Casa de No-See-Ums

It’s a misnomer. When I looked down I definitely saw them, covering my lower legs, munching away.

No-see-ums, they call them. Little black bugs, or big ones, relatively speaking, in the no-see-um family tree. Not that I’m an entomologist or anything. They may not have even been midges. But they were hungry, they were sneaky, and they’d already had their first course and were moving onto a second when I finally noticed something was amiss.

We were en route from Puebla, Mexico to Vera Cruz and had stopped for lunch at a boutique coffee plantation called Hacienda de Pacho. It’s actually quite a charming place, with grounds lovely enough that they also use it as a wedding venue.

The original hacienda was built in 1592, commissioned by Don Juan de Quiroz and Don Sebastian Diaz, with the purpose of growing and grinding sugar cane. The estate was acquired in the 17th century by Mr. D. Luis Pacho y Mexia, from whence it gets the name of Hacienda de Pacho.

Since then, it has had many owners and co-owners including the church, local landowners, nationals and foreigners.

Coffee beans, drying

The original property was quite large, with as many as 1200 acres, and contains a number of outbuildings that were used for production, storage, and housing for the crew. These days it’s much reduced to about 35 acres and has just one acre for coffee plants.

There are courtyards large and small, with ponds, fountains, and plants throughout.

The hacienda still has a live-in owner, and there are still workers who live on site.

The owner, Marisa Moolick, is a Mexican with a doctorate from Yale.

She’s married to an artist who has won an Emmy and has a favorite aunt, Amparito, the daughter of the only Mexican who boarded and died on the Titanic. The Emmy is actually on the left side of the mantel, but I forgot about it amongst the many datum spilled in the tour and failed to get a close-up.

The tour took us around parts of the property, including a chapel (not pictured) and an aqueduct.

And finally, to a small section that contained coffee plants.

Coffee plant, beans recently harvested.

It was while standing along the path, photographing the coffee machines, that the sneak attack occurred. There was only a tiny hint something was going on, akin to a zephyr of a breeze, or brushing past a tall stalk of grass. But when I looked down, yikes!

I immediately gave them the brush-off, but the damage was done. Another member of the tour had been hit even harder, she didn’t notice the attack. I counted 60 welts on my right leg and 40 on my left. She had over 100 on each leg.

Within the next couple of days, the itch factor had become pronounced. What to do, what to do?

Finally, we stopped at a pharmacy. The plan was to ask for an antibiotic cream, as the welts had taken on a not so lovely shade of red and I was concerned about infection. But asking the pharmacist for “crema antibiótica” wasn’t cutting it, and my Spanish was not sufficient to get the idea across. Finally, I just pointed at my legs.

When she saw the welts, her eyes got big. With nary a word more, she headed into her back room and brought back a tube of – something. I couldn’t understand the package text and saw nothing about antibiotics, but it did say something about insectos. So I went with it.

As it turned out, it worked really well. Within a couple days the itch was gone, within a week most of the welts had disappeared. A semi-miracle cure. The “something” is called Andantol, and I eventually saw it on sale in kiosks in Cancun.

But for some reason, you can’t get it in the USA. At least not over the counter. Its active ingredient is isothipendyl hydrochloride, which apparently is a potent, first generation antihistamine. Maybe a doctor could prescribe it. For now, I’ll just hang onto what’s left of my tube like it’s some rare, hard to get drug smuggled across the border from Mexico…

26 thoughts on “Casa de No-See-Ums

    1. Probably only useful to remember if you’re going to Mexico or Brazil. I don’t think it’s available elsewhere.

      Besides, if Australia’s bugs are as bad as their snakes, you’d probably need something stronger… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. One article found on the Internet said this:
    Adverse Reactions
    Oral: Urinary retention, arterial hypotension, dry mouth, constipation, orofacial dyskinesia, somnolence, vertigo, muscular hypotonia, disturbances in accommodation. Topical: Cutaneous eruption, photosensitivity, rash.
    Drug Interactions
    Increased impairment of alertness with alcohol.
    Another just said they had better remedies now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous photos! I’m sorry your tour was interrupted by the “no-see-ums,” though. Are those the same as the little flying gnats in Florida, with teeth like dinosaurs on them? They really are hard to see, and I feel their bites. Worse, I always get the itching welts you described from them, and it lasts for days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never been to Florida, so I can’t say if it’s the same bugs or not. I understand there are many variations in the nasty little biting bug category, so even if it’s not the same critter, I imagine the effect is similar. Thankfully, the venue has left some positive memories of the site.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent album, I especially like the shots with plants on the old stonework, the column or base of a fountain, and the Green Man-looking wall plaque.
    I’m a big believer in Ivarest, a lifesaver for poison ivy or bug bites. The name sounds like a vine-covered nursing home, now that I think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this post definitely has a certain Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feel to it. Lovely pictures, not so lovely story. I haven’t heard of Ivarest, but have also managed to avoid poison ivy. I think poison oak might be more common out here. The lack of comments would seem to suggest too much of an “ew” factor. 😧


      1. You may just be right about that. I’ve had ticks latch onto me, and I try to avoid thinking about them, because whenever I think about it, it makes me feel jumpy. “Itch-ophobia Paranoia” is the technical term!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful post, Dave, the photography was excellent and hard to choose a favorite but I did wish the photo of the plant-life shooting out from the stone artwork was mine. Add to this your write-up (even if it caused itching while I was reading :-)) and a great way to spend a Sunday morning. The history of the place is a bit enchanting, and growing their own coffee is just an added incentive. Cheers ~

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d have to say I liked the picture of the guy spewing out life best as well, with the B/W corridor shot a close second. Sorry about the itch – I think that bugged a few people.


  5. What a grand place for a visit or, when appropriate, a wedding. It’s too bad you didn’t buy yourself an extra tube or two of that Andantol You’d be very popular among the local forest dwellers. Lots of good pictures. I particularly like the column (I guess) in the pool with all that life growing on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The column with the pool is actually also the base of the column with the face spewing plant life. Compositionally it just worked better as two shots. The pool had life in it too, with little minnows swimming around. It was quite picturesque, especially considering how old it probably is.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmmm… can’t help but wonder if that stuff would work for poison oak? Benadryl spray (also an antihistamine) can be helpful with itches. Someone mentioned Ivarest, perhaps for poison ivy? You were right to suggest that we have poison oak here in the west and being around someone with a severe allergy to the nasty stuff, we’ve discovered that a thing called Tecnu works miracles to remove the PoisonO oils from your skin (and clothes and/or other surfaces) if you wash it soon after an encounter. But I’m guessing that it likely wouldn’t work on those no-see-ums.

    What a great find this casa-de-no-see-ums was except for the itches!
    I like this rather unique tour of stretches south of the border. Wondering if there was something particular that had you zero in on these gems?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect the Benadryl is probably the closest thing, but don’t know anything for sure.
      As far as the locations, it’s all based on a packaged guided tour. Someone else worked out the locations and logistics, and hired local guides (we still had to tip ’em) for each stop. We just picked the tour.


  7. The hacienda could be the definition of romantic – what a wonderful place! And the story about the bites, the pharmacy, the cure, and your research is interesting. Sounds like you did the right thing by going to the drugstore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The hacienda did have charm. Of course, I just photographed the nicer spots so it’s not warts and all, but I didn’t want to give the place a bad name just because part of my experience there was not positive. Most of the group didn’t have issues. Or maybe they were still wearing long pants. This was the first day we were out of the cooler highlands, so it was the first day I wore shorts. Being March, my legs were like white light beacons, semaphoring bugs to come and investigate.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. While I was staying in Puebla, I had a chance to visit a coffee museum on the main plaza of Cordoba in the state of Veracruz. It was a bit touristy for my taste. On the other hand, Hacienda de Pacho looks like a beautiful and authentic place to learn about and sample some local coffee. Last week, on a small farm in Perú, we had the opportunity to pick coffee berries, roast and grind the beans, and enjoy an energizing espresso. It was fun to actually experience the coffee making process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You may have noticed I made no mention of the actual coffee at Hacienda de Pacho. That’s because coffee and my taste buds don’t get along – I didn’t sample it, but enjoyed the Hacienda in other ways. It sounds like your experience was much more in depth.

      Liked by 1 person

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