House-sitting in Rubite, Spain

November 15, 2015

A Winter in Mazatlan – And cooling “itchy feet”

November 15, 2015

The Shipping Container House in Guadalajara

November 15, 2015

I had some second thoughts about going to stay in the shipping container house I found on Airbnb near Guadalajara as the time got closer. Yet, it was as steamy hot as ever in Mazatlan, and crowded with Mexican nationals on their summer vacations. The area near Guadalajara would be cooler and less humid—and it was a shipping container house, for goodness sake! How cool was that?

But I’d become rather lazy and complacent in Mazatlan after arriving back from my Spain house-sit, and began to regret having to pack up the dogs and drive somewhere else to live for a month. The dogs were one issue. The Jeep was another. I didn’t really trust the Jeep to run perfectly and hated the idea of getting stuck on the side of the highway in the heat with two dogs. And one dog, Annie, my senior lady, was having some weird health issues.

I hesitated to travel with her. I didn’t want to be out in the boonies near Guadalajara with a sick, deaf, elderly dog.

But, after a delay of one day, I packed up and left. It was only a six-hour drive on good highways, after all. The Jeep behaved itself. The dogs behaved themselves. I arrived at the gate of the hill community right on time and was met by a nice local woman, the owner’s assistant, and her teenaged daughter who led me up to the house.

The owner was a younger man who was in Europe at the time. He was very good at corresponding by email, even with the seven-hour time zone difference. The house was pretty much as expected from the pictures. Up at the top of a hilly area, with a private view of the surrounding hillsides. But there were a few things he’d neglected to spell out in the listing on Airbnb.



For one: Toilet paper couldn’t be put into the toilet. It went into a plastic bag in a garbage can beside the toilet. Now, this isn’t unusual in Mexico in certain places. But it hadn’t been noted. The toilets in the house were badly situated under the counter-top so the lids couldn’t be put up entirely. One had to maneuver carefully to sit down without the lid closing. I could detect a not-so-faint scent of sewer or septic tank from under the house. Not something you’d want to note in your listing, I suppose.

The bed was very low to the ground and hard as a rock. A futon mattress on wooden packing crates. It took up almost the entire room, so that one was forced to walk across it to get to the closet. Not good for a middle-aged woman with a bad back to sleep on.

There was no Internet as promised when I arrived. Possibly tomorrow, I was told.

The first night, there was a big electrical storm with torrential rain. The dogs were already unsettled with moving to new digs. The storm kept us all awake until about 4 am, listening to rain pounding on a metal roof and the wind blowing things around. Thunder and lightning. All on an uncomfortable bed.

It wasn’t a great start.

In the morning, my elderly dog refused to eat or drink. Her stomach was upset again. I’d given her an anti-nausea pill the night before, so she didn’t throw up, but her tummy was in turmoil. She went outside and ate some grass. I force-fed her an Omeprazole, and then she took to bed for most of the day. Later in the afternoon, she seemed better and ate her food as normal.

The Mexican woman who’d met me and showed me to the house told me her son was a vet. In our broken Spanglish, she called him to describe what was happening and what my dog was taking. She was also showing signs of great anxiety with the relocation and the storm, as well as having an upset stomach. I guess I underestimated the stress effect that being deaf might cause by going to new surroundings. The son suggested some drops to give her to keep her calmed down. His mother offered to bring them the next day.

I wasn’t feeling it—the happiness of being in a place like this, away from the sultry heat of my coastal home. But I resolved to give it more of a chance. Someone on Facebook (I had data on my phone) suggested that I buy a foam topper for the mattress. I decided I’d do that the next day and take it home with me.

That afternoon and evening, there was a garden party at the house next door. The sight-line between here and there is obscured by trees and shrubs, but I could see three, big, white, tents full of nicely-dressed people. Waiters in white shirts and black vests circulated, bringing drinks and food. A live musical group with both a female and male singer, drums, guitar, keyboard, and trumpet played very easy-on-the-ears songs at an appropriate sound level (unlike most bands and music I hear in Mexico). All in Spanish, but no matter. I really enjoyed listening. The singers were excellent.

It went on well into the evening. There may have been other musicians, because the types of songs would change—I heard a whole set of a Beatles medley, some Latin music, even a polka.

I poured myself a cold drink and sat on the deck as the sun went down, listening in the soft evening air. The dogs sat out with me, and the neighbours’ dogs wandered up for a visit. Annie looked to be feeling much better.

Shipping Container1

This place could grow on me, I thought.

It was a lovely spot. It was is a hilly and pine-forested area just west of Guadalajara, and there appeared to be extensive, gated, suburban communities all along the highway leading into the city. Many of the homes I walked by were very high-end. Most seem to have multiple vehicles, boats, and ATVs parked on the properties. The boats, I assume, were for use in the reservoir nearby, but I hadn’t seen it.

I reminded myself why I was there. It was beastly hot and humid back on the coast.  Weather here is pleasant. That’s the primary reason. Staying in a shipping-container house is also fodder for blogging. I can explore nearby places with my Jeep. There are pine trees and hummingbirds and hawks that I can see from the deck. If only I had internet, I might be content. Why is it that I need internet to be happy? It’s my gateway to the outside world. And yet, having internet is such a new phenomenon. Maybe, like many, I’m now addicted to being connected at all times. When did that happen?

Being at the container house was challenging. First, no internet. That took a week to resolve, with a lot of going back and forth in my limited Spanish with Lulu, the assistant, and in English by email with the owner in Europe.  Then, just as I feared, the Jeep began acting up on me.  I went in search of a mechanic in the area, and found one with his own home garage just down the street from the house.  It turned into an interesting friendship over the course of a couple of weeks because the cause of the Jeep’s problem was not apparent, and intermittent.  The engine would suddenly shut off while I was driving.  Not a stall: it just shut off.  I could restart it no problem, but had no warning when it would happen again.

The mechanic, Richard, a Brazilian/Italian/Chilean man who spoke English very well, tried several things in turn – replacing the fuel pump was first.  The Jeep is a 1998 and had the original fuel pump in it.  That worked for about a day.  Then a couple of sensors.  Again, another day, another shut-off.  I began researching it online and found that many others had this “ghost” in the engine of the 1998 Jeep.  Finally, we narrowed it down to the computer itself.  Richard brought me over to his outdoor garage, sat me on an upturned pail, and chatted away to me about his famous father and brother (both renowned hypnotists), while he took out the computer, examined the points under a magnifying glass, and soldered them all.  Back in went the computer.

Then it needed a serious test drive.  By that time, we had met quite a few times over the Jeep and I was comfortable with him enough to ask him to be my paid tour guide to a dormant volcano mountain in the nearby town of Tequila, where much of the tequila in Mexico is produced.  I wanted to take the Jeep up the mountain road to near the 9,500 foot peak and see La Tetilla, the volcanic “plug” formation.  But I wasn’t going to do it alone with a touchy Jeep.  Richard accepted and also invited along his friend, the Potato Chip man who hung out at the local Oxxo selling his fresh, homemade, delicious potato chips.  Papas King, as Richard called him, was a native of Tequila and knew the town and the mountain.

It was a marvelous adventure that day.  The Jeep performed perfectly.  We drove to near the top, then walked another three miles to the top.  The view of La Tetilla was spectacular.


Afterwards, we saw a little of the town of Tequila and stopped for tacos.  Papas King knew someone who made their own tequila and claimed it was the best tequila ever made.  His friend sold it out of his house in small quantities, so on the way out of town we stopped at his house and I bought a litre to take home.  I can’t claim to know if it is the best tequila ever made, but it was very good.

Mural in the Town Square in Tequila.

Mural in the Town Square in Tequila.

I never did get to Tonala or Tlaquepaque, nor even into Guadalajara itself.  The final fix of the Jeep came at the end of my stay, and then it was time to go back to Mazatlan.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time there, and treated it as a retreat to do some writing and relax in a cooler climate.



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