Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm the cat that got the cream. I just had the perfect ending to a day that, while not perfect, was pretty damned good. It started with a good book and a swim, of course.

Actually, no, it started with an earthquake - but I didn't know that until later. I guess that must be what woke me up, but I just thought it was Robin moving around in the RV.

I did notice one unusual thing. Last night, there was a strange sound outside our compound. I remember thinking that it sounded as if somebody kept elephants next door. This morning, the sound resolved itself into the braying of a donkey. It's funny. I've seen lots of donkeys in Mexico, but none right here in the neighbourhood. Maybe somebody keeps one in the house! ;>)

We decided to stay here in Zihuatanejo until Monday because it's so lovely, we don't want to go. Besides, there's a restaurant down the beach that's going to televise the Super Bowl tomorrow, so why do we need to hurry away? That meant no early start, no packing, just a leisurely hour of reading followed by a swim.

After the swim, there was business to be done . Robin went out to buy another couple of tires, because he wants all four rear wheels replaced before we head east. TJ, Kris and I went downtown to drop off all our dirty laundry. Well, we thought we were going to a laundromat, but it turned out that we didn't actually have to stay there and do our own laundry, so we didn't. We left the laundry, went out to lunch, shopped along the many little streets downtown, and checked out the public market for vegetables. I got a couple of t-shirts for the grandbabies and an outfit for myself. When we just couldn't walk any farther, we got a cab home. Then we went swimming.

The laundry was to be finished by 7:00 this evening, so at about 6:30, Kris and I went back downtown, where we found a little shop full of little gifts to take to our families. That was fun. We were wandering around in the dark (or as dark as it gets downtown in the evening), trying to figure out where the laundry was, beginning to get just a little worried as the 8:00 closing time approached. Then we saw him, our knight in shining taxi. We flagged him down, arranged our trip, and got to the laundry with time to spare. We loaded the car with the knight's help, then came home.

Now here we come to the only fly in the ointment. This is a gated community, this little oasis of an RV park, but each couple only gets one key. Robin has ours. TJ has theirs. Kris and I got out of the cab, staggered to the door with our laundry bags, knocked -

and knocked and knocked and rattled the door and made all the dogs bark. And yelled and screamed and rang the doorbell on the main house. And knocked and yelled some more and shook the gate and made the dogs bark some more. And swore. Finally, one of my yells produced a result. Pam, one of the neighbours, came to the door and let us in, apologizing for not responding sooner. She and her husband, Joe, were here at our RV, sitting outside with Robin, watching videos of our English narrowboat trips. They were so engrossed, they didn't hear the knocking or rattling or yelling. They did hear the dogs bark, but nobody thought anything of it. TJ was in his camper. He heard the dogs, too.

Never mind - after that came the good stuff:

I made my bed and put all the laundry away, then put my bathing suit and headed back to the pool. Nobody was at home in the main house, and nobody had turned on the lights by the pool. No problem. I know where there's a light switch - right by the basketball hoop. I got into the pool and turned on the light, shot a few hoops, then happened to look up and see the sky. I went right over and turned the light off, then floated around in the dark water, gazing up at the sky, trying to locate familiar constellations in still-unfamiliar places. My gaze was caught by the basketball, which glows in the dark, so I rolled it around in the water for a few minutes, a little full moon in a dark sky to contrast with the crescent moon in the star-spangled sky above me.

I think this is as good as it gets.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Villas los Arcos
Zihuatanejo, Guerrero

Oh, if you could see me now! We escaped Playa Azul as soon as we could, this morning, and headed into Lazaro Cardenas, which is only a few kilometers away. TJ and Kris needed groceries and propane, and Robin wanted to get a new fan belt, just in case, and some cash. Shortly after we got into town, I saw a sign directing us to Soriana, so that's where we went to do our grocery shopping. The bank machines there were less than helpful, but I did what little shopping I had to do, and so did Kristin. Meanwhile, the men went looking for a propane depot. They flagged a cab driver, told him what they wanted, and gave him some money, and he led them to the depot. They sent him on his way and tried to buy the propane, but it turned out that the depot didn't have a nozzle that they could use to fill TJ's tank. Robin was getting slightly panicky about the money situation, so rather than go any farther, they came back to Soriana. I got out my Canadian cell phone and phoned our bank. They assured us that Robin's account was fine, that there was as much money as he thought. Moral: Pay no attention to what the Mexican bank machines tell you. You are not overdrawn.

Robin's blood pressure came down pretty rapidly after that, and we all got back on the road to come to Zihuatanejo. We were reading the Mexican Camping book as we went along. The instructions for finding the RV parks here were pretty daunting, but somehow, we found them. The one Robin and I had intended to stay in was full, but the one across the street had room - for one vehicle, not two. Meanwhile, TJ and Kris had talked to the people up the street, who turned out to have room for all of us. There's a three-storey house with a ramada on top of that. Adjacent to it is the swimming pool, next to which I'm sitting now. On the other side of the wall is the RV area. I think there are five RVs in right now, which almost fills the place.

When we got here, there was neither power nor water, but it had nothing to do with the park. The whole area was out - so we just parked, donned our swim suits, and headed for the pool, where we stayed until somebody came out and said "Power's on." Then Robin went back to the RV and turned the air conditioning on, so that when I go in to cook supper, I won't faint.

TJ and Kris are planning to go on to Acapulco tomorrow, so that they're situated in time for the Super Bowl on Sunday, but we're hoping they'll decide to stay here, instead. There are restaurants here where we could watch the game, and this little park is gorgeous.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shortly after I woke up this morning, I went outside to get my first look at Rancho Buganvilias by daylight. It was a beautiful sight. We were, as Cynthia said (Cynthia is the owner of the park, along with her husband, Sandy), in the middle of nowhere. I know the village of La Placita is a few minutes up the road, because we went through it last night, but it's invisible - and inaudible - from the park. The ocean is visible, and audible, but it's way down the hill, on the other side of the coconut grove. All around us, there is countryside.

I know - I'm writing in the present tense,as if I were still at Rancho Buganvilias, but I'm not. I'm sitting in the RV lot behind the Playa Azul Hotel (the one in Playa Azul, not the one that's advertised on the Web). We left Buganvilias at 10:45 this morning and arrived here at about 3:30 this afternoon - after about a 200 kilometer drive. That time included a stop for lunch at a breathtaking spot at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Robin took some film there, and Kristin took photos - which I shall snatch from her blog to put here, just as soon as I can. It also included time for Robin and me to pull over and return the contents of the refrigerator to the refrigerator and mop up the Kool-Aid and papaya hunks and juice and evaporated milk from the floor. Somebody didn't close the fridge properly after lunch. (I'm trying to sound innocent, here, but it isn't working.) The speed limit on most of the winding, twisting, tope-ridden*, mountainous road - with 1,000 foot drops off to the right, a lot of the time - was 60 kilometers an hour. I found that quite a comfortable speed for the road. The men didn't agree, so when Robin was driving, I was white-knuckled.

The view was spectacular, though, and there were highlights - a flock of caciques flying past the car, then a flock of buzzards (I didn't know they flocked) right after that - a huge white butterfly that made me think of a handkerchief fluttering in the breeze - a Marian shrine by the road, with hundreds of brightly coloured plastic doilies hung on lines in front, which gave it a very Tibetan air. There were mango groves and (many) coconut groves, and one large papaya orchard. Herds of goats crossed our path or perched at the side of the road. Three donkeys browsed in a dry creek bed. A black and yellow striped lizard skittered across the road in front of us. There were olive-green mountains and wheat-coloured mountains, and at one point there appeared to be snow at the side of the road, but it was a very white rock that poked out of the ground in that area. At 31C, I don't think there was going to be snow!

Eventually, the beauty around me helped me to come to terms with having left La Placita less than 13 hours after I arrived there.
I wasn't happy about leaving, though I knew it was necessary (TJ and Kris are just about out of food, and we need to find a bank machine). I would like to visit it again. Cynthia and Sandy are a couple of Americans (Cynthia's from Los Angeles. I'm not sure about Sandy - but he's a surfer, so California somewhere would be my guess) who fell in love with La Placita, got a chance to buy the Rancho, and went for it. Originally, they were going to build themselves a little house and snuggle in for a very early retirement, but things got out of hand, I guess, and last year they opened their RV Park on the hill. There's not much to do except lie around when it's hot - or hike down to what is apparently a gorgeous beach (Kristin raved about it) - There are lots of books, and in the evenings there's pizza at Sandy and Cynthia's little restaurant. The water pressure is great, the (metered) electricity works, and there's the only wi-fi for miles around - and it works, too!

Rancho Buganvilias is only in its second year of operation, and so far, not too many people know about it. I think a lot of people end up at the Rancho because there's no other RV park for miles and miles - (They arrive as we did - hot, weary, infinitely grateful, and surprised) - and that's a shame. The rancho is worth visiting for its own sake. Sandy and Cynthia are delightful people, and if what you're looking for is a restful place to spend a day or two - or a month - you won't do better than Rancho Buganvilias.


So now it's Thursday afternoon, and I'm sitting here in my bathing suit. As soon as we sorted out how to park
our RVs in this bizarre lot behind the hotel (TJ and Kris finally settled on a spot that has electricity but no water. They'll rough it for the night), we all got into our bathing suits, showered in the park facility, and headed for the hotel's swimming pool. Standing in the shower, water pouring over my head, I considered just staying there for the evening, but when I got to the pool and considered the fact that I could just dunk my head under the water now and then, float around on my back when I felt like it, and otherwise just sit neck-deep in cool, clear water, I decided that was my new home. Unfortunately, I did have to tear myself away in order to scrub the RV floor (our side-of-the-road job was just a lick and a promise, as it were) - and then it was time to start the chicken curry. Now, the floor is clean and the curry is bubbling away, the rice cooker is plugged into the RV's outside sockets - so that there's one less thing heating up the inside - and I'm looking forward to the moment when dinner is over and I can head back to the pool.

*For those who haven't had the pleasure - a tope (pronounced TOE-pay) is a speed bump. They are ubiquitous in Mexico. Some are small and insignificant; others are like mountains in the middle of the road. Some of them are clearly marked, and others lurk silently, invisibly, awaiting the fool who dares to drive at night, or to look at the scenery instead of keeping his eyes glued to the road. They're very effective.

Photos courtesy of Kristin Ames

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Phew. Mama said there'd be days like this.

We left Punta Perula at 9:30 this morning. I started writing today's journal about two hours later, while I sat in a garage near Maleche. This is what I said then:


I am sitting in a tire shop on Hwy. 200, just outside Maleche. We limped in here after we blew a tire (left rear, inside) just up the road. We wanted to buy a new tire, but the shop doesn't have one, so they are just putting the spare on. Robin thinks there is a Michelin store down the road a bit (How does he know that?), so if they have a new tire for us,we'll go through all this backing and forthing and upping and downing again. Meanwhile, I'm chatting with a couple of men from Ontario - Georgian Bay - who are here to have their steering looked at.

We were unable to get up the ramp to the hydraulic lift, so the repairman is down on the road, under the rv, lying on a piece of cardboard, using our jack.

It appears that the new tire is on now, and someone is checking the tire pressure all around. That's good.

When we first got here, I walked down to the next corner, where I had seen a grocery store. I wanted to buy Robin a loaf of his favourite bread, Bimbo, but the store had no bread at all - only tortilla chips and cookies. So I bought a 10-peso bag of animal crackers. I said to the grocer that there must be a lot of children in the village, he had so many animal crackers. He agreed, but told me that the animal crackers are really good with coffee, too - so I bought them, along with a cold Squirt for Robin and a can of refried beans for me (for another time).


Okay. To continue: We went down the road, looking for the fabled Michelin tire shop, and ended up driving all the way to Manzanillo, where we found several tire shops, one of which was able to help us. That was a place called Ursua. They didn't actually have the tire we needed on site, but their Colima store did, so they phoned Colima and had two tires sent over for us. Meanwhile, we drove a short block to the Soriana supermarket, parked in their lot, and went in to do our shopping. I was a little annoyed because there was a sort of Cineplex at one end of the mall, and they were showing Benjamin Button in English - but we were too late for the 2:45 showing. The next showing was at 6:00, and we really hoped to be leaving Manzanillo by then. So I took the groceries out to the rv and put them away.

At that point, I decided that I really needed a shower - it was hot out there! - so I had one of those wonderful RV moments, when I was able to just go have a shower, in the middle of the Soriana parking lot. Robin left on his bike, to check on the tire situation. I took nail file and polish outside, sat on a folding chair, and set about doing my manicure. I had polished three nails when one of the guys from the tire shop walked up and said "Esta bien." (It's okay!) I replied "Oh, no!" which seemed, on reflection, awfully ungrateful - but my nails were wet. Oh, well. Manicure be damned. I stowed the chairs and got behind the wheel, expecting to find Robin over at the tire shop. It seems he had been there, but the tires hadn't arrived yet, so he'd gone for a ride around the Soriana complex. He arrived back just as I was driving away. He looked a little surprised. ;>)

The guys had done a terrific job of getting the tires delivered promptly. They put one in the designated spare tire place, and Robin wanted to put the second one on the roof, but it turned out there was no way to do that - so now we're driving with a tire in the kitchen. That's okay. It's a conversation piece for when we get inspected by the army.

That did happen, of course, after we left Manzanillo, as it was getting dark and we were moving as fast as we legally could. We were pulled over. I came back and turned on the lights, opened the door, invited the soldiers in. I got the impression that they were just a little bored, standing around at the side of the road. They were pleasant enough.

We were headed for La Placita, where Kristin and TJ fetched up last night. It turns out that they tried to go under something that wasn't high enough for their rv, and they nearly ripped their air conditioner off. They did do a lot of damage to their bikes. That was right after Manzanillo, when they were exiting the toll road. When we got to the place where it had happened, I knew. Robin started to turn off, and I said "Wait. That's 3.1 metres. Can we do 3.1 metres?" "No," he replied, and he got back onto the highway. The exit we actually wanted was a couple of miles up the road.

It took forever, but we did eventually make it to La Placita. The last 15 or 20 minutes, we were in the middle of a convoy of cars and pickup trucks, the latter overflowing with teenagers, who had apparently just won a football game somewhere. Horns were honking, kids were yelling, we were wondering if we would ever find the RV park in the midst of all that chaos. Then the kids turned left, and we didn't. Five minutes later, we came to the entrance to the RV park. Having made the turnoff, we drove what seemed like a mile down a dirt road (I must ask in the morning how long that laneway really is) and came out in the Rancho Buganvilias RV park, which looked like the Promised Land. It was 9:00 p.m.

Not only TJ and Kris were anxiously awaiting our arrival. They had the whole park on high alert. It was rather touching. I can hardly wait to see the place by daylight. Kris says it's very beautiful, but that the heat during the day is unbearable. Early to rise, I guess.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last night's dinner was excellent. After dinner, we played cards (99). I beat everybody. After we came home, I sat out here (just outside the RV) reading the internet until about 11 p.m., getting much bitten by something, in the process. Addiction is a terrible thing.

This morning, I was too involved in my book to get very ambitious. Robin went out cycling in the morning, though, so at least one of us got some exercise.

TJ and Kris dropped by, early in the day, to say good-bye (well, hasta la vista - we'll see them tomorrow). Then Wade and Colleen stopped in, just for a few minutes. I think Colleen had to go home and calm down after her visit. She was sitting in a chair under a palm tree, chatting. Suddenly there was a crashing
sound. She bolted from her chair and cleared away from the tree. She thought a coconut was falling. We looked up into the tree and saw an iguana scuttling across the branches. Soon after, we saw a second, larger iguana heading in the same direction. I think Colleen's heart was still racing when she and Wade left.

In the afternoon, we smelled smoke, and soon we had to close all the windows and turn on the air conditioning. The man who owns a lot on the corner apparently burns things on that lot fairly frequently, but today he appears to have set fire to the whole thing. I sat at the kitchen table and watched billowing clouds of smoke roll past. I couldn't see beyond the back gate, much less across the road. At last I had an excuse for my laziness!

After a while, though, the smoke cleared. Robin went for a walk on the beach. I gathered up the camera and followed him, but by the time I got to the beach, he had disappeared. I left my sandals hooked over his bike's handlebars, so he would know I was on the beach, and I headed toward Colleen and Wade's, figuring that was where he had gone. Wrong. When I got to their place, I knocked on the door, but nobody answered, so I turned around and walked back up the beach. I found my sandals wedged into crevices in the cement fence. Robin's bike was gone. It turned out that he had gone the opposite way on the beach, and had gone quite a long way. So he's spent the evening recovering. I notice he's rather sunburned, so it's just as well we will be on the road tomorrow.

I've heard from Kristin. She and TJ went all the way to La Placita, south of Manzanillo - and they found a lovely place to stay - so that's where we'll be heading.

Photos courtesy of Kristin Ames

Monday, January 26, 2009

This morning, while it was still cool, we rode our bikes along the main road to the river, then along a dirt road beside the river, all the way to where it meets the sea, a block or so later. There wasn't much happening there - two fishermen lounging against their boat, probably waiting for the rest of their crew - something that looked like a small heron, checking out the mini-fish in the river - a rather unambitious pelican lounging around.

Along the way, we detoured down a short road to the beach between two restaurants. Apparently the restaurants were packed yesterday (Sunday), but today they were deserted. Another fisherman was attempting to get his ponga into the water, or farther into the water, so we offered to help him. The three of us pushed the boat (which was still tied up) until it floated free of the sand. Then we left, and the waves carried the boat back up onto the sand. A small truck was speeding up to the beach. We figured that was our fisherman's crew, and that we would leave the matter to them.

We found TJ and Kris gettting ready to go snorkeling. TJ informed us that the water here is full of sting rays - or so he's been told. That kind of took away my desire to swim, which is a shame. Robin and I went for a delightful swim yesterday afternoon - around 4:30 - in water that was just perfect, in waves that weren't huge, in a bay that didn't have a rip tide. It was great. We never saw a sting ray. Better still, we never felt one.

We also found Colleen and Wade. They were here last night for a little while. They suggested that the three couples get together tonight for dinner. They have chicken breasts to barbecue (or bake). They want me to provide the fried potatoes again - apparently they were a big hit with Wade. Kris isn't sure what she's going to do - something in the way of a salad - but I know it will be good. This morning, we stopped by Colleen and Wade's just long enough to say hello.

Robin spent part of the day snorkeling. He didn't find any fish worthy of catching, but he had a good time, and got in a long swim. I read a book.

Now I've cooked the potatoes, and it's time for us to head over for dinner. I've still not decided whether to attempt to carry a cazuela full of fried potatoes on my bicycle, or walk over - though I suspect it will be the latter. I don't fancy riding my bike home in the dark. (It was great, though, to ride it this morning. I haven't been on the bike since Mazatlan, put off by cobblestones and city traffic).

Photo courtesy of Kristin Ames

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Punta Perula, Jalisco

It looked like a tiny trip from Puerto Vallarta to here - we figured an hour and a half, two hours. Nope. 172 kilometers, four and a half hours. That did include a fuel stop in Puerto Vallarta and lunch (carne asada tacos) at a very pleasant little restaurant at the side of the road beyond Puerto Vallarta, which we had thought was going to go on forever. On that twisty-turny mountain road, we got behind a little red car that would not even approach the speed limit and would not pull over, despite many chances, honking of horns, and exasperated gestures from other drivers. People were angrily - and dangerously, at times - overtaking our convoy of three RVs, only to find this little red putt-putt crawling along in front of us. That was how we came to stop at the restaurant. We figured we'd give the slowpoke half an hour's lead. That worked.

As we traveled south, we were surprised to see the jungle give way to a more desert-like landscape. There are organ pipe and prickly pear cacti again, and it's much drier. That's good. Maybe my salt shaker will start working again. It's 30C outside, so dry is definitely good.

There's not much to Punta Perula, just one main street, not much more. There are five RV parks in all, I think. The most popular, which I believe is called the Red Snapper, is right on the beach. They had only one space available. That was where Wade had his heart set on staying. I think TJ and Kris may have gone to one of the other beachfront parks. We were told there was a bit of space available there. We were also told there was no wi-fi there, so we came back to the park that's a block from the beach. I just found out what this park is called! Everybody refers to it as The Dutchman, because that's who owns it. It seems it's actually called El Palmar. Robin has now ridden his bike back to see if he can find the others. He doesn't seem taken with this place, but I'm fine with it. It's quiet, the owners are very pleasant, and I'm connected. What more could I ask? - apart from the ocean, of course.

I have no idea how long we're staying here - though I'm guessing three or four days. Then we'll be heading south just a bit, I think to Melaque. Wade and Colleen have reservations there starting on Feb. 5, but I don't know that they're planning to stay here until then - they'll probably move on and boondock until their reservation comes up. At any rate, that's as far as they're going. TJ and Kris and we will keep going toward the Yucatan.

Robin just came back to tell me I'm going to love the beach here. It's hard, perfect for walking, and the water is unbelievably warm. I think this calls for a camera.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Life is never simple, is it? I'm sitting in the internet cafe downtown - waiting for my iced mocha, being grateful for the fact that Gaby has a friend who's a dentist.

Last night, we had a great party. Colleen simmered marinara sauce all day and served it with spaghetti. Kristin made a huge vegetable platter with a mountain - or maybe a dune - of herbed cream cheese in its centre. Atop the cream cheese there stood a palm tree fashioned of bell peppers. It was beautiful. Robin and I made a trip to Costco and came back with some smoked pork cutlets (in lieu of ham steak). I fried potatoes with onions and peppers, then topped them with pieces of pork.

Marian and Stan came over, bearing pizza. So did Eileen and Jack, who also brought refried beans and chips. Altogether, there was a mountain of food, and it was all very tasty.

At Costco, I couldn't resist buying a big flan with a chocolate base. I wouldn't have done that, if I'd realized that Marian was there, buying a huge Black Forest cake. As it was, the ten of us just couldn't eat all the dessert, so there's an afternoon coffee party planned for today.

I had hardly sat down to eat when I realized something was wrong. I thought at first I had lost a filling, but it turned out that the filling was there, but the tooth itself had broken off, so that every time I tried to talk, I sawed at my tongue.

So, enough details. I don't know how it happened. I asked the other folks at the dinner if they knew a good dentist in town. The best they could say was that they knew where there was a dentist nearby. Then someone suggested I ask Gaby, the park manager, for a recommendation. I did that at about 9:00 this morning, and sure enough, Gaby has a friend, Gilda, who is a very good - and very busy - dentist. Gaby called Gilda, who said she would squeeze me in around 2 o'clock this afternoon.

Then I walked to the vet's office, to see whether she had been able to find the cat medicine I was asking about. No, she hadn't. Back to square one.

With several hours to spare, Robin and I went off to do some shopping. when we came home, I ate a bowl of tangerine and banana topped with coconut yoghurt and a sprinkling of granola (Viva Mexico!) and went to brush my teeth. As I picked up the toothbrush, I heard a horn honking. It was Gaby, there to pick me up. Gilda had had a cancellation, and she was waiting for me. Off we went. Gaby dropped me off right in front of the dentist's office. The receptionist was waiting for me in the foyer, and presto, I was in the chair, having my tooth rebuilt. I was afraid it would turn out to be one of those three appointments over three weeks deals, but no, she said she could do the job in this one sitting. Best of all, she sang through the entire procedure - hummed, mostly, but occasionally let loose a few words. I mentioned afterward how much I had enjoyed that. She laughed and gave me a couple of her business cards, pointing to the little picture on them. It was a molar, holding what I suspect was a toothbrush. She said "That's me, and that's my microphone. I'm the singing dentist!"

So here it is, not even three o'clock, and I'm done. As long as I was downtown anyway, I walked the length of the malecon and found the English language bookstore, bought a couple of books, and then came here to for my internet fix. Now I have to find the bus stop again, and head home for coffee and flan.

As I was able to have my tooth looked after today, I guess we will be heading south tomorrow, as planned.

Friday, January 23, 2009

So little time. So much to read. I didn't realize how quickly my list of things to read - blogs I follow, discussion boards, e-mail, actually built up, until I found myself having to cram all my internetting into an hour or so at a cafe.

I am sitting beside Robin in a restaurant called Las Vacas, located about a block from our park. It has wonderful wi-fi, but unfortunately it doesn't open until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Fortunately, they have great tortilla soup here, and the lemonade is tasty, so I have something I can order and enjoy at such an odd time of day. I'm speaking as a Norteamericana here - as 2 pm is when Mexicans eat their main meal.

Today I went to a vet to try to get some medication for a dear friend's cat, who is suffering from the predations of a weird worm that can't be treated with anything that's available in the U.S. I'm not sure I've found what she needs yet, but I'll keep trying.

I also did laundry for a couple of hours this morning, and this afternoon we went to Costco, where we stocked up - Robin found the Tillamook cheddar he likes - and we got what we needed for the potluck dinner we're having tonight. Five couples from the park are getting together. I'm going to do smoked pork cutlets with fried potatoes. Somebody's bringing pizza, and there'll be pasta with marinara sauce - and shrimp with dipping sauce - and refried beans - and salad. I bought a flan, because this was a good excuse. ;>)

So it's not been an exciting day, but it has been a tiring one. I'm off now to start cooking.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday afternoon, Puerto Vallarta

I stayed up as long as I could. I watched the Obamas go from one ball to the next, saying thank you to various audiences and dancing to "At Last (My love has come along)", over and over again. They're a lot younger than I am, so they outlasted me by several hours, or I presume they did, because I gave up and went to bed. My post-inauguration sleep was restless, troubled with aches and pains, but that may have been because I knew we were moving this morning - or else it was because I had taken it upon myself to alphabetize the hundreds of books in the park's 'library' - (or book exchange). I think the tv room/library may have been painted recently, and I know that the wooden shelves for the books had just been painted, so most of the books had been removed to storage. Thiess (the manager) and his assistant came out during the afternoon, after most of the crowd had dispersed, and put up another shelf. Then one of the regular tenants came out of his apartment, carrying boxes of books. I must have been carrying a lot of residual excitement from the inauguration, because I just started organizing. The job was very dusty, and the top shelf was at such a height that it made my neck ache to work up there, but I did it. I know there are more books to come, but somebody else can worry about that. After the beach cleanup on Monday and my library work yesterday, I finally felt a little as if I were part of the community - just in time to leave, of course.

We were up by 7 o'clock, and without rushing at all we were on the road by 9:00. Instead of going right out to the highway, we decided to investigate the side road that went out to Punta Mita, then swung back to catch the highway farther down. "Do you mean the road that looks like a dotted line on the map?" I asked. Well, yes, so it seemed. That was one interesting road. We turned right out of Sayulita, drove about three kilometers, and came to a place where the paved road simply ended. Ahead of us was a rutted track with potholes one one side and deadly looking rocks sticking out the hardened mud on the other. It was so bad, I just stopped. Robin got out of the car and was going to help me get turned around. There were four cars coming up behind us, and they all went on by. Robin asked one of the drivers and found out that the nasty road didn't last long, so we kept going, instead. We only had to go to the next curve, and there the pavement started up again. It's a mystery. Things got junglier as we went along, and there were numerous signs advising us, or so it seemed, not to run over the protected crabs. One sign mentioned the lizards. We saw neither crabs nor lizards on the road. Neither did we see much of the ocean - and that was what we had gone for. We figured there would be a lovely view from the point, and there probably is, but the road didn't go there. We passed big billboards advertising homes (not built yet) starting at $335,000 USD. We weren't sure whether these were to be separate homes on their own land, or condos. Down the road a bit there was an enormous construction project. I think it was the condo development, but it could just as easily have been a hospital or factory going up, given its size. I think if we'd forked out the $335,000 USD and gone to live in the development, we might have got the view.
In all, the detour was only about 11 or 12 kilometers. Then we rounded the point and headed back to the highway and on to Puerto Vallarta. Here we found the rv park pretty easily, if you don't count driving past it because there was no sign for it, and if you don't count having to drive in Puerto Vallarta, which is no fun at all. Unfortunately, it turns out that there's no wi-fi here at all. I'll have to make daily trips to an internet cafe. Also, the beach is a few blocks away, on the other side of the highway. The park itself, however, is pretty, and much more spacious than the one at Sayulita. We found TJ and Kris and Wade and Colleen here. We will all probably move on, either this coming Sunday or the following one, headed farther south.
So I've had my siesta, and now it's time to find that internet cafe..................................................
Well, no. It was time to walk to the Mega (Supermarket) to buy food for dinner. I took the laptop along, so that Robin could come home with the groceries and I could linger at the internet cafe. That was a great idea, except that just getting to the Mega was a nightmare. We walked the couple of blocks to the highway, which we had to cross. That involved crossing one (or two or three, depending on the congestion at any given point) lanes of vehicles on the service road - which is the road that the buses and trucks have to use, along with anybody that's trying to make a u-turn or turn left or visit one of the businesses along the side. That accomplished, we were on an island, waiting for traffic to clear on the main road (2 lanes), whereupon we scurried to the island in the middle and waited again for the traffic to clear on the main road, opposite direction (2 lanes)- which took us to the next island, where we could wait for a chance to cross the service road, opposite direction. I must have been tired, indeed, because I just freaked. I wanted to cross at a light. Robin figured it would be easier to jaywalk, and pointed out that everybody else was. I got stubborn. When we got to a light, I realized that, with so many banks of lights for so many different lanes of traffic, it was nearly impossible to figure out when it would be safe to cross - if ever. I relented, and we walked up the road a bit to where it was "safe" to jaywalk. It wasn't as bad as it had appeared, but by then I just wanted to go get back in the RV and leave. After grousing about Sayulita and tenement living for two weeks, I now wanted to go back to my little tiny space and hide. Poor Robin.
Anyway, we did make it to the Mega, where we did a lot of shopping - far too much to carry home - and besides, that would have involved crossing the highway again - so we caught a taxi. The driver had no idea where (or what) the RV park was, but he followed our directions very well, and we arrived home with our groceries - but without having seen an internet cafe along the way.
Meanwhile, our four friends had gone out to have a few beers and 2/1 rib dinners down on the beach somewhere, and they still haven't come home. It's after dark now - wow, it's 8 o'clock - so I don't see much chance of posting tonight. In the morning, I'll have Colleen or Kristin show me where the nearest internet access - preferably a cafe - is.


Thursday, Puerto Vallarta

Good morning - nope, good afternoon. We've arranged to go downtown by bus with Wade and Colleen. Wade can be our guide. I'm going to take the computer along and find a place to post, but we're also going to go find one of the English language bookstores. I would really like to read one of Obama's books, so now I have a quest. I am also going to see if I can find the hotel where I stayed with Karen so long ago. Oh, and last night, when it was still quite warm, I took a shower and put on the sarong I bought on the beach at Sayulita. I decided I was never going to wear anything but sarongs ever again, because it was so comfortable. I chickened out today, though, and changed into something more presentable for going downtown. Now I'm hot. I think I'll look for a second sarong. ;>)


Well, sarongless but with a mocha on the way - a mocha arriving beside me - I'm at the PV on Olas Altas in the old town. A couple of minutes ago, I think I found the hotel where Karen and I stayed twenty-odd years ago. It's called the Gaviota Vallarta, and it's located on Francisco I. Madero, just up from Playa los Muertos. It's quite a pretty hotel, and seeing it brings back great memories. The name doesn't sound at all familiar, but the hotel looks right. I can remember sitting outside our room, watching the antics of the kids who were supposed to be cleaning the rooms on the other side of the courtyard.

Wade and Colleen are with us. Wade is wearing a shirt he bought - in Mazatlan, I think - and it turns out that he's advertising a Mexico City soccer team, long-time rival of the Puerto Vallarta team. He's certainly causing a stir. Several people have told him he really should change his shirt, for his own safety - but then somebody else will come along and say naaaah, no big deal.

We are now within a block or so, I think, of the bookstore we're looking for, but I'm going to enjoy my 30 minutes of connectedness, along with the welcome shade in here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And happy Inauguration Day! Woo-hoo!

I wrote this entry earlier, but couldn't post it until now. It's been such an interesting day.

Our park inauguration party started before 8 a.m We watched CNN and BBC and even, briefly, FOX news, and we talked about the occasion, whether we might get CNN on line - or anything online - whether everybody had enough Kleenex. It's almost time, now. We're watching the ex-Presidents, ex-VPs etc., mount the platform. Now Laura Bush is up, and the Obama children, along with their grandmother. Aretha Franklin has arrived. She will sing 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee'. Bush is there now, and Michelle Obama. Our little outdoor tv room (three walls) is full to bursting. I didn't even bother trying to sit in there. I've got my canvas chair, and I'm sitting just outside, trying in vain to get an internet connection. Now I'm beginning to regret my choice, as the overcast sky clears, the sun comes out, and I'm starting to burn. Never mind. I'll have lots of time to get over it. Michelle Obama is carrying the Lincoln bible. Obama has arrived now, not smiling, looking very solemn, in fact. In contrast, Joe Biden is glad-handing his way down the stairs. Now Obama has been formally announced, and he's finally smiling. The band has played Hail to the Chief for Bush, for the last time.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is speaking now. Every couple of minutes, the camera shows the crowd - When Obama was announced, flags flew everywhere. Feinstein is talking about the historic significance of this inauguration. Rick Warren is about to give the invocation. One of the women in our group has come out as a Warren fan. I just hope this doesn't last too long.

Oy. It lasted forever, but it's over. Now it's Aretha's turn. I wish she hadn't sung 'My Coun. Try 'tis of Thee', but I guess that would be asking too much. One good thing - between Warren's fundy mush and Aretha's overblown singing, my emotional state has leveled out a bit.

Okay. Now it gets good. Biden is taking his oath. He seems downright jolly. Done. He's going back to glad-handing now.

Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero are playing "Air and Simple Gifts" by John Williams. Beautiful. Obama thinks so, too. He's looking wistful.

It is past noon, so Barack Obama is officially President of the United States, even without having taken the Oath of Office., Hallelujah!

Oh, boy. Here we go. Oh, no! Flubbed the oath, they did. I don't know whose fault it was - but it doesn't matter. Happy happy. Tears and applause, all around. (It turned out the flub wasn't Obama's. He took it very well.)

The inaugural address is stirring. We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again, he says. You know what's great? We're all listening. Our faces are turned toward the television set, and we are listening to what the President of the United States is saying. Voluntarily.

Holy cow. He even mentioned non-believers! (Heh. Who was counting god references, though? There were lots.)

Elizabeth Alexander is Pres. Obama's choice of poet. I'm not familiar with her - but I will be. Praise Song for the Dead? The Day? Poor woman - the inaugural address is a hard act to follow. I'll try to find her poem later, if I can figure out the name.

Dr. Lowery - the benediction. Folksy. Funny, at times.

It's over. Pres. Obama is taking Bush to a helicopter. Good-bye. Good riddance. That's me talking, not Pres. Obama. He's much nicer than I am.

The newscaster is saying that within 48 hours we will see the signing of an Executive Order closing Guantanamo. Can that be true?


Over the next hour and a half, I wandered in and out of the tv area. I figured if the President could go have lunch, so could I. I got back in time to hear his speech at the luncheon, hear about Sen. Kennedy's collapse - or Sens. Kennedy and Byrd, depending on who you believe. Shortly thereafter, the tv went out. Power was out all over the park. I walked downtown, figuring I would come to ChocoBanana, have a cool drink, use their internet, see if I could get CNN. Silly me. Power is out all over the town. I know there's road work going on, on the main road, so either they've chopped through a power line, or maybe they've turned the power off while they do something, and it will come back on shortly. That would be good. I've asked ChocoBanana to make me a chocolate ice cream soda. The waiter looked at me funny, but he's going to make the attempt. They serve root beer floats here, and a chocolate ice cream soda isn't that much of a stretch. I'm hoping for the best. Oh my goodness. It has arrived. It looks like a chocolate ice cream soda. It IS a chocolate ice cream soda! Oh, happy day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everybody. Today's guest blogger is Michelle Obama - well no, not really - but Ms. Obama inspired today's topic.

In a recent speech, Michelle Obama called on Americans to perform an act of public service in celebration of MLK Day. One of the park's residents decided that our Snowbird community should take part by cleaning our beach. So at 8:45 this morning, about two dozen of us met on the beach, equipped with disposable gloves and garbage bags, and we spent the next hour picking up all manner of things, not just in front of the park, but all the way up and down the beach, as well. The work itself renewed my respect for all those people who make their living by picking strawberries. Oy. My aching back. A couple of the women were approached by a very upset young man who was afraid they would disturb his stash, which is apparently buried out there somewhere, so they told him that if there were no litter in the area of his stash, he would have nothing to worry about. Add one more volunteer to the group. :>)

The only thing that made me nervous was picking up litter near the top of the beach, under the coconut palms. The owner of our park cuts the coconuts down, but a lot of the properties along the beach are lined with coconut palms that nobody polices. In the campground next door, apparently somebody was killed by a falling coconut a week or two ago. So I avoided the coconut palms as much as possible.

Oh, and my new Big Peeve is people who think the world is their ashtray. I picked up about three million cigarette butts. Okay, that's an exaggeration - but still.

The beach looked a lot better when we were finished. My final pickup was a fresh pile of dogshit. That was special. I felt very virtuous when I added my third bag to the pile. One of the men took our smaller bags and stuffed them into big, industrial garbage bags, piled them up, lined us up behind them, and took our picture. A local man, watering his garden, looked over at us in utter amazement. I guess it was the first time he'd seen anybody pose in the middle of a pile of garbage!

Someone suggested that "we" - though I can't include myself, because we'll be leaving on Wednesday - should do this once a month. I hope they do.

Now we are all in a state of high excitement over the inauguration. The party will start at 9 a.m. our time - though I have a feeling I'll be glued to the tv well before that, and I'll be following the events on Facebook, as well. See you there -

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I intended to have a burrito at the very popular burrito joint down the street, but there were no seats available, so I walked across the street to Choco-Banana, figuring I'd get whatever they have for lunch, but they were just closing (must be a Sunday thing), so I walked up the hill to El Espresso, where I was finally welcomed and given an Italian bagel (cream cheese, oregano, olive oil, yum) followed by a caramel macchiato. There will be no weight lost today, for sure. And here I sit, relishing my contact with the outside world, trying to keep the bees from drinking my caramel macchiato.

Robin is at home, recovering from his morning's adventure. He took the kayak over to the next bay, while I went for a swim. While I was in the water, I saw a crowd gathering on the beach - mostly women. Everybody started fanning out, so I joined the group and asked what the problem was. Somebody's ten-year-old son was missing. They weren't sure whether he had gone into the water, or maybe back to their hotel. We all scanned the waves and the beach. Then, the boy's father appeared from the hotel grounds. The boy was up there. Great sighs of relief - followed by great annoyance. I think I counted twenty seconds between "Oh, thank god you're okay!" and "Don't you ever do that again. I could kill you!" Ah, parenthood.

After my swim, I had a shower and shampoo, got dressed, put some make-up on, talked to Kris and TJ, who were packing up to leave for Puerto Vallarta. Then I walked back to the beach and saw that Robin was heading home. I waited at the water's edge. He came straight in at me, then suddenly veered to the right and was swamped a few feet from the shore. I didn't dare go in after him, because I knew we would both end up needing to be rescued. I tried to reach either the boat or the paddle, whichever came at me first. Nothing was working. Suddenly I was sitting in the water, wet up to my armpits. Robin was still thrashing around, trying to get his footing in deep gravel while being battered by the waves. A young woman rushed up and helped him to get up on the beach, while the boat came in and ran over me a couple of times. Eventually, Robin, the boat and the paddle all made it to shore, along with the helpful young woman. A man ran down and pulled the kayak across the beach to the wall where Robin keeps it tied. I tried to help him carry the boat, but he didn't need my help - which was just as well, considering that I could barely breathe when I got to the wall. Robin joined me there, and we both stood around until we got our breath back. Again, twenty seconds ensued before I said "Dammit, it took me two days to get these cotton shorts dry, and now they're full of salt water again!" Ah, wifehood.

That was a couple of hours ago. Robin was rather shaken by the experience (he was in a more serious pickle than I realized at the time), so he's having a well-earned siesta. I hope he won't take the kayak out here again. It's just too stressful, what with the waves.

So meanwhile, TJ and Kris have gone on ahead of us to Puerto Vallarta, where they will meet up with Colleen and Wade. They will report back to me by Facebook, so that Robin and I will know whether we want to join them there, or just stay here in Sayulita for a while, then join them again when it's time to head south.

Robin mentioned to TJ that we might join them on Tuesday, but I said I'm not moving an inch until after the inauguration. We're going to have a party at the park.

That reminds me - I came across a Langston Hughes poem yesterday, and it seemed beautifully prophetic. This is it:

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

It's been a long time coming.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I borrowed TJ's boogie board this morning. Robin had decided not to kayak today, because he got a bit too much sun yesterday. So much for his announcement last night that he would be kayaking all the way to Puerto Vallarta and back today! (Not that anybody believed him) So he wouldn't be swimming, either.

I decided I would take the bull by the horns, or the boogie board by its strap, and just do it. I hooked the strap to my right wrist and walked out into the water. I did pretty well at that, I must say - much less wussy (wussily?) than yesterday. I used the board as a battering ram, only dumped myself a couple of times, only got my leg tangled in the strap and scared myself once, fought my way out beyond the breakers, and then lay on the board, floating among the pelicans.

That sounds really good, doesn't it? Hah! What I didn't know - though I should have known - is that lying on a boogie board, bobbing up and down on the waves, rolling up and down on the rollers, is a lot like being in a small boat, except that your legs are in the water. Does it still sound good? No. Not if you get seasick standing on a dock. The longer I was out there, rolling, the worse I felt. I decided finally to go back to the shore and unload the boogie board. I pointed my nose at the beach and started kicking, kicking, trying to catch waves, but I was making slow progress, feeling ill.

Suddenly, there he was - my knight in shining armour - well, my impossibly blond surfer in swimsuit. I don't know whether he saw me struggling along and came to rescue me, or whether we just happened to cross paths. He may even have been a lifeguard, now that I think about it. He smiled and nodded.

"How ya doin?"

"Fine," I said, "except I'm feeling a little seasick."

"Want a tow?"


He pointed down the beach and said "I'm going to take you down this way a bit, to get us out of this rip current."

Rip current. Well, that would explain why it was taking me so long to get to shore.

He passed me a length of plastic tube that turned out to be a loop. Then he lay down on his board and took off, swimming. He swam like a speedboat. It was absolutely wonderful. I just wish I had been up to fully appreciating the ride for its own sake. As it was, I was too busy being grateful.

When we got close enough to shore that I could stand up, I thanked my hero and let go of the strap. I regretted it almost immediately, as the backwash was still quite strong, but I did manage to get up onto the beach under my own power. That was a couple of hours ago. I figure I'll stop being seasick - any time now.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Ames

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Awfully Big Adventure - that was the English name of the movie I rented the other day. It was still weird. Last night I rented The Bucket List, which I found quite charming. Tonight, TJ and Kris are coming to dinner. I've bought a kilo of prawns, peeled them and set them aside, and put together the curry sauce, so all I have to do is reheat the sauce, add the prawns, and cook the mixture for another five minutes. As soon as I see the whites of their eyes (TJ&K, not the prawns') I'll put some saffron rice on. I'm getting hungry. Can you tell?

Finally, today, Robin tempted me into the water. I hadn't been in since January 1, when I dunked myself in the sea at Mazatlan. I've waded, and I've inadvertently got wet up to the hips, but for some reason, I haven't been tempted to actually swim. So, today, I did - and it was great. The beach here slopes quite sharply (probably the main thing keeping me out of the water), and about the time you're knee-deep, there's a sharp drop-off. Fortunately, though, the bottom levels out after that, and it's easy to paddle around, body surf, or just bounce up and down in the waves. I did all three. It's a funny beach. There are virtually no shells, and I noticed today that there was no kelp. There are fish. I could tell by the pelicans all around me. At one point a pelican dove straight into the water not fifteen feet from me, followed by several gulls who were looking for scraps. I'm just glad that whatever fish they were after wasn't any closer to me, because I suspect the pelican wouldn't have cared. OUTTA MY WAY! I'M FISHING HERE! :>)

The swim actually came after our breakfast at the restaurant attached to our park. It was our first visit there. The atmosphere was lovely - we sat in the courtyard - and the food was okay. The waiter, a young Argentine man, was as cute as a bug. Once we had eaten, Robin took the kayak out onto the water and spent about an hour there. I watched from the shore and took some film, when I wasn't reading my book. When he finished paddling, he suggested the swim. I can tell he's getting more exercise than I am, because he seems to have a lot more energy.

The rest of my day - until dinner shopping time - I spent out here on the patio, enjoying the shade and the cool sea breeze, reading, internetting, considering a nap.

Now, about that rice....

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oops. I left my posting too late yesterday. Not that I was terribly busy. Robin and I walked downtown, where I rented a movie "Una Insolvita Aventura" - I think it's called "A Very Big Adventure" in English.

We went to Choco-Banana, but I didn't have my laptop along, so I couldn't take advantage. Robin ordered a latte, which he said was good. I saw something called a Chococcino- I thought it would be like a mocha, but more chocolatey, so I ordered it (without saying something intelligent like "So what is a Chococcino, anyway?"). It turned out to be an iced drink containing chocolate and, presumably, coffee, and maybe vanilla ice cream. I'm not sure. It was good, but I think I used all my calories for the month.

Then we went to the grocery store and bought a few things we needed for dinner (we had mahi-mahi in the freezer, so we just needed vegetables).

After dinner, Robin went down to the shore and got talking to somebody about starwatching. I gave up on him, eventually, and started watching the movie. It was just as well. Not his kind of movie at all. I'm not sure it was mine, either. It had Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant in it, so it should have been good, but it was just weird and unsettling. I'm going to go back today and see whether "Love Actually" has come back in. I could do with a feel-good movie right now.

This morning, Alan came by to say good-bye. He is heading back to Ireland today. I think I heard him say he caught about five fish yesterday. He must be very pleased.

Meanwhile, Kristin went downtown and bought 17 little bobblehead toys to send back to her son and all his classmates. She is going to be the most popular mom at the school.

There we go. All the news, except that it's five days (and counting) to the U.S. inauguration. I think I'll organize a party. I wonder where I can buy some fireworks. ;>)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm sitting at an outdoor cafe called Choco-Banana, using the best internet connection I've seen in months. I've got BARS. I've also got an absolutely beautiful mocha. It arrived in a wide-mouthed, bright orange mug. The mocha itself is topped with foam and a very pretty chocolate herringbone design. I'm sitting at the outer edge of the roofed area, which is floored with terra cotta tiles. Overhead fans are keeping the area fly-free. Beyond me there is a brick counter with stools on its outer side. Several people are sitting out there, drinking hot coffee and iced coffee, and beyond them is a little alley paved with wavy bricks. All along the alley, vendors have set up shop to sell beaded jewelry. I checked to see that that was the only thing on offer. Yes. No silver, no clothing, just beaded jewelry. Odd.

I came in here because I could see two women sitting at tables up against the inner wall, both working at computers. One of them has a great connection, the other one not so much. I took a table next to the happy one. No flies on me (literally or figuratively).

We were supposed to be going over to the next bay today - again - so that Robin and TJ could snorkel. Kristin said she might snorkel as well - but here it is, after 4 o'clock, and we still haven't gone. The tide is low now, so there's no sense in going before tomorrow. Robin was looking for Alan earlier today, thinking he might want to take the kayak over there. The sea was actually quite calm today - but Alan was nowhere to be found. It turned out he had been on a fishing boat somewhere.

So I did some laundry today, and I read a lot. Now, I'm on my evening grocery quest. Having found Choco-Banana, I may just make this my daily journalling spot.

I would love to regale you with tales of my day's exciting activities, but as you can see, it's been a day of rest, for the most part - except for the laundry, and oh, except that Kristin gave me her bottle of O.P.I. nail polish called "My Chihuahua Bites!" which is a lovely coral colour, and I promptly painted my toenails. Do I lead a life of high adventure, or what?

Monday, January 12, 2009

So. Pizza Ron it was, because I could not find a whole roasted chicken in Sayulita. A large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives came to 110 pesos - delivered - which I thought was really good, especially since the pizza was very good - nice thin crust, just the way I like it.

It's funny the way prices are here. Some things are really cheap, like the pizza, and like our bus fare into Puerto Vallarta today - 20 pesos each. It's an hour's ride from here to downtown Vallarta. We thought we would do a little wandering around, but we found ourselves in a jungle of all-inclusive resorts, so we got a taxi back to the mall (50 pesos). I think I'll go in on my own one of these days, and go all the way to Playa de los Muertos, where I stayed on holiday twenty-something years ago, to see if I can recognize the hotel. What I saw of the city today was completely unfamiliar.

Prices. I was talking about things being cheap - but K had a couple of prescriptions that needed to be filled at Wal-Mart. They didn't carry one of the medicines, but they did have the other. It cost $225 - that's dollars, not pesos. In the U.S. it costs her $4. I'm thinking there must be a drug plan involved, but still. Having tried to get R's prescription filled at a local pharmacy - at three times the Canadian price - I'm wondering why people are always talking about coming to Mexico to have their prescriptions filled.

The trip to Vallarta pretty well took up the day. We just arrived home - with a roasted chicken and some Gouda cheese, plus my croissant supply. I'm resting my feet, and Robin has gone off to make sure the beach is still there. I'm hoping he'll find out what tonight's movie is, and if it's something good, we can walk down the beach after dinner, to the outdoor cinema.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hey, a same-day post! My intended bike ride didn't come off, I'm afraid. Kris came over this morning to say that she was going to prepare me an onion bagel with herbed cream cheese and sliced tomato. Oh, my.

Then Alan showed up, ready to brave the sea in Robin's kayak - and I was appointed cinematographer-in-chief. I would have done Oscar-worthy work, I would, if the camera's battery hadn't run out just at the crucial moment, when the kayak was standing upright in the surf and Alan was tumbling away from it. He should probably have chosen a different day (and likely will) to make this attempt.

When I walked up to the 3 foot high cement wall at the edge of the beach, I was stunned to see the waves. They were really, really close. I could see that they had come up to within about twelve feet of the wall during the night, and when I got there, they were maybe twice that far away. Alan decided to try anyway. Robin helped him get the kayak to the edge of the surf and, when he got dumped the first time, a young man came along to help him get over the first few breakers. I was filming happily during this part of the adventure - and then the kayak turned on end, tossing Alan out into the surf and coming in without him. Alan did come in safely, although he swallowed rather a lot of water. I was very pleased with my work until I tried to actually show the film. It stopped just before the climax. Alan suggests that the next time he tries, we pick up from that point and just show his sailing in triumph over the last breaker. Uh-huh.

While I was 'working', Kris came along and watched. After that we came back here so I could enjoy my treat, which was just that. I shared it with Robin, which was very virtuous of me.

Then Robin and TJ went for a bike ride, and by the time they got back, it was really too warm for me to go out, so I stayed here and read. I also listened to yesterday's installment of "The Vinyl Cafe", which made me semi-hysterical and thus not up to being out in public.

And I finally got caught up on my discussion boards.

Finally, at 3 o'clock, I went for a walk. Robin had heard that there was a Pollo Feliz or something in town where we could buy a roasted chicken, so I scoured the town. I found an open-air restaurant over near the bridge where a woman is barbecuing chicken pieces and serving them with rice and salad, but that was as close as I came. I think we should get a pizza from Ron's tonight - or I could get take-out chicken with salad and rice. When Robin shows up again, I'll find out what he wants. His bike is gone, so I guess he's off on another adventure.

By the way, here's a picture of Robin taken by the bonfire the other night. Kris has some great photos on her blog. You should check it out - the link is right over there--->

Oh, and I found a spa where Kris and I may go to get a pedicure. It turns out to be run by a friend of someone I know. Small world.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Ames
I feel as if my journal has developed a stammer. Here's yesterday's entry:

Saturday afternoon: I just got railroaded off the road (the park road in front of our rv) by a bunch of fat old men who regard the whole road - the whole park, apparently - as their private bocce court. I went out to try to practise some bocce, myself, and I tried hard to stay out of their way. I even went so far as to go around the corner at the bottom of the road, and they followed me down there. Maybe their game goes all the way around the park. I understand that they play every day at this time, but this time is really the best time for anybody to play. There is a breeze, so it's not too hot, but the sun is still up, so you can see to play. I didn't mean to rain on their parade. I finally gave up on trying to stay out of their way, told them "Never mind. I'll go play in Acapulco or something."

So. Apart from the fact that I'm irritated right now at living in the middle of an Old Boys' Club, what else has happened today? Not much. This morning, we walked to the end of the beach again. Somebody had rearranged my tower of rocks. I just set half a coconut shell down beside them. An egret was lurking nearby, waiting, I suppose, for some poor fish to wash up. The red flags were up on the beach, but there were no waves to speak of. There must have been an undertow alert. While we were walking back, though, the waves started increasing in size and intensity. I got wet up to my hips, just walking along the edge of the surf.

When we got home, I made Robin a bacon and egg sandwich, then settled down for some serious attempts to get online. After a while, when I had given up and decided to go looking for an internet cafe, suddenly I was online, and the connection was wonderful for about two hours. I posted yesterday's journal, and I made great strides toward getting caught up on my discussion boards. Then the signal disappeared again, and I haven't been able to get on since. This afternoon, after my siesta, I walked downtown to El Espresso, ordered a mocha, and turned my computer on. There is an unsecured (Linksys) system there. "Limited or no connectivity." This just isn't my day.

On the other hand, while I was connected this morning, I managed to download Rachel Maddow's and Keith Olbermann's shows, so I can watch them tonight. And I'm reading an interesting book - The Farewell Symphony by Edmund White.

And on yet another hand, there was a young, brown-haired woman at the coffee shop, asking to have her thermos filled with cappuccino. She looked as if she had been picked up in 1965 and dropped into the next century. She was wearing a deep maroon t-shirt and a grey denim skirt. Under the skirt, and hanging several inches below it, was a lacy petticoat of indeterminate colour, which was torn at the back so that a loop of it hung even farther below her skirt. She wore sandals and a backpack, and on her head she had a grey cloth hat with a bit of a brim. Over all, she wore a layer of dust that gave her a sad, bedraggled look - not that the torn petticoat needed any help in that regard. On her right ankle was tattooed a five-pointed star. The star was the only part of her that looked clean.

The star reminded me of a time when I had a window sill full of plants. I took excellent care of those plants. No matter how messy the rest of my house - or my life - might be, that window sill was there for me to return to when I needed calm. Maybe my young woman looks at her ankle from time to time, and is consoled.

This evening, Robin met a young man named Alan, who comes from Belfast. Alan has been fishing from the shore every morning, but he hasn't been catching anything - so Robin lent him the kayak, and he went out with his rod and reel. He brought back his first fish of his holiday. It's not big, but it's a fish, and he is very proud. He's going to borrow the kayak again in the morning, to see if he can catch The Big One.

Robin has done a lot more exploring of Sayulita than I have, because he goes out on his bike. I've been hesitant to do that, because the roads are either unpaved or cobblestoned. Dirt roads are okay, generally, but cobblestones are vicious. I don't want to break either my bicycle or my head. Still, Sayulita is beginning to lose its charm for me, so I had better go out tomorrow and expand my horizons.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's Saturday morning. I seem to have wi-fi right now, so I'll quickly post yesterday's journal entry, while the posting is good!

January 9 - at least I think that's what day it is. Whoever is supposed to be working on the wireless here has been doing so all day, so now we have no wireless at all. I had better make a journal entry, though, to be posted tomorrow (or later, in case of miracle) - because the days just float by like clouds.

I spent most of today reading a wonderful book called Open House by Elizabeth Berg. I've written a blog entry about it for The Red Room, so I won't repeat it here - but I will say (particularly to any woman reading my journal) Read This Book. I haven't laughed so hard in months.

Between readings, let's see. Robin took his kayak out into the sea through formidable waves, communed with the surfers for a while, then tried to come back in, but got badly dumped. His paddle broke under the wave. Fortunately, he and Thiess (sp?), the owner of the park, were able to repair the paddle, using a piece of dowel. I took a bit of film of Robin in the kayak, and another bit of Robin staggering ashore - but I missed the actual dump, because I was busy getting a tattoo.

No, no, not a real tattoo. A henna tattoo that will last two weeks. At least, that's the theory. While it's there on my ankle, it is pretty, however long it lasts.

I made two forays into town in the course of the day. The first trip was just up the street, where I went to check out a different grocery store. On the way back, I smelled breakfast cooking, so I stopped and ate at an open-air restaurant right across the street from our park. I had ham and eggs and Mexican rice and Nescafe with cinnamon in it, and more corn tortillas than even I could eat.

Then there was a long period of not much but reading, interspersed with cups of tea.

At four o'clock (this is fast becoming a habit, the four o'clock, post-siesta shopping trip) I crossed the bridge into the main village, bought ground beef from the butcher and spaghetti from the grocer, then came home and prepared dinner.

Kristin told us that there's an open-air movie theatre a few blocks away. They show a film every night at 7 o'clock. That sounded great, and we planned to go down there tonight, but somehow we got busy - reading, both of us - and before we knew it, it was 8 o'clock.
That's the problem with life in the fast lane. Sometimes, it's just hard to keep up.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Before I cook the mahi-mahi I bought for tonight's dinner, I'll just fill you in on what was a fairly uneventful day, at least for us. Robin and I walked to the north end of our beach today, and I made a little pile of rocks on top of one of the boulders, so now I have something to aim for every morning. The tides are quite high right now, and this beach is known for its undertow, so I still haven't ventured in for a swim - just several shallow wades. The beach here is very different from Mazatlan's. The sand is much more coarse, so I think I'm getting a more efficient pedicure.

After I marked the top of the beach, we both sat down on a sandy shelf, scooping out comfortable seats, and we watched the waves for a while. Suddenly, there was a resounding BANG! behind us. I leapt up and turned around, and saw a coconut rolling to a stop about twenty feet behind us. I walked back and picked it up. It has milk in it, so now we have to figure out how to open it, not having a machete at hand.

Sometime in the morning, I heard the prawn vendor going by, so I checked to see whether he had any fish - no. Prawns two nights in a row would be too much, so I didn't buy any. On the way back home, I saw a lizard that looked like an iguana, but black. It was sunning itself on the pavement near the laundry room. I took its picture. When I mentioned it to Kris, she told me that that lizard has a poisonous bite, so I should stay away from it. Fortunately, it was totally uninterested in me.

We had a late breakfast followed by some strenuous reading and a siesta.

About 3:30, I decided it was cool enough to go shopping for dinner, so I did that. The fishmonger did have fish, fortunately, so I brought that home along with what staples I could find. What I couldn't find were tortillas. No tortillas? Gack.

The highlight of the day - or so it was meant to be - was when we walked down the beach for 5 p.m. TJ and Kris had seen swarms of people carrying baby turtles from the hatchery to the water, and they were told it was done between 5 and 5:30. So we all went to the big sign that reads "Vivero tortugas" and waited - but nobody came. We'll ask around and find out what the scoop is. Maybe it only happens once a week, or once a month.

They were also told that you have to be careful releasing the turtles, because they're protected by law, and if you kill one you'll be sent to jail for seven years. I've spent some time since pondering the contradictions inherent in a society that permits dogs to starve in the street, but imposes such strict penalties with respect to the turtles. Now I'm trying to figure out what equivalent contradictions there are in Canadian society.

The highlight of Kris's day was when she and TJ went to the beach north of our beach- the other side of the rocks I touched - and saw three well-built young men cavorting and posing naked on the beach.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

We are having such a great time here in Sayulita, Robin and I have decided to stay for the rest of the month. This morning I walked into the village, just to have a look around, and discovered that it's bigger than I thought - several streets worth of village that somehow remind me of Carmel, California - but hotter and dustier, with more flies. It's a very friendly place, with a warm, safe feeling about it.

I came home, gathered up the laundry, and took it to the park's laundromat, which consists of two washing machines and lots of clothesline, all outdoors. I will take pictures of it, because it's really cool.

Later, Kris came to get me to say she had found the perfect blouse for me, so back I went to the village, this time clothes shopping. How much better could it be?

The only downside of today was that first Kris's (brand-new) bicycle and then TJ's (brand-new bicycle) broke. TJ's is being repaired by a fellow in the village, but Kris's is so bad, she will have to wait and have it repaired in Puerto Vallarta. Her whole gear mechanism fell apart. I haven't even attempted to ride my bike here. Riding over cobblestones just isn't my thing.

On foot, I found the fishmonger and bought half a kilo of prawns, with which I made a perfectly lovely curry, if I do say so myself. While we were eating, Kris came to the door and told us that the restaurant next door was building a bonfire and had put chairs out on the beach - so when we finished, we went over and spent a couple of hours chatting with TJ, Kris, the waiters, and a couple from Seattle who were enjoying their last evening here.

I'll cut this post short, as I seem to have enough bandwidth right now to push Submit and have it work.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I am in Sayulita, sitting at a stool in what is supposed to be an internet cafe. At the moment, it's this room with two computers in it, plus the room behind, in which there are books in English for sale. The rest of the place is in a state of mid-destruction/construction. The very nice owner (from Edmonton) says he hopes to get everything up and running in a couple of weeks. I couldn't get the wi/fi to work, so I'm going to have to re-type my journal onto this keyboard that isn't quite the same as the ones we have at home. Bear with me.

I'll start with last night's journal, which I wrote in San Blas.

January 5, 2009

We left Mazatlan at around 10 o'clock this morning. Aren't we getting to be the casual travelers, though? About an hour later, we stopped at a restaurant along the highway. Robin was planning to have soup in the motor home, but TJ had a yen for tacos. When I saw the restaurant, I suggested we all go in and have a sit-down meal, and Robin agreed. We had ham and eggs and frijoles with a rather lively little salsa and lots of warm tortillas. They didn't serve tacos. The place five minutes farther down the road did, of course.

I was tired, not having slept much, so I made the mistake of asking for cafe con leche. Usually, I remember to ask for the cafe and then casualy mention the leche a bit later. So this time, what arrived at the table were two cups of hot milk, along with a jar of Nescafe freeze-dried and a jar of sugar. (Here ya go - help yourself) We groaned, spooned coffee and sugar into our hot milk, sipped, and decided that this was pretty good, after all.

We noticed that the back garden was full of plants - all identical, in pots, with a net roof about twenty feet overhead. The waitress told me they were mango plants. Now, riding down the road, I can spot the trees and call out "mango grove" - as well as "agave plantation" - "banana grove" - Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore.

Somewhere near Rosario, we were blocked from using the free road. We obediently went onto the toll road. That ended up costing us 256 pesos - the biggest toll we've paid on this trip. As soon as we were able, we went back to the free road.

I really enjoyed today's drive. There were so many things to see alongside the road - a cowboy astride his galloping horse, lasso coiled and ready - several burros, lots of horses and cattle. Some of the cattle looked as if they belonged in India rather than in Mexico - dirty white in colour, thin, with humps above their shoulders. After we had eaten breakfast, we passed through a town in which everybody (everybody!) was selling dried shrimp - and shrimp tamales. Had I been driving at the time, I might have stopped and bought a couple of tamales, breakfast or no breakfast - but I didn't want to make Robin stop in the middle of the town, with cars whizzing past in all directions. Another town was full of bicycles. There were trucks and cars, too - but a lot of them were parked and pretty well everybody seemed to be riding bicycles.

We followed the directions in our new Mexican road atlas, and now we are in San Blas, mosquito-sand flea-no-see-em capital of the world. Robin was reading the Mexican camping book while I drove. He informed me that we had missed another feature of San Blas - the crocodiles. Don't you just want to be here?

After he hooked up the electricity and water, Robin went for a cycle ride. So did TJ and Kris. I stayed behind to be the unarmed guard. I did plan to go along, but by the time we got settled in, it was after four o'clock, and I pictured myself cycling home in the dusk, dodging cobblestones while swatting any number of vile, biting, blood-sucking creatures. No, thanks. Sunset is fast approaching. I want it known that I am sitting inside the rv with the air conditioning on, all windows and doors closed, and no intention of going outside until tomorrow, when we're on our way to Puerto Vallarta.


So that was yesterday.


January 6, 2009

What a great day! First of all, I managed to escape from San Blas without being eaten alive. I kept my word - didn't leave the rv at all. It was a little odd, but there you go. I survived. The scenery down here is wonderful. I missed the chance to buy star fruit alongside the road, but a while later we had to stop for a moment to secure something on the outside of the rv that was slipping a bit. We were in front of a very large fruit stand. I bought a bunch of those little bananas (maybe four inches long?) that we see from time to time in Canada. They were hanging from a rod quite high over my head, so I asked for help. How many did I want? Oh, six or seven. A young man reached up with a long pole and brought down a stalk on which were two or three bunches - twenty-three little bananas. I figured it was fate. I took the whole thing. TJ and Kris can have some of the bananas. I also bought a pineapple. Robin picked up a lime-flavoured (local) popsicle, and I bought a package of ten locally made coconut macaroons shaped like croquettes. The bill came to 60 pesos altogether. Oh, how I love coconut macaroons.

We stopped briefly at Rincon de Guayabitos, because somebody in San Carlos had recommended it, but Robin disliked it on sight, and I think the feeling was mutual. Every way we turned, we ended up having to back out because it was a dead end, or a construction zone, or possessed by devils. Anyway, we decided to keep going another twenty minutes to Sayulita, because it sounded great in the Mexican Camping book.

The temperature has been moderate - mid 20s - all day, and here at Sayulita (about 40 km north of Puerto Vallarta) there is a cool, very pleasant breeze. We've checked into the Sayulita Trailer Park, which came highly recommended. I haven't had a chance to look around the village much yet, but I love the park. We're about 30 seconds from the beach, tucked into a very tight space that nonetheless has a patio - with even a cement shelf unit at the back, where we could put our barbecue, if we had such a thing. It will be perfect for books, glasses, etc. We have a tree - a big one - but I don't know what kind it is. We also have honeysuckle and hibiscus. Our neighbour to the right has a Great Pyrenees, and the one on the left has a Dachshund, so I don't think we need to worry about intruders.

TJ and Kris are two spaces down, just beyond the Dachshund. They like it here, as well, but they may only stay a couple of days and then go on to Puerto Vallarta, where Colleen and Wade are going to stay. They're a couple of days behind us. Puerto Vallarta is just a bit livelier than Robin and I want, but if we were thirty years younger, we'd probably want to go there, too. When we all decide to leave Puerto Vallarta and head east, we'll hook up again.

I typed all this into my computer while I waited for word on the wi-fi situation. I gather there have been some problems with it, and somebody has gone into Puerto Vallarta to get somebody else to come in and deal with it.

Meanwhile, Robin found the internet cafe, so here I am, typing it all again. I sure hope the wi-fi get fixed soon.

Oh, and there's a bus every half hour that goes into Puerto Vallarta, so we may spend a day there, just to say we did.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I'm staring at the coffee mugs hanging from their hooks. They'll have to be put away now, ready for the morning. It's funny how quickly you spread out - or at least, I do. Even after two weeks here in Mazatlan, it feels to me as if tomorrow were really "moving day", not just the day we move on.

Robin is poring over maps and the ever-useful Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping. We aren't sure how far we'll drive tomorrow. San Blas would be a logical stopping place in terms of distance and time - but both the book and scuttlebutt declare it to be infested with mosquitoes, sand fleas, and no-see-ems. To me, it just doesn't sound like a great spot to camp. Something a bit inland, maybe? I don't think we want to drive all the way to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow, so we will have to figure out a stopping point, but I'd sooner it wasn't San Blas.

Today was just another day in paradise - at least, as long as we were on the beach. The waves are still high, and it never did get really hot, so for me it was ideal. I did have to take the bus to the supermarket for a few things, but that didn't take long. While I was there, I sat and had a cup of coffee and a croissant. Of course, I had left my book inside my backpack. You have to check things like backpacks when you go into a Mexican supermarket. I had had it in my head that I would sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while I read my new Michael Ondaatje book. It wasn't until the young man was pouring my coffee that I saw the flaw in my plan. ;>) So I sat and sipped and munched and watched people, instead. Then, my booklessness reminded me that Robin wanted to buy a new road atlas he had read about - so I picked that up and put it in the cart. I forgot to buy eggs, but that was just as well, because what I had bought filled my backpack. With only my backpack, I was able to go across the road and take the bus that pulled up just in time, rather than taking yet another taxi. Later, I cycled up to the local market and bought the eggs. I needed the exercise, anyway.

Good night. If I disappear for a few days, that just means I'm, god forbid, Not Connected. I'll be back just as soon as I can!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

On the way to Mr. Lionso's this morning, Robin commented that there were no birds flying over the water - and nobody swimming.There was a mist heavy enough to obscure the city to the south of us. When we got to the top of the beach, though, we could see a group of surfers bobbing in the water, waiting for a wave. The waves were huge. There must have been one hell of a storm somewhere on the Pacific last night, to produce that kind of surge. Surfer heaven. I was enjoying the view so much, I had to tear myself away to go home and make breakfast. As for the birds, they were just a bit late, that's all. On the way back, we watched the pelicans, the ultimate surfers, skimming just above the surface of the waves. The view was absolutely enchanting.

After breakfast, Robin went out for a bike ride, and I took my new canvas chair out to the beach, where I sat lazily, reading and listening to the surf, loving the cool breeze, until I remembered that even on overcast days, it's still possible to burn.

Later, we cycled up to the top of the street in search of some fish for dinner, but the only fish we saw for sale were whole ones, and I wasn't prepared for that kind of project. I really wanted some filets, or at least a cleaned fish. So we came home empty-handed. I have no idea what's for dinner.

We've decided to stay here until Monday morning, so that we can leave with TJ and Kristin. They've gone to something called the Purple Onion to watch football. I'm hoping that either tomorrow, or sometime soon when we're down at Puerto Vallarta, we can all have a bike ride together. They went out yesterday and bought bicycles, having borrowed ours a couple of times and figured out what they were missing!

Meanwhile, though, I have one more bike ride to do today - down the street in the other direction, to buy milk and eggs. Maybe we can have an omelette for dinner. ;>)

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy birthday to Robin.

He decided this morning to take the kayak out. In our two weeks here, the only people that had kayaked were TJ and Kris. So out he went. I stayed here to have my breakfast and a shower.

When Robin returned, he was wet. It seems that getting out through the surf was no problem, but getting back was another matter. He got dumped.

The two of us then got on our bikes and headed up to the Looney Bean for coffee, after which R went to check on the lagoon while I came home to make breakfast for him.

After breakfast, we caught a bus to go to Wal-Mart, but it turned out we had to get off at the DQ and catch another bus, which was easier said than done. In the end, we caught a cab (one of the golf cart types), and it was only 40 pesos from there to Wal-Mart. I think that a similar cab ride in Nanaimo would have been worth about $20.

At Wal-Mart, I bought the folding canvas chair I've been looking for. We have two of them at home, but they're not doing us any good here. Robin doesn't care for them, anyway, so we just bought one. Robin found a supply of British Bovril, which he regards as his birthday present.

We cabbed home. I ate lunch, played on the computer for a while, then caught yet another bus to go have my hair cut. We're ready to leave, and all of a sudden we're learning All About Mazatlan.

Robin has a prescription for sleeping pills to tackle occasional bouts of insomnia, so while I was in town I took the prescription into a drugstore that advertised itself as English speaking. Sure enough, the pharmacist spoke excellent English. He told me that yes, he carried the medicine I wanted, and it was 900 pesos ($90) for 30 tablets - about three times what it costs in Canada. Since R still has some pills left, I said no, thank you. I'm glad it wasn't something he needed right away.

Home again, we watched the sunset and had dinner, after which TJ and Kris joined us for Birthday Movie Night in Mazatlan - We watched "Breaker Morant", Robin's favourite movie.

And speaking of sunsets, that's Kris's photo on the right. The lovers silhouetted against the sunset are Colleen and Wade. Great shot. And that reminds me - I've belatedly put some of Kris's pictures in the "El Quelite" post.

We are scheduled to leave here tomorrow morning, but TJ wants to stay in town until Monday, because there's a football game (or two?) he wants to watch this weekend, and friends of his here in Mazatlan are planning to watch it. So - we may be leaving tomorrow, or we may wait for TJ and Kris. (Report to follow in the morning)

Sorry, folks, for this disjointed post. I'll try to be more coherent tomorrow. It's been a long day.

Photo courtesy of Kristin Ames

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