The new year, 2014, began with learning a new skill — corn tortilla making (in Guerrero Negro, Sarah learned the fine art of making flour tortillas).
While cooking our breakfast of oatmeal (with cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds, raisins and sugar), Mateo was fixing his breakfast of fresh fish and corn tortillas. Without the gluten that flour dough has, the corn version doesn’t stretch like the flour counterpart and cannot be formed as easily by hand. That always made me wonder how they were made so perfectly round and thin. The answer to the mystery is that the corn masa is rolled into a ball and then pressed either mechanically or repeatedly patted between the hands until the ball becomes a disk.
Later in the morning we took a walk through the selva (jungle), following the distinct ringing of Mateo’s machete as he cleared the vines and the undergrowth. Based on the wildlife we saw in our room during the night and early morning I looked forward to the potential for some Wild Kingdom encounters.
Trees, vegetation, fungi were the prevalent sights. Occasionally it drizzled and the air was thick with humidity as well as sounds of frogs, insects, bird calls, and howler monkeys. The sound that howler monkeys make is terrifying.
It is easy to imagine that the beast behind the call is two stories tall, has massive fangs and claws and wants to eat you as an hors d’oeuvre before moving on to the main course of a wooly mammoth or tyrannosaurus rex. I wonder what horrors the first European settlers imagined upon hearing the calls and the fun the local people must have had at their expense feeding their imaginations with wild, fantastical beasts.
Sounds of the Howler Monkey
Legend of the Howler Monkey as told by Mateo
The Howler Monkey is terrified of thirst, second only to its fear of the jaguar. Usually they drink by wiping off the moisture from leaves.
Being canopy dwellers they do not move gracefully or quickly on the land and they only leave the protection of the trees to seek out water during periods without rain.
When it does not rain the Howler becomes extremely worried it will be forced to come out of the trees to find water, so it calls out to the gods for rain.
The day before we saw a toucan in the distance and I hoped to see one up close. Unfortunately, we did not encounter one. We did see humming birds, a coati and the tracks of tapirs. Our foes, mosquitoes and leaf cutter ants taunted us during our hike.
Being in the jungle was a great way to start the new year. Missing the college football bowl games was tough but worth the sacrifice for the extraordinary experience.