This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico

Don Karp

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A Bilingual Hiking Group in Tepoztlan

March 28, 2020

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Landscape views from Cero de La Luz, SanJuan. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan, Mexico.  Group photo on Cero de La Luz, San Juan. Photo by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan has many incredible trails that I've explored over the years. A man named Jesus contacted me to be a trail guide and help form a bilingual hiking group here. He'd found Letters From Mexico via a Google search on the city, and also knew of me through CouchSurfing, an online cultural exchange network we both belong to.

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Trails to Cero de La Luz, San Juan. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

We ended our hike exhausted but happy. We'd reached the summit and enjoyed the incredible vistas in all directions. No one was hurt, and I was happy.

Although this was to be a bilingual exchange, we did not do much of this, but focused instead on the trails and surroundings.

When and if things get back to some kind of normal, after the pandemic, we plan to have hikes the first and third Saturday of every month.

Jesus is a software engineer specializing in the automation of industrial processes. He grew up in Torreón, in the state of Coahuila, in the northeast of Mexico. He came to study near Tepoztlan, in Cuernavaca. For his BA, he held a volunteer position as a researcher, and this developed into a full-time job. To live cheaply, he moved to Yautapec, half way between Cuernavaca and Tepoztlan.

While in Mexico City, he met a woman who was into hiking. When he accompanied her, he got to appreciate nature. His home town was surrounded by desert, and he liked the forest and jungle environments they explored.

He got the idea of forming a bilingual hiking group thinking this would be much better for language exchange than sitting in a cafe. He didn't know the local trails, or have experience leading a group. That's why he contacted me.

About Jesus

For our first hike, I decided San Juan would be the most appropriate. It has trails much like those in US parks, with wide landscaped trails free of trash. The climb to Cero de la Luz, a mountain with a grand view, is relatively easy.

I guided fifteen who came from various places--some were tourists in Tepozltan, some lived in Cuernavaca, and some were tourists who came from Mexico City just for this hike.

My past experiences leading hikes in kids' camps and with adults served me well. I looked at my watch to judge how long we should be on the trail to be back in time, as some had appointments. Everyone brought water and toilet paper. Their foot ware was sturdy. Some wore shorts, even though I specified long pants. I chose a tall man with a peculiar hat to be at the rear of the line so that I could know when I saw him that everyone else would be in the line between us, as hikers tend to spread out. At the trail head, I pointed out what poison ivy looks like, and discussed what might happen if one contacts it.

Chalchi is the mountain having the best view of all I've hiked in the area. It is a difficult climb--much more so than Cero de la Luz--but worth it for the panoramic perspective.

A dozen of us met at the cafe below the mountain, near the gas station at the entrance to the city. When coming in to Tepoztlan, if you use your imagination, you see that Chalci has the shape of a huge gorilla. The hikers came from various places, as they'd done on our previous hike. Many were different from last time, but a few of the same people were with us. I was concerned about the elderly couple from Cuernavaca. I thought this hike might be too rugged for them.

I'd lived in the neighborhood near the trail head for a few years and warned the group we'd be greeted by lots of dogs at the start. We walked up a lot of stairs that bordered the back yards of those dogs. Finally we arrived at an overlook and the trail head. From there, the hike is easy for quite a while. Then It gets difficult. It's a struggle to reach the summit.

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Flowers along the trail to Cero de La Luz, San Juan. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Cero de la Luz

Tepozttlan, Mexico. Climb up Chalchi--group photos. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Climb up Mt. Chalchi: breathtaking views from the top. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Chalchi

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Plants on Mt. Chalchi. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Vegetation on Mt. Chalchi. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan, Mexico. Trails up Mt. Chalchi are rugged. Photos by Jesus Vazquez

Tepoztlan, Mexico. The summit of Mt. Chalchi. Photo by Jesus Vasquez

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