Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mexico 2007 - 2008

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hi All,

We are parked in an RV park in Ajo, just 40 miles from Lukeville, Arizona and the Mexico border. We will get all our paperwork in order tonight and cross over first thing tomorrow.

We had to replace the batteries in the motorhome this morning while we were passing through Yuma. We lost all our power (and the fridge) last night while parked in the Cocopah Casino parking lot. I guess eight years is enough for a battery that didn't cost me anything. I bought two 6 volt golf cart batteries from Wal-Mart for about half of what they would have cost in Canada. This weather down here puts a bit of a strain on components. Oh well, better to get them fixed before we go into Mexico. The generator was giving us problems as well so we had it serviced. It runs great now so we can use the RV air conditioner while driving. $300 less to spend on beer and shrimp! Speaking of which, gas was $3.79 per gallon in Needles, CA but only $2.70 in Parker, AZ just a few miles away!

We will spend tomorrow night in Santa Ana or Hermosillo and get to Bahia Kino the next day. We will probably spend a week there and then head further South. A couple we met on the Escapees RV Forums live in Kino and have offered to give us a hand with our plans. They are from Toronto but live in Kino year around and speak perfect Spanish. We will use them for advice to arrange things like a cell phone and advice on the best RV parks. We will send periodical updates from the road.

Thursday, November 8

First day in Mexico! We got the "Green Light" at the border at the Lukeville / Sonoita crossing which means we just drove through with no questions or inspections. It works on a random system, you either get a green or a red light. The random system can be over-ridden by any of the border guards if you look unsavory but I guess we passed. We stopped in Sonoita at a roadside money changing booth and traded our USA cash for Pesos. 10.40 exchange rate so it was pretty good. I did not like walking around with $40,000 Pesos in my pocket so I hid most of it in the motorhome. I will probably only succeed in hiding it from myself.

We drove straight to KM 27 where the Immigration and Vehicle Import offices are and started the lengthy process of getting permission to stay in the country for up to six months. They had computers but still filled out everything by hand. It took two of them a full hour to do everything. We had all the documents in order and had made copies of everything at home to avoid the extra trip to the copy office. We had been told they will sometimes throw a curve at you and ours was, "May I see your Marriage Certificate?" We told her we had been married for 40 years going on 50 and do not carry it with us any more. She conferred to her partner in Spanish for some time and then just nodded. We paid our $29 for the Honda and $49 for the motorhome and another $49 for the visas and we became "Legal". As we left there we got another "Green Light" at the inspection station. We are batting 1000.

We had been warned about Mex 2 from Sonoita to Santa Ana but found it to be not bad at all. Better than some secondary USA highways. Mexican roads in general have no shoulders. There is a white line at the edge of the travel part of the road and then maybe 6 - 8 inches of pavement to where it becomes a 6 - 12 inch drop-off into the sand. You have to drive with one eye glancing at the right side mirror to make sure the car dolly is still on the highway, the other eye on the left mirror to make sure that dolly tire is on your side of the center line and the other eye on the road ahead. Other than that and four detours around bridges being replaced it was a good drive. Just as we were entering Santa Anna we came to a toll booth where they relieved us of $85 Pesos toll (about $7.50 Can). There was a taco stand and Norma was starving so she ordered something that "looked like beef" and gobbled it down. As we were leaving we noticed the sign offering goat tacos. Gas in Santa Ana is seventy-one cents per liter. A six pack of ice cold Pacifico at the little market next door was $4.50. I could grow to like it down here. On the road from the border the "Check Engine" light in the motorhome came on but when I parked to check in at the RV Park and started it up to move the rig into the parking space it did not come back on. Maybe I will be lucky....

We checked into a small RV park in Santa Ana owned by an English speaking Mexican and his American wife. Parked beside us is a retired BC Hydro couple from Parksville who had previously worked in Terrace, Rupert and the Queen Charlottes. Great evening and it is still in the high 70's at 7:30 PM.

Tomorrow, Hermosillo and the road into Bahia Kino. We will probably stay there a week at the Islandia, an RV park right on the Sea of Cortez.

Our experience with the Mexican people so far is just as we expected - they are extremely friendly and helpful and always smiling! They have little but do not seem to want for anything more. The children are spotless and always laughing. They are very polite, even to a couple of Canadians who have not bothered to learn the language! We promise to be better by the time we leave. I am going to send this now as our WIFI comes from a hotel down the street and it comes and goes. Right now it is connected so here it goes...

Friday, November 9

We arrived in Bahia Kino this afternoon. The old motorhome decided to behave itself today and the "Check Engine" light did not come back on. First thing this morning I bought $500 Pesos worth of regular gas and the engine started to "ping" almost instantly. I topped the tank off with $1000 Pesos worth of eighty-seven cents per liter premium a couple of hours later and that solved the problem. The owners of last night's RV park gave us a tip on avoiding the traffic in the State Capital of Hermosillo (but not the toll booth - another $95 Pesos!) We found the turnoff to Bahia Kino (I really HAVE to learn some Spanish) and after another seventy-some KM of new highway we booked into the Islandia RV park - $1050 Pesos (about $100 CAN) for 8 days right on the beach! Hardly any water pressure, no concrete patios and rumored voltage surges but right on the beach!!!!! On the positive side, the WIFI works great and we can use Skype from here to call home. Oh, did I mention it is right on the beach?

I walked to the water twenty feet in front of the motorhome and waded in up to my knees. It was like a bathtub. This is the Sea Of Cortez! I had to remind myself that it was the middle of November! We went to a little restaurant two blocks from the park for dinner. I had garlic shrimp - seven HUGE shrimp done to absolute perfection washed down with a very, very large margarita. Only two tables occupied and a really good singer - a Mexican kid who got here via Italy. We probably tipped him a day's pay.

The whole experience made me realize it was all worthwhile. All the years of putting up with crap from Telus, all the years of fighting with my own members and the leadership of my own union to get a great Pension Plan. All of it. Just to walk up to my knees in the Sea Of Cortez and then to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life. This is the same Sea Of Cortez I read about half a century ago in Steinbecks “The Log from the Sea of Cortez". When I read it, it may as well have been on the moon. I never dreamed that one day I would be standing up to my knees in it with shrimp boats on the horizon and pelicans swooping all around me! That simple act made it all worthwhile. It was one of those magic moments I will remember forever.

Tomorrow I have to hook up the StarChoice dish. The Lions play next weekend on their way to another Cup! Life is good.

November 12

We have really gotten into the laid back Mexico lifestyle and have very little new to report. We are still in the Islandia in Bahia Kino and will be until next Monday. I finally got Star Choice working! I have always been able to find the "Bird" myself either by searching the sky with the antenna and tuning to the best signal strength or, failing that, "stealing" the settings from a neighbour with the same setup. This time I could not find the satellite and no one else in the park had StarChoice so I finally hired the local TV guy who was doing a job for someone else in the park and he managed to find it with his equipment after almost an hour of fiddling. He charged me $300 Pesos (about $26 CAN).

We tried to take a drive to one of the Aboriginal (Seri) villages a little further up the coast but had to turn back after about 15 KM of the worst road you could imagine. The lack of clearance on the Honda forced us to straddle the ruts but the washboard road almost shook the old beast apart.

On the positive side, we found a fisherman selling huge shrimp out of the back of his pickup down the road and I cooked up a feast of them last night. I butterflied them, fried them in olive oil with a little butter until just cooked and then stirred in a couple of tablespoons of the local salsa. DELICIOUS! I can just feel my arteries clogging up! Not a bad way to go.

What with the expensive (for Mexico) Star Choice setup problem and the failed attempt to visit the Seri village it has been a bit of a frustrating couple of days but after watching the CTV news this morning on the weather on the Island, I am convinced that for right now at least, the worst day in Bahia Kino is better than the best day back home. ;)

More to follow when something actually happens!

November 16, 2007

Just another day in Paradise! Last night we went out for dinner with a couple from Winnipeg I met on the Escapes RV Forums. They own a cardboard box manufacturing company in Winnipeg and also own an absolutely beautiful house here in Bahia Kino where they spend 6 months a year while his son runs the business back home. They also have two Diesel Pushers, one they use in Canada and the USA and the other in Mexico. We went to the "Potato Cafe" where the specialty is a humongous baked potato stuffed with about a pound of meat and onions (mine was stuffed with cheese and salsa) for $25 Pesos ($2.25). Delicious food and a ton of information about RV'ing in Mexico from our new friends, Marvin and Zee.

Today one of our neighbours in the park was having some fiberglass repair work done on his panga (fishing boat) and I asked the guy doing the work to have a look at two places on our motorhome that needed some fiberglass repairs. He said "No Problemo!" and will be back later today to do the work. I do not know how much he will charge but everything is cheap down here and our neighbour is a perfectionist who would not have hired the guy if he did not know he did a good job. We also found the RV washing guy who will be here in one hour to wash and hand wax the motorhome and car for $40 USA ($1 per foot). He said that includes cleaning the roof and awning.

Otherwise it is a very laid-back existence here in Bahia Kino! Tonight we are going to a local restaurant with most of the other Gringos from the park where they cook only one dish each night (he is making an exception for me and adding pasta with vegetable sauce to the menu) and they have some local entertainment. The Lions game is on Star Choice on Sunday and on Monday we move to San Carlos, 90 KM down the road. If we can find a nice park with a pool we will probably stay there a month. Life is good.

November 20, 2007

Bahia Kino to San Carlos:

Time to leave our new friends in Kino Bay. This has been one of the friendliest parks we have ever stayed in! New or old rig, rich or poor, diesel or gas, big or small, everyone is the same. Happy Hour is at 4:00 every day and moves around the park. If anything negative can be said, it was a little dusty. Ariel washed and hand waxed the motorhome including washing the roof for $35 USA. We gave him $45 for a good 4 hours work (he provided the soap and wax). He came back the next day to do the car. He wanted $8 for the job but got $15. We were not watching him and later discovered that he had cleaned the interior including shampooing some of the upholstery. He told us his wife cleans rooms in the local hotels so we told him we would stop on the way home so they could do a complete cleaning and waxing, inside and out. He said he will watch for us.

Saul (like Raul but with an “S”) finished the fiberglass repairs. I ran into the eve of the house in Campbell River several months ago and put two holes in the front cap. Dave, my neighbor, and I did a repair with a fiberglass repair kit and it kept the water out but was a little unsightly. There was also some old damage just below the awning that could only be seen when the awning was extended. Nothing major and it did not take him very long but he had to come back three times to sand and add more fiberglass. We had a spray can of matching paint so he finished it with that. He did a great job and charged us $40 USA. These people have a work ethic that you do not find in casual labour in Canada.

We picked a bad time to leave as there was a local celebration going on that blocked off all the main streets from the park. We found a way out that included a dirt road that re-deposited a coating of dust on our nice clean rig!

The road to San Carlos was pretty boring. As I said before, Mexican roads are narrower than we are used to and require more concentration. We checked into the Totonaka RV Park and paid $140 USA for a week. They will let us extend if we want to. The park is across the street from the beach and is nice. The free WIFI does not come up to its advertising. It is rarely available.

We went out for dinner to a nice restaurant across the street. The restaurant has no windows or walls on the water side and looks out over the rocky beach and a hundred or so pelicans feeding. I had fresh local fish fried in butter and garlic and Norma had breaded fried jumbo shrimp. They gave her seven of them and she could only eat three so what could I do? Being the great guy that I am, I stepped up to the plate (literally) and helped her out. The bill was $28 USA including two really good margaritas.

We both woke up with colds this morning. Probably from the humid weather and the air conditioning so we will take it easy for a day or two and try to shake it off. A fisherman knocked on the door this morning and we bought a Kilo of giant shrimp for $150 Pesos ($13 CAN). They call them “shrimp” but if the heads were still on they would be almost the size of your hand. I will butterfly and cook half of them for dinner and freeze the rest. These jumbos have a really large sand vein along the back that has to be taken out before you can cook them so life here is not as simple as it may sound!

November 21, 2007

Trip to Guaymas

San Carlos and Guaymas (“Way-Moss”) are almost twin cities. San Carlos is the resort area while Guaymas is the larger and is the commercial center and seaport. It is not easy to find your way around Guaymas as there are hardly any street signs and the streets are very busy. A good map, which we did not have, is essential. Trying to drive with a cold and a headache did not help much either. The center of the city with the lighthouse and the Plaza of the Three Presidents was all torn up awaiting completion of repairs.

On the way to Guaymas we visited the Playa de Cortez Hotel. This is a grand hotel in the true old sense of the word. It was built in 1937 as a railway destination resort by Douglas, the same American mining billionaire who named Douglas, Arizona after himself. It is pretty much in a state of disrepair today but still rents out rooms at $890 Pesos per night which is a fortune here compared to other hotels. I don’t think there are many takers as there was twice as many staff there today as there were guests. The dining room had white linen tablecloths and what looked like real silverware with several waiters hovering over the three or four occupied tables. There are several beautiful paintings over the reception desk and the fireplace in the lobby, a grand ballroom with a dark stained wood plank floor that is showing signs of insect damage and the biggest pool we have seen so far in Mexico. The walls are covered with photos of the hotel in its heyday when it would have rivaled Victoria’s Empress or the Vancouver Hotel in elegance. Many famous people have stayed here and there was a photo of a notorious Al Capone type Mexican criminal being led out the door in handcuffs.

The Playa de Cortez is still polished up the odd time and used for important meetings. There were photos taken during a recent meeting between the current Governor of Arizona and the heads of the Mexican State of Sonora. It has an RV park in the back that has the use of the hotel facilities, including the rocky beach and pool. Today there were only three RV’s in the park which looks like it could handle 50 or 60 rigs.

The cobblestone driveway to the hotel is something to see. Imagine hundreds of thousands of fist sized rocks from the beach in front of our place in Campbell River set into a bed of concrete in a haphazard manner with no regard given to how far each sticks out of the concrete. The result is a very rough, extremely durable surface that shows hardly any wear even today. It is very sad to see a building with this kind of history fall to disuse and ruin. It truly represents a dying era in this part of Mexico.

We got home at around 4 and set up the Star Choice dish. I copied the inclination from a neighbour’s dish and then slowly swept the sky as Norma watched the signal strength on the setup screen. We got a usable signal within seconds making this the fastest setup ever. Somewhere in our travels I have lost my Satellite Finder. I probably set it on the bumper and drove away with it still there. I will order another from eBay. Colin, please watch for it being delivered in two to three weeks. It will do us no good this year but will be there when we get home.

Norma does not like garlic but she was feeling poorly and did not feel like eating tonight so I took the opportunity to butterfly about a third of my Kilo of shrimp and fry them in butter and a half head of chopped garlic. If I believed in Heaven, it could hardly be any better than this.

There is a huge rock formation towering over the North end of San Carlos that has been partly hidden by a mist since we arrived. I will have to watch for it to clear and get some photos of it. It is very impressive as is the whole area here where the mountains meet the Sea Of Cortez.

In my previous posting I misspelled the name of the RV Park we are in. The correct spelling is the Totonaka RV Park. I feel it is a sign of respect to get the spelling of locations in this beautiful area correct and I am trying to do that.

Thu, 22 Nov 2007

It was a pretty slow day today. A neighbour in the park here from Courtenay was having trouble setting up his Star Choice dish so I offered to help and between the two of us we came up with a great signal of 60 - much better than the 36 I got for myself. He offered to make margaritas at 4 and, being fearful of offending him, I hesitantly agreed. ;)

After two great margaritas Norma and I decided to go to a restaurant down the street that was recommended to us for their great Sonoran steaks. We had just sat down at the last available table when another couple who had just checked into the RV park showed up so we offered to share our table with them. They were from Victoria (is anybody left in BC?), him retired Navy and her, retired BC Ministry of Finance. We shared a great dinner, Norma had the Sonoran Rib Eye steak (brought 2/3 of it home) and I had grilled fish in Ranchero sauce. Delicious! And of course "dos mas grande margaritas". After dinner our two companions left and as we were getting ready to pay the bill another couple whom we had met at the restaurant across the street two days ago asked us to join them for another drink! "No mas margarita" (thank God "no" is a universal language) but "uno Pacifico, por favor" for me and we got to know our latest friends. They own a trawler that they leave here in San Carlos and travel to and from their home in New Mexico. He is a former Canadian from Newfoundland and she is an American. He is a "Regan Republican" who hates Bush and she is a "Clinton Democrat" who hates Bush. Sensing a common thread here we announced that we also hate Bush and the friendship was cemented! Two Pacificos later I asked the waiter if I could leave the car in their parking lot for the night and we walked home. The end.

As you can probably tell, we are having a good time here in Mexico - ("Meh-hee-ko" )

Buenas Noches mes amigos!

November 28, 2007

Alamos, Sonora

Well, it is time to leave the seaside for a week and to explore Alamos. Alamos dates back to 1540 when the Spanish explorer Coronado camped in the area. The settlement itself started in the 1700’s to support Silver mining operations in the area. The mines became depleted by the early 1900’s and the turmoil of the 1910 Revolution shut them down permanently. Many of the mansions left abandoned by the early silver barons were slowly taken over by artists and well off retirees from the USA and have been restored. The city is currently making a huge investment in underground electric wiring. The water pressure here is also great although we are still using bottled water for drinking, cooking and coffee. The locals in Mexico use bottled water for drinking and cooking so that is probably a pretty good hint. Agua Purificada is quite cheap, $8 – $10 Pesos (seventy-five to ninety-five cents) for five gallons in a container you leave a deposit for and is available everywhere. The RV Park we are in actually has a Reverse Osmosis purification plant right on its property and sells water to much of the city.

The streets are mostly paved with paving stones but with much of the old cobblestone remaining in some areas. The town is small enough to explore the main area on foot and the streets are very narrow, barely wide enough for two Hondas to pass, not the place to explore with the motorhome! It is very quiet here and the Dolisa RV Park at $23 per day, with no deductions for a weekly rate, is the most expensive we have found so far in Mexico. It is also the first time we have been without WIFI so we are forced to do our Internet chores at the coffee shop in one of the local hotels where they serve excellent Mexican coffee and offer free WIFI. There is little comparison between Mexican coffee and the weak, pallid stuff we are forced to buy in Canada. It is very black and very strong, almost like a blend of coffee and espresso. In any case, once I tried it, I was hooked. Now I just have to find it in a mercado (grocery store) and stock up.

There is no Cable here so we set up Star Choice and I watched the Canucks spank The Ducks 4 – 0 last night. Great game. This morning I left Norma at the RV park to take a walk through town with my camera. There are many tiny, brightly painted shops and buildings and two Plazas to explore.

I walked around the central Plaza for an hour or so talking to a shoe shine guy who wanted to practice his excellent English and also to a woman who was a Canadian ex-pat from Nelson, BC. They moved down here six years ago, leaving Canada and its Health Care system behind and signed up with the Mexican Health Care system for around $500 USA per year each. They simply did not want to leave Mexico for the required six months per year so cut their ties. They go back a couple of times a year for short trips to visit the kids.

I went back for Norma and we had a nice walk through the old part of town this afternoon and looked through the doors of some of the old restored mansions. I took lots of photos and then dropped my new $1500 Nikon Digital camera! The pop-up flash appears to be broken but some black tape fixed it until we get home. Everything else seems to work.

When we got back two rigs from BC had pulled into the park so I went over to talk to them. They turned out to be two couples from Terrace who we remembered from our many years there. They were Gordon Watmough (Les’s brother) and another guy who is a retired radio tech from the Department of Highways. I am bad with names – “Jim” something? Tony, he says you and Carl Lofroth go for coffee with him up there the odd Monday and they used to live across from Ken and Rusty Blanes on Soucie Street. The Watmoughs are Ray Demers’ former In-Laws. It really is a small world, running into acquaintances from Terrace in, of all places, Alamos, Mexico!

December 4, 2007

Leaving Alamos

We left Alamos yesterday. Alamos is one of, if not THE most perfect places I have ever been. Everything you need is there, everyone knows everyone else, and you can walk from one end of the village to the other in a half hour. People are helpful and friendly, there is not a frown or distrusting look in the whole place. I was looking at a statue in the Plaza when a shoe shine guy, probably between 50 and 60, came over to tell me, in excellent English, that the statue was a tribute to school teachers. We chatted for 10 or 15 minutes and I left. Except for the odd cowboy walking around in his boots, I did not see anyone in the Plaza wearing shineable shoes. Kids wear running shoes and most others, like me, wear sandals. Several days later we were walking in the square again and when he spotted me from way over on the other side he abandoned his shoe shine cart and came over to say “hola”. He said he was working and could not shake my hand as his hands were covered in shoe polish. He was just a perfect, dignified gentleman! He was most likely very poor but was still very proud and very typical of the Mexican people. I could write much more on Alamos and perhaps another time I will.

The Kids

We stopped for groceries in Navajoa, on Mexico 15 just after the turnoff for Alamos. There was a group of young people hanging off to one side as I was shopping. Eventually one of them stepped forward and said something to me in English. It turned out they were just suffering from a severe case of curiosity! What a great bunch of kids. Not really “kids”, as they were 16 – 18 years old. They wanted to know everything about us! Where were we from? How old were we? Did we have kids? What are their names? Endless questions! The spokesman was Isaac. I am including him in this email and I am sure he will share this with his friends. They were celebrating something – I think a birthday – and had bought a HUGE decadent chocolate cake to share and when we wandered past the snack bar area a little later they called for us to come and share their cake (which I did!) What a nice bunch of kids and what healthy curiosity! They showed endless patience with a couple of Canadians who knew no Spanish and I hope we learned a little from each other.

Later we stopped for the night in Los Mochis. We checked into the RV Park and were just getting ready to shut down for the night when there was a timid little knock on the door. It was a group of four kids, 10 to 12 years old who were curious about who we were. We invited them in and they were just awestruck over the motorhome. We spoke no Spanish and they spoke very little English but we all communicated! We gave them some little Canadian Flag pins and finally said good night. What clean, polite, cheerful, curious kids! They are all welcome anytime!

The Beer Truck

We followed the directions in the Church’s Mexico Guide to get to our next destination, Playa Las Glorias, but still succeeded in getting lost. Getting lost in Mexico with a 50 foot long rig is a little different than getting lost in Canada. As I said earlier, there are NO shoulders to pull off onto to think about your plight. You either just have to keep on going or do as we did and simply stop in the middle of the road with the 4-way flashers going to re-read the book and look at maps. Las Glorias was South of where we were and when I noticed the sun was off my left shoulder I knew something was wrong. As we poured over the instructions a large beer delivery truck pulled up beside my drivers window and asked if we were lost (in Spanish). I told them we wanted to go to Las Glorias and they indicated we were going the wrong way. Well, at least we were all on the same page. They indicated we had to go back several miles and turn South at the intersection. They motioned for us to follow them and they would show us where to turn around. How many truckers in Canada would do this? Another thing about the beer delivery guys. There were three of them in the truck and when they stopped I noticed they were all sampling their own product! This leads me to:

Beer Stores

Mexico has an over abundance of Beer Stores. Every little village has at least twice as many beer stores as they have grocery stores. The stores seem to be owned by the beer companies and they are always in two’s – one Tecate store with a Pacifico store either right next door or just across the street. They sell only their own brand of ice cold beer, one bottle at a time or by the case. They are always the cleanest and most brightly painted buildings in town. You do not see Mexicans drunk. I think what they do is, after work they will stop and buy one bottle of beer to take home. With beer costing 65 to 75 cents a bottle and with the minimum wage at under one dollar an hour, that is all many can afford. Mexicans are not allowed to drink on the street. That privilege seems to be reserved for tourists.

Las Glorias

We have yet to explore Las Glorias but at first glance is a sleepy little seaside village. Mr. Morro’s RV Park charges $200 Pesos ($19 CAN) a night for a beachfront site. There is very little water pressure and the electric is very questionable but this IS Mexico. They have a unique method of turning a 15 amp circuit into a 30 amp circuit. They simply replace the breaker! They don’t upgrade the wiring or replace the receptacle so you have a regular household receptacle that delivers 30 amps over (hopefully) 12 - 14 gauge wire that you need an adapter to connect to. Never leave home without one! There is a restaurant attached to the RV Park and I had the Sinaloa Style Fish. What a treat! It was a local filet smothered in very thinly sliced onions fried until they were just caramelized and then, with an oyster sauce added, served. I have never tasted anything so good! Norma had the T-Bone steak and there were two local cats under the table to help her dispose of the fat and gristle parts. If they were waiting for some fish, they are still waiting! Even the dogs and cats are polite in Mexico. If you feed one, the other will not fight for it, but will just wait their turn. There is no Internet in the park here so I will try to send this off tomorrow when we explore the other end of the town. There will be more to follow!

Next day - There is no Internet in the whole town! I will have to save this and send it when I can, hopefully on Saturday. We did however, find the fish docks and bought a generous Kilo of the whitest, mildest, freshest filets you could imagine for $40 Pesos ($3.80 CAN). They smell like the sea. None of the street merchants seem to have scales. They only sell by the Kilo and they typically throw a few handfuls into a bag, heft it and then add a couple more filets. I am sure ours weighs closer to three or three and a half pounds. They will meet my Varacruze sauce tomorrow night.

My Star Choice Story

I cannot get a good signal on Star Choice here in Las Glorias. I tweaked it for an hour yesterday and could not get a signal strength of more than 16 when I need at least 20 or 21 for TV. Tonight another RV from Quebec pulled in and he told me that he had the best automatic Star Choice finder available and when he acquires the signal, he will let me copy his settings. His system searched for a half hour and could not even get the 16 that I had.

So, no TV and no Internet. Nothing to do but listen to the surf crashing a few feet away and write in my computer. The three well behaved park dogs have already shared Norma’s leftover T-Bone steak and are all now soundly sleeping on our mat outside the door and dreaming of more pleasures to come. Life is good for animals and humans here in Las Glorias.

December 7, 2007

Happy Hour

We sponsored “Happy Hour” tonight. A fish salesman came into the park today selling fresh scallops for $250 Pesos ($24 CAN) a Kilo. They were pretty big and I could not turn them down. I fried half of them with a little Olive Oil, Butter, garlic and salsa and they were about as good as it sounds! We invited all our neighbours over for a taste of scallops and a cervesa y dos (beer or two). The neighbours included:

1) A retired Vietnam Veteran and his wife from Tucson who hates Bush but refuses to vote. If he did vote he would vote for Hillary, but he does not vote. Because he is a Vet he has Socialized medicine (sort of). They travel in a ‘77 vintage Greyhound Bus that he converted himself.

2) A Left Wing Atheist furniture store owner from Michigan who hates Bush and works to replace him. A kindred spirit. He brought a $400 Peso bottle of Tequila to the party! It is just as smooth as my very best Single Malt Scotch. The cheap stuff is $60 Pesos.

3) A retired Bank manager from Port Alberni who was traveling with

4) A retired car salesman from Port Alberni and their wives, all suspected Right Wingers who stayed out of most conversations but ate the bulk of the scallops. They squeezed in between us and the beach, blocking our view and then decided they did not like the power in the park so they did not connect but instead fired up their generator at seven this morning to make breakfast before they left.

5) A tri-lingual (French, English & Spanish) retired Canadian Air Force guy from Montreal who put in most of his time in Comox, BC and his French only speaking wife.

6) “Don Juan”, an 80 year young retiree from Portland, OR whose wife died last year and who is making his “last of many” trips down into Mexico. At least he says it is his last trip but I think he will be back. He simply enjoys life too much to pack it in.

7) A retired electrical engineer from Qualicum, BC who has worked all over the world and his wife, a former Telus nurse who got shown the door at the start of the “Entwhistle Coup”.

8) A retired Union Carpenter and his wife from Burnaby, BC who bought a house here in Las Glorias and who spend six months here and six months in Burnaby. They were at the adjoining hotel organizing a charity Christmas Party for the 60 – 70 kids who live in Las Glorias. They stopped by when they heard all the chatter and laughing. He tried to get a Star Choice signal for me but failed. He came by again the next morning and tried again, unsuccessfully.

Laundry Day

There are no Laundromats here in rural Mexico. In most towns you simply take your dirty laundry to the local lavaderia where they wash and fold them for you and charge less than you would pay doing it yourself at a Laundromat back home. Here in Las Glorias there is no lavaderia so you take your laundry to the office of the attached hotel where they do the same thing for you. We dropped it off at 10:00 this morning and picked it up at 4:00. It was $120 Pesos ($11 CA) for 8 KG of laundry.


Americans have an advantage over us in that they can simply move down here for extended periods without risk of losing their benefits. But then, they have hardly any benefits to lose! We have found many Americans who spend most of their time down here, but still, the vast majority of tourists are from Canada. It is a result of what the Leftie furniture salesman from Michigan calls, “Bush’s Politics of Fear”. Americans are taught to fear and hate everything that is slightly foreign to them. “A relative of a friend of a friend of a guy at work got beat up, shot and robbed in Mexico. That is why I will never go there”. This is the story you hear over and over on the travel forums and even talking to people. It is a good thing as it keeps the hoards away and leaves this beautiful country for those of us who appreciate it. We have been in Mexico one month today and have yet to meet any Mexican who is not pleasant and helpful.

Hot Shower

Our Vietnam Vet friend just stopped by to tell me the showers now have hot water so I ran over and had one. The hot water here in the RV Park and hotel is solar heated, delivered via a 200 – 300 gallon plastic tank on the hotel roof that was once black but has now been painted white for some unknown reason. There is never any hot water in the mornings but after the sun has been working for a few hours, it starts getting warm. It is 2:00 PM now and it was HOT! I even had to cool it down a little by turning on some cold water.

Interesting Factoid – Mexican Property Taxes

I was told by an American who spends a great deal of time in Mexico that when a Mexican Citizen reaches retirement age of 65 or 70 they get a cheque from the government for the full amount of all the property taxes they have paid in their entire life! Local governments are only allowed to spend the interest they earn from their property tax revenues while the principal itself remains the property of the taxpayer to be returned to them when they reach retirement age and also at which time they no longer have to pay any taxes. Property taxes are very low here but even at three or four hundred dollars a year it would be a pretty nice retirement gift in a country with a very low average annual income. This is a pretty progressive way of thinking and makes financial sense as well. Maybe Canada should try this.

Sand Fleas

There are sand fleas here. They come out at sunset and they are vicious. Anything from the knees down is fair game for them. They are easy to control with a squirt of Deep Woods Off or with one of the Mexican products but of course you never remember to put it on until they start biting! I understand they might get worse as we continue South.

La Tourista

I have La Tourista! You always think there has to be some relationship between the volume you eat and the volume that passes out the other end, but I am now convinced that there is not. Right now I think that for every pound I eat, three pounds passes out. Mathematically, this cannot go on forever. One of our neighbours gave me some Imodium and another some Pepto Bismol and I have been taking them all day. Another neighbour, a (forced) retired Telus nurse told me the best treatment is to take nothing at all and to just let it run its course. Well, “running” it is! Either way, if these Journal entries stop it will be because the last of my two hundred and some pounds just got flushed down the toilet….

December 8, 2007

Internet from Las Glorias

The park owner here assured us that he would have WIFI next year. That will be very nice because the process right now is an adventure in itself! You have to drive back about five miles away from the beach to a tiny little village called Palos Verde where you turn off on an unmarked dirt road. You take the first right, follow it for about five blocks and there right behind the school is a tiny house with a little lean-to addition with the Microsoft symbol hand painted on the side! It is an Internet café – well hardly a café because there is not a cup of coffee to be seen but the owner is very accommodating and configured my laptop for me to connect with his system. It must be a satellite system but I did not see the dish. He charges $12 Pesos ($1.15 CAN) an hour and because he is right next door to the school, the kids come over to do their homework on the Internet. I don’t know how he makes money from them as the kids certainly have no money. Maybe he has an arrangement with the school or their parents, although it has to be the poorest communities I have ever seen. One thing is for sure though; he is making a huge difference in these kids’ lives. A year ago, most of them would hardly get a chance to see even the next village, but now they have the whole world via the Internet. While we were there three little girls came in to do their Geometry assignment. There were a dozen empty computers in the place but of course they all crowded around the one right beside me, sneaking little peeks at my screen and giggling away. It was a fun time. My charge for the time I was there was six Pesos so I gave him twenty and told him to let the girls do some surfing.

The roads in Palos Verde are something to experience. They are dirt and when it rains they turn into mud. When they dry again the dried mud becomes as hard as concrete and retains the ruts and holes left from the rain. This is now the road until the next rain. The car just pitches from side to side and you sometimes think it will never climb out of the rut! But it does. The little Honda is still earning it’s keep with its 260,000 Kilometers. I keep waiting for it to start costing enough money to justify replacing but it just keeps on purring.

December 9, 2007

Moving to Punta San Miguel

We moved a couple hundred Kilometers South to a very small beach community just off the Mexico 1 Toll Road called Punta San Miguel into the Celistino RV Park. Other than two RV Parks there is nothing here except a very small grocery store, a couple of palapas style restaurants and a Church. The property the RV Park is on is long and only about 60 feet wide with the narrow rocky beach at the end. It is owned by an American who built it himself. It is not really all that great but is a quiet place to rest and wait for our month long reservation in Mazatlan to open on the 17th.

We are picking up a few traveling companions along the way. Our neighbours in Las Glorias, Kim & Charlette from Tucson and Don, the 80 year old from Oregon who is following them decided to try out the Celestino after we told them where we were going. Andre and his wife from Montreal, who were also at Las Glorias, pulled in here yesterday as well after hearing us talk about it. Kim, Charlette and Don drove into Mazatlan yesterday to try to make reservations and ended up reserving at Las Jaibas, the same park we will be in! He said the only other one that had a vacancy was full of million dollar rigs and he did not think he would fit in with his 1977 Bus Conversion and his Harley Davidson tattoos! Andre came by this morning and said he was going to Mazatlan today as well for the same reason so we told him about Las Jaibas so it will probably be the same old crowd all over again. We are all really great people so we will have fun. Kim said he brought his deep fryer along so he and Charlette will be doing the Christmas turkey for everyone! I know Robin and George will like them.

We got Star Choice working! It turned out that my “Skew” setting was way off. I still had it set at 60 degrees for Canada while the correct setting is 92 degrees for down here. This setting allows you to receive a signal from both satellites on the same dish. The new neighbours here were very helpful in getting me sorted out. It is nice to be able to catch up on Canadian news again.

Tomorrow we will be going on a Naturalist tour to a Sea Turtle raising facility near here with a group from the Park. They have hired an English speaking Naturalist to guide us and we will get to release a turtle into the surf! It will be a fun afternoon for $50 Pesos ($4.75 CAN) each which includes the guide as well as a donation to the facility. Sea turtles are an endangered species here as although millions of eggs are hatched each year, very few make it past the birds that are waiting for them and across the wide beach into the water.

I am getting very bored with the Toll Booths here in Mexico. Between Las Glorias and here were another two booths, one which cost almost $30 USA for the motorhome and car. Kim says there is another one between here and Mazatlan as well. I have not added it up but the total will be over $100 USA between the border and Mazatlan. Norma says it is no different than paying for our ferry and also because we are paying no other taxes here so I guess I should not complain.

I was asked to try again to use the BCC function on Gmail to send this and I will try to figure it out. As a result, you may end up with two copies of this but please bear with me!

December 11, 2007

The motorhome is starting to show its age. As I mentioned earlier, the “Check Engine” light came on for a while just after we crossed into Mexico and although it has not returned, it is a source of concern. There are many “Taller Mechanico” (Mechanical Workshop) signs along the way, both in front of houses and small shops, but I wonder about the availability of parts. I have also been worried by a smell of exhaust fumes that I could not determine the source of. A retired mechanic at the park here had a listen under the hood and thought I might have a leak in the exhaust manifold. He also said he may be wrong and that there may simply be a (cheaper) exhaust system problem. He said if I was worried about it I should take it to a shop where they could either lift it up to have a look or get under it in a pit. He said any competent mechanic would be able to diagnose the problem quickly. If I find a suitable shop along the way I might see what they have to say, and of course if it gets worse I will have to bite the bullet. I am sure these rural mechanics are used to working with what they have and this would probably not a big deal to them and I am sure it will cost a lot less to get it repaired here than to take it home and get it done. I just need to convince myself to do it. One step closer to replacing the motorhome….

We had unexpected company this afternoon! My niece Robin and her friend George dropped in on their way to Mazatlan! They noted where we were from the Journal, found the park and stopped to see us. We had a nice visit and they went on their way to open their condo. It will be a fun month when we join them in Mazatlan!

December 12, 2007

Sea Turtles

Today we went to a Sea Turtle raising facility operated by the local University. Sea Turtles live about 200 years and females start laying eggs after five years. They come out of the sea and cross about a hundred feet of beach, dig a hole 40 centimeters deep and lay their eggs. After the gestation period, the eggs hatch, the turtles climb to the surface and instinctively make their way to the smell and sound of the water. About 20,000 turtles call the beach along this coast home and each female lays around 100 eggs per year. The normal survival rate for these eggs is a little under three percent. Their enemies, while in the egg stage, are coyotes who dig them up and eat them and man who drives over them with dune buggies and builds condos on top of them. After they are hatched their enemies are the thousands of seabirds (and dune buggies) who wait for them to climb to the surface and make their way across the beach, quite a trek at low tide under the summer sun! The lucky ones that actually make it to the surf line then face the threat of large fish that eat them before their shells harden enough to protect them. At this point they are a little over an inch across the shell. As they grow older they are also hunted by man for their meat and shells.

The University run facility here tries to eliminate three of these threats by digging up as many eggs as they can, reburying them in a protected environment either under fenced tents in the summer months or in Styrofoam boxes stored indoors in the winter. Once they hatch and struggle up through the 40 cm of sand and rest for an hour, the turtles are ready to be released into the water. They had sufficient newly hatched turtles on hand for each of the fifteen or twenty couples to release one. We carried them down to the water and placed them in the surf, sending them on their way. Now the only predator they have to deal with is the fish! It was a great experience and the Spanish speaking biologist and his interpreter did a really good job explaining everything and answering questions. It is a humbling experience to watch these tiny creatures struggle across the sand and, when the water touches them, instantly begin their instinctive swimming action with all four flippers. It takes humans about twenty years to reach the same stage of independent survival abilities as these turtles attain in one hour!

December 13, 2007

El Quelite

We took a drive to the small village of El Quelite, about 50 KM from the park. It is a wonderful little traditional Mexican Village full of brightly painted buildings, restaurants and shops that movie sets could have been designed after. As we drove into town we were stopped by “Jesus” who handed us a pamphlet for a local restaurant, assuring us it was the best in town. He said to present the flyer to the waiter and we would get a 10% discount and he would get a few Pesos for sending us there. We found the restaurant and he was right. It was a traditional Mexican place with a huge courtyard, lots of wood beams and doors and oil paintings on the walls. The waiter took several minutes to show us around the place (including the varnished, hollowed out trees made into urinals in the men’s room) before seating us. We had one of the best breakfasts we have had in Mexico! The eggs were done to perfection and the sugar and cinnamon crepes served with them simply melted in your mouth! All this, and coffee, for only $130 Pesos after the 10% discount.

After breakfast we walked through town and found a neat little pottery shop where we bought a beautiful white sculpture of a kneeling naked woman that was made in Guadalajara. Now I just have to get it home without breaking it!

Rest Areas

There are not many Rest Areas on the toll road here but when they do decide to build one, they go all out. We stopped at one and they have a large parking area, water, rest rooms, a taco stand and a small playground. There does not seem to be any limit on the time you are allowed to stay so I assume one could stop and have a nap for several hours. It is busy enough with the all night truck traffic that it would be safe.

For those of you who cannot find us on Google Earth, Punta San Miguel is a tiny village on the beach about ten Kilometers south of the little town of La Cruz which is on Mex 15. The Celestino RV Park is small but has WIFI available in a small building and adjoining palapa near the laundry. The Internet is via satellite and will not allow me to use my Skype or other broadband phone. I can hear the land phone but the land phone cannot hear me. Hopefully it will be better next week in Mazatlan where they charge an optional one dollar a day extra for Internet.

So far the temperature has been just to my liking. The daytimes get up into the high 20’s and the nights down to the mid teens, just right for sleeping. Because we are close to the sea, it can be a little humid at times but not too bad. I have a talent for finding railway tracks and have once again succeeded. Trains go by a couple of times a night, sometimes waking me up but I think I can live with that little inconvenience. Overall, life is good.

December 15, 2007

San Ignacio

Another day, another visit to a small Mexican village. Today it was the village of San Ignacio, about 100 Km inland from us. I do not think many North Americans get here as I did not see another white face in the whole village today. Very friendly people, very typical of all of the Mexico we have seen to this point. I had a bit of trouble finding something to eat as San Ignacio is in the middle of cattle country and you get a funny look when you ask for pescado (fish) or camerone (shrimp) tacos. I finally found a street vendor selling huge shrimp and octopus cocktails. It was indescribably good and cost only $50 Pesos ($4.75) for about a half liter of the delicious mixture topped with fresh lime juice. Seafood Cocktails are a lot thinner in Mexico and served at room temperature which enhances the taste even more. They are probably better described as a cold soup. Norma held out for a beef taco which we found down the street for a reasonable $15 Pesos ($1.45) for two. With the huge tray of condiments that comes with tacos (cucumbers, fresh salsa, guacamole and lime), two was about one more than she could eat. After filling up with gas, we headed home. The price of gas is controlled by the Government and costs the same in isolated parts of the country as it does along the main highways, $7.01 Pesos ($.68) per liter for Magna (Regular 89 Octane). This is very cheap for us “rich gringos” but is still very expensive for Mexicans when you consider that the minimum wage here is under a dollar an hour!

The White Cowboy Hat

When we got back “home” we drove into La Cruz for a few groceries we needed and I went shopping for a cowboy hat. All the men down here wear them and I thought because I am as big as I am, I would fit right in with all the rest of the big guys around here wearing one. I found a shop and started trying them on. They are not the traditional old felt Stetsons but rather a light plastic material that actually looks very good. The prices ranged from $80 Pesos up to around $800 Pesos for the designer labels. The clerk saw that I was hesitating so kept me in the store by showing me a table full that had been marked down. I ended up with a very nice one for a mere $50 Pesos ($4.90). It must have looked passable as I wore it back to the car and got no strange looks or laughs that I could hear. I am feeling more like a Mexican every day. Now if I could only make my skin a little darker and ride a horse I would fit right in….

Broken Nikon, Part Dos

When I dropped my new 35mm digital camera in Alamos a couple of weeks ago the flash popped up and would not lock down again when I tried to reset it. I tried all the tricks I knew, changing from automatic to manual and back and turning the camera off and on, taking the battery in and out, nothing worked. Assuming something was broken, all I could do was tape it down with some colour matching black tape I luckily had on hand ;) and wait until I get home. Today I needed the flash so I took the tape off and lo and behold – everything works! The computer must have reset itself or something, I have no idea how it fixed itself but it is a further testimonial to the bullet-proof quality of Nikons.

Moving Further South

Tomorrow we move to the Las Jaibas RV Park in Mazatlan for a month. My niece Robin and her friend George have a condo a couple of blocks from the Park so we will be spending some time with them. We also plan to leave the motorhome there for three days and drive over The Devils’ Backbone, inland to Durango for a couple of nights in a hotel.

I have been checking the weather in Arizona and you folks are FREEZING there! Move South! Mazatlan will be in the low 80’s next week. Sorry… Couldn’t help rubbing it in ;)

December 20, 2007


We are firmly settled in Mazatlan. We have a nice spot right across from Kim & Charlette, our new friends from Tucson who left the Celestino a few days before us. My niece Robin and George came over to welcome us to Mazatlan and we all celebrated by drinking copious amounts of cervesa and tequila! We took a drive downtown along the Malecon and boy is this city ever beautiful! Hundreds of little places just waiting to be explored, tons of neat little shops and rows of interesting restaurants. We had booked for one month bur are going to extend for another couple of weeks so we will be able to be here for Mardi Gras at the end of January. The park is putting on a potluck Christmas Dinner on the 23rd. The owner of the park is supplying the turkeys and our friends Kim and Charlette from Tucson are going to deep fry them in the American tradition. They are the ones in the converted Greyhound Bus so they have tons of storage space in the old luggage bins to pack the essentials like their gigantic deep fryer and a spare fridge and freezer! Norma and Robin are making vegetables and salad as our contribution. I may even be able to drink again by then!

There is a great little palapa restaurant right on the property here as the Las Jaibas where we have eaten at least one meal a day since we arrived. He turns out fantastic food from a tiny little kitchen no more than 5 X 7 feet. His garlic shrimp are huge and delicious and last night he had fresh halibut. The six of us were there (George, Robin, Kim, Charlette and us) and after he had served us out large portions of halibut he brought over a second helping on the house! He does not have a liquor license but has no objection to us bringing our own beer and wine.

George took me to the main liquor store when we arrived and I bought a $425 Peso bottle of tequila which turned out to be not bad but certainly not up to par with the one the folks from Minnesota had in Las Glorias. However I also bought a bottle of Agavero, a tequila based liqueur that is VERY GOOD, especially mixed with a little tequila!

Mazatlan is a lot different from the small rural villages we have been staying in up to this point. It is more of an International city where many, if not most of the people speak at least a little English. Like any big city, things tend to be a little more expensive and your choices are much wider when shopping. There is something to be said for the conveniences offered here and the ease of communication but I still think I prefer the smaller villages where you get to experience the real Mexico.

Reservations are a totally different thing in Mexico. Our friends from Tucson were told they had to leave on the 26th as their spot was taken after that. They went back a few days later to see if there was any way they could stay longer and were told no, the park was booked. So they made their plans to leave on the 26th and Charlette has booked a flight to go to from Tucson to New Orleans in early January to visit her kids for a couple of weeks. This morning someone drove into the park and asked Kim when they were leaving, he told them on the 26th so they went to the office and rented it for the same two weeks that Kim was told there was no way they could have! He got a little paranoid and thought it was because of his Harley Davidson tattoos but I think it is simply the inefficiency of the reservation system. We are trying to secure a spot in our park for our friend Les from BC for a week from the 28th and think we may have succeeded. She promises to let us know for sure tomorrow. It has been an adventure.

We have been thinking that we would like to go home by a different route. Once you have seen the coast, you have seen it and there is so much more to this wonderful country. When we leave here in January we are planning to head inland to Guadalajara for a week or so and then head up the interior to exit Mexico in Texas. If the Canadian Dollar is still good and if we have any money left by then we may look to upgrade the motorhome in Texas. There are a couple of dealers we are checking with that have a good selection of low mileage Class A’s to look at. The one we have has been great but it would be so nice to have a slide or two to stretch out my legs. We shall see.

I have not done anything about the exhaust manifold yet. Robin and George’s neighbour in the condos is a Mexican Marine Biologist who works in the shrimp industry and who speaks perfect English. He says it will be difficult to get anything done right now as all the workers want time off for the Holidays and will not be accepting new work. He is going to ask around for us and let us know if he can find someone. He seems to think that someone might be willing to do the job without having to move the rig. They will come to the park, remove the manifold and take it away to fix it. This would be great if it works out.

While I was writing this a shrimp salesman came through the park offering gigantic shrimp for $190 per Kilo. This is the most we have paid but after I bought a kilo and a half he cleaned them all and removed the sand vein for me! It took him about five minutes and saved me a half hours work.

I may not get another entry out before Christmas so I will take this opportunity to wish all of our friends and relatives a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you could all be down here with us in this fantastic weather and beautiful scenery!

December 22, 2007

Shopping in Mexico

Shopping in Mexico is a little different experience than shopping in Canada. First, hardly any stores take credit cards and some that do sometimes add 5% - 6% to your purchase as a Credit Card Fee so we always make sure we visit an ATM on a pretty regular basis and always end up carrying more cash than I am comfortable carrying. Things are no longer really cheap in Mexico. If you want international brands you will pay the same as you pay at home. If you are willing to take the Mexican brands you will save quite a bit. Electronics are quite a bit more expensive than in the USA if not Canada as well. The big stores are Wal Mart, Ley (old Mexican grocery chain), Soriana (a higher class Mexican Wal Mart type store). Here in Mazatlan there is also Home Depot and Sam’s Club. There are also many small grocery stores where you pay a premium for the convenience – same as home. There are always vendors coming through the RV parks selling vegetables, fish and shrimp as well as RV washing and waxing services. A wash and hand wax costs $1 USA per foot and includes scrubbing the roof and cleaning the awning. Sunday is the day Mexicans go shopping so that is a good day to stay home as the stores and parking lots are crammed. Liquor is cheaper than in Canada but more than in the USA.

ATM’s hand out mostly $500 Peso notes and because small merchants do not carry enough change to handle these, one is always trying to accumulate smaller bills. Bills come in $20, $50, $100, $200 and $500 Peso denominations. Coins are $1, $2, $5 and $10 Pesos and sometimes you find 10 and 50 Centavo coins but prices always seem to end up in even Pesos. There is a GST equivalent here but it is added before the price is listed so it is a hidden tax.

Gas is the real bargain here at $7.01 Pesos ($.68 CAN) a liter. Engine oil is another matter. Multi grade is almost impossible to find and when you do it is around $4.50 CAN a quart or more. I will have to check out the gas stations as there might be a Pemex brand oil sold there for less.

RV supplies are impossible to find. RV’s are not sold in Mexico and nobody carries supplies like sewer hoses, toilet chemicals or parts. Our American friends had the seal on their toilet break and they were lucky enough to have a Home Depot in Mazatlan where they bought and adapted a house style floor flange. With the help of copious amounts of silicone that I had on hand it will probably be a lasting fix.

Dining out is a little cheaper than at home. A nice meal in a small restaurant can be found for $75 to $95 Pesos ($7 - $9 CAN). Portion sizes are a little more reasonable “Canadian size” rather than the huge “American sized” portions. Fancier restaurants with entertainment are quite a bit more expensive. Seven of us went out to a restaurant for a meal and to see a Tina Turner impressionist last night and it worked out to about $1000 Pesos ($100 CAN) per couple with food, drinks and tip. A good show and a lot of fun but not cheap. The owner of the restaurant is from Vancouver and the impressionist is a “Surrey Girl”! Most of the RVs down here seem to have BC plates on them. There are very few Americans.

Property prices are going crazy in Mexico’s coastal regions. RV Parks are selling out to condo developers at such a rate that there is now a severe shortage of RV spaces. This is probably going to force us to leave the coastal areas as we go further South. I don’t really mind this as we have seen a lot of the coast already and the real history of Mexico is told in the interior regions. It will also be nice to get away from the coastal humidity and as a bonus prices will start going down quickly as we leave the tourist areas. So will the availability of RV Parks but contrary to many rumours, it is perfectly safe to park overnight in Pemex and Wal Marts parking lots in Mexico as long as one exercises a little common sense.

I will have to start studying my maps and talking to other RV’ers about a good route. That is one nice quality of RV’ers. Once they get to know you they are willing to share all their tips.

Beggars and Street People

They are pretty much unheard of here. Sure there are kids bugging you while you eat but they are not simply looking for a handout. They are selling something, be it a rose, trinket, piece of candy or whatever. They are not persistent and leave with a simple “No, gracias!”. In restaurants the waiters usually put the run on them after they have made the rounds of the tables once. There are “Squeegee Kids” here as well as people offering to wash your car when you park it on the street.

Wal Marts employ parking lot workers who are quick to offer to watch your car while you shop, help you with your bags when you come out and then help you back out into the traffic. They are quick to spot “rich” tourists parking and expect a small tip of five or ten Pesos for their services but I feel the service they provide is welcome and worthy of a small tip.

Handicapped people are another story. The Mexican Government does not like to hand out benefits to people who do not work. Mexicans love to work and their Government goes out of their way to create employment for people by preferring to hire many people to do a project (road work, building, etc.) over buying heavy equipment to do the same job. Another example is having multiple Government owned Pemex gas stations in a village or neighborhood where one would be plenty. This is all in order to give people a chance to find work. Severely handicapped people cannot work so pretty much fall through the cracks and they are the ones you see looking for a handout. They are not in your face about it, are polite and give you a sincere “gracias” when you drop a few Pesos into their hat or bowl.

December 24, 2007

Christmas Dinner at Las Jaibas RV Park

Last night was the annual Christmas Dinner here. Filipe, the owner of the Park donated five turkeys to the party and the residents provided potluck for the trimmings and desserts. Our American friends Kim and Charlette from Tucson volunteered to deep fry the birds and they were reported to have come out perfectly cooked and juicy! Everyone else outdid themselves and there was more than enough to eat. My niece Robin and George came with us and everyone agreed that it was one of if not the best potlucks ever. Not understanding the customs in Mexico we were embarrassed when Filipe stopped us when we were gathering up our leftovers after we ate, telling us that members of his family and the park workers had not eaten yet and to please leave food for them. We left the leftovers for the park workers and everything was completely gone by the next morning when we went to retrieve our serving plates. Now we know the custom we will not make that mistake again. Live and learn.

Before dinner we were all entertained by a choir of rescued street kids that the Salvation Army has adopted as a project, making sure they attend school, have clothing, a place to sleep and two meals a day. There was a collection taken for them at the Park during the previous month with a goal of raising $6000 Pesos ($600 CAN). The residents outdid that and donated over $8000 Pesos. The singing was followed by a frenzied Piñata session where one little girl got whacked on the head with a baseball bat when the piñata broke but the blindfolded boy kept swinging during the scramble for candy. She had a large bleeding bump on the head but was well looked after by the many retired nurses and grandmothers in the park and seemed to have survived just fine. They were a really great group of kids and they helped us all get over missing our own grandchildren.

Our Christmas

On Christmas Day Robin and George have invited Norma and I as well as our new American friends Kim and Charlette and their traveling companion, Don from Oregon to their condo for dinner. Kim offered to deep fry yet another turkey for the occasion and Norma is baking a stuffed salmon for the non-carnivore of the group.

We have really enjoyed meeting Kim and Charlette from Tucson. They have a house on the West side of Tucson with two RV pads and have offered us a place to park whenever we are there. We fully intend to take them up on their hospitality! Charlette is from New Orleans and has the “Southern Belle” accent to prove it. She is a hoot! Kim is a Vietnam Veteran who had a drywall business and saved enough to allow them to retire quite young and to travel in a huge Greyhound bus that he converted into a motorhome himself. We have been their traveling companions and neighbors in the last three RV Parks over the last three weeks or so and are really going to miss them when they leave to make their way towards home on the 26th.

We want all of you to have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Years and you are all in our thoughts.

Feliz Navidad!

December 31, 2007

Sorry, I have been taking a short break from my updates. It has been very quiet here for the past week after our American friends left to make their way back to Tucson. Our friend Les form Vancouver Island arrived and found he did actually have a reservation. It had been a frustrating month for us while we badgered the office to make a reservation for him. I now believe it was because he wanted a space for only a week and the park would far rather give the spot to someone who wanted it for a longer period so one day it was “Yes, he has a reservation” and the next day it was “No, we are full”. Anyway, all’s well that ends well!

I had “met” Lee, a woman who is active on the Escapees RV Forums and who lives in Mazatlan during the weeks / months that I was gathering information for our Mexican adventure. She has been very helpful and is an expert on Mazatlan and surrounding area. During one of our online exchanges she invited us to contact us when we were here and she would show us around. Les had also contacted her for some help and received the same invitation. A couple of days ago we contacted her and we all went out for dinner to one of her favorite seafood restaurants. We could tell it was going to be good as soon as we walked through the door and noticed that it was filled with locals with hardly a North American in sight! The meal was excellent as was the conversation. We made plans to do some exploring in the back country and Lee offered to come along and guide us. We did that yesterday and really enjoyed each others company and the trip (especially the banana cream coconut pie!). Les did a great entry on his Blog on our day and I am simply doing to blatantly steal it from him (with his permission) and reprint it here:

Lee offered to show Norma and Croft and I around to some smaller towns outside of Mazatlan and of course we jumped at the offer so at 9.30am we picked Lee up and went off into the Sierra Madre Occidental foothills. The first little town we came to was Concordia, this town is renown for it’s high quality made furniture and we stopped at a road side vendor and his furniture was incredible and the prices very reasonable. The town itself is like going back in time 200 years. A sleepy little town plaza where vendors, small children and locals mix. The town boasts the largest chair and of course yours truly had to play the tacky tourist and have my photo taken here. Overlooking this square is the Church of St. Sebastian built around the late 1790’s. This church was so ornate and magnificent and a peek inside revealed a mass baptism taken place with at least 6 small beautifully dressed babies being blessed. We had a drink at the El Granero restaurant. This was a novel adventure for me for the restaurant where I worked all those years (in Nanaimo) is called the Granary and I guess this is the Mexican equivalent and no I did not apply for a position.

From here we drove further into the mountains for about 20 miles where we came across another smaller town called Copala, if the other town was like stepping in back in time 200 years this was like stepping back in time 400 years!! Don’t know why but this little town is noted for its Banana cream coconut pie!! We decided to test this first before we walked the town, so we went to Daniels restaurant, which was in a fabulous location overlooking the mountains, and the pie was just out of this world!! We walked around the property, which is an abandoned gold and silver mine and Croft and I went down into one of the shafts. There is a small hotel here and as we were walking around we met the owner, Daniel, who is a transplanted Californian who came here years ago and really was instrumental in making this town the tourist attraction it now is.

We went into the town through small cobble stoned paths and came upon the little plaza and it was like out of an old movie. At one end of the plaza the beautiful old baroque Church of San Jose, the side streets were lined with small benches, locals sat watching us the tourists, two young boys riding burros and down this little side lane I found the three beautiful sisters who spoke perfect English and enjoyed having their photo taken. This town was such a joy and definitely one to remember. The weather was hot and everyone was friendly.

On the way back to Mazatlan we stopped at another small but bustling town of Villa Union and here we walked the square watching the shoppers and the hustle of the little town. Of course here was another church this one not so old and totally different in design and construction from the other two.

This was just a great day and it was neat to travel such a short distance away from the beaches and hordes of tourists and thanks to Lee for being tour guide and thank you to Norma and Croft for driving us and for Croft putting up with back seat drivers.

Les is an old hand at Mexican travel although this is his first go with an RV. His previous trips down here have been in a van so this is a big change for him. I also met him on the Escapees Forums and have had the opportunity to give him a hand with a couple of RV related problems and he has been a great help to us in planning this trip. He has an excellent Blog of his travel adventures that can be found here: http://www.mexicokid.blogspot.com/ . Anyone interested in Mexico from his point of view would enjoy following it.

It is New Years Eve tonight and my niece Robin and George have invited Les, Norma and I over to their condo a couple of blocks away. Their neighbour Gord from Phoenix will also be there so it will be fun.

On Wednesday night George, Robin, Les and I are going to see a Mazatlan Venados baseball game! The Venados are in the playoffs so it will be an exciting game against their arch rivals from Obergon. From looking at their website, it looks like the best tickets are only $100 Pesos ($10 CAN).

So that is it for us for this year! Everyone have a happy and safe New Years Eve and we will talk to you in ’08.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year to you both.
    Looks like your having a lot of fun.
    Am envious as heck.
    16 months and I get out!!!
    Thanks for link to here.
    Bob & Joan