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Newsletter #5

Newsletter #5

Year of the Pandemic

By Mary Jane Gagnier

I urge you to read the on-line version with photos on the Horseback Mexico website.


Exciting News: Unique Extended Stay Offer at Rancho Pitaya. Riders, Hikers and Birders pack your bags!

The times they are a-challenging; 1950’s Casa Murguia is a maintenance prima donna and thirteen horses plus a rescue donkey are 24 / 7 eating machines.  Most of my regular clients at Casa Murguia and Rancho Pitaya have postponed their visits, other travelers, thankfully, see Oaxaca as a viable destination to escape to.

Be enticed by the attractively discounted rates at the casa and the ranch.

Mexico, the nation, has got a handle on the downward turn of the curve. See photo gallery for graph from John Hopkins. Oaxaca, the state, has gone from red light, to amber light, to yellow caution light – think of the flags that fly on beaches to inform swimmers of danger.  Applause goes out to the much-overlooked state of Campeche to be the first in Mexico to get the green light! I was there in February – amazing ruins, birds and wildlife.

The archeological sites are still closed but some museums are now open, and since Oaxaca is a living museum, strolling its streets, feasting on its food and basking in its nearly-perfect year round weather goes a long way in these unusual times. Galleries and craft stores are open, as are the workshops of Oaxaca’s countless artisans. Here’s the link to La Mano Magica’s October Art Catalogue

Excerpts from my days.

September 5

I threw a birthday brunch for myself at the ranch. 59 big ones! I invited only friends I’d stayed in touch with since the beginning of the pandemic. A dozen brave souls attended the bash that I’d purposefully planned al fresco with safe-distanced seating and only finger or fork food for laptop dining. This little event marked for most their first group get-together in many months. Guests chatted and ate with gusto – proof of the need to socialize and eat someone else’s cooking!

September 28

It’s a cool 23ºC, this afternoon at the ranch. The rains linger like the spirits visiting for the Day of the Dead; never should we hurry the rainy season’s adieu.

It’s hard to concentrate on this writing with so much avian activity: Streak-backed Oriole, Rufous-backed Robin, Vermillion Flycatchers and Ladderback Woodpeckers are just a small selection of the passerines seen from my porch.

Being the the tiniest of the feathered mighty midgets, only two thimbles high, endurance hummingbird par excellence – (drumroll begins) the Ruby-Throated have returned. They have traveled from as far away as Montreal, arriving mid-September by the dozen, so ravenous after such epic travel they drink boldly from the new fancy feeders – bonafide monsters for my reticent resident Berylline and Dusky hummers.

Since my last newsletter in mid-August, the local explorations on horseback, on foot and through binoculars have proved bountiful: the rare wild orchid, Habenaria Macroceratitis in bloom, double rainbow and the elusive endemic Ocellated Thrasher singing up a storm. Bored I have not been!

September 29

Last night I dined at Quince Letras on Calle Abasolo with three “mature” gentlemen: David and Jeff, return renters at Casa Murguia visiting from Atlanta and Michael,  a landscape Architect from Dallas looking to relocate in Oaxaca. The restaurant was busy – half the tables removed to comply with safe distancing. Before being seated, we were zapped, gelled, and supplied with a paper sack to stow our mask once seated. The waitstaff donned both visors and masks. The huazontle I ordered, stuffed with queso fresco, dog-paddling nicely in an absolutely correct coloradito was just as delicious as I’d remembered it from a prior experience many months ago. Restaurants were completely closed or only available for take-out from April – August.

El Milenario, my El Tule treasure, abides by similar standards and last Sunday, after a five k hike with Gabriel and a trio of his friends, we gorged – satiated to the sublime. I sipped from a bowl, steaming Chocolate de Agua, and salivated my way through an Empanada de Mole Amarillo stuffed with mushrooms. The hike was to raise funding for the Fondo Guadalupe Musalem that aids indigenous Oaxacan women with university educations.

Today proved a momentous morning – both of my equitation students: eight yr. old Leonora and 19 yr. old Victor learned to trot bareback – no saddle, no stirrups!

Cautious Leonora, riding petite Mighty, declared, “This is fun!”, after just a few strides. It is unclear if Victor, who lives somewhere in the center of the autistic spectrum, knows fear as conventionally defined, but he looks forward to his equitation sessions and balanced perfectly as Centurion transitioned to the two-beat gait. I has proud of my students and perhaps even prouder of my noble horses.

Stay well, stay in touch and I’d love to hear what’s new with you.

Mary Jane