Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 7. Janitzio

Like brave little tourists we woke up early, had a breakfast of café con leche and pan dulce, and went for a walk through Morelia’s downtown. An area of 10 blocks around the cathedral has been declared a World Heritage site, and indeed every street is full of colonial charm. Now and then we got a glimpse of a private residence, stark on the outside, but having an inner core of gardens and flowers. We visited the School of Music (very nice), and the old convent of the Carmelites, which has been renovated and now functions as a Community Center. The structure is enormous and very beautiful, but the best part was to see so many people involved in aerobics, guitar lessons, salsa lessons, tai chi, choirs, etc. It is indeed a space devoted to culture and recreation.

Back in the car we headed for the Lago de Patzcuaro, a lake renowned for its celebration of the Dia de Los Muertos. As we approached, from the distance you could see a steep hill covered with houses, like a small Mont St. Michel. It was the island of Janitzio, which sits in the middle of the lake. We promptly decided to go there, took seats in a long boat that was ready to depart, and . . . and right behind us a band got unto the somewhat crowded boat. No sooner had we cast off than the band started to play, and soon the boat was a floating dancing party.

We approached the island and out came to greet us a small flotilla of fishermen, in their traditional boats, which at the distance seem to have ethereal wings. The wings are the nets, which are fitted to a big hoop. The fisherman skims this hoop through the water, and the whitefish, who likes to swim very shallow, gets scooped out of the water. Pretty clever.

Once we landed we came into a market scene, with each house having handcrafts for sale. We were also facing a long climb to the top, through meandering narrow “streets” full of stairs. Huff and puff, huff and puff, we finally made it to the top to enjoy the magnificent view of the lake and the emerald fields surrounding it. This is volcanic terrain, so dotting the landscape were the profiles of volcanoes, great and small, randomly spread across the land. Maya andRaul had the energy to climb the 70 steps inside the giant statue of Morelos that crowns the island, while Georgina and I enjoyed ourselves watching the Viejitos execute many of their crazy dances. The Viejitos are dancers who are dressed like old men, and normally start each dance stressing the tottering walk of old men, just to gain energy and speed as they dance, clacking their wood-soled huaraches to create their own version of tap dancing. I was sorry Maya had not seen the dance, but after they got down we had the good fortune that another group of Viejitos started their own performance. It was particularly cute because the oldest Viejito must had been no more than 5 years old.

We ate in Janitizio, in a restaurant overlooking the lake. Naturally Raul and I had to taste the local moonshine, called charanda. It is a type of rum, very pleasant to the taste. I had the local fish, Maya had chicken, Georgina had enchiladas, and Raul had carne asada. It was pretty good!

Back across the lake, we drove through the small town of Patzcuaro (very quaint), and by 7 pm we were arriving into Uruapan, which will be our center of operations for the next couple of days. Uruapan is not particular as a town, but is the port of entry to many natural beauties.

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