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Northern Mexico with Grand Circle

Author: Norman H
Date of Trip: January 2009

“Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people Living life in peace.”

I thought of the old John Lennon lyrics when we drove from Scottsdale to Tucson (both of which use to be part of Mexico) to join the Grand Circle trip to NORTHERN MEXICO. Crossing the border we saw the huge ugly metal fence which now separates the two countries. Use to be that lots of Mexicans crossed this border illegally looking for jobs in America. With no jobs left in America this traffic has slowed down (Another problem solved!). Now they cross illegally to shop at Walmart then go back home…..except for the drug dealers and police who seem to be killing one another in the border towns with such growing numbers that we could have just piled up the bodies and skipped building the rusty fence.

The Mexican peso has had a virtual collapse in the past few months and bargains are everywhere. A really great dinner for two in an attractive and upscale restaurant in Chihuahua (Mexican City and word meaning: rat on steroids) including shared appetizer, shared desert, two HUGE T-Bone steak dinners, at least 3 drinks and tip came to $35.00. The downside to shopping is that there isn’t much to choose from…..unless you want junk or boots. This much about Mexico is true: If it’s on the endangered species list, the Mexicans make boots out of it.

I take that back about nothing of value to buy. Northern Mexico is a veritable shrine to General Francisco “Pancho” Villa. We toured his house, his car, his gun collection and his headquarters. We saw portraits and murals devoted to him everywhere. We also had numerous chances to buy authentic artifacts. Knowing that he had been decapitated and that his head was never found we were amazed when someone offered to sell us his scull. When we commented that it was too large to carry home, we were offered his authentic scull as a child. If only they took Visa!

Another bargain…. The women loved to buy the Renova, or Retacnyl-A. Tubes of this stuff are pretty much available at every Pharmacy for about $6 for the generic or $11 for the brand name. Apparently the same thing at home requires a prescription and costs about $50. So while the women are dutifully occupied the Pharmacist gets to approach the males, somewhat in the manner of the fake Rolex salesman on Times Square. It goes something like this: Pharmacist:”We have Viagra!” Me: “Can I get it over the counter?” Pharmacist: “Probably, but you’ll have to take 2 or 3.”

We pretty much bussed through the Northern Mexican states with a train ride across the Copper Canyon (larger than our Grand, but not as deep or dramatic). We did get to meet some representatives of a couple Indian cultures. The most interesting (personal opinion) were the TARAHUMARAS. These are known to us (Thank you National Geographic) as “the foot runners.” You know the ones who run 100 miles and then turn around and run back home when they realize they forget to wear shoes. Actually some of them do wear shoes of a sort. They have learned to cut pieces of rubber from old tires and tie them to their feet. Seems like everyone is getting soft. The Indians still live in cave dwellings. In fact we visited one of the caves and saw for our selves. We had to buy the handmade woven basket to commemorate the climb to 7500 feet.

We also met some Mayo Indians…..famous for inventing “nnaisse.” (This could not be verified by Fact Check.)

The Mexican food was consistently wonderful. Those of us who delight in their savory specialties 3 times a day were not disappointed. Some were longing for their bland old diets. De gustibus non est disputandum.” The only let down in the culinary department was the “home hosted dinner.” This is a real special feature with Grand Circle, the experience of small groups (6 of us) eating dinner at someone’s home. The home was very modest and the food even more modest. The Tequila drinks went down well, but the rest was the blandest food in all of Mexico. The first thing we noticed on entering were the Trophies on a shelf…..a number of which proudly showed a “Rooster.” I guessed the trophies were for Cockfighting….and the homeowner proudly informed us that her brother raised champions. (It reminded me of my first summer in Arizona, as I approached a Supermarket, a guy with a clipboard stepped in front of me and said: “How do you feel about Cockfighting?” Somewhat surprised and very nervous, I answered: “I don’t even arm wrestle.”

I feel like I must mention the town of El Fuerte. Cute town with a charming hotel of the same name…..Hotel Cute Town…..just kidding: HOTEL EL FUERTE. ( it’s a really old colonial house transformed into something like a museum with rooms. It has more Mexican junk than our house! If you ever get there…..stay there!

All in all a really good two week trip at a discounted bargain price. Great food and folks, nice experiences, and black-belt shopping. Maybe a little too much bus time…..but that’s another personal thing….as Mary loves to sleep on the bus. Northern Mexico…..if it wasn’t so great we wouldn’t have bought it in the first place!

For more info on this or other trips we have taken with Grand Circle, just shoot me an email. I also have “instant discount” information for first time travelers with Grand Circle.


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