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    • Day 37

      Chacalilla Priv. Beach & Gated Community

      January 16, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

      A week of Ukulele workshops with James Hill is planned for the last week in January. Of course, Gail and Pat are involved in the ukulele programs which appear to be lots of fun for the 20 participants coming from the U.S. Chris and I are leaving for New Zealand during this week so will not be attending but know that everyone will enjoy Chacala.

      James Hill’s mother-in-law, Dorothy, stays in Chacala during winters and we have met her on several occasions. She invited our gang for an afternoon visit to Chacalilla, a gated community on a secluded, peaceful beach, where she lives.

      The eight of us sat in the shade under palm trees, swam in the turquoise water and drank cervezas. The life...

      Then we walked to Dorothy and Bruce’s house, had a guided tour and ate the club house’s tasty french fries, and Lola’s guacamole and tostadas. The house is built in a jungle so we slathered ourselves with repellant and enjoyed watching the hummingbirds and other jungle birds flit through the trees.
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    • Day 26

      Lazy days...

      January 5, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

      Believe it or not, Chris and I have never stayed for an extended time in a beach town. This was going to be a new experience for us.

      Pat and Gail have been here before and since Pat grew up in a beach town in California, he loves the ocean, surfing, swimming and snorkelling. Chacala is the perfect place for this. Gail loves the calm areas of the beach for swimming and Chacala has that too. We are fortunate that they found this wonderful little place and we can share it with them.

      There are lots of Americans and Canadians here, mostly from the west coast. They know each other so there is always someone who will arrange pickle ball games in the early morning, ukulele group meets in the late morning, dinner parties or meetups at restaurants, little group driving or hiking trips, seeing the sunsets while drinking margaritas at a nearby restaurant, etc. Always something going on, if you want to be busy.

      Pat and Gail know us well enough, so we don’t always have to do things together but it is fun to
      have options.

      On Sundays, a terrific brunch is offered in a little shaded and secluded area at the end of the
      beach. We all went there for the first time and loved it! Gourmet food and mimosas on the beach. Ahhhh. As added entertainment we watched a whale breaching in the distance. Pretty exciting!

      A group decision was made. We have all agreed to go there every Sunday.
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    • Day 36

      A Weekly ‘Hole in the Wall’ Restaurant

      January 15, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

      Chabela, a lady who lives across the street from us, opens up her home every Wednesday to serve a Mexican meal for 10 - 20 people. She posts the time and the menu and puts a sign-up sheet on her door.

      Last week, we ate a chicken mole dish and this week, we had either a shrimp or beef Chile Relleno dish with beans, rice and salad. Jugs of guayabana juice are set on the table, and serviettes and cutlery handed out. Then we get real Mexican home-cooked food that she prepares in her kitchen. The grill is on for warming up tortillas.

      Three long tables with chairs are set up in her patio. Her dog and a cat walk under the tables freely. And everyone talks. It’s like a big family gathering.

      This week, we took a few photos of the experience.
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    • Back in Mexico

      January 18, 2023 in Mexico ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

      We have decided not to do a big blog for our time in Mexico this year. We will be revisiting places that we have been to in the past so Chris doesn’t think that there won’t be a lot of new things to see or to write about. I’m not so sure…

      We are now in Chacala, Mexico. FindPenguins just let me know that we were in Mexico 295 days ago. So funny. And in Chacala in 2020 just before Covid broke out.

      One week after coming home from Egypt, we hopped on a plane and flew to Puerto Vallarta. Originally, I tried to get flights from Egypt to Mexico but it cost way too much and would have taken hours to get here. Cheaper to just fly back home. And we saw our kids and reorganized our luggage for a hotter climate. Worked out just right.

      Chacala is a sweet little fishing village, a 2 hour drive north of P.V. Our long time travelling friends are staying here and booked a 2 bedroom apartment in a small building close to the beach. We are staying with them for a couple of weeks. Their grandson and his wife are also staying close by for a 5 day mini vacation so we were lucky to spend some time with them for a few days.

      Our first full day in Chacala was spent by first of all hiking up the nearby volcano and enjoying the amazing view of the bay and village from its summit. Then we all went to a lovely restaurant near the marina for a buffet brunch.

      Then we unpacked and settled in. We stayed with P and G in another apartment in this building 3 years ago so it feels like home to us.

      At 3 pm, we all went out whale watching and we saw whales! It was pretty exciting.

      But the fun didn’t end there. Since it was the kids’ last night before heading home, we all went out to see the sunset over the ocean and then a seafood dinner at Las Brisas.

      We love Mexico!
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    • Day 40

      Ladies’ Art Show

      January 19, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

      From 2 - 5 p.m., some lady artists had an art show of their work in the Chacala Cultural Centre. They sold their art and profits went to supporting the centre. We forgot our phone so Gail took some photos for this footprint. We especially liked the photography on flowy nylon material.Read more

    • Day 24

      Leaving the Mountains for a Beach Town

      January 3, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

      Today is a travel day, but the bus didn’t leave until 1:45 p.m., so we had the morning to have breakfast at La Abuela and then do a final round of the town.

      The bus to Puerto Vallarta was right on time, but packed to the gills. Some people stood for the full three hours of the trip. We bought our tickets a day earlier so we were fine. Someone suggested that we get off at Los Juntos as it would save us an extra hour on the bus and would cost less to get to the airport. Great advice.

      Pat and Gail’s airplane arrived at 5:15, so we waited for them at the Tacon de Marlin, the same burrito restaurant that we had eaten in 3 weeks earlier. Their first place from Bellingham to Seattle had been cancelled a few hours before they were supposed to leave so their grandson, Patrick, drove them to Seattle and they were able to continue on with their flight from there.

      As always, our meetings are great and then eating a big shrimp burrito and drinking a Victoria beer before heading to Chacala, was great. Domingo, the cab driver waited for us and did a great job driving on the busy highway north. The traffic was unbelievable. It was like being on a major highway at rush hour. It is Friday night and the last weekend of Christmas holidays so that explains why there was so much traffic.

      It was a lot warmer on the coast and we enjoyed seeing the beautiful red sunset as we travelled.
      Chacala is tiny, not far from the bigger town of Las Varas. It doesn’t have an ATM machine, a pharmacy or a bread store, but it does have a beautiful beach and restaurants galore. We can buy almost anything that we need here which is great. Combis (vans) go to Las Varas all the time, if we need special items.

      Our apartment is at the edge of town so it is quiet, being a little ways from the action. At the same time, it is a very short walk to the beach and the dock.

      We are sharing a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment on the 2nd floor with a very large patio and access to a small swimmming pool on the main level. There are lots of birds and butterflies and we can see the ocean. Thank you P and G for finding this comfy place for us to share. Leonor, the landlady, keeps the place very clean and well equipped.

      We are looking forward to a relaxing 3 week stay here, with our old friends, before our 2 month road trip in New Zealand.

      Note: I forgot to publish this earlier. But here it is - almost 2 weeks late!
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    • Day 28

      Up the Volcano for Beautiful Views

      January 7, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

      We are in ‘relax mode’. What can I say? So what have we been doing?

      The day before yesterday we just did relaxing things. Nothing strenuous.

      Pat and Gail have returned to their pickle ball games on a rough basketball court with several other gringos. It gets hot here during the day so 7 a.m. is a good time to play. I watched a few games and everyone was having fun. A few falls mentioned, the court is rough.

      Chris went with PnG to a ukulele practice with about 8 people. That was fun.

      We have gone swimming on this beautiful beach several times. The sand is lovely and the town prides itself in keeping the beach clean. Yesterday was the last day of Christmas holidays, so today the beach was very quiet.

      Oh, we have eaten several times in the beachfront palapas. Inexpensive and delicious, especially the vegetarian omelets and green smoothies.

      This morning, we decided to walk to the rim of a nearby ancient volcano. We set out at around 7 a.m., after watching a beautiful sunrise, and drinking a coffee on our rooftop patio.

      It was a pleasant walk with lots of birds to look at. At the top, we discovered a tiny ‘offering’ on the trail.

      Once we left the shade of the jungly trail, it started to get pretty hot and we were hungry. So, we stopped at a beachside palapa restaurant and ordered their famous vegetarian omelet with beans, a coffee and a green juice. Delicious and the added bonus of watching the waves in the ocean. We enjoyed the slow service. Nothing moves very fast here!

      The walk through the jungle to the top of the rim of the volcano was very pleasant. We saw lots of birds and interesting plants. The views at the top were lovely. At times, the crater fills up with water and a lake appears.
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    • Day 246


      January 13, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

      Nachdem wir noch einen lustigen Tag mit Fragil und seinen Surferfreunden bei Bier und Tequila am Strand verbracht haben, wollen wir heute weiter die Küste entlang nach Sayulita.
      Auf halber Strecke finden wir einen Weg in den Dschungel der zu alten Petroglyphen führen soll.
      Das ist doch genau das richtige für uns!
      Am Ende erwartet uns sogar noch ein Überraschung.... ein terassenförmiger Wasserfall mit kleinem Naturpool. Endlich mal wieder eine richtige Abkühlung! 😍
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    • Day 35

      Altavista Petroglyphs Pt. 1 - The Hike

      January 14, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

      How could we be in an area known for its petroglyphs and not visit a site filled with ancient engravings, that was only a 30 minute drive away?

      We decided to hire a guide, Chuy, who also knows a lot about birds, to drive us to the area and explain what we were seeing. The area is well-known but not a very touristy site. In fact, we only saw one other little group when we were there. People who aren’t willing or able to scramble over big rocks shouldn’t go.

      Chuy picked us up at 7 a.m., when it is cooler, and off we went. The road to the site from the highway is not marked so I am not sure we would have found it on our own. The road and trail to the stones was very picturesque so I made one footprint for the walk and one for the petroglyphs that we saw.

      Now a little history, taken from signs posted along the way ...

      The Tecoxquines, (Throat Cutters), who were the forefathers of the Aztecs, engraved images in volcanic stone over two thousand years ago. These petroglyphs may have been symbolic elements of everyday life, as far as health, fertility, rains, and crops. The rock carvings might have been meant as prayers or offerings to the gods responsible for these things.

      After the Spanish conquest, the Tecoxquines were completely annihilated by epidemics and forced labor. Today native people of the region still talk about "white Indians," ghosts appearing from the mountains to honor their ancient gods.

      The 200 acre archaeological site is located along the sides of a creek on the side of the Copo volcano. Chuy parked the car and we walked through fruit tree orchards on farm roads to the river. There were lots of birds to see and identify with Chuy’s help.

      Once we got to the river, we had to negotiate the big boulders that were strewn along the sides of the river. Chuy would stop, point out the carvings and explain the meanings of the designs that were on the top and the sides of the big rocks.

      Spirals, wavy lines, and other symbols carved in the rocks were probably a ritual prayer language for the gods. As an agricultural culture, the Tocoxquines would have been concerned with rain, fertility of the land and the timing of the seasons that they relied on.

      While the exact meaning of symbols will never be known, spirals have been interpreted as the Sun, a storm, the wind, the spiral snake, or as a symbol of the natural cycle of rainy and dry days.
      Chuy showed us a large rock filled with engravings, that was a possible map of the area.

      So many petroglyphs. I think that there are over 2,000!

      Eventually, we came to the Pila del Rey, or King’s Fountain, and what a beautiful place that was. But you can see the photos. An amazingly lovely grotto of basalt rocks. It is still used by the Huichol people during the solstices. We saw offerings and ribbons in the trees. No wonder the area was picked as a ceremonial centre. As our daughter said, it looks like a movie set.
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    • Day 35

      Knee deep in love

      March 11, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

      A blistering start to food on the mainland.

      Despite the tangible impact of over 300 sand fly bites between Jen and I, acquired in our last days of Baja- think something like the Scottish midge, but a few times more itchy - we're still managing to enjoy our time, especially on the food front.

      Crossing the Sea of Cortez has resulted in a real shift in climate to much more humid conditions and a few extra degrees on the thermometer. Deserts are gone, replaced with lush countryside. Immediately, the palate of ingredients has changed, most notable is likely the jackfruit- more to follow on that shortly.

      The food on the ferry wasn't up to much as was expected, but it was free and, more importantly, it was an opportunity to sit with some truckers, say hello and exchange the customary 'buen provecho', followed by a comforting and respectful silence as we all ate. I'm proud that we take these moments more than we once would have. This is where the substance of eating is. Watching people, their relationship with food and trying to think about their lives interests me greatly.

      Earlier, whilst waiting on boarding, a Mexican biker guy came up asking if we had some food that we could give him for his wife, so we offered what we had and refused his proposal to give us money. The next morning, as we neared our destination of Mazatlàn, we spoke with him and his family some more, exchanging details in the process, so now we are invited to stay with Jessie and his biker family near Guadalajara when we get there. My heart exploded even more when he said that he would show us how to cook their food. Surely, this is meant to be my first real opportubity to interview someone for a deeper insight into food through the lives of the people whose families have handed down tradition through them. I can't wait. I was buzzing for hours after that. It's enough of a privilege just to exchange conversation with people, but to be welcomed into their home after what, in some other countries, would have just been a casual exchange, fills me with so much love that I can't really find words. This is what travel can do and, combined with food, it is a vehicle for connection in a simple but powerful form which is really the thing that matters most to us about a journey like this.

      After arriving in Mazatlàn, we pushed South pretty quickly as we had some ground to cover. We stopped in a small town on our way to try to find water, but that mission soon got dropped in favour of trying one of the numerous local food joints, landing the first Pollo Asado of the trip. Order (thankfully) restored. I have just one photo. I was so immersed in the experience of watching the guys do their thing that I forgot to take any action shots. I also had a little kid, José, who I'd befriended in the car park, serving as a heartwarming distraction. Thinking about him and his twelve siblings certainly made me think about the real value of such a simple meal that we had ordered.

      The chicken? Oh, the chicken. Cooked with years of skill and love. Somehow, perfectly cooked throughout each part, and seasoned right on the button. Served up with a little salad and some red sauce for a smidge over $5 for one- and that was the Gringo price- it was a welcomed treat. Although, eating this piping hot lunch in 30°c in the supermarket car park was not so pleasant. There was enough left to form some tasty little tacos with my chipotle mayo and green sauce for dinner. Tremendous.

      So the trip has thankfully been saved thanks to finally indulging in Polls Asado for the first time in Mexico.

      This morning, we awoke in our camp spot - the car park of a petrol station, as is the way when on a highway push - and got ready for the road down towards Puerto Vallarta. Whilst refilling on fuel, a lady in the forecourt offered us some (still warm) cornbread. They like to eat it with milk, she said. We had one sniff at it and ordered another slab. At a buck a pop, it was a steal. It barely lasted the journey, saved only by the distraction of the return of roadside vendors. After passing a few, it became too much to say no any more. This is a fundamental point of this second phase of our trip- to stop driving past opportunities to connect and to eat proper, local things.

      The tropical conditions are yielding fruit on a totally different level to Baja. We stopped to visit a stall where the old ladies welcomed us with hugs and an introduction to their finest produce. We bought a huge tub of insanely good honey ($1.50???!!!), fresh jackfruit pods ($0.50), and these coconut cake things, for which I forget the name now- basically fresh coconut shreds cooked in condensed milk, and solidified back into a sort of cake- this shit will blow your fucking mind, it's so good. Four of those cost about $0.50 also. Patrick and Susie bought some banana bread, also. What a wonderful stop filling our bellies and our hearts. The coco treats didn't last the next segment of the journey. The honey, well...that'll just be getting lathered on everything- I wonder maybe with some good fresh cheese, or just in yoghurt. And tea. Hmmm. And the jackfruit? Well, that stuff is going to be turned into some veggie tacos on another level. As many veggie folks will know, jackfruit turns into a texture similar to pulled pork. I'm going to try a few different variants with this, but first stop is to use up some leftover BBQ sauce from last week - it keeps well - to make some BBQ pulled jackfruit, with which I hope to make a pastor sauce, pineapple salsa and some pickles. I'm salivating as I write this.

      Moving on down the road, floating on a coconut cloud, and mind racing with all that is going to be food-wise in this climate, we found ourselves in a small town to meet a friend of a friend of a friend. We stopped for some lunch first- our friend, Beto, showed us to a place where we could get into some proper local and homely grub. Unfortunately, from my selfish perspective, the consensus was for more familiar dishes, I.e. tacos, so we moved on. Before leaving, I didn't manage to understand much of what the three lunch dishes on offer really were, other than a beef caldo- like boiled meat in a broth with chunky veg. I just wanted to try something of the place, but it'll have to wait.

      Across the street, we found a taco joint. BBQ grill out front, and then a big pot with the meat- from pork leg, through to offal, and skin and the like, all sitting on the pork fat in which it's cooked slowly. We all played a little safe, going for Carnitas which omit the likes of Buche (stomach) and Surtido (Carnitas with offal, skin and various other bits). We all had tacos, except Susie, who opted for a quesadilla with carnitas ans cheese.This wasn't a tourist town, so it was the real deal. The trimmings were the standard assembly- tomato salsa, red and green salsas, onions etc. What a treat to be served up honest food by these warm people, including the little rockstar kiddo, in such a perfectly simple setting.

      Sometimes when you watch a food documentary, it's maybe difficult to appreciate fully the essence of something. The food can seem a bit simple or rough. But, when you're in it; in the place where it belongs, and with the people whose lives are immersed in it one way or another, whether it's making it, supplying it, or eating it, we are given an opportunity to look directly into the soul of a place, because food remains such an important part in everyday life. Without exaggeration, food is family, and so it receives all of that love which is passed on to people like us who are so privileged to be able to be here. We get to experience not just that food, but all the love that went into it and all the warmth that surrounds the whole experience. For some fleeting moments, we too are part of that family. I hope I never take for granted how lucky we are.
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