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All this has been the lead-up to the main event in Guadalajara. Absent from the guide books, it is the Tequila Train.

Despite a revolutionary history inseparable from images of flouncy-shirt-and-skirt adelitas and hairy, filthy banditos all aboard steam strains, there are only two passenger trains in Mexico these days – the Copper Canyon train, which I sadly missed, and the Tequila Train.

The reason for this dearth is simple grift, I found out. The conductors pocketed the passengers' fare, and the government closed the passenger services in response. Probably not the first time the government has sacked a whole corrupt sector, and certainly not the last.

The tequila train takes you out from Guadalajara, out through fields upon fields of agave, and to the little town of Amatitán, where the El Jimador tequila distillery is. The train there only takes a short time, and while they keep handing you booze, the trip to too short to get pole-axed. As this is a 'family trip' (oddly), this is probably not a bad thing.

First up, you see a jimador, literally 'groaner', chopping up an agave plant, mature enough at 8 years, by first chopping off the leaves until it looks like a pineapple, in a round about way, using a special tool that resembles a sharpened pizza-into-oven device thing. There is groaning involved, hence the name. They then chop it in half, vertically, chop out a bitter part at the top, and then take it to a giant oven, where it bakes, if memory serves correctly, for 8 hours. Or over-night. Or something.

Jimadors, for the record, wear a white suit of light trousers and pants, with a red neck scarf, red clothe belt, sandals, and a yellow straw hat. Like a certain fast mouse.

On the other side of the ovens, we were given a piece of the baked agave to try, and there is a photo of Naomi looking singularly unimpressed by this sweet, fibrous stuff. The stuff is pulped with water, filtered, and then fermented in large open-top tanks. This is done without the benefit of yeast; instead, citrus trees and other trees which attract manky moulds are planted all around so the spores will do the job. There is then the distillation, the barrel aging, and then the bottling.

The tour then takes you to the ye olde factory buildings: stone cellars where the fermentation was started not by spores, but filthy toe jam from jimadors who had worked in the field all day, stripped, and then jumped in a vat. Nice.

Next you go to a large shelter, where lunch is served, consisting of tongue, as I recall, rice, and the Jalisco speciality – tortas ahogada, or drowned roll – basically a roll with pork in it that is dunked whole into a watery chilli sauce. Mariachis play, dancers dance, tequila is handed out, and then the tour is piled back on the train, for a much slower ride back to Guadalajara, where much booze is consumed, mothers fall over drunk in the aisle, kids start chanting “Tequila! Tequila!”, and the conductors challenge you to do shots.

An interesting fact about this is that while my undergraduate days taught my stomach to instinctively know the cut-off point for vodka, scotch, bourbon, rum and gin, the stomach seems not to know this point for tequila. This is either because it is fundamentally different, and as the available tequila in Australia is so appallingly bad I never drank enough to know its cut-off point, or because it is so fundamentally different that it has no warning of the cut-off point. In any case, one minute I was happily walking the streets of Guadalajara and the next my colour drained and I was running for somewhere to boff.

After Guadalajara, Matt, Mirshod and I made a visit to Teotihuacan, which had had some extensive excavations done since last I was there, including underground parts. This marked the end of Matt's sojourn in Mexico, and soon thereafter Mother arrived.

This lunar cycle

April 2015
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