6.La Ciudad

Chapters: Escaping the Heat | El Salto | Into the Valley | Dogs in the Night | Hiking the Valley, Hunger Lurks | Discovery | La Ciudad

The short commercial strip of La Ciudad lined the highway. Our mouths watered as soon as we spotted a “Restaurante.” I was first through the door and nearly caught a flying chicken in the face, but all was calm inside. Three small tables filled the center of the room. On one of them, the short and stocky matron cut up the day’s supply of meat, but the table was soon cleared and wiped clean. The butchery was replaced with a pot of plastic flowers. While she reorganized the restaurant for business another chicken entered and hopped up on the stove to look for escaped grains of food. The matron hissed and swished the chicken out the door. A comb and decorative pins tamed her graying hair. Her skirt, blouse and apron were each of different colorful patterns. She bustled about, giving orders to two girls and other assorted people who entered. She treated them all like family, and maybe they were.

The walls displayed cardboard ads for cigarettes, Fanta and cookies. On the walls, a variety of calendars all branded with the names of shops in La Ciudad or El Salto added color to the multifunctional establishment. They boasted a blond model, a pair of Dutch children in a bright field of tulips, a Swiss mountain village. The months on display were from January to April, perhaps frozen on the best photo. On the far side of a short wall stood a wood stove, a preparation table piled with pans of water and flour, a tortilla press, mixing bowls and miscellaneous ingredients. The picture of a saint and various plaster figures crowded the platform of a tiny altar.

Across the room the fountain boasted a glass pastry box displaying a few baked goods that I knew from experience contained too little sugar to interest me. Cartons of empty pop bottles, and a basket of avocados sat on the heavy wooden counter along with a display of full pop bottles, jars of wrapped candy and baskets of apricots and apples. Cookies wrapped in red, green and white paper filled string baskets hanging on the wall.

The Señora rattled orders to a plump young woman who took a panful of corn to the porch. After sorting out unwanted pieces she returned to the kitchen and poured water over the corn. Then she mixed it with her hands and skimmed off the floating particles. After changing the water again she added several spoonfuls of white powder and hefted it onto the stove to cook.

Out a side window, the driver of an empty and folded log truck delivered boxes of pop to the house next door. A frail young boy and an old man carried the boxes to our restaurant. The man had a small round face full of stubble punctuated by a button nose. He fit my image of an old-fashioned working Mexican cowboy with a large embroidered but soiled sombrero. The rear brim was pushed up as if he slept in it.

Rain began to fall and I remembered our clothing draped on the bushes. Oh, dear.

Three youngsters hurried to the shelter of the restaurant. A woman hustled out, scooped up a small boy and ran inside. He was all smiles, and not wet except for a few drops of rain on his bare and dusty bottom. He had on socks and shoes, but no laces, a shirt and a warm coat, but no pants.

Our hot meal tasted fabulous. The tortillas, chicken pieces and beans and went down easily. I felt so full I wondered if I could make it back to our tent for an impending nap.

After delighting in the warm village scene, we returned to our camp, packed up and caught the next bus through La Ciudad back to Mazatlan. Our hike was wonderfully spontaneous, full of discoveries and surprises, but after five days we were ready to get back to our little boat and rest our feet.


Postscript:  Our hike covered about 26 miles, and provided all the milder temperatures and unexpected diversions we could have wanted. Today, almost forty years later, the mountain towns of La Ciudad and El Salto advertise themselves as entries to wild areas, state and national parks, though no mention the rock formations. Numerous trails beckon those who stay in quaint cabins in the forests. A local contact says the town of La Ciudad owns land south of town where some rental cabins have been built. I wonder if any are located near those funny looking rocks.