Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Go To Hermosillo?

One of the realities of life in Banámichi is that occasionally trips to Hermosillo become necessary. Where is Hermosillo? It is 2.5 hours drive to the south of us, and is the capital of the state of Sonora, our nearest large city. Why do such trips become necessary? It could be anything from a need for diversion from the quietude of Banámichi, to a  desperate need for items not available locally.

One such item is fresh vegetables. Well, OK, we can get some things locally... iceberg lettuce, green chilis, onions, and sometimes some limp green beans. As you may have surmised I am a bit of a "foodie" and am especially partial to good veggies. So when our friend Gerlinde showed Lynn  a special market with fresh produce, I planned a trip to Hermosillo.

It is a big deal to go to Hermosillo. It requires a whole day and is always a bit of an adventure. You never know what you will encounter and where. This time our first surprise was at the military check point in Mazocahui, about an hour down the road from Banámichi. This is a place where the military is usually out in  the road with automatic weapons asking "Where are you going? Where are you from? What are you carrying?" I suppose this could be somewhat intimidating, but generally they are very young good-looking men, who are given to being friendly and polite when they find we are cooperative and also friendly.

This time, we pulled up to the checkpoint and the men were chatting off to one side, not at all interested in us. But a medium size brown dog with curly fur stood in the road in our path, staring at us. Dan inched the vehicle towards him. He didn't blink. Dan honked, and he continued staring as if deaf. Finally, Dan sighed and drove around him. The military guys cracked up, smacking their hands together as if to say "just hit him!"  and waving us on. We all had a good laugh and off we went.

The main room of the "Old Ferreteria"
Our first stop in Hermosillo was at the Ferreteria Maderas, AKA the "Old Ferreteria," a hardware store that surely must date back to Aztec times. It is the only place around that sells an assortment of Talavera tiles and many unidentifiable bits of rusty metal. Oh, and it also has birdcages, ancient pink toilets, tortilla presses and brown clay cooking pots. It is a truly strange establishment that closes for the day at 12:30PM, meaning that we have to leave Banámichi very early to get there. Anyway, I got the Talavera tiles that I need to re-do a window ledge at the house, and off we went to look for the veggie market.

Random metal parts inside the "Old Ferreteria"

Talavera Tile display inside the "Old Ferreteria"

Driving in Hermosillo can be a nightmare. Most maps are inadequate to the maze of one way streets, huge traffic circles and terrifying flyover bridges. After being in rural Banámichi, the traffic seems insane.
Fortunately we had Lynn with us who mostly knows her way around and so we wove our way to Bulevar Solidaridad and headed north. Lynn said "There it is! Turn left by the tall circular sign." and I realized we would never have found this on our own.

Chaos at the market
We took a ticket to get into the parking area and headed into the utterly chaotic fray. There were cars and trucks driving in every direction, guys weaving in and out on bicycles, and people calling out to us, inviting us to buy huge sacks of potatoes that had to weigh 50 pounds. This was obviously the place where all the restaurants and stores in town came to buy their produce. The market was probably not meant for individual buyers, but since no one stopped us, we entered a lovely shop.

Me choosing avocados
There were some of the most beautiful vegetables I have ever seen.. big, perfect and fresh. There was most of the stuff you can get in a US supermarket, only fresher and prettier, as well as some more exotic items. WOW! I wanted some of everything! I bought stuff without regard to how I would use it, just because it appealed. I wound up with huge green Mexican grilling onions, lots of avocados, super hot jalapenos, gorgeous cilantro, Mexican limes, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, persimmons that were sweet and soft as mush and just ready to eat, and guyabas - guavas. All of this was well under 10 bucks!

Then we headed across the way to a meat shop. Somehow I thought we would find beautiful New York steaks neatly laid out in plastic trays, but instead we were led into a cutting room, where random hunks of meat were sitting on counters and a spray of red meat coated the wall behind a saw. The man pointed to his head and offered us cabeza - head meat, a Mexican delicacy - and pointed to a bloody blob on the table. No thanks! This is why I was a vegetarian for 25 years! We wound up buying a 5 pound block of frozen shrimp for a ridiculously low price and calling it good.

Restaurant Xochimilco
After running several more errands to Supermercado Ley and Costco, we decided to go to the Restaurant Xochimilco for lunch, which we had heard about but never visited. They have been in operation since 1949 (they must be doing something right,) and specialize in grilled meat. We ordered the goat to avoid the beef tripe which we were all a bit squeamish about. The Mexicans eat everything from the cow but the moo, and I admit that as Americans we are spoiled, but tripe? I don't think so! Anyway, we got a big plate of grilled goat, and it fabulous! Melt in the mouth tender and mild flavor - like the very best lamb. It was simply some of the best meat I have ever eaten anywhere in the world, and it came with a large salad, beans, tortillas, salsa and guacamole. What a treat!

Salad at Xochimilco

Meat grilling behind glass partition at Xochimilco
Trailer selling fireworks
 After lunch we made a few more stops - one has to make the most of these outings since they are so arduous - and then got on the road back to Banámichi. The last stop was just north of the town of Ures where there is a solitary trailer in a dusty field selling "cohetes" - fireworks. We wanted some for the New Year's Eve party at Los Arcos Hotel that has become a tradition in out little community. It had clouded over, and the wind had picked up. Outside, a stray dog jumped, startled by a piece of flying cardboard, and inside, the trailer rocked on its foundation in the wind and the doors banged and pounded. The mood was high, though, as we joked with the clerk and picked out a large assortment of miscellaneous things that go BANG!, and another large "box o' bombs"...ball shaped fireworks about 2 inches in diameter with a big gnarly fuse. Should be fun. I wouldn't light them myself, but have to admit that I like explosions!

By then it was almost 4PM and time to make tracks for home before darkness settled in. As we passed the town of Huepac, it started to rain. Winter has finally come to the Rio Sonora. Hermosillo was fun this time and then it was so good to get back to our nice warm, dry little house in Banámichi!


  1. Wow what an experience June. I can imagine the chaos when driving around. Good you had someone with you to help you get around. I find it so intimidating to drive in Mexican cities. I love your stops, especially the resturant and the meat shop. (Guess you couldn't get a picture of that head meat huh?) You say there is a Costco there too? Is it like the ones north of the border? Can't wait to visit you in Banamichi one day! Great post!

  2. Being a lover of all things "Mexico", I was delighted to be directed to your blog (I think from Levonne on Google+). We have traveled there extensively in our motorhome, and plan to drive the jeep down for a month in April to San Carlos. Will have to look up Banamichi on our map. Lynda

  3. We were recently in Hermosillo & tried to find the "old ferreteria" without luck. It seems there are many hardware stores. Could you send me the address and/or store name? Many thanks! Susannah