A Travellerspoint blog

January 2015

Michoacan state is dangerous - fact or fiction?

we're here to find out

sunny 23 °C

We had been reading a lot of unnerving information about the volatile situation in the state of Michoacan, particularly around the borders, so we left Mazamitla and reached the border about 15 minutes later with considerable apprehension. Since the states do not actually have border crossings, it was as uneventful as driving from British Columbia through to Alberta. There have been recent skirmishes between the drug cartels, splinter groups, vigilantes and police in the border areas, so the warnings are neither frivolous nor without precedence for violence. Stephen and I are not travelling here to prove a point, but after a lot of conversation with various people, we decided that the risks of visiting places like Patzcuaro, Morelia, and the Monarch butterfly sanctuaries would be minimal.

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Our first stop - the colonial highland town of Patzcuaro, with a population of about 55,000 people, many of them the indigenous Purépecha. Nearby villages produce local crafts - weaving, copper, pottery, lacquerware, straw and wooden carvings - all to be found in the stores and markets here. It is quite inspiring to be surrounded by the high-end quality of many of the crafts , as well as having the opportunity to see the artists at work.

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Gentleman making a broom.

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This man was spooling thread on a contraption he fashioned from a bicycle wheel

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This figure of serpents is partially carved, from one piece of wood and will be painted.
This piece will take one month to make.

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This mother and daughter spent a 25-minute boat ride working on their embroidery. It really makes you appreciate
the weeks of work that go into a simple blouse or tablecloth.

There is a beautiful colonial building halfway up a hill that is called Casa de los Once Patios (House of the 11 Courtyards). It houses several small shops that each specialize in different crafts, and the shady setting of artwork, murals, cobblestones, and flowers is as inviting as the art offered for sale.

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The city is filed with courtyards and intriguing small patios and gardens that lie just beyond open doors. Geraniums, bougainvillea, monster leafy plants, orange trees spill out of ceramic and terra cotta pots.

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Our hotel, Hotel Pueblo Magico, is typical of many small hotels here - very quiet and cool, with rooms facing onto lush, tiled interior courtyards, filled with flowers and pottery.

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Patzcuaro, like Mazamitla, is a Pueblo Mágico, and it does possess a stirring spiritual energy that may have as much to do with the many churches and cathedrals, as with the stunning setting of leafy plazas, hilly streets, and uniformly red and white buildings.

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Main plaza

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typical street scene

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Like many Mexican towns and cities, the cathedrals and churches are the architectural showcases of Patzcuaro.

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As beautiful as Patzcuaro is, the people here are even more warm, friendly and welcoming. We have had so many genuine heartfelt encounters with the Michoacans that any residual nervousness we might have felt about being here is gone. It was at one of the most popular restaurants on the plaza, La Surtidora, that we met some lovely fellow British Columbians, who have been coming to Mexico for years. We kept bumping into them in town, and two nights ago, we were fortunate to share a most Mexican evening. The restaurant had a good mix of Mexicans and other tourists, and the singer, El Potre Gregorio Rodriguez Cruz, began by playing guitar and singing a couple of songs. He had a gorgeous voice, a sort of vibrato that was just filled with longing and loss and emotion. Most of the guests started singing along with him, and their tragedy and loss and struggles and pride just poured out of their voices. I started blubbering; then a Mexican lady in the corner was weeping. The woman beside us sang with him - it became a bit of a duet. He just kept singing and playing for us - our very own Roy Orbison. Pure serendipity.

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Since Mexico is such a huge manufacturer of Volkswagens, the country is filled with many ancient, souped-up and quite imaginative versions of vans and the original old Beetle. We stopped to talk to a young man who had taken this 1992 Volkswagen and refigured it to feature DeLorean-style doors, among other features. He was justifiably very proud. We were also intrigued by the sticker on the rear window.

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Patzcuaro is situated on Lake Patzcuaro, and a visit here is not complete without taking a small boat over to Isla Janitzio. Despite everything we had read about it being a cheesy tourist trap filled with mass-produced junky souvenirs, we decided to give it a whirl. We walked down to the lake, then hopped on a boat, and from that moment, realized that we had left the refined craftsmanship of Patzcuaro behind. Everything was a hustle - from the guys selling candy, to the 3-piece band that came aboard and played badly, to the small boy at the dock on Janitzio who helped me off the boat, then held out his hand for a tip.

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The island is quite dramatic from the water, and almost upon arrival, there are a number of fishermen, with their famous butterfly nets, used to catch the area's "pescado blanco". As if on cue, our boat slowed, the fishermen waved their nets up in the air for a photo op, then rowed over to gather their tips.

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Isla Janitzio is largely populated by the Purepecha people, and the small town is not unlike an Italian hillside village, with no cars, and narrow streets climbing straight up to the top, where there is a 40-m statue of Jose Morelos, the independence hero. I have no idea what the village was like before rampant tourism took over, but whatever fine crafts there may be, they are lost in the mass-produced sameness - one store identical to the next.

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Stephen stopped to talk to this old lady, and she grabbed his arm and wouldn't let go. He eventually extricated himself, and carried on.

It was worth the trip - no different than many of North America's low-rent attractions, and we got to have a boat ride.

Patzcuaro was a real treat - we would love to really explore Michoacan in the future when things are calmer, and we feel safer to hit all the small towns and rural areas. I'll leave you with an image that we have not been able to figure out. All over Patzcuaro, in our hotel, in other hotels and restaurants and in stores, large ceramic pots are trimmed with scarves tied around their necks. It is quite whimsical - we think it might be a nod to the cool winter temperatures here.

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Tomorrow - Morelia!

Posted by millerburr 19:44 Archived in Mexico Comments (13)

Magic in Mazamitla

one of Mexico's "pueblo mágicos"

semi-overcast 19 °C

We had two possible routes to travel from Melaque to Mazamitla - one through the mountains via a "free" road, and one by driving down the coast a bit, and coming up through Colima via a toll road. The former appeared to be about an hour longer than the latter, so we chose scenery over expediency. Gauging time required to travel distances in Mexico is an almost impossible feat, and our expected travel time of 3 1/2 hours stretched out to almost 7 hours. Google maps had no way of knowing about horses, concrete trucks, and construction. Lesson learned - we will simply double our ETA in the future and not fret about it.

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Signs for various animals are common - cows, armadillos, skunks. The signs weren't working so well for the skunks, as there were several small corpses along the way, but we did see a number of enormous cows grazing by the side of the road. Hitting one would be as catastrophic as hitting a moose, I would think. I'd love to see an armadillo (alive). The photo above does not show it off very well, but if you look closely on the bottom left, you will see a pothole, embedded in the tope. As our beach vendors loved to say - "two for one!"

We began our drive with great anticipation, as we were really looking forward to a change of scenery and climate. Driving on secondary roads can be fantastic - the roads are often in good repair, and give glimpses into all the hidden corners of Mexico. However, they can also add a lot of time to the drive, as they go through every small town, and you share the road with everyone. And if they are not in good repair, they are nightmarish - you have to be on constant lookout for potholes, topes, rocks, and roadkill.

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The road began to climb - up from sea level to over 7,000 ft. I could go on about the absence of guardrails, and the stress of having cars zoom up right behind us, their impatience palpable, while Stephen negotiated the "curva sinuosas" for 18 km., while following a convoy of gravel trucks. But that would be stating the obvious, and missing the fabulousness of the vistas. I had to help Steve drive, but managed to see quite a bit every time I tore my eyes off the road. It was intense, but not exactly scary - the roads are well engineered. It was simply the usual experience of driving through switchback mountain roads - once you start, there is nothing to do but keep driving, and on this stretch, at least, there were no lookouts to break the drive.

I felt so badly for this horse - he was secured with ropes, but struggled to maintain his balance with every turn of the road.

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We descended again, and the landscape changed. Cactus (cacti?), and scrubby plants. Another descent and we drove for miles through agricultural lands - tomatoes, orange groves, peppers. Much talk about how the drug cartels have terrorized farmers, especially lime farmers, for payoffs. Makes the miles and miles of farms look more sinister.

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Climbed up again, to finally reach the "pueblo mágico", Mazamitla. The tourism sector of the government of Mexico has assigned over 85 towns in Mexico as being "magic towns". The criteria for a magic town is: a place with symbolism, legends, history, important events, day-to-day life – in other words, "magic" in its social and cultural manifestations, with great opportunities for tourism. Mazamitla fits the bill.

This town of 12,000 people is about 2200 m. above sea level and very alpine - ringed by mountains, with volcanoes in the distance. The narrow cobblestoned streets are lined with regular tiled Mexican homes, and Scandinavian-style timber buildings. Mazamitla is from the Nahuatl (Aztec) for "the place where arrows to hurt the deer are made."

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As with most Mexican towns, life revolves around the centre plaza and the cathedral. January and February are still cold in the mountains - about 18-20 degrees during the day and down to around 10 or 12 degrees at night. Almost everyone is wearing boots, hats and jackets.

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We arrived in shorts and flip flops and checked into our hotel, El Leñador. Pine trees are prevalent here, as are deer, and our hotel has embraced the motif. Our beautiful room, which has a balcony overlooking the town, cost us around $50 a night, and we were just thrilled to call this place home for three nights.

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Pine cones hanging in the hotel third floor lobby, and the view from our balcony

The hotel is family-owned, very friendly, and spotlessly clean. When we came back from breakfast this morning, the owner's little granddaughter was helping with chores.

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The Parroquia de San Christobal is the centrepiece of the town, and has a command post in front of the main plaza. In the two days we've been here, there has been non-stop activity - masses, a christening, bells ringing on the hour, half hour and quarter hour.

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Ironically, the centre plaza also houses the police station - some unholy juxtaposition of good and evil. There are at least three or four heavily armed municipal police officers holding the fort, and on the weekends, presumably to handle the tourist throngs, the military rolls in. Several trucks filled with camo-clad, fully-loaded military soldiers then stake out the plaza. Their guns are held close to their chests, they have belts of ammo, they also have 12-inch sheathed knives, some of them wear scarves over their faces, and the overall effect is quite intimidating. Every once in a while, they all jump in the trucks, drive around for a while, then resume their posts in the plaza. The message is clear - swipe so much as a candy bar, and they've got it covered. This afternoon, Steve and I were sitting at a cafe having hot chocolate (very yummy), when one of the trucks unloaded, and about six of the soldiers headed directly for us. I was pretty sure we were not their intended targets, but it was a moment. Turns out, just like the celebrity mags like to say,"they drink chocolate too!" I was desperate to take a photo of them, but there was never a moment when they were all looking in another direction, not even when they started taking selfies!

There is not a lot to do in Mazamitla for longer than a day or two, if you are a tourist. The one main attraction is called El Salto - a 30-m. waterfall about 4 km. away on the outskirts of town. We walked through town and found the entrance to the park area flanked by dozens of horses, and ongoing entreaties to ride down, rather than walk "for an hour and a half." We chose to walk because we thought we would see more, and we also thought they were exaggerating the distance (they were not).

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El Salto is situated in a gorgeous area called Las Cazos, which has some of the most fantastic private homes and vacation properties.

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The natural vegetation and gardens are just stunning, and there are benches along the way to rest. It is an oasis.

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So, we walked and walked and walked, uphill and down, on very steep grades and very uneven cobblestone. We began to curse ourselves for not having rented horses (tired already, and we still had to make the return trip). Eventually, we reached the entrance to the waterfall - there was 178 high stone steps to travel down to the waterfall. As waterfalls go, El Salto is underwhelming, but we were glad to have done this, as it gave us both a view of an area we would never otherwise have found, and 4 1/2 hours of much-needed exercise.

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Some images of Mazamitla stand out for us - horses are an important means of transportation; preserves and dried fruit are made locally and sold in every store; small wooden toys, boxes and utensils are also a tourist staple; the streets are clean, pretty, and every balcony is crammed with flowers.

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Food is forgettable here - but we did have a memorable breakfast at Las Troje - touted as #1 in Tripadvisor. The building is very large, very old, and very dated. The walls are crammed with travel photos, a few celeb shots, and a bunch of "girlie" photos (for lack of a better term) by the bar. As Stephen noted, the soundtrack must have been a Time-Warner release from 1963 - we listened to A Summer Place, My Way, and songs of that ilk. The ladies bathroom had beefcake photos from the 50s and 60s. Food was okay, but the experience was a trip. We'll leave you with this image - memories from the town that time forgot. Next stop - Patzcuaro.

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Posted by millerburr 15:50 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

Dodging stingrays in Melaque

sunny 30 °C

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The pool at our hotel

We were in Melaque for just three days and four nights - in part to visit our friend Jennifer, who has been coming to Melaque for many years - and in part to check out other beach communities in Mexico. We had been here four years ago, but I was so sick then and spent almost the entire time in our room, so this time around was like a brand new visit for both of us. We stayed at a small hotel called Posada Pablo de Tarso - one of many similar hotels lining the beach - two-storey u-shaped buildings, with a mix of rooms and suites, and a pool and common area overlooking the ocean. Jennifer met us at our hotel just as we were checking in. She had only arrived the day before, and still had a lot of settling in to do. We made plans to meet up the next morning at 9:00 am for our inaugural swim.

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Jennifer on her refurbished bike - brought from home, and freshly equipped with basket

Bicycles are one of the main and most convenient means of transportation here - for both Mexicans and gringos alike. Melaque is the Mexican version of the Netherlands - flat and super easy to get around ( excluding the road construction, potholes, cobblestones and topes). Everyone zips along, with their baskets billed with groceries, laundry and even kids.

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LIttle girls on their bikes

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Parents hauling their kids

The ocean in Melaque is so alive. And, apparently, stingrays live here, ranging from saucers to dinner plates in size. Once Jennifer assured us that sightings (or stingings) are rare, and explained how to enter the water, we took the plunge. Or rather, the shuffle. To avoid stepping on stingrays that may have burrowed into the sand, you shuffle into the water, pushing the sand with your feet - the marine version of clapping or whistling to warn bears you are on the path.

The water here is quite calm - ideal for swimming, and strangely, there are not that many people in the ocean. Possibly it is because most hotels have pools, possibly because it is a very active fishing area, and there are pelicans and gulls diving nearby. No matter - we found the swimming to be a highlight of our stay. Jennifer swims every morning for 40 minutes, which is a lot longer than it sounds. She is an epic swimmer - just shuffles in, and goes for it. We are less epic - more floaters and dawdlers. The feel of the water is luscious - like being on a gigantic water bed - slightly buffeted and rocked, while at the same time being ever so slightly pulled. The water feels mildly electric; befitting of sharing the same space with stingrays and who knows what else. There is nothing passive about being in deep ocean water like this - it is slightly unnerving and very therapeutic. There is no surfing here, but In the afternoon the waves kick in, and the kids turn up with their skimboards.

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The town of Melaque is really three small towns - San Patricio, Melaque and Obregon, with Barra de Navidad at the southern end of the beach. The town is just four hours south of Sayulita, but it feels a bit more tropical. More humid. Different bugs and critters. It feels very Mexican and while there are plenty of gringos, they have not taken over. Many of the tourists here are from Canada, and a lot of them are long-term stays, as opposed to folks flying in for one or two week vacations. This is a more modest and laid-back area, and more quiet.

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Every Wednesday, there is a massive market, or tianguis (much of it under tents) that stretches for a few blocks. As well as the usual plastic household goods, used clothing and cheap electonics, there were a number of stands selling handcrafts and jewellery. The Huichol people are indigenous to some areas of Mexico, and they specialize in beautiful beaded artwork and jewellery. Masks, papier-mache, and puppets made from coconuts are also common in this area. And hammocks - hand-knotted and gorgeous - we're just trying to figure out where to put one back home.
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We've really enjoyed the food here - lots of table sharing at taco stands. The night we arrived, we were a bit jangled and tired from the 4-hour drive that became a 6-hour drive and from the fact that I banged through a number of potholes, then hit a tope at 70 km. , briefly became airborne, and actually did nothing bad to our car, or its tires, or us. So, a bowl of pozole (fragrant chicken and corn soup) and a beer was exactly what we needed. We shared our dinner with a Mexican gentleman who spoke perfect English, and due to the fact that he was already well in his cups, regaled us with many repetitions of the same stories for the duration of our meal. We'll never know if he really did accompany Henry Kissinger at the airport in Mexico City 20 years ago.

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Pozole soup - corn, chicken, cilantro, spices, and other variations of good old chicken soup

Street taco stands can be a bit off-putting for the uninitiated, but the trick is to check out the clientele - a good proportion of Mexican diners is key.

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tortillas, made to order and hot sauce with cilantro, scooped out of this pot for each order

On our second night here, we had dinner with Jennifer at Pappa Gallo - a fancier place overlooking the ocean. Food was delicious - Jen and I had shrimp fajitas, flamed in tequila at the table, and Stephen had, for some strange reason, lemon chicken. He was overtaken by one of those gringo moments when you long for anything but Mexican, I guess. We were well entertained by the over-the-top emoting of the guitarist, and the sunset.

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Today we drove to La Manzanilla, a small beach town about 20 minutes from here. It is quite lovely, with a stunning beach and a number of restaurants and shops, and has a good number of luxurious homes and hotels. We roamed the beach, and visited the crocodiles in the lagoon, one of whom was resting by a big gap in the chain link fence - we weren't clear about what was motivating him to stay put.

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Adios, Jennifer! Thanks for showing us such a good time in Melaque and sharing your town with us.

We're leaving the beach for a few weeks and heading into the mountains. Tomorrow night we'll be in Mazamitla - we'll check in again in a few days.

Posted by millerburr 19:44 Archived in Mexico Comments (8)

Hasta Luego, Sayulita

...and now our adventure begins

sunny 30 °C

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Travel buddies

Four years ago, we took a three-month bus trip through Mexico, which began with five weeks in Sayulita. As we were leaving on the bus to head south, our friend Elizabeth observed, " You have had your holiday - now your adventure begins." And so it is again - our five weeks in Sayulita, part of which was made extra-special because we shared it with our kids, ends tomorrow. Our holiday is over and our adventure begins.

We've been coming to Mexico for seven years. Every February we drove to Victoria, parked our car for 10 nights at the Cedarwood Inn, and grabbed a cab at 4:30 a.m. to catch a 6:00 a.m. flight. Alaska Air via Seattle, landed in Puerto Vallarta. Bumped and jostled for 45 minutes on the local bus to Sayulita, and checked in to Macondo Bungalows. This annual all-too-brief break from winter was consumed with beach walks, swimming, exploring the town, walking through the hills, tacos, tequila, cerveza, and hanging out with new friends. It was never enough time, but it was all we had, and it was precious. Sayulita became the place we dreamed about when we weren't here.

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A sweet little town full of contradictions - hippies, surfers, inveterate travellers, wealthy gringos,
fringe characters, daytrippers, families, and us.

We're not sure when we'll be back here. There is so much more Mexico to explore, and we're excited to have our senses sharpened again. Still lots to love here, and mostly great memories. Here are some of the things we'll think about when we think of Sayulita:

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small streets lined with palm trees, shops, juice bars, taco stands - and the majority of them are Mexican-owned

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Nightly entertainment in the main plaza. This is the town hangout - ringed by restaurants and food stands.
Fantastic people-watching - kids chasing each other, teenagers making out, impromptu hula hoop demos. This night we were entranced by the African drumming and the energy and rhythm of the dancers.

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The markets - always fun to look for treasures.
I love these rustic dishes - very typical, and found in almost every restaurant.

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The Mexican craftsmanship and attention to detail is so fine, so exquisite.

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A whimsical decoration on the side of a shop - a mosaic done entirely with bottle caps

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We had a memorable beach day this week - the ocean was having a big day. We began our beach walk in the morning around 8:30 and discovered that we had just missed a whale sighting, right in the bay, about 200 metres from shore - very unusual. There were a huge number of birds flying around over the water - way more than usual, so something interesting was happening (all tied to the moon cycle, according to our shoreline experts). There were a number of fishermen out, the usual gringos, as well as a couple of young Mexican boys. Then this man appeared, just RUNNING down the beach, and flung himself into the waves. He is quite the local character - a wiry , intense man named Greg who has lived here for 20 years, is married to a Mexican woman and fishes with the physicality of a jockey going after the Triple Crown. He kept landing fish called Jack Trevalles - they are considered "okay" eating, but more fun to reel in. Later that afternoon, we were on the beach and this scene repeated itself. Birds began swooping and diving right in front of us - pelicans , frigatebirds, gulls - hundreds of birds. The waters were churning, the fish were jumping, and the swimmers and surfers were now out of the water, for their own safety, and to watch the show. Then, the fishermen arrived, (including Greg) - men with nets, boys with fishing line wrapped around plastic spools - it was a fantastic spectacle. The frigatebirds were stealing the catch right off the beach!

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The beach - Sayulita is all about the beach and all the ways we play in the water. Surfing and stand-up paddleboarding is huge in Sayulita - they could be iconic symbols for this town. But just playing in the waves is good enough for us, and being in ocean water, alive and oxygen-rich, is my idea of heaven. We had fun watching this couple - they were doing shoulder stands in the water, then came ashore to put themselves through a number of gymnastic and dance moves, with the sunset as a backdrop.

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Meeting up with friends. We went to Puerto Vallarta to meet Joy and Oscar, who had landed there for a few days before heading to Guanajuato for a month. We walked the malecon, admired the sculptures, had a drink with the sandmen, and had a couple of Pacificos on the beach. So much fun.

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Part of the joy of coming back here each year has been the opportunity to catch up with the same friends. We met Elizabeth and Peter, from Portland, four years ago. They've just arrived and their kids, grandkids and in-laws are arriving today - they are so excited to share Sayulita with them. We can really relate to that - having our kids here at Christmas was a highlight for us.

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We went to a Mexican dentist to have our teeth cleaned! Fantastic experience - Dr. Majda and his hygienist Karen, speak perfect English. Their office is modern, spotlessly clean, and our cleanings cost US $46 each- we saved $300. They work 7 days a week during December, January and February. "All us old gringos and our teeth," I commented to Karen. She just smiled.

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Mel and Charlie are the delightful owners of Macondo Bungalows. They live in Fort McMurray in the summer and in Sayulita from October to May. Lupe (Lupita) is the housekeeper - we've amused her for years with our horrible Spanish. Lupe has rules - our shoes are lined up against the wall, and our second pillows are not allowed to be tucked under the bedspread. We will really miss her.

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Our unit is the one on the top floor.

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Finally, one of our enduring memories of Sayulita is the beach walk. The beautiful long shadows, the mist coming off the water - the morning has always been the best time here. Steve asked me to pose and "look reflective" , so this is me looking thoughtfully into the distance.

Our next stop is three days in Melaque, where we will spend some time with Jennifer and her mum. Talk to you soon.

Posted by millerburr 08:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (9)

Tacos, tamales and tomatillos; jamaica, cerveza and tequila

...these are a few of our favourite things (with apologies to Julie Andrews)

semi-overcast 27 °C

We're starting our sixth week in Mexico, and surprisingly, it has taken this long to get around to writing about one of my favourite things - food and wine. There's not so much to report about wine - it is mainly all imported, and we have a hard time finding decent red wine (while sticking to our budget), so we usually drink white wine or beer. Pacifico - bright yellow label, icy cold, with a wedge of lime. Flavoured waters (agua frescas) are big here, and one of our favourites is Jamaica (pronounced ha-may-ka), a light and refreshing drink made from hibiscus flowers.

Street food and food safety - apparently the idea of cooking outdoors with flies and dogs and questionable storage has some folks concerned, but here in Sayulita, generally everything is dependable and delicious. On our drive down here, we stopped at a Pemex for gas, and as Stephen was starving, he ordered a sandwich from a stand at the back of the station. Great slabs of meat were frying up on a greasy grill, and the floor and counters looked filthy. Steve's sandwich was slapped together on oily bread and liberally doused with mayo from a squeeze bottle that had been resting on a ledge in the sun. He ate it all up with great gusto and no ill-effects. This is the sort of meal that would land me in the hospital, so I bought a bag of chips and a diet Coke. That set the bar for the lowest acceptable standard, so I'm hoping it bodes well for the rest of the trip.

Beach food, street food, taco stands, grocery stores, little family-run restaurants, fancy tourist joints - we've tried them all. We do some cooking at home and split our shopping between the small stores in Sayulita and the occasional big shop at Mega in Bucerias, a bigger town about 25 minutes from here.

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This Rosticeria is just around the corner from us. For M$110 pesos, (less than $10), you get a whole roasted chicken, sauce,
fresh flour tortillas and rice or roasted potatoes. So delicious.

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One of the tiendas (small grocery stores) in town. They sell everything from local coffee and vanilla, super fresh eggs that are unrefrigerated, sold singly, weighed and placed in a plastic bag, to hair spray and snack food. A few years ago, we suspected there might be a difference between local and tourist prices, but most tiendas now have cash registers where everything is scanned.

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Another tienda, but with an abundance of fresh produce. We buy local yogurt, fat, meaty avocados,
really luscious pineapple, mangoes and papayas.

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Then, there is Mega - and it is everything the name implies. Massive sign, seen 1/2 km. away, with its own designated turning lane from the highway. (Further down the road is Walmart, Sams Club and Costco). We have gone here twice to withdraw money from the attached bank ATMs (safer than some of the local free-standing ATMs), and have picked up things not readily available in Sayulita. Mega is where the snowbirds land, and they outnumber Mexicans four to one. It's an experience - you can get anything here that you might want from home (balsamic vinegar, Cheerios), as well as $3.00 flip-flops, major appliances and free samples from the cheese counter.

Beach vendors are a big part of the beach experience, and the food vendors are among our favourites. They sell everything: fish or shrimp on a stick, fresh oysters, fresh fruit, tamales, empanadas - we've tried most of them. Here are a few of our favourites:

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If you had to say what your favourite beach snack might be, it's unlikely that a so-so sugar donut, made from a commissary in PV, would be top of mind. For some reason, our hearts skip a beat when we see the donut man coming our way.

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Rafael, the pie man from New York City, has lived in Sayulita for years, and makes dozens of small turnovers every day - apple, blueberry, cherry. Nice light pastry, skimpy on the filling - he always sells out.

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Yes, pushing a wheelbarrow full of candy and nuts through sand is about as easy as it sounds, but we must all be kids at heart,
because these "Candy Men" do a booming business.

We've been living on tacos - they are cheap, delicious, really fresh, hit all the food groups, and the experience is almost always convivial, as tables are lined up cheek by jowl on the road, and are often shared.

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This little stand is clean, lined with flowers, and serves fresh shrimp tacos for around $1.00 each.
The very charming and slightly pudgy owner always seems surprised that we only order two tacos each!

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Fantastic coffee, big healthy breakfasts - this is a favourite with tourists.

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One taco stand after another - all good

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Panino's has been a mainstay for us for the past few years. They started out in Puerto Vallarta as a high-end coffee shop, with French patisserie offerings, and great sandwiches, and then opened a branch in Sayulita. It has been packed ever since, attracts lots of local characters, and is just a block from the beach, so offers great people-watching. This photo says it all.

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Ricardo, who used to work at Panino's, opened his own place a couple of years ago - Coffee on the Corner. Great food,
better prices, and he is just sweet.

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This River Cafe is a pseudo-Mexican Puerto Vallarta import, with American prices and mediocre food (burrito comes with french fries). But, for tourists hungry for a touch of home, this hits the spot, and they have large-screen TVs. We watched a football game here last Sunday - Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas (Green Bay won). We chatted with two other couples from the U.S. - it was fun.

Oh, there's more - all the sweets - the cake lady, the man who sells baking from the back of his truck in the plaza , piping hot churros dipped in sugar, and the ice cream store - premium ice creams like whisky or pistachio, or coconut bars dipped in chocolate that taste like frozen Bounty bars.

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Since beach strolls and lazy swimming aren't doing enough to counteract the effects of the food, we are once again doing "the rocks" with Peter, our friend from Portland, who has just arrived in Sayulita. Peter is a former fitness coach of the U.S. Olympic fencing team, an avid tennis player and an awesome swimmer, and he has devised a series of exercises using beach rocks for resistance and strength. I'll end this post with this photo - motivation for us to continue working out once we leave town.

Posted by millerburr 10:22 Archived in Mexico Comments (4)

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