Obregon Yaquis

The bus trip from Los Mochis up to Ciudad Obregon is one of the nicer ones.  There are mountains on either side of the road as you come up through a gorgeous agricultural plain.  The bus itself was also very pleasant with upbeat movies playing for the first time*.

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Just before the Sinaloa/Sonora border. Gorgeous, gorgeous countryside. Saw lots of rancheros ambling along on horseback.

The bus to Obregon started with the second half of The Lone Ranger (Johnny Depp version) dubbed into Spanish.  I have no idea what was going on, but I saw a truly fun train-chase sequence.  Then we moved onto a version of Snow White, that was also a lot of fun.

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The other side of the bus – broad agricultural plains across to the Sierra Madres.

I struggled with homesickness for a lot of this bus ride – probably a side effect of my first hugs for a very long time. You forget how good hugs are when you’re in a hug drought, but that really brought it home to me.

I hauled myself out to see the Yaquis play that evening.  Had a Sonoran style hotdog, which was pretty good.  And later I had a cup of elotes which I really enjoyed.

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Sonoran hotdog. Huge pile of stewed peppers/chilles/tomato under the mayonnaise and on top of the dog.

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Elotes! Delicious cup full of corn, mayonnaise, cheese and spices. However, I can barely think about corn without wanting to die, now. This may have been my culprit.

One of the best things about where I was sitting was the huge number of groups of girls who’d come out to the baseball.  There were three separate groups of young women in the spaces near me who’d cheerfully come to the baseball as their girls’ night out.

It was also apparent that Doug Clark is quite the fan favourite, with his every breath cheered quite relentlessly.  That’d be because he hit the winning homerun in the 18th innings of Carribean Series final in 2013, I expect.

The stadium and shop were pretty standard. A bit narrow into the seating area and poorly signed inside the stadium.  I ended up having to get someone to help me, since I was in Section 4 and none of the Sections are sign-posted in any way.  I’m pretty sure I was still in the wrong place, but since no-one else tried to move me along, I was happy to stay there.

My absolute favourite thing about the stadium is the ‘No food/alcohol/drugs’ sign and the ‘no guns or knives’ sign being right next to each other, with the vaguely menacing threat that you’ll be reported to the appropriate authorities.  Proximity makes it seem like the appropriate authorities are the same for unauthorised food and unauthorised firearms.  Tee hee!

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Second half of the game was pretty flat, even with banda and dancing girls, though that may well have been me, as I then spent Thursday morning throwing up and the next two days sleeping.  I was far too sick on Thursday to get to the game on Thursday night.

I wasn’t sure about whether or not I was going to Navojoa on Friday night, but was still struggling to maintain a consistent temperature on Friday night, so opted for staying close to the hotel instead.  I headed out to the horse-fair right next to the stadium and watched dancing horses for a couple of hours, but needed to be horizontal, warm and asleep before the fairground even got underway. (Note, I went home at 10.30pm)

Felt pretty good again on Saturday, but didn’t have enough time to do much except go for a bit of a wander around the city.

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Dr Gortarez’ cute selfie sculpture on the pavement. IMMD.

I liked Obregon a lot.  There are a lot of English schools up there and the city feels like there’s time and money and care going into it.  Then I looked at the climate graph and decided that it’s definitely not for me over summer.  4 months with an average high of 38 degrees. Blech. At least it cools down quite a lot at night, but still… no.

I would definitely go back.  I didn’t get to Cocorit and the Yaqui museum. I didn’t get to see the Yaquis win – though that doesn’t look like it’s a thing that will happen often this year.  And most of all, I no longer have those beautiful, dry mountains popping in and out of view as you wander through the city.  I’ve adored dry mountains where-ever I’ve found them.  That’s going into my list of ideal places to settle.  Which now reads – enough sunshine for corn, enough rain for cows, enough frost for hops, within 20km of the sea, visible dry mountains.

*I suffered through Halle Berry’s The Call on one bus trip. Seriously traumatising stuff! Occasionally, there would be a low murmur as all of the passengers went “Yeurgh” at the same time in response to some particularly grotesque piece of torture porn.  Though the subtitles to the movie did teach me “Ya esta hecho” which has been useful.

Obegon - Obregon sculpture

Former President of Mexico, Sr Alvaro Obregon Salido

Obregon - Moe's pub

Every town needs a Moe’s pub and a Simpson’s reference. Mmmm. Duff Beer.

Obregon - feria de los caballos

All the vaquero music you could ever want. Ever.

Obregon - plaza

Obregon plaza. It really is beautiful here in winter.

obregon - upside down eagle

Yup. Symbolism and stuff.

Obregon - stadium selfie

It’s vaguely possible that I was already sick. (Second innings)

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Los Mochis and the Cañeros (Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada)

And on to Los Mochis!

Los Mochis doesn’t seem to have a central bus station, so I didn’t quite know where I was going to urn up. And then I couldn’t find the taxi stand outside the Norte de Sinaloa bus terminal, so there was a bit of messing around to get to the hotel.  Frustratingly, the bus had stopped about 3 streets away on the same block on its way through town – but that’s what you get with no internet access on the bus and very little knowledge of town.

Hilariously, an occupied taxi did eventually stop for me – and it was occupied by the bus conductor, so that was really nice.  We had more of a chat and that was pretty fun.

The hotel had a laundry facility, which was very exciting for me.  I pretty much emptied my bag into the washing basket and wandered around town wearing the only two clean items of clothing I had left.  I didn’t get very far, just enough to get my bearings and find a coffee shop with free wireless and then collapse in the shade.

I just want to wear this somewhere. Anywhere. I don't care.

I just want to wear this somewhere. Anywhere. I don’t care.

Winter in Los Mochis is still pretty damn warm, with average highs around 30 degrees, so I was still sweating pretty hard.  Of course, a little closer to sunset the temperature started plunging, so I headed back to the hotel for yet another very welcoming reception and an evening of sitting around in the outdoor canteen chatting with Sara and her son Paul.  With the help of google translate.

I would say that it was around about here that I started getting the hang of the Sinaloa accent and at least figuring out what words were being said to me, even if I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce anything comprehensible back to people.

I spent Tuesday morning roaming around Parque Sinaloa and listening in on a school group’s introduction to the trees.

Seriscape, Parque Sinaloa

Seriscape, Parque Sinaloa

The park was really quite lovely and interesting.  I had to laugh at the eucalyptus tree they’d selected for the arboretum.  A Tasmanian mountain species.  Poor thing was huge, but completely eaten out by termites.  Sinaloa is not really the ideal place for a tree like that.

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La Paz comienza con una sonrisa. These signs were even more common that Caneros signs. And people in Los Mochis smile a lot and are very friendly.

If it wasn’t so stinking hot over summer, I definitely would have considered staying and working here as well.  So many people went out of their way to talk to me in Los Mochis and make sure that I was having a good time and that I had everything I could possible need or want.

The Los Mochis Cañeros are the baseball team and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying their @verdesxsiempre twitter presence.

You're part of the team!

You’re part of the team!

As far as I can tell, they seem to have the slickest social media team and a really great promotional push.  One of the ways to identify a bus stop in Los Mochis is to find a streetside Cañeros billboard.  It’s a more reliable technique than looking for the actual bus stop signs, which have a tendency to disappear in all cities.

I expected that the game would be a lot quieter than the Sunday afternoon game, but Los Mochis was having NONE of that.  I just about had a heart attack when the banda started, having failed to see the band come in, having been watching the game.

This turned out to be a really enjoyable game to watch.  The starting pitcher for the Cañeros was really entertaining.  Started a bit rough, but pumped himself up and got it going.  Couldn’t help but want him to succeed when he was so riled up and expressive about it.  I think it was Ben Kozlowski, but that’s 100% relying on the box score to be accurate.

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Just a small amount of preventative icing. Super-fun to watch AND recovering from injury(?). This guy just keeps getting more and more likeable.

I also heard my first English in a ballpark at Los Mochis.  I quote – “C’MON JAKE!  HIT THAT SHIT!”  Never spotted who called it out, though.   And I’m sad to say that while Jake had well and truly hit that shit in the 3rd, he was not doing it in the 7th.

Ballpark food – Once again I took it very easy.  I’d eaten properly at the motel, so I just had a papas snack. Potato chips and hot sauce, guys.  It’s the food of the Gods.

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Was it wrong to eat 2 giant cups of this? Note – we can’t be friends anymore if your answer is ‘yes’.

Ballpark michelada senillo - lime, salt, beer.

Ballpark michelada senillo – lime, salt, beer.

The ballpark was easy to find, easy to buy tickets and easy to find my seats.  Team shop was accessible, welcoming and full of stuff, but pretty light on prices.

Leaving Los Mochis required hugs from the hotel and canteen staff.  Yeah.  Like I said. Spoiled rotten in Los Mochis!

Los Mochis - parque sinaloa - baby giant cactus

Baby sahuaro cactus

Los Mochis - parque sinaloa - agave

Agave (tequila) cactus

los mochis - parque sinaloa - dead gtree carving 1

Happy to meet you!

Carved tree stumps in Parque Sinaloa

Carved tree stumps in Parque Sinaloa

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How many chins do I have? Who cares? I’m in Los Mochis watching the Caneros! (Perth Heat hat, Lowell Spinners shirt, Caneros team shop. Not at all baseball obsessed. Why would you say such a thing?)

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Guasave Algondoneros at Estadio Francisco Carrera Limon

I arrived in Guasave in the early afternoon on a Sunday. Outside of the touristy areas in Sinaloa and Sonora, Sunday morning is really very quiet, with nearly everything closed.  Guasave was shut up tighter than a drum.

If you’d seen my itinerary for Guasave it was a bit light on detail.  Because I don’t speak enough Spanish to know if the answering machine on the hotel I had selected was saying they’d call me back, or whether they were advising that the hotel had closed. What I did know is that there were plenty of hotels around in Guasave, so I was pretty comfy about arriving without confirmed accommodation.  Especially as my experience has been that I have little hotels and motels almost entirely to myself. There’s not too many people travelling around at the moment.

This feat of planning led to was me wandering around the address listed on their website  for one lap, before being freaked out by the empty streets and locked gates and settling for the posadas closest to the bus station, which was about 800m from the stadium.  Good choice me for doing this in the day and not trying to wander around Guasave at night.

I happily walked up to the stadium for the 3pm start, but Guasave had already made it quite clear to me that it didn’t want me walking around at night. The fences are higher in Guasave.  All of the business doors are locked – even during the day in the middle of the week while the businesses are open. The overall impression is that everything happens behind bars.

Anyway, Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon is around 40 years old and its interface with the outside world feels like it.  The outside is pretty unwelcoming and the entrances are narrow and you kind of have to push through vendors of various kinds to get into the stadium.  Once inside, trying to find the team store is a bit tough, but that’s mostly because I was expecting something quite different. The store runs along a wall, behind a shoulder high wall and then thick panes of glass to the ceiling. You deal with the cashier though a tiny chink in one of the windows. Just more of Guasave feeling like it’s getting ready for some kind of riot.

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Neither a prison, nor a Tecate brewery – this is Estadio Francisco Limon.

However, the seating is just fine and the Sunday afternoon crowd were seriously fantastic.  There were over 6000 in a stadium that holds 8000, so it actually felt pretty full.  The game did not start out well for the Algodoneros, who were down 12-1 to the Los Mochis Caneros after 5 innings.

This did not matter to the crowd whatsoever, who continued to be pretty rowdy.  Of course when the Algodoneros eventually did fire up for ten runs through the 6th and 7th, the crowd went absolutely nuts.  But everyone had pretty much run out of energy by the time the bottom of the 9th came around and the whole game ended with something of a whimper.

This video, however, is what the crowd in Guasave sounds like when the team is 12-1 down.

Fun and surprising things that happened –

  1. There is a song, that all of the fans know and sing, and along with it there is either mimicking two-hands-on-the-steering wheel while weaving though cones, or chopping stuff up with two big knives alternatively.  This only happened in Guasave and I have no idea what it’s about.  So fun to have something so completely unexpected, yet so unifying happen.
  2. The tomahawk chop is not even remotely dead and not even remotely confined to the USA.
  3. It is not only acceptable, it is encouraged by the PA guy and the screen to chant for the opposing team to throw a ball instead of a strike “Bola! Bola! Bola!”

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Both teams were heading out after this final game of the series, -Caneros to Los Mochis and the Algodoneros to Mazatlan, so both team buses were in the carpark. Gotta say that the Caneros bus is significantly sexier, but just about everything the Caneros do is sexier. Their promotional team is pretty slick.

Ballpark food – took it very easy, just salchicha and huichol sauce again. It’s my ‘old reliable’ of the LMP.

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Oh salchicha. You never let me down or betray me. You remain your own bland, strangely textured, meat producty self.

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Kids hunting for autographs.

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My fear of foul balls was not sufficiently allayed by the space left for the camera. One could have gotten through!

I had the worst brain-twitch the whole time I was watching the game, being completely convinced that I had seen one of the players play before. And I was right!  Good work hindbrain, that apparently stores seriously important information regarding people’s gait, posture, stance and swing.*

Guasave was the site of my absolutely dreadful attempt at Round 3 for the Australian Baseball League Fantasy competition.  This week was the first time I’d taken it vaguely seriously, so of course most of the players I ended up picking had horrible games.  The hotel staff were lovely about feeding me more coffee and biscuits while I doodled on baseball raffle ticket scraps. This was also the first hotel where staff were keenly interested in what I was doing and wanted to make sure that I was safe along the way.  Lovely, lovely peeps.

ABL fantasy league is serious business.  Have once again learned my lesson about srs bsns.

ABL fantasy league is serious business. Have once again learned my lesson about srs bsns. Also, I never won the bloody raffle at any of the ballparks. Dammit!

I also took the opportunity while in Guasave on Monday morning to do a bit of maintenance.  By this point in the trip, I’d been wearing shoes again for a whole week, after a month of being 100% barefoot in Sayulita.  Just because I can and I did, this is what my feet looked like before and after a pedicure.  And this is pretty much the closest thing to an attractive selfie I managed in Guasave, go me!

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*The player was Mark Hamilton and team was PawSox, whom I visited twice and whose social media person was kind enough to respond to my ??? and soothe my ticklish brain.   PawSox very recently put together a Mark Hamilton highlights package

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Culiacan Tomateros

Culiacan was the city I was most anxious about before I started this trip.  The travel warnings from the US Department of State about Sinaloa generally and specifically about Culiacan are pretty scary.

Culiacan itself, however, turned out to be something of a delight.  It certainly didn’t hurt that I was sent on from Mazatlan with a contact to meet in Culiacan, who is the kind of person who would brighten up anyone’s day.

Culiacan was also going to be the first time I actually needed to rely on my Duolingo “Level 7” Spanish to try and get around.  And unbelievably I had very few problems.  I made awkward, struggling conversation with the taxi driver about the weather, about what Perth is like, about what I’m doing in the city, about where he was from originally (just south of Culiacan), and about how I like baseball and he thinks that’s really quite strange.

The hotel was kitty corner to the Estadio General Angel Flores, which meant that I was comfortable to walk back after the game – people would have parked further away than I needed to walk.

Estadio General Angel Flores is one of the more welcoming stadiums that I’ve been to in the LMP. You can see the person in the ticket booth, prices are more than reasonable, the entrances are wide and easy to find and it was definitely the easiest stadium in which to find my seat.

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View from my seat. I want a Tomateros jumper. I’ve never had this response to a sports team’s uniform before (sorry Perth Heat!), but OMG I want one of these.

I fell madly in love with the Tomateros home uniform, but they didn’t have any in my size at the stadium, I missed the opening hours of the team shop by about 10 minutes on Saturday afternoon. (I arrived at 2.10pm, they close at 2.00pm on game days. D’oh!) and the team shop is closed on Sundays, so… no pink and maroon Tomateros jersey for me. I still want one though.  Kind of desperately.  Probably not desperately enough to go back to Culiacan for one, but maybe desperately enough to order one through the tienda en linea.

The second Tomateros game I went to was something of a disaster for the home team, with a final score of 14-3 and them being 9-0 down at the top of the 7th. The fantastic thing is that the crowd doesn’t desert when this happens.  They just kind of hang in there and keep having their own party. It was so dire though, that the mascots were working their asses off to keep everyone entertained. I get pretty focussed on the game, but I lost 1.5 innings to watching the mascots be hilarious.  The monkey mascot for Culiacan is pretty much a chaotic spirit of mischief and very, very funny. I was too busy having fun to take video of him being particularly hilarious, but I gotta tell you that the mascots worked HARD that Saturday evening.

The beer vendors wear high-vis, because it is vitally important that you be able to find one immediately, should you have an empty beer cup emergency. Also, the practice is to stack your empty beer cups onto the bottom of your current beer cup. I'm not sure if this is tidiness or a beer-consumption prowess display.

The beer vendors wear high-vis, because it is vitally important that you be able to find one immediately, should you have an empty beer cup emergency. Also, the practice is to stack your empty beer cups onto the bottom of your current beer cup. I’m not sure if this is tidiness or a beer-consumption prowess display.

Though the crowd was perfectly capable of making their own fun. For some reason the potato chip guy became the focus of some of it. Every time he called “Papas!” the crowd would cheer. Eventually it was clear that he was a focus of fun, so the mascots grabbed him to come stand on top of the home dugout for an impromptu Papas-off.

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No person was harmed in the making of these cevichurros.

Foodwise – I went for cevichurros hoping and believing that they were a beans and tomato thing.  They are not.  Instead they are pretty much every bar-snack ever crammed into a cup and covered with clamato juice.  My pathetic Australian tastebuds found the whole concoction overwhelming, which is odd, because I like nearly all of the components on their own.  Skinny crackers? Yes. Coated peanuts? Yes please! Cucumber? Panela?… Pretty much everything except the sweet sausage, which I really am not a fan of.  I didn’t manage to eat the whole cup, but since it was pretty much the entirety of my food budget for the game, I ate a lot more than I wanted.  I can’t decide if this or Crackerjacks are my least favourite ballpark food to date.

So the next game I treated myself to churros with a chocolate sauce injection.  I’ve been spoiled by getting them pretty much straight out of the oil at my churros cart in Sayulita, so these definitely weren’t as good, but they’re still pretty superior sweets. And I had the stickiest wings I’ve ever had. My face needed a shower all on its own afterwards.  So. Good.

Wings, baby. So. Good.

Wings, baby. So. Good.

My phone had no charge and I hadn’t yet realised that the USB cable was not working properly to charge it, so I have very few photos of Culiacan.

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Chililng out in the public park next to the Cathedral in Culiacan. The pathside evangelical pentecostal sermon was actually one of the easiest things to listen to in Spanish, as the repertoire of words and ideas is pretty circumscribed and I’m familiar with it. Not really sure what the seminary school boys made of it all.

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Pedestrian bridge across the river suspended under the traffic bridge. Fun to look at and fun to walk across. Roqsi tells me that the river is somewhat toxic, which is sad.

I did get into a couple of art galleries and it was really interesting to see actual art that wasn’t just for the tourist market.  Roqsi used to work in one of the private art galleries when it was a library and we had a good look around.  It was a really interesting exhibition of Sinaloan modern art and some of it directly addressed the drug trafficking and violence for which Culiacan and Sinaloa are known.  Sadly my Google-Fu is also failing right now, so I can’t even bring you an internet reproduction.  My favourite piece was a graphic and gory photograph called 6 cubic metres of organic waste.

There’s so much to see and do in Culiacan.  The malecon beside the river is gorgeous and there’s clearly a lot of money around. The city is absolutely pumping full of energy.  I would have liked to have had another couple of days here to explore quite a lot more and to get the hang of the bus system.

Culiacan was definitely a surprise highlight of the trip.

Your regularly scheduled selfie (sorry, it was the best I could do!)

Your regularly scheduled selfie (sorry, it was the best I could do!)

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Venados, Venados, Si, Si!

Mazatlan! Famous in the 50’s as a getaway for Hollywood’s sportfishing elite and recently recognised as one of Mexico’s 13 manmade wonders – it’s a very appealing seaside city with five gorgeous islands in the bay, the world’s tallest natural operating lighthouse (now that Gibraltar is done).

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(Photo editing is randomly not working again – This is from the path up to the El Faro lighthouse, looking down over the port side of town, rather than the beach side of town)

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(Gorgeous statues on the Malecon near Olas Altas)

Travellers through Sayulita mentioned that one of their friends had opened a hostel in Mazatlan and so it was off to the Funky Monkey and Salem’s fantastic hospitality for me.  Which reminds me that I have to write a review for Funky Monkey.  Ahem. “AWESOMENESS.” That is all.

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(Salem and I developing the food tour of Mazatlan. Of particular note was a seafood restaurant out in Villa Union on the other side of the airport that was so, so good.  I would get very fat, followed by very broke, followed by very skinny if I stayed in Mazatlan for long. Yum!)

From my perspective as someone with very little Spanish and an horrendous Australian accent, Mazatlan was a very good starting point for me.  There is a strong American tourist and ex-pat presence in the town, so I was able to practice turning up with no clue about where I am or how to get to where I’m going and try out my Spanish on taxi-drivers with English back up if required.

While touristing, I met a few Snowbirds who were curious to know if the Mazatlan Venados were sucking again this year.  Um, sort of not really I don’t know? I saw them win a game and lose a game and they’re sitting in 4th and are over 0.5, so I think they’re doing OK for now, but they might want to get a wriggle on.

Mazatlan, the Venados and Estadio Teodora Mariscal have hosted the Carribean Series finals 5 times, the most recent being in 2005.  The stadium has a 12,000 person capacity, so it still feels pretty empty, even with a solid 5,000 or so people in there.

The Carribean Series? That’s the tournament where the winners of the off-season leagues in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico duke it out for series champ. Down our way, the Asia series is back up and running with some/all of the winners of the Australian, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese competitions.  Side-note to this side-note, Canberra Cavalry are playing Asia Series games this weekend (Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 November 2013) – give the guys a cheer.

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(This level of dressing up is in no way considered over-the-top in Sinaloa. Beautiful hair and make-up and tight clothes are the order of the day for women and the men are often dressed very well too. Despite this, I actually feel less like I’ll be taken behind the mountains and shot by the fashion police here than I did in SoCal.)

Estadio Teodoro Mariscal is pretty fancy for its age (built in 62) and the kind of things that would be a problem under other sets of regulations simply aren’t problems in Mexico.

You don’t have to get out of your seat to get beer, food, noise-makers… Toilet break and 7th innings stretch are the only time you need to get up and for those brief moments, the narrow concourses and lack of signage don’t really matter. I was a lot more uncomfortable at Wrigley Field.

This was my first experience of beisbol in Mexico and it was LOUD.   For a small crowd on a Tuesday night, they knew how to party.  I’ve now been to 3 parks and partying at the baseball has only increased across the week.

(The sound of a quiet Tuesday night out watching the Venados. I went for seats slightly further away on Thursday, as not only did I feel like I was sitting in the players’ laps, I also couldn’t see the whole field)

I had company at both games I attended. I went to the first game with a Japanese guy who was on his way down to Guatemala to teach umpiring. We were both pretty hyped to be going and he bought two Venados jerseys – one for him and one for his BFF.  Then I spent a lot of time looking around, deciding what to eat, drinking beer, buying raffle tickets and cheering loudly and he very diligently scored the game.  It was really nice to have someone to ask “Hey is that his second double?  DAMN.” and “Swinging very early, do you think they’ll move the field?” and he had sensible answers and cared and it was awesome!

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(Venados regular season ticket. Before it was clipped, I think it may be the prettiest ticket I’ve ever had. And it’s still pretty, even with its dimensions mangled.)

The second game I went with a crowd from the Hostel. And it was ladies’ night, so a bunch of us got in free.  This group contained several Europeans who were at their first-ever baseball game.  We were explaining the rules in a mishmash of English, French and Spanish.  This was also immense fun for me.  Apparently we were on the big screen a couple of times, which I mostly missed due to all the talking, eating and seat-dancing that needed to be done.

I skipped the Saturday night game to go to a farewell dinner and drinks for one of the hostel staff and later in the evening we bumped into some of the English-speaking import contingent from the two teams playing that series.  One of them was an Aussie guy from Melbourne – so that was fun to meet him and kind of mutually boggle at each other for both being in Mexico doing baseball things.

Tonight, I’m off to see a Tuesday night game again, so it is possible that we’ll be back down to midweek levels of noise and mayhem.

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(Still dragging my Perth Heat hat around with me 🙂 )

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Halloween in Sayulita

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