Ecclectic tales from an independent wanderer…

Sinaloa

No Reservations

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Atop the Pindus Mountains, in the heart of Greece.


A term made famous by Mr. Anthony Bourdain, it’s my preferred method of travel.

But what exactly does it mean to say that you travel with “no reservations?”

That’s a question that can be a little be more difficult to answer, but more than anything I believe it’s a silent statement of traveling with both an open mind and an open heart.

For conversation sake & in more technical terms, here are my thoughts on the subject. Traveling with no reservations, specifically refers to these three things…

1) I truly do like to travel with no itinerary or hotel reservations. In many ways, I like to make my own way, go with the flow and let the journey engulf me in all its magic.
If I do opt for making travel arrangements, I usually limit them to the first and last nights of my journey. This can be extremely helpful if your luggage is lost as well, or if you know that jet-lag may be a reality for you after a long flight.
2) Always trusting my intuition, I NEVER turn down an invitation. A great example of this took place on my spring journey through Greece with Tripology Adventures last May. Following an incredible day of traversing mountain roads in a 4×4 caravan, a gentleman affiliated with the organization offered to talk me on a four-wheel-drive ride in a vintage Mercedes he had outfitted.
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The town of Karpenisi is located high in the Pindus Mountains and is recognized as having some of the cleanest air in all or Europe. Touted as being the Alps of Greece, this Colorado Girl can legitimately say that these peaks and valley’s made the Rocky Mountains look like Kansas. An avid off-roader (my first car was a Jeep Wrangler, Rio Grande addition complete with a front mounted winch & leopard print steering wheel cover) I absolutely jumped at the opportunity to do some real 4-wheeling in this picturesque landscape)
Outside of the hotel, I met my guide – Theodoros Gravanis & his retrofitted, army issue rock-crawler.
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Theo & His Rock-Crawling Machine

The vehicle had no seat-belts, no airbags, no top and was basically set-up to be an all around, trail tackling, mud-busting, mama’s worst nightmare death machine.
Thrilled, I jumped right in – thinking to myself that what Mama-Didn’t-Know, wouldn’t kill her.
The ride was crazy, exhilarating & adrenaline pumping fun with Theodoros dropping it into four-low, taking the vehicle nearly vertical down steep ravines and up blind hills. Surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery I had ever seen, I was in car junky heaven, all the while holding on for dear life.
Atop an incredible summit with 360 degree views, Theodoros even let me get behind the wheel and take it for a spin. Both of us swapping stories in broken English & Greek and each with shit eating grins of pure joy plastered on our faces.
My lack of “reservations” led to one of the most memorable experiences of the entire trip and in seriousness, an afternoon that I will never forget.
3) Don’t let yourself be reserved by habits, eating or otherwise that might possibly have you miss out on something spectacular. Food is another great example of this…
Once upon a time in Pacific Mexico, a family offered to host my travel companion & I for dinner in their generations old hacienda. On the menu, Lengua – Cow Tongue which very much maintains it’s look and tastebud texture.
Hesitant to try it, I closed my eyes, shoved it in and was amazed at the eruption of flavors that washed through my mouth! Incredible, delicious and again, something that I will never forget.
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Traditional Cuy – Rotisserie Guinea Pig at a Roadside Restaurant outside Riobamba, Ecuador

I can tell you so many similar stories – Like the time I ate the Guinea Pig or “Cuy” as they call it, at a road side restaurant in Ecuador. All the locals looked on as a tried my first bites, avoiding the toenails that were still attached and the leather thick skin from its open fire rotisserie for who knows how many hours. One nibble in particular didn’t taste or feel right and resulted in a silent, but very obvious gag. The on lookers all roared with laughter and in that brief moment, we bonded – my culinary right of passage.
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Roadside, Rotisserie Cuy Outside Riobamba, Ecuador

Just because it looks funny, smells different or is something you have never once pondered putting in your mouth, give it a go. Chances are, you won’t be sorry.

When did all this begin for me?
Although it is hard to say as my wanderlust set in at a very early age, I know that one specific trip ignited my current drive for adventure and changed my perspective as a young adult.
In 2003 following my first year of University study at the University of Colorado, my very non-adventurous mother and I took a trip to Spain.
A spanish major, I had done my research, spoken with many different people and developed an idea of what I thought the trip would be.
My mother and I departed Denver on a two and a half week journey without one single hotel reservation or plan in mind.
Upon arrival, we found the airport information desk and were given metro instructions and a tourist map. I’ll never forget the train arriving to the platform and the two of us staring at the doors as they refused to open. An attendant ran up to us and instructed us to “Push the Button.” Laughing and feeling a bit insecure, we jumped aboard, bags in tow.
We left the airport in Madrid on the Metro, headed for the Puerto Del Sol, an area of the city that my Basques, Spanish professor had insured me was spectacular. Happy to stay in a hostel, we were told at the airport information desk that we would find many there.
Emerging from the underground metro station, not only did we find ourselves in the middle of a holy parade, but we didn’t see a single Hostel. I asked a shopkeeper, showing her a map with the circled destination. She chuckle and in Spanish replied – “You’re simply not looking high enough…” and then with a grin gestured to the upper stories of the ancient buildings above us where sign after sign displayed “Hostel Aqui.”
The rest of our time, resulted in laughter, tears, adventures, debates about returning home early and ultimately stories that she & I still tell with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.
Go. Travel. Open your heart and let the world fill it with endless treasures…

Spirited Away in Mexico’s Sinaloa State

Los Osunas Agave Liquor

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor…Los Osunas

If you think all tequila is created equal, think again.

In fact, not all tequila can even be called Tequila… Just like the french trademark on the name Champagne, referring to a sparkling wine, a simple trademark from Mexican State of Jalisco, prevents distillers from other regions of Mexico from even using the name.

However, whats in a name? Isn’t the real answer more about the quality of what’s contained within the bottle? Indeed.

With its incredibly fertile soil, the arid hills of Mexico’s Sinaloa State are producing award winning Agave Liquors, produced by distilleries using centuries old “know how,” handed down through generations of tradition and artistry.

Los Blue AgaveOsunas Blue Agave Distillery has been just such a family operated tradition since its inauguration in 1876. Producing incredibly smooth Agave liquor, the celebrated spirit was awarded Double Gold at the 2012 World Spirit Competition in San Francisco, making this particular distillery a prime example of craftsmanship and a fabulous destination to learn about the creation of their fine spirits while visiting Mazatlán, Mexico.

The bougainvilleas lined property, about 30 minutes outside the resort city of Mazatlán, creates a picturesque environment to spend the day. Encircled in the Agave plantation itself, colorful buildings erected in a hacienda style, reflect the warmth of the climate. The manicured landscaping accented with native flowers and plants is truly a sight to behold.Los Osunas

Although there are various species of Agave plant, Los Osunas only uses the blue varietal. A spiny succulent plant which thrives in arid climates, Blue Agave is the principle verdure for producing fine Agave Liquors. Reaching maturity within six to ten years, the fields are tended to with a meticulous eye, keeping the neatly planted rows in pristine condition.

When mature, the spiny plant is harvested at a time called the “Jima,” a laborious task that must be accomplished by hand. The men responsible for these harvests are dubbed “Jimadors”, cutting away the plant’s long barbed fronds using an old fashioned curved tool, referred to as a Coa. Often weighing up to 300 pounds, this heart of the Agave is where the magic of tequila begins. Once the leaves or quiotes are removed, the center of the plant called a Pineapple, or Piña (because this is how it looks) is completely exposed.Traditional Brick Ovens

Cut from the ground, these Piñas  are then taken to the distillery where first they are cut into halves or quarters, placed into traditional brick ovens buried deep within the ground and slowly cooked. This process transforms the plants complex carbohydrates into ferment-able sugars and softens the fibrous pulpy bodies.

Carefully removed, the baked Piñas are then placed into a Tahona. The Tahona is a traditional stone wheel, operated by a pair of mules or donkeys, which rotates the device around its circular orbit. A modern, mechanized version with gears and pulleys is also in use today, with Los Osunas often utilizing them both.

Traditional Tahona

From the Tahona, the extracted liquid is poured into fermentation tanks made of either wood or steel. Here, a little yeast is added and the wort (the liquid result of fermentation prior to distillation) is fermented for a number of days, prior to being distilled.Mechanical Tahona

After fermentation is complete, the wort is processed through a still. Blue Agave that is distilled once is considered Ordinario, often placed into oak barrels for aging, later becoming Añejo or Repasado Liquors. Agave that is distilled a second time, becomes Silver, yielding a crisper, clear product and a stark flavor contrast to its aged com-padres.

Bottling is the final step in the process, allowing the artisans to put their final touches on the presentation of their product. Information is provided on the label and a certain finesse is completed through the label design and closure.

Tequila StillRepasado Againg in Oak

Just like true wine connoisseurs, appreciation for Blue Agave Liquors can come in many different flavors and varieties. Attributing characteristics from soil, growing location and climate can all play a part in the final product’s flavors and finish, dazzling even the most advanced palates.

iSalud!

Mechanical TahonaRepasado Tequila