When Ernesto and I left his house at 7 am, I had no idea we wouldn’t be back until almost midnight. What an amazing day it turned out to be.
I found Ernesto on Couchsurfing and he hosted me for my first three nights of this six-week trip, at his beautiful home on the edge of a canyon in Guadalajara. Our plan that morning was to join his camping/hiking group for a hike to waterfalls outside of the town of Tequila, which is famous for the dozens of tequila distilleries there.
After driving to the center of the city, we met up with about 25 other Mexican hikers of all ages and backgrounds. This group is very active and on this weekend there were three excursions – the waterfall hike, camping on a remote beach, and a hike up the highest mountain in Jalisco state.
We boarded a private bus and drove the hour or so to the town of Tequila where we began the hike. It was already quite hot out, but we went at a leisurely pace and enjoyed nice conversations and scenery of the agave fields.
My Spanish skills are quite rusty, so I was doing more listening than talking, and not always understanding what was being said. Still, it was a beautiful day and when Ernesto said, “You’re the only foreigner here,” I responded, “That’s how I like it!”
After passing beautiful stone walls surrounding more agave fields, we made it to the descent down to the waterfalls. This section was shaded by trees but very steep and rocky.
Drenched in sweat, I didn’t mind the chilly waters under the falls. One of the group members said, “Welcome to Niagara Falls, Tim.” I told her these falls were better than Niagara because you can swim in them.
From there, most of the group continued on a longer hike to a river deeper in the countryside. Under Ernesto’s advice, I opted to return to the town and explore the “pueblo mágico” of Tequila. After lingering at the falls for a bit, my hike back under an even hotter sun was brutal. I was so thankful I didn’t go on the longer hike as I knew there was some food and, well, tequila, waiting for me in town.
When I wasn’t in town, I sat and chatted with several other hikers who had returned and were waiting where our bus was parked, including a very friendly self-described drunk man who I initially thought was our driver (luckily I was mistaken). These conversations with individuals and small groups flowed much more easily and gave me more confidence in my Spanish skills.
By this point, despite being sweaty and covered in dust, it felt great to be sitting in the shade on a busy corner chatting with Mexicans while all the tourists were in town drinking tequila. I much prefer the former (though I did have a sample of the local drink).
The rest of the group returned little by little, hours after their expected arrival, reporting intense heat and difficulty even for these experienced hikers. I definitely made the right choice.
Upon our return to the center of Guadalajara, Ernesto took me to a night market in one of the plazas where there were at least two vegan food stands. We enjoyed local specialties: delicious bowls of pozole and menudo. We observed dancers in the plaza and Ernesto randomly encountered some friends in this busy plaza in a city of six million.
Ernesto bought some tamales to bring to the attendant where his car was parked, and on the way home we visited another warm and welcoming friend of his. Over a couple of hours, we chatted, drank tea, ate some dessert, and I even had an electro-stimulated massage. I may have even had my first marriage proposal in Mexico, but that’s another story.
The following evening, I enjoyed a beautiful sunset with a fellow Couchsurfer who had just arrived for one night, a Bulgarian man riding across Mexico on his motorcycle. He shared some secrets about places to retire in Mexico, and also shared some rum which relaxes him after a long day on the bike.
Two mornings later, just before I left Ernesto’s, he interviewed me for a Couchsurfing channel he is creating. Ernesto has hosted nearly 200 Couchsurfers and wants to share what he has learned from the experience through these interviews. I’ve never felt more comfortable in front of a camera.
I know that I am still processing all that I have learned from my stay with Ernesto. He is truly one of the kindest, most welcoming, sincere and open-minded people I have met. I find myself thinking that I want to be more like him – he is a powerful example of how to live in this world.