South of the Border

As I’ve mentioned before Les and I don’t exchange gifts for our birthdays, we take trips together. This year we for Les’s birthday we went to Mexico, someplace neither of us has ever been before. We got our first stamps in our passports (we’ve had them for almost 6 years, but only used them to go to Canada), and had a great time.

We spent the entire vacation in the state of Sonora, which is Mexico’s equivalent to Arizona in that it is really hot, contains the Sonora Desert and doesn’t have daylight savings time, I don’t know enough about Mexican politics to know if there are more parallels.

We dropped the dogs off in Chino Valley as soon as the vet’s office opened and we hit the road. Crossing into Mexico was so easy we weren’t even sure we had done it until we ended up on the streets of Nogales. We stopped there to get a temporary cell phone since it was cheaper than putting an international plan on our existing cell phones. Since it was such a cheap phone it was pretty basic, it was actually nice to be cut off from our regular phones while on vacation. We used them over wifi at the hotel, but that was all.

After a few miles we stopped to get our visas and then we were on our way to Hermosillo. Everything we read told us that we could use American money pretty much everywhere, but that turned out not to be true, particularly at the toll booths. So after the first toll booth we bought a soda at a gas station with American money and got some pesos as change so we could pay the tolls the rest of the way. Later we wound up putting away the American money we had, and pulling some pesos out of an ATM to get a more favorable exchange rate.

We stayed at a nice hotel in downtown Hermosillo.

Hotel Ibis Hermosillo

The first night we didn’t do much except go to dinner, but it was a fantastic dinner with carne asada and Mexican beer. I had a bit of a hard time with all the stray animals wandering around on the streets, I wanted to take them all home.

There were stray animals everywhere, only border patrol kept me from taking them all home.

On Sunday we headed to the coast, where I took way too many photos. It was a bit bizarre to see the ocean framed by cactus, not two things one usually thinks of as being together, but at  Playa Piedras Pintas in San Carlos we found exactly that.

Les at Playa Piedras Pintas
Double-crested cormorant drying his wings on a rock at Playa Piedras Pintas, at first we thought this was a mating display, but after identifying the bird I discovered cormorants do this to dry their wings.
It was a bit strange to peek through a cactus and see a boat.
I’m about 90 percent sure this is a zebra-tailed lizard at Playa Piedras Pintas, they moved extremely fast!
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Me and Les at Playa Piedras Pintas.

We had some fabulous seafood at Mariscos Esterito, which overlooks a small pond that was chock full of shore birds hunting for lunch. I took far too many photos, but I just couldn’t stop myself.

This brown pelican has just caught a fish, it is still in his pouch and he hasn’t swallowed yet.
Yellow-crowned night heron who caught a crab. A seagull kept trying to steal it, but the heron ate most of it, I think the seagull may have gotten a single leg.
Snowy egret, these birds are so beautiful, I couldn’t stop staring at this one stalking.
Reddish heron and a greater yellowlegs (probably, it may be a lesser yellowlegs).
Brown bird that I haven’t been able to identify yet, I don’t think it was the same as the yellowlegs, but it may have been.
Les and I noticed a very small bird that we thought was a humming bird at first. She would fly up over the water, hover (which is why we thought hummingbird at first, even though she would have been a very large hummingbird), and then dive into the water extremely fast. It took quite a bit of research when I got home, but eventually Les pulled out my North American Bird Field Guide and we discovered that this was a female Belted Kingfisher.
There were a bunch of pelicans wading, later at the beach we saw them diving.
This great blue heron swooped in and then stalked all the way across the water, I’m pretty sure it was catching the little frogs that kept jumping.

As distracting and cool as the scenery was, the food was also fantastic, we both love Mexican food and seafood, so the two combined was amazing, Les had pan seared fish and I had shrimp ceviche, it was delicious!

After lunch we left San Carlos and headed to Guaymas, the beaches there were much more crowded, but we got to watch pelicans diving into the Sea of Cortez.

Playa Miramar, Guaymas, Sonora
Brown pelicans feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up.
Sea of Cortez, Gulf of California, Mar de Cortés, whatever you want to call it, it was gorgeous.
Farther in, looking towards Guaymas, I loved all the red rocks, they’re just a slightly different shade of red than the red rocks around here.
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Me at Playa Miramar watching pelicans dive.

We didn’t want to be out on the highway at night so we headed back to Hermosillo fairly early. We got back just in time to get to the top of one of Hermosillo’s most famous landmarks at sunset. Cerro de la Campana is a mountain and one of the main symbols of Hermosillo. Its summit is 350 metres (1,150 ft) above the valley floor and contains a lookout called El Caracol, which was inaugurated in 1909. There are two theories as to the origin of the mountain’s name. One states that it is from a peculiar metallic sound that is made when the mountain’s rocks fall against each other. The other is based on the bell-like shape of the elevation.

The view of Hermosillo from the top of Cerro de la Campana, we got there just in time to watch the sunset.
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The view was amazing, but it was a bit windy.


On Sunday we went to Plaza Zaragoza after an amazing breakfast. We arrived with the intent of touring the  Palacio de Gobierno, but we didn’t take into account the fact that it was a National Holiday in Mexico, so it was closed. We did tour the Catedral de Hermosillo (aka La Catedral de la Asunción) and take some photos of the plaza and the outside of the government building.

Palacio de Gobierno de Sonora closed for Benito Juárez’s Birthday, but well lit.
Plaza Zaragoza is the main plaza in Hermosillo. It is located in the historic center of the city and is surrounded by important buildings such as the Catedral de la Asunción (Hermosillo’s main church), the Palacio de Gobierno (house of the state’s executive), and the Palacio Municipal (house of the city’s executive). It is obviously a central gathering place for Hermosillo, there were probably hundreds of people there in the evening when we were there, even more after mass let out.
Hermosillo Cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, measures 30 meters high is the main temple of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hermosillo, and one of the most representative buildings of the city. A small chapel was built on this site in the 18th century, but as the city grew the so did the need for a larger building. The work on the current cathedral was supported by the then bishop Herculaneum López de la Mora, it was consecrated in 1908, although construction was not completed. The dome was completed in 1963.
Statue of Eusebio Francisco Kino outside the cathedral.


Stained glass at the Catedral de Hermosillo
Main altar and some of the ceiling paintings at Catedral de Hermosillo
Ceiling of the main dome of Catedral de Hermosillo
One of the altars off to the side of the main altar

Since the government building was closed (there are supposed to be some great murals in there), we headed to to Parque Madero, a local park and learned some interesting history.

Monumento a la Eevolución at Parque Madero in Hermosillo.
There were orange trees all over Hermosillo, in the parks and along the sidewalks and in yards and gardens, the smell was incredible.
And, of course, Les had to poke them, it’s what he does.
This statue in Parque Madero is of Jesús García, the hero of Nacozari. Jesús García was the railroad brakeman for the train that covered the line between Nacozari, Sonora, and Douglas, Arizona. On 7 November 1907 the train was stopped in the town and, as he was resting, he saw that some hay on the roof of a car containing dynamite had caught fire. The cause of the fire was that the locomotive’s firebox was failing and sparks were going out from the smokestack. The wind blew them and got into the dynamite cars. García drove the train in reverse downhill at full-steam six kilometers out of the town before the dynamite exploded, killing him and sparing the population of the mining town.
I thought this was a nice representation of the park, all the different desert plants and trees and the playground.

Since we didn’t want to be in Nogales at night we headed home after the park. Every border crossing we’ve had back into the US has been a pain in the ass, but we were always crossing into Canada before, we were pleasantly surprised when were pretty much just waived through at the border after a few basic questions. I figure me being blonde and so white I’m practically see through had something to do with it.

All in all it was a fantastic trip and we got the first stamps in our passports.


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