A Travellerspoint blog

Toss the Tevas if you want to leave Morelia alive...

...and other survival tips for travelling in Michoacan

semi-overcast 23 °C

I can't say I wasn't warned. Back in Melaque, when I admired Jennifer's snappy new sandals, she mentioned that ugly (tourist-type) footwear is looked upon with disdain by the locals. Since my shoe wardrobe for Mexico consists of plastic flip-flops, old leather sandals and a pair of Keens, I fall solidly into that camp. However, we were quite unprepared for the reaction we received upon arrival in Morelia. This was our first city experience since we've left home, so we might have thought to sharpen our game a bit. Stephen was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, a ballcap and Tevas. I was wearing a dress and Keens - poor taste, admittedly. People stared at us, stared at our feet, smiled, frowned - it was quite remarkable and quite uncomfortable. Not since I ventured out in Mexico City four years ago in a pair of shorts have I encountered such a reaction - bordering on hostility. Mexicans are normally quite circumspect, so we knew we had violated some code. We went out later for dinner in different outfits, changed our shoes, and no-one gave us a second look.


Streets and sidewalks in Mexican towns and cities are minefields - oversized curbs, cobblestone, uneven pavement, doggie business, low-hanging wires - to say nothing of these gaping, unfilled holes (this one is mild compared to some that might be a few feet deep) - you must walk with vigilance, and wear shoes built for comfort and surefootedness.


That would be if you are a gringo. Mexican women wear shoes and boots with four and five inch heels, and they do this while navigating these same streets and while carrying groceries and babies. And... they never look down.


And the men - no matter the attire, most men wear leather boots and shoes. The shoeshine stands line most plazas, and are in steady use.


Morelia is the state capital of Michoacan state, and was declared a Unesco World Heritage site for its magnificent cathedral, and its historic centre filled with blocks and blocks of 16th and 17th century stone buildings, plazas and parks, and many museums. It has a population of close to 600,000 people, and it seems as though every single citizen owns a car, truck or motorcycle. Our approach to the city was intense, as two-lane roads merged into one, roads disappeared or became one-way, and traffic cops attempted to turn chaos into order. Whistles blowing, horns honking - us with our eyes peeled for "Centro Historico", and somehow, in this madness, we noticed this exceptional marketing ploy. Stashed on a boulevard between four lanes of traffic was a lineup of beds and mattresses.


We tried to imagine the logic - one would have to leave the safety of the bed store, dart across two lanes of traffic, then try out the various beds as cars whizzed by within inches of your recumbent self. Then - you would leap back to the store, and bring out the sales associate to point out your choice.

And then, it was over - hotel found, car parked, we hit the streets, turned a corner and saw this:


This is the city of stone - the cathedral and many of the other notable buildings are made of the distinctive pink stone found in the area. The side streets are narrow, follow the hills in a grid pattern and are intersected with plazas, squares, and fountains, so it is very easy to wander for hours. Morelia is a walker's paradise.


Would love to have a planter like this in our garden


Street leading to the music conservatory


Side entrance to the cathedral. We slipped in during a service to admire the stunning interior. Most of these beautiful buildings remain unlocked during the day. Perhaps it is considered bad karma to deface or steal from a church.


Road leading from the city centre to the outskirts


View of the cathedral spire from the main plaza

Morelia's main plaza, right beside to the cathedral, is ringed with gracious municipal buildings, stately hotels, and a museum. These buildings have broad stone walkways and enormous arches, or portals, that provide shade and shelter from traffic for the numerous cafes, restaurants and bars that line them.


one of the many cafes


small "modern" restaurant


oldest hotel in Morelia - stately, gracious, moneyed - like the clientele


musicians run the gamut - these two played very well.


These fig trees are pruned, shaped, painted and typical of Mexico - they are found in plazas all over the country

Our first morning here, we walked over to the magnificent aqueduct, which was built in the late 16th century and runs for a number of kilometers. It is a gorgeous area - bordered by a park, two plazas, a number of university faculties, and a fountain.


park benches


the exuberant bare-breasted Fuente Las Tarascas


Plaza Morelos - one of Mexico's prominent independence heros - the city was renamed after him


the aqueduct - 253 arches


funny little museum of natural history in the park


nearby park - great people-watching


hanging out in the park


Young men practicing Parkour moves. They were putting their bodies through some very impressive and punishing maneouvers, and were quite sweet about letting me take photos. All through the park, young people were juggling, walking tightrope, fencing - it was like a camp for circus performers.


walkway through the university campus - gorgeous setting - aqueduct to the right, park ahead, another park behind.

With such rich history, the city is packed with museums, and we worked our way through a number of them trying to translate the Spanish. After a while, the pottery shards and arrowheads started to blur, and we were craving a more modern look at the city. We found it in the Palacio Clavijero, which showcases more contemporary art, photography and mixed media. We enjoyed the Mexico-Canada exhibit, a display by Quebec artist Vittorio Fiorucci, old movie posters by Josep Renau, and a huge retrospective of Mexican architects and their prominent works.


So...back to the question of whether or not Michoacan state is dangerous for tourists. It would be disingenuous to say there is NO danger here. We have had a perceived sense of security while we have been travelling and staying in this state, but we have also had brief moments of unease, and we have paid heed (as we would in any large city, anywhere). We're very happy we decided to come here, but it will feel slightly more comfortable once we're back in approved tourist destinations again. That's our truth - others would be comfortable going further afield, and others would not come at all.

I'll leave you with these images. The disappearances and apparent murders of the 43 Mexican students has caused ongoing outrage, anger and grief, and the people of Morelia have expressed their feelings very graphically.


No More Forced Disappearances


43 chalk outlines with the word "Ayotz" have been painted on sidewalks downtown. Ayotz refers to the Ayotzinapa Normal School, where these students, who were from poor families, were being trained as teachers.


these signs are all over town, urging people to not support the Mafia, to organize and to fight.

And finally, on a more universal note, expressed by young (and old) everywhere:

I want freedom from a material world. We're with you, Oscar and Ivan.

Whew! This was a long post. We're off to Cuernavaca for an overnight, then on to Oaxaca, where there is so much to see, taste and talk about. Food, art and colour - I'll break it up into two posts.

Posted by millerburr 17:56 Archived in Mexico Comments (5)

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.


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.


Gentleman making a broom.


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


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


Main plaza


typical street scene


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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


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


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.


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.



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.


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

Dodging stingrays in Melaque

sunny 30 °C


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.


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.


LIttle girls on their bikes


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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:


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


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.


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


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


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


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


Our unit is the one on the top floor.


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)

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