Few days in Mazatlan then tiny beach village, Chacala
The ferry trip over from La Paz was very smooth, really only felt the swell and slow sea roll after we woke up around 6:30 am Wed. The cabin bunks were slim and not over-cushy but not uncomfortable. The air-conditioning was quite rampant and I actually used 2 blankets but some young travellers (maybe had been drunk?) just slept stretched out on the lounge couches simply in shorts and a t-shirt. That’s minimal packing gone crazy. They did not look comfortable and it’s hard to believe they actually had no luggage. Maybe their luggage was stowed away. Oh well, character building and everybody should sleep stretched out on some lounge couch at some point, just as long as it’s not in a disaster relief camp. When my traveling buddy Christine and I did 4 months in Europe in 1976, we often scraped by at $5, $7 a day for food and accommodation. That was manageable in Greece but got more expensive as we moved north but we were happy as clams sleeping in extremely humble little pensions, fantastic youth hostels and eating bread, fruit and cheese on some park bench. Those intended 4 months stretched into the rest of our lives as we never did go home but that’s another story.
The air on the ferry deck was gorgeous and warm and about 3 million stars were out there so I hope some slept on deck. As we slowly approached Mazatlan, we ran over at least 2 sets of fishing lines set by small local fishermen in their pangas. Gee, that must get expensive for them, why do they put the lines right in the ferry path? A whole string of us rail side enjoyed the antics of small gangs of birds flying along just beside us at eye level and then swooping down into the water to grab some poor unsuspecting fish. We could see their whole body sliding into the clear wave and leaving a trail. A tough job but I guess somebody’s got to keep those fish in check.
A veil of smog hung over Mazatlan and the tall buildings of the Golden Zone which stretched off to the north as we crept into the ferry berth in the south. A quick taxi ride and we were at our small Hotel Casa de Leyandes in the historic district. Our nice host Sharon gave us the tour of the hotel and explained how everything worked and we unpacked into our green room with jungle garden wall painted behind the big black iron grill of the headboard. There are a few small lounges with extremely comfortable couches (we melted into them) and tv, board games and books, very homey. There’s even a free Vonage phone so to call back home we only dial area code and number. Peachy!! We’ve just checked in with base camp back home and the house painting is progressing well- great!
We’ve spent the past couple of days just slowly exploring the historic district and taking lots of pictures of the whole range of stone architecture one finds here. There is so much reconstruction going on, massive amounts with still many more “projects” just waiting for the right buyer to come along and see the potential in them. It must take buckets of money though to bring some of these crumbling relics back to health. Lots of handsome buildings with rich or eye-popping color schemes just ripe for the picking with my little Lumix camera. I have the camera manual downloaded as a .pdf on my computer and have just noticed that I can adjust more of the settings to play with sharpness, color vibrance and film speed, all things I’ve been searching for. Now if I can just remember all of them when I’m out in the field…
With a map of the Art Walk (which we just missed) in hand, we’ve been touring down most of these roads, explored the big 2 story market and seafront. Many of the spots marked on the Art Walk map were private studios and were only open for that one day event but we have found several nice galleries of contemporary art. Recrea stood out as an edgy risk-taking space with a vibrant art scene. There are quite a few good artists I’ve written down in my little black notebook to investigate for my figurative art site but the few I’ve tried to look up so far are proving hard to find a web presence for. Not much point in mentioning them if there’s no place to go online to see their work. At least here in Mazatlan the galleries actually exist in some numbers as opposed to La Paz which is a far smaller city. An art map helps give some direction to how to explore a city, not that we must see everything on it but why not check out a place that’s just around the corner rather than miss it. Art, color and architecture I guess is how I interpret the world, Den explores more through the pubs, bars and restaurants side of things so we make a good team, cover many of the bases. Another thing we split up is he does most of the daily spending and I manage the camera and writing, a partnership.
Spent some time with some Spanish art magazines and wrote down a bunch of names. I love international art magazines because that really spreads my net wider than just North America. I want to create a multi-language page that will have the good search words that will pull other language speakers to my site. Once there, no real language is needed. Just click on an image which calls to you and then take a magic carpet ride to that artist’s site but I need some good SEO to get them there. That’s one of my next projects.
The seafront, just a block from our hotel, is quite rugged and small, not like the expanse of smooth beach in the Golden Zone where all the big hotels are. Yesterday we took a tiny picnic of orange sodas and spicy peanuts and walked up the hill to the south. It was a marvellous view and so refreshing, such a nice little breeze after the heat of the day had passed. Getting out and walking is such fun and hey, keeps us slim. We see the little pulmonia golf carts zooming past with other visitors, I guess a good way to go if you can’t manage to climb them under your own steam. Walked up and over the hill and came across some very grand private homes after extremely humble ones just one block away. What a contrast! Italian style fountains and massive carved wooden door just around the corner from tiny little spots. I guess it’s all a work in progress.
We’ve had dinner both evenings in the Plazuela Machado. At Pedro & Lola’s and at Il Musto, both very good. It’s a bit frustrating trying to make sense of when things might possibly be open. Some places like galleries or shops only seem to open after 4 or 5 pm while others seem to shut down at 3. Tricky. It’s definitely worth chilling out in the afternoon though and then perking up again after siesta time. This big central plaza is heavily under construction but they are really getting big chunks of the stone pavement road laid each day so with any luck they will complete the big reno before the season gets really busy at end of November. Right now, the restaurants just place their chairs and tables on the raked rubble and get on with it, take it day by day.
There has been nice live blues music each night at Pedro & Lola’s and nicely loud enough to carry over the entire square. One night I pulled out my ballpoint pen and started to draw on the brown paper tablecloth. I drew the older ladies at the next table who seemed to be having a great conversation. It was no masterpiece but captured the moment a bit. I tore the big sheet off the table and gave it to them. They were so pleased but will have to arm wrestle over it. It turns out they are cousins, one from Florida and one from California who meet up somewhere warm once a year to catch up with each other. What a great idea. The Chicklets and roses kids are here in numbers, with their big eyes. They wear you down until you finally give in and buy something. Cute, but we also know how to say NO, with a firm shake of the finger or click of the tongue.
Today we have just spoken to Jake in Cape Town on Skype on Den’s iPhone for the last half hour and now we’re off to the Aquarium in a pulmonia golf cart car…. 11:00 am
5:00 pm, back from a lovely afternoon in the Zona Dorado, the Gold Zone. We spent about 3 hours at the charming Aquarium, arrived just in time for the 12:00 tank show where a diver swam with some sharks and other large fish, obviously well fed but not without some degree of danger. The diver grabbed the sharks, held them, turned them belly up and stroked them before sending them on their way, quite neat.
At 1:30 it was over to the bird house for some entertaining pranks with some talented parrots. I picked up a few pretty feathers in on of the large aviaries and may make some earrings with them, who knows. Dreamy blue!
Very nicely done, charming and informative place set in grounds with a botanical garden and large serene low tank with rays and mantarays swimming around in it. They are so peaceful and tranquil, lovely to watch them glide along so quietly. They ranged in size from just over dinner plate size to about one metre across but in the wild rays can grow to about 2 metres width and mantarays can grow to an astounding 9 metres across. WOW! A normal person is very lucky if they see them underwater a few times in their life, these beautiful graceful creatures and really, really lucky if they never never step on one and get the sting whipped up by their strong tail into the back of the ankle. We were lucky enough to avoid this ourselves when we were cruising but certainly heard about it. Apparently it is the most intense pain imaginable and the relief for the pain is immersing the foot in water that is just under scaldingly hot temperature and taking some pain killers but NOT tequila.
A new huge shark tank is under construction and there was also a charming underwater experience. A Plexiglas box about telephone booth size was lowered into the water and had a young man and 2 children in it. They were surrounded by swimming fish but their heads were above water so no problem breathing. Big parrot fish, groupers and even a good sized shark all swam right past them. The kids even got to feed the fish with chunks of fish offered out to them on big tongs through a slot in the box side. This is a good act to offer at aquariums, really is just like swimming out with the fish but without having to take a dive boat. Well done!
Hopped aboard another pulmonia and got dropped off in the center of the Golden Zone action which was quite a few blocks, much farther than I had expected. Deposited Den near a Corona and wandered along a few blocks to see what was on offer. OMG!! There are SO MANY jewellery shops there, it’s like porn or drugs for women! They really should call it the Silver Zone though as much more silver than gold on offer. There are some really nice things but you see the exact same models every few shops, very little unique stuff and it gets quite repetitive. The prices are not marked so each time you ask a price, the piece is weighed and then a price is given but of course that is just the starting point and the discounts start to be offered the closer you get to the front door. I am honestly not sure that I will be able to leave Mexico without buying one of these lovely pieces but I am trying to abstain. I like to string together my own beads and things….but some of these things are pretty tempting and they are just everywhere, temptingly under our noses…
The Gold Zone is completely missable in my opinion except for the Aquarium, but great for package tours and all inclusive resorts if you like that sort of thing. Just don’t delude yourself that it is the real Mexico, it’s just the tourist version… in my humble opinion which, if you’re still reading this, you may find interesting? (Gee, haven’t you got something better to do?) What’s your opinion on this? Let me know. I’ve always done quite independent adventure travel, never the package tour resort bit. I can see the attraction of that for maybe 4 days of vacation bliss but after that, I would need to bolt out and explore on my own.
Sixty pesos brought us all the way home again. The historic area where we are staying has come alive tonight, Friday night, with lots of music everywhere. Good thing we brought earplugs as we may need them later. I led the charge tonight and found my way back to a narrow little bar with a Spanish bull fighting theme, great atmosphere and décor but unfortunately the tapas were not as good as the décor. We nibbled about half of the cheese, ham (not Parma) and sausage (wieners not salami) platter then had it packed to go and later offered it to a poor older woman in the Plazuala Machado we had seen both earlier nights. I always try to find someone hungry to offer uneaten good food to and she was very grateful and tucked right into it.
We sniffed out another excellent spot, Molika Bakery with excellent French café food. I had the best onion tart I’ve ever had with some light salad and pulled out my colored paper and colored pencils and tried to capture some of the scene. Hmm, the usual colored graphite sticks I do my life drawing with are so much more satisfying to draw with than these little pencils but I didn’t bring them along. They let you draw with the whole stick, no wood around the center so nothing to sharpen ever and much richer colors. Oh well, I will give what’s left of my colored pencils to some local kid when I leave and will bring better ones next time.
A few times around the very lively Plazuela Machado then got way laid as we started to leave by 3 earnest young English students who wanted to practice and have us write in their notebooks for their teacher. We had a great chat, what a good idea. In mid-conversation a small girl about 6 suddenly appeared very tearful and seemingly lost. The street fell silent in horror but soon the (slack) mother was located and issue resolved. When we were in La Paz, there were posters everywhere for an 8 year old girl who was kidnapped on October 14, so frightening and sad, even more so since she looks like our niece, Pearl.
Took in a nice painting exhibit this morning on the (possibly related) subject of the drug wars and violence that is aflame down here and having a powerful draw for the young people. Elina Chauvet is the artist.
Every night I tie up the big wooden shutters onto the balcony with my 2 yards of turquoise grosgrain ribbon I bought to tie my shoulder bag onto my rolling bag with. I know it won’t keep anyone out of the room but just maybe we’d hear someone trying to get in. Probably not with the earplugs… Pathetic I know but I did wake up once many years ago in Bequia with a man on my back… and I have no wish to do it again. Ever. Luckily for me he took off after I screamed my lungs out. End of story.
Picked up some Tajin, for some reason pronounced ta-kine, in the market. It’s a spicy red pepper sprinkle with ground peppers, salt, lime juice. It’s fantastic sprinkled on fruit salad and would be great on our fruit filled crepes too.
On Saturday, our last day in Mazatlan, we hopped a bus going all the way to Marina El Cid so practically from one end of the city to the other, about 30 minutes. We had come into this marina in a very dramatic way on Sandingo back in 1998. It’s hard to share the full dramatic value of this without the full audio visual effects but basically our stern was being lifted on a wave and we were being pushed with great force straight towards the rocky breakwater. We were just able to make the sharp tight turns needed to enter the narrow channel without hitting anything.
It looks exactly the same today as it did then!! Complete with heavy dredging gear which made the narrow fast moving channel even more horrifying. Once the first tight turns are done, it’s completely tranquil and the marina is right there, seems so easy but it wasn’t. Jake thought it was such fun and exciting and gee, can we do that again?? I sure hope NOT was our response! Too freaking exciting. Well, it actually was fun and a great adrenaline rush but lesser sailors and/or boats might not have made it safely that day without scraping or puncturing something.
Marina El Cid is a very nice hotel and marina with a lovely pool. The kids had great fun swimming in this when we were here and it still looks perfect. Came across several large iguanas in the garden just near the pool. There are so many resorts, hotels and restaurants here that some have fallen into decay and there can be very swell places right beside some very sad ones practically crumbling into complete rubble. Scary, but maybe there were just too many of them to all survive.
Around 5:30, we popped next door to the best Western hotel and up to the 11th floor to watch the sunset from there, a nice view. Gee, we could look down upon the roof of our hotel where we had earlier been scaring small birds with our freakishly white bodies, trying to carefully add a bit of sun before we hit the beach further south. Beach bunnies, we’re not. We’ve come down for the sunny warmth but not for the suntans.
Sunday November 14
On the move. I have to really strict with how much cheese and alcohol I consume as it gets to my liver and is not much fun. At home I avoid dairy and corn and Mexican food is full of that so I have to order carefully. I’m having way more Frescas and Clamatos than I consume at home and may even switch down to water for a few days, a cheap date I guess. The summer I crewed on a French charter boat and served and consumed rich foods daily like salamis, cheeses, pates and wine added up so much that by the end of four months, I was literally reduced by a single breakfast hot chocolate to lying in pain on the cold stone dock under a ship’s boarding ramp. Once we got to Gibralter and luckily just before we began our trans-Atlantic crossing under sail, I finally saw a doctor who set me straight about avoiding chocolate, home made mayonnaise, spicy foods and egg yolks. The dreaded mal au foie. It took me years to actually recover from that and I have no wish to head back there again. Also, I hope the scales won’t be too far off when I next set foot on them back home.
One thing though that is a bit disturbing here in Mazatlan is that all the windows giving onto the street are heavily barred. God forbid there is a fire in a bar or club because there is only one front door and one back door I guess. At many places, all the windows are fully barred and do not even seem openable. The amount of graffiti is also massive and this stretched way out into the smaller rural areas until it eventually dropped off completely. It strikes a depressing note of lack of respect. Given that a huge proportion of the Mexican population is under 30, this is a rather dark mark. It reminds me of South Africa with all the heavy iron gates and bars and razor wire on top of high walls and broken glass pressed into cement on to tops of strategic areas, all to keep out some bad element that must exist. This is all such a far cry from British Columbia. Of course, nutcases can be anywhere but I would hate to feel I had to gate my interior hallways each night like they do here in many places. Our key ring at Casa de Leyendes in Mazatlan had a whole slew of keys, the front gate, an interior gate, a second interior gate and our room door. The interior gates are only locked very late at night but we’d need keys to get out in an emergency. Many places I’ve been in the Caribbean and South Africa were the same way. I have to say that we’ve always felt entirely safe out walking any time and anywhere we’ve been in Mexico.
4:30 pm. Arrived Chacala, a long day of travel. Left at 9:40 am by bus from Mazatlan up into the mountains to Tepic, capital of Nayarit. Our Chacala B&B host is nowhere in sight so we’re hanging around to meet up. Hope that happens before sunset because we want to under a palapa down on the beach for that. The land today has been varied with some lush green green mountain lands filled with fruit trees and cattle and horses huddling in the shade under little groves of trees, and lots of vegetable growing lands in the valleys. The big air conditioned intercity bus dropped us by the roadside in Las Varas, the “big” town of about 8,000 just up from the beach village of Chacala. It is a humble little town but seemed very tidy and lacked the graffiti plague of Mazatlan.
A friendly lady called us a little taxi van and so we were eventually delivered to our doorstep at Villa Celeste, a B&B right on the jungly curve between the large beach and the playita or small beach where we used to come ashore in our dinghy. The surf and breaking wave is too powerful to land by dinghy on the main beach without getting flipped ass over tea kettle but is great for swimming. Tomorrow, Monday, is a local holiday and the place is full of Mexican holiday makers, mostly from Guadelajara which is due east about 5 hours.
There seems to be only four sailboats at anchor here already as the season has barely begun. Do they know they are in cruising heaven yet? Maybe, maybe not. This was cruising heaven for us with our kids as they made many local friends and we all took Spanish classes in the afternoons with our great teacher and friend, Trini Moya. We stayed here about 6 weeks in all over our 2 winter seasons, stopping by heading south and then north each season. When we finally lifted our anchor after 3 weeks, it took us about 30 minutes to scrub the incorrigible growth off each and every link of our anchor chain! Whew! Things grow here in the water- fast! Some cruising friends took one look at the place and left after only one or two nights and couldn’t wait to get to a bigger place. We liked staying mostly in small anchorages and getting to know the locals but it was good to be dockside in larger places like La Paz so Jake could stretch his social wings more easily. Getting back to the boat in the dark by dinghy or kayak alone or as a family can be a little nerve wracking, especially for the mother unit. It’s dark here by 6 pm so dinghying around in the dark really can’t be avoided completely. We once met an American couple whose policy was to be back aboard by 5pm with the dinghy lifted every night. Gee, if you’re going to be so paranoid, maybe you should stay back home and not explore. To be fair, they had only just arrived and hopefully they calmed down a few notches after some time here. In our 2 winter seasons cruising here, we never heard of any cruisers getting into trouble with any locals, but the following season there was one incident but one is a very small number.
Finally a girl showed up and let us into our room and then we dashed off down the beach to catch the evening with the soft smooth sand under our feet as we sipped a Corona and enjoyed a delightful whole red snapper grilled on the BBQ and served on a big platter. Nice plain food, simple and healthy, nothing fried and no cheese, perfect. We actually were just in time as the kitchen was just closing up??? What the heck?? It’s not even 6:30 yet. There are lots of restaurants but we ate at Chico’s big palapa right on the beach with kids running around, digging holes and burying each other. Getting down and being one with the sand is a kid’s job and they’re good at it.
This is a simple beach paradise for young families and if your room has a little kitchenette, can be very good value for money. If you don’t need that extra frou-frou entertainment and all-inclusive has, consider making Playa Chacala your Mexican beach stop. You won’t regret it. You can always jump on a bus and get to Las Varas, La Penita, Suyalita, Guyabitas, Tepic or even Puerto Vallarta and back easily in one day if you need something special from town. There are little stores here though that probably sell almost everything you might need. The little family next door are regretting very much that they opted for only 3 days here and then 10 in Suyalita which is far more like St. Barts in the Caribbean than this simple gorgeous little Mexican beach. We were here for the Millenium New Year’s Eve and one Christmas too, very special. Chacala is sort of like going to the cottage and Puerta Vallarta is sort of like going to Disneyland, sort of.
Monday Nov 15, 1:20 pm
Finally got back to our little room for a bit of a siesta before it all starts up again. It’s been like Old Home Week! It’s been a non-stop morning since we left the room about 8:20. Wandered along the beach to have a light little non-Mexican breakfast at Chac Mool café. There were only 2 other people there at that time, an older Gringo gentleman and a young local man. We nodded heads and the older fellow recommended the good coffee. It took us both a few minutes to recognize each other but moments later he joined us. We have met probably a few times, most definitely here for New Years Eve 2000 at a big party at the very nice small resort Mar de Jade and possibly even before that at Muertos where he used to spend time in his little RV. Gordon used to be some kind of international soccer official. We traded a few stories and pretty soon he introduced us to another local pal, a Mexican-Canadian who is developing a kids’ language learning site. He and Dennis chatted kids games while Gordon and I chatted blogs. We’ll meet this game fellow for dinner.
Gordon scooped us into his van and rambled us around town on the guided tour. Trini and Cundo, our other friends here are his land partners. I can’t quite recall how buying land works here but we also came very close to buying some land here way back in 2000 and would have probably also used Trini and Cundo as our local partners… but we went home an started Kidzsmart instead so no loose change to buy land in Mexico.
Gordon drove us past several little rental places so we have a way better idea about where we might stay or recommend for next time. We should have planned to say 4-5 night here instead of PV but hey, hindsight is 2020, right? We were passed through the big wooden gate into the gated community in the next bay, Chayalita. Very private homes of varying sizes, medium to mansions and probably many rent out when the owners are not here. Last time we were here in 2000, there was nothing but the garden but the plan was in the works and things were just starting.
Popped up to Gordon’s house and I changed up his blog to a wider page style, changed it from black background to a nice blue sky, put a links widget on the side. He does a lot to promote Chacala rentals and they’re just publishing a little book which they hope to offer by Christmas. He and Dennis traded childhood stories from Britain and talked soccer, always a good subject for Brits. Back in the van for another few stops to check out more little rental places. Casa Magica at the far right of Chacala beach is run by the more bohemian sister Om and the other sister, Laura runs the very upscale Mar de Jade at the complete other end of the beach and style scale, swanky versus bohemian. Pronounced ma-duh HA-day, it means Sea of Jade. Passed by Trini’s place and she had a Spanish lesson going on her front patio. We’ll go back there for a visit as soon as we can scrape ourselves off the siesta couch.
Down to end up at the beach and catch a little soup and Jamaica (red hibiscus flower water) drink when who should appear but the Swiss fellow we keep running into- too funny! We met him on the la paz- Mazatlan ferry, twice in Mazatlan and may run into him again in PV, who knows. Met another of Gordon’s pals, a Frenchman, Christian who’s been living here for 4 years. He does some photography and tour guiding, is taking 3 guys up tomorrow for a 4 day spiritual fasting and meditating cleanse or sweat lodge affair with the Huichol (wee-chole) Indians. He’ll go back to pick them up at the end of that time but is concerned that they only get released at 5 pm. It’s completely dark by 6 and the road is little more than a track so not the safest of trips. When he takes them up, he’ll try hard to press for an earlier release time to be able to come back more safely. It’s pitch black out there and the car could easily get into trouble in the dark. Not a grand idea but of course the 3 fellows will be very keen by then to get back for a good meal on the beach, so good luck to them on their adventure. Not for me.
They tell us that girls here have babies very young, even 12 and 13 is not uncommon. They’ve been told that as soon as a girl is 30 kilos, she can have a baby. Wow. That’s going to be some big problem soon. It did not seem to be that way at all 10 years ago. On the contrary, the girls seemed quite keen on getting the ring on the finger before the bun in the oven. Will ask Trini about this.
Chac 14 11 15
It’s 3:15. I guess I’ll have to go see Trini.
4:15 Back, she was too busy/tired to visit so we’ll visit in the morning before we go to PV. Between her busy teaching schedule and her 3 boys and family, she’s a very busy gal. Her 3 computers are also currently crocked so probably why we didn’t hear back from her, but she did get ours and was expecting us. Took the back roads down to the small playita where the dinghies land and what a traffic jam! Trailers picking up kayaks, kids swimming, fishing boat gliding in and even 2 good looking horses being led down for a dip and some water exercise. There’s one we never saw before. As always, some stoic pelicans keeping a keen gray eye on the whole circus.
The walk took me past the elementary school and the small secondary school and the port captain. We used to have to check into every larger port with our full paperwork, boat papers and passports 10 years ago but apparently now there’s only one check in, the first one. That’s way easier than hiking off to each place everytime you move along down the coast.
I’m back in the room but Dennis has either wandered off and left door unlocked or perhaps has been abducted by aliens. Rats, I thought he knew I had my key with me. Not sure if I should lock it or just leave it open too.
5:15 Back from a fabulous little swim at the beach. Some days the surf is actually too dangerous and heavy to swim in but today, it was perfect. Once I’m in, I try never to put my feet down, certainly do NOT want to annoy a stingray or touch any sharp or swimming that potentially might share the space. Sure enough, I did a couple of handstands then think I touched a fish so will leave those gymnastics for the PV hotel pool and leave the beach just for swimming. I swim right up to the water’s edge too then suddenly stand up in about ankle depth water. It’s worked so far in life, never stepped on a spiky urchin or been stung by stingrays so that’s my plan and I’m sticking to it. In a surf beach though, that of course means that your bathing suit gets entirely lined and filled with tossed up sand. HA! At the outdoors shower by our room, it took much semi-discrete gyrations and many adjustments of the bikini to get it all out. When we used to get back to the boat from beach swimming, we would of course just peel off in the water and even then, it still took lots of swooshing around to get rid of all the soft fine sand from both the skin and the suit. Crazy. This is the only advantage of pool swimming, that and not ever meeting anything with teeth except your husband/wife.
Speaking of which, we have developed a routine of “turning on the radio” when we need to step into the bathroom, which in some places is practically in the same room. Having lived together on small boats, this is not such a big step but it’s pretty funny when we dial up some radio on his iPhone and then step into the “chamber”. What shall we play this time, Mozart? Mariachi? Zydaco? Klezmer? Music to piddle by… and more. Our old sailing friend Mary, used to always hum a little tune when she was in the loo and I’m sure that may have come from their trans-Atlantic sail from South Africa to the Caribbean on a 31 foot boat with 3 kids and another young adult. That’s a close family AND way before computers, tvs, and videos, baby. Pull out the playing cards and board games and get playing… if you’ve got time. There’s actually quite a bit to do on a crossing though ‘cause the boat doesn’t exactly sail itself. Oh yeah, and this was before GPS so you really did have to get that whole celestial navigation thing going. Fishing, cooking, home schooling, writing, sailing, chart plotting, crafts, all kinds of things.
8:45 pm. Just got dropped off at our little room in a funny off road vehicle, a bit of a crazy golf cart cum ATV thingamagig after a very interesting dinner with Taylor, the kids computer game fellow from Kelowna, BC. I can’t tell you much about his kids’ game because it’s not out on the market yet but it looked very cute and super appealing to its demographic of kids 8-12. Hey, I think I want to play it too and learn new languages. We’ll promote the game on the Kidzsmart blog when it launches. He showed us a handful of interesting sites on his snappy MacBook and finished giving us the grand tour just before the battery finally drew its last breath- perfecto! He had some good ideas of how I might make the figurativeartist.org site searchable, perhaps by location or medium for example. I might look at that by next spring. Just not sure how much more I want to do for free. Turns out our dinner together was quite work related as we chatted a lot about graphic design, vector art, wordpress, and all kinds of tools and resources that we might be able to share about. You just never know who you’ll meet in a small place like this. We just never want to get stuck in the same place as our arch rivals, he-who-must-not-be-named. Highly unlikely but you just never know.
Taylor found a place to house sit in Chacala through Google Alerts. I love those things! They can bring you the news you are looking for eventually after you discard all the rubbish you’re not interested in; info on yourself, your interests, your competitors, your areas in focus, all kinds.
Tuesday Nov 16, 7:00 am
Waves crashing on the beach below our patio and a sailboat just upped anchor and motored off. Trying out a completely new way to sort and import my photos today. Whenever I meet someone who takes a lot of photos, I ask what programs they use to manage them with. Christian mentioned that he uses Picasa only when he needs to crop, straighten or lighten a photo and uses Windows Media Player and Windows Picture Viewer for general file management because Picasa does like to cache little copies of the pictures when they are altered and so really chews up HD space eventually. Hmmm, something to think about. Last night I sat out on the patio and went through the help section of these 2 Windows programs and learned quite a few things even though we have no internet connection here at our room. Maybe I’ve been doing things in a more complicated way than necessary.
Here’s the high point of interest to me:
-5 star rating, like Adobe Bridge, and more than Picasa’s 1 star
-Tags are quite easy to add
-Easy to sort My Pictures by date taken, tags, file name, etc.
-Tags can be added when pictures are imported, a GREAT feature if all images on chip are from the same event, trip or subject
Here’s what I think the low points might be at first glance and what you might switch over occasionally to Picasa for:
-Picasa has a nice slider so thumbnails can be sized from very tiny to quite large, more viewing options here than Windows Picture Viewer.
-Picasa has the GREAT feature of being able to add even lengthy captions, create flexible albums as opposed to fixed folders and of course to upload albums online and the share with friends by sending them the link to your album online.
-Picasa has fabulous editing tools for playing around or just plain fixing photos.
-Importing photos and adding tags at the same time is a GREAT feature but separate little folders are created with the import date and these must be named in a better naming system (or not) as you wish. Now I understand how the long lists of arbitrary names are created on friends’ computers when I’m coaching them on photo management. I like to use descriptive names like Travelogues/ Mexico 2010 rather than having a long list of folder names like 2010-11-15, 2010-11-16, a new one being created each time I import from my chip. Having my computer along this time, I’m importing daily and trying to edit them as I go along. It’s all very interesting if you take a bit of time to think about it and learn something new. Now isn’t that a better use of online time than, say, Farmville?? I certainly think so but I guess we all go to Hell in our own hand baskets…
Time to go to breakfast. A second sailboat just pulled up and left, only 2 left now.
9:30 pm, Puerto Vallarta
Had a nice long visit with Trini and Cundo, caught up on lots of stories about family, friends and what’s changing in Chacala, helped her out with their website a bit. She says yes, the young girls are having babies early in this small village but not at 13, more like 15, 16 and in fact Maria, a little friend of Ben’s walked past with a baby stroller and we had a little chat. She looks good and I would have recognized her. All their little pals are doing fine, several of them still here but one of the lovely girls, Norma, sadly took her life several years ago. Sad, but this happens sometimes. She was a real fiery pistol of a girl, a real sparkler who unfortunately burnt out too quickly. Cundo was just in from fishing and said a big whale had been close to his net so he threw him some fish, crossed himself and hoped the big fellow would not break his net. Close to the beach too, exciting.
Chacala reminds me of Bequia, just south of St. Vincent in the Grenadines, Caribbean. The beach and land resembles it in many ways but Bequia was way bigger than this back in 1977 and now even has an airport for large planes! I’m scared to go back. Both of these places are very special places in the world. I’m sure there’s many more but these are ones I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in. Gentrification and foreign money comes in, buys things up and yes, does create jobs but on the back side of that creates prices that are completely beyond the reach of people who have grown up there. This story is common the world over, from Poland and Greece to Vancouver and our own lovely town of Gibsons.
Hopped into a collective taxi-van around 1pm that took us from Chacala to Las Varas then jumped aboard the big coach to Puerto Vallarta, arriving around 4 at our hotel. Settled into our room then headed out to buy a few groceries when who is the first person we see practically? The Swiss guy!!! Hilarious as he is not staying anywhere nearby really. This time we sat down for a coffee and a big chat with his new found friend from oasis Hostel here. Giorgio, the Swiss, road his bicycle from the PV bus station to the hostel, a nerve-wracking and bone jarring experience on these cobblestone roads and he’s had enough cycling for now. I’d put his age in early 60’s but he’s very fit and lively, used to work for IBM and now travels a lot but in a very inexpensive manner, staying mainly at hostels where he meets other travellers and really is probably rarely alone. Giovanni runs the Oasis Hostel here, a very good looking young guy full of local stories. Between the four of us, we’ve travelled to many countries and the air was blue with places to see if we go to India, Italy…
Hotel Los Arcos is a homey old fashioned traditional Mexican hotel. The one thing we see against it is the lack of big comfy couches in the lounge area. Mexican chairs for the most part are ramrod straight backed and get very tiring after a while. The first thing that hits me in a nice average place like this is how alien I feel. Now, it does have a big range of guests but we don’t fit into the average suburban middle American mould that many seem to here. Plus we’re not on a package tour which several seem to be connected to. I’m sure we’ll blend in soon and feeling alien is something I’m quite familiar with, being more bohemian, artistic and colourful than many.
Buenos noches! This is our final stop, next stop is home, tomorrow afternoon to maybe snow? Hope you are enjoying this little postcard from Mexico…