Saturday, April 11, 2015

Close to Home - Mazatlan -- March, 2015

Because we had The Truck with us while we were in Mazatlan, we took some day trips while our friends Frank Chan and Irene deBruijn-Chan were visiting. It was particularly interesting to visit some smaller towns after having been in the big city.  

Las Labradas

This boulder-strewn beach, located about 33 kilometers north of Mazatlan, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is the site of over 800 pre-Conquest rock carvings. Archaeologists estimate that these petroglyphs were created from approximately 1000 B.C.E. to 3 C.E. [Side note: The literature about the site refers to "over 600" rock carvings, but while we were there the head archaeologist for the site introduced us to a graduate student who had recently completed her thesis and had identified over 800 separate petroglyphs.]

The small site museum was closed when we were there. The staff was preparing a new exhibit for a big solstice event scheduled for the next day. But even without the museum, the visit was interesting. 

We shared our morning at the site with a group from a local university.

Students - Cell Phones and Cameras At The Ready
Frank and Bryce Posing With a Pretty Young College Student
Who Wanted Evidence That She Had Practiced Her English

A Permanent Resident of the Site

The petroglyphs were sometimes faint because it was a cloudy day, but others - even after more than a thousand years - were clear. Here are only a few of the over 800 carvings:

INAH (the Mexican institute for anthropology and history) offers a map identifying some of the more impressive carvings, but even using the map finding carvings is a bit of a treasure hunt. Fortunately, the diligent graduate student had marked several with tiny rocks with arrows or numbers on them.

Bryce and Irene On The Hunt

Bryce Testing His Agility on The Pebble-Covered Beach

And even if you're not a treasure-hunt fan or an archaeology buff, it's a nice day at the beach.

Irene and Frank Enjoying a Beach Moment

If you're going to Las Labradas don't forget water, a hat, your camera, and rock-walking shoes or sandals. It's an interesting place - but a location of high ankle-turning opportunity for those who don't take care. Also, you might want to schedule around meals as the "restaurant" in Barra de Piaxtla looks a bit - uh - rustic.

El Quelite

After working up our appetite searching for petroglyphs we drove back towards Mazatlan and took a side road to the village of El Quelite. The road into the village is lined with bougainvillea and the streets of the town are lined with brightly colored houses. The church was closed.  

The primary attractions in El Quelite are a couple of destination restaurants. We chose El Meson De Los Laureanos and we are happy to report that it has great food for a destination restaurant.  

And chickens!

El Rosario

Our second day trip was to one of Mexico's "Pueblos Magicos" - small towns throughout Mexico that have been designated as sites of particular beauty, cultural significance or historical relevance by Mexico's Secretary of Tourism. El Rosario is a former mining town about 30 miles south of Mazatlan known for its beautiful church and a museum honoring Lola Beltran, the queen of ranchera music. 

We did El Rosario proud.  We visited the church and saw the golden altar: 

Nuestra Seniora del Rosario

The Golden Altar

Altar Detail - Archangel Michael, We Think

Another Altar Detail

We visited the town square and saw the statue of Ms. Beltran. We even brought our own diva - Irene!

Our Own Diva!

We visited the Lola Beltran museum which was interesting but, oddly, didn't play any of her music - ? After touring the museum we sat for a formal "family portrait" taken by the charming museum guide.

The Andrews-Arnolds and Chan-deBruijn-Chans

Across from the museum were the ruins of the prior incarnation of Nuestra Senora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) which, we were told, collapsed when its foundation was negatively impacted by the mining tunnels underneath the town. The townspeople moved the church to its present location, creating an exact copy of the fallen church. 

Bryce, Explaining It All To Us . . . 

El Rosario didn't offer many obvious options for lunch so we asked a woman at a local tienda where we should go. She highly recommended the Restaurante Bellavista saying that it was where "everyone" liked to go. 

Travel tip: Before acting on a restaurant recommendation try to discern the dining preferences of the person offering the recommendation. 

It turns out that the Restaurante Bellavista is the snack shack next to an extremely popular water park. While we wouldn't recommend it for fine dining (or really for anything other than a few tacos) we had a great time watching groups of middle-school and high-school students enjoy the day. 

One local water park fan practiced his English skills by introducing himself and his high-school buddies to us, and proudly welcomed us to his town. He was remarkably fluent for one so young and confidently explained that his father was a doctor and that his plan was to attend veterinary school in Phoenix, Arizona. 

One of the boys he introduced then proceeded, with the most serious expression we have seen on a high-school boy in a long time, to ask us where we were from. We answered. He nodded and walked away. A few minutes later he returned to ask what we did for a living. We answered. He nodded and walked away. His third pass was another carefully thought out and grammatically correct question which we do not remember. We answered. He nodded and walked away. He certainly understood his seriously formatted questions - but we will never know if he understood our answers! 

So, while we can't highly recommend dining at the Bellavista, along with edible tacos you may have a thoroughly amusing afternoon.  

Once Frank and Irene left us, we packed up and departed for our Tour of Central Mexico - the home of cowboy hats, pick-up trucks and heroes of the Revolution ---- aye yai yai!  

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