Just another average sunset in paradise!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Odds and ends

My new shower.

My regular readers already know how much I like using the solar shower outdoors.  Up on the hill I have complete privacy and don't even have to use a towel as it is always warm enough to air dry.  While air drying on the patio I am also getting an all-over tan!

It's always 5 o'clock somewhere.  The clock in la casa is broken and it was stopped at 3:20.  I quickly decided it should always read just after 5 so it is always cocktail time!

A cruise ship with 650 German passengers came to San Blas last week.  It anchored just off the point and stayed from dawn til a couple of hours after sunset.  I am trying not to bore readers with sunset shots as sometimes it feels like I am bragging.  So, I didn't have my camera with me for that sunset and, of course, I regretted it.  The picture below is the sunset the night after the ship left but is very similar.  You just need to imagine a large ship off in the distance that is the same bright orange as the sunset.  You might also want to imagine the same ship all lit up at night with its reflection shining off the ocean.  

Semana Santa does not begin until April 1 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 8.  Easter is a very big deal in this mainly Catholic country.  Festivities are planned for every day for eight straight days.  All the local stores, restaurants, hotels and RV parks make a large portion of their annual revenue during during this week.  The beach is free in Mexico so it is first come, first served.  Some enterprising locals are building ramadas on the beach where there are no restaurants or residences.  They will then rent out the ramadas for daily use and possibly for tents.  

This is the same beach we cleaned on Friday last week.  These guys are also cleaning up the vacant lot just off the beach and picking up some things like palm fronds that we considered natural and did not pick up.

Biggest iguana I have ever seen! 

Wikipedia has helped me identify the type of iguanas on the hill as Black Spiny-backed Iguanas.  Some of the info they provided is that they are insectivors at berth, eat anything in between and are herbivores as the mature.  They have been clocked at 27 miles per hour making them the fastest lizard on Earth and they grow to 4'11".  I am guessing the 4'11" maybe the biggest ever recorded.

I was at the little patio yesterday and this big fella was eating some of the new growth on the hill.  He didn't seem to care as much about my presence as the smaller iguanas do.  I had plenty of time to go get my camera and take a few shots.  I also had time to count out his length in feet and inches and my calculation is that he is very near the world record.  He is well over 4' and approaching 5' with some of the most beautiful markings I have ever seen.  Mating season is upon us and in the iguana mating season, size really does matter.  I am sure this guy will be very busy all Spring!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Birds and animals

I spend several hours daily out on the patio.  I am reading most of the time but at the end of every chapter I stop to look out at the ocean, beach and village.  Very seldom to I take in the view without seeing wildlife.  The birds are always there: pelicans, frigates, vultures, doves, herons and egrets.

One day last week as I stood up two tejones were walking on the path down below.  Tejon means badger in Spanish but it is used in the vernacular to describe several varieties of mammals similar to the badger.  I didn't have my camera with me and did not want to fetch it and miss the parade.  I took the picture below off the internet and credit for the great shot goes to Jorge Luis R. Tagle.
The two I saw looked exactly like these

Two weeks ago I saw a large iguana on the side of the beach road right below the house but I couldn't get my camera out of my pocket in time to get a picture.  No matter, after the big thunder storm we had last week iguanas are all over the place.  You have to be sneaky to get close up photos as they run and hide.

You can't tell from the pictures but these guys are between 2 and 3 feet long.  

The bird species vary weekly as migration continues.  In Huntington Beach we only had crows, doves and sparrows; nothing with any color.  Here there are birds of all sizes and colors.  Most of the time they are either too quick or too far away to get photos but I keep trying.

There is also a resident family of grey squirrels that use the trees just off the patio as their own highway.  Yesterday there were at least 8 that ran by all at once.  They look just like the squirrels you find in the mountains of California and the northwest states.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Finally painting

As you may know, it takes me about ten times as long to plan work as it does to complete it.  After ten days of looking at the full paint cans I started work on the kitchen.  I patched the walls and counter top; sanded the counter top and then applied paint.  The whole job took less than a day.



I still need to apply a second coat of paint and then a coat of varnish on the counter top but it may take several days of planning to start the project.  I did, however, complete a project on the spur of the moment yesterday  morning.  The area right outside the door had accumulated some junk and trash.  Jesus (the caretaker) was there to help so we removed the clutter and made a flower bed.  The bricks were just sitting there but the dirt had to be hauled over the wall by the bathtub one bucket at a time (20 buckets).  I will plant sunflowers in the back and asters in the front.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beach Clean-up Day

Two young Americans who live in Aticama 6 months a year organized a beach clean-up day!  Bill, Gabriele, Delia and I had plans to go whale watching on Friday but canceled the trip in order to participate in the clean-up.  Almost 20 people showed up and we filled 50 extra large bags with trash.  Six of the bags were plastic bottles for recycling.

The beach clean-up organizers next to one of three trucks we filled.

No, Sarah is not in jail!  This is the Sunday farmers market where you can buy vegetable, plants, coffee and lots of food treats.  If you look to the right of the door you can see Crista and Teesha standing in front of the poster they made to advertise the beach clean-up.  Those of you who have spent any time in Mexico are familiar with the mobile audio advertising where a truck equipped with loud speakers drives around town playing a recording advertising restaurants, markets, etc.  All day Thursday the truck blasted out a message asking for volunteers to help at the beach; pretty cool.

We cleaned the entire beach and road from here to the yellow dot

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A trip to Tepic

Last Wednesday I drove Dod to Tepic with Bill as a passenger.  Tepic is the capital city of the state of Nayarit and is the closest big city.  Our trip was a total of 70 miles and takes about 1 1/2 hours each way.  I know that seems slow but the road is winding and up hill most of the way to Tepic.  It is a scenic road traveling through thick jungle and groves of mangoes.  The cost of gas for Dod is about $20. so I need a good reason to make the trip.

I had two good reasons and they both involve Walmart.  First I needed supplies and since Wednesday was payday I decided to buy a one month supply of a few things you can't get in Aticama or San Blas and also some things that are available but very expensive locally.  Scotch is 240 pesos for 750 ml locally and 90 pesos at Walmart; and Walmart sells a 1.5 ltr bottle for only 149 pesos.  I got enough to last at least a month.  I also stocked up on frozen foods (not available locally) and packaged meat and deli items.

The second reason was to purchase paint and painting supplies.  A 4 liter can of paint is 480 pesos in San Blas but only 190 pesos at Walmart.  Walmart also mixes the colors from a large variety.  In San Blas you have to pick from about 20 colors and then it has to be ordered.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It never rains in February

Well, that's what all the locals say.  I say "never say never" as it has rained three times already this month with a whopper of a thunder storm in the middle of the night Wednesday.  It poured down for almost two hours.  It has also been overcast between storms.  I don't mind because the overcast sky provides another prospective to the great views.

Bill invited me to join him and some friends on a whale watching excursion.  There was a heavy mist in the air when we arrived at the home of Gabriele (Gabi).  Gabi is from Germany and lives here year round.  She rents a very nice duplex right on the beach just a few kilometers south of Aticama.  She had coffee, pastries and guayabita.  As we enjoyed the snack, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to postpone whale watching for a better day and decided to hop into Bill's Volkswagen and take a trip into San Blas.

We were joined by Delia, a friend of Gabi.  Delia speaks little English but Gabi is fluent in Spanish so we had someone to translate.  It seems strange to me but I can understand Gabi's Spanish much easier than Delia's.  I think it has something to do with the speed with which they talk.

About half way to San Blas we turned off the highway and took a beach road to some territory that I had not visited before.  The road went through a bunch of beach side palapa restaurants that were all empty because it was a weekday and also poor weather.  There were stretches where we went right across the beach and other stretches where the rocks were so large that the VW rubbed on the higher ones.  Just when we thought we would be able to follow the road all the way to San Blas, there was a large tree that had blown down blocking the road so we had to turn around and go back over the rocky road.  This time we left Bill in the car alone and walked back.

Bill, Delia and Gabi

Next we headed to San Blas and enjoyed a lunch of fish and shrimp tacos that were delicious.  In San Blas if a restaurant (or taco cart) does not serve beer you just walk to the corner mini-super, buy your own and drink it with your meal.  I like this because cerveza is only 70 cents at the store but is about $1.25 in bars and restaurants.  

After lunch we walked around town and I took advantage of having Delia and Gabi along to translate.  We were able to locate the best place to buy seafood: jumbo shrimp 10 dollars a kilo (2.2 lbs),  langosta (lobster) 7 dollars a kilo and dorado (mahi-mahi) for 7 dollars a kilo.  At the vet's we found out that I can get all of Sarah's shots and medications for $10. per series.  At the bus terminal we got info about bus fares to Nogales and Tijuana.

Delia got a new puppy that morning to take home to her son (a 20 year old dental student).

Delia and "No lo se"

"No lo se" means "I don't know" in Spanish and when we asked what the puppies name was Delia replied "No lo se".  We had such a good time together Friday that we have scheduled a repeat for next Friday when we will evaluate the weather and decide whether to go whale watching or on another excursion.  Also, Delia is going to cook a meal for us at Gabi's and I am really looking forward to that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aticama Day

Sunday was Aticama Day complete with a parade and fireworks.  I found a table at a restaurant with a clear view of the parade route and settled in to enjoy the parade.  I am glad I didn't have to use the facilities or I would have missed the entire parade.  I took pictures of every group in the parade (all three of them).

After the band passed it looked like most of the town showed up to walk behind the parade to the plaza and church for a special mass.  There were several street vendors at the plaza but I had already eaten.  Each Sunday there is a farmers market at the cultural center with people selling sweet treats, vegetables, plants, odds and ends and my favorite booth:  chile rellenos.  The chile relleno was pricey at 35 pesos but it was delicious.  For dessert I had a piece of corn bread with peppers, onions and cheese baked in.

The cultural center has a book exchange and free wi-fi.  I think this library will probably keep me supplied for at least a year!

If you like fresh oysters you cannot do better than the seaside restaurants in Aticama.  The local divers go out every weekend day to get oysters that are delivered to the restaurants within minutes of leaving the ocean.

Two divers coming in with loads of oysters (pic from my table in the restaurant)

Bill and I walked into the village for dinner and Sarah followed us to the restaurant.  Bill ordered a chicken tamale and three chicken enchiladas; I had a tamale and two pork tacos.  Everything was delicious and the total for the two of us was only 65 pesos ($5 US) They don't serve beer so I walked to the liquor store two blocks away to get some and Sarah followed me.  When I went back to the restaurant there was no Sarah.  I kept looking for her on the walk back up to the house (about 1 mile) but she was nowhere to be seen.  When I got back, Sarah walked out from under Dod to greet me with a wagging tail.  I am so glad I don't have to worry about her getting lost and that I don't have to keep her on a leash.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mother Nature welcomes me to the house

It rained almost all day Saturday and I really enjoyed it.  The house roof has only two small leaks; I wish I could say the same for Dod.  He had a major leak but nothing that a tarp won't fix.

It stopped raining just before sunset and neighbor Bill yelled up asking if I had seen the rainbow.  I hadn't but a quick walk to the back yard revealed a very rare double rainbow.

As usual, a picture may be worth 1000 words but it can't capture the true beauty.  The rainbow was so large and so close that I couldn't fit the whole thing in one picture.  I need to investigate the panorama program that Tioga George uses to tie photos together.

When the sun finally came out, it lit up the vegetation with great results.

First sunset

Second sunset

Second sunset with flash

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dod climbs the hill!

Dod made it!  Not only did he make it, he performed like a new 4x4 and not a 33 year old 4 ton motor home.  Unfortunately, I did not have a videographer until the last few hundred feet of the climb but neighbor Bill shot the following video of the climb to the summit.

Prior to making the attempt, I had been told by several people who had seen the hill and a couple who had made the climb in 4-wheel drive vehicles that there was no way Dod could make it.  I told them that all I could do was try.  They didn't know some of the terrain Dod had conquered in the past.  Dod made the climb with no hesitation and is now parked in one of the most beautiful spots he or I have ever been.

Saturday was a great day to make the climb and test all of Dod's fortitude.  It started raining about 4 a.m. Saturday morning and did not stop until after sunset.  It "never" rains in Aticama in February; at least that is the response I received when I posed the question to several locals.  Bill said that the last three days have been the wettest weather he has experienced during this time of the year; in fact, he said this is the only rain he has seen between October and June in all the time he has been here.  The cobblestone portions of the road up the hill were slick and the dirt portions were muddy.  I know you calculate "dog years" by multiplying actual years by 7 but I don't know how to calculate RV years.  However you do it, I am proud of Dod!

BTW I am posting from the house on the hill; I have free wireless!  First day photos and stories manana.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Moving day

In about 2 hours I will be heading up the hill to spend a few days at the house.  I want to be up there for the fiesta and fireworks.  Also, I will be able to better judge just what I will need to set up Dod for an extended stay.

It rained for a couple of hours last night which means there will be very little dust going up the road.  It also means there may be a few spots that are softer after the rain.  No matter, it is what it is!

Lower portion of road about halfway up the hill

Next section

This may be the big test for Dod

Did you ever notice how no matter how steep the terrain is, a picture very seldom captures the true grade.  This section is much steeper than it looks.  See the post on the left?  The road is so steep there that Tioga George slips each time he passes this section and grabs the post for support.  My friend Bob made a good discovery: If you walk down the center of the road where the dirt is softer, you have less chance of slipping.

Camp visitors

This morning as I was enjoying my coffee in Dod, I looked out to see a bird I hadn't seen before.  I think the rain last night brought them out to feed on the lawn.  Don't know if they eat seeds or bugs but I sure hope it is bugs!

I think this is a good test for Judy of Travels with Emma, she hit it right on the head identifying the Kiskadee a couple of weeks ago!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Party, party, party

Party 1 - San Blas Day

A group of us went into town on Friday to have dinner at the San Blas Social Club.  I was surprised to find out that it was San Blas Day and the big celebration of the week was scheduled that night.  We dined on the patio which overlooks the town plaza.  The food was wonderful.  The Club is owned by an American and the cook and bartender are American also.  The bartender looks like a Mexican so I was ordering in Spanish.  He looked at me weird and I thought I had screwed up but quickly learned that he speaks very little Spanish.

Our group had chicken piccata, steak and shrimp, pork chops, stuffed chicken breast and one guy even ordered fried chicken and waffles.  I had the chicken piccata and it was the best I have ever had.  It came with 6 large raviolis stuffed with spinach and cheese.  I also tasted most of the other entrees and they were also good.  The total bill for seven was $140. US and included 3 to 5 drinks each person.

After dinner we sat on the patio and watched the crowd in the plaza grow in anticipation of the fireworks display.  The fireworks were not like anything you would see in the US.  There was a large tower built at the back of the plaza and for about 20 minutes different pin wheels on the tower provided a great show.  The finale was a giant spinning reel that took off from the top of the tower and shot up into the air a couple of hundred feet.  It was still spinning and burning when it came down and landed right in the middle of the crowd.

Later we had still more cocktails in the bar while we listened to a jazz trio playing old standards while a couple of customers turned it into karaoke.

Listening to the trio from the doorway (Standing room only!)

The crowd at the bar - 95% gringos

Party 2 - Super Bowl

All of the RV park residents, the employees and a few guests gathered in the restaurant to watch the super bowl.  We barbecued shrimp that we purchased from a fisherman on the beach.  These were jumbo blue shrimp and the cost was $24. for 5 pounds.  We also had rice and veggies and a great salmon spread.  The salmon came all the way from British Columbia!

We had a pool and predictably, my numbers did not win.  Strange thing though, 1800 pesos of the 2000 peso total were won by the guy running the pool and three of his close friends.  Next year I think I will run the pool and try to change my luck.

Party 3 - Aticama Day

Saturday and Sunday the village celebrates Aticama Day with a parade, rides, street vendors and fireworks. I am taking Dod up to the house tomorrow to watch the fireworks from above.  

The colorful umbrellas at top center in the photo are some of the rides.  The red tower is the town church which is opposite the plaza.  This is taken from the patio which should be a great place to watch the fireworks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

House update

The repair to the upper portion of the road was completed on Tuesday!  I have been walking up to the house twice daily to water down the areas that were filled in and they are compacting nicely.  Tomorrow I will drive Dod all the way up to the house and try to figure out the best parking spot.  A friend of mine will be taking a video of Dod as he climbs the hill.

Notice the living fence posts.

This was one of the worst spots on the road and had a bunch of gullies caused by runoff.

Sarah's first visit to her new home.

I will probably spend the night on the patio and then bring Dod back downhill to El Chaco for the super bowl party.  We have about 20 people entering our pool for the super bowl.  The menu includes barbecue shrimp, Spanish fried rice, tostados, bean dip and roasted veggies.  The shrimp have been ordered from a local fisherman who launches his boat right from our beach.  Two kilos (4.4 lbs.) will cost around 350 pesos or $6. per pound for jumbo shrimp already cleaned.

The termites are still a problem but I have found a spray that kills them and keeps them away from their normal paths.  I also started the process of cleaning up the floor (scraping paint spills) and the walls (knocking off dirt spots and insect deposits).  I will check the paint store in San Blas tomorrow to see what is available and whether my budget will allow me to purchase all the paint at once or if I will need to spread the process out over a couple of months.  No matter, I really don't have much else to do other than read books and relax.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sidewalk superintendent Mexico style

As I have said before, there is always something happening on the beach.  Yesterday it was the construction of a new ramada.  Ramada means foliage in Spanish but the colloquial meaning is a covered beach front shade structure.

About a week before the carpenters/roofers show up, the concrete man is hard at work making the columns that will support the roof.  He starts by making careful measurements using a piece of string.  I never saw a take measure!  Once he has the layout he digs a hole for each column and pours cement in the hole.  Next he places a long triangular structure of re-bar into the cement and uses just his eyesight to make sure it is plumb.  After an hour or so, he places a 4" PVC pipe over the re-bar and then pours cement down the pipe making a solid, re-enforced column.

Six guys were busy completing this ramada.  They had a mixed, but very limited, set of tools: a hammer, an ax, two machetes, a pipe and a ladder.  The first steps were to install poles across the columns for the roof beam and plates.  This was a simple task.  They placed the poles on the top of the columns and used the pipe to bend the re-bar tight around the poles.

Besides the re-bar, twine is the only thing holding the ramada together.

The machetes were used to cut the poles to the proper length.  The ax was used to split the end.  The guy put the ax blade on the end of the pole and used a 2' piece of a pole to pound the ax in and split the pole and then pounded a wedge into the split.  When the two split ends were pounded together (again using a piece of pole) they formed a movable joint that could be aligned with pitch of the roof.

Once all the pole rafters and battens were installed and tied in place with twine, the palapas (palm fronds)
were added.  Each frond is split in two lengthwise and then the first one is attached running along the plate.  From there, each split frond is placed 6" up the roof providing an overlap of about 12".  I would bet that this roof will last for years and be completely watertight.  

This is the finished product next to the columns standing in wait for the next ramada.  The workers thought it was funny that Bob and I moved beach chairs in and got comfortable while we watched them work.  It doesn't take much to occupy my mind.