The Lost Wallet And The Parrot Hunter

The Lost Wallet and The Parrot Hunter

Hotel Erotico La Manzanilla
Hotel Erotico
La Manzanilla

Reluctantly, I’ve begun the trek homeward. I love this place, the native Mexicans and the gringos who are either permanent or regular seasonal come-backs. I could stay here forever and anyone who really missed me could come see me here. But that’s not the way I’m wired and after some misadventures here I have been rescued by my wife Jill, who still loves me for some reason beyond my comprehension. She’s at home in the cold and snow, wind and rain, with a head-cold, performing financial miracles to get me back there. 

Despite first appearances, Mexican dentistry is excellent and cheap
Despite first appearances,
Mexican dentistry is excellent and cheap

Some fellow campers, my forensic research indicates, stole my wallet. I won’t go into the back-tracking, the sleepless night, the quadruple ripping apart of truck and trailer, the long day following and the frustrated hopelessness that overwhelmed me. I posted a noticed on the La Manzanilla online message board, as locally advised, and wonder of wonders, I received a phone call. At a wonderful little bar called ‘The Club.’ A Mexican had turned in my credit cards, driver’s license and so forth. I was out about $250 and the wallet, but I have the good stuff back and a relatively cheap lesson learned. Of course it turned up four hours after I phoned and cancelled the credit and debit cards but all’s well that ends. Special thanks to Bobby, who runs the bar, and Jude, who phoned me. The story was that a local fellow came in with the goods saying they’d been found by a friend. I don’t care about his story, I’m impressed about the honour of the local thieves. Enough said. I can only blame myself for being lazy. I knew better.

Claudio, the hammock-maker and an Indian beadwork artist
Claudio, the hammock-maker and an Indian beadwork artist

Don’t put all your huevos in one basket!” Fortunately I did have my passport and visa hidden away. So yet another don’t for Mexico, and maybe for home. Don’t carry your wallet with cash, credit cards and other important stuff together. Hide your wallet in one place, your cash in another and your cards somewhere else. Carry only enough cash for the moment. That may also help prevent impulse spending.

Gringo cuchina
Gringo cuchina
Mexican cuchina
Mexican cuchina

On the day of the wallet incident (Hier perdito mi cartera)  I drove out to the beach at Tenacatita. It’s a controversial place, overwhelmed by some Mexican tycoons who evicted the hereditary landowners and have hired guards who patrol the place but it is beautiful there and well worth the visit. Unfortunately while kayaking I burst the plexi-glass window out of the bottom of my little boat and had to swim it back to the beach through the surf and swells for about a kilometre. It was a good workout. The snorkeling was fantastic, I’ve shot some good movies of very colourful fish which I will try to post.

In the back of the Cocodrillieo .........WHY?
In the back of the Cocodrillieo
………WHY?
No swimming huh?
No swimming huh?

This past weekend was ‘Rodeo’ in La Manzanilla. The town goes crazy with the dusty streets given over to all sort of madness. Intermittently throughout the days and nights a Mexican jazz band was the fulcrum of artistic delight. It is a blatant combination of amateur Mariachi sounds with a strange twist of what I can only describe as Klesmer music, all over scored with the incessant bop-boop-boop of a tuba. Massively amplified they blew out dental fillings for miles around. Whatever might be lacking in quality is certainly supplemented with enthusiasm. Volume is everything. I repeat that there is nothing tougher than a Mexican boom box.

Patience my arse! Let's eat a gringo.
Patience my arse!
Let’s eat a gringo.
The Lost Beach
The Lost Beach
Some rest for the wicked
Some rest for the wicked
Teamwork and sustainability
Teamwork and sustainability
From the old school
From the old school
Home is where the heart is
Home is where the heart is

Tonight I am sitting alone under the light of brilliant stars and a waxing half-moon. I saw an incredible shooting star. I am all alone. There is no-one else here except in a cemetery a little way off. I sit facing west on a rise between the booming surf of the open Pacific and a lagoon on my right. Strange cries and bestial calls emerge from the lagoon, or perhaps the cemetery. It is utterly magic. I face an un-named cape after driving here on a dusty road that wound from a tiny village through beautiful farm fields. A sign warns that the beach is dangerous for swimming and I have no intention of skinny-dipping in the lagoon. While turning around I sank the truck and trailer in loose sand which was deceptively matted in thick, prickly vegetation. Thanks to the gods, I have a shovel, jack-all and loads of rope with me. I dug everything out but still could not budge the truck. It was hellishly hot and getting dark. A friendly fellow with a jeep towed the truck back onto solid road and refused any tokens of appreciation. In Mexican, he explained, you cannot take money from friends. And so my love of this place grows. Mucho gusto!

The long road home
The long road home
The well in the filed
The well in the field

I’m now sitting and working at my little table in a parking area behind a Pemex station a little north of the junction for Tuxpan. The dreadful mess that is Puerto Vallarta is behind me to the south. Joni Mitchell must have been thinking of Puerto Vallarta when she wrote” They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” The best word I can use is obscene. It is truly an ultimate piece of pornographic greedy, mindless shame that goes on for miles, right past Nuevo Vallarta. Hell’s teeth!

Tenacatita
Tenacatita
Adios Simba, my loyal amigo
Adios Simba, my loyal amigo

Speaking of which, after I left my idyllic beach camp I pulled into a small roadside cantina to photograph a beautiful old clay oven. A smiling woman came wiggling out. Her grin nearly cracking her heavy makeup. She introduced herself as Lucy and welcomed me with an offer of beer for twenty pesos. When I explained that it was awfully early in the day, she announced that she also “Sold sex”. All the while a young girl was twirling round a wooden post on the veranda, dancing to unheard music like a stripper on a brass pole. Lucy went on to explain that I shouldn’t worry, nothing would get stolen while I was being entertained. I drove off mumbling about having had my wallet stolen already. Mucho gracias!

The oven...
The oven…
...and the brothel
…and the brothel

The drive to Puerto Vallarta climbs over a pass so high that the jungle becomes a predominantly pine forest. The warm air carries a lovely scent and I stopped to take some photos in this incongruous setting. Out of the bushes leapt a young man man with a broad toothless grin. He soon explained he was hunting parrots with his sling shot and had a wonderful repertoire of calls. There are so many new things here that he may have been entirely honest but a pine parrot…. hmmm!

YES!
YES!
The Parrot Hunter
The Parrot Hunter
Pine Jungle
Pine Jungle

Tonight, near sundown, I drove into Tuxpan looking for a road to Santa Cruz, the one north of San Blas that is, not the one south. I didn’t find the turn and had to get the hell out of town before dark. The filthy narrow cobbled streets were lined with surly looking groups of young men. Even the dogs looked mean. For once, my little trailer didn’t elicit any positive responses. I locked my doors and behind closed windows avoided any eye contact as I tacked and gybed my way through this horrible setting. So far, this has to be one of the sorriest places I’ve seen anywhere. I have been told there are much worse places in Mexico. I felt like apologizing for being a gringo. Once clear of the barrios of this place I noticed people wandering about en mass on a broad paved road with no cars present. Once I saw some runway markers I understood. Not many towns can boast an airport that is used as their Malecon.   But then, most runways sit level, clear and unused for ninety-nine percent of the time. I can imagine the fun of buzzing the runway to clear before landing. Just when you think you’ve seen it all! 

Northward ho through the sugar cane fields ...reluctantly
Northward ho through the sugar cane fields
…reluctantly

It’s All A Blur

From the where the blogs come
From the where the blogs come
Itchibumbumpa God of Crocs
Itchibumbumpa
God of Crocs

It’s all a blur. At first I was intent on recording all I’ve seen and done on this trip but soon realized that I was beginning to produce yet another “Binderdundat. 

In the pink
In the pink

Another weary travelogue of then I saw, then I did, then I ate. I tipped that little train off its track. I set out to loose some weight, clean my attic, get away from a dreary existence at home through yet another wet winter and make some decisions about how I’m going to live out the remains of my life. The intent of writing about Mexico is to try and share the feeling of the place.

Gotcha!
Gotcha!
When I grow up!
When I grow up!

Now that I believe I have found the real Mexico, which I deeply love and feel at home in, I have to decide if I want to enjoy it aboard my boat or if I should focus on a traveller’s life ashore. There are advantages to each and it will not be a light decision. How I will support myself is another challenge. You don’t need much, but you need

Next please!
Next please!

something.  However those are decisions for the future and all I have is the moment. What a glorious one it is.

Over coffee this morning an idea arose about a thermometer for we gringos in the sun. It would work much like the thermometers used to tell one when the turkey is cooked. This gadget would tell you when you’ve had enough sun and are starting to burn. You could insert it in a few places as per your imagination. I’ve also considered solar-powered roadside crosses. They would have flashing led lights and perhaps play a short Mariachi tune on occasion. The Mexicans, I’m sure, would love them and I’d make my living here.

The dream is alive
The dream is alive
On the hook in Melaque
On the hook in Melaque

I am staying in La Manzanilla, one of three closely-located communities. The others are Melague and Barra De Navidad. Back at the US Border, the Mexican guards had not heard of these places. That, I took as a good sign. I was right. About a four and one half hour drive south of Puerto Vallarta, three days from the border, this area is also accessible by air with flights to Melaque and Manzanillo, a little further to the south. Most gringos come here for at least two months in the winter. Accommodations of any class are cheap, as are groceries and restaurant meals. I have not had a bad meal yet, in fact the fare is excellent. It is healthy food, tasty and affordable. The locals are very hospitable and I have been warmly welcomed every where. Al I have to do is use my smile and display a contrition about my pathetic Spanish skills, as well as an intent to learn another bit of vocabulary. There IS contempt about the many Quebecois who come here. They are noted for being rude, insular and demanding. Despite my aversion to categorizing anyone, I’m afraid and embarrassed to have to agree that their nasty reputation is often well-deserved. I have lived and worked in Quebec. I love it there and I am frustrated to be caught in the middle on this issue.

Cuchina window
Cuchina window

Driving here is a full-time job. There are scorpions and stingrays to step on. Those are the dangers. The Mexicans are friendly, warm, industrious, honest and possess a love of life that we northern folk desperately need to learn. The climate here is sub-tropical, it is lushly green and full of life. Amazing insects and lizards from tiny geckos to huge iguanas and crocodiles abound. The birds are fantastic and the fish stocks are amazing. The ocean is bath tub warm and the snorkeling is fantastic.

Coastecomates Main Street Rush hour
Coastecomates
Main Street
Rush hour

My computer crashed and the local computer store has bent over sideways to get me going. They took the laptop apart, disconnected the keyboard and gave me a Spanish keyboard to plug in and use while a new one arrives. (You’ll notice some weird punctuation in my blogs.* They are thanking me for my patience. The total charge will be about twenty-five dollars. A complete oil and filter change for the truck was ten dollars. Meals average under 100 pesos, about 10 dollars with tip.

It is, however,  all going to hell fast here. All this beauty and graciousness may soon fade.The big money is here, the infrastructure is slowly making its cancerous way south from Puerto Vallarta. The villas and golf courses encroach on the villages and quiet bays. A few years from now this paradise may well be paved over. The moment is the thing.

Last weekend was a Constitution Day, yet another opportunity for holidays and boisterous parties. There was a massive rock concert at the far end of the beach, about five miles away. It sounded like it was next door. Let’s just say there is nothing much tougher than a Mexican boom box. They love music and it must be LOUD! This weekend is La Manzanilla Days or “La Rodeo”. It began yesterday, Wednesday. Last night the stage competitions of folk dancing and break-dancing went on into the night. Cowboys on beautiful, high-spirited horses filled the cobbled streets with children, mothers and families as well as masses of bemused gringos. It was absolutely beautiful chaos. Tonight a Mariachi jazz band is overwhelming the town square. A mile away, I can clearly hear it as I write. It is lovely. A Mexican lady here in this campsite rendered bushels of green tomatoes into salsa over a wood fire. She has finished now and relaxes with some sewing after a fourteen hour day.

Copra smoke from the salsa cuchina
Copra smoke from the salsa cuchina

Last night a small Mariachi band serenaded outside the home of a local prominent family. It is the same place where a week earlier, I was invited in from the street to a birthday party where local musicians played and sang traditional local music. A group of women danced in the cleared-out garage. I was coerced into joining them. If anyone knows me they will be amazed that this leaping ox, with all his injuries, enjoyed himself immensely. I now have friends here.

Run through the jumgle
Run through the jungle

A block away from there, the mangrove swamp reaches down to the sea.  A casually fenced-in portion, complete with suspension bridges and an egg hatchery, contains several huge crocodiles. Apparently, until a couple of years ago, there was no fence.  It is yet removed during the summer rainy season to again allow these beasts complete access to the sea and the beaches. A sign does suggest that there should be no swimming, fishing or pets. I’ve found no coughed-up flip flops or flowered shirts….so far.

 Next to the crocodile swamp

Next to the crocodile swamp

Fortunately the local fisherman’s co-op provides an ample supply of fresh fish carcases.

The local fleet of pangas provides a steady supply of fresh sailfish, dorados, snapper, parrot fish, mahi mahi, albacore,  mullet, octopus, lobster and shrimp. I want to do a trip with them, but the co-op says no.  I need to improve my Spanish. There is a lovely language school here.

Galapagos Next stop!
Galapagos Next stop!

In a few days, I must begin making my way back toward my existence as a northern gringo.

Great snorkeling among the rocks
Great snorkeling
among the rocks

There are deadlines and commitments, bills to pay and decisions to make. I have to pay for this trip and prepare for the next one. I’ll embrace each moment there but I’ll leave my heart here. I’ll be back as soon as possible to this town on the edge of the sea, 19º north latitude. That is 30º of southing, about 1800 nautical miles closer to the equator than where old “Seafire” sleeps tonight, waiting for me. The same ocean beneath her keel is lapping here on the beach, one hundred feet away. I feel the connection. It is strong.

A distant anchorage near La Manzanilla
A distant anchorage near La Manzanilla