It’s been nearly a year since my solo trip north from Mexico in my 34-year-old car, and having been caught up in the momentum of events, I sort of dropped off writing in favor of living in the moment. However, my time here at the cabin in BC has allowed many moments of reflection and tonight, I found myself sleeplessly thinking back to that adventurous time. So here I am, quite on par with my usual way of writing, sitting in a dark room at 3 am feeling quite inspired. Where were we...? Ah yes.
Valle de Guadalupe is Mexican wine country, quite arid but with beautiful grasslands dotted with trees. It used to be the olive growing center for Mexico, but a blight wiped out most of the olive trees in the 80’s. Since then, it has become known (and in more recent years renowned) as a paradise for wine. The ocean breeze funnels up from Ensenada through Valle Guadalupe all the way to La Rumorosa. There, it blows over the edge of those mountains and is ruthlessly, unceremoniously gobbled up by the heatwaves of the desert around Mexicali (with which I am all too familiar!).
I rolled into Valle Guadalupe triumphant but extremely dusty, where I was to meet with a man who was a neighbor during my time in Sayulita. Alejandro is one of those truly great people whose quiet integrity doesn’t go unrecognized, by fate or by the people around him. During my time in Valle Guadalupe with he and his girlfriend Conchita, I would come to see that he is revered in that area for both his expertise for wine and his unshakeable character. This guy seriously has the magnetism and benevolence of a Buddha, without a trace of the ego most people in his position would have. He hadn’t seen me for 5 years and when we were neighbors he was always friendly yet introverted, so I never got to know him well. Despite this, he was one of the few who actually responded to my Facebook posts requesting assistance for exhibitions on the trip north. I was delighted to meet Conchita, who is such a perfect match for him. A true Mexican beauty, she has deep, soulful eyes with a gentle fire. I came to admire her very much, and we hit it off even though my Spanish left much to be desired! I’m still beaming with happiness for my vecino (Spanish for neighbor).
I was nervous to meet Tere, the owner of the hotel where the exhibition would be held, because I had seen the pictures of the place and it was absolutely magnificent—the kind of place where one would expect snootiness to be the norm. I made sure I dusted myself off a bit and threw on a nice dress before we went to meet her, in an attempt not to come across as an artist on a shoestring who had just dragged herself out of the desert (which, incidentally, is exactly what I happened to be!). We arrived, and someone struggled to open the gate from the inside while I stood struggling to look presentable. It swung open…and a beautiful, wild haired, radiant goddess came charging into my life and my heart.
Tere is one of those rare souls who, in some small and beautiful way, changes your life forever from the moment she first comes flying at you; I could write a whole book just following her around (and just might someday!). She is an intense personality, with the frantic energy of a true creator. She seems to have on gear and that’s full speed ahead! For me, it was like someone had picked up my dusty, travel weary soul and dusted it off, leaving a liberal coating of exhilaration in its place. It should have come as no surprise that the incredible property that is Rancho Quinta Maria (www.booking.com/hotel/mx/quinta-maraa.html) had been developed from the ground up by the efforts and vision of Tere and her husband Richard, who is her delightful counterbalance. Here are just a few of the pictures I took that day:
Quinta Maria is more than a property—it is an absolute work of art. Top that off with the incredible view and you have a world class getaway; a place where the outside world becomes a blurry, unimportant realm beyond the horizon. Tere is also herself an accomplished artist, and I was able to see a few of her works at the hotel.
The show, which happened a day or two later, was the stuff of dreams. Alejandro presented his new wine called Vino Labios Rojos to the guests, and it was a hit both among the connoisseurs and those less well-versed (namely myself). I spoke more Spanish that day than perhaps any before or since, although I will never know how well because Mexicans are very polite in complimenting any effort given! The highlight of my day had to be when among the crowd, a young lady emerged with her mother to say that she was a fan of my work, and that they had driven from Tijuana to see the show. It was all very surreal. The night wound down, and all who remained created a very festive atmosphere. My Spanish recounting of my journey north brought plenty of gales of laughter and created a lot of conversation. I will never forget the amazing people I met that night, including an artista of almost 90 who was sharp as a tack, and still creating breathtaking paintings of women and spirituality.
Despite immensely enjoying the warm guest bed and hospitality of Alejandro and Conchita, I was very keen to camp near the dry riverbed below the hotel and had made plans with Tere to have a campfire the night after the exhibition. Some were a bit confused, and then quite amused, at my desire to sleep in a tent in the bushes when I had a bed available to me, but I managed to explain my deeply ingrained love of camping. After an amazing day touring the wineries and eating delicious food, the campfire party began. It went long into the night, and dammit if I regret badly not to have had some sort of recording device to catch some of Tere’s stories. At the end of the evening I tottered down the steep path to my tent and fell into the soundest, happiest sleep.
I will spare the awful details of my rude awakening, but suffice to say over the course of the night I must have picked up a nasty stomach bug (likely from petting the dogs all evening around the campfire and stumbling to bed without washing my hands first, oops!). It was midday before I managed to crawl up to the hotel and as soon as Tere saw me, she went into full mother hen mode (on another note, she was actually nursing a baby bird back to health in an upstairs room and throughout the entire visit fed it constantly, urging it to fly with a strength of will that could only result in it listening to her!). Before I knew it, I was bundled up in the nicest room in the hotel with a constant supply of water, crackers and concerned checkups. The next couple days went by in a delirious yet dreamy blur as my deadline to hit the border grew closer. Even experiencing the worst stomach bug I’d had in years, it was impossible not to feel it was worth it to spend that time in that beautiful place, getting to know Tere and Richard.
Just in time, I was feeling strong enough to hit the road for the border (although in hind sight it may have been sheer will, as it would be weeks before I would feel normal again). I said my goodbyes to Alejandro and Conchita, who had been so good to me from beginning to end. They really were the main reason the exhibition went so well, and had helped with everything from the organization to the cleanup. My last stop in Mexico had been a truly meaningful adventure beyond my wildest expectations, and to this day I can hardly believe so many fascinating and friendly people live in one spot. I honestly think I may like to live around there someday; its just such a special place and I feel like I have family there now. But for now, I got back into Carlito and pointed his nose to the north, knowing that on this magical trip there was more adventure waiting for me just down the road…(to be continued)