Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Low Bridge!

Oh boy! What a day! We drove from Mahehuala to Monterrey yesterday. More on that trip later.
We were looking for the entrance to the Bahia Escondida Hotel & RV Park in Monterrey. The road was quite busy and the entrance to the park was not well marked so we ended up not seeing the sign until we drove by it, too late to make the turn. We continued on until we saw a “Returno” sign. The Returno route took us to the right and to an underpass under the highway. There was no height sign posted but from what I could see, it looked like I had sufficient clearance.

After I made the turn into the underpass, the height suddenly shortened and before I could react,  the air conditioner hit the concrete overpass! There was a terrible grinding noise as I hit the brakes and stopped.
We got out to look and determined the only way out was to back up, an impossible feat with the car attached.  I was starting to unhook the car when a Trafico police motorcycle arrived to direct traffic. He was soon joined by another policeman and a couple of helpful motorists. We unloaded and parked the Honda and pulled the dolly up onto the median. The motorists who stopped were letting air out of the tires so I could back out.

All this time we were completely blocking the u-turn route and the Traficos were diverting traffic back onto the highway. It was a nightmare but everything went as well as could be expected and even the motorists being waved on were pleasant.

I was finally able to back out and hook the dolly back on. Then, with a police motorcycle escort, drove on a few blocks to an area where I could park and put the Honda, which Norma was following in, back on the dolly. I climbed onto the roof to inspect the damage and found the air conditioning unit laying on top of the four solar panels, two of which had torn loose from their mounts. All four were smashed as well as two vent covers. There were also two tears in the rubber roof as well as several smaller cuts. I passed the broken parts down to the Traficos and threw the smashed air conditioner down to the ground. The police stacked everything on the sidewalk and told us not to worry about it, that someone would pick it up. Sure enough, by the time I returned to take photos of the damaged parts, they were gone. Some ingenious Mexican will soon be sporting a repaired air conditioning unit on his house!

All this time I was expecting to be charged with something. Being stupid if nothing else, but they simply shook our hands and sent us on our way. No reports, no inspecting drivers licenses, nothing.
One of the first things I did when we finally checked into the RV park was to phone Chris, who we were planning to meet the next day. He lived close by and came to meet us at the RV park. Chris is fluent in Spanish and his help was invaluable and appreciated. He called the insurance company and arranged for an adjuster who arrived within a half hour! What service! Today Chris is picking us up to go to the insurance company office here in Monterrey.

Pre and Post Damage


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Makes You Go Hmmm

Our friend Les from Nanaimo, BC spends his winters RVing in Mexico. Late last year he bought a large plastic bowl, the kind you might wash dishes in. He did not pay much for it and since he had no room to store it inside it found a place to ride outside, between the ladder and the body of his RV. It was not locked on but just sat there, safe and sound. As I said, it was a very inexpensive, dollar store type item.

He traveled with it this way for several months all across Mexico and no one touched it! Parked in poverty stricken small dusty towns in Mexico, no one stole the bowl.

Les left Mexico a week or so ago and made his way up to the Visitors Center of Grand Canyon and parked in their parking lot. While he was parked there someone stole his bowl! Right off the back of his motorhome in broad daylight! That bowl survived months in Mexico sitting right there for the taking and was not taken. It only survived in the USA for a week. Times must be really tough when you have to steal a twenty peso plastic bowl.

The next time someone asks me if I feel safe in Mexico I will recount the story of Les' bowl to them.

What Next?

Don from Pahrump, NV asks what we will be doing next, short and long term. Tomorrow we leave on the short drive to Monterrey where we will visit with Chris who has been a great help to me in planing these trips to Mexico. We will explore Monterrey for a couple of days while watching the weather NOB carefully. In the short term we want to see San Antonio, TX and walk the River Walk but we do not want to fight freezing temperatures to do it. Been there, done that. The motorhome needs to be serviced and even with the dollar difference, I will have it done in the USA. I should have brought extra oil and a filter so I could have the oil changed in Mexico for $30 Pesos. 5W20 is not available in Mexico, even at Ford dealers.

We do not have to be home until late April when we Canadians have to send in our taxes and when our out of country medical insurance expires. We will do a few chores at home like tile two of the bathrooms and maybe the laundry room and kitchen. It is also my birthday around then so we will have a few friends over to celebrate and to show off my new hammocks. Our son Brooks and his partner Linda might come up from Victoria if they can spare a couple of days away from their fencing business which has suddenly picked up. That should take up most of May.

At the end of May is the AGM of the BCARTW, our Retirees Organization of which I am an Executive member. That meeting will be in Vancouver and is followed by a camp out in Oliver, BC with a bunch of old farts I worked with back in my Union Activist days. It is always fun to re-fight the battles and remind ourselves how much fun we had doing it. We will then continue up to Edmonton, Alberta where the family will get together to bury my brothers ashes. Gord passed away suddenly while we were in Mexico this winter and we all decided that we would do this in June rather than interrupt our (and my nieces') winter in Mexico. This was the way he wanted it and what my big brother wants, my big brother gets. It will be nice getting everyone together, although I wish it did not have to be under these circumstances. We will have to start doing this more often and think of better reasons to do it.

Hopefully we will be able to get our granddaughters out in the motorhome for a bit but they are both getting so involved in their own "stuff" that it is getting harder and harder to schedule some "alone" time with them. We will have to work on it.

Once again, we will probably only be in our house for three or four months this year before heading off to Mexico again in late October. Our son says we should sell the house and buy a diesel pusher but we want a place to call home. Plus with the financial situation as volatile as it is, one wonders if it would be possible to get back in the housing market when the wandering days end. Not a risk I am willing to take. Who needs a diesel pusher anyway? I would be crying over every rock scar and parking lot ding and it would be too large for Mexico anyway!

So much to do and so little time! I don't know how I ever had time to work for a living!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tropico de Cancer

Technically, the Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost point that the sun can appear directly overhead at noon on the June Solstice. It is currently at Latitude 23° 26′ 22″ north. This position is not fixed, but varies in a complex manner over time, hence the difference between the official present position I gave and the Latitude given on the sign, which was its approximate position in 1975 when the monument was erected.

To me, it is less technical and more emotional. When I cross this line it tells me I am no longer in the Tropics and am heading home. It always gives me a twinge of sadness but happiness at the same time, sadness that my "endless summer" is nearing a temporary end while at the same time happiness that I am fortunate enough to be able to travel as I do. It is a complex feeling.


If you sight through the slot in the monument as the camera is doing, you are looking along the Tropic of Cancer (at least where it was in 1975). As I took the photo, one foot was still in the Tropics. That leg felt warmer.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Real de Catorce

Real de Catorce is a former silver mining town located at the 9000 foot level of the Sierra de Catorce Mountain Range 260 kilometres northwest of the City of San Luis Potosi, close to Matahula. It is reached by a 27 km cobblestone road followed by a 2.4 km long (alternating) one way tunnel. It is an amazing trip to this town.

The town was founded in 1772 when silver was discovered in the area and the mines were worked until 1905 when falling world prices forced it to close. In its days of peak production it rivaled Guanajuato in silver production After that the town joined the ranks of other ghost mining towns of Mexico and survived pretty much untouched until artists and some ambitious individuals working the tailings established another foothold in the town.

Because it has changed so little since the Nineteenth Century, it is a natural location for western films and several were filmed here. They include “The Mexican” with Brad Pitt, “Bandidas” with Salma Hayak and Penelope Cruz and “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre” with Humphrey Bogart.

We drove there today, paid the $20 Peso fee to enter the tunnel, found a place to park on one of the very narrow streets and walked around much of the town. The town is built on the side of a mountain so walking involves much up and down climbing and at 9000 feet elevation, your heart and lungs really feel it. Real de Catorce would be a very healthy place to live!



Toilets and Holding Tanks

Rvers spend way too much time thinking about and dealing with their toilets. At home there is no problem. You do your thing, flush and walk away with hardly a rearward glance. No problema! Once in a while the Magic Faerie cleans the thing.

In an RV it is not that simple! You do your thing, turn on the pump and, if you have enough water in the tank, flush. After that you deal with the part that did not flush. I will spare you the details.

Then you watch the level build up in the "Black" tank until you have to hook up Mr. Smelly Hose and dump the contents. This is assuming all goes well, otherwise there can be many problems.

The worse problem happens when, because of ignorance, you leave the hose connected and the dump valve open all the time you are parked and hooked up. This creates what is fondly called "The Cone Of Death". This occurs when the "liquids" are allowed to drain out, leaving the "solids" behind. The solids build up in a cone shaped, hard as rock sculpture in the holding tank. Eventually this mass takes up most of the space in the tank and requires you to get very dirty. People have tried to come up with home made formulas of cleaning products to dissolve the "cone" but anything powerful enough to dissolve the "cone" is also strong enough to dissolve (or at least damage) the holding tank so that solution is of limited value. If you can see down into the tank you can take a stick and pound the mound into submission. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. You hope it does. I do not leave the valve open (any more). I always make a very liquidy slurry that dumps very well. I am proud of my natural ability to do this.

Now to our present problem:

Not long after we arrived in Mexico the level indicator for the black tank stopped functioning. It showed the tank as being full all the time. This is not a huge problem because I have learned (who says you can't teach an old dog..?) that with our bathroom habits, it takes about ten days to fill the tank. So once a week, I dumped it. Still, it had to be fixed. Here is how it works: There are electric sensors on the side of the tank each with a little probe sticking into the tank. As the tank fills and covers a sensor, it changes the resistance of that circuit and a light lights in the RV showing the tank as 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 or 4/4 full. The problem is that something, probably toilet paper, sticks to the electric level sensors that send information to the control panel and gives a false reading.

There are several possible solutions and sometimes you need to try all of them. The most popular solutions are;

1) fill the tank with hot water and a strong soap solution and drive around for a few hours hoping the soap will slosh around and clean the sensors,

2) fill the tank with cold water and a couple bags of ice cubes and drive around hoping the ice cubes will knock the toilet paper off,

3)Buy a "magic wand" that you hook up to a hose (not your drinking water hose), put down the toilet and use the rotating spray head to clean the inside of the tank. Wear glasses and stop talking because some of it will splash back in your face.

#3 only works if you have good water pressure, a rare occurance in Mexico. In this RV Park we have great water pressure. I performed this trick with my "magic wand" today and now my sensors read "empty" once again! Hurray!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Down Day and CNN

We had a down day today, watching TV and doing a couple of little chores. CNN is on in the background.

I am amazed to see the depths to which the American Media has gone to create a fear of Mexico! Watching CNN today I was sure that right outside the RV there had to be murders and beheadings going on. "Three thousand killed so far this year! Police are helpless!"

The truth is, Mexico is very safe. I feel much safer down here than I do traveling through the USA. In Mexico women can safely walk the streets at night. Children play outside after dark and nothing happens to them.

The killings that captivate the American news networks are all drug related. These battles are waged in areas where RVers never venture. They are carried out mainly along the USA border and in isolated areas of other large cities. Yes, innocent bystanders are sometimes involved but again, not in areas frequented by tourists. The victims are the poor and marginalized people whose poverty makes them easy pickings for the drug gangs who are flush with US dollars. They are the hired soldiers who risk their lives in exchange for cash, cars and women.

Everywhere we go down here police presence is very obvious. Truckloads of police and army constantly patrol the highways and you never go too far without going through a police or military roadblock. These do not bother me but simply reassure me that the government is keeping us safe.

In the five months we were here last year and the five months so far this year, we have not seen nor directly heard of any serious crime that involved tourists. None. My friend Chris has been trying for months to find evidence of any major crime that involved an RVer. He has not found one instance because there are none. CNN's Anderson Cooper should know better than to feed this paranoia over Mexico.

Yes, border areas are not good places to hang out around, the same as in any country. Pass through the border areas and get a hundred or so miles into Mexico and you will never see violence. Even in the border areas, 99% of the violence occurs late at night when we should all be safely tucked into bed. Let the drug gangs battle it out, tell the USA to spend some of their money on stopping the insatiable demand for drugs. Stop drugs from crossing into the USA and stop the counter flow of guns coming into Mexico. That will stop the violence. Creating unreasonable fear in tourists will only hurt the Mexican economy and discourage people from enjoying this beautiful, safe country.

It has been speculated that this hype is simply an attempt to convince Americans that there is a country worse off than themselves with their financial crisis. I have also heard it is an attempt to keep Americans who have money to travel at home. I do not know the reason but I do know that it is overblown. Stay away from drugs, late night bars along the border and refrain from trying to pick up some Mexican gangsters' girlfriend and you will have no problem here in Mexico.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rio Verde to Matehuala

Now this is what I'm talking about! This is a great road! Mex 75, a cuota road that bypasses San Luis Potosi is a dream of a road here in Mexico. It is 130 Kilometres of wide, smooth, straight highway interrupted only once by a toll booth. It did not bother me at all to pay my $270 Pesos toll. We were actually doing 100 KPH for much of it and Norma was not complaining.

We checked into the Las Palmas Midway Inn Hotel and Trailer Park in Matehuala by 1:00 PM and found a nice spot. The parking lot is paved with a crushed volcanic ash glass type stuff that you would not want to walk barefoot on but otherwise, it is great. It has true 30 Amp service and most important - good water pressure! I was almost tempted to install my water pressure reducer on the hose! Tomorrow I will use my spray head to clean the black tank and try to get the level sensors working again, something that has not worked for several months.

Our friends Claude and Danielle decided to head North tomorrow as they have to be at Danielle's Niece's wedding on April 10 and time is running out for them. They have been the best travelling companions one could hope for and we have had a ball. Every once in a while you meet someone and things just "click". This was one of those occasions. We have met very few Quebecois in our lives and last year with Luc and Therese and this year with Claude and Danielle, we have found the best! We have been very lucky.

Tonight we went for dinner in the hotel restaurant here and had a great meal. Claude, Danielle and I had the salmon and Norma had beef medallions, all washed down with two bottles of wine. The total bill was around $1200 Pesos, a little expensive for Mexico but cheap by Canadian standards for a meal of this quality. The service was fantastic so a good tip was deserved. We finished off with a cup of Veracruz coffee back at their motorhome and said our goodnights. We will be up early enough in the morning to say goodbye to our friends.

Here we are at dinner, Claude, Danielle, Croft and Norma

Tampico to Rio Verde

After a quick breakfast we got off to a fairly early start this morning. We found the Tampico Bypass described in the Church’s book and made the u-turn into the Pemex station to enter the Liberamento. As I made the turn, we noticed a four or five inch dropoff from the pavement of the highway onto the gravel in front of the Pemex. I slowed down as much as I could and we made the turn with a lot of twisting of the motorhome and banging as the car dolly bottomed out (for the thousandth time this year)!

The Church’s instructions were perfect and we completed all the unmarked turns for the Bypass and soon found our way to Mex 70 headed towards San Luis Potosi. This road was not bad for the first half or so when it changed to a narrow, winding road full of potholes and washboard climbing up some pretty steep hills. The V10 got a good workout on many of these and the brakes equally so on the accompanying downhill runs. Claude had a little easier time with his Mercedes diesel. We also noticed the difference between the gas and the diesel when we stopped for gas! I took over $1000 Pesos while Claude filled up for $360! We both drove the same distance at the same speed. To be fair to the Ford though, Claude is 24 feet compared to my 31 and is not towing a car. Still……. Three times the cost…..

We arrived in Rio Verde at about four and, after many sets of questions and instructions found the local Bodega Aurrera, the Mexican Wal-Mart where we are parked for the night. Claude, whose Spanish is much better than mine, asked the manager if we could park and we were immediately granted permission. We are in the back part of the parking lot and I think it will be very quiet. We went shopping in the store and stocked up on a few things, including some nice shrimp that we fried up for dinner. It was another great day and we have covered a lot of ground in the past two days.

Tomorrow will find us in Matehuala, near the unique little Puebla of Real de Catorce. This is an old mining town where many movies were filmed and the Puebla has not changed much since it’s early days. It will be fun to explore. Perhaps there will even be Internet available tomorrow…

Emerald Coast to Tampico

We left the De Alba about ten and headed North. The road was nothing to write home about but all in all was not too bad. It was better than I expected after hearing some of the stories. We made it to Tampico about three in the afternoon and found the Restaurante Pedro Alpino recommended in the Church’s guide. We had planned on eating in the attached restaurant but when we arrived everything was closed. There was a caretaker who collected $50 Pesos each from us to dry camp behind the restaurant. We were alone so we found room for the two rigs on a level spot.

After a beer or two, Danielle and Claude offered to make pasta for dinner! Well, I have had a craving for pasta for weeks so I was certainly not going to turn it down. It was delicious! We finished dinner off with a piece of carrot cake that I had bought at the Italian Coffee Company the night before and a cup of Veracruz coffee, which is, in my opinion, the best coffee in the world! We made friends with a pup who lives on the grounds and asked him to watch over us until morning. He must have because we slept very soundly until morning.

Here is the view beside our camping spot:


I burned out a brake light bulb on the motorhome the other day and we stopped at a Ford dealer where I hoped to replace it. Claude was following me so we both went up to the store where an employee was outside taking a break. I showed him the burned out bulb and asked him if they had a parts department. He started speaking rapid Spanish that I did not have a hope of following. I asked him again in a bit simpler manner and got the same response. This time Claude understood and started walking away with me following. As we walked back to the motorhomes he told me what the guy had said. The only problem was, he translated the whole conversation into French! I let him go on for a bit and nudged him. He looked at me and I said, “Claude, you are speaking French! The Spanish was just as easy for me to understand”. We had a good laugh and he told me in English that it was a holiday and the Parts Department was closed. It must be nice to be tri-lingual! I have no excuses!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Birthday Party

Tonight we all got invited to a birthday party for the handicapped daughter of the owners of the de Alba RV park here on the Emerald Coast. It was a great party, attended by everyone. The food was prepared by the restaurant staff and was plentiful and delicious! It was a great evening finished off with a little of my precious Single Malt. Tomorrow is moving day but not too early!

The Party


Steve and Claude enjoying a cigar

steve and claude

Veracruz To The Emerald Coast

Last night our friends Ken and John pulled in to the El Rey RV Park. They told us about their latest adventure involving a mysteriously pushed in door on their car while they were towing it and a dump truck driver who claimed they had hit him and torn his bumper off. Considering the truck bumper was about three feet off the ground and their damage was about a foot high, not even the cops gave them much attention. When faced with having the dump truck impounded along with Ken and John’s motorhome pending an investigation, the truck driver backed down and admitted he may have made a mistake. Ken still has no idea what happened to his car but they knew it was not caused by the dump truck. There was simply too much damage to the dump truck.

When we said our goodbyes to Ken and John and pulled out this morning I was not sure I could back out of my spot easily. I had parked close to the beach on some soft sand and when the motorhome was washed, the rig sank down a little. I started it up, tried to move ahead a little and then gave it some gas in reverse. It came right out! I don’t know what I would have done if it had not. Call AAA?

We headed north looking for the Veracruz Bypass as going through downtown Veracruz is not an option. We finally saw a turnoff going to where we wanted to go and although it was not the turnoff we were looking for, we took it anyway as we feared we were getting too close to town. It worked out fine and after a long drive around the city we ended up on Mex 180 heading for the Emerald Coast. It was another typical Mexican secondary road, narrow, potholed and winding. We made slow going until we found a nice little fish restaurant in a small town we passed through. We stopped and had camerone cocteils and pescado fridos (shrimp cocktails and whole fried fish). Everything was delicious and we soon pulled into the El Alba RV Park recommended this morning by Ken. It is on the ocean, has a pool and is very reasonable at $170 pesos a night. The ocean here is an emerald green and warm (26 Celsius last night). It may be a little too rough for swimming but seeing we have the pool, who cares. As we pulled in, I was recognized by Steve, one of my Blog readers! Here is Steve's Blog. We had a great time meeting Steve and Danielle over a beer before I finished off the evening watching the Canucks loose to Phoenix. Even this was not enough to ruin another perfect day and here on Mexico’s Emerald Coast, Life Is Good!

Laundry Woes

We have always had good luck having our laundry done here in Mexico. They take it in the morning and return it in the afternoon, spotless, folded and in plastic bags. The cost is always less than we used to pay in laundromats in the USA. It was one of these laundry services that returned $200 pesos she found in my pocket. Today we got ripped off. We asked Eric, the Mexican worker at the RV park here if there was a laundry service and he said there was but there was a problem. He phoned someone who spoke English who told us the laundry man’s truck was broken down but that Eric would take the laundry to them this morning and pick it up for us tonight.  Sure enough he was here to pick up the laundry at 9:00 am.

Tonight he returned our three bags of clean laundry with the bill. We were charged $390 pesos ($38 CAN) for what they said was 21 kilos of laundry! There is no way there was forty-five pounds of laundry unless they weighed it wet. It was not Eric’s fault, he was just the delivery guy. Our argument was with the laundry and nobody there speaks English. Going by what we have paid previously, probably $200 - $250 pesos would be the most they should have charged. It is not worth driving back to the previous town to argue over $150 - $200 pesos. We would probably lose the argument anyway and end up even more frustrated and disappointed. We will just write it off as a bad experience and will not let it cloud our otherwise very positive opinions of Mexican people. We will just be more careful next time. It was not only us as Claude and Danielle were charged $200 pesos for one bag.

The advantage of dropping the laundry off yourself is obvious. They weigh it and charge you when you drop it off. If the price is outrageous, you simply walk away. Letting them do the washing before you know the price leaves you open to overcharging. Lesson learned.

We felt bad because we did not tip Eric who used his own car to deliver the laundry. We were so upset that we counted out the exact amount and no more. Maybe the laundry paid him or maybe they didn’t. They could certainly afford to! I will have to give him a few pesos when we leave. As I said, it was not his fault.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Red Snapper Veracruzana

I have been waiting for months to get a meal of authentic Red Snapper Veracruzana. Today I got my wish and it was delicious! We drove into Veracruz and found a nice restaurant on the Centro. Claude, Danielle and I ordered the Red Snapper Veracruzana and Norma had camerones.We had a table right on the Centro and watched the action as we ate. It was a wonderful day!

Patiently waiting for our food


The waiter delivers


Red Snapper Veracruzana!


Claude celebrates the meal with a cigar


The Perfect Shoes

Claude and Danielle have a wedding to attend as soon as they get back to Montreal. Danielle has been looking for the "Perfect Shoes" for a while now and Claude and I have been exercising great patience while Danielle with her sidekick Norma have been scouting out many shoe stores for the perfect pair. Today they met with success! Zocalo Street in Veracruz has two solid blocks of shoe stores so if you cannot find a pair there then you probably cannot find a pair at all. Danielle was very pleased with her purchase and both her and Claude were very pleased with the price of only $285 pesos. Shoes of this quality would cost a couple of hundred in Canada. Danielle and Norma decided they will go well with the “Perfect Dress” she found in Catemaco a few days ago!

The search


Success at last!


The Fort

Veracruz has been attacked more times than anywhere else in the Americas. The list is long and includes England, Spain, France, the USA and pirates (several times). Here is one of the forts built to defend the city.




And here is the fort on the harbour:



It was a beautiful day in Veracruz today. Last year when we were here it was so humid the sweat was dripping off my chin and soaking my shirt! Not nice at all. This year is much better with lower humidity and cooler temperature. Here are some shots I took walking around town:

Lighthouse Island


Naval Academy


The old lighthouse


Diving for tourists coins


Catemaco To Veracruz

We got away from the Hotel Tepetepan RV Park fairly early (before eleven is “fairly early” for us) and headed for Veracruz. It was a typical Mexican secondary highway, going through all the towns along the way. I actually prefer these roads to the cuotas which are the equivalent of Interstate Highways in the USA. You drive a lot slower but you get much closer to the people and you can watch them as they go about their daily lives and smell the food at the many roadside food stands. As a bonus, almost every kid we pass waves and smiles at us.

One smell that really hit us in the nose was the overpowering stink of a cattle feed lot we passed. We have passed these before and remarked how much better they smelled than the feed lots in the States but this one was the exception! It stunk!

Jim and Bonnie, a couple we have run into a few times down here gave us a tip on a shortcut to the Campamento El Rey RV Park just South of Veracruz. It was a great suggestion that saved us fifty or sixty kilometres of driving, much of it through congested areas.  Thanks Bonnie!

There was a caravan here when we arrived, the same one that got us kicked out of our spots in Isla Aguada, and they had taken up all but one very unlevel space. Claude and I nosed in to the beach at the end of the park and are surviving without water or sewer. We may be blocking some of their view but “tough”! A small payback for having us kicked out of our prime spots a few days ago! We ran extension cords to a couple of available outlets so we have some power although not high enough voltage to run much. I tested the voltage this morning and it was only 94 volts! It has come up a bit since then but is still hovering at around 100.

I had more trouble than usual finding the Starchoice signal. Maybe a result of the way too many beer, brandy, wine and scotches Claude forced me to drink last night! We decided to rest up today and explore Veracruz tomorrow.

We have had a couple of swims in the Gulf since we arrived yesterday and the water is extremely warm here. The outside temperature right now is 29 and the water is not much cooler than that! This is the warmest ocean water we have found yet. Just to think it was actually snowing in Veracruz in January! Well, back to the search for a place to hang my hammock. Life is good!

The car wash crew washing Claude & Danielle’s rig:


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On To Veracruz

We are moving on to Veracruz today. We were there last year when we left the Motorhome in San Miguel de Alende and drove the car to Veracruz for three nights in a hotel. At that time it was very hot and humid so we will see if going there a little later in the year will make any difference.

I do not know what the Internet situation will be like at the next place so don’t get worried if I do not post for a day or two.

Rain Forest Preserve

On the Lago de Catemaco is the “New Age” Reserva Ecologica de Nanciyaga where they are preserving a small piece of the Rain Forest as a nature walk, mud bath place where you can rent a small palapa and get pampered with mud facials and sweat lodge treatments. There is a nice path through the property where we were lead by our guide, Fabiola. The path is decorated with reproductions of Olmec statues. It was fun but we have already seen the real statues.

The reserve was also the movie location for the movie, Medicine Man with Sean Connery. Here is Connery’s hut from the movie set, complete with fake trees.

movie set1

Fabiola and statues



Some colourful rental canoes for overnight guests

Monkey Island 4

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The House On The Lake

We passed a very expensive house and property on the lake today. The grounds were meticulous and the property obviously well cared for. Hector, the boat operator, told us who it was. In Spanish. Depending on which version of my Spanish I used it was owned by either a tennis star or a tobacco grower, I could not decide which or if it was a tennis star who also grew tobacco for the local cigar factories. But I am sure it is one of the above.


Monkey Island

We took a boat ride on Lago de Catemaco today to visit Isla de los Monos (Monkey Island). The sixty monkeys were brought from Thailand as a research project by the University of Veracruz and are fed and protected by the university. Contrary to the wishes of the university, some unscrupulous tour operators are feeding the monkeys to allow for better photos. Hector, our boat operator and guide, is not one of these. I still got a couple of photos.

Monkey Island 1

Monkey Island 2

Haircut Day

Today was haircut day for me. Hair and nails grow much faster in the tropics and I was way overdue for a trim. As we walked back from the Malecon today we passed a hairdressers salon in the living room of a house. We asked if she could cut my hair and I was sat down immediately. She did a very good job on me while one of her daughters practiced her English on us. The cut cost $50 pesos and she tried to turn down the tip I insisted she take. I am again my handsome self.



We went on a little walking tour of Catemaco today. Like all Mexican pueblas it is full of wonderful sights and sounds.






Norma and Danielle shoe shopping while Claude and I pretend to be interested:


Monday, March 16, 2009

Salto de Eyipantla

On the way back from the cigar factory in San Andres Tuxtlas we took a seven kilometre side trip to the waterfalls at Salto de Eyipantla.

We paid the $6 peso admission, descended the 242 steps to the observation platform and enjoyed the falls. After getting seriously dampened by the spray we went to the restaurant for camerone cocktails and a beer. It was a great day. Perfect weather and good friends. What more could we ask for? Well, maybe a helping hand climbing the 242 steps back up to the car…

The Cigar Factory

We drove to San Andres Tuxtlas today to visit the famous cigar factories where Sir Winston Churchill bought his cigars. There are three cigar factories here and when we arrived we found the production floor closed because it is yet another Mexican holiday. They have so many! Fortunately, the sales room was open!

Our friend Claude has been waiting at least a month for cigars and this was his chance to stock up and so he did. He bought a box of forty large cigars and a couple of packs of smaller ones. He was very happy with his purchase which cost him less than $100 CAN. I tried to talk him into buying just one of the most expensive ones they sold at $100 Pesos each but he resisted.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Isla Aguada to Catemaco

We left Isla on Friday at about 11:00 after saying goodbye to Bill and Thelma. We really had a great time at Freedom Shores and we will be back. We drove about three hours to Villahermosa where we missed the turnoff for the Periferico road and ended up driving right through the centre of town on Mex 180, a route that is highly illegal for a vehicle pulling a trailer! Claude and Danielle stayed right behind me so no Trafico Police noticed us and we made it through without a ticket.

We checked into the same RV park we stayed in in November and found a pull through so we did not have to unhook the car. We had a swim in the great pool and then made friends with Jim and Bonnie from Newfoundland and Michel and Lise from Montreal. Michel and Lise have just completed two years in South America with their unique truck and camper. Michel built a frame and then attached a Chalet tent trailer to the top of it. It worked very well for them and allowed for a lot of storage in the truck bed as well.

We rose early on Saturday and got out of the RV park and pool complex before the crowd arrived and left for Catemaco. We used the Cuota (toll road) as far as we could but were very unhappy with it's condition. There were many potholes and the slow lane was badly worn from all the trucks. I do not mind paying tolls but I expect the road to be in perfect condition for my money. This one was not.

We turned off at Acayucan onto the secondary highway 180 to Catemaco. After getting lost only once, we found the correct highway and arrived in Catemaco around three. I got jackknifed making a u-turn and had to take the car and dolly off to complete the turn. This is the forth time I have had to do this and it is embarrassing! Highway 180 is a Libre (free road) and was actually in much better shape than the previous Cuota, much of it having been freshly resurfaced. When we checked in to the RV park we found Jim and Bonnie who we had visited with the previous night already here. It is truly a small world.

Claude wants to visit the cigar factory here on Monday so we will stay for a couple more days. This factory is where Winston Churchill bought his cigars. It will be interesting. There is also a boat ride on the lake that takes you to an island that has monkeys.

This is the first time we have traveled with anyone else. We were both going to the same place so we decided to travel together for the trip. We used our walkie talkies and it went quite well. You could not ask for better friends! It was an interesting experience for us and we will stay with them at least until Veracruz where we want to show them a very interesting coffee house we found there last year.

Michel and Lise’s rig:

Michel and Lise