Chapter 3.  Alamos, Sonora

© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2000 All rights reserved.


Monday, January 10, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora (Milepost 343, N 27.026, W 108.940)

(Shari) Seven-twenty and the CB broadcasts our roll call. camera.GIF (1399 bytes)   Everyone is up and ready to go. Seven-thirty and we are rolling down the road. We stop at the huge Pemex station on the outskirts of town to gas up. There is space enough for each of us to pull into a stall with no one waiting in line. Soon we are a trucking down the highway. Ralph did not get his hitch fixed yet, so I again ride with Virginia. Traffic is light and we roll along at 55 mph until the town of Obregón. We try to tighten up our ranks through town but not all of us make stoplights at the same time and we get strung out a mile or so until we can get out of the congestion. The landscape we pass today is similar to the area around Yuma, AZ. Dry, dusty with cactus and shrub trees dotting the area. In the 171 miles of travel today we only pass through two major towns. The rest is just miles and miles of empty land with a few brick houses here and there. All of a sudden, we arrive into one of the towns and my-oh-my is it congested. Not as bad as a Texas border town however, but it sure is not downtown College Station. Navigating the towns is the most difficult part of the trip, but Jim keeps us in CB contact and does an excellent job of announcing landmarks he has just passed and when to be in what lane, well ahead of time. When not navigating a town, CB chatter is centered on birds with shouts of "Did you see the ____ on the wire?" and "No, I think it was a _____ because of its long tail." Bert is in hog heaven or should I say bird heaven. We stop at a humongous Pemex station for our lunch break, and Jim has a difficult time gathering the group together. Apparently it is near some water and the birds are good. Someone suggests dry camping right there. Thankfully, Jim prevails and we move onward to our destination of Alamos. The town of Novojoa is again a beast to travel through and Jim is unable to stop for the rear end to catch up. He travels very slowly and soon Bert announces he has us in sight and the caravan can resume normal speed. We have turned off the toll road and onto a two-way road climbing 1400 feet to the town of Alamos. We pull into a dirt lot to unhitch and Jan runs ahead to arrange our parking. She calls back to Jim that she thinks there is no room and Jim goes off ahead. Soon he says, send the first six rigs down. After that he tells us all to come and we squeeze into the small spaces in this otherwise pleasantly shaded park. We being last in line get a very tight spot and R-TENT gets a boo-boo on its side near the steps. Neither Bert nor I saw this 1-ft. white pole sticking up on the edge of the space in front of us. I was focusing on our back end since our wheels would just barely make it between the two cement patios separating each spot. So as Bert was backing in, he hit the pole. It nicked R-TENT a little bit, but we will put some kind of filler on it and no one will see the difference. When we open our slide, the people next to us have to suck in their gut. Really, they had two chairs side by side next to their motor home and had to move one away. Luckily they are with a different caravan and will be leaving in the morning.

(Bert) Morning rays pierce sunglasses as we watch the road exiting San Carlos. We stop to top off our tanks, and then head inland and southward across the long, dry flat desert. We pass a military checkpoint: drably uniformed soldiers slinging long rifles; Bronzed Cowbirds feeding on the pavement. Passing through the streets of Ciudad Obregón (pop. 300,000) we remain tightly together and from a radio check I calculate 0.5 mi. separates Wagonmaster and Tailgunner. Outside the city lie large flat irrigated fields, verdant with a new crop in mid growth. Later we encounter goatherds, tended by caballeros on horseback; a vast chicken farm stretching for three-quarter mile; horse-drawn carts carrying supplies; men peddling rickety bicycles; smiling faces of boys and girls, waving enthusiastically at our passing train. We break for lunch just before Navojoa. Walt and I head across the road, binoculars in hand. We return to report a brilliantly red male Vermilion Flycatcher, a singing Cassin's Kingbird and a dozen chattering Groove-billed Anis following the fence line. Other birders down their sandwiches and head to the road to see what they had missed. Navojoa is more challenging to negotiate and our caravan becomes disconnected, but still in CB contact with 0.9 mi. separating front and back. By the time we reach the foothills outside the city, we are back in visual contact, but often stretching up to 2 mi. end to end. The blunted hills are covered in drab brown brush and dull olive cacti. Our train winds calmly through the hills at 40 mph, passing a talc mine - white hills carved out to reveal the powder. Here on the southern edge of the Sonoran Desert, a new cactus appears: very tall and branched with a long trunk, and shaped like a giant candelabra. Jan tells us it is in the Cordova family, but no one puts a name to it in our CB chatter. We reach Alamos, our home for the next week. camera.GIF (1399 bytes)   Our campsite is extremely small and spaces are very tight. We are the last to enter, but after parking I notice Jim and Anne are still struggling to park their trailer after skirting a tree. Although cramped, the RV Park offers a comfortable enclosed orchard setting with full hookups including 30-amp power. Finally settled, we gather for a planning meeting and a bird count off: 41 species in route today, 114 total for Mexico. Personally, I've added two to my life list - Blue-footed Booby and Sinaloa Crow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Bert) Birders have probably visited more sewage ponds than any other class of people. So, this morning, on our first birding trip for Alamos we head to "Sewer River."camera.GIF (1399 bytes) Jim leads the way through the cobbled streets of Alamos and continues on the "main road" out of town. Rocks, boulders, ruts, construction, dry stream beds, scratching mesquite boundaries and 20-deg slopes pass by brick and adobe dwellings until we reach "Sewer River," so named because the trickling creek carries effluent from the city's sewers. We can smell the water as our vehicles ford the swallow stream. I'm sure this location is not on the beaten path for most tourists, but it is a delightful place for us birders to spend the morning. Almost immediately a small flock of Black-throated Magpie-Jays camera.GIF (1399 bytes) alight in a nearby tree. A life bird for many of us, this bird is unmistakable: with a body and color like a Blue Jay, but a rooster's crown in black and a long streaming tail stretching more than half of the bird's nearly 2-1/2-ft length. We spread out over a 400-ft. section of the creek side and watch the array of avian wildlife dip in and out of the tall trees on the opposite shore. We shift from one spot to another as birders announce their sightings: bright yellow Social Flycatchers camera.GIF (1399 bytes) fussing at tree tops, a Crane Hawk high overhead with outstretched red legs camera.GIF (1399 bytes), a tricky-to-identify Pacific-Slope Flycatcher hidden in tall reeds, a brief flash of a Blue Mockingbird and a bright red flash of a Elegant Trogon. We cut our morning outing short so that we can meet Cirilo Solis, a native of Alamos, who gives us a walking tour of the historic city. The area has had five names in five different historical periods, starting with the Mayans. The official inauguration of Alamos was December 8, 1682 with the birth of mining; 43 silver and gold mines were located around Alamos, the most in Mexico. Cirilo's recounting of Alamos' history sounds like a chapter from Michner's novel, Mexico. Population swelled to 30,000 in the mining heyday and Cirilo even tells a story of a street lined with silver bars to keep a bride from muddying her gown between her home and the Catholic Church. Alamos played a significant role in the history of Mexico and even affected the United States: explorers from Alamos founded the city of Los Angeles. The silver mines ran out, the Spaniards returned to their home country, but the town continued. Now with about 8000 residents, 250 to 300 are Norte Americanos, including Rip Torn and Carroll O'Connor.

(Shari) All night long I heard the chickens. Crowing roosters and cackling hens surrounded our campground, throwing a happy and boisterous party. I mean, in all my life I have not heard so many roosters in one place. If the roosters were not crowing, then the dogs were barking. No matter what time I would wake up, I had a serenade. The birders return at 10:10, well ahead of the 11 AM departure for our city walk. Cirilo, our local guide, walks us through town explaining the history of the area and some of the buildings. Alamos means cottonwood trees and it is nestled between the Alamos Mountains and the Sierra Madres. 1400 feet above sea level, it enjoys a moderate climate, if you call 110 degrees in May moderate. We too can become property owners for a mere $10,000. Add another $150,000 or so to this fixer-uppercamera.GIF (1399 bytes)and we would have a nice home. However, I could not pass it on to my heirs since foreigners are not allowed to have inherited property. The people are gracious and one woman wants to show us the piñata she made for her birthday. We notice the well in her yard and she shows us how she gets water from it. Louise mentions that she got water like that as a kid and showed us how it was done as she yanked on the rope with relative ease. camera.GIF (1399 bytes) I think it is a lot of work to haul a bucket of water from 24 ft. down. I'd rather just turn on the tap. We continue our tour uphill and stop at the old jail for an incredible view of the city below. By now we are thirsty and hungry and decide to wet our whistles and our appetites at Las Palermas. To our misfortune, another group has reserved the place and although they arrive 30 minutes after us, they are served first. Our lunch hour stretches to three. Oh well, glad I do not have to be back to work. We continue our tour to the church and learn of the man who paved a path of silver so his daughter would not have to get her wedding dress dirty on her way from the house to the chapel. The church is rustically beautiful and at one time had 60 ceramic plates, representing various areas of the world, adorning its outside facade. Over a period of 400 years, all but two of the plates have been destroyed. The last set were done in, when Poncho Villa's troops used them as target practice. Next we walk to the bakery, camera.GIF (1399 bytes) Panaderia La Moderna. A huge clay oven, in the shape of a garage-size beehive, is heated in the morning with a wood fire. Different items are baked as the day goes on, with the ones needing hotter temperatures being baked first. We all came for the famous buelos, but they have not even been put into the oven when we arrive. We will have to come back tomorrow for them. Many young boys around the age of 10 or 11 are waiting around. At first I thought they belonged to the baker's family or were baker helpers, but I later learn they run the bakery route through town. Various baked goods are put on tray-like tables lined with cloth. These tables are then carried on the boys' heads throughout the town. What a bakery truck! Cirilo leaves our group at the town market area, collects his $5 fee per person for the tour, and we make our way home along the old cobblestone streets on our own. The town is clean and very accustomed to Americans. The locals just look, smile and nod. I often wonder however, what they think about us.

Wednesday, January 12, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Bert) Starting with the same street we walked yesterday on our tour, we drive to the edge of the city as it creeps up the side of the Alamos Mountains. The road is made of large rounded rocks fused together by mortar and forming a solid, if uneven, surface. At the end of the road a concrete path dips low for us to drive through a mountain stream, now completely absent of water after a 3-yr. drought. We hike upward along one side of the valley shouldering the dry stream. From our lofty perspective we can survey a vast forested area and spot distant birds adorning trees below us. Highlights this morning are a large flock of Red-billed Pigeonscamera.GIF (1399 bytes)  resting in a Kapok tree, four species of orioles (Black-vented, Streaked, Hooded and Scott's), a small flock of White-fronted Parrots and a brilliant, tightly held flock of Mexican Parrotlets. This last sighting was worth the trip alone: twenty goldfinch-sized parrots, radiantly yellow-green with turquoise rumps flash in the morning sun like a school of tropical fish as they wing their way up the valley. Later we visit a city park,camera.GIF (1399 bytes) freshly improved with a small swimming pool and newly planted trees. Most birders are sufficiently exercised simply to rest on the concrete benches and wait for birds to come their way.  A MacGillivray's Warbler and a Happy Wren oblige. The peaceful setting is chosen for our afternoon Happy Hour and we return again at 3:30.

(Shari) Tiny orange-like fruit grow on each tree separating campsites. Some call it calamondra and others call it serenitas. Whatever it is called it looks like a kumquat to me. Ed and Carlyn made a delicious marmalade from them. The fruit itself is very sour, but when enough sugar is added it becomes very tasty. I pick a small bowl of fruit, soak them in a little bleach water, cut each end off and squeeze out the seeds. After chopping, rind and all, I add the sugar and put in the microwave for 6 minutes, stirring every 2. The jam is delicious with peanut butter. Later I mosey down to Louise's and she teaches me how to play Spite & Malice. After loosing two hands in a row, I call it quits. When the birders return from their outing, they announce they want Happy Hour at the park. We pile into our vehicles and car pool up the mountain to a very nice city park, complete with swimming pool. The pool is closed for the winter, but the park remains open for public use. Upon paying two pesos to a man sitting at a picnic table, we enter the park for our social. Two men in our group, Sid and Pat, provide the snacks. I even made a sign saying they set the standard for male afternoon social cuisine. Sid brought popcorn and Pat had crackers and cheese dip. Nothing but the Ritz, I tell you. I head for the bakery with Ralph and Virginia and leave Bert birding in the park. He, of course, is the last one to return this evening.

Thursday, January 13, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Bert) By the map, Alamos is the end of the road - the paved road, that is. Today we head east out of town on a roughly graveled road leading into the Sierra Madre Occidental. We turn left at the sign pointing to Huirocova and slowly travel eight miles on a stony road enveloped in dust clouds. Land is fenced and a couple of signs indicate we are passing ranch land, but there is no evidence of crops or cattle. We park at Arroyo Cuchujaqui, a pleasant, if muddy, river enclosed by steep canyon walls downstream, but a swallow marsh (1399 bytes) A sprite Tufted Flycatcher camera.GIF (1399 bytes) defends the large shade tree where we park. A shout from one of our birders brings us streamside to catch sight of the Bare-throated Tiger-heron, a bittern-like bird that seems to consist entirely of one large bulky neck. A couple of hours birding along the stream, we begin to notice the rising temperature. By 10:30, Jim's thermometer registers 95 deg. During lunchtime, Walt and I climb the rock cliffs beside the stream and I spot a 1.5-ft. iguana that disappears before I can get a good look at it. By the time we rejoin the others we have missed the Rufous-capped Warbler they found. Back at camp, the heat and the morning exercise make my afternoon siesta pleasant on our lounge chair in the shade of R-TENT. Everyone cleans up and puts on fresh clothes for tonight's entertainment: dinner at Hotel La Posada with music by the Studentina. The hotel was converted from a hospital built in 1860 under the sponsorship of one of the families who owned the silver mines. In the early 1900s, the mines played out, but the building was again used as a hospital during the Mexican Revolution. The doors were closed in 1948 when social security came to Mexico. Now we sit in a delightful open-air courtyard surrounded by the hospital ruins on one side and hotel on three sides. During margaritas, a delicious Mexican Plate and desert we exchange stories with Carmen and Larry who share our table. Guitars and low male voices announce the Studentina camera.GIF (1399 bytes) as they descend the stairs from the old hospital. Dressed in Spanish costumes from the era of Columbus and Don Quixote, the fourteen young men sing Spanish love ballads. Ribbons adorn their billowy blouses, marking the many cities they have visited with their singing: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizona and Mexico villages. They smile with their eyes, gleaming white teeth, bodies swaying to the rhythm, tambourine bouncing. Our group has the whole courtyard and the performers to ourselves - a very special party.

(Shari) I have not seen the extreme poverty or dirty conditions that the people put up with in the U.S./Mexico border towns. The most trash I saw was not in the cities, but littered the sides of the toll roads. No highway adoption program works here as it so successfully does in the states. San Carlos was a sparkling clean city as is Alamos. Most all business establishments have people who speak English, so the language is not even a barrier. Here in Alamos, the streets are paved with stones, which makes for rough driving but cuts down on the dust. The children in Mexico receive a free public education through the 6th grade. For Grades 7-8-9 they receive free education but must pay for books and supplies. Grades 10-11-12 are not free and children pay a high tuition. Obviously, most drop out at the middle level. In Alamos the children wear uniforms of burgundy pleated skirts, white blouses and knee socks. The boys wear black pants, white shirts and burgundy ties. I have seen some plaid pleated skirts as well. Most of the area jobs stem from the North American tourists and residents. The women work as domestic help and the men learn the building crafts needed for all the renovations going on around town. I see very few women outside, but the men have that common Spanish trait of congregating in groups of 6 or more and staring. I cannot get used to it and I think that is what makes Mexico a bit threatening to many people. I think poverty exists here, but is hidden in the bushes. As we wound our way up to the city park last night, I almost missed some shacks hidden in the trees. Like a chameleon, the houses blend in with the surroundings and can be mistaken for the junk that litters the lawns of many homes. But as Ralph pointed out, junk was prevalent in Alaska too. Tonight is a night on the town. We carpool to La Posada Hotel and are greeted by Roman, the owner who tells us a bit of its history. He has lived in Alamos for the past 30 years but opened the hotel only 8 years ago. It is built around the old hospital with an open courtyard facing the old entrance to the hospital. Two sisters established the hospital in 1860. As the silver mines played out, the hospital ran out of money and it was finally closed in 1946. The hotel, now built there, is nothing but first rate. Strings of little white lights adorn short trees at the entrance. In the interior courtyard, I see round tables topped with brightly-colored Mexican blankets. At one corner, an open pit fireplace blazes warmth and welcome. At the other corner, a bar with margaritas adds its own kind of warmth and welcome. Our Mexican plate is delicious and filling. Later 14 young boys entertain us with Spanish songs, not the usual Mexican ones. The Spanish make more use of the guitar, mandolin and tambourine as opposed to the brass instruments heard in so many Mexican places. Many songs, as translated by Carmen, are of love and honor and are very pleasing to the ear. All of this for only $12.50 each.

Friday, January 14, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Shari) The laundry basket is overflowing and it is time to do the wash. I stuff the dirty clothes into the wheeled cart and tote it up the hill to the laundry room. Here a nice young man greets me, but knows very little English. He communicates that each load of wash is 120 pesos, each dry is 120 pesos and he uses tokens to start the machines. He also tells me it takes trente minutas for a wash. I put the dirty clothes into two machines and come back in 30 minutes. Another 30 minutes later the wash is done. We SOB's have promised to meet the birders at noon in a small village called Aduana. I drive, Jan directs, Louise rides and Sidney, John and Alice follow. Following an alternate route to the one the birders took, Jan leads us down a dirt road, up and down steep dusty hills, over a rocky wash until you think she was lost. All of a sudden, we see the town and a paved road leading up an embankment. Soon we are in a small open courtyard with a church, a grocery store straight out of Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, a craft store and a gourmet restaurant called Casa de Aduana. We came for the lunch and it does not disappoint us. Sam, the owner, opened his restaurant 4 years ago and it has since been voted as the best in Mexico. After tasting his food, I do not argue the fact. For the next two hours we have a leisurely meal of salad with oranges and bananas, tomato bisque, pork tenderloin with avocado, cheese and balsamic vinegar sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, beer, iced coffee, vegetables in sauce, and chocolate soufflé. This meal would cost a fortune in any other place. Here it is under $20 each, including tip. Sam came here from San Francisco with terrible arthritis. His arthritis is gone and he has made a name for himself in this small out-of-the-way spot. A lot of money must be in this community, although it is well hidden. Someone has to eat here for him to make a living. After we eat, he takes us for a tour of his place. He is in the process of making six bedrooms for a bed and breakfast and redoing living quarters for himself and his wife. He tells us of the treasures they have found while digging his swimming pool and wine cellar. He is on a veritable archeological dig with artifacts over 400 years old. Every day we seem to be entertained with another surprise.

(Bert) Nestled against the Alamos Mountains, the sleepy village of Aduana boasts a fascinating history pinnacled in the era of silver mining. Heading west about 6 mi. from Alamos, we turn left at the river crossing and the El Terzal sign and drive through a dry (1399 bytes) In spite of the severe drought, hummingbirds and buntings still frequent the area. Violet-crowned, Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Berylline Hummingbirds and Plain-capped Starthroats (a hummer with a different last name) extract nectar from blooming trees and many of them pose just long enough for us to identify their individual characteristics. The Lazuli and Varied Buntings camera.GIF (1399 bytes)  perch for us to focus spotting scopes on their kaleidoscope of colors. After slowly treading our way several miles along the graveled arroyo, Aduana (rhymes with Iguana) comes as a surprise. Suddenly a blocked concrete street leads us the short distance to the fountain at the village center, surrounded by houses, shops, church camera.GIF (1399 bytes) and Casa La Aduana, a famous restaurant where we will later stop for lunch. Now we park our cars and walk on foot along the road leading to the mines and the remnants of the mine smelter which once dominated the town's employment. The mine lies 5 km ahead on a tortuous uphill climb to the 4700-ft. peak and there descends 3600-ft. below the surface. Here where we stand, a tall and aged smokestack defies gravity; camera.GIF (1399 bytes) beneath it, portions of brick walls outlining the perimeter of the smelter and piles of tailings leave evidence of the processing of the silver ore. In fascinating twists of roots and branches, Strangler Trees envelope the old buildings, locking the brick walls in octopus grip. camera.GIF (1399 bytes) Townspeople have transformed some of the buildings into houses; clothes hanging from wash lines mark their presence. We hike back to the church, carbon dated to 1581 and now in the process of roof replacement. Starting 10 ft. up the outside 40-in. wall near the chancel, grows a tall cactus adorned with red ribbons. An old story tells of construction workers who chopped off the cactus only to see it regrow in the same spot, but this time pointing to the Madonna - a miracle somehow connected to finding a new silver mine. Each day of our trip brings its own surprises. Today it is Casa La Aduana, a gourmet restaurant owned and operated by Sam Beardsley, a Philadelphian who has lived in many places in the world but settled here in tiny Aduana. At noon, joined by the non-birders, we sit at two long tables on a shaded porch overlooking the town square and enjoy a 2-hr. lunch that would rival any restaurant in North America. In fact, Sam tells us his restaurant was voted best in the state by the government and best in Mexico by a San Francisco magazine. After an incredible meal, Sam offers a guided tour through the restoration process ongoing in his restaurant and adjoining home. One fact amazes me and another tantalizes my historic inquisitiveness. The first is that everything in the house seems to be made of stone and concrete, all hand-carried and handcrafted, layer upon layer: a process that must have consumed 1000s of man-hours of labor. The second is that while digging, by hand mind you, the swimming pool and wine cellar the construction workers uncovered artifacts stretching a 400-yr. history of the village: an 1880s $5 U.S. gold piece, mining script which preceded money, human bones (but no skulls), pottery, a matchbook-sized box containing a human tooth carefully wrapped in paper and a 300-year-old sack of 60 lbs. of silver. The tooth presented a mystery until one vacationing doctor connected the strange treasure to a late 1600s - early 1700s dental procedure of removing a decayed tooth and also extracting a good canine tooth from the opposite side of the mouth for good measure. Ouch!

Saturday, January 15, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Bert) Saturday is an optional birding day, but most of us are out birding anyway. Half of our group again drive east out of Alamos on the same road we took Thursday, diverting after 2.4 mi. at the sign pointing toward El Chinal and continuing 6.3 mi. to Vado El Mentidero, an arroyo recommended by Stephanie, a local birder. We hike through the dry riverbed, a rocky path littered with huge boulders. Among the birding challenges of this area are the Myiarchus flycatchers, a genus of look-alike birds similar in shape and coloration. Thus far we've identified Dusky-capped camera.GIF (1399 bytes), Ash-throated and Brown-crested. Today when a bird calls in flight, I know we've misidentified it. After scanning our bird books, we realize we are surrounded by a dozen or more Nutting's Flycatchers, a life-bird for everyone in our party. The Nutting's looks like an Ash-throated Flycatcher, but calls like a Great-crested Flycatcher. See what I mean about confusing! We hike through the riverbed for 90 min. and finally come to water, marked by a flock of Cinnamon Teal taking flight. Everyone except Lee and me head back. The two of us venture further around the bend in the river and are rewarded by a 20-min. view of two Tiger-herons. These 2.5-ft. birds are exceedingly difficult to (1399 bytes)  Perched in a tall streamside cypress, these slow-moving tiger-herons blend perfectly into the shadows, in spite of their lemon yellow necks and bold tiger stripes horizontally marking their front sides. I take several photographs, but suspect I'll end up with pictures of dark shadows instead of (1399 bytes)   When we arrive back at camp, we hear stories of what other birders found when they headed in different directions this morning: Blue Mockingbird at the sewage river, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl at Aduana. In the evening we all walk into town to Casa de los Tesoros, a hotel with a great restaurant. With high ceilings and polished tile floors, the rooms have walls decorated with large paintings of senoritas adorned in floral headdresses. Inscriptions on the portraits largely date to the 1880s timeframe. Following dinner we are entertained by the contrasting voices of three men with guitars and an attending bass player, plucking a black viola that looks like it has survived two wars. Next comes the Deer Dance, a ritual dating to the local Mayos Indians and symbolizing a deer hunt performed by two dancers accompanied by two drummers hitting a plate-sized ring stretched with hide and played with two sticks. The syncopating rhythm of the drums matches the rattles - moth cocoons filled with pebbles - that wrap around the lower part of the dancer's legs. Later we talk to the deer dancer, a local 39-year-old high school teacher who speaks English well and is quite proud of his accomplishment. He talks about the classes he teaches - Chemistry, English, Mathematics - and his use of a satellite dish to receive broadcasts from Mexico City. And he relates the problem of encouraging children to stay in school and later to earn a living, rather than getting involved in drug trafficking.

(Shari) The bead-filled cocoons adorning their legs from sandal to knee rattle to the time of the drums. The two drummers sit on small stools before a fire,camera.GIF (1399 bytes) beating out a primitive rhythm with their sticks and hide-stretched drum held vertically before them. The two men in white dance before us, a dance called the Deer dance. Deer is free, deer is hunted, deer is killed, deer is resurrected: showing man in harmony with nature. So ends another evening full of laughter, food and surprises. Backtracking in time, at 5:15 PM we gather in front of R-TENT to make the short walk to the village. We pass the church square and are privy to the gatherings of a wedding party. We shop a little along the way looking at the expertly hand-embroidered items known in this area. We arrive at the hotel just in time for margaritas, quickly followed by a Mexican plate dinner highlighted by a big cut of fajita steak. All this for $5.35 each. I think we are birding and grazing across Mexico. Then the deer dance. This is a dance performed every Saturday by Jose Luiz, a good-looking 38-year-old local teacher. He has been doing this dance for 18 years and still puts his total self into it. I think whatever he does, he does his best. He tells us his philosophy of teaching and how his 18 high school students hear how much better it is to sell straw sticks legally than drugs that are not legal. He says some listen to him. He tells us with pride that one-third of his charges are on scholarship. He also tells us proudly that he is the father of a 3-year-old girl and a 3-day-old son. We give him some school supplies and a tip before we say our good-byes and walk home.

Sunday, January 16, 2000 - Alamos, Sonora

(Bert) Kids cluster around one booth, blocking my view. I approach closer and, looking over their shoulders, I see what attracts their interest - a table arrayed in candy. At another stand, women pick out the choicest tomatoes and avocados. The tent displaying expensive western wear is mostly vacant. We are in the middle of the Sunday morning open-air market. Under the shade of cottonwoods bordering the arroyo, dozens of vendors offer their goods. Shari makes her selections and stuffs them in my backpack. We walk to the small grocery store in town and add milk and Corn Flakes to our load. Then we stop at the bank outlet to get pesos from the ATM. We unload our purchases at R-TENT and head back to the town square to view the crafts being (1399 bytes) The brightly painted plates, Mexican jumping beans and carved ironwood catch my fancy. In early afternoon, two more caravans arrive and crowd almost all sites. Electricity usage increases and I measure the voltage: 125 volts with our generator running, but only 102 volts when plugged into the outlet. I turn our refrigerator to gas to avoid problems. At the 3:30 bird count off, our total species for Alamos is 117, bringing our Mexican total to 174. I wish I could say I saw all of them, but our group went separate ways the last two days and each found a few species that the others missed.

(Shari) Bert has promised NO birding today. After breakfast, we walk to the arroyo behind our camp, where every Sunday vendors and shoppers meet to exchange money for goods. We buy some tomatoes, corn and lettuce before walking home. Shary tells us of the craft booths lining the plaza by the church, so we head in that direction. Here we too exchange money for an expertly hand-painted plate, a purse and a small doll for my Christmas tree ornament collection. By now it is stifling hot. We eat a light lunch and soon it is time for bird count, travel meeting and happy hour. Since I have not seen the lookout high above the town, Bert takes Gene, Sandy and me there. The view is fantastic. Stretching between the hills, we see the city streets with its buildings and (1399 bytes) We try to identify familiar places and can make out Gene's Bounder in the park down below. By the time we return it is dark. Many of the group plans to walk to the church plaza tonight at 7:15 to view the people on parade. I do not think we will finish our dinner in time to join them. Sid gave us a movie to watch and I think we will just kick pack and enjoy it.

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