On Tuesday 2 May a group of six cruisers went with Ray from “The Only Tours in Melaque” on a Colima Tour. This was an all day event – from 7:15 am to 7:30 pm.
Ray holds dual citizenship, Canada and Mexico. He has lived in this area for twenty years continuously and is full of fun little factoids about the area. His wife Eva is from Melaque.
We made our way towards Colima City (so called because it’s in the state of Colima. Just like New York!), passing the environs of Manzanilla through an agricultural area. In no particular order, on the two-hour trip we were able to see the following (NOTE – a lot of these were “drive-by” sightings so some photos have been borrowed from various internet sources):
- A stunning sunrise – in Mexico they prep the fields by burning off the leftovers of the old crops which makes a lot of smoke which in turn makes for some really colorful sunrises and sunsets. You learn to take the good (color! Lots of fresh fruit!) with the bad (itchy eyes and runny nose.)
- Fields of bananas, pineapple, papaya, coconuts and dozens of roadside fruit stands
Once in Colima we headed to the outdoor café at the Best Western for breakfast – they purchased an existing hotel and added to their chain. It’s right across from a small plaza and the Basilica Menor (Minor Basilica in the Catholic Church system) and Palacio de Gobierno (Governor’s Palace – the place where government business like new citizenship gets done). Followed by an hour or so of time on your own. The area has a couple museums and the streets are lined with typical big city shops. Again, in no particular order:
- Breakfast with the best cup of coffee I’ve had in eons. I’m still dreaming of that coffee. Instant Nescafe (“No es café” – it is not coffee) is just not the same, matter how I dress it up.
- John looked for a beer and an ice cream. I took some time in a fabric store and bought some replacement material for our bug screens (one thing scratched off my “To Do When We Get Back to La Cruz” list.)
We left Colima wishing we had more time, and made our way to La Hacienda de Nogueras, currently a museum to the Spanish hacienda era and also to the art of Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo. This was clearly the centerpiece of the day’s tour; we were here longer than any other stop.
Senor Alejandro was quite the renaissance man – not only did he create some fabulous art, he also designed furniture and blown glass with his visions rendered to life by craftsmen. In the 1950’s he did a series of angels for UNICEF Christmas cards that were very popular. Operating on the theory that each culture should have angels and a Baby Jesus that they can identify with, the series includes figures that are Japanese, African, Native American, etc.
For me, the highlight of the tour was the display of clay statues, found around the property and dated as 1500 to 2500 years old. There were a few different displays including one in a temperature and light controlled room. This room was designed by Sr. Rangel three years before he died in 2000. Check out the video below:
All my life I’ve interpreted the word “hacienda” to mean a big ol’ ranch house. It actually means the whole ranch which could be a small village. Ray describes it as a feudal system, with the owners living in the big house, the craftsmen and foremen provided with a house in the village square (see video), a factory, all the lands, and the common laborers living elsewhere. Out of sight of the big house, no doubt.
Then it was off to see the volcano which was supposed to be the real reason we did this tour. It was almost a side note with everything else we saw. The group was given the option of bypassing it and visiting a coffee plantation instead. We decided on volcano. On the way passed through the “Zona Magica” (Magic Zone) which is a little stretch of highway that is an optical illusion. Something about the lay of the roadbed and the surrounding scenery makes appear that you are going downhill but you are really going uphill. Ray pulled over to the lateral road, stopped the van, made sure we all noticed that it looked like we going downhill. Then he released the brake and we rolled backwards. Magic!
We continued went to the volcano lookout point for a few pictures and headed off to Comala. Lest you forget, our life centers around eating and drinking, so Comala was a dream stop for us.
Comala is a “Pueblo Magico”, or Magic Town. Towns can apply for the Pueblo Magico program and if accepted, receive a grant to spruce things up to bring business to the town. Comala is known for having all the buildings painted white with red tile roofs, and also for ponche (PONE-chay).
Ponche is a flavored beverage made with sugar cane alcohol. It’s available in about every other shop. The one shop we had time for after lunch (which started at 4:15 pm in true Mexican style) had 15 or so different flavors – we bought two for a grand total of 145 pesos ($7-8).
Lunch was at a “botanera”. In Spanish, “botana” (bow-TAHN-ah) means snack. The deal at a bontanera is you order what seem to be over-priced beverages (a beer was 50 pesos, about $2.75), usual prices are half that. But as long as you are ordering drinks, they bring you places of. After eating our fill of 6-7 different kinds of little tacos, quesadillas, flautas and vegetable chunks, the total bill for lunch for John and I was 200 pesos – $10-11.
We left Comala wishing we had more time there, but with a 2 hour ride back to Barra we needed to hit the road.
All in all, it was a GREAT trip, and even though the centerpiece stop (volcano) was less than expected, the tour itself was a terrific overview and introduction to this area. If you are ever in Barra, I can recommend this day trip with Ray. Discuss with him the amount of time you want in each place – he has a routine and but I think he would happy to shorten the Comila or hacienda stops if you wanted more time in Comala, or if you wanted to add the coffee plantation.
(Note: Because there were six of us starting from the marina, we were able to make special arrangements to meet Ray for the pickup – be sure to discuss with him beforehand if you need to do the same.)