My adventurer grandfather, and how he tried to turn me into Lara Croft

in life •  10 months ago

My grandfather is a rather unconventional person. A mix between Mexican Indiana Jones and some sort of low key James Bond, he has certainly accrued a wealth of experiences over his 82 years of life.

My grandfather during his younger years, can you tell it was the seventies?

He has always been an eager learner: he taught himself a lot of skills, from carpentry to welding. Mechanics has always been a great passion of his –by age sixteen he had learned how to fix diesel engines– and to this day you can often find him in his workshop at home working on his latest invention, repairing or modifying some vehicle, machine or tool of some sort.

Grandfather having the time of his life doing mechanics on a ship...

My grandfather always had the heart of an adventurer. He loves going to remote places in the countryside, walking –or rather driving through– the less traveled path and most importantly, sailing. Sailing is another one of his passions and he has taken us on some rather thrilling and crazy rides both at sea and through rivers in Mexico.

He is interested in all modes of transport and boasts about having driven all sorts of vehicles during his life, save for a submarine and a hot air balloon. When he was younger, he used to have a small light airplane and fly to whatever location his adventures required.

Childhood with my grandfather


Since I was little, his way of spending time with me was to ask me to come along and then start some lengthy explanation about how some machine worked or about some topic related to history, geography, anthropology or science.

When I was a kid, I used to dread these encounters, as I was usually bored to tears listening to stuff like the political details of the Mexican revolution and its repercussions in the country’s economy, the agricultural techniques in ancient Mesopotamia, the Franco-Prussian war, etc. which are not exactly child-friendly topics of conversation for someone that at that age just wanted to watch Sailor Moon and go to the arcade to play Street Fighter.

He was always teaching me about practical things like how machines and vehicles work, how to cook things with limited resources, how to orientate myself using the stars and the Sun (which I failed at miserably), how to make nautical knots… you get the idea.

Preparing for the Apocalypse?


Things started getting pretty intense when I was about 12 years old and my grandfather really bought into the fear of the Peak Oil.

In case the madness didn’t hit you back then (late 90’s, early 00’s), this was a sort of mass hysteria were some people thought that oil was about to get exhausted as a resource and was going to completely run out on a global scale in about 30-50 years time, which would cause a quick decline in the safety and quality of life of the human population and send us on a downward spiral of Mad Max-esque survival madness. 

My grandfather’s idea of what 2017 was possibly going to look like…

Thus, my grandfather started educating me accordingly. He ramped up his lessons on survival and tried to teach me everything from how to start a fire (which is a lot more difficult than you can probably imagine), how to fish, how to make maps, record positions, make routes and find locations, crafting and finding make-do weapons to use, etc.

Fishing excursion along the river. Note how functionality trumps style when it comes to clothing for these trips!

He showed me how to aim and shoot. When I showed an interest in firearms around age fifteen, he went ahead and bought me an entire collection of firearms magazines; when I said I wanted to learn a martial art, he was happy that I would learn some self-defense and also taught me some dirty fighting tricks. He even crafted himself a heavy bag for me to use and a pull up bar so I could train at home. He also got me grip trainers because he said it was important to have a strong grip.

But the most outrageous episode of the “preparing for the apocalypse” era was when my grandfather decided that another skill I could not do without was being able to kill, clean and cook an animal for eating. For this purpose, he bought me a couple of full-grown chickens and asked my grandma (who lived in a farm when she was young) to instruct me on how to kill them with my bare hands.

To achieve it, basically you had to grab the chicken by the legs with one hand, grab their neck with the other and, while positioning your thumb in the space between the cranium and the spine, dislocate them by pulling the animal lengthwise in one powerful, firm motion.

It was awful. Long story short, I could not do it. I always hesitated at the last moment so I ended up just hurting the animal and then my grandma had to intervene and kill it. I did learn how to clean it, cut it and cook it, though. 

The Indiana Jones years and the route of Hernán Cortés.


As the renaissance man that he is, my grandfather had a great interest in archaeology and especially the events that took place since the Spanish arrived in the new world for the first time, up to the fall and conquest of Tenocthtitlan, the biggest city of the Aztec Empire.

He started doing research into all the preserved accounts dating from that time and made it one of his lifetime projects to find the exact route Hernan Cortes followed on his way to Tenochtitlan.

This ambitious project required not only a lot of bibliographical research, but also many field trips trying to follow the signs described, finding the ruins of ancient settlements or other constructions they alluded in the chronicles, pinpointing locations and paths the Spanish explorers followed based on the descriptions. My grandfather was part of the organizing team of an all-terrain vehicle club and they would usually go into these expeditions following the route of Hernan Cortes.

Grandfather in one of his natural habitats.

These were long, arduous trips where you were always in for a surprise. Crazy things happened all the time while on the road or exploring into the fields, from being attacked by cows at night while camping on what we thought was an empty field, to a pretty spectacular accident where one of the jeeps came tumbling downhill after failing to go up a steep muddy incline (no one was seriously hurt, fortunately). Mostly, however, it was about getting covered with ticks while traversing outgrown fields and trying to cross rivers without any of the vehicles in the caravan getting stuck.

See what I mean?

I think the most surreal experience I had happened while we were searching for the remains of a certain “wall” that was described in the chronicles and my grandfather had been unable to locate. He had a few educated guesses about the location and, after talking with the locals discussing what he was looking for, we set on an expedition to go on a small mountain that supposedly had some archaeological ruins near the top.

A local man in his fifties, named Margarito, volunteered to guide us to the place, but holly hell, we had no idea what we signed up for: the ascent was steep and difficult, like a very tricky hike. While we were getting short of breath, our guide just kept talking nonstop –and I mean nonstop– about some local legends and folklore regarding some caves located in the mountain and the surrounding hills.

He claimed that at some point in the early 20th century, reports of a “feral woman” roaming the area started to spread. After the sightings became more conspicuous, some local rangers decided to start a search and capture her, and so they did; they claimed that she was covered in fur like an animal, had no language and was living by herself in a cave in one of the mountains.

Resting on our way uphill...

He repeated this story over, and over, and over… one by one, the people from our small expedition party were being left behind, exhausted by the difficult terrain (and maybe the repetitive nature of our guide’s never ending commentary), until only I was left with the guide advancing towards our goal.

Margarito kept saying “we are almost there” “it’s just a little bit further up” meanwhile I was exerting myself so much I started to feel nauseous. He just kept going, and going, no signs of tiredness, that old man had some incredible stamina. He seemed completely unaffected by the steep, difficult and long hike and kept going on about the hairy woman. I was reaching my limit (even though back then I was at the peak of my Taekwondo fitness) and even though he kept saying that we were almost there, I had to bail.

The view with the valley of the Apulco river behind me.

The trips were long and hard sometimes, but I also got to see some of the most amazing landscapes and incredible things I didn’t even imagine existed. I learned that people from the countryside were usually extraordinarily hospitable, friendly and kind, willing to help and assist you if you are in need.

Stopping by a small riverside settlement called "El Camarón" ("The Shrimp"), where people have a peculiar Ewok-like existence, living in stilted houses over the water and using high speed motor boats as a means of transportation in lieu of cars. That brown thing among the water lilies behind me is a cow! Happily grazing while submerged in the river.

Sometimes I feel that he did all of this partially because he expected me to overtake his big project in case he wasn’t there anymore to fulfill it. His original idea, was that we would make the entire trip, in the form of a big expedition with a caravan of vehicles to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the event. This will happen in 2019. So far everything is mapped out to the best of my grandfather’s ability, every step of the path has been documented and taken notes of for easier navigation.

He is still around though, older and a bit more tired than he was fifteen years ago, but still strong willed, confident and proud. If you question his fitness he will show you how he can still squat and lounge deep – on the spot!

He does not stop, he never gives up on himself or what he believes in. I am proud of being his granddaughter, and will be honored to follow him into this wonderful journey of a lifetime, shall it happen as he dreamed it.

A happy man is that who finds his path...


Cheers,

Irime

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That was a very interesting read! You sound like you're a hybrid between Sarah Connors (terminator) and Lara Croft. That apocalypse vibe definitely reminds me of Sarah Connor. Many crazy stories and definitely an interesting/memorable childhood. I noticed that your shoes didn't look particuarly hiking friendly haha. Chucks?

My dad had the notion that life in America would be difficult for a minority immigrant so he taught me to fight as a kid to defend myself. Not sure if it was a result of learning to fight that caused me to get in many fights but needless to say, he was right. Then he set out teaching me that nothing in life is free and you have to get what you want. He made me collect rent from his tenants as a 10 year old, collect past due invoices from his customers, stock trucks, go on deliveries, taught me how to home remodel, put up walls, electrical work, plumbing work, etc. Forced me to train my body physically by running and doing calisthenics daily. My childhood memories were horrible as I was always working and and training, dreaming about doing all the things kids would do.

Hindsight, I guess our family always has our best interests at heart as they were just teaching us what they believed to be the necessary skills to survive in our environment. You definitely sound like you have the necessary survival skills and obviously a good head on your shoulders from the content you put out. Loved your story and I'm a big fan of Indiana Jones' adventures. I actually wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones at one point until I spent a month in Albania doing very boring archaeology work. I mean it wasn't even archaeology work. I literally spent a month cleaning diving gear and running USB sticks back and forth 2 miles on foot in 100+ degree weather to a weathly millionaire. Decided I'd rather fund the archaeological excavation than do the grunt work.

Wish you a successful and exciting 2019 trip!

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Thanks a lot, @aagent! This was a special topic for me so I am very happy you liked it :-)

I noticed that your shoes didn't look particuarly hiking friendly haha. Chucks?

Well spotted, hehe! I think back then I was able to get away with a lot more than my knee problems and perpetual aches allow me nowadays...

My god, your childhood sounds really intense. However, it is the kind of thing that one might resent as a kid but actually there are a lot of adults that only start developing these skills a lot later in life (and some never do!), so at least you had a head start.

Wow, I also wanted to be an archaeologist at some point but was also put off by the mostly trivial and unfulfilling work that it requires (the exciting work in the super amazing locations comprises a very small percentage of the actual work that needs to be done and it is mostly reserved already by the big names and those who have enough money like the person you mentioned).

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write such an interesting comment, I really enjoyed reading it. Cheers!

Slaughtering and preparing animals is not straight forward. We take that steak on our plate for granted. I haven't had to slaughter, although I saw it done often enough on our farm I did however skin. Preparing the meat for storage other than cold storage is something else altogether again.

It sounds like you really had an adventurous childhood with your grandfather and maybe a few more with him yet to come.

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It is far from easy, indeed... I often feel like an hypocrite because while I cannot bring myself to kill animals with my own hands (be it chicken, mice, even small insects and spiders), I have no qualms on eating a nice piece of grilled salmon or a juicy steak. I feel like we would all be a lot more moderate in our meat consumption if we had to kill the animals ourselves!

I am very grateful with my grandfather for the wealth of experiences that we got to share during these trips and adventures. :-)

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I hear you on slaughtering your own food. That is the reason I am mostly vegetarian these days. Although, at a pinch, I'm fairly confident, if I had to do it, I could.

Absolutely, there would be far less meat consumption if people had to come into contact with the process. We would be causing far less environmental damage with less meat consumption. Most people would also be in a better state of health with less meat consumption.

The experiences we share with our family are the greatest inheritance we can receive. That said, for some people, it could also be a curse.

It is so admirable to work your whole life towards a goal! And soon, his oeuvre of life will be finished!
Those are some very illustrative snapshots from life that you described, I felt immersed in your story.

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That is exactly the reason why I admire him so much. He has never given up on himself, even at this age he keeps learning, practicing and improving his skills; perhaps that is the reason why he's still so lucid and active at such and advanced age!

Thanks for the feedback ;-)

Inspiring story, exploring new frontiers in life like your granddad has become somewhat rare in our time I feel

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Yeah, although as I said in the post, at the beginning (when I was a kid) I was kinda forced to do it! hehe... I started really valuing the time spent together and my grandfather's efforts on teaching me his knowledge once I was in my teenage years.

What a man! I wish I could do half of a third of a quarter of all the things he could do :)

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Me too! On top of all that, he is a very well cultivated man: he reads a lot, knows quite a lot about fine arts, science, philosophy, language and especially history (he is a big history buff).

I guess people got more things done before social media was invented!

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At least different things :)

Nice of you to remember family and adventures that make life priceless.

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@gamainvegas I really treasure all those memories...also travelling together like that creates a special bond.

haha Great Post You Should Visite Morocco You Will be Lara Croft :) ^^

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@davinshi I would love to! ;-)

Great story!

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Thank you!

This post has received gratitude of 1.00 % from @jout

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Thanks :-)

such a history, go on!

excelente post amigo!