Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

We took in two water spots on this visit to the Istmo, one was the Benito Juarez Reservoir. The reservoir is accessed through the town of Jalapa de Marques, which is version 2 of the town, as the original is actually submerged under the reservoir. Evidently you can rent a boat with a guide and go out and fish on the reservoir, and if the water conditions are good, you evidently can see and maybe even sit on the dome of the old church out in the middle of the reservoir. Unfortunately, the water level was too high, and the boats were open, so instead we decided on a swim. Very refreshing after our hike!

The second water spot I wanted to find was an “Oyo de Aqua”- basically a spot where an underground river comes to the surface. This particular spot was the ancient bathing place of the Zapotec royal family, and has a romantic story tied to it about an offering, a vision and a happy marriage. Worth a visit in my books!

We followed directions in the book, which were incorrect, and then asked some kids, who told us to go back to the corner where there is a police station, go right, then at the general hospital, go left, and from there follow the signs. And so we did. Success!

We drive the car in and park, grab our suits and head to a washroom to change. Suited up, we saunter down to see what awaits us. A river had been dammed, creating large pools for people to play in. There are huge rocks underwater, and the pools are not deep, they vary from maybe knee deep to chest deep. Mango trees grow overhead and little islands create different bathing areas. We set our clothes down and I catch a woman’s eye. I ask her if she will look out for our stuff as we swim. (Si!) Into the warm, mineralized water we go! Can you pick out the two "Gueros" - white ones - in the water?

Refreshed, enchanted by the place and just tickled by the whole adventure, we not-so-gracefully get out of the water and sit to dry off. The Senora who watched our clothes offers us tacos to enjoy. We thank her and devour them.

Ralph decided he should sit and have a beer and a cigar, and so we got changed and sat at the little hut for a drink. The owner has cataracts in both eyes, and was as enchanted by us as we were with the place. A cigar stop turns into a discussion about how we found this place. I eventually had to take out my guidebook and show them, translating the directions line by line and at the same time explaining that these were the wrong directions. They wanted to know where we were from, where we were going, how did we like this place, what did our money look like, and finally an exchange of addresses, in case we were there again, we were invited to the owner’s house. George donated a 20 CDN bill for the good of the village, and challenged me to explain in Spanish why Queen Elizabeth was on Canadian money. I was asked, but simply said it was a long story, for another time.

Hours later we leave, feeling somehow like family leaving a place that although not often visited, always welcomed and loved. I think we all felt honored to have been allowed to find this special place, to be invited to eat, to break bread, to share a bit of our stories and our lives.

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