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More Puerto Escondido adventures….. December 29, 2008

Filed under: Travel/adventure — tracyverdugo @ 11:01 pm
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an uncrowded colectivo

an uncrowded colectivo

 

 

By far our favourite mode of transport in Puerto Escondido is the ubiquitous blue colectivo. Essentially a single or double cab flatbed truck the vehicle has been modified to include a bench seat along each side and an arched structure of steel framework covered by a cobalt blue tarp to provide shade for passengers in the back. The local colectivo travels between Barra and El Mercado, a trip of around 15-25 minutes depending on the traffic and pick up stops and seems to cost 4 pesos(around 40cents) no matter where you get on.

view from a colectivo

view from a colectivo

 

 

Casa de la Lily- our home for 2 months

Casa de la Lily- our home for 2 months

From our rented home “ Casa de la Lily” we walk up the dusty street towards the highway, past the mangy brown dog lying on the road with his tongue lolling in the dirt and the handsome turkey who puffs and displays his beautiful plumage for us, oblivious to the unavoidable fact that Christmas is fast approaching.

A handsome Christmas turkey

A handsome Christmas turkey

 

 

 

We stroll past the roadworkers labouring under the blistering sun and wait outside the grocery store-slash-carwash where at any time of the day several men in jeans and open shirts slump lethargically around the plastic table in front downing Coronas or Pacificos.

It is never a long wait. A couple of minutes at most between colectivos; a flash of headlights, a nod of the head and we are on. Each new passenger acknowledges the other occupants with a ‘buenos dias” or “buenas tardes” depending on the hour- if possible those already seated squish along to make room for others. Others stand, holding onto a metal bar overhead. A sturdy rope is strung from the back and Marcos’ favourite place to ride is there, standing on the bumper, precariously perched just centimetres from the asphalt below, holding tight across the jolts and bumps of neverending roadworks and relentless topes( speedbumps). Mexicans here are more overt in their curiosity and much less precious about personal space. One day a middle-aged man and woman climb on board, hoisting several large bags of dried beans onto the floor then clambering over them to try and find space on the already crowded vehicle. The womans pink polyester shrouded armpit ends up in direct alignment with my nose and having nowhere else to turn I am very grateful that the smell of soft floral deoderant is far stronger than the slight hint of tropical BO. Another time a young gangly man, tall and atypically lean for this area tries his luck at wedging into the last 10 cms left on the bench. The two strangers seated beneath him have no room to move but noone seems to mind as he spends a good 10 seconds wiggling his butt against their legs trying to manifest a spot. After a while he gives up, chuckles to himself and rides the rest of the way standing. I tackle my claustrophic tendencies by counting the number of passengers ( 23 being the record for the trip), wondering about their lives and staying as close as possible to the opening in back.

Always they stare at us, openly, unselfconsciously, and after the first couple of rides I decide to follow suit, discarding my sunnies and inspecting the other passengers as they inspect me; honey-skinned toddlers, their wide round eyes like deep pools of chocolate, check out my speckled pale skin and yellow hair with wonder (or alarm?). Young mothers doze between stops, their babies pudgy fingers wrapped protectively around  thick brown locks; Weary older men with half- formed cataracts carry machetes on their hips after a hard days work in the sun.

Downtown Puerto Escondido- the hard way to haul furniture!

Downtown Puerto Escondido- the hard way to haul furniture!

 

 

Sometimes we take the Colectivo to Super Che, the new Mega supermarket in town, to do our weekly shop. In the bakery section we take tongs and a silver platter and cruise the aisles of fresh delicious goodies. We pile our platter high with donuts, pastries, muffins and donuts, filling a large paper bag for less than a couple of dollars. Schoolchildren in their uniforms bag the groceries at the check out- some look as young as Sienna. One day I am shopping with Marcos mum who is visiting for several weeks. I go through first with my shopping cart and she is following behind; some confusion ensues when the two schoolgirl workers seemingly refuse to let her put the last of her groceries in my cart. “Its Ok “, I tell them, “We’re together”.” No, no” they protest, taking the last 2 bags out again and putting them back into the other cart. We go back and forth a couple more times between carts, me not understanding their Spanish and them not understanding mine until suddenly it dawns on me, they don’t even work there! They’re behind us in line..the next customers with their own shopping cart. They’ve been trying to explain me the last two bags belong to them and I’ve been happily smiling and attempting to steal their groceries! I apologise profusely and they walk off with their bags, giggling and shaking their heads at the stupid gringas.

El Mercado

El Mercado

El Mercado- Day of the dead

El Mercado- Day of the dead

 

 

Flowers for Day of the Dead

Flowers for Day of the Dead

Sometimes we take the colectivo all the way to the last stop; El mercado, the central  marketplace which spans a city block between Calles 9 & 10. The array of fresh fruit and veg is wonderful here; papayas, limones, radish and mandarins, pineapples and peaches, magenta potatoes and delicate squash flowers. We avoid the meat section where smelly strips of dull brown flesh hang from hooks and a flayed bloody cow head has pride of place at the front counter of one stall. Every part of the animals is on display and for sale and flies buzz hungrily around alighting wherever they damn well please. There is very little refrigeration here so we steer clear ( no pun intended) of the meat, poultry and seafood sections and focus our culinary attention on fruit, veg, dairy, herbs and breads. Usually there are too many bags to take the colectivo home so we catch a taxi, an extravagance at 25 pesos and return home to cook up a storm in our Casa de la lily kitchen.

 

An extra bonus included in our rental is the wonderful presence of Marcella and Cruz who come every day except Sunday to clean and chat, even cooking for us when we ask.

Cruz in the kitchen...making Lime Pie

Cruz in the kitchen...making Lime Pie

We enjoy delicious traditional frijoles, chile rellenos and the scrumptious tamales Oaxaquenos of Cruz’ mother. I am definately picking up some new ideas to practice in my kitchen back home!

 

 

 

A trip to Barra

A trip to Barra

Marco & Sienna in the Rio Colotepec

Marco & Sienna in the Rio Colotepec

Santana by the Rio Colotopec

Santana by the Rio Colotopec

 

 

 

(Footnote* 29th Dec-We are now back in California with only a few weeks to go until we return home…however i still have more to blog about Mexico and our Christmas here in the snow so keep your eye on your mailbox!)

From the tropics to the snow...Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

From the tropics to the snow...Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

 

 

 

Pedestrians in Paradise December 22, 2008

Filed under: Travel/adventure — tracyverdugo @ 4:50 pm
Marco's favourite hang out

Marco's favourite hang out

Puerto Escondido
18th Oct onwards…….

Sunset on Zicatela Beach

Sunset on Zicatela Beach

 

For two months we explore this sleepy tropical outpost. We are in Oaxaca,  the Southern most state of the Pacific Coast of Mexico. A few more hours and you end up in Guatemala.
Puerto Escondido hangs on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It has been sixteen years since we last visited; then, no children, no mortgage, no responsibilities. Things have changed for us but in a good way and the changes we see in Puerto are also positive. Tourism has grown but the charm of a sleepy laid back coastal town is still there. There are more beachside palapa restaurants, more backpacker surf hostels, more gringos building beachside places to rent out, more bodyboarders, more international injection with sushi bars and pizza places popping up, but in the end the flavour is the same. There will be no highrise here, no 5 star luxury hotels, no $200.00 a day golf courses or high end fishing trips.

Playa Manzanillo

Playa Manzanillo

Santana feeding Isabel the Iguana

Santana feeding Isabel the Iguana

The mood is sleepy, laid back, lazy dogs, beer on the beach at perfect sunset after perfect sunset, rice and beans on fresh corn tortillas, palm trees and humming birds, sharing papaya with our resident iguana…get the picture? Decisions are tough to make…another swim or a siesta? Sudoku or a book?
Is it time to eat? I don’t know, are you hungry? Life is cruisey here and without a vehicle we explore on foot, colectivo or by taxi.

Relaxing at Carazilillo

Relaxing at Carazilillo

Mostly we walk.
Along the wet sand from Zicatela to the Point, watching schools of manta rays fly through the air, synchronising their dance above the sun sparkled water. Or in the opposite direction from Zicatela towards Playa Marinero where a sculpture of two hands  rise out of the rocks open palmed, a symbolic offering of thanks against the perfect sky or perhaps an acknowledgment of receipt and gratitude. There are many gifts to be had here.

Beach sculpture (photo by Sienna)

Beach sculpture (photo by Sienna)

Zicatela barrel

Zicatela barrel

The waves on Zicatela are powerful, ranked amongst the best in the World and swimming here is not recommended. Lifeguards rescue unknowing tourists daily from the treacherous undercurrents which the surfers use to their advantage to get out into the line up quickly.
Marco heads out to surf almost daily while the girls and I content ourselves with wallowing in the whitewash.
Some days we walk to Playa Principal, where the fishermen haul in their daily catch in brightly coloured lanchas. Here, in the afternoon, Mexican families come down in their hundreds for the Puesta del sol(sunset) and bathe fully clothed in the calmer waters, letting the gentle waves flop them around like overgrown rag dolls. Restaurants line the beach and women carry trays of fruit salad and fried bananas to customers on the waters edge.

Playa Principal

Playa Principal

From Playa Principal we walk the Cliff walk, a series of concrete paths, steps and bridges, cut into and built around the natural cliff faces. This leads us up to Manzanillo reef where Marcos mum joins us for several weeks in November. From her Oceanfront condo we walk the neighbourhood streets together, past a tiny store where the owner and family sit outside watching soap operas under the shade of a giant tree, past the parrot who says “hola ” and surprises us one day with an entire verse of a plaintive Mexican folk song, down the cobblestoned street where we peer through open doors to catch a glimpse of other lives, past the old man in the wheel chair who always smiles and wishes us “buenos tardes”, down the stairway and past a series of stone archways which would be beautiful were it not for the rubbish and overgrown weeds, past the military barracks where teenaged soldiers stand guard with loaded M16s, onto the adoquin lined with restaurants and souvenir shops and tables and blankets filled with craft from surrounding villages.
Sometimes we have company on our walks. Two dogs from the neighbourhood, Muneca and Duke adopt us and follow us out in the morning and afternoons, declining our company in the heat of the day, preferring then to lie in the shade like any sensible creature would.

Santana and Duke

Santana and Duke

Muneca

Muneca

They follow us to the Language school where we have enrolled the girls in Spanish Classes. Muneca is wonderful; a smiling, talking, tail wagging hound blend. Duke is a cool dude, king of the neighbourhood, lovable but a little on the goofy side; we cringe when he chases motorbikes and cars, inadvertently starts fights, makes a quick detour into a hotel swimming pool for a dip, or runs across the highway in front of oncoming traffic because a horse on the other side has sparked his interest. They follow us to the Hotel Santa Fe one night where Sharon is treating us to dinner and despite our urgings, sneak in and hide under the table. “They’re not our dogs” we say to the waiter apologetically. He smiles and gently shoos them out with sprinkles of water from a silver bowl. After dinner we find Duke in the street still waiting faithfully to escort us home in the dark. One day he pees on one of the hundred of lounge chairs laced along the beach. The owner of the chairs throws the bottom of a beach umbrella spike at him whacking him across the face and then proceeds to threaten Marco with the sharp metal end, cursing in Spanish and waving his arms at these ^$#@#^&* perros pissing everywhere    “He’s not our dog   ” Marco repeats again and again..this becomes a common refrain in the weeks to come until one day the neighbour tells us that Duke has been sent off to a friends ranch after another neighbours complaint. We think a ranch will probably suit the big oaf just fine. Lonely Muneca visits us in our casa but doesnt venture out as much without Duke. Within days however another neighbourhood duo has filled their place as our trusty companions.

Dinner with grammy at Las tugas

Dinner with grammy at Las tugas

Sienna has her hair braided

Sienna has her hair braided

Grammy and the girls sketching

Grammy and the girls sketching

Hamaca lady

Hamaca lady

Watercolour sketch of the girls walking

Watercolour sketch of the girls walking

In the evenings we stroll the short block down to the beach, watch another sunset and think about how lucky we are to be here……

zicatela wave

zicatela wave

lunch at Manzanillo Beach

lunch at Manzanillo Beach

 

5 Days in Mexico City December 6, 2008

Filed under: Travel/adventure,Uncategorized — tracyverdugo @ 11:28 pm
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13th October, 2008

There are no traffic rules in Mexico City, at least none that I can make out. From the airport we weave our way through the city streets. Our driver darts in and out of lanes with expert abandon. I focus on the sights and try to ignore every close call. Color is everywhere. Mechanics shops are painted in pinks and yellows; young women in tight black pants direct traffic, their arms gesturing wildly, whistles blowing incessantly. At traffic lights hawkers dodge the cars, selling trinkets. We drive by a city park where hundreds of protesters dance naked on a platform stage, banners proclaiming their cause. We ask the taxi driver what they are doing and he tells us they have been dancing every day for 3 months to protest the unfair sale of their land in Veracruz. I contemplated the headline in our local paper back home should the community decide to adopt naked dancing to promote sensible development.

Casa Gonzales-our hotel in <mex city

Casa Gonzales-our hotel in

We arrive at Casa Gonzales in the Zona Rosa and settle in before heading out to check out our neighbourhood.. Most of the restaurants in our budget are closed by the time we head out at 7pm so we cruise into Papa Bills Saloon, a wild west style restaurant/sports bar and feast for around $10.00 each. Marco has an amazing dish of pan fried chicken pounded thinly and stuffed with huitlacoche (an aztec delicacy of black fungus which grows on corn), nopales(cactus) and squash flowers and avocado. Delicious!

Fresh juice for breakfast

Fresh juice for breakfast

Next day we walk the ten blocks or so to Chapultepec Park stopping for breakfast at a busy taco stand. Breakfast is muy sabroso, tacos de pollo and papas ( chicken and potatos) with an array of fresh salsas, lime and chiles to spice it up. We stuff ourselves for around $6.00 total including fresh orange and guayaba juice and then spend the the next few hours exploring the National Museum of Anthropology. Outside the musuem we are treated to a traditional Dance of the Eagleflyers, the girls buy some beaded jewellery from a Huichol woman and we head back to the hotel along Reforma.

Huichol woman at Chapultapec

Huichol woman at Chapultapec

Day 3 we are off to Frida Kahlos house, a highlight for me. We breakfast at several stands along the way to Insurgentes.. Vendors sell plastic tumblers of chopped, fresh papaya and melon topped with chile and lime and we all munch happily as we head to the metro station.
The metro is an experience not to be missed. Five million commuters a day ride this highly organised series of underground lines. For 20 cents a ticket you can ride all day in one direction. Vendors, performers and beggars jump on and off at each stop moving from carriage to carriage to try their luck. First up a crippled guitarist sits on the floor amongst the crowd singing plaintively. When the train pulls up the next stop he shuffles along the ground dragging his useless legs behind.

Me at Frida´s house

Me at Frida´s house

Frida Kahlos garden

Frida Kahlos garden

After being transported back to the fifties at Frida Kahlos we jump in a taxi to Xochimilco, the site of ancient Aztec gardens and spend the afternoon lazily floating along the canals. Highly decorated boats filled with celebrating Mexican familes and mariachis pass by.
We stop for lunch at a designated restaurant, the prices seem reasonable but when we go to order drinks the boat driver suggests we buy from the two women who have pulled up beside us in their canoe. We forget the #1 rule of  agreeing on a price before we buy and order 2 chilena beers and a couple of sodas for the girls. The Chilena beer is a traditional concoction where a tall bottle of beer is poured into a large cup precoated with chile and lime; an interesting blend but not one I’ll try again.

Chilena beer...flat, warm with chile & lime

Chilena beer...flat, warm with chile & lime

on the boat at Xochimilco

on the boat at Xochimilco

We finished our lunch and drinks and asked how much…the drinks alone were 210 pesos ( around $30.00 Aussie dollars!) This was no ordinary gringo rip off..it was waterway robbery! Marco spent the next 15 minutes arguing and the boat driver faked outrage and attempted to act as a mediator but in reality they were probably all in cahoots. We finally bargained down a price which was still unrealistic but at least better than the starting point.

Cathedral-Mexico city

Cathedral-Mexico city

Day 4- We jumped on the metro again and headed to the downtown historic district, touring the main cathedral and meeting up with our My Space friend Rocco who was just as lovely, gentle and kind in real life as on the Internet.
We visited la Ciudadela ( the largest art and craft market) and had lunch together at a great little hole in the wall café. The serves were so large we had to take half of our food with us. Later we fed our leftovers to a clan of cats living on ledges at the Insurgentes Metro station. They werent like any ferals we had ever seen, a couple of Birmans and Siamese, they all looked healthy and strong and we sat and watched them for some time.
A young man in black jeans eyed us menacingly and simultaneously we all had the feeling we were being marked. About a dozen exits branch of from this circular plaza and we tried several of them before finding the one which led back to our hotel.     We walked home quickly. It was several blocks before we lost the uneasy feeling.

Teotihuacan-on top of the Temple of the Sun

Teotihuacan-on top of the Temple of the Sun

Basilica de Guadalupe

Basilica de Guadalupe

Our last day and we had arranged a tour to Teotihuacan and the Basilica de Guadalupe. The bus picked us up at 9am and we joined the International crowd of visitors from Chile, Brazil and Hungary. The clouds threatened rain but the skies held out as we climbed the Pyramid of the Sun and dodged the vendors selling obsidian aztec statues, wooden drums and jewellery.

Ana Lorena, Pepe & I

Ana Lorena, Pepe & I

We arrived back at the hotel for a quick rest and shower before a scheduled jam session in the downstairs lobby with our friends Rocco, Kike, Priscila, Ana Lorena and Pepe. We spent a fantastic few hours playing music with and to each other not stopping until an exhausted traveller upstairs poked her head out of her room and politely asked us if we could please finish up as she was trying to get to sleep.

Marco, Rocco and I jamming together

Marco, Rocco and I jamming together