Zihuatanejo (zee-wah-ta-nae-ho) was merely supposed to be Jade’s final landing town and a place to rest and provision. It offered more through the unlikely connection made at an internet cafe. This comfortable little haven is an easy gateway into the cyberworld and run by a fun and positive Washingtonian with an unusually strong connection with Mexican culture. Torina connected with a local family (la familia Calderon) some years back and together they opened “Cafe International” only three days before we stepped in for our first time.
We were immediately attracted to the personal and friendly vibe, which was only catalyzed by the flow of juices and edibles we were subjected to test for the business. Three guys living on a boat are not your best critic of fresh squeezed concoctions and various desert crepes. I’m not sure how much we helped in their product development, but we sure enjoyed the process. Considering our culinary enthusiasm, Torina may very well sell everything we tried.
One morning we opened up the idea to leave earlier than planned. This quickly changed though, after Torina offered to take us to the Calderon’s family ranch an hour drive away. Living for spontaneous moments like this, we took full advantage of the friendly offer and shortly afterwards, we helped close Cafe International for the day. We knew the Calderon family had many members, but we did not forsee ten people in the pick up truck. No problem, six people in the back, four people in the front. Despite the heat and fallen asleep extremeties, it was a refreshing feeling, leaving Patience safe in her anchorage and traveling such a distance in so short a time.
The Calderons were excited to show us a beach near the ranch and a long, dusty road later, we pulled under a small palapa and enjoyed the beautiful and remote ocean front. The parents decided to come down from the ranch and meet us there. They are healthy and happy country people who were as interested in us as we were in them. Through their fast and mumbled speech and our broken Spanish we were able to share minute aspects of our two vastly different worlds.
In explaining our California based climbing business and our Austrian and Floridian roots, the mother responded: “You come from behind the sun in a different universe.” Later when explaining our sailing expedition, she confidently joked: “Yes, you’re traveling to the moon right?” For her and her family, these statements couldn’t be more true. She was born and raised on that ranch. Austria and a galaxy behind the sun are equidistant in her mind. Though the fact that she expressed these herself reflects a deep and sound wisdom, found through a life of wealth and meaning incomprehendible to us.
The decision was made to head to the ranch and in an impressive family cooperation to pack up and leave, the twelve of us were walking to the trucks in under five minutes. Their family dynamic is far from what we commonly see in a large family in the US. Everyone, from the little kids to the parents, works together willingly.
The ranch is a very old little house, surrounded by well kept animals in their rightly quarters: Chickens in the fenced in yard for eggs, a donkey tied in the shade for work and goats for meat. They have cattle on an open pasture not far for milk. Besides buying flour, beans and rice, everything is hand made there. It is a lot of work, but it is also why they are healthy in body and mind.
In addition to their ranch, several other small homes lay nearby. The inhabitants are either family or close friends and everyone pitches in to harvest planted corn and watermelon or cut grass for hay. This is truly a sustainable environment. The word “sustainability” has become a popular trend word in the US, but it’s definition is vague and varied. Here, on this little ranch, in remote Mexico, lies a perfect definition of one version of true sustainability. What makes it more special is that, the family doesn’t know or care much about that. It is simply their way of life. Simple, sustainable and pure.
We spent our time there learning how to make tortillas over their clay cooking platform heated by wood-fire, listening to hunting stories and taking pictures. We concluded with an incredible feast of locally hunted deer in red sauce and iguana in green sauce. The iguana was surprisingly delicious, similar to frog legs or rabbit. Our utensils were the homemade tortillas. Simply heavenly.
Mama Calderon cooked us “gordas de harina” for the road back to Zihua. The ingredients are lard, sugar and flour and they were cooked on the clay hot plate. A luscious treat by any standards.
A deep and heartfelt thank you to Torina and the Calderons for offering their generous hospitality. Two distant worlds were met and admired and with it our minds and hearts were opened.