Connie and Chris, a.k.a. Ladyandtramp, are retired school teachers and happy grandparents, who live 2/3 of the year in a cottage on beautiful Lake Belwood in Canada and the other 1/3 traveling to ‘off the beaten track’ places with beautiful nature. Message
  • Day87

    The Process of Returning to Canada

    March 28 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We got the following message -

    “Starting April 1, 2022, pre-entry tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada by land, air or water.

    Until then, (we return on March 29), follow the pre-entry test requirements.

    Proof of a professionally administered or observed negative antigen test taken outside of Canada no more than 1 day before your scheduled flight or entry to Canada by land or water. The one day window does not depend on the time of day the test was taken or the time of your flight or entry. For example, if your flight is scheduled to leave or you enter by land any time on Friday, you could provide proof of a negative result from an antigen test taken any time on Thursday, or on Friday

    It must be administered or observed by a pharmacy, laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service. (The Troncones pharmacy will do it for 800 pesos or $50 Cdn each).
    The test must be authorized for sale or distribution in Canada or in the jurisdiction in which it was obtained.

    The test must be performed outside of Canada.

    Doesn’t make sense to pay for and take the test two days before it is formally over. Just give us the paper!

    But, on Monday morning we went to the Troncones pharmacy where the pharmacist immediately did the tests and in no time we got the results. We were both negative. We paid the 1600 pesos, got the certificates and left. Easy peasy.

    She told us that during the whole month of March, she never got a positive test result.
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  • Day84

    Mexican Goats

    March 25 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    The goats. The goats. The goats. Where do I start talking about our visits from the goats?

    We have been here for three months and the one constant and daily issue that we have had has been trying to deal with several herds of goats that enter the property to eat the plants that our landlord planted before we came. I must say that for a period of time we felt that we were winning the battle to protect the garden from the goats. But ultimately the goats have won.

    The other day, we came home from a 1 hour trip into Troncones, saw goat prints all around the house and then saw that all the plants that we watered and cared for every day, had been eaten! The goats even had the nerve to go onto the veranda and eat the house plants. It was a big disappointment.

    Neighbours own the goats, but for years before the house was built, cows and then goats were allowed to roam the jungle and that property for food and possibly water. The owners would open their pens and let them roam. No damage to anyones property. But now someone owns the property that the goats always foraged in. There is a new house with landscaping and a swimming pool - easy food and water.

    We went for a drive to see where the goats lived and felt a little sorry for them. They were jammed in what looked like a chicken coop. Hardly any room to move. We understood how they would love their freedom roaming around, munching the freshly watered green plants at this house.

    The owner of the house has realized, after daily goat reports, that he needs to put up a fence around his big property. But not any fence. It has to be a goat proof fence. It is going to cost a lot but it has to be done. In the meantime, a lovely man and his wife, were hired to fix a barbed wire fence that was in bad shape around the perimeter of the property, and to look out for goats so we could have a little freedom in order to get ready to go home.

    So what have we learned about naughty goats?

    Spanish colonists brought Spanish goats, also known as brush or scrub goats, to the Caribbean and Mexican shores during the 1500s. In time, these hardy goats adapted to the local landscapes and conditions as they browsed free range. Note free range…

    Goats were a good choice of animal for settlers as they provided milk, meat, hair, and hides. They were also used to clear brush. Some of the goats though became feral. Due to tough outdoor living, these goats became totally suited to the hot and unforgiving climates where they lived.

    The good thing for goat owners is that these goats required little medical attention and they are parasite-resistant. They also tolerate harsh climatic conditions and can survive on low-quality pastures, like the jungle vegetation here. We have seen goats stand tall on their hind legs and reach for a green leaf on a tree. That’s the way that they broken several new trees that were planted around the house. Goat owners don’t have to spend very much on pricey feeds!

    Some owners even claim they never have to trim their goats’ hooves. For this reason, the Spanish goat breed is very inexpensive to groom and to maintain. For poor people, there are a lot of pluses to owning goats, but …
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  • Day82

    Noisy Early Morning Birds

    March 23 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Mornings are noisy here. The early morning ocean waves are loud. Roosters are loud. Barking dogs are loud and so are the vehicles bouncing along the bumpy road as people head to work. But, from within the jungle, noisy tropical birds make their presence known too.

    By far, the noisiest early morning birds are Chachalacas. They scream - a very loud and shrill scream-type of call, that sounds like their name, chachalaca, as they repeat it over and over. If one bird starts, others chime in, and the squawking will drown out any other noise in the forest. It has been said that they sound like a worn out, old motor trying to start. This chorus usually occurs early in the morning or the evening.

    Almost always heard before it is seen (just a large dark movement in the brush) the Chachalaca is sort of a long-tailed, tropical chicken that lives in the treetops in the jungle. These sandy brown and gray birds with a red patch on their throats, walk along tree branches in the brushy, thorny area around the house to eat flowers, buds, fruits, and seeds. Chachalacas give their loud calls in the early morning and early evening but apparently they also call when a storm is approaching or there is some other change in the weather.

    Also early in the morning, yellow headed parrots leave their roosts that are inland and head to feeding sites near the ocean. Parrots usually fly in pairs and they don’t fly quietly. They scream and yell, calling to their buddies that it is time to come and eat. Their diets vary and are based on what is available in the environment in which they live. On the whole, however, a wild parrot will eat seeds, nut, fruits, vegetables, leafy vegetation, grasses and occasionally insects, fish and seafood.

    We noticed that many stores and a few restaurants in Troncones have parrot watchdogs. If a customer enters the store, the parrots sound the alarm and the shopkeeper comes running. I think that there is a law regarding keeping parrots, but who is around to enforce laws in a little, sleepy, off the beaten track village?

    Another loud and noisy bird is the long-tailed grackle or Mexican Grackle. One birder described their calls as: “Varied loud shrieks, clacks, whistles, and chatters, including a bright, piercing, ascending whistle, wheeeeu' or s-weeeeerk!, bright piping to shrieking series in various combinations, wee kee-ee-kee-keek or shreeih dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee, etc, a burry note.... ". We have heard most of those sounds and maybe more!

    These birds have a lot of character though and aren’t very afraid of people. In fact, they seem curious about people. In one restaurant we went to in Troncones, a dog water bowl with water was set out near the outdoor tables and a grackle was bust drinking from it, just a few feet away from the customers. We had one guy regularly visit us and actually would hop right into the house. Probably searching for crumbs. They are known to steal someone’s lunch right off the table, when that person isn’t watching. Noisy and gregarious!

    A Mexican legend has grown up about the noisy bird's call. According to the legend, Zanate, the Great-Tailed Grackle, stole the seven notes of its call from the sea turtle, leaving the poor turtles without a voice. The notes stand for Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness and Anger: the passions of life.

    We both like this friendly, noisy and funny tropical bird. In fact, we even got Audrey a T-shirt with a grackle on it. We will have to tell her stories about why we chose that shirt for her.

    When we go home, it will seem very quiet in the mornings. I wonder how long it will take for us to get used to that…
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  • Day81

    Nono’s

    March 22 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    “ Nono’s has the best hamburgers and chicken wings in Mexico!’, or so we have been told by several people. So of course, when something is touted as ‘the best’, our curiosity becomes piqued. But curiosity also killed the cat … so will it be? We went for it.

    Nono’s tiny little restaurant is found on the main road in Lagunillas, our favourite market town. A funny altered MacDonald’s sign marks the spot. The owner and chief cook and probably bottle washer, Carlos, is a handsome man who formerly acted in a few Mexican movies. One movie was called El Guero.

    His little bar/restaurant is basically made up of a tiny cooking area, an equally tiny eating area, a bathroom out the back and a rustic wash up area. But the eating area was interesting. Twinkly lights and Mexican banners on the ceiling. A wall that had a collage of photos of famous Mexican actors as well as photos of Carlos. In the corner was hung a TV that either played music, showed soccer games or old time movies, like Treasure Island in Spanish. Dogs come and go and various people come in for a beer or something quick to eat.

    We have been there three times and would go every week if we were staying longer. Every time we have eaten his fantastic wings! He has a choice of three sauces - bbq, mango habanero, Or pineapple habanero. The two habanero ones are pretty spicy but wow, are they ever tasty. We haven’t even tried the hamburgers yet. Well, we still have 5 more days. I’m sure we can fit it in.

    Next door, his brother runs a mechanic shop. We met him too and his souped up Ford truck.
    We also got a tour of a newly renovated apartment that we, or anyone that we know, might want to rent. What a fun visit and such delicious chicken wings! Also the price was right. Last night’s wings for 2 people, French fries, 2 beers and tip cost us a total of $12.

    To miss eating there would have been a No-no. We are so happy we made the trip over the mountain to this cool little restaurant. Definitely a thumbs up!
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  • Day80

    Benito Juarez Day

    March 21 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Today is a public holiday in Mexico as it commemorates the birthday of Benito Juarez, the only indigenous president of Mexico from January 19, 1858 to July 18, 1872. Juarez is famous for his anti-clerical views and for fighting hard to remove the prejudices against the indigenous people of Mexico, a problem which plagued the country in the 19th century.

    He introduced reforms that would give the indigenous a better education and health care and improve their living conditions. He worked hard to modernize Mexico’s economy despite a very bad political environment.

    The people of Mexico consider Juarez a national hero and the most loved among the country’s presidents. When we were in the state of Oaxaca several years ago, we visited the humble place where he lived.

    The 20 peso bill features his face on it. As a security measure, the bill contains a famous Benito Juarez quote written in microscopic letters that can only be read through a magnifying glass:

    “May the people and the government respect the rights of all. Between individuals, as between nations, peace means respect for the rights of others.”

    His words are especially meaningful today. The war between Russia and Ukraine is horrifying as there is no respect. It’s very sad.

    Perhaps, Juarez’ bravest efforts apart from his incredible resistance against foreign rule were his anti-clerical acts which effectively limited the powers and influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico stating that the church power hindered national development and the improvement of lives of the poor.

    Because of his important contributions, his birthday, March 21, was dedicated as a national celebration.

    During the holiday, speeches are given and big cohetes (booming fireworks) are heard all day from early in the morning until late at night in most places in Mexico. We didn’t hear any here.
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  • Day78

    La Union

    March 19 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    We keep hearing about the nearby town of La Union, so we figured that it was time to visit it.

    Apparently there is a big market on Tuesdays, but since we are avoiding large groups of people due to the possibility of Covid, we went on a Saturday. It was about a 45 minute drive away.

    We turned off the highway and drove through a big arched entrance welcoming us to La Union. We figured that we would see the town fairly soon but we didn’t, just a new hospital. Hmmmn. We continued down the windy road and were ready to give up finding a town, when we spotted a church spire in the distance. We took a bridge over a river, and voila! There was the town of La Union.

    Actually the town is a good size with a big church, a cancha (basketball/volleyball court), police department, lots of stores, a Central Park, and agricultural equipment and feed stores. I did a Google search to find out more about this town but didn’t find much information about it.

    It is an authentic Mexican town though and we were the only gringos around which is what we like. Everyone was super nice to us so we had a pleasant visit and took a few photos.
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  • Day73

    Mountaintop Retreat

    March 14 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    As we near Troncones, from HWY 200, we pass a sign with an arrow that says, Glamping. A dusty road leads upwards into a mountain.

    Since our car was already horribly dusty, curiosity got the best of us and we turned onto the road to see where it would lead us.

    We drove up a steep road and there at the top of the mountain was a little enclave of teepees and rustic buildings. We started to turn the car around and a bunch of dogs started to bark at us. A Mexican came and motioned for us to drive in and see the property.

    Well, we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful 360 degree views the property had. In the distance, we could see the ocean to the west and a ring of mountains and valleys surrounded the mountain we were on. The man and his wife invited us in, offered us a coffee or a cold drink and we sat admiring the view. Three backpacker/surfers from France and Switzerland were staying there and we all had a great chat about our experiences in Mexico and beyond.

    The man and his wife, Fanny and Oscar, who own the place had built a large sweat lodge, big enough to hold 20 people, and were offering traditional temescal healing ceremonies every week. People who stayed there slept in lovely teepee-shaped bedrooms overlooking the mountains with great morning views of the sunrise.

    Fanny is a herbalist, like our friend Scott. She makes and sells medicinal tinctures and infusions made from local plants.

    We were invited to a celebration of their second anniversary on Thursday. We won’t be going but wished them well.
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  • Day72

    The King of Iguanas

    March 13 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    The ad says …

    “Come and visit Chalio the king of iguanas !!!! Access to the iguanary is totally free !!! If you like, you can bring vegetables and fruits to feed them and cooperate voluntarily for the feeding, maintenance and protection of the iguanary 🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎🦎 We are waiting for you”.

    How could we resist visiting the sanctuary after reading an ad like this? And it is conveniently close, a mere 5 km away, in the little village of Boca de Lagunillas.

    The area that we live in is full of little lizards and big iguanas. Believe it or not, iguanas are a traditional food source for the indigenous people in this part of Mexico as they are full of protein and they taste like chicken. We saw a man with a slingshot trying to down an iguana high in a tree. Free food…

    Anyways, there are laws in Mexico that prohibit this practice. Hunting, trapping, and killing of these iguanas is illegal throughout Mexico even though this law is not enforced.

    So off we went to visit the iguanary ( is there such a word?). We loaded up a bag with fruit and vegetable scraps and drove to the sanctuary before lunch. The iguanas are fed every day at 11 and 4 by Chalio, a colourful character who wears a beat up old hat and not so clean clothes. Haha. He lives on a lovely parcel of land beside the river that was once part of a coconut palm plantation owned by his father.

    We actually met Chalio on the road in front of a big gate and he invited us into his beautiful and shaded property. We met a young man who helps him out, Juan, who was cutting up coconuts and placing them on big sheets of plastic to dry. Later, these coconuts would go into bags and sold to make various coconut products. i.e. oil.

    Chalio in his enthusiastic and energetic manner explained in Spanish all the benefits that coconuts offer. It was quite a list. For many natives it is a cheap and healthy food source.

    We asked Juan how he gets the coconuts out of the 30+’ trees. He happily showed us how easy it was to climb up a palm. He said that he uses the bark ridges as steps/stairs. Then, with Juan’s coaching and encouragement, Chris took off his shoes and tried. Hmmmn, not so easy. I think that he was able to go up two ‘stairs’…

    Chalio took the food scraps out of the bag that we had brought and chopped them all up with his machete while telling us all about the wildlife in the area. He offered each of us a drink - a coconut with the top cut off with a straw. We shared a coconut as there is a lot of liquid in one coconut.

    Close to his lean-to, there was a cut tree trunk placed horizontally with a huge termite nest on it. Chalio put water into an empty coconut shell and placed it on the nest. While we were there lots of birds came and enjoyed a feast of termites from his giant homemade bird feeder, as well as a drink on the side.

    On a nearby tree, several hanging nests built by cardinals (?) and caciques were hung at a good level for us to check them out. They are amazing works of art and very sturdy. We had a good giggle because he was using one of them to store his cookies in.

    Then, the moment we were waiting for started. Chalio started to call the iguanas by name, ‘Dolores, Carlos, Roberto, Maria. Come to eat!’ From everywhere, iguanas started to appear! He kept calling them until there were about 40 big and small iguanas all around us eating the scraps we had brought. It was quite a sight.

    The iguanas that live in this area are called Spiny Tailed Iguanas. Adults are brown and have grey and brown rings on their tails. Their backs have soft comb-like spikes on it. Some of the adults were really very large. Young iguanas are green and as they get older their colour changes. Chalio told us that they can live to be 45 years old.

    The iguanas there were very comfortable with Chalio but a little skittish around us. Some were quite curious and would walk up to our shoes. Apparently anything pink looks like a papaya which they like and the iguanas often head straight towards pink shoes or nail polish. To a person unfamiliar with iguanas, that could be a little daunting.

    We thoroughly enjoyed the iguana tea party, but Chalio had more for us to see. He showed us where a crocodile often comes up on the bank of the river. He probably has a name for her too. Where there are iguanas, there are crocodiles hoping for a free lunch. While we were checking out the crocodile nest, an heavy iguana fell from the tree over the river and splashed into the water. Luckily for the iguana, the crocodile was out hunting elsewhere.

    We must say that we were a little concerned when walking under the coconut palm trees. Coconuts are heavy and we didn’t want one falling on our head! According to a study by the University of Florida, around 150 people die every year after being hit by falling coconuts. That’s 15 times as many deaths as by shark attacks!

    Chalio was an entertaining, fun and enthusiastic guide. A lot of tourists would probably not visit this cool place as he only speaks Spanish. He is also missing a few teeth which may be the reason that we didn’t understand him 100%. We got the gist of what he was saying though and were able to ask lots of questions so we were okay.

    We loved every minute of being with this kind and gentle man and will return another day with more compostable food scraps for his iguana family.
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  • Day71

    Cane Toads

    March 12 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Yesterday and today, we rescued two giant cane toads from our pool. The photo makes the toad look like it is normal Ontario size but it was much much bigger. Karen’s toad houses would have to be three or four times the size of the ones she makes for the toads at our cottage.

    Historically, Cane toads, due to their voracious appetites, were used to get rid of pests in sugarcane plantations, giving rise to their common name. They are also called “giant toads" or “marine toads".

    They are very large and females are significantly longer than males. The ones we have seen and rescued from our pool were the size of small cabbages! Maybe 6” long and very fat and flabby. Some can weigh up to 1 kg! They have a life expectancy of 10- 15 years in the wild.

    The skin of the toad is dry and warty and the ones we have seen are a yellow-brown colour, with a pattern. I don’t have a problem scooping frogs out of the pool with my hands but there is no way that I want to grab one of this squishy toads. Our pool skimmer works just fine.

    I did read that if this toad feels threatened, it releases a milky substance that is toxic enough to burn the eyes or inflame the skin unless it is sensed off immediately.

    Once the toad was released, it raised itself and ran, and I mean ran. Not like our toads at home. It was fast! It didn’t really have fully webbed feet, they were more like long fingers. In the morning, we wake up to their deep croaks.

    By the way, this was the same type of toad that that we saw when we first arrived here, hiding under my face mask on an end table. Another night, there was one under the seat cushion. Imagine if we had sat on it!
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