vacationing there. We'd found the hotel online and thought it looked like a really nice place in a nice small town, a piece of real Mexico, and that's exactly what we got. It was a really nice hotel, freshly painted yellow with a courtyard full of plants and a balcony with a view of the nearby volcano.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the hotel, however, was the owner. Andres, a man in his early fifties, could speak excellent English, and he certainly could speak. In fact it took us an hour and a half just to check in, much of which was spent with me fighting against his constant insistence that I should have a shot of tequila. 
"No thank you, I'm sick," I said, a very true statement by this stage.
"Ah, tequila is a very good medicine," Andres countered. "People around here have used tequila as a medicine for many years."
"No really, I think I'd better not."
"Please, you should, just a little."
"No, thank you."
"Tequila is very good for you. It's a very good medicine. Really."
"No, but thanks."
"It will be very good for your throat."
"I don't think it will."
"It will."

And so on, until eventually he was sufficiently distracted by something else that we were able to move into our room. Alone at last, we laid down on the bed and I teased Dea about the possible new addition to our family, lying on her stomach and saying that I was sure I could hear the baby kicking already. Over the course of the day I'd thought a lot about things and really gotten used to the idea of becoming a dad. Sure, it would be a shame to have to cut our trip short, but how exciting it all seemed when I thought about the new adventure about to open up in front of us, and there was already now nothing more important to me than the new life we'd possibly just created. And so when Dea emerged from the bathroom later in the evening and said the words, "The babies cancelled. I'm not pregnant," all I really felt was disappointment.

The following day was Christmas Eve and I woke up with a hacking cough and an awfully sore throat. I was going to be very sick this Christmas, that was for sure. It also meant I had a legitimate excuse to avoid the walking tour of Ahuacatlan that the 'qualified tour guide' Andres insisted on taking us all on, but for some reason I decided to tag along regardless. 

The tour began with a long speech in the hotel lobby next to a display case of Mexican artifacts. The speech was so long that most of us had soon written off getting anything else done during the day, and featured a remarkable mish mash of myths, legends, facts, and bizarre statements. Andres had a remarkable way of speaking English, in that he could speak it very well, and yet I still couldn't really understand half the things he said. Certainly he did mention something about dragons from London taking over the world, and I remember very clearly that he told us that a 12,000 metre high mountain was going to rise in Mexico to become the highest mountain in the world, following that up with the words, "these are the facts that you need to accept."

The tour eventually moved on around Ahuacatlan, a fortunately not-very-big town, and included a visit to one of the two old churches, both of the parks, an old jail cell, and a seafood restaurant that looked a lot like an outdoor gym. Andres continued to regale us with the history of the area, with Tom, Nathan, Jon and Dea doing their best to look interested. Ciaran had lost interest before we were out of the lobby, and me and him took to loitering at the back like two naughty schoolboys. Andres did his best to engage Ciaran  by referring to him frequently as Braveheart, or Mel Gibson, a reference he refused to give up no matter how many times Ciaran said, "Braveheart is Scottish, I'm Irish."
"Maybe you should start calling him Che Geuvara," I said to Ciaran when Andres was off on his next monologue.

Andres in full flow.
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Having a photo together was actually Andres's idea.
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The next day was of course Christmas Day, and it was really great that we were going to get to spend it together with our friends. We'd made really good friends with Tom, Nathan, Ciaran and Jon over the past couple of weeks and it was really perfect to be together. So we all sat in the leafy courtyard around a table, with a fun day in each others' company to look forward to. And then Andres appeared, clutching a Mexican artifact of some sort. It was some kind of pole with carvings on it, and he managed to talk about it for at least half an hour without mentioning what it actually was. What he did manage to do was to make just about everyone disappear, long before the words, "the cows of the cows is the cows of the cowses," came out of his mouth, as part of his lecture.
"Do you mean cause?" I asked.
"Yes. The cows of the cows is the cows of the cowses."
Apparently he did mean cause, not cows, although it hardly made any more sense.

Despite Andres's habit of talking for an incredible amount of time, we did somehow end up with the six of us back together around the table, I think perhaps because he must have had to go away to attend to something else. And then it turned into the exact Christmas that I had dreamed of, with us playing a lot of really very fun games all day, and exchanging secret santa gifts. On the ferry to Mazatlan we had each secretly selected one other to buy gifts for, and we had all had to hurry around Ahuacatlan to buy them in the little bit of the day that had been left after Andres's tour the day before. I'd been buying for Nathan and I knew that he wanted a camping chair. Such an item wasn't readily available in Ahuacatlan, but what was available was a kid's toy pram, which was lightweight and foldable, and after I'd smashed the wheels off it and added enough electrical tape, made for a very fine chair.

Playing a game of ninja to decide who got to open their presents first.
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Nathan testing out his new chair with a great deal of caution. I suspect he may never have risked it again.
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Ciaran also got a camping chair from Tom, made even more impressively out of a mop.
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Playing fish bowl, an incredibly fun game made more challenging by Nathan writing all his words down in French.
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The boys might have found it a bit funny how seriously I took the poker game, but they weren't laughing when I won all their macaroni.
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The following day, Boxing day, there were plenty of sad goodbyes, as Tom, Nathan and Jon left by bicycle to continue their journeys. They left pretty early, while the Liverpool-Newcastle match was still on, so Ciaran didn't go with them. He stuck around for an extra day before riding on alone, while Dea took her bus to Mexico City. When Ciaran rode off on the morning of the 27th I was suddenly all alone, a strange feeling after so long in the company of these people. The courtyard now felt very empty and I avoided sitting there, partly to avoid feeling sad about not having any friends again, but mostly to avoid you-know-who. So I spent my days in the room catching up with writing this blog and catching up with the festive football, and when I wasn't doing that I wandered around town. We did that even more when Dea returned on the 30th. Ahuacatlan was a perfectly-sized town, with 6,000 inhabitants, and we enjoyed buying freshly made fruit juice from a smiling lady every day and sitting in the parks where the people would congregate in their cowboy hats. There was a nice atmosphere in Ahuacatlan, and we greatly enjoyed taking the time off here.

The main park and the other church.
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Freshly made juice each morning for a dollar.
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One of the back streets of Ahuacatlan.
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On our last evening in Ahuacatlan Andres came to our room to change a lightbulb for us. He was sniffing and not quite his usual talkative self. "I'm sick," he said, "I've been drinking lots of tea and water to try and feel better, but I'm sick."
"Oh, you should drink some tequila," I said.
"No, no, no tequila."
"But it's a good medicine."
"No, no, no."

The unforgettable Andres on the left, his brother-in-law Max, and his son, also called Andres. Max is a German who settled in Mexico 30 years ago and has led a pretty interesting life, which we got to hear all about, from Andres.
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