[ El Salto, Durango, Mexico ]
Happy first day of autumn (otoño) and belated best wishes for Mexican Independence Day! I’m not sure if you heard the famous El Grito de Dolores from your vantage point, but it was loud and clear here in El Salto, where I’ve been exploring, recovering, and studying for almost three weeks.
Exploring as in getting to know, in depth, my first real Mexican town (i.e. local vibe, industrial, no tourism); recovering as in recuperating from a horrendous chest cold which lasted five days and still has me hacking up glistening, gelatinous bits of lung; and studying as in learning Spanish with a dedicated intensity unmatched since I learned German back in the last ice age.
This unplanned stay has run the gamut from productive to discouraging and back again. The first six days were much needed—spent managing and editing photos, bringing my blog up to date, and—after a nearly two-year hiatus—getting Instagram set up and running once again. The cold, rainy mountain climate (exacerbated by hurricane-spawned weather systems) was the perfect catalyst for focused, eight-hour workdays. Unfortunately, I also caught cold—more annoying than debilitating—and passed a handful of days doing little but foul-tasting shots of Vicks 44, sucking on cough drops, and repeatedly filling my waste bin with goopy, snot-laden tissues.
Though the cough is still with me, I feel otherwise fit, and have shifted my returning energies on improving my Spanish. Each day I devote three+ hours to reading, translation, and grammar drills. Conversational practice is easy to come by, as I’ve met quite a few folks here in town and everyone is happy to help.
Speaking of the town itself, I’ve grown fond of El Salto: an industrial lumber town of roughly twenty-five thousand souls perched high on a plateau in the Sierra Madre. After the sweltering heat and humidity of coastal Mazatlan, El Salto’s chilly nights and low humidity are a godsend (my brief cold notwithstanding). At 2,500 meters, or 8,500 feet, even a gorgeous, sunny day like today rarely breaks 21°C (~70°F). I have to say, though, that after three hot winters in Africa, and one lukewarm holiday season in south Texas, the high altitudes and colder temps are a welcome change.
My small hotel (El Diamante, a whopping $7.50/night) sits in the town center, surrounded by street food vendors, small restaurants of every stripe, the town church, and by the grocers, confectioners, barbers, auto and office supplies, butchers, pharmacies, tailors, and electronics vendors needed to support a working class town. (Also shoe stores; a strange overabundance of them, in fact.) In short, it’s a perfectly typical town and a great place to get my bearings.
In the next couple of days I’ll be back on the road for the hundred kilometer stretch into Durango, where I’ll spend two nights and get a quick tune-up for Fargo. We’ll see.