HOW TO USE A LATIN AMERICAN CONCRETE SINK?

Ok, I admit I’ve been traveling Central America for 6 months already and I just clued in on how to use the typical 3-sided  pre-cast concrete sink that one sees all over Latin America.

It always baffled me as to why the locals would fill the middle basin up to the rim where dead bugs and leaves would accumulate. I know that I am not the only traveler to have been puzzled and frankly annoyed with this custom. For example in Antigua, at the Touristic Police where I stayed, there was only one basin to do your dishes and it was full to the rim. The water was already dirty with someone else’s soap and food scrap. The only solution would be to dip your arm to the elbow and pull the plug. Even in well-established campgrounds I noticed the workers fill up the tanks to the rim. I figured there was a reason, a way of using it that I hadn’t understood yet.20170424_093555

Well, the answer came to me this week and frankly I feel a bit ashamed of my ignorance.

As a person used to unlimited running water, I could not have understood the utilitarian purpose of the 3 compartment sink. It took a stay at a garage in Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa for me to learn the hard way the importance of a basin full of water!

In need of repairs and upgrades I found a garage to do the work. They allowed me to stay in the van while doing the work. Being in the sun, the heat, the dirt and the bugs – for a whole week, you need to shower and do the dishes at the very least. I had arrived with just a ¼ tank of water, never thinking that I would stay for that long.

The first day, I was able to fill my tank up to ½   using buckets as the water pressure was too low to use a hose.  This is heavy work and to protect my back, I thought I would add a few bucketful every day. Understandably, to preserve my own water,  I went to the basin to do my dishes. And there it was again: a full middle basin! I did my dishes in it and rinsed them with the tap on the side basin. Well! The next day my mechanic saw the dirty water in the sink and was furious! Who dirtied my water? Those guys, he said, blaming the other mechanics… (knowing full well that it had to be me). I watched, puzzled, as he emptied the main sink and proceeded to scrub it clean with a brush for this purpose. I got from this experience that the main sink is to be kept clean, but I still didn’t have a clue as to why and how to really use this. I almost wanted to ask Eduardo but that would have been admitting guilt, so I didn’t.

The answer soon came to me when both taps on the property ran dry – for 2 days. It’s only then that I noticed the buckets full of water everywhere. Eduardo had even brought me one by the door. That day, when I went to the stand-up sink to do my dishes, forced into thinking on how to preserve the integrity of this precious clean water, I found the solution.

You never contaminate the water of the middle sink! Using a small bucket you take some clean water and do your dishes, your laundry, or wash your hands, in one of the side tanks with a drain. That middle sink contains gold! You never know when you will have running water again, even in a good-sized town such as Santa Lucia.

Sure enough during my week stay here, there have been more days without running water than with. When the taps are dripping, the men fill up all the buckets and containers again.

Having now experienced a total lack of water in the blistering heat, I will take bugs and leaves infested water for my dishes and my sponge bath any time!

So please gringos, learn how to use a stand-up sink and never empty or contaminate the middle basin. Use the container (there is typically one around – it could be a cut-up jug, a plastic container, a bowl) to take some water and use it in one of the side basin where it will drain. That middle basin filled with, what to our standard we would describe as “dirty” water, is precious.

I know I am not the only one to have been puzzled by this and thought that I should pass the word around:)

And if you’re still not sure watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op45rv2cOZ8

Happy travels and stay wet!

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Kiki

PUEBLA, WORLD HERITAGE CITY

I loved my stay in Puebla!

First of all I was lucky to find a sweet parking spot, safe and free, within walking distance of the touristic centre. The pets were in the shade and I could meander the beautiful village-like streets of the Zocalo (the city centre) without worrying about them or the safety of my truck. This made a world of difference. I had loved Cholula, but because of the parking situation I was not able to stay the extra day to visit the town. Conversely, I decided to extend my stay in Puebla and enjoy the museum and the antiques market.20170114_111924

The first thing you notice is the impressive Cathedral occupying the entire block south of the Zócalo. Around it is a beautiful park, the most attractive one I’ve seen so far, with its lush mature trees, a pleasant fountain and other water displays. Surrounding the square are the terraces, restaurants and boutiques one would expect. The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. Tourists and locals alike taking the time to stop and enjoy an ice cream or other street snacks.

The cathedral is grandiose, inside and out, but a little too ornate for my taste. Its architecture is a blend of severe Herreresque-Renaissance and early baroque styles (and I am quoting “the Lonely Planet guide to Mexico” here). The interior is heavily and elaborately gilded and the centre is “cut” by an island (I don’t know how else to describe it) containing 3 beautiful organs, each from a different period. The effect creating a disconnection from the spaciousness and awe-inspiring sentiment that one would feel in such a grandiose environment. It felt cold, devoid of the hushed whispers generally accompanying devotional practices.20170113_113952

I followed the Calle 5 de Mayo, a wide pedestrian street in full market swing on which most of the recommended Churches seems to be. Every style of church was there, from extremely gilded and ornate to the quietly simple. The Santa Monica church was unmemorable in itself, if it were not for the shrine to the Lord of Marvels (“El Senor de la Maravillas”). A bloody rendition of the Christ carrying the cross under glass which is subject to one of the largest pilgrimage and devotion in Mexico.

I enjoyed my walk and regaled in the many food stalls and street vendors selling home-made baked goods and such. I stopped at a brazero fascinated by the cooking process to discover that what they were serving were tacos! Not the kind that I’ve seen in Canada that’s for sure.

I took a short video that you can view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k5Rp8tPRtQ

On my way back, I came across a street market and a fish market and I stocked up on beautiful fresh produce and the rare dark leafy greens. I also treated myself to a large steak from a white fish of some kind and couldn’t wait to have it for dinner. It tasted like butt! No matter what I did, even adding my Portuguese chili sauce it was still disgusting – a bottom dweller for sure.

The next morning I decided to visit the Museo Amparo, the largest private collection of Pre-Hispanic artifacts.  It was well worth it!

It also happened to be Sunday and the weekly antiques market was but a few blocks away. I found it in a colorful area of town, with pretty stores and cafes and opening into a small plaza. I was surprised to find it very undescript except for the occasional typical Mexican wares. I did however find 2 wonderful pieces of pottery for my collection.

I also had to sample one of the many traditional dishes that make Puebla’s cuisine famous, the Mole Poblano. The restaurant was very pretty and the dish divine!

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I just had to take a picture of this poster of the famous “mano a mano” wrestling typical of Mexico!

Until next time my new road amigos!

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Au plaisir de la route!

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Kiki

 

 

CHOLULA: PYRAMIDS, TUNNELS AND VOLCANS

 

A church on top of a pyramid, that was the appeal to visit Cholula, a beautiful suburb of Puebla, the capital city of the State of Puebla.

After spending the afternoon at the bank and the Aurrera grocery store, a Costco-type store to restock on big essentials, I quickly found the only RV park in town and settled in.

The owner had told me that it was an 8 blocks walk to the pyramid, so off I went, early next morning armed with water bottle and sun hat. The closer I got, the prettier the streets, with brightly colored homes lined with Bougainvilleas still in bloom.

The church stood on top of a grassy hill with a wide winding pathway leading to it. Where is the pyramid?  I hope it is not a tourist trap, I thought.  The church itself was very interesting, celebrating the cult of Our Lady of the Remedies, a 12th century Spanish legend. I am not sure what started the worship of this young woman and her baby, but it grew in size until the catholics built this beautiful, delicately feminine church in the 16th century. Whether they knew at the time that the hill was indeed a pyramid or not is left for debate.

I couldn’t take pictures of the interior, nor did I find postcards.20170111_133657

From the top courtyard one has a panoramic view of Cholula and Puebla. But what I enjoyed the most was the sight of the two active volcanos overlooking the city.  I had followed Popocatepetl, the imposing and snow caped volcano on my drive to Cholula, but to finally see it unobstructed, majestically guarding the ruins from a distance, with a clearly defined wisp of smoke coming out of its peak was truly awe inspiring. Next to it sits Iztaccihuatl. I’ve never been near an active volcano before, so this was quite a beautiful experience. What a force of nature -you can feel it in the air and I couldn’t help wonder how living in the shadow of an active volcano would affect the population?

On my way down I followed a path that wound  around the back of the hill, revealing  a large archeological site at the base. From this site and looking up at the church it becomes then apparent that this is indeed a large pyramid. Indeed, Pirámide Tepanapa is the world’s largest pyramid by volume: bigger, in that sense, than the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt.20170111_140927

After the tour of the ruins I went in search of a Cocina Economica for lunch and happen to discover this amazing vegerarian, self-sustaining and organic restaurant on top of an old building! I decided to try the Chilaquiles a local dish consisting of a bed of blue corn taco chips covered in a red chili sauce, with beans and cheese and a fried egg on top! It was delicious.

I decided to skip the street snacs of Chapulin – grilled and spiced grasshoppers. I hear it is crunchy and you only taste the seasoning… I’ll take their word for it!

 

My ticket allowed me entrance to the small and humble museum and to the tunnels.

Archeologists discovered a labyrinth of tunnels running underneath the pyramid. So far 8 km of network has been uncovered, 800 meters of which is open to the public. I was surprised by the size and the shape, allowing a person to stand, as well as the extent of the system, with at least 3 levels that I could see.20170111_162809

The other great appeal of the city is the incredible shopping – a pre taste of Oaxaca, the State, along with Chiapas that is the richest in folk-art and craft. Indeed every time I asked the origin of an article I liked, the answer was inevitably “Oaxaca”.

I didn’t tour the many beautiful churche of Cholula. It is said that Hernán Cortés had vowed to build one church per day of the year in Cholula for his victory over the Aztecs. Cholula doesn’t have 365 churches but boasts about 45 of them which, for a town of its size, is quite impressive.

Because of its charm, culture, location and relaxed atmosphere Cholula is now number 2 (after San Miguel de Allende) on my list of places I could see myself settle down.

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Until next time my new road amigos!

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Kiki

 

 

 

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

San Miguel de Allende took my breath away!

Here I am, 10 days later, still at the quiet Hotel San Ramon, but a 5 minute bus ride into town, unable to decide to hit the road again.

When I first got into town, I was lucky to be dropped off just around the corner from the artisanal market. I met a family that left town and totally missed it! What a shame because this market is a treasure trove of handcrafted, genuine Indian arts and crafts of this region and the adjacent ones. Intricate embroideries, naturally died carpets and rugs, silverware, carvings, beautiful hand painted tin crafts, knits and loom works, weaving, jewelry, pottery… it had it all.

I decided to take a picture of the items that I really liked and write down the prices along the way. This was an excellent technique that allowed me later to narrow down what I really wanted to buy and where I had found it the cheapest. I also allowed me time to ponder: “do I really want to buy this? Can I afford that?” So when I was ready to buy I actually saved M$700 from my original wish list. Only one article got sold, and I do hope to find it somewhere else along the way. It was so much fun to wander about the long narrow street that stretches several blocks.

I love Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican painter – but how many Frida themed articles does one need really? I’ve already bought 2 and think that you can’t get enough Frida around the house LOL

When you get to the end of the market, you turn left into the road that leads to the main square in front of the cathedral. The narrow, lazily winding streets were so beautiful with the facades painted in many bright colours and with cobbled  stones that I took hundreds of pictures. I was not the only one! I saw many a tourist in a state of awe taking pictures of every corner, just like me.

And then you turn a corner and you are welcomed with this incredible sight: a pink cathedral! Yes ladies: PINK! This is the cathedral to Archangel Michael. Unfortunately its doors were closed and I was unable to see inside.20161224_162515

This being Christmas eve, I thought that I would stick around for the evening mass maybe, or at least to see the evening lights come on.

I walked around the main plaza, lined with expensive boutiques. I found the same articles than at the market for double the price. I also found exquisite, high quality artwork that was definitively a notch above. The atmosphere was festive and lively and grew more crowded as evening approached.

It is a SMA tradition for women to wear beautiful dried flower wreaths. They were sold on the plaza and many ladies of all ages wore them around town.

A group of westerners started singing Christmas Carols. But at 7pm a procession arrived on the square, with children playing the nativity scene and musicians. Locals were following, singing Christmas songs in Spanish. They entered the square and settled in front of the beautiful nativity scene displayed at the center, complete with real sheep and a donkey.

The gringos kept singing their carols, which I thought was becoming very disrespectful. The young priest made a beautiful speech about love, living life from the heart and the spirit of Christmas. I loved it! Mass in the streets, among the people! What simplicity, what communion. The musicians started playing and people sang a lullaby while “Joseph and Mary” rocked baby Jesus to sleep.

The whole square had turned magical with the Christmas lights on. It was an enchanting night.

I decided to catch the last bus as this had been a long day of walking about.

The next day, I took the bus again and wandered the streets, this time around the main square where I discovered more beautiful churches. At the Templo del Oratorio, mass was in progress with a full congregation. The priest started to sing. He had a truly beautiful singing voice. With the congregation singing back to him and the way the sound echoed in the church it was absolutely mesmerizing. I taped it on my phone. I am certain that the popularity of this particular church was due to the singing prowess of the priest.

As for the food, SMA is where I sampled my first Michelada, a beer with clamato juice and spices. I am hooked! I’ve had a few delicious meals and also tried various buffets. These are great to sample local foods. But I am at the point where I am missing more bland, natural, healthy and GREEN food.

So with New Year’s Eve being tomorrow, I decided to start my list of resolutions. The first item on the list is to purchase a large canister of powdered greens and have a glass every day. I also want to meditate and study Spanish for ½ hour daily.

I have decided to stay at the Hotel San Ramon for 2 more nights. I need to rest, get off the internet, and go to the organic farmers’ market tomorrow.

I have noticed that I get dizzy around 3pm every day and I don’t know what that’s about but it is sending me on a quest to eat healthier, to take my anti-parasites herbs and to resume my spiritual practice.

I know this trip has a purpose for me that I have yet to discover. I consider it a pilgrimage of sorts. It is definitively changing me and I know that I will be a different person at the end of it. I welcome every experience as purposeful and consider myself very blessed indeed to be on this journey.

And so, with these words, I wish you all to start the New Year with this question: What makes my heart sing? And if you are not already doing it, ask yourself what you can do to start. Sometimes things may appear absolutely impossible and out of reach, but I assure you, when you take the first step, the leap of faith in the direction of your heart’s desire, everything will align itself to make it possible.

MAY 2017 BRING YOU JOY, PEACE AND HAPPINESS:)

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Until next year my new road amigos!

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Kiki

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUANAJUATO CITY

There are 3 towns that are usually declared as “must see” in the area. San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is in the middle, Guanajuato to the west and Queretaro to the east. I am currently staying in San Miguel. Upon reading in my guide books that it is impossible to park anywhere in Guanajuato, I decided to make it a day trip by taking the bus. I was pleasantly surprised by the air conditioned, roomy and modern bus and by its punctuality

The 80 minutes’ drive was very pleasant with beautiful landscapes and sceneries. But as some of you may know I suffer from motion sickness – 20 minutes before arrival time I got very nauseous and barely managed to keep it all in! I am sure the other passengers were very grateful! However, the sickness to my stomach didn’t leave me all day and somewhat spoiled my experience of this beautiful town.

When you arrive you first notice the brightly colored homes clustered together and strung upon the surrounding hills. A very cheerful sight.20161227_114214

I was dropped off by my taxi (who charged me (M$100) right at the beginning of the touristic zone.  I needed to eat something to calm my stomach and noticed right away a store selling candied fruit, with oranges in particular. I have a very fond memory of candied mandarins. My grandmother and I would go to Saint Raphael, a little town on the French Riviera and treat ourselves to a cup of tea and a candied mandarin. The memory of the taste of this treat has remained with me since then. They are hard to come by, and I have yet to find one that will even remotely come close to what I remembered – until that day in Guanajuato . This orange came pretty close with a tougher chewy candied rind and a soft and still juicy center.  Too bad my nausea didn’t allow me to fully enjoy it! I had decided to buy more on my way home, but I was rushed to get a taxi and forgot:(

Right away you enter a large covered market center. I was told that I could find the same things in Guanajuato but cheaper than in SMA. I was misinformed. I searched for a genuine indian arts and crafts market place, but all they had were the cheap souvenirs for tourists. However, Guanajuato was full of wonderful candy and chocolate stores. The abundance of sweet treats was something new. In this one shop I was able to sample almost each one of them. Again, I was not in a condition to fully appreciate my treats. What a shame!

I followed the river flow of tourists to a beautiful plaza where the cathedral sits. The interior was gorgeous, in gold and with huge crystal chandeliers – the energy of the place was wonderful and I felt a cheerfulness that I haven’t felt in any of the other churches I’ve visited so far. It was as if this glorious environment inspired joy and gratitude from the congregation and these sentiments permeated through the walls.

There were lots of churches, some almost devoid of any attention from the tourists and locals alike, yet with an ultimate atmosphere of peace and serenity. Others were busy little chapels, but devoid of any interest. The styles ranging from byzantine to gothic.

I found a beautiful open and shaded plaza to have a very sedated lunch (by choice) of chicken cutlet and boiled vegetables.

The narrow roads meandered up the hills to a cliff face with a beautiful statue of Don Quixote at its base. Don Quixote is a theme here, every square has a statue with a  rendition, sometimes abstract, of the Spaniard and his lance . This is because of the now famous Festival Internacional Cervantino (popularly known as El Cervantino) which takes place each fall.

The origins of the festival are from the mid 20th century, when short plays by Miguel de Cervantes called  entremeses (singular entremés) were performed in the city’s plazas. In 1972, this was expanded with federal support to include more events to add a more international flavor. Since then, FIC has grown to become the most important international artistic and cultural event in Mexico and Latin America, and one of four major events of its type in the world. It is a member of the European Festivals Association and the Asian Association of Theater Festivals.

When it was time to go back to the bus station, I caught a cab, which only charged me M$50 for the same trip, but this time we drove inside the tunnels that run underneath the city. It was quite impressive.

Arrived at the bus station I could see a bus under the banner “San Miguel de Allende” and was told by the young ticket clerk that it will not be leaving for another 10 minutes. So I decided to sit in the waiting area and prepare myself for another bus ride – will I lose it this time? Then I noticed the bus pulling away! OMG they didn’t even call our departure time and there it was leaving! I started running after it and a family of 4 having the same realization as I, started running too. I was finally able to reach the side window and tap on it to get the driver’s attention who finally stopped the bus. However, he resolutely refused to open the doors! So there I was standing in front of this giant and I was not going to budge until I got on! “I have a ticket, I have a reserved seat on this bus” I would say. The daughter was shaking her phone at the driver saying that he left early! We were creating quite the commotion and finally a manager came to find out what was going on. He told us that the driver couldn’t open the doors,  that we had to take the next bus! I simply refused, this would be in another 2 hours and poor Marley, who granted, has the bladder of an elephant, would have been alone for 12 hours by then. This was not an option. So there I was, as the daughter described it later, like the young student at Tiananmen square, making a stand in front of the bus. “I am getting on that bus”! Wwwell, we had to concede or they would have called the police. They took us to a young employee how spoke English. Another group of tourists was standing there asking if this was their bus to SMA that just took off? The officials finally got concerned because there were now a good 10 of us with the same complaint. Finally, one decided to take a look at my ticket and said: “Oh, that bus was not going to SMA, yours  is late and hasn’t arrived yet!” You cannot imagine the mix of emotions this news brought! Overjoy and relief, a bit of shame I admit and we all burst out into laughter at our little scene… for nothing it appeared! And I thought they were so punctual!

When our bus finally arrived we all rushed in! We were not letting that one go without us!

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Until next time my new road amigos!

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20161227_140554   Kiki

 

 

ON THE ROAD TO SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE

Okay, so you know by now how much I love driving and how taking the free road usually leads to discovering little towns and villages, roadside markets and other wonderful unexpected sights.

Here is a collection of pictures taken on the road from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende (SMA). Other than the fact that I got lost along the way, it was a wonderful drive.

I have to say though that signage in Mexico is not the best. In Guadalajara for example the vegetation was so overgrown on the boulevard that you couldn’t read the signs until you were right on top of them, and usually too late to change lane. I really should make a folder of pictures. Half torn signs – you have to guess what they say. Directions given at a major and complicated intersection but then nothing for miles to confirm that you are on the right road, or then you come to a fork in the road and nothing – you have to guess which way is the one you need. This is how I lost my way.

But I have to say that since my post where I complained about having to tip everyone for their help, I’ve had so many locals come to my rescue from their heart – my angels were listening:)

In Guadalajara for example, I was looking for my bus connection to Tonalá when a young woman offered to take me there. A good thing too because it had been diverted due to constructions. It was a bit of a walk and I needed to pee real bad. She took me into a store and waited for me to use to washrooms before resuming our search for the elusive bus stop! As soon as we found it, I could tell she was eager to get going and was not asking for a tip. I gave her a big hug which she clumsily received.

When it became obvious that I had somehow missed my turn to the free road to San Miguel de Allende, I was parked on the side of the road with my map on the steering wheel, when a gentleman stopped and asked me to follow him. He took me back to the Celaya’s major roundabout, down this way, down that way and voila. I was paying extra attention to the signs: did I miss one? Nope! There were none to be seen that could have led me in the right direction. I guess they assume you know where you are going.

So back to my drive to SMA. Across a lake, through beautiful quaint villages with narrow cobbled streets, cities with large boulevards lined with stalls, beautiful curving roads revealing rolling hills, ancient monasteries, it had it all.

And then you arrive in San Miguel de Allende (there are many San Miguels, which could be confusing) you are taken aback by the vivid terracotta colours and the hillside views. Oh boy, I’m in for a treat!

 

Until next time my new road amigos!

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Kiki

 

 

RESCUED IN MAZATLAN

I took a conservative 2 days drive from Alamos to Mazatlan. One can perceptively see the difference in vegetation as you cross the Tropic of Cancer. Everything got greener and more lush as I kept driving south. I arrived at Mazatlan Playas early afternoon.  I met a gentleman at an RV park who gave me two options for dry camping in this northern part of town. The first was at the very end of Avenida Sábalo Cerritos, where apparently an Argentinian camped there for 2 weeks without being bothered by the police. It is right in front of a restaurant, he said and you’ll have wifi. The second was to find one of the many roads leading to the beach off an unpaved avenue right next to the train tracks.  Since I wanted quiet and privacy after 2 days on the road, I chose the latter. I found a side road leading to a bluff overlooking the beach. I decided to walk it first for safety, checking for things such as is it wide enough for the truck? Is there room to turn around? Is it level enough for me to park? Is it safe? Satisfied with my deductions I started to drive down the path to find myself stuck in the deep sand just a few meters away!  The one thing I forgot to check was the ground. Because of vegetation it seemed hard enough, but once engaged I discovered too late that the sand was quite deep in places! Undaunted I figured this was just a minor setback and that I was going to shovel my way out of this jam in no time at all!

It was a good thing that a gentleman saw me turn off and was waiting to see how I fared. I came out and asked for help: I am stuck! I said.

Well, he replied, you seem like a pretty resourceful woman. Do you have a shovel? I am pretty sure I do, I replied, wondering if his comment about my resourcefulness meant he was going to leave me fend by myself. We introduced ourselves. Ray is Canadian from Vancouver and owns the Surf’s Up Café down the road. I’ll be back with a shovel he said and off he went.  I desperately tried to shovel my way out, but the truck had sunken too deep in the sand. Bother, what I am to do? And still no sign of Ray… Oh well I can sleep here and figure it out in the morning I thought. But what do I see coming but Ray, followed by a big water truck! My savior! After a few pulls and a tip to the truck driver, I was safely back on the road. Evening was fast approaching and Ray kindly offered that I parked the truck on his property. The café is closed for the next couple of days, why don’t you stay there? You will be safe. I gladly accepted and followed him. I was greeted by a wrought iron gate leading down a long driveway. On the left was the café and on the right was the house – overlooking the beach! What an incredible property. The view was splendid, the buildings beautiful, Ray and his lovely wife Linda had found a piece of paradise and had called it home for 6 years now.

They allowed me to use their electricity and fill up my water tank in the morning. I also used their wifi signal to upload my blog on Alamos. This was a very wonderful and unexpected respite. What a blessing to have met Ray and Linda.

At around noon the next day I decided to leave my hosts and visit Mazatlan. I was looking to find the Malecón, the longest boardwalk in Mexico but couldn’t. I was concerned about not being able to park but was surprised to find the main beach completely empty and the avenue not busy. I parked right there and went for a walk.

Mazatlan is a beautiful ocean resort, with its many hotels, ocean side condominiums, souvenirs shops and many restaurants. I found it very windy and the waves would crash in thunderous clamor. After a few hours of playing tourist, I was anxious to settle down somewhere quiet for the night. Instead of seeking out the city center and the eluding Malecón, I decided to check option number one on Avenida Sábalo Cerritos. I expected the road to end into a parking area next to a restaurant, but instead found that it ended abruptly at the beach and that parking was on either side of the road. To my right it was lined with typical Mexican restaurants overlooking the beach and across the way was a row of souvenir shops. Since I was told that this was a safe area to sleep through the night I parked the RV and went for a walk on the beach with Marley. The place was beautiful, with jutting rocks, crashing waves and an amazing view.

The many restaurants were very appealing and the shops inviting. I spent the following hours browsing the area and decided to treat myself to dinner. I sampled a tostada of seafood, which was delicious – and a bowl of seafood soup which was not so great. There were too many sea snails in it and I must say, as a French girl I prefer my snails with butter and garlic! The broth was ok but paled in comparison to the soup Nadine and I sampled at the Food Fest in Bahia de Kino.

While having diner I watched newlyweds getting their pictures done on the beach. Theirs was a simple intimate affair with just the immediate family attending. Later they would feast on the lower terrace and I looked at the platers the cook would bring out, curious to see what locals have for their wedding dinner. The night was quiet and uneventful. Twice police cruisers patrolled the area without bothering me.

The next morning I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of fishermen parking their beat up trucks all around me to start their day’s work. I got concerned that I would not be able to get out of my parking spot and I was anxious to leave to my next destination. So, after making coffee, I took Marley for a walk on the beach and see if I had room to manoeuver out of my spot. A group of fishermen were leaving already so I harangued them asking if they had caught shrimp in the hope that I might buy some, but they answered they were out for oysters.

I didn’t see much of Mazatlan as I stayed mostly in the northern part of the town and avoided the city center, but I got an appreciation for its resort vibe and can see why it is a popular destination for tourists, be they foreigners or Mexicans.

palm-tree

Until next time my new road amigos!

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Au plaisir de la route!

20161129_133802   Kiki

ALAMOS

I fell in love with Alamos. First of all you will understand why when you see where I was staying for 4 days.

I arrived in the former mining town by mid-afternoon. With my trusted “Mexican Camping” book in hand I stopped my RV on the side of the main Plaza to ask for directions. When I heard the Police siren I got worried that I was going to get a ticket for my botched parking job, but instead I got an escort to my destination. A good thing too because I would never have found it on my own.

El Rancho Acosta greeted me in all its splendor: tall palm trees lining an inviting swimming pool and terrace, shaded RV sites, a huge and beautifully cared for property, clean facilities: I was delighted and when I heard the price $10 USD with no hook-ups or $15 USD with electricity I thanked my angels even more. To top it all, I was the only guest there – I had the whole place to myself and the pets were free to roam! I would say that within one month this ranch will be crammed with families, screaming children and yappy little dogs. I was counting my blessings!

The first thing I did was to go for a swim and then have a hot shower and wash my hair. Luxury! I decided that the next day I was going to stay at the ranch. The entire day I followed the shade around the pool and uploaded all the blogs I had saved in my computer, waiting for a wifi connection.

The next day I walked around the beautiful town for 6 hours and loved every minute of it.

Alamos found its glory in the 1700’s in the silver mining industry. It was at one time a wealthy colonial town. When the surrounding mines closed it virtually became a ghost town until the late 1950”s when wealthy Americans and Canadians with an eye for character buildings invested money to renovate some of the gorgeous buildings. Little by little the town returned to its former glory. One can peek through the gates to see the interior courtyards and gardens. This boom has now attracted wealthy Mexicans as well as lots of retired gringos, not all of them rich, but all of them attracted by the charm of Alamos.

Contrary to San Carlos where Americans seemed to have imposed their lifestyles, Alamos is very much an authentic Mexican town.  I relished discovering street food, browsing souvenir stalls and pretty shops. This is where I met a lovely lady (we never introduced ourselves) whose boutique showcased a lot of traditional work by local ladies. When I asked where she was from she answered from all over the place. After traveling extensively she decided to retire in Alamos. Her pension does not allow her to retire is the States (a very common complaint I am discovering). Here, she said, I pay $250 to rent a 2 bedroom apartment in a lovely villa, with a pantry (it sounded like a luxury the way she said it) and a terrace. She told me that she doesn’t do anything by the book. She is not a Mexican citizen, doesn’t have a permit for her shop and doesn’t even have a driver’s license – but here, she adds, nobody cares. She was pulled over by the police the other day, she explained, who asked her for her papers. Oh they are at home, I forgot them, she replied. Where do you live? they asked. In Alamos she said. Oh, in that case you may go, came the answer. She said that her neighborhood can be a little loud at times (but I’ve discovered, anywhere you go, things liven up at night. Mexicans love music and they love it loud!) She also said that the temperatures in the summer in Alamos where brutal.

For this reason, I read that a lot of retirees prefer to summer in the interior mountains and winter on the Mexican coast.

I followed a pretty cobbled street that led me into a beautiful neighborhood and in search of a private bathroom I discovered Teresita, which is probably the most expensive restaurant in the city. The oasis that greeted me from the heat as well as the inviting menu of Boeuf Bourguignon was a welcomed reprieve. I sat for a coffee and made sure to take a picture of the facilities for my friend Reg.  As a joke we decided to collect pictures of facilities along my route to eventually make a poster. The idea had come to me after seeing a similar poster at the Travel Clinic in Calgary.

A Mexican gentleman on a bicycle had struck a conversation with me on his way home. He spoke perfect English and told me that he works for an American family here in town. He lived in the States for 35 years and sometimes has to go back upstate to look after the family’s estate in Arizona. He lives with his mother on the outskirt of town and he was the one to tell me to find the church plaza. I am glad he did because at first glance one can assume that the main plaza is it. After talking with him I meandered the streets and discovered beautiful mansions, restaurants, hidden gardens and found the old colonial church and its plaza.

I was looking to purchase authentic, hand-made traditional clothes or artifacts.

20161125_133122 At the town entrance there was a gallery of such but I had found the prices to be really too high. However in town, all they had were machine made replicas of the beautiful embroidery style of the region. I was disappointed. The American shop owner had mentioned that a woman had a stall of embroideries she makes herself a few streets down and that her prices were reasonable. I soon found out that the lady in question was in Hermosillo for a fair and wouldn’t come back until the night, but if I was really interested, my interlocutor being her sister, she would let her know to come to my campsite in the morning with her wares. Definitively yes! I said.

Sure enough at 8:00 am like promised Linda and her son arrived in a little car jammed with beautiful artwork. Framed embroideries, pillows, men’s shirts but unfortunately no dresses. I loved the frames but decided that it would be too heavy in the truck, or for me to mail as gifts, so I bought an exquisite cushion for my bed. Every time I look at it I smile.

I was enjoying my stay at the Ranch so much that I decided to stay one more day than anticipated. This also gave me the opportunity to go back into town and purchase a mosquito net for my bed. I have been unable to find another Zapper! Marley – you little…! I also discovered Cocos Preparados (prepared coconuts)! A feast of spicy, salty and tangy flavors all wrapped into one!

I left Alamos, thinking that yes, I definitively can see why so many retirees call it home.

I was now on my way to Mazatlan, a conservative 2 day drive for me.

palm-tree

Until next time my new road amigos!

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Au plaisir de la route!

november-2016   Kiki

 

 

COCORIT

I was parked for the night on the town square in Cocorit, right across from the pretty white church. This gave me a unique opportunity to see firsthand the life of a typical small Mexican town.

Cocorit wakes up at 6:00 am to the sound of advertising from a little truck blaring his message around town, the roosters were soon to follow. Then, the first city bus arrives. Children in their school uniforms start crowding the streets. At every corner, street sweepers appear with their brooms and are busily at work. The larger the area to sweep, the bigger the broom made out of long supple palm leaves.

At 6:30 am a tin bell sounds the morning service and old women wrapped in hand-knitted shawls hurry to church. By the time 8:00 am comes around, things seems to have settled into the routine of the day. An old gentleman comes to the square to water his rose bushes that he carries in a cart behind his bicycle. Women sit on the benches and chat the morning away.

The town will spring into life again when night falls, which is early around 5:30 pm. By 7:00 pm the plaza is full again; of youngsters gathering and listening to music, young couples holding hands and families meeting around benches to socialize with their neighbors. And then, as suddenly as it started, everyone goes home, and the town grows silent.

palm-tree

Until next time my new road amigos!

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Au plaisir de la route!

november-2016

Kiki

 

 

MEET THE BOYS: MARLEY THE DOG AND PATOUFFI THE CAT.

I felt guilty at first for forcing this trip on my pets. With the heat and long driving days it is not fun for a furry animal. Since I am myself a free roaming spirit and understand the need for freedom I always make sure that I find spots where it is safe for the boys to roam and so far I have to say they have been spoiled. Over the last month we have fallen into a routine.

Patouffi at first would travel in his kennel  securely wedged between  storage bins above the driving cabin. He was next to a window for fresh air. But soon he decided that he would rather be under the couch which I realize now has better air circulation and is a much cooler spot for him. As soon as I start putting things away for a drive, Patouffi wiggles under the sofa.

They both seem to know when I am stopping along the way for pictures, gas or food – none of them stir, and when I am stopping for the night. Marley is whining to get out and Patouffi comes out from under the sofa. How do they know, I wonder?20161015_183828

Patouffi  goes out for his early morning stroll, when it is still dark and cool outside and at night after dark. Sometimes he stays close by, other times he is gone for 2 hours. In Cocorit for example, we were parked at the town square, a beautiful shaded park with pretty lanes, benches and flower bushes. I let him out for his morning exploration. In the meantime I shower, have breakfast and start packing the RV for our drive. Patouffi  is still not back. I would intermittently open my screen door and call out.20161213_080302

What is she doing? One woman sitting on a bench across from the RV would ask her friend. She is looking for a cat, the other would reply. She is from Canada, traveling all the way to South America. Ah, would acknowledge the first lady. They left before Patouffi decided to come home and would never know the end of the story of the Canadian traveler looking for her cat.20161016_080037

Marley is not much of a guard dog. Let me rephrase that, Marley doesn’t have an ounce of guarding instinct! The only times he would bark is if someone (ie: Patouffi) gets too close to his dinner (or mine- which he considers his as well), or if a dog comes near the RV. But if a total stranger comes near, Marley would lick his face if he had food! In Cocorit again, I awoke to the distinct sway of someone climbing on my RV! I panicked! What should I do? But upon opening my curtains a crack I noticed it was 2 older gentlemen pointing at my map and discussing about my voyage.  Marley didn’t even stir and was happily asleep the whole time. I wondered if I should be the one barking to show him how it’s done!20161015_144253

Marley has been spoiled with our locales. Most of them have been gated, safe, where he is free to roam and only in Islandia did I become concerned because he started to look like a Mexican dog, which is not a good thing. I would watch him like a hawk to see if he was scratching himself a little too much or getting mangy. One day I had enough and gave him a lavender shampoo to remind him that he was a well-bred pup and not some street hoodlum!20161016_092454

As a beagle, Marley will never pass up food, even if it has been rotting for 10 days, is full of worms or flies or lying in the sand as in San Carlos. I realized too late that he had done some beach combing of his own and all night he was vomiting gravely sand.

I am so grateful for my pets to be with me on this journey. They make the travel more interesting and definitively give me the companionship that I need to stay sane.

palm-tree

Until next time my new road amigos! Please subscribe, tell your friends and add your comments:)

And don’t forget to follow me on YouTube! Kiki’sRvAdventures

Au plaisir de la route!

november-2016

Kiki