Just another average sunset in paradise!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A couple of small projects

Sunday I walked down the hill expecting to find a farmer's market in progress but for the second week in a row, no such luck.  So I went to the local tienda and stocked up on veggies, milk and bread and hiked back up the hill.

I have been contemplating a small rearrangement of the kitchen for some time now.  I can't find a before picture, but the stove/oven used to be in the same cubby hole as the refrigerator.  The arrangement made it very difficult to change gas bottles so I changed it.  I moved the stove/oven to the other cubby hole and moved the refrigerator next to it which leaves plenty of room for the gas bottle and makes for an easy exchange.  The stove/oven in now at Dave height as it rests on a row of  bricks.  When Weng is here, it can be lowered to Weng level in just a minute by removing the bricks.

I needed a new office space so I used a piece of plywood that Francisco gave me to create this:

I just attached a couple of 2x6s to the bottom of the plywood and set it on the wall.  It is very secure but can be easily removed by just lifting it up.  It will also make a great bar and dining table.  I am posting from this desk now but I am having trouble concentrating as the sun is setting and I think it will be a great sunset.

A downhill day in paradise

Downhill days are very important to me.  Those are the days when I take Dod down the hill and usually into San Blas.  Last Thursday was just such a day.

With the difficulties getting back up the hill in Dod, I try to plan very carefully so that I can accomplish all that is needed in one trip.  Sometimes I am successful and Thursday was just such a day!  Here is what I accomplished on that trip:

1.  Took out the trash.  I know for most of you this seems like a minor thing but living on the hill in Aticama the procedure is a little different.  I can remember being 8 or 9 years old and having to haul out the 30 gallon galvanized metal trashcans once a week.  As I grew older the cans became plastic and the shape changed and separate cans for recycling and green trash were added but the task never changed.  Here on the hill we have no trash pick up!

I keep three separate bags in the house and my trash actually goes 4 separate places.  The edible scraps either go to Sara or get thrown over the patio wall where the tejones (coatimundis) remove them nightly; the paper items go into a box and get burned along with the cuttings and leaves from the grounds; the plastic bottles go into a bag to be taken down the hill for recycling; and, all else goes into small bags which accumulate until I go downhill.  On the highway into San Blas there are several blue 55 gallon trash cans in front of houses and businesses along the way.  Unlike in the U.S. these cans are community property and do not belong to the property in front of which they are placed, so I put my basura in these cans along the way.

2.  All drinking water here is of the bottled kind and comes in 20 liter bottles with a weight of just over 40 lbs.  You can imagine that hauling a bottle up the hill from the village is no fun so I make sure I have an empty bottle to exchange each trip I make downhill.

3.  My generator took a dump so it had to be added to my cargo destined for a repair shop in San Blas.  After checking out the generator, the mechanic showed me a screw that was broken off the choke in the throat of the carburetor.  He could either use a rivet to repair it or go into Tepic (60 mile round trip) for a used carburetor which would cost $40. US.  Hey, it's Mexico so the rivet was just fine with me.  While it took 5 hours to fix that was no problem as I had a dentist appointment and some shopping and socializing to do.

4.  The dentist took an hour and a half but I walked away with my new bridge and so far it is working great and will need just some minor tweaking to make it perfect.

5.  The shopping was completed in about an hour as I went to 4 different tiendas (small shops) because after a few months here I have learned where to buy the best items at the best prices.  Paper goods, household items and toiletries come from one tienda; ham, cheese, eggs and smoked pork chops from another; pork and beef from the butcher; and, produce from the Mercado Centro (central market).

6.  With my grocery shopping done I walked back to the San Blas Social Club for a beer and internet.  With all my errands and internet surfing accomplished, I still had two hours to wait for the generator which gave me time for a couple more beers and some great conversation at the Club.  Old friends showed up and I met some new friends.  This is where you catch up on what is happening and get advice on anything you may need in San Blas.

The really good news about Thursday is that when I returned to Aticama, Dod powered up the hill with no slipping whatsoever!  Jesus and I had repaired the two worst spots on the road where Dod normally would have bounced off the ground and spun his drive wheel, there was nothing but smooth sailing.  Since then, Jesus and I have added another 10 square meters of empandrado on the road which means I no longer have to dread the trip up the hill!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Road Repairs

After two near misses at going over the hill, I decided that it is time to do some repairs.  Francisco had a load of rocks delivered for "empandrado" which is a road system with large rocks on the dirt and cementante (a cement like material that naturally hardens) filling in the spaces.

It starts off as just a pile of rocks

This is before

It's a good thing this camera has a fast shutter speed; I was moving pretty fast!

Foreground, rocks in dug out portion;background, hole I dug.

Covered with cementante; looks just like the before picture but without the holes!

The two sections we completed yesterday took only two hours but working in the sun with the temperature in the 80s, it was more than enough work for this old guy in one day.  The breeze blowing through the house seemed to feel better than normal as I settled down for a siesta.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seven Topes Road

"There are stars in the southern sky, southward as you roam.  There is moonlight and birds in the trees down the seven topes road".  (Paraphrased from the Eagles' Seven Bridges Road.)  A tope is a speed bump.  The road below the house that runs along the beach was formerly without topes.  During Semana Santa (Easter week) there were no topes and the bumper-to-bumper traffic sped along creating mini dust storms.

You can see 3 topes in this picture; there are 2 past where the guy is watering and 2 more in the very bottom of the picture.

As you can see, it is a very short portion of road for 7 topes.

Now, two weeks after Semana Santa, when there is maybe 10% of the previous traffic, someone has installed 7 topes.  These topes are larger and steeper than the normal ones you encounter on the highways sued to slow traffic down as it passes through villages.  Even motorcycles and scooters are forced to come almost to a stop to cross these topes.  We will have to wait and see how long they last!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A bad day in paradise!

Tuesday afternoon, we had to play "musical RVs".  Francisco was preparing to leave on Wednesday so we had to get the dune buggy  back into the RV that serves as a garage; relocate the "garage" next to "Big Fish" and park the RV which will be converted into a farm truck in front of the other two RVs.

The buggy

The garage: Francisco installed a lift up door in the back so the buggy can drive right in.

"Big Fish" under the palapa and the rear of the "garage".

The RV that is soon to be a farm truck.

I volunteered to use Dod as a tow vehicle to maneuver the "garage" (no motor") into the space between "Big Fish" and the sheer cliff on the opposite side.  While Francisco was taking care of business in Aticama I decided to get Dod into position for the move.  I went a few yards down the hill and then put it into reverse to climb back up the hill to a flat spot past the gate.  I miscalculated and Dod slipped!  He almost went over the side of the hill but luckily a tree stump caught under the wheel well and the disaster was avoided.  We had to use the future farm truck to pull Dod off the stump.  Way less trouble than I expected.

It is hard to explain how I can be so happy and yet troubled at the same time.  I went into San Blas today to visit the dentist and received good news.  My bridge will be ready on Monday and if it is all that the dentist promises it will be my last visit!

While I drove to San Blas I had a battery charger for a power tool plugged into the cigarette lighter.  Of course I forgot to unplug it and when I left the dentist my battery was dead. No problem, I removed the battery and carried it two blocks to an auto parts store where it was charged for about $2.50 US.  I re-installed the battery and Dod started right up.  I was going to drive into Tepic from San Blas but with the battery delay I had to postpone the trip.

I had a bad feeling on the way back to Aticama.  I was dreading going up the road to my house.  When I got to the roughest spot on the road, Dod/s tires began spinning and he stalled.  As I drifted down the hill, the brakes would not completely stop Dod's downhill progress.  He skidded backwards and sideways until he wound up leaning against two concrete posts.  Luckily Jesus (the caretaker) is a real "Handy" man.  He had Dod back on the road within an hour.  Only minor damage to Dod.

Photos would be nice but I hesitate to document my screw ups!

Alone on the Hill

After three weeks which can only be described as a whirlwind of activity, Francisco and Bill loaded up Bill'sVW and left for Portland at 1 pm on Thursday.  I say whirlwind because from the moment Francisco arrived he was busy everyday in business meetings, visits to the notario for property and citizenship paperwork, meetings with his partners in a couple of orchards, visits with the administrators of the ejido (political body responsible for Aticama, trips to the orchards with employees, hours and hours working on his dune buggy, a vast amount of time helping me get solar power and pressurized water to the house and, occasionally, taking an hour off to have lunch at our favorite restaurant in town.

Francisco earned my respect through the demonstration of his work ethic.  He earned my friendship almost instantly as we both realized we are like "brothers from different mothers".  We seem to appreciate the same simple things in life and are satisfied with where we are in our lives which seems to validate all of the necessary steps taken to arrive here.

Before you start feeling sorry for Francisco please remember that all of the things he accomplished were accomplished in paradise.  We also took time out for a little recreation and several evenings we had cocktails at sunset on the patio.  Sometimes the cocktail parties extended late into the evening with great conversations and much laughter!

I look forward to his return!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another project

I mentioned to Francisco that I would like to redo the palapa roof over the dining area.  It was five years old and suffering greatly from the onslaught of comojenes (termites).  The next night, a pickup truck arrived full of palmas (palm fronds used for palapas).  I thought that was great but I was wondering how quickly I would have to start work before the fronds would go brown and not be good for the palapa.

It turned out that it was not a problem.  When I awoke at 7 a.m. the next morning, Jesus (the caretaker) and Javelin (a helper) were walking past Dod.  Neither Francisco or I had mentioned anything to them about the construction but this is Mexico and communication is not always perfect.  Following are some pictures I took during the day.

7:00 a.m.

7:20 a.m. Just before I took this picture the entire roof split into due to termite damage.

7:30 a.m.  Javelin measuring: you see very few tape measures in Mexico.

10:00 a.m.  All but two poles in the construction are bamboo and all of the poles came from the property.

6:00 p.m;.  Finished product: in a week or so, the palapa will be the same brown color of the palmas on the right of the picture.


They completed most of the project while Francisco, Bill and I were on a tour of Camolote which is an area just north of Aticama where Francisco and Bill have a jack fruit plantation.  I forgot to take my camera with me so you will just have to trust me that it is some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen!  Anyhow, the palapa cover is just great and I am sure it will last for years!  Total cost was just over $100.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More projects

I think I have made it quite clear that I am extremely happy in the hill top house.  I keep getting happier and happier!  On Sunday (Easter is just another day for me in the village) Francisco and I rigged up a 12v pump to pressurize the water system in the house.  I now have the luxuries of a toilet that I don't have to fill with a bucket of water after each use; a kitchen sink with water; and a shower available (cold water only).  But I have my solar shower which I prefer to an indoor shower.

I also have several sockets hooked up for 115v service to run the coffee grinder; charge my computer and provide lighting.  With guests in the house lighting is important but once they leave I will be back to my normal schedule of a sunrise to sunset existence (at least til winter).

Francisco brought out a patio umbrella and we immediately hooked it up to a wall.  The shade was great but the first strong breeze caused it to fall over.  Here are some pix of my Mexican umbrella base:

An old bucket, some pvc pipe and rocks!

I also have a rope tied to a tree down below on the cliff; notice how the umbrella is flapping in the wind?  This is a constant.  This afternoon I will place more rocks around the bucket just for aesthetics.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Semana Santa

Well, Semana Santa has arrived at last.  Everyone told me things would be crazy but it is busier than I imagined. The beach below the house is almost shoulder to shoulder people enjoying the ocean.  Everyone of the ramada spaces have at least one family.  In the spots where there are no ramadas, the cars are parked three rows deep with almost no room in between.  All of otherwise empty spots on the beach have campers; many in improvised shelters with firepits.  There are no sanitary facilities so I hesitate to think what the beach will be like next week.

Tent city

Beach at 8:00 a.m.

Sorry for the blurry picture: but this is the area Dod was parked in at El Chaco.

Before the campers arrived

This is a shot of the beach at 3 pm and it is all I was told it would be.  It is hard to tell from the pix but there are people as far as the eye (aided by binoculars) can see.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Company on the hill

Francisco and his friend, Steve Martin (yes, that is really his name) arrived on Thursday!  This is the first in person meeting with my landlord.  We have discovered that we are very much alike and "hit it off" right away.

 I think of the house on the hill as my personal paradise and was perfectly happy without electric and water to the house as Dod is parked right down the hill.  With Francisco's help we are adding water and electric service to the house. 

Yesterday I removed the stove and oven from Dod and moved it up the hill.  It is much more efficient than the stovetop I bought at Walmart.  Things just keep getting better!

I am really enjoying the company and will be sad when they leave.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Painting projects are almost finished!

The only room left to paint is the bathroom!  After nearly 30 days of thinking about it, Bill forced me into action by volunteering to cut in the edges and corners while I rolled.  It is good to have the project behind me.  The painting was completed a couple of days before Francisco arrived.  He has told me several times how much he likes it.


and after

Uncle Bill lying down of the job (actually painting a porthole)

The floor paint complete with a painted 2" cove base

before and

more before

and after

Friday, April 6, 2012

Homeless for a day

I got up early this morning to finish painting the floor.  It needs all day to dry so I will have to stay on the patio and in Dod.  That sounds like a typical day now that I think of it.  I am posting from the San Blas Social Club after a visit to the dentist.  I had a bacon and eggs breakfast with toast and potatoes.  It was the first American style breakfast I have had since I left my brother Rick's.

Friday, Gabi, Delia, Bill and I took a boat ride to an isolated restaurant.  What a great setting right on the estuary.  There were several small areas for intimate dining of just to sit and enjoy the views.  Only problem was that the restaurant was not open!  It was still a great trip and we enjoyed walking around the grounds.

When we returned from the boat ride we stopped at the beach in San Blas and had a great lunch at a restaurant that our boat guide recommended.  As I normally do, I orderred a menu item that I did not have any idea what it was.   It was shrimp with onions, peppers and cheese.  It is called "camarones melequetente" and I highly recommend it.