The Friendship Force of Cornwall's Exchange 8919 to Comitan, Mexico City and Central Arizona, November 2 - 22, 2008


When organising and advertising a Friendship Force Exchange, I have found that it can be very useful to read of the experiences of previous ambassadors so we have put together this diary of our own experiences. For this exchange, we had one week in Comitan, Chiapas, near the Mexican border with Guatemala, three nights in Mexico City with guided tours and then a week in and around Phoenix Arizona. We were away from home for some twenty nights and the average total cost, door to door, was about GBP1700 per person based on sharing in hotels and including the extension in Mexico City. What follows is a day by day account from a different ambassador for each day and we hope that this will give some flavour of the exchange.

Maybe inevitably, such entries tend to concentrate on the spectacular sights we were taken to. It is perhaps necessary to emphasise that our time in and around Comitan was fantastic – not just because of the many historic sites and entertainment by really expert dancers, Mariachi and Marimba bands, but because of the warmth of the people. Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts. We suspect that, for many reasons, most of them are unlikely to travel with Friendship Force. However they really did appear to get great pleasure from hosting. There is a message that Friendship Force members, who do not travel, for whatever reason, can get great pleasure from hosting visitors from other countries but at a fraction of the cost and without the hassle of travel.

Many of us had been to America before, but our welcome to Arizona could not have been warmer – very much like the weather. Again our hosts all made looking after us their top priority yet in a relaxed way. This is again part of what Friendship Force is all about – one big global family where you stay in people’s homes as a member of the local branch of that family.

All those of us who went on this exchange felt the same, that we will warmly welcome our hosts into our homes in England, should they be able to make personal visits in future.

The organisation of the Mexican part of this exchange was not without its problems in planning travel so any other club that is aiming to visit Comitan is very welcome to contact me via this website and I will try to help them in whatever way possible. Do visit Comitan, Mexico and Central Arizona, you will never either forget or regret doing so!

Robin Mather (ED)


Sunday, November 2nd 2008

At last the day of departure has arrived!  After much planning and organisation by our Exchange Director, Robin, the majority of our group was boarding the National Express coach at various points in Cornwall.  After a seven-hour journey we arrived at the Holiday Inn, Heathrow and we were then joined by the other members of our party. 

We spent our first evening together dining in a pub where great celebrations for Lewis Hamilton’s world championship win were being held.  We enjoyed our evening getting to know the four members from the other FF clubs who were joining us on our adventure.  We trooped back to our hotel and had an early night in preparation for the long day to follow.

Monday, 3rd November, Heathrow

We were gathering in the foyer of the Holiday Inn at Heathrow for our bus into the airport when an agitated Dennis announced that he had lost his wallet, and after much fruitless searching and card cancelling, we left him to decide what to do.

Shortly after arriving at terminal five and checking in, a relieved Dennis arrived, having found the wallet, but not saying where it was found, so all was well.

After a long flight we arrived in Mexico City on schedule at 6pm local time for our arrival at the Majestic hotel for our overnight stay, to find that a pop concert was in progress in the square alongside the hotel, so it was quite a noisy night for some of us.

Tuesday, November 4th

After a leisurely breakfast in the Majestic hotel in Mexico City, it was time to head to the Airport to catch the 11.25 flight to Tuxtla. This was blissfully short and we soon arrived at the sparkling, modern terminal, to all be greeted with a hug and a kiss from the effervescent Ana and her partner Leo. Buses then whisked us off to the small town of Chiapa de Corzo, where we ate our lunch in the town square under a perfect blue sky - the first of many. 

A ten-minute stroll then took us to the waiting speedboats for our trip along the Sumidero Canyon, with its breathtaking 1 km high walls and abundant wildlife, including crocodiles and vultures! Sumidero Canyon National Park covers an area of over 21,000 hectares and is part of the San Andreas geological fault. It is also famous in Mexican history as the place where many of the original “Chiapa” people decided to leap from the canyon top, rather than live under the yoke of the Spanish invaders.

As we got back onto dry land, you could hear everyone talking about the same subject - what a fantastic introduction to the Chiapas region of Mexico this had been, and how could we do anything that could remotely compare with this in Cornwall for our incoming guests!

We thought that we could now settle down to a leisurely couple of hours drive to Comitan, but we hadn't bargained for the hundreds of “topes” or speed bumps that littered this part of the country. Nevertheless, we eventually arrived safely in Comitan where we caught our first sight of our smiling, banner-waving Mexican hosts. Soon we were on our way to our “homes” for the next week.

Wednesday, November 5th

This was a beautiful day to begin our visit to Comitan, with a perfect temperature of 24ºC and clear blue skies.

We meet in one of the many squares/community areas of the city armed with our supplies for the day.

Our first visit was to the archaeological site of Tenam Puente, 'the fortified place'. This is a Mayan site dating back to 600 AD. There are seven levels to climb and many of us managed to climb, crawl or whatever it took to navigate the very narrow steps. Once at the top there was an excellent view of the surrounding area.

The site is still being investigated, with archaeologists painstakingly scraping and brushing amongst the ruins. Bones and pottery are frequently found.

The local cemetery was our next stop, where we viewed very colourful family plots with provisions for three or more coffins stacked vertically.

The recent 'day of the dead' had just been celebrated. Each year, families have a chance to decorate the family plot in garlands, paper decorations in black, purple and orange and flowers. It is the custom to celebrate and have a party at the site.

After a look at some of the important buildings in Comitan, including the church, the cultural Art Centre and the Municipal Building where we viewed a detailed mural representing the Revolution, we went to a local restaurant for our welcome party.

Lunch is often around 3 or 4 o'clock, being the main meal of the day and still there is time for dinner later in the evening!

A local marimba group played energetically and a talented group of university students/dancers entertained us with traditional dances; students of one of the hosts, Pablo. The costumes were so colourful and the music vibrant; good toe tapping stuff.

Our hosts then explained how they celebrate the Day of the Dead and Hallowe'en in Mexican tradition and had obviously spent a lot of time cooking local dishes and making witches hats.

Our first day in Comitan had certainly given us a taste of what was to come over the next few days.

Thursday, November 6th

Today we were taken to Chiflon a very impressive waterfall. It was an uphill 2km walk, but well worth the effort. The waterfall was in full flow with tremendous force. We saw several iguanas in the trees and lots of beautiful butterflies. This was followed by a drive to a local eco farm where we had the use of a swimming pool which was very welcome and were given an excellent buffet lunch

Friday, November 7th

We made an early start for a 1½ hour drive to San Cristobal de Las Casas, once named the Royal City, founded by Diego De Mazariegos and the main headquarters of the Zapatista Movement. Three police with automatic weapons were at the check point, but we were waved on. Beautiful countryside with small pointed hills covered in vegetation and fields of wild flowers and maize

San Juan Chamula Church, where the floor was covered with pine needles supposedly for the aroma, but lethal to walk on, Saints were placed around the walls and lighted candles were everywhere. There were healing prayers being held by Chamulas (shaman). Families brought their candles, eggs or a hen and food and drink.  After the prayers, the eggs would be taken home, boiled and eaten. Sometimes a chicken would be sacrificed in the church, luckily not when we were visiting.

There were crosses on the corner of the square which were strategic points for greeting, prayers and to rest. The City was a beautiful Colonial city with many churches, squares, cobbled streets and house with red tiled roofs. We could see only a fraction, before returning to Comitan after a very interesting day.

Saturday, November 8th

An early morning departure from Comitan by small private coach accompanied by a number of our hosts found us bound for the Montebello Lakes (Lagos de Montebello) which are situated in a National Park of the same name. Of these 60 lakes, approximately one half is situated in Mexico, and of these, about 8 are easily accessible by road. The lakes are spectacularly situated with a backdrop of densely forested hillsides and mountains abounding with tropical trees and shrubs. The lakes are famous for their scenic beauty and the turquoise, blue and green reflections of their waters.

Following a splendid picnic lunch very kindly provided by our hosts, we continued towards the Guatemalan border which we were able to cross on foot. The border at this point bisected a lake and proved to be a popular photo shoot.

Our return journey to Comitan included a visit to the Hacienda Santa Maria where we able to visit an exhibition of paintings and works of art displayed in the former Chapel. The single storey hacienda Santa Maria is now a most attractive and expensive hotel with fascinating gardens containing many unusual fruiting trees, including coffee, bananas, orchids etc.

During the evening a number of our group were privileged to attend, together with their hosts, an electrifying performance given by Paco Rentaria, a flamenco/fusion guitarist with his group of four Mexican musicians together with a lady percussionist at Comitan’s Central Theatre, followed by a late dinner at a local hotel.

Another memorable day!

Sunday, November 9th

The day began with a power cut at home!

For the first time, Manuel and the whole family were able to come with me and we drove for 2½ hours over terrible roads full of pot-holes, skirting landslides after heavy rain. The countryside was hilly with a lot of pine trees and the scenery was wonderful, but the roads were deserted.  We saw a cart on the way, pulled by oxen.

Tonina is Mayan archaeological site, 7 miles from Ocosingo. The name means "stone house" or "place where ancient stone sculptures stand." The site was occupied from about 100 AD to 1600 AD. Only 20% of the site has so far been excavated. Most of the stone carvings are now found in a museum which is fairly new. We were shown an underground cave - The Underworld - by our guide, Mario, with Katy, an American expat translating from the Spanish. It was quite scary, really, with the poor lights and the idea of the spirits of long dead people!

The pyramid comprises 7 stepped levels and a lot of us were able to climb most of the way up, with a few getting to the very top where there was a magnificent view. Robin, Naomi, Shirley and I, however, remained at a lower level where we watched an excellent display of Mayan dances and customs. There were 15 dancers with musicians on drums. The dancers wore shells on their ankles, but not much else!

Afterwards we visited the museum and then left for a very tasty picnic in a barn at Ucutzin. (There is no recycling yet in Mexico as the ultimate recycling exists among people who scavenge for left­overs!)

We then drove home, but just as darkness fell, Manuel, who had driven really well and carefully, hit a pothole which resulted in 2 punctures!  He managed to change one wheel with great difficulty as no-one had a torch. Luckily a man passing by did have one and helped us. We then drove to a garage where they were able to repair the second puncture and inflate the other tyres. We then went home to supper and to bed.

A good day!

Monday, November 10th

Today was a free day to do some shopping and spend some time with our hosts. In the evening, we all congregated at the home of Dr's Ulloa and Hidalgo for the farewell party. A cooked meal was provided and we all eat heartily to the music of excellent Marimba and Mariachi bands. The exchange directors exchanged gifts and flags of their countries, followed by the Mayor of Comitan presenting certificates to all the ambassadors as honoured guests. And now, in turn, we all did the Mexican hat dance, this being followed by general dancing. The party went on until late, during which time Cornwall entertained everyone with a selection of Cornish ditties. A raffle was held in which Gwen won a Mexican dress and it was just her size too.

This was a fitting end to a marvellous exchange!

Tuesday, November 11th

Ana and Leo left early by car to meet Flor who was returning from her operation so Adriana took Robin and me to the square. Everyone exchanged hugs and we really hope that we shall meet again as they are a fantastic club, but sadly we had to say goodbye. Our minibus stopped in San Cristobal for lunch on the way to Tuxtla for our flight to Mexico City. On arrival we followed the signs for baggage reclaim and walked a long way before we realised we were in the International Terminal - something we had not been warned about, as we were on a domestic flight. Fortunately, Sally commandeered two buggies and we were driven at high speed to where our bags and Maurizio (the guide from our travel company) were waiting in the domestic terminal. At the Hotel Majestic, we were surprised to find the main square boarded off as there has been a pop concert. We had a meal at the terrace restaurant and fell into bed.

Wednesday, November 12th

I wake to hear the marching soldiers in the Square of Mexico City performing the ceremony of the flag. The square is called the Zocalo and is right in front of our hotel. It is one of the most historic squares in the world consisting of the Palacio Nacional and the Templo Mayor, and the Catedral Metropolitana.

A Mexican guide spent the morning with us. The Palacio Nacional is Mexico's first parliament - this 17th century palace replaced two previous ones and is still the powerhouse of Mexico as it holds the offices of the President, the national archives and the federal treasury.  Above the main entrance lies the symbolic Freedom Bell that rang out in the town of Delores on 15th Sept. 1810 to announce the Fight for Independence. This is rung annually on the eve of Independence Day by the President. Inside the courtyard, a grand staircase leads up past the extensive murals by Rivera, portraying the History of Mexico. Rivera (1886-1957, described as an ogre, a seducer and a frog!), is without doubt one of Mexico's greatest artistic geniuses. He pioneered Mexican muralism, much inspired by the Russian Revolution. Rivera styled murals of class struggles, socialist ideals and the violence perpetrated against Mexico's Indians, but above all his passion for pre-Hispanic cultures.  We then strolled to the Great Temple (Templo Mayor), one of the few Aztec sites still remaining. When it was completed in 1487 the temple consisted of seven superimposed structures, each one involving a four day dedication ceremony and several thousand sacrificial victims. It was unearthed by accident in 1978 during construction of the Metro. Four years of excavation uncovered hundreds of sculptures now housed in an impressive museum behind the site. Visitors can wander through the temple ruins on raised walkways that give close-ups of the altars is devoted to the God of Rain and the fearsome God of War along with the replicas of sculptures. Highly visible is the wall of skulls standing in front of the museum while inside, one of the most outstanding exhibits is a huge carved stone disc depicting the dismembered Goddess of the Moon. Then we walked again to the Metropolitan Cathedral. It dominates the Zocalo. It is Latin America's biggest cathedral, the building of which was started in 1563, although its baroque far side dates from 1681. The asymmetrical towers and dome were added in 1813. The walls incorporate stones from the ruins of an Aztec temple, but far more visible is the gilded baroque of the chapel of the King.

In the afternoon we went to Xochimilco, with its canals and floating gardens. The Aztecs, due to a shortage of farm land, devised a method of creating islands rooted by willow trees. These were then used to grow fruit and vegetables and flowers to supply the capital. We saw only a small area as we floated down the canals on trajinera, or Mexican gondolas. They were fun to travel in, but we had to endure possibly the worst mariachi band in Mexico and countless pushy vendors selling food and clothes.

In the evening we went to the folklore ballet - it was wonderful! It was a spectacular show and the mixture of sensuality and refined dance of so many cultures was glorious.

Mexico City to me is one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world, around 27 million inhabitants using 52 different languages. Despite the pollution, chaotic traffic, crime rate and the sinking landscape, it is just a wonderful experience.

Thursday, November 13th

Mexico City is the world’s largest, with new concrete “shanty" towns creeping through valleys and up near the hill crests. Eventually we reached countryside, and our guide pointed out the snow-covered volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, named after male and female gods. Smoke issued from them, though hazy through the city’s polluted air.

Teotihuacan was built as a model of the universe, at its conceived centre, in 200 AD, so it was the best placed and most influential site of classical Mexico. It had a wide-ranging metropolitan trade, but mysteriously collapsed around 750 AD. We saw first the pyramid of the Moon and explored smaller pyramidal structures around it. None is a tomb, and we were shown their different uses, seeing original and reconstructed artwork with finely wrought architecture. Looking along the broad Avenue of the Dead, the outline of the Pyramid of the Sun echoed that of the hillside behind it.

Many of us climbed the Pyramid of the sun, grateful for its newly acquired handrails. Its atmosphere was somewhat diluted by the large number of other tourists at the summit, but still a sight not to be missed. The modern path to our vehicles was lined with wooden shops selling the local tourist goods.

Lunch was at an artisan work area where we were shown many uses of the aloe vera plant, ranging from soap, tequila, paper, pen, needles, fibre for material or rope, and a honey liquor tapped from its centre which can be fermented into an aphrodisiac (apparently.) There were weaving and stone carving areas: these products and jewellery were on sale. Whilst eating, we were serenaded by two guitarists, and visited by rather fat sparrows.

In the afternoon we visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a complex of seven churches (one which leans from vertical). The latest is large and circular, wood-lined inside. Outside stands the Popemobile, used on his recent visit. In contrast, there was a yard full of rubbish with a full size bin lorry fighting it.

We also saw an old aqueduct, once the city’s main water supply.

In the evening we ate at the House of Tiles, whose ground floor is a chocolate shop. Its outside is hung with old tiles, some from its sixteenth century origin; inside were frescos showing some of its history, and waitresses were dressed in a local costume.

Friday, November 14th

After breakfast with cases packed, 9 of us piled into 3 taxis to join the traffic jam for a hair raising journey, the traffic was horrendous around the Zocalo and all roads to the Antropologia Museum.  It was more like the dodgems with cars coming from all directions, every car vying for position.   I’m glad that I wasn’t driving!
On the way, we passed the many monuments of the city.  "The Angel" a monument to Mexico's independence, La Diana Cazadora fountain, La Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, the Mexican Stock Exchange.  We passed the aqueduct and many more sites.  Forty minutes later we arrived at the museum. 
The ancient Mayas developed over a period spanning two thousand years, it was one of the most outstanding and complex civilizations in the mesoamerican world.  The Maya were brilliant mathematicians, astronomers, they developed counting and also the counting system.  Their culture was interrupted by the arrival of the Spaniards and their conquest of the lands and natives.  Maya people now live in southern Mexico where they try to preserve their language, beliefs and customs with pride. 
The museum was so vast, so much to see, so little time.  All too soon our short visit ended.  We eventually returned to the Majestic Hotel, we had survived.  The group left the Hotel at 1pm.  We arrived 6 .35pm in Arizona to a wonderful welcome and we all left individually with our hosts.
Arizona's timeless beauty has a more than 225 million year old petrified forest national park where dinosaurs once roamed.  60m high conifers were forever preserved after a volcanic explosion covered the forest.  Throughout history, the aftermath of natural disasters has produced exceptionally beautiful phenomena.

Saturday, November 15th

Last night we landed on the Christmas tree carpet of lights that is Phoenix, met Al and Pat the strangers, who in a week will become good friends, ate a huge burger meal and went to bed early.

Today began when I woke at 2 a.m. in my comfortable brass bed to the sound of rain, surely not.  It turned out to be the sound of the garden fountain outside my window. Five hours later, a pressure shower and I was ready for the day. Breakfast was egg and bacon, fruit and coffee as I looked out at the manicured golf course with its flock of quail under orange trees. My hosts are very energetic, Al plays golf every day, with net scores in the mid seventies. They are ‘snowbirds’, natives of Wisconsin who spend their winter months in the ‘sunbelt’.

The plans had been to go to an exhibition of ‘cowboy painters’, no not the ones who paint our houses at home! However Pat, who is a retired nurse, had an emergency call from a relative and after a flurry of phone calls I was collected by Beverly, host to Carol and Gwen and we were all off to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s college in the desert. This was a wonderful, memorable experience of a unique piece of architecture that sought to ‘enclose and release’. My personal experience was that it did just that. We lunched at a Tex-Mex  diner – large portions with all those free extras.

The huge grid of six lane highways that make up Phoenix seems identical to my inexperienced eye. It is almost that the town is all out-of–town, beige brick-clad buildings with vast car lots. One road which goes on for miles has car sale lots of gas guzzlers on both sides.

Many of the roads in the residential areas are wider than  our trunk roads. In such a dry climate the verges are carefully designed gravel, rock and cactus which are kept free of litter. In the retirement areas gardens etc are maintained by migrant workers who live in trailer parks on the edge of town.

 I donned my bandana for the ‘western’ themed welcome, held in Chaparral Park, one of many superb social facilities in Phoenix. We were well fed from the Chuck Wagon with smoked brisket, chicken and coleslaw followed by peach pie and cream. The social aspect ranged from interesting, intense conversations to singing  favourite songs. Why does everyone else sing better than we do? Everyone was pleased that Robin is making progress.

My first day in Phoenix ended driving along a smooth highway in the front seat of a Cadillac with a bright moon sitting on the mountain tops.

Sunday, November 16th

This was set out as a free day to be spent with our hosts.  My host took me out for an American breakfast which was a buffet set out with a huge variety of food –  and eat as much as you wish!  This was followed by a visit to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum at Wickenburg.  Between 1865-1880 gold was found in the mountains when mercury would be added together with amalgam and put in deerskin bag and heated.  There was a section showing the history of the town with mock rooms showing how they would have lived together with paintings and sculptures.

In the evening I took my hosts out for dinner to a very good fish restaurant.  When we arrived home we packed out picnic ready for an early start the next morning.

Monday, November 17th

We met at 9.30 a.m. at the Heard Museum in North Central Avenue, Phoenix together with our hosts and some other members of the Phoenix Club – including Robin who was able to join us in his wheelchair.  This museum was started by Dwight and Maie Heard to house their personal collection of Native American artefacts and art in 1929.  Our excellent guide showed us through the ten  galleries which primarily were to honour and celebrate the culture, traditions  and art of the Native Indians.   We began by passing a 30’ stunning glass and clay art fence which was followed by the display of beautiful silverwork, pottery, baskets, textiles, beadwork, Hopi Katsina dolls.

The majority of the group enjoyed a delicious  picnic in a nearby park whilst the remainder visited an Indian restaurant for a buffet lunch.

In the afternoon we visited the Desert Botanical Gardens where we followed the Discovery Trail and saw many desert plants – mainly different varieties of cacti .  The weather was very hot and sunny – mid 80s – which didn’t encourage us to venture down the side paths!  We used the audio handsets for the description of all the plants.  The herb garden included plants for medicinal purposes.  The installation of glass sculptures by the artist Dale Chihuly  was taking place while we were there: these were in bright colours and of weird shapes and were to be floodlit at night.

The evening was spent with our hosts.

Tuesday, November 18th

At 7.30am, all of us who were to visit the Grand Canyon had ordered a minibus, with driver and guide Dan (who runs a lot!). All, that is, except Sally who had not arrived! Having tried and failed to contact her, Dan decided we had to go. Bob and Diane (hosts) would wait and try again to contact her.

Leaving Phoenix, Dan pointed out the distinctly different areas of desert, the Sonaran and Upper Sonaran with the many saguaro cacti, the Hudsonian with juniper forests and, at high altitude, the ponderosa and piñon pines.

We passed by the Navajo First Nation reservation, which is not accessible without permission. Meanwhile, Sally was being driven direct to Flagstaff to meet us. Our host ED was determined to make sure that Sally did not miss out and willingly made a round trip of some 300 miles!

Lunch stop was at Cameron, a Navajo restaurant and trading post since 1916.

We saw the many small canyons leading to the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau where rattlesnakes, large cats and elks are residents.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon National Park at 1:30pm and Desert View was our first stop. We climbed the Watchtower, a large circular viewing room over several floors, with American Indian paintings inside.  The views of the canyon and Colorado River one mile down were spectacular.

Our last viewpoint was at Grand View Point on the South Rim, the awe-inspiring widest point at 16 miles across. After refreshments of tea, wine etc on the terrace of the old El Tovar hotel overlooking the canyon, we waited to witness the fantastic sunset at 5:17 pm. With many photographs of a fantastic day, we returned to Phoenix.

Wednesday, November 19th

After breakfast, we all met up at the Pioneer Living History Museum - an open air museum run by volunteers. We walked or rode on a wagon looking at and inside houses, a church, and a small country school with a little building for the teacher to live in. She had all she needed in one room. We admired Harold, the pig and his friends. We saw an adobe building made of straw and mud so that, once it is no longer maintained, it gradually recycles itself back into the landscape. Some of the volunteers stages a Western style “shoot out”, to the delight of the watching school children. There was a serious side as the dangers of guns were made very clear to the youngsters.

We had been very interested in Jerry and Beth’s log cabin near Prescott so, after a restaurant lunch, we drove to the hills to have a look. Most of the FF members leave Sun City and Phoenix in the summer because it is too hot. The cabin was high in the hills and in England would be a decent size house! Soon the whole area would be covered with snow. Prescott was a lovely town with a square where there are concerts in summer. Darkness falls quickly and we ended the day at an Italian restaurant in Glendale together with Chuck, Kay, Michael and Maureen and where we treated our hosts.  

Thursday, November 20th

Our last day in Arizona and we all did our individual things. In the evening the farewell party was held at a small ranch, the home of one of the FF members. We were entertained by a sketch depicting the origin of the white man coming to Arizona. It was a bit of fun. This was followed by an amazing Thanksgiving supper with food to feed the 5,000. There were numerous pumpkin dishes and cranberry concoctions and, of course, the essential turkey. It was delicious.

After eating we ended with a sing song of the usual “Going up Camborne Hill” and “Trelawney” and ending with “Auld Lang Syne”

Friday, November 21st

A relaxing day today as we have a plane to catch this evening. Packing finished after a very light breakfast, as we are off to brunch at Christine's hosts home which overlooked a golf course. The weather was very hot again so we were glad to eat our food in the open, but the shade. We met Mary who was born in Camborne - more by luck than design - and she was very keen to show us her family tree and all her books, perhaps hoping to extend her family tree with our help.

In the afternoon we visited a large hunting shop which had a good selection of Taxidermy covering the wild animals found in Arizona. It was very well displayed, and the nearest I got to a wild animal!

Our true visit to this area was to go to the University of Phoenix Stadium (American Football) for a tour. The stadium was interesting but very large as all American things seem to be. But the most surprising thing was the green which was kept outside and "rolled" in when required for matches. All achieved by the latest modern technology. Everything was on a massive scale, including the huge supply of POPCORN.

Back to the hosts for a light meal and off to the airport where we said our goodbyes to all the hosts. We eventually boarded the plane to begin our journey home after a fascinating visit to two very different places.

Saturday, November 22nd

Having flown through the night from Phoenix airport we arrived at Heathrow/ Terminal 5 at 2.05pm.

After retrieving our luggage, following some delay in the system, we made our way to Central Bus Station our path being eased by expert guidance.

Our coach departed for Cornwall at 16.55pm and having changed coaches at Plymouth for the final leg of our journey we commenced disembarking from Lostwithiel.

On arrival in the UK the change from temperatures of 30ºC+ in Arizona to near freezing brought us back to reality with a vengeance.

This had been an extremely well organised and interesting exchange and one that would be very difficult to better!