Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays!

December 26, 2008

Photo left: Sierra Madre Sur of Oaxaca.

There are very few signs of Christmas here in Puerto Escondido. Few lights, no Christmas trees and a wonderful lack of commercial bombardment. Hence, no road-rage or stressed-out shoppers.

The evening of the 24th Bruce and I spent with Tami, independent woman extraordinaire, on the fourth floor of her current residence watching the sun go down, enjoying wine, guacamole, Oaxaquena cheese and each others company. The following morning she and I played singles and afterwards Bruce and I went for a nice brunch at Los Tugas.

This restaurant has a million dollar view and excellent food! It is set on a cliff overlooking the clear blue waters of Playa Carrizalillo bordered by two rocky points and the Pacific in the background. We were lucky to catch a view of actively breaching whales right off one of the points. Whales are making their southward migration and were putting on a show! Sorry no photos, my camera is too slow.
This has to be one of our most memorable holiday seasons ever.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Photos from Mexico and Guatemala


Cutting board and knife.

4- burner stove; Oaxaquenan sharpens his knife.

The meat shop.
Meat source.
Food for the future.
The perfect beach restaurant: sand floor and shaded eating area, 12 pesos Coronas .

Housework and cleaning.
In Antigua, this is a manual laundromat. This traditionally is a womans job.
Close up of sink, the bottom is slanted with ridges and has a hole drainage.

After washing, hang them out to dry. Wouldn't work in WA state.

Transportation Work truck overloaded, tail light is out, tailpipe sputtering fumes and they still go to work.
Son takes mother to work on motorbike. No helmets or regulations. We frequently see families of 4 on one small motor bike.

I've seen many cattle guards but none in a city (Puerto Escondido).

Child labor

It is not unusual to see children working, this 8 or 9 y/o walks around with his shoe shine box asking strangers if they would like a shoe shine.

Children often help with family business, be it a restaurant, fishing or running a store. Nothing prohibits children from's just part of their culture.

This 12 y/o girl keeps part of the beach clean and organizes the chaise lounges and umbrellas for patrons and collects the money for their rental. She also serves beer.

In Tikal, Guatemala the biggest anthill we've ever seen.
To grow the crops, the Guatematecas cut down their trees (I'm sure they use the wood) then burn the land to prepare for farming.....the ole slash and burn agriculture.

This old yoke is made into a plant holder. I think it looks great!

Church has graphic display of Jesus in a coffin.


Police in pick-ups drive about towns. We have driven the wrong way on one-way streets, sped past police, coasted through red lights and have never been pulled over. The street laws are really suggestions and everyone gets along just fine. I think their biggest concern is drogas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

December 19, 2008

Puerto is a town for surfers and everyone else. There are great waves to watch and ride for beginners and advanced surfers. This is a tourist town with a solid and beautiful Mexican atmosphere. We found it a great place to hang out for a couple of weeks.

We wanted to hold any traveling during Christmas and luckily we landed a cozy apt until 12/29. The owner of the hotel we stayed upon our arrival directed us to his friend who had this apt open until the end of December. It has a beach view, wireless internet, and satellite TV w/business channels and is within walking distance of el centro, which has a great veggie market, a gym, restaurants and anything else we may need. Plus, our temporary landlord is an avid tennis player also.

Apt has complete kitchen (with gas stove and oven)and fully furnished.

I, fortunately, was invited to play doubles with their group who then introduced me to a very good female singles player…does it get any better? Now, after a few days I’ve been playing mixed doubles and have a very good singles player to compete against….other than Bruce…..who, surprisingly, will join us for mixed doubles at some point. He may actually socialize as well!
Photo of alley walking to Aldoquin near Playa Principal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pacific Coast Sunrise and Sunset

December 12, 2008

Today we've seen the sunrise and set over the Pacific...named by Magellan Mare Pacificum, aka the Ocean Sea...aptly, the "peaceful sea". Huatulco faces SSE from Chahue beach and according to a local you can see the sunrise in the months of October through December. However, the sunsets over the mountain range in that area. Being our last day (for the moment) we strolled to the beach to watch the glorious daily phenomenon we take for granted: a brilliant fuschia sunrise.

Snail moseys toward the water.

Afterwards, we drove on to Puerto Angel in hopes to stay at a beautiful hotel overlooking the beach but the negotiation process hit a snag when after agreement the manager wanted us to wait for an hour and a half for his boss to arrive. Also, it was one of those areas in which the locals surrounded the van, making Bruce suspicious and weary. Bruce never likes it when ppl chase the van, he feels like he's in the movie, "Village of the Damned"....if they only knew they'd get more from him if they respect his space. I am saddened as it seems these people are just desperate and business as usual. We had lunch there and had the best "enchiladas pollo con mole" of our trip. Of all the places we've been Oaxaquena food rates #1!

Onward to Puerto Escondido. We wanted to ck out this town a bit more than we did 6 weeks ago. Turns out we found a perfect little room in a quiet area near the beach, with a great pool, deck to watch the sunset, excellent wireless, and within walking distance to some really good restaurants. For only 250 pesos/night ($19.25USD). The owner happens to be a tennis nut so we hit it off immediately. It was so hot, we could not wait to take a dip in the pool...which was so cold! Afterwards we went to the top deck and watched the sunset over the Pacific. Puerto Escondido beach faces directly west so we saw the sun fade behind the hazy clouds, drop into an open space in the clouds into a brilliant well-demarcated fuschia color before dipping into the peaceful sea. The daily miracles never cease.....come to think of it, only when sailing have we ever seen the sunrise and sunset over the same ocean in one day...this is our first from land.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

La Crucecita, Oaxaca

December 11, 2008

We’ve been in the Huatulco area for 10 days and are settling into a routine: slowly get up, sometimes walk to the beach and watch the sunrise, slowly make coffee and tea, watch the opening market bell, ck the internet, eat fresh fruit and by 11am we’re wondering how to fill in the rest of the day. We go to the gym, food market, drive around or sit in the shade at our favorite beach. Bruce has come to the conclusion that he wouldn’t mind being here year round. I can take 3 months of the year, maybe 6 but there is no way I can stay here in the summer, it’s just too hot. Right now the temps are in the mid-eighties.

Local fisherman out early. None of them had fishing rods, they used PVC pipe, small buckets, anything round to wind their line the practicality.

There are many reasons to like this place. The beaches are small in size and many in number, the bird wildlife is abundant, the water is clean and warm, and the central town (La Crucecita) has everything you need. Also the fact that it is not crowded and although the full tourist onslaught will eventually arrive, it’s about 4-5 years away and the Mexican feel is still present. The continued building here is in anticipation of the "build it and they will come"...hence many places to choose from. We befriended a local businessman who said this area is what Cabo San Lucas looked like 15 years ago. Oh yeah, they have a golf course and tennis courts.

So, we will head out tomorrow and cruise along the west coast to see what else we find. If we find we miss this area we may be back.
One of several condo projects.

Hotel Eden Costa is a small hotel with jr. suites (w/mini-kitchen) within walking distance to Chahue beach and La Crucecita.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bahias de Huatulco, Oaxaca Mexico

December 7, 2008
Chahue beach, one of the main beaches.

Our first week in Huatulco has been uneventful: perfect weather, clean uncrowded beaches, light traffic, good food and a nice tranquilo atmosphere. The only problem thus far is the discotec next door played their music a bit loudly last night. We've gotten used to the constant sound of music in Mexico.

Students l>r: Tomasa, Ana Luz, camera man, and Eduardo.
Last week in the zocolo we were approached by high school students wanting to practice their English which we gladly obliged sitting in the shade asking questions back and forth. Afterwards they asked if we'd meet them the next day so we agreed. Unbeknownst to us they were planning their project of interviewing English speakers on film. We arrived the following day disheveled, uncombed hair and ready to go the gym afterwards. Their camera man was there and they were dressed handsomely in their school uniforms. (BTW, it appears all Mexican schools require uniforms.) We proceeded with the interview trying to speak clearly and distinctly (the loudly part is no problem for us). After an hour they expressed appreciation for our time and gave us a couple of gifts. These students came from their homes, some living as far as a three hour drive, others living about 45 minutes away. The two girls, Tomasa and Ana Luz, plan to go to college to become system engineers and Eduardo plans to be a civil engineer.

Nice quiet marina.

Throughout the rest of the week we drove around exploring the area. There are many condos in the works and many condo (or hotel) projects abandoned. Hotels are now starting to pick up but still appear more than 60% empty. The Mexican FONATUR group has designated this area to best be preserved ecologically and they were hopeful this would be a ritzy tourist destination as well. Hence, high-end hotels on the beach, a championship golf course, zoning for homes and condos, etc. I don't think they,or anyone else, expected the economy to be what it is this season. There are beautifully laid out walk areas near the main beaches and quasi-zocolos off the main street that are in the process of being taken over by mother nature.
Condos or hotel right on Chahue beach abandon project.

They have made access to their pristine beaches easy and keep them clean. Most beaches have small hut-like restaurants nearby or off to the side. Our favorite beach so far is a small beach, out of the mainstream with a huge tree that provides excellent shade....I call it the dermatologists' dream beach. The water is warm and clear with gentle waves and there is a break of rocks providing some protection. We have only seen Mexican families at this beach thus far. Bruce especially likes the 20 peso Coronas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tonala to Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico

December 1, 2008

The drive from Tonala to Huatulco was pretty much standard except the winding hilly roads played havoc with our already bad brakes. It seems that when I put a lot of strain on them they get very spongy to the point of going almost all the way to the floor. Probably needs a new master cylinder. One of the first things I did once we got settled in Huatulco was to take the van to the local Goodyear store. I asked them rotate the tires, which needed to be done, but I really wanted to get a look at the front disc pads. They were about 75% worn so I had them put new brake pads on the front and evacuate all the old brake fluid and put in new. All for $50 USD. The brakes feel better but we’ll see once get back on the road. I’ll have the master cylinder changed if this doesn’t work. One thing I miss about not having a real home anymore is the fact I can't do the work on the van myself. It was always a great pleasure to me. I will say though that the cost of labor in Mexico is very cheap and the Mexicans work very hard. As an example we had the van washed in Huatulco. The cost was 60 pesos, about $5. Two young men spent more than an hour throughly washing the van top to bottom, inside and out. I couldn't have done a better job.

I almost forgot that we were also searched by the military at one of their checkpoints and the "officer" (I use the term loosely) managed to get a "gift" from us. He got in the back of the van and was meticulously looking at every little thing we had in there. I got suspicious and watched him very closely or he probably would have just taken a few things. He would pick up something, turn to Pat and say "Regalo?" (gift). Pat said "No, es importante" or "Yo necessito". As it turned out Pat gave him a trinket-looking flashlight with a value of about nothing. It made me slightly hot under the collar and I just stared at him. Finally he forcefully told us to move on and we slowly drove away. It was hard not to confront the guy but we had to weigh up whether it was worth it so we just chalked it up to experience.

View of Santa Cruz, main beach town in this area.

Our first night we stayed in a nice hotel with a beautiful view of one of the 3 bays of Huatulco. We are still getting good deals on the rooms with us receiving about 35-40% off the posted price. Every hotel recepcionista tells us that they are completely booked starting December 18th or some such date through the first of the year but Pat and I think that is wishful thinking since we keep getting great deals. And when we glance at their reservation book it looks suspiciously open.

View outside our room at 4-star hotel - 58USDs.
Our second night we switched to a hotel closer to the small town of La Crucecita which has a beautiful zocolo and church. Restaurants and shops ring the zocolo and the town is lively all day and night. La Crucecita is our kinda of town. It has a colonial feel to it but is about half a mile from the beach.

The zocolo is clean, plenty of benches, restaurants to lounge, Dominican style church overlooks the zocolo.
One problem with traveling is that our diet has suffered. The Mexican diet does not includes a whole lot of vegetables (we eat them cautiously) and anyone who knows Pat knows she loves her verduras. So with that in mind we searched for a hotel room or condo with a cocina. We found the perfect place (Hotel Eden Costa)while driving around town so we booked it for 10 days with an option for 8 more. The pool is right out the sliding glass door, they have mucho channels on Sky satellite tv, beach is a 5 minute walk and Pat has her cocina.

Bahia de Huatulco has many small unspoiled and uncrowded beaches.