Joined August 2015
  • Day85

    Life’s a Beach

    March 6 in Canada ⋅ 🌙 3 °C

    Our twelve week break from Vancouver’s wet winter has come to an end as we leave behind the sun, sand and new friends we’ve made in Mexico.

    We didn’t really know what to expect when we set out on this journey, with only the few hours we spent in Mazatlan last February as a sample of what was to come. In the end, we’ve become quite enamoured not only with the city, but also with the warmth of the Mazatlecos, who patiently endured my attempts to express myself in their language. But, because there is also a very active expat community, about seventy percent of which is from our home and native land, I didn’t always have to call on my Duolingo skills to communicate.

    Once we settled into our Airbnb rental we went about exploring the historic Centro district and quickly fell into a routine that involved long walks along the malecón, daily visits to the Mercado Central and, in Brenda’s case, yoga five morning every week. Every other day we’d stop at the ...... market for a 40 peso fruit smoothie before walking the three kilometres back to our base. We caught two baseball games, one of them a divisional playoff final, attended two Lucha Libre events, watched three 39 peso movies at Gran Plaza’s cinema and searched out eateries that would accommodate our vegan lifestyle. If there was one disappointment, it was the distinct lack of vegetarian options available in the restaurants. However, we learned toward the end of our stay that with a little coaching, many eateries were willing to whip something up to put on our plates. On the other hand, pretty much every day of the week, you can go somewhere and enjoy some great live music thanks to a very vibrant and diverse music scene.

    Brenda and I have pretty much decided that we will definitely return to Mazatlan for future winters, but we still have a very big soft spot for Thailand, where we plan to go next time winter rolls around. On the other hand, because Mazatlan is so accessible from Vancouver, we’re considering a short visit in May to experience fruit season at its peak, just before the scorching summer weather arrives.

    And so, as we head back to Vancouver, we trade in one Pacific beach for another. Yeah, life is pretty sweet.
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  • Day77

    Las Labradas

    February 27 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    About sixty kilometres north of Mazatlan lies a beach that holds a treasure trove of petroglyphs, some of which were carved 4500 years ago! The site was used by the indigenous pre-Columbian people of Sinaloa for over 3000 years, presumably for worship relating to their gods and the summer solstice.

    Brenda and I visited the Las Labradas Archeological site earlier this week and were fascinated by the works of these ancient people. Las Labradas is located almost exactly on the Tropic of Cancer, making it an ideal spot for honouring the changing of the seasons.

    The area of the beach where the carvings are situated is only about 1200 feet long, but it contains roughly six hundred and forty carvings. Lava from two nearby extinct volcanoes hardened and left the huge volcanic rocks that are strewn along this part of the beach. These boulders became the canvas for the ancient artists. The carvings depict various animals, birds, spiral designs, humanoids and celestial events. Despite their age and exposure to the elements, including the ebb and flow of the tides, many of the carvings are still very clear, while others, sadly, have lost much of their definition.

    Las Labradas is currently under consideration as a Unesco World Heritage Site, which if granted, would hopefully allow measures to be taken to preserve these valuable records for future generations.
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  • Day75

    Carnaval Parade

    February 25 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday, call it what you will, but the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the commencement of Lent, inspires celebration throughout the Christian world. The forty day period leading up to Easter Sunday is a time where many Catholics commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ's journey into the desert for 40 days; this is known as one's Lenten sacrifice. Thus the elaborate parties in preparation for the fast.

    The Mazatlan Carnaval celebrations ended on Tuesday with the second of two parades along the Malecón. This parade and celebration is much more tame and family oriented than the parades at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Drinking is done on a small scale and there is none of the nudity that is so prevalent in the USA, although some of the parader’s costumes left little to the imagination. All of the country’s respective floats matched the themes of their statues that have decorated the city for the last couple of weeks. Each float was preceded by a dance troupe clad in colourful and imaginative costumes aso matching the theme. Candies, t-shirts, noise-makers and water bottles were tossed into the crowd by the people riding on the floats and all of this was backed by a non-stop barrage of up-beat Latin music.

    Brenda and I left before the end of the parade as our bellies were starting to cry out for food by 7:30, but we thoroughly enjoyed the two hours of it that we saw.

    As much as we enjoyed Carnaval, we’re glad the city is now returning to the peaceful, uncrowded place we’ve come to love.
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  • Day73

    Combate Naval

    February 23 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    In 1864, the Mexican army and navy succeeded in repelling a French force that was intent on capturing Mazatlan. The French flagship, La Cordelière, was heavily damaged by Mexican cannon fire during the battle.

    Every year during Carnaval, the battle is recreated with a free fireworks display that is, for many, the highlight of the celebrations.

    Last night, Brenda and I braved the crowds and patiently awaited the 11:00 PM start of the pyrotechnics. The number of people attending was truly impressive, with every inch of El Malecon filled with revelers.

    The show started with a spectacular display put on by dozens of drones that was, as far as we were concerned, the highlight of the show. "Mazatlan" was spelled out in the night sky with a pulsating red heart behind the word. Then the drones reformed to announce "Carnaval '20". The music changed and the drones drew out a line of three cannons and a blue, blanc et rouge masted ship, which was rapidly sunk by cannon fire.

    The drones retreated and the fireworks got under way with a bombastic, but somewhat frenetic, display. Frankly, both Brenda and I were a little disappointed by the performance which was impressive in its aggressivity, but chaotic in its presentation. There was no lull in the action with shells constantly exploding at both low and high altitudes. Although one could argue the display was synchronized to the non-stop upbeat Latin rhythms blasting over the PA system, it all came across as a little heavy-handed.

    Nonetheless, it was something we felt compelled to attend and can now check it off our to do list.
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  • Day69

    Somos America

    February 19 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    The theme for this year's Carnaval in Mazatlan is "Somos America", We Are America.

    Over the last couple of weeks huge paper mache statues representing the carnaval icons of other Latin American countries have been popping up all around the city,

    Here's a small sample. We'll add more once the festivities get under way.
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  • Day64

    Oh, I Love Turtles!

    February 14 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    We decided to do something out of the ordinary this Valentine’s Day so we booked a trip to the Verde-Comacho turtle sanctuary, about an hour north of Mazatlan. And what a great decision it was!

    When we arrived at the sanctuary, our guide, Misael, gave us the background on how the sanctuary came into being and told us a little about the Olive Ridley sea turtle, which is the main focus of this enterprise. We then went into the incubation room where the eggs that are collected from the beach are brought to hatch. We were shown two “nests” whose eggs had hatched and were to be released onto the sea within the next twenty four hours. The “nests” are actually styrofoam coolers that contain up to one hundred eggs laid by a mama turtle, along with the sand from the beach where they were laid. The smell from that sand will be imprinted into the hatchling’s memory and will guide them back to that same spot on the beach when it is their turn to lay eggs.

    As soon as the cover was lifted from the first cooler, Brenda turned to jelly and fell completely in love with a hundred or so baby reptiles. I must say, they were awfully cute!

    Then it was down to the beach where the six of us on the tour were each given two hatchlings to set free.

    When they first touch the sand, the hatchlings are clearly disoriented and surprised when the first wave hits them. But after that, with each successive wave, they paddle more and more frantically with their front fins, hoping to ride the tide to their new domain. They reminded me of surfers paddling hard to catch a wave. A couple of the babies needed a helping hand from Misael, but eventually, they were all swallowed up by the sea. It was quite a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, these little beasts are very popular snacks for the sea’s predators and only about one percent of the babies will ever make it to adulthood. But I’m confident my two releasees are fighters and will one day return to the beach here. Who knows, if I ever fall overboard on a cruise, maybe one of them will remember me and come to my rescue.

    After the release we went for a boat ride through a mangrove forest where we saw blue herons, crocodiles and iguanas. We were given the option of doing the tour in a kayak, but I found the idea of flipping upside down into crocodile infested brackish water somewhat unappealing.

    After we were brought back to our accommodations in town, we made our way to the Golden Zone and ate at Zab Thai, the best Thai restaurant in Mazatlan. Actually, it’s the only Thai restaurant in Mazatlan, so they don’t have to work too hard to be the best. The food was only OK, but it was nonetheless a nice change from Mexican. In any case, I got to spend a wonderful day with my lovely valentine.
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  • Day31

    Murals

    January 12 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    I had hoped to post these at the end of our stay in Mexico City but we both got back to Mazatlan with sore throats. which we thought were due to the polluted air we were bearing in the capital. However, our sore throats quickly turned into nasty flus that have kept us more or less bedridden for over a week. I'm only just starting to feel human again.

    Mexico City is a vibrant and ever so colourful city. Everywhere we walked, we came across outdoor artwork and murals, some relatively small while others spanned entire buildings. These are only a few of the many we came across.
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  • Day28

    Jesterday....

    January 9 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    When we arrived in Mazatlan we saw posters everywhere advertising a Beatles tribute concert at El Teatro Angela Peralta, a fully restored 19th century opera house. Given my love of the Fab Four and our desire to visit the opera house, we went to the box office and snapped up tickets for the January 9 show.

    The opera house is a beautiful piece of architecture with a facade graced by four Roman columns. The theater originally opened in 1874 and, while it operated continuously until 1964, poor maintenance caused it to fall into disrepair and, eventually, ruin. In 1975, it was flooded by Hurricane Olivia and was for a time used as a parking garage with a giant ficus tree growing at center stage. In 1985, the city had the building slated for demolition, but a group of concerned citizens staged the first Mazatlan Cultural Festival in the ruined and roofless structure, complete with a symphony orchestra performing in front of the dilapidated stage and under the ficus tree at it's center. The grand lady was saved!

    Through public and private funding, the building was restored to it's former glory and was declared a national historical site in 1990.

    Attending a concert there is a treat. The hall has only eight hundred forty one seats, and there's not a bad one in the house. Acoustics are outstanding and the restored cast iron balconies project the history of the venue.

    It's a must see for any visitor to this city.

    Now, about the show. Last year Brenda and I attended a "Beatles" concert in Vancouver that included orchestration provided by the VSO. Admittedly, we were a little spoiled by that one and I guess our expectations for last night's show were pretty high.

    As it turns out, the band on stage this night, Grupo Help!, was formed in Mexico City in 1985 by three Beatles-loving brothers. During the show, they covered three eras of the Fab Four's career, and did an admirable job with the music and hitting the right notes vocally. But there was no disguising their Spanish accents.

    She loves you, ja, ja, ja....

    Jesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away...

    They even managed to perform one of my favorites from 1967's Sargento Pimienta, A Day In The Life.

    And despite the Latin rather than Liverpudlian accents and a few annoying technical glitches, the show was very entertaining and well worth the 500 peso price of admission.

    I am the walrus, koo koo kachoo!
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