After meeting Brian and his friend Aysleth at the Morelia airport, we were whisked over to Pátzcuaro, where we went shopping for some fresh fruits and vegetables at the market, and ate a late lunch.
Since our last visit to his home at Rancho Madroño, Brian had accumulated at least 10 new dogs, and 4 new cats. There was a new studio, filled with sculpture projects. And, best of all, solar power and composting toilets had arrived! We enjoyed several days exploring the paths and wildlife on Brian's beautiful property.
We had fun helping to paint some of the carved figures in Brian's studio.
Evenings by fireplace and flashlight at Rancho Madroño — playing games, blowing smoke bubbles, and planning out the future of Rancho Madroño on a huge canvas.
One day, we made the short walk over to visit some friends in the little neighboring town of Yotatiro, which was strung with colorful decorations for Christmas. They were also warming up the band for a wedding that afternoon. We were very fortunate to get a tour of Alejandro Colella's music studio and got copies of his latest album of indigenous P'urépecha music.
Avocados are a popular local crop. The young trees are grown under their own individual shade structures.
We had tortas for lunch in the town square of nearby Erongarícuaro. We stopped by their tortilleria for some fresh corn tortillas.
Brian had spotted on his topographic map a nearby conical volcanic hill, Colina La Taza. We decided to go there and try to climb it! We couldn't find a path up, so we ended up bushwhacking our way. After walking the rim path around the crater at the top, and enjoying the view, we found a path down — straight down! We slipped and slid our way down this eroded gully of a path, ending up thoroughly dusty. At least it was faster than going up!
That night was Christmas Eve. We investigated the local church and its distinctive cross. Laura sampled some atole from a street vendor — yum — a traditional warm spiced corn drink!
We spent that evening at the house of Brian's friends Charles and David, where we had a silly time trying on the various masks in their extensive collection.
The morning of Christmas Day. No snow here! But we did find a cluster of fantastic neon-green caterpillars that like to eat Madrona trees.
That day, we climbing the famous local volcano, El Estribo. Well, we drove most of the way up, to a viewpoint, and then took the stairs that went straight up the last 300 vertical feet to the crater at the top.
Lunch was in Pátzcuaro, in the touristy docks area, for some seafood at the Restaurant Hernandez.
In the afternoon, we visited the small town of Arocutín, on a hill overlooking Lake Pátzcuaro, where we were told there would be a party. We were in for a treat! The whole town was out for their Christmas celebration, with fresh tamales, a town-vs-town basketball competition, a full band, and a procession to the church and dancing with fantastic demon costumes. A friend of Brian's took us up the spiral staircase to the top of the church belltower.
Restaurante La Gran Pitaya, in Eronga
Our Christmas dinner was at the restaurant, La Gran Pitaya, in Eronga.
We spent our last day exploring Pátzcuaro, investigating its markets and ancient buildings with artisan shops.
We took a very nice bus (for $3 dollars) to Morelia for the night. We enjoyed our last meal in Mexico on the Zocalo (main square), which was still sparkling with elaborate Christmas decorations. We were a bit caught off guard by the plaque in our hotel saying we had to deposit $50 pesos to use the water — before we realized it was only a sticker warning us to not waste water.