Saturday, January 24, 2009

Still Here Puerto...

January 24, 2009

Yeah, we are still here…more than a month now. We’ve grown pretty attached to this city. The beach is the best, the weather perfect, the city has everything you need and as always the Mexicans are very friendly and happy.

Pestel is made from one solid wood block.

This is the finca's mini hydroelectric plant: an automobile alternater hooked to a water wheel run by gravity-fed water.

Thursday we travelled with our friend Tami about an hour and a half north to the coffee plantation Finca (farm) de Nieves(snow). Gustavo was our guide on this beautiful 800 acre farm named for the white flowers that bloom on the coffee plants in spring. For my friends who think pushing a pencil is tough work, the plants are grown on steep hillsides which make for some tough picking by the Mexican workers. It was difficult just walking up the hillsides.

Finca farm is self-sufficient with it's own water source.

Wild horses showed up on finca during our hike.

As for the rest of the week Pat spent time at a local clinic, took spanish classes and played tennis. I just lazed out at the beach with the boogie board, played a little tennis and watched the market.

We have also been watching more DVDs than we ever did in the states. The city has many vendors that sell first run videos that are obviously pirated for 25 pesos(about $2). This week I wanted to see the new James Bond flick. I walked into the store and asked for a James Bond movie. At first the senora was bewildered then she lit up and said "Ah, cero cero siete". We watch them on our laptop out on the balcony under the stars. You gotta love Mexico.

Interesting insects: Golden ant and a nest of what we call "Grand Daddy Long-legs".....looks like a horses' tail.

Yes, 10s of thousands of spiders!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Another week slips by in Puerto.

January 15, 2009

Mexican tarantula takes siesta on trail.

My advancement in Spanish is coming along well. I found an English-speaking Spanish teacher and what a difference it has made in my progress. However, disappointment has come along in the medical volunteer scene. I’ve been in contact with a local that works with an NPO and places volunteers at clinics in the area. She informed me after the holidays she can put me with a physician at a local clinic and would be in contact with me. Since our return and several attempts at contacting her I have not heard a word. Interesting and hard to understand as dermatology providers are the busiest and one of the most in-demand specialists in the US. It’s disappointing that I’m not able to use my Spanish as much as I would like, use my medical skills and learn more about the practice of medicine here in Oaxaca. I guess there are worse things.

Meanwhile, our van has taken some wear and tear and is in need of repairs. The brake problem was the master-cylinder which was replaced by expert mechanics. Two days later Bruce made a return visit to change out our leaking water pump. The mechanics that worked on the van were top-notch guys; however, Bruce bemoans the fact that he is not able to work on his “own stuff”. He loves nothing more than to get his hands greasy and without the proper equipment to do the work, he’s at the mercy of local mechanics.

Enough complaining though, our days start with a walk on the beach just before sun up, then a leisurely fruit breakfast, by 11am we’re either reading, going to the market or just lounging around. By 1 or 2pm we take a nap, play tennis in the late afternoon, and have an early dinner, then watch a movie on our laptop on the terrace under the stars. Movie watching has always been a rarity for us, so we have a lot of catching up to do. By 830pm we’re ready for bed.

Trail goes between farming property in ancient riverbed.

Nursing donkey on trail, Bruce kept his distance.

River crossings are safe this time of year. They are too swollen to cross during rainy season in August, September and October.

To break up the monotony Tami took us out on a hike to Manialtepec hot springs. Fifteen miles west of Puerto on Hwy 200 we drove to San Jose de Manialtepec, a small pueblo where we parked our car and walk about 3 miles to a hot springs. Millie, Tami’s Golden Retriever gladly accompanied us. To get to the hot springs we have to make 5 shallow river crossings. The spring’s hot water was collected in a cement pond that we all sat in once acclimated to the temperature, which I’m guessing was 110F. The small spring bubbled from under large rocks and had the common sulfur aroma. It was a refreshing stop. We snacked, relaxed, and watched butterflies and birds.
Hot springs dipping reservoir.

Hot springs runoff.

Flat Stanley joins Tami in Puerto and on all her excursions. Visiting shrine at hot springs.

On our way back we stopped by a Manialtepec lagoon restaurant for fresh seafood. One of the wonders of Mexico is the cost of fresh seafood. An expensive dinner out in the US; a common meal for Mexicans. We three had fresh shrimp (large ones!) and some sort of bass made Mexican style, quesadillas, home-made tortillas and totopas (chips), various salsas and three beers for $20USDs (230 pesos) including tip.

Restaurant shows off alligator carcass along kayaks.

Bruce and Millie enjoy ride home.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back in Puerto, Oaxaca

January 7, 2009
Mexican street dogs taking their siesta.

Bruce and I have been south of the border for over 3 months now and have never encountered trouble finding a place to stay…with the exception of Tulum on the Yucatan. We were told that Puerto and the Mexican beach towns fill up during the holidays, something we’ve never seen……..there’s a first time for everything. That’s what we love about the van; we are never without a home. Away from Puerto we slept in the van but now that we’re back we’d like to find an apartment or similar to rent for the next month or two. Turns out January and February are the busiest months for rentals. Canadians love this town and for some reason can no longer tolerate the minus 50 degrees in their native land. They’ve even put together a blues fest for the months of January and February. The gringo scene includes representatives from most first world countries (Brits, Aussies, French, even met a couple of Greeks) and this season few US citizens. These gringos really know how to take a vacation; they come down for a month or four at a time.

Fortunately for us, my new-found tennis buddy manages a suites residence and was able accommodate us until the end of the month. Good thing because two days after arriving her place was completely full. Casa Mar is a paradise on the south end of Zicatela beach. It's a 12 suite compound with a tropical courtyard, pool, wireless internet, all have fully equiped kitchens and are within a couple of hundred yards from the beach. Although we have to drive to the market, the quietness is a nice trade-off. We will have to find another place at the end of January, move back into the van, or move on down the road.

Meanwhile, Bruce is back to trading and watchingthe market and I’m working on my Spanish and am to meet with someone next week regarding medical volunteering. There are “local laws” to foreigners volunteering in Oaxaca, so I must go through the proper channels. Might as well enjoy the chronically warm weather, play tennis, study Spanish and eat some of the best food in all of Mexico.
Ms. Millie, the irresistable house dog.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January 1, 2009

We celebrated New Years Eve camped on a beach somewhere between Zihuatenajo and Manzinillo. A perfect way to end 2008 and start 2009.

The last time we drove along this coastal road we couldn't wait to get into the highlands. It was so hot and muggy we could barely stand it. Now, it's dry, the temperature has dropped and its comfortable. Also, the roadwork going on in October has been completed making our drive easier.

We left Puerto on the 29th, Bruce and I considered staying but felt the urge to get on the road and move, our landlord had the place rented out from 12/29 till the end of March. We enjoyed Puerto and figured if we missed it we can always come back.....well 3 days and 500 miles out we decided to return. Now we know what Taz felt like when she chased her tail. We'll see about finding a place for the next couple of months.

January 1, 2009 Tizupan, Michoacan Mexico