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.

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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

 

 

Sirens, Sea Snakes and Murderous Squids

Some of the stories I heard while staying at El Muro were quite entertaining to say the least.

Evan educated me on a sailors’ love life options:

When you are a solo sailor you are perpetually looking for your next girlfriend. At which point you are so deprived of human contact that when you dock you can talk people’s ear off.

When you happily share your boat with a siren, life is good. You share everything you have with this special person. But, be warned, at the first sight of fatigue or boredom, said siren might jump ship and make another solo sailor happy. Comically enough,  this is exactly what happened to Evan. When the repairs on his boat took too long, his girlfriend left him for a Catamaran!

Joel, the gentleman who drove me to the Marina, had a strong reaction when I told him that I’d never met more French than in Mexico, that I hadn’t imagined the French to be so well traveled. He exclaimed in surprise and almost affront that the French are the best sailors in the world, winning every race and inventing  the latest new designs! Oh, that’s right, I seen to remember watching the exploits of some famous sailor before I moved to Canada. He was quite the national hero. When I asked Joel when he started sailing, he replied it was in 1963 on the Potomac river. As soon as he got on the boat, he knew. He fell in love and that feeling hasn’t left.

Jay, a 73 year old sailor has been moored for over a year because of health problems. He had no less that 2 heart attacks and 1 stroke. Luckily for him he is now a Permanent Resident of Mexico. He explained that if you renew your visitor’s visa for 4 years, the 5th year you automatically receive your permanent residency card, which he thought was ironically green (just like the coveted American Green Card). He told me that in order to find out what your yearly contributions to the medical system are, they only ask you one question: what type of floor do you have? If your floors are dirt or wood, you do not have to pay a thing. If it is concrete or better, your contributions will be tiered accordingly. Jay only had to pay $58 out of pocket for all the medical services he received in the last year. This Mexican green card also allows you to buy property.

Jay was full of knowledge, so I decided to ask him what type of fish the rotting carcass of which was floating between rocks nearby. It had a long narrow body like a snake. I was curious. He looked at it and said it could be 3 things – since it was missing its head it was hard to say.

It could be a Bugle fish that has a sword-like nose ending like a bugle. Don’t eat those, he says, they are slimy!

It could be a Needle fish, also with a sword-like nose but thinner like a needle. These are delicious when they are not in worming season. You’ll find out as soon as you open them. They will be full of worms the size of half a finger!

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Or he says, it could be a sea snake. The sea of Cortez is full of snakes and all of them are poisonous. They usually leave people alone, but you will see them pocking out of rocks and crevices.

And, he adds , never swim in the sea of Cortez at night because of the squids. Did he just say squids? We eat squids right? They are small aren’t they? Jay continues unperturbed:  squids will come up at night to feed. They will attack you eight at a time and drag you under to drown you. Their beaks are the size of a thumb and index finger joined together. It will not be a pretty death, he adds.

Evan had a good laugh at that one, saying that only in the tropics would we find sea snakes. He was pretty confident that the Sea of Cortez was too cold for snakes. Nevertheless Jay’s stories spoiled my next swim. I was afraid of stepping on a snake and was constantly looking beneath me for a gang of murderous squids wanting to try a Canadian dinner.

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

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Au plaisir de la route!

november-2016

Kiki

 

 

GUAYMAS AND EL MERO MARINA

I didn’t see much of the town of Guaymas. It was actually on my way out of town, when I drove through its center that I saw what a pretty and typical Mexican town it was, much bigger than I originally thought when I first got in. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures as the traffic was too intense.

The town seems to have grown around the  local mountain called “cerro del tetakawi”, that in native Yaqui language means “cerro de piedra”, or in english “rocky mountain”20161120_105602.

I was looking for a particular campground around the bay and found myself traveling down this beautiful scenic road along the shore.20161120_115615

When the road ended at a pier and I managed to turn my truck around without falling off the cliff, I retraced my steps in search of a free site where I could spend the night safely. I marveled at the number of beautiful mansions lining the road, most of them abandoned, some obviously not.

I stopped next to a marina for commercial boats to take a picture of all the pelicans and decided to talk to the guard and ask him where I could camp. The old gentleman sent me to the next bay over, telling me I would be safe there. When I arrived I was surprised to find, not a beach as I had assumed, but a small gated marina named El Mero. I decided to ask the guard if I could camp there and he waved me in with a big smile! Oh my god, I had found a gem. Private, secluded, quiet with a beautiful scenery! As for safety, I couldn’t have found better: gated and with a security guard! Wow.

I happily set up camp and settled in when a gentleman came over and introduced me to a sub-culture completely new to me: people that travel and live on their boats, the same way I travel and live in my RV! I was, after all not alone in my paradise. I had thought that the people milling about their boats were tourists with a villa in town, and that they would be gone by evening- but not so. They were to become my new friends for the next few days.

I’ve been sent over, he says, to figure out who the woman in the RV is. I forgot his name, but he tells me that originally Polish, he lived in Winnipeg for a number of years before starting to sail full time. He sold everything and has been sailing the world for 9 years now. He commented that a lot of sailors find out the hard way that the boats they have been using for the occasional sail are not designed for the high seas nor for living full-time but rather for berths in marinas. I understand this concept as it is the same for RVs set up for full hook-up campgrounds, versus the ones better equipped for dry camping such as mine.

Another person to pay me a visit as I was sun tanning in my bikini, where I thought was an out of sight location, was a Mexican hand, with his patron closely running behind saying “Roberto, I don’t thing your wife at home would approve!”

At $50 (pesos)[I know it is confusing Pesos is a dollar sign with only 1 /] a night El Mero is one of the cheapest and prettiest marina in Guaymas. Some of its residents have been here for over 1 year, either because of personal health issues as was the case of Jay or because of needed repairs or renovations, as was the case of most of the others. Most of them have been returning to this piece of paradise for years.

Knowing I was safe, I slept like a baby. I woke up early and decided to go out and wait for the sun to rise. It was still dark when I distinctly heard the very loud exhale from a breathing hole! It was so close I couldn’t believe it! I know of only 2 sea mammals that have breathing holes and the marina was definitively too small and shallow for a whale, so it had to be a dolphin. It leisurely came to the surface and breathed at very short intervals and I could see its wake, really close to where I was standing. What a magical way to start the day!20161121_093404

Locals came in to fish on the piers and would leave at dusk. My neighbors warned me to pack everything a night as thieves would come in by boat and snatch anything that was not bolted or tied up. Engine motors were a prime target. Apparently Guaymas is notoriously bad for boat thievery in both wet and dry marinas. They would boldly come on board as you are sleeping below deck!

I had arrived on the Sunday of a holiday long week-end. The week-end guard had let me in because he was not the one in charge of collecting the rent. On Monday I got the visit of the regular guard, Miguel. He told me that Campers were not allowed to park here and that I would have to leave or go to the main office to get a permit to stay. I didn’t know if he was implying that I paid him directly or not. Since the office was closed on Monday, I would get a lift to the office on Tuesday to sort it out. It turned out that I was not allowed to stay. That night had been quite windy and I had rolled up my awning. In the morning I thought that I could either leave right away and not bother going to the office, in fear too that they might charge me for all 3 nights, or go and find out about my options, in the chance that they gave me a permit showing the guard that I was cleared to stay, as per my neighbors’ assumptions. I was not ready to leave that day – I wanted to stay one more night before leaving the next morning so I was very disappointed to find out as I crossed the gates on my way out that all I had to do was bribe the guard!

I am still learning about customs here, as in pay half now, the other half when the job is done (I learned that one when I had my van painted. I paid him in full and of course he never showed up the next day to put the varnish top coat!) and as in offering a bribe to the security guard of a beautiful and cheap marina. Even at $50 (pesos) a night it is way cheaper than most RV parks that charge an average of $400 pesos a night! I beat myself up for this lack of judgement.

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

 

 

 

PEE POT AND BUG ZAPPER

Let’s be frank – there are 2 subjects on the topmost list of concerns about Mexico:  Sanitation and bugs!

The good thing about driving in a motor home, your toilet is always nearby and you will never be surprised by its condition or cleanliness. This perk comes with an inconvenience though, the whole messy business of dumping your sewage. From the unholy burbs of your full toilet tank telling you it’s time to dump, to the long hoses travelling uphill to the dumping hole that you have to “milk” to drain – it is quite the learning curve.

On this note, let me tell you about Mexican campgrounds septic systems as I saw it first hand in my last campground. The crew was digging a very deep hole in the ground. Curious, I asked them what they were doing, it’s for the grey water they tell me – and dark water I though, they both come out of the same hose! Oh, so you are going to bring in pipes for evacuation then? No, they say and point at an old rusty barrel and at the hole in the sand. Oh I see, so the water (and waste) just sits in the barrel? And they do the universal hand gesture meaning it will just seep into the ground!

I ran over to my neighbor Nadine to tell her the news. We are both surprised the campsite doesn’t smell at all. Nadine laughs telling me: ”and you were concerned about dumping on the side of the road! Mexicans do it”. Later on that night half a dozen men were rolling a large palm tree over logs, Egyptian style, and planted it in another hole next to the now covered dumping hole. Ah, says Nadine, this must be their filtration system.

I also learned a few dumping tricks from the old timers, the people that came before me and plowed the way so to speak.

First of all, do like the natives do and use a pee  pot (I also have a poo stick – but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about it!). Because the sewage system does not allow toilet paper, the custom is to place your used toilet paper in the basket sitting next to the loo. I had actually started this habit when I was dry camping last summer to conserve water. It also makes dumping easier and does not clog the hose.  I’m sorry, but in the RV I only do this for #1.  A plastic bag works but really you need something with a lid.

Second advice is when settled at a full hook-up campsite, do not open your valves, otherwise your waste just sits there in the hoses. Fill half of your toilet tank with water to allow for faster decomposition, and then on days when you’ve used a good amount of water from showering or doing the dishes, drain your tanks. Always drain the toilet tank first and leave the valve open when you drain the grey water second. It will certainly wash out any residual waste in the hose. OK, got it, thank you Harvey!

The other big problem for me, freshly out of Canada, I became a buffet for mosquitos, horse flies and noceums  – tiny little flies, so tiny they go through netting. Anything that bit or stung had a piece of me! I was miserable.  My arms and my face, the only things sticking out of the covers at night, were covered in bites every morning. I would joke to my friend Reg back home that I was having Botox treatments at night. One night we focused on the forehead, as I woke up with a huge lump there, another night we worked on the eyes and one morning I found out we plumped up the lips. The works!img-20161111-wa0000

But on one of my trips into town I came across the best invention since sliced bread: a rechargeable bug zapper in the shape of a tennis racket. At first the zapping scared me, but I soon got the hang of it and before bed I would wave my magic wand in the air and showed no mercy. Zap! Zap! Zap!20161116_114855

I couldn’t even see what it was catching those bugs are so small. One time it caught a big flie and it smelled like burnt bug I guess. Another time it must have been a swarm of noceums because smoke was coming out of the Zapper’s mesh.  I would zap before going to bed, but I would still hear them in the night and get stung, they were coming in through the window screens. So I decided to pull out the big guns: first I would burn some of that mosquito coil inside of the van to repel them out. Then I would close all of my vents and windows and I would zap mercilessly. I would sleep with my fan on, and later found out that opening a window after dark was ok too.

The pets were scarred of the zapper and hated it. One day it was lying on the sofa and somehow Marley dropped it on the floor and it stopped working since. I think Marley did it on purpose!

palm-tree

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

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Au plaisir de la route!

 

20161116_114723  Kiki

 

SAN CARLOS

I have been very blessed lately with amazing locations where I could camp for free or almost, and most importantly, where I was safe.

After leaving my new friends at Islandia, I drove to San Carlos, a little town along the coast of the Sea of Cortes. A beautiful place that smacks of American money where everything down to menus seemed geared to please the benefactors of the place: pizzas, chicken wings and Coca Cola! From the guide books I’ve read this used to be a typical Mexican town with dirt streets. It is now paved and lined with pretty little shops, souvenirs and food shacks. In many ways it reminded me of some of the little villages on the French Riviera. I had noticed a beach at the entrance of the town where I could boondock. I drove all the way down to the beautiful harbor where exquisite mansions are perched, build on that pretty pink chain of mountains typical of the region. San Carlos is surrounded by it. It is quite a stunning sight.

I settled on the beach under the only tree for shelter from the blazing sun and off we went for a walk on the beach. We were pretty much the only one there.20161119_095610

By the end of the afternoon, Mexican families came over to picnic on the beach. It became very lively. I became concerned that may be some unsavory soul might decide to pay me a visit at night and was wondering if I should move the truck to a more secluded area, away from prying eyes but decided against it. I was quite visible from the road and under a street light. I was told this was a safe place to stay for the night, but still slept lightly.

I woke up the next morning to a beautiful sunrise.20161120_070513

And off we drove to Guaymas, the next town in search of a cheap campsite I had found in my book. Good bye San Carlos.

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

 

 

 

Finally here!

I left Calgary October 12 2016 and drove about 4,000 km with little stops and detours on the way. I finally crossed the Mexican border at Nogales, just south of Tucson, Arizona on November  1st, 2016.

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Even though my trip started in Calgary, I feel that my journey is only starting now. Let me explain.

I drove through the States and stopped at Yellow Stone National Park on the way. I visited Little Big Horn Battlefield Monument which happened to be my route. I stayed in Boulder, Colorado for a workshop, pushed on to Tucson where I got my fridge repaired and finally crossed the border.

It was go-go-go all the way because of a schedule I had to keep. But once arrived in Mexico, I sought out a campsite with full hook-ups and, glory of glories: Wifi! I knew I was going to stay a while to rest from my long drive but when I actually stopped the truck and stayed for a night or two, it hit me like a bus: the physical aches and pains of my partially healed extruded disc that had me off work for over a year, the fatigue of the drive and most of all, the stress of the pressure I had put on myself to be road ready in less than 6 weeks from the moment I decided to start this endeavor. 6 weeks of selling everything, getting all my travel documents and vaccinations done for myself and the pets, to hand out my resignation at work and finalize a few other things. It all hit me like a ton of bricks. I could barely get out of bed in the morning I was in so much pain. Then I would look balefully at the calendar not ready for my departure date – this was the sign that I needed to stay at the campsite longer.

I paid for another week and what a difference. I rebuilt myself physically and mentally, I started to be more active, visiting the adjacent little town and finally get to what I had intended to do when I chose this campsite, work on the internet!

I have to say this place is a piece of paradise. I am in the Old Bahia de Kino, the first resort south of the border in the State of Sonora. It really is just a small village and the campsite is small and rustic, just the way I like them, with a wonderful and friendly staff.

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Lo and behold but I find a spot right by the beach and my neighbors are French! I was to quickly discover that this camp is full of French people. Nadine and her husband John have become good friends. There is also Philippe and his wife Michele who now live here. Philippe is the campsite’s baker. Every Wednesday he makes french baguettes and pains-aux-raisins (grape buns – somehow doesn’t sound as appetizing). There is also Harvey and Linda from Edmonton! For Pete’s sake how far do I have to drive to get away from home?

I also met a French family of 5 who too are traveling to Argentina in a motor home that has been modified to accommodate 3 daughters and 2 parents in a 30 ft long rig!

So, as French people would do, we all sat around a long table under the hospitality of Philippe and Michele and ate and talked and enjoyed each other’s company for the good part of the afternoon.

Now the clock is ticking again and with my departure due for Friday morning, I am pushing myself to be a bit more productive:) When I visited Olivia and Michael’s rig, I loved the way they had decals of the map of the American Continent with dots showing their progress down the Pan American Highway. Their blog: apietrip.wordpress.com is also well displayed and they have now over 200 followers from just driving around.

I had toyed with the idea of doing this before I left Calgary, but thought that as a single woman it might be unwise to advertise my whereabouts. However, after meeting with this family I changed my mind about this. The problem was that to make the decals take about one week and I had no intention of staying put in a city for that long so I thought that option was gone for me. But again fate smiled on me when I noticed a van being painted with dolphins. The owner tells me of his vision of having his motor home completely painted as if it was underwater and that right here in the village we have a person who draws free hand so well that he has acquired the nickname of the Michelangelo of Bahia de Kino! Ah Ha! I thought, here is my chance. Have Manuel come over my rig tonight I told Joe. That night I was on the computer, setting up this blog and getting ready to get my RV tatooed I call it!

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It is so delightfully tacky – I love it! Plus it suits my personality (no, I’m not tacky! a bit eccentric that’s all:) and that of my old 1984 Ford Glendale truck! A perfect match!

The road is calling to me again, I am getting antsy and want my space. I am really enjoying the company of my new friends here at the Islandia campsite, but I miss the silence and solitude that make traveling so special, a meditation in motion.

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!

Kiki   november-2016