Never ones to say no to a feast, we gathered the family and the mechanic's tools and set out on the two and a half hour drive. I had wanted to arrive the day before to witness (and help with) the pig-killing. Back home, we raise a pig a year, sometimes two, and although we do process our own goats, we always call the professionals in for the pigs. I wanted to get a real idea of how much work it is, how many people it takes, and if it was truly beyond the tolerance of my gorge. Homero didn't want to spend the night, however, so we didn't see that part.
By the time we got there, the pig was jointed, cut into medium sized pieces, and marinating in a bath of milk and spices in the largest clay olla (casserole) I had ever seen. The skin, de-bristled and cut into strips, was sizzling away gently over an open fire in a cauldron of lard. That is how you get chicharron, by boiling down the fat and the skin together until the lard is all rendered out and the skin is crisp and deeply browned. The lard gets sieved and saved for use in tamales and other dishes, and the chicharron is broken into small pieces and eaten with hot sauce and fresh lime juice.
It all smelled heavenly, but there were hours to go before the food would be ready. Chencho's wife Mari suggested we take a walk in the surrounding hills. "See that hill over there?" she asked, pointing at one of the dozens of peaks around us. "See those reddish spots up there? That's my dad's ranchito. Why don't we walk up there?"
Why? Well, how about because it's 90 degrees and I'm fat? Oh well, sure, let's go. I slathered some sunscreen on myself and the kids and we started off. Probably it was about a mile walk, maybe a touch more. But it was mostly uphill, of course, sometimes very steeply so. And at a mile and a half above sea level, exercise is even harder on my lungs than it normally is. I was puffing like a freight train by the time we reached the river, but it was worth it.
Over a stretch of perhaps 50 yards, the river has carved a wonderful flowing stone cascade. There are natural baths where the water pools, deep narrow stretches where it runs swiftly, and broad shelves for wading.
The girls had a great time jumping over the rocks like goats, leaping the stream where it is narrow and playing in the stone "bathtubs."
Unfortunately we hadn't come prepared with swimsuits, and it was just a bit too transited to skinny-dip - the river is bordered on both sides by cultivated fields with farmers working in them, and the track that runs alongside is frequented with goatherds and their flocks. But the water was cool and lovely, there were frogs for the children to chase, and luckily I had worn a skirt so I could tuck it up high and wade.
If it weren't for the mosquitos it would have been perfect.