Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Lighter Smaller Slimmer Sleeker Svelter Us

We settled up today. We are leaving San Blas tomorrow.

We have much more with us than we need, of course, in order to prevent "that most demeaning of American hardships, discomfort." (Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion).

Chris, the owner of La Quinta, said it looks like we're hoarding supplies for a rough winter. So now that we know we probably don't really need (2) 150' rolls of Reynold's Wrap, cans of assorted soups, dill weed, etc. we are leaving excess goods in the bungalow. The "cleaning lady" (she's not really just a cleaning lady but I don't know what else to call her) Linda, thinks it's like La Loteria when guests leave behind what they can stand to part with, whatever they couldn't consume, whatever they bought and didn't use. If someone can use it, super.

I hope I don't forget my hammock.

We are headed for a town called Boca de Iguanas, less than 100 miles north of Manzanillo, right on the coast. Or if we find a prime place before that, or if we run out of daylight, it could be anywhere between here and there. Stopping in Puerto Vallarta for a dome tent (we hope) and other supplies (balsalmic vinegar?).

Lazlo might be the saddest of all to leave San Blas, and La Quinta in particular. He's been off leash 99% of the time, running free, digging in trash, and cavorting with Rudolph and Rayo. (Rudolph is a Survivor. Kicked distemper and is still kicking. Rayo was the only puppy to survive in his litter, raised by Chris and Rudolph, after his mother died. La Quinta is definitely a place where animals are loved.) We expect a lot of resistence in the beginning, and a lot of pouting after that. Poor Lazlo, leaving doggie paradise in San Blas.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sleeping with the fishes

AB's observations:
We met Mao at his house/the beach sometime after 10p. He rode up on his bicycle. He invited us into his house while he prepared for the trip.

We climbed onto the boat from the beach and went out to sea. I learned many things last night, like how hard it is not to pee all night when all you hear is water thwapping the boat. And how lucky you are if your husband holds your shirt so you don't fall overboard when you can't hold it any longer. "Will you keep me from falling in?" "I'll keep you from floating away." And how the water can seem 10x warmer than the air in the middle of the night on the ocean. And how uncomfortable sleeping on the bow of a panga is...even with blankets. And how having two batteries in the bottom of the boat, surrounded by water, must not be that dangerous after all! And how a sunrise at sea beats about any sunrise around, especially pelicanos swooping in and out of view. And I saw phosphorescent fish! That was pretty cool. (Of course, I didn't bring my camera. Duh.)

Keith and Mao fished a little (by hand) at first. Mao has a fish finder. There were beeps all over the place, but not the right kind of fish for the bait they had. Caught a few little guys. Then rolled it in for some sleep. More like rest. Keith and I shared the bow; Mao fit perfectly across the back bench.

Sometime before sunrise, Keith and I were already awake. The moon was only a sliver full, but you could see the rest of it in shadow. The stars (estrellas) were fading. Mao woke up and downed a can of Modelo. He and Keith pulled net (and pulled and pulled and pulled) and brought in just under 12 kilos of varying species of fish. It looked like a lot of work for very little reward. So I watched the sunrise with the sound of strangling fish in the background, which was a little disconcerting, but the experience as a whole was something that will never be duplicated. We've been very lucky to have these experiences.

This is Keith while we were waiting (for eternity) for breakfast.

KB's observation:

Don't commit to fishing all night when you see your ponga captain on the plaza on Friday night and you're both drunk.

If there is any chance that you might get the opportunity to fish all night don't drink beer all day.

Make sure you eat before you start your all night fishing adventure.

Make sure you have the equipment to be comfortable on an all night fishing trip on a 21' fiberglass ponga while in the open sea.

Make sure you look at the wake of the ponga while you are heading out. Odds are the wake will be glowing.

Learn how to pull chinchero before you get out to sea.

Make sure you have the proper equipment for pulling chinchero so you don't ruin your ropa.

Learn that the chinchero goes out much faster than it comes in.

Congrejos must be dealt with accordingly.

Mind the pica of the jellyfish. The pieces in the net will sting you too.

Remember that the fish are doomed and treat them accordingly.

Always have ballenas on hand for your ponga captain. They will be parched when they awake.

And the most important lesson of all:


I will never look at sport fishing the same.

ps.....take some naproxin to Mexico when you plan on fishing.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Night Fishing.

We were just wandering around downtown this evening while Keith devoured carne y chorizo tacos and we saw Bill and Jose (Mao), the panga captain. Keith asked if Mao was working tonight. He said he was going out at 10p and invited us. 10p-8a. Should be cool. Full report tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Lunch at the End of the Universe

Took a panga through the estuary out to this restaurant today; it's popularly referred to as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

However, today there was a lunch rush and although we were the first panga to arrive, two others landed. Still, what a beautiful place.

Before we left, we met a Swiss man who was cleaning manta rays. Bizarre!!!! We see the craziest things everyday. Someone commented that manta rays taste like crab. He said, "No, crab is imitation manta."

No crocodillos, though. I was a tad disappointed. Or relieved.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

At this rate we will never leave.

Moved into a smaller, cheaper bunglow yesterday. Wiped us out, physically, for the rest of the day. We did manage to drag ourselves down to the beach with bungalow friends for more buckets of beer and ceviche and fresh grilled tuna. Wasn't a bad day at all. Keith is still recuperating from his fishing. Finger is healing, too.

The new bungalow has more character. The fridge door is held on with a bungee cord, and we have downgraded to a 2-burner gas stove. The bathroom is laid out so that you have to remove the toilet paper before showering or the roll will be destroyed. No complaints; it's also cheaper. We are debating, if we want to leave, just when that might be.

Great weather, the jejenes aren't quite as bad anymore; although slathering on the bug repellent definitely doesn't hurt. Not much else going on. Reading, walking to town, etc. It's great.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fish Stories

(Click on these photos for larger versions and check out my Buzznet and April's for more photos. Click here for a VIDEO! of Keith catching a tuna by hand.)

I'll try to keep it short but it was one hell of a day. Our friend Bob got his friend to take us out for a little whale watching. We didn't know what we were in for but it's Mexico...right. Anyway we were out in a 21' ponga watching whales play in the water. It's hard to say how big they were but you could make out the shape of the tail at about 2 miles. As we got closer they stopped coming out of the water so theatrically and just started to race along. It was pretty kick ass to drive a small fishing boat next to a whale at about 25 mph.

The whales went away and we continued south about 3-4 miles off the shore. Jose, the ponga owner, started steering towards thousands of different species of gulls and other sea birds who were feeding on a school of sardines. It was spectacular. Thousands of sardines had been herded, by several different species of tuna, into a ball the size of a volkswagon and the water was churning like a boiling pot while these birds just diving all around. The tuna and sardines were racing everywhere.

All sudden like, Jose reaches into a 5 gallon bucket and pulls out what looked like a spool of thread only about 6 inches across and 3 inches thick. It had a couple hundred yards of 100 lb. test, a 24" steel leader and a 2" hook. There was a lead weight that that acted as a sheath that had what looked like feathers on it. It looked like a 4" fly. It dawned on me at that instant that Jose, who had been fishing for a living since the 5th grade, didn't use a rod. Actually none of the fisherman use rods. He handed one of these things to Bob then to me and then he grabbed one. I didn't even know how use the damn thing. Bill, a friend of Bob and Jose, gave me a 60 second lesson and in it went. About that time, Bob who is 60, starts yelling. He's got a fish he has a 25-30 lb. tuna. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. These guys cut up bicycle tubes and put pieces on each index finger. It allows them to let out line if the fish runs or to get grip on the line when they start bringing the fish in.

In 45 seconds this monster fish is thrashing around on the floor of the boat between Bob and April's feet. They called it a toro because the thing fights like a bull. Then Jose pulled one in. It was a different species altogether. Hell of a fighter but only about 15-20 lbs. Then Bill got one of the smaller ones. They told me I had to pull the next one in whether I caught it or not. He handed me one of the rubber finger cots and I slid it on. I asked Bill, "How I will know if I have one on?" He laughed and said I can't miss it. He was right. The thing hit my bait perpindicular to the boat and it felt like nothing I had ever felt before. It would be like putting the line on Lazlo and then shooting him with a BB gun. I was petrified.

I started stripping line and in about 45 seconds it was on the floor. It started thrashing like hell spraying blood and water everywhere. Jose promptly picked it up by the leader and clubbed it in the head. I was shaking like Katherine Hepburn's head in a helicopter. I couldn't stop smiling. It was overwhelming. I had a nest in my line so I gave the finger cot to Bill. Jose fixed my nest and then put a sardine on the hook. The sardines were about 6-8 inches long. Right then we were passing over the top of a sardine school and he throws my line in the water. A tuna hit the sardine so hard that the line came out of my hands. I grabbed it and it was limp. It had ripped the fish clean off the hook. Jose grabbed my line and slid on a new sardine. As he was doing that I was watching the tuna feed in the wake of the boat.

The school of sardines were following underneath the ponga and the tuna were picking them off at a rate of about 20-30 strikes a second. It was like machine gun fire behind the boat. Jose than threw my sardine in the water and about 10 feet off the back a tuna hit my line going the other direction. It happened so fast that I didn't realize the line was limp in my hand. Immediately the slack came out and the line ate into my finger like butter. I gripped and then immediately dropped it like a hot iron. Which it was. It was excruciating. I knew then why they wear the cots. The line was limp for about half a second and I instinctively wrapped the line around my hand so I wouldn't get burned again. The tuna bolted and the line tightened so hard that I still have a mark across the back of my hand. It took me close to 2 minutes to land that one. I caught one more and we caught 10 total. In all I say it was about 200 lbs of fresh tuna. One caught Bill off balance and he went ass over tea kettle into the compartment in front of him. He won though.

When we got back Jose fed everyone (except April) mackerel ceviche with jalapenos and the cerveza flowed like wine. My finger never bled. The 100 lb. test literally cauterized as it cut and it doesn't even hurt. A little fresh lime juice and a band aid will fix me right up. What started out to be a lazy, indecisive morning turned out to be the best fishing experience of my life and I never touched a rod or reel. Viva La Mexico!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

San Blas is always on the edge of something.

We've sequestered ourselves at La Quinta California after our dismal faring vs. The Jejenes. The Mosquitos were not mosquitos after all; they were jejenes. I was just wishing they were mosquitoes. If you want a good histamine rush, book a trip to San Blas during the full moon: when the tides are highest the jejenes are happiest. And Oblivious Gringos like Keith and I are miserable. Last night was perhaps the climax of unbearableness. Rubbing garlic on yourself in the shower, right before bed, hoping that the effect is not purely psychological is a tad depressing.

So fear kept us sequestered in our bungalow the past couple of days. We are catching flak from our neighbors because we never go out and experience San Blas. We sat around the courtyard tonight and learned so much. Our shackles have been broken and we are now ready to see San Blas. This afternoon we discussed extending our stay, provided there is room at the inn. We even walked to town to drop off our laundry and get some comida.

For example, today we ventured to a small beach restaurant where you get a bucket of 7 oz beers for $8 and free food: ceviche and fried fish. It was disgusting and fascinating and delicious depending on who you ask. It was a good Mexico Experience for sure. I took photos and drank tiny Pacificos. It wasn't too bad at all.

Other knowledge gleaned today:
1. Jim Morrison once stayed in San Blas, and allegedly wrote L.A. Woman and Mojo Rising here.
2. There is a section of the King's Road near here.
3. Do not get your hair cut in Mexico.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

DEET me.

Jejenes (sand fleas) here have an obvious competitor for succulent Gringo blood, the mosquito. Went up to the fort of San Blas yesterday and absorbed very little because a) there's only one small sign explaining the significance of the place and b) mosquitos! I counted 20 bites on my lower right arm and then I lost interest; but there are A LOT, okay. KBAB aka the Itchy and Scratchy Show. Last night Keith got the itches so bad he said he would leave immediately, if we weren't paid up through Saturday. Saturday!!! I'll feel like a hemophiliac by then if the mosquitos get their way. So last night during our grocery run to town (a few blocks away) we stopped at our favorite mini super for some cancer-causing, industrial strength bug spray. Keith said he wants to look like Pigpen, with a little cloud of bug spray trailing him. Perfect. We may be able to venture out and explore the area with this kind of protection. We'll see.

Our bungalow neighbors told us about Peso Island--20 or so km of abandoned beach and a cave the Huichol indians make pilgrimages to. If we can get the perro in the boat with us, that would be fantastic. Because who loves the beach more than Lazlo? No one.

We are becoming more and more accustomed to the Mexican way of life. I say that as a I am sitting in my screened in dining room with a lamp and "Mexican DSL" in a bungalow owned and operated by a man from Washington State, and a 24-hour hot shower is steps away. Okay, so our cultural meter has fallen since we came to San Blas, but it's a short break from an otherwise enchanting experience. One of the best realizations to come out of this trip is that so many Americans spend so much money on stuff they don't need. I include myself in that group. The housing in Mexico is simple, but effective. I won't say efficient, because nothing in Mexico is efficient. But sufficient. A great example of this is our bathroom. One small tiled room with the Golden Triangle of shower, sink and toilet all within arms reach. You could technically use all three at once. No shower door to scrub, I'm in heaven. A drain in the floor, a spout in the ceiling, and a sink on the wall. Perfect.

It's 6am now and I've been up for an hour. Woke up looking for Keith... the last thing I remember is him standing over me, moaning and scratching. Caring wife that I am, I fell asleep and didn't notice his absence for, oh, 7 hours. Found him spooning Lazlo in our sleeping bag in the other bedroom. We had talked about going to town at the butt crack of dawn one of these mornings to watch the vendors set up. Not this morning.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy as an almeja.

Buenas Dias from San Blas
I'm adding the link to my buzznet site. I am not nearly as proficient at this as mi espoza but I try. Right now Ape is making me waffles. I have my coffee and I was extremely lucky last night and I found the only 3 cans of Copenhagen in San Blas...literally. I have been dippin' Skoal Yerbabuena since Nogales. Dios Mio my waffles & fresa are yummy. Today has started magnificently. I made my Guatamalan coffee, took a hot shower, walked the dog, edited some photos, had a chew and now Lazlo and I are enjoying the finest waffles in Nayarit. My hight however was a little less relaxing. They have jejenes (sand fleas) here. They are in full force from about 7p to 11a. These things could kick a chiggers ass. I am the proud owner of a couple hundred jejen bites. I will wear them proudly.

There is a rather nice hotel here with a professionally trained (cordon bleu) chef. She is said to mix autentico mexican cuisine with her French training. I will try to make an introduction. It is hard to stay motivated here. 1L of Anejo rum is $12. The residents of San Blas take 3 things very seriously here. 1...Catholocism. 2...manyana (not the word but what the word stands for). 3...siesta. Most shops close around 12:30 and don't open back up until 17:30. It is easy to lose your train of thought over a cinco hora period. I have made many friends and learned many things about the local cuisine in each town. I have been allowed to photo the comida preparations, and have asked many questions which have been answered with enthusiasism and respect. There are many things here that are hard to wrap my mind around like the fact that they don't refrigerate the eggs. Of all the things I've seen, that is the mildest. I hope all of you have an exceptional day. I know I will.
ps I tend to bulk e-mail so If I double you up with stories forgive me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

San Blas

Well it just gets better and better. We left Las Glorias on Saturday morning and headed south for warmer weather. The two nights before we left we had a great time with Guy and Celine, our neighbors at the campground. They invited us for drinks and dinner... wine, scotch, rum, shrimp and scallops (not for me), great conversation. Friends I hope we will keep. The patch in our tent did not hold, so we knew would have to buy a new one. Ezequiel, one of the workers at Mr. Moro's who Keith befriended, wanted our old tent. He lives with 6 other people and wanted his own casita for privacy. Keith and Ezequiel got to be very good friends although neither spoke the other's language. Keith always has his Spanish dictionary in hand, though. Zeke said he wants to come to the US to visit us and Keith said he wouldn't be surprised if Zeke showed up on our doorstep one day. This is Zeke with his family.

We left Las Glorias after meeting Zeke's family and stopping in nearby Guasave for a new tent. Old school style, long triangle, for $94. I guess Mexicans don't camp much so they know Gringos are the main customers for tents.

Made it as far as Marmol (on the coast just north of Mazatlan) and ran into a man who told us about free beach camping. Tried to pitch the tent, but were overcome by concrete slabs, billions of spiders, 2" thorns that penetrated the bottom of my foot, and wind. So we slept in the car. Woke up early the next am, got lost in Mazatlan before sunrise, and decided to head south for warmer weather.

Made it to San Blas and found lodging for the night. Since we got such an early start we decided to relax at the casita for most of the day. Wandered around town a bit when we first arrived and met people from Whitefish, MT. There is a large population of native Huichol indians here. They wear their traditional dress in town and sell crafts near the town square. Haven't been shopping yet, but I'm sure I can find something within my budget.

Now we are staying at La Quinta California. Far from the La Quinta chain in the United States. It's perfect. Just what we were looking for. Two bedrooms, screened-in porch/dining room, kitchen, 24-hour hot water (a rarity we've learned), internet access from our place. Sweet. We've been told there are iguanas behind the water heaters (outside) and our neighbors across the way have built a small enclosure for an injured iguana on their back balcony. !! Last night at the first place we stayed, which was clean and large and nice, I closed the window and a light yellow (almost white) gecko about 3-4" long fell at my feet! I screamed and hot-footed it out of there, hopped up on the couch next to Keith and told him to go find it. He spent the rest of the night with us and his little brown friend was living in the bathroom. They are cute, but fast, which translates to scary. There is another iguana here at La Quinta that comes down to a platform on the tree to be fed. I hope I can get a photo of him.

We are interested in seeing some cocodrilos (crocodiles) while we are here; I read there is a croc farm here! There's tons of history, so we will have to do some exploring. There's a very cool church on the main square; today we looked in it and there was a mummified-type body on display on one wall. !!

Went to the market for dinner ingredients. 3 ears of corn, a package of fresh strawberries, half a dozen limes, milk, and a red onion came to $2.50. It might be hard to leave here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Los Glorias is glorious!

(In nearby Guasave today for internet!! Photos galore coming--check Buzznet. Actually, Buzznet is acting up, so check Flickr for photos.)

Yesterday I had an awesome opportunity. Our camp neighbor, Celine from Quebec, told me she was going to take a tour of Bird Island. We took a ride in a panga (small fishing boat) to an island that is a nature preserve. Gustavo, the owner of Mr. Moro's where we are staying in Los Glorias, was our tour guide. There were 13 people in the little boat; some of the other passengers wondered what the US Coast Guard would say about the boat's capacity and lack of life preservers. But Gustavo (Tavo) assured us he's been taking people out on these tours for 3 years and hasn't lost anyone yet! It was a little sketchy at first, but they obviously know what they are doing and they didn't want to have to swim any more than the rest of us did. This is our captain with the panga:Tavo has exclusive rights to take tourists to Bird Island and only 20 people are allowed to go every day. It is one hour to the island. We walked around the island, got incredibly close to many many birds (herons, friggets, pelicans, etc.). It was awesome. No way you could do something like this in the US, with regulations and all. Then we got in the panga and went to Shell Island for lunch. Millions of shells! And a crab.

They are really trying to build up the tourist industry here. Tavo said most of the $$ we pay for the tour will go to the small fishing village where the pangas are. They don't have electricity or potable water or anything and they live in shacks. I was very grateful to have the experience and I told Keith that Tavo said fishing excursions are also available and cheap.

This morning we got up before sunrise and Keith went to the showers. Lazlo and I went down to the beach and saw 2 fish that had washed up on shore. One was like a catfish, it had been chomped by something, his back half was missing. It was only 6" or so. And a puffer-looking fish, about 10-12" long. And then I saw the dolphins as the sun was coming up. Swimming just out past where the waves were breaking, I could see their fins in the water and then one jumped completely out of the water! It was so great. A few more jumps and then they just swam and swam. I could watch them for hours.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Double Post: Los Mochis y Los Glorias

Ah well we are in Los Glorias now, south of Los Mochis. They said they could do wifi, but it´s not working, so no new photos posted. Dang. Soon, I hope; I´m starting to get backed up. Also, these Mexican keyboards are challenging, things in different places.

So we spent last night in a Hooker Hotel according to Keith. I was a little gun shy from our experience in Green Valley ($145 when I thought it was $45), so I opted for cheap. Keith suggests finding the Middle Path next time. $17.50 got us a tiny room in downtown Los Mochis with no hot water and a private bathroom so small you hit your chin on the sink when you sat in the toilet. But it was a place to crash, which we did after walking around town and seeing lots of cool stuff. A concert in the park, etc. Parked our car in a secure lot overnight for only $5, worth not having to worry about it getting stolen. Los Mochis is not bonita. It has a sugar cane processing plant and not much else, just city.

This a.m. we headed south and got to Guasave; a Mexicano next to us in traffic offered to give us directions to Los Glorias. He said his brother was going to be the next mayor of the town; he gave us a business card and said it would help to show it if we encountered any trouble. A Get Out of Jail Free Card. Bueno!!! We´ve met nothing but nice people here.

There´s an Adventure Caravan of retired persons in the RV Park where we are (Mr. Moro´s, see link above). Super friendly people, all. We may stay as long as a week here. Hot showers and laundry, internet (grrrr no wifi...I may burn a CD tomorrow to upload photos). Lots of roadside restaurants, great beach (warmer water), etc. It was foggy when we arrived, but the sun did come out and we heard it was warmer yesterday.

So I´m off to cook dinner, i.e. heat up water for some hummus and beans on tostads. Dinner by sunset overlooking the ocean again. Life is hard.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Grand Canyon. Eh.

Left early-ish yesterday morning to finish driving through Zion. We timed it just right by complete accident and it was amazing.
Critter count: handfuls of deer, some kind of sheep (big horn?), kaibab squirrels, a bald eagle!, several hawks. Still waiting for lizards and armadillos!

Got up early this a.m. and drove back into the park for sunrise. It was COLD, windy, and there was no sunrise to be found. Too overcast. So, we left. We don't live in the past, we don't think about what could have been... we get in the car and go!

Heading to Tucson today for one last day of getting things done in the US before going south. Looking forward to shorts and chacos and beach.

Lots and lots and lots of photos on Buzznet. Zion wins our favor over the Grand Canyon anyday. At least on the days we were there. Saw some cool stuff between there and here, too, like Virgin, UT. What's up with this place?

Have been giving the Spanish language lessons serious attention. Hablo un poco d'espanol, senor.

Many more photos on Buzznet---check them out!