You've Been Riding that Thing for How Long?

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

by Katie

Today being Thanksgiving (although I did just recall that fact about 30 minutes ago) I thought it appropriate to write about all the things for which I am grateful. It's a top 10 list. I know, I know, a list. It's just my style. Don't worry, there will be pictures too. So to celebrate Thanksgiving 2010, here they are, the top 10 things I am grateful for:

10. The people we have met. Of course lots of locals. But also lots of crazy travelers like ourselves who have decided to take a chance on Mexico. Australians, Canadians, Japanese, British, young, old, retired, hippies, surfers, motocyclists. It's a rag-tag sort of bunch.

Beachside beers in Melaque with Evan.

9. The Grand Mayan. Yep, probably the fanciest resort I have ever and will ever stay at. This was all thanks to my in-laws Cal and Linda who gave us a week at their timeshare in Acapulco. We spent seven days doing nothing but lying on the beach, drinking smoothies and margaritas. Our biggest decision was whether to swim in the ocean or the pool.

The Grand Mayan.

8. Getting to see baby sea turtles. (See previous blog entry).

7. Stray dogs. The street dogs here are nothing like the street dogs in India. And by that I mean, the dogs here are friendly and not starving. I love getting my dog fix without thinking that I may come away with rabies. Although fleas are a real possibility.

6. The ocean. And beaches. And sunsets on the beach. We have spent a month so far on the west coast of Mexico. It always takes me a bit to get my bearings back around the ocean, but then I remember how much I love it. I mean, I'm a mountain girl at heart, but I sure do love the beach.

Playing in the waves with Lacy and Kaeli.

5. Paying someone to do your laundry. I think I washed one pair of underwear in a sink so far. Mostly, I just drop our clothes off one day, and pick them up the next, clean, dry, and folded. All for around $3.

4. No schedules. No alarm clocks. Well, I take that back. Tomorrow we are setting the alarm for 6:45 so we can go out on a boat with some friends to see turtles, dolphins, and whales, and maybe do a little fishing. How am I ever going to re-adjust to the school schedule?

3. The weather. While it is true that I will miss winter weather (and it sounds like it may be a good one this year!) It's pretty hard to complain about 85 degrees and sunny, consistently...for a solid month now. No rain. It's quite beautiful really.

Blues skies by the ocean. What more could you ask for?

2. Getting paid for used oil. Mark changed the oil in our motorcycles while we were in Acapulco. Typically in Salt Lake, it is a minor hassle to get rid of used oil. You have to find an autoparts store that is willing to take it off your hands. They may even charge you for this service. Here in Mexico, we sold our used oil. That's right, someone actually gave us money for our 5 quarts of dirty oil. What a country.

1. My husband. He has worked so hard to make this trip happen, and he continues to work hard to make it enjoyable. He spent two of our days in Acapulco doing maintenance on our bikes, changing oil and filters, checking tires. He goes out of his way to find me a cold drink when I'm hot and cranky after riding all day. He let's me sit in the shade while he walks around new towns looking for a place to stay. He laughs and encourages me to spend money on things like dresses, earrings, and headbands so I can still feel girly even though we are on a motorcycle trip, and then he offers to carry them when I run out of space. Thank you, Mark. I would not be on this trip without you.

Mi amor.

And as a sidenote, for those of you who are wondering, we are currently in Puerto Escondido. A surf mecca. Which is what Mark is out doing now on this lovely Thanksgiving day. Tomorrow we head to Oaxaca City. Love to you all. Enjoy your holiday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Mexico is still good."

by Katie

1,800 miles in 18 days. That's how many days we have been in Mexico and how many miles we have traveled. I write this from Zihautenajo where we are rounding out the southern end of Mexico. On Sunday we will head to Acapulco where we will stay in a fancy-pants resort (thanks to Cal and Linda!) for a full week.
I titled this post "Mexico is still good" because of the sentiments we have heard along the way from Mexicans. Every chance I have had along the way I have asked local Mexicans their thoughts on the violence, cartels, drug trafficking, etc. that seems to be plaguing Mexico. They are not naive. They know what is going on in their country. Mostly what they have expressed is sadness. One man, who owned a restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, told me that the tourists used to be 80% Americans and 20% Canadians. Now he said it seems to be the opposite: 20% Americans and 80% Canadians. So many people have been so excited to see Mark and me, as Americans, still traveling to Mexico. Another woman asked me, "When you go home, will you tell people that Mexico is still good?" So here is my post, Mexico is still good. There are bad things happening, and of course bad people, but that does not come anywhere close to encompassing the whole of Mexico.
Good things in Mexico:

Little boys all over the world love motorcycles.

A village cemetery the day after Dia de Muertos.

Stands lining the roads selling "Cocos frios." Cold coconut water fresh from the coconut. Pulp included if you like.

The last couple days we have been riding with Evan, who is a very sweet 20-year old from Canmore, Alberta. His Spanish is considerably better than ours since he spent nine months traveling South America last year.

This is Evan, making friends with the parrots at a roadside restaurant.

We had been told at one of our hotels that it was turtle season all down the west coast. As we were riding two days ago we passed a barely noticeable pullout with a rusted sign that said "Conservacion de tortugas." There was a small path leading into the palm trees. We followed it as far as we could on the bikes and when the sand got too soft we got off and walked. We found a small grass-roots conservation group: several local Mexicans and several hippy backpackers, under a grass hut playing cards and looking like they had just woken up (turns out they had). They told us that every night at 9:00 they started their work: walking up and down the 2 kilometer stretch of beach and watching for female black sea turtles to come up on the beach to lay her eggs, until 5:00 am. Of course volunteers are always needed. We were hooked. We drove up the road and found cabanas to stay in and returned at 9:00. The process goes something like this: The female turtles come up to shore to lay their eggs. The volunteers watch as she does so (apparently she is not shy), then proceed to measure the length of her shell, unbury the eggs, count them, put them in a plastic bag and take them over to the turtle nursery (a fenced protected area of the beach), and re-bury them. Meanwhile in the nursery several people are watching for the turtles that are hatching. These little pequenas are collected in a huge bucket and taken out on the beach and released to the ocean.

Mark and Evan helping Alan, our guide unbury some eggs.

I loved the pequenas (the little ones). They are perhaps the most cutest things ever.

We all stayed out there until 2:00 am absolutely entranced. Did I mention there was also phosphorescence so both the sand and the waves were glowing in the moonless night. One of the more amazing experiences of my life.
Mexico has been good to us, and while we continue to remain aware and alert, we are enjoying every moment. We still have another 1,000 miles to the Guatemalan border, who knew Mexico was so huge!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Dark Side

by Mark

Greetings everyone. After spending a couple of nights in the Puerto Vallarta area recouperating, I thought I'd share "the rest of the story". (Paul Harvey's voice works best for that sentence).

First, the set-up:

Those of you who know me will be familiar with my battle with negativity. I get cynical, and I think I'm prone to depression. My thought patterns often conspire against me to interpret events negatively, when really life is producing the same challenges for me as for anyone else. In fact, at one of the hotels we stayed at, I found a book (in English, no less!) by Norman Vincent Peale called, The Power of Positive Thinking. It was first published in 1951, and it's very practical.... I guess I feel like the book "found" me. Useful exercises to change thinking patterns at a time when I can practice easily.

Despite all this, I think there's a time for the down-sides of things. I fear that when Katie and I only relate the best parts about our trip, the blog begins to mis-represent the reality of our day to day experience. I have no intention to cause anyone (who might actually be contributing to the betterment of society) to feel jealous or uncontented with their lives. I've seen this happen-- so let's keep it real, shall we?

For two nights, we got chowed by bedbugs at the Stoner surf camp. It started out with us staying in a thatched-roof bungalow, like this. Innocent enough, eh?

The view was great, and we slept under a bug net. Classic experience, right?

The itching really got better around day 4. Sorry, no pictures of Katie's bites.

The hostel we stayed at a night later closed the group room after we told the owners about our experience. They were amazingly good-natured about having to deep clean the entire place (and 6 mattresses!) after we left.

Our research revealed 2 things: First, that if we had flicked on a headlamp in the midst of the feast, we would have probably been able to see the engorged bedbugs. I'm pretty glad I didn't think to try this. Secondly, bedbugs are extremely rare in Mexico (except in places where U.S. travellers frequent). Yep-- Americans are the vector for the buggers.

Lessons learned? Travelling Mexico (so far) by motorbike has moments of great excitement and fun (see Katie's next post about sea turtles!) ...and the pendulum swings both ways. This is not news to any of you, I'm sure. Just thought I'd put a reminder out there....

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Stoner Surf Camp

by Katie

We had our first experience where the map was wrong! Two days ago we left Mazatlan (which is amazing, by the way) and headed south to San Blas. We thought it would be fun to get off the freeway and take the scenic route. The road was beautiful, we rode through a forest of palm trees within site of the blue blue Sea of Cortez. After riding along the ocean we ended up in a little fishing village that could have been in any equitorial country I have traveled to. Small thatch roof huts, children and dogs running around in the dirt roads, women relaxing in hammocks. We were enjoying it all so much--until the road just ended. Yep, that's right. The map said the road kept going, but in real life it came to the river and just ended. We think the local fishermen were telling us that the village we were trying to get to was "just on the other side of the river." But we had no idea how to get there. We had no choice but to back track. Which was great because we ended up in this miniscule town called Playa Novilleros with deserted beaches, calm water. So it goes when you are traveling.

Mark on the road to nowhere.

Today, we are in San Blas, along with all 6 people that we know currently in the country of Mexico. Heather and Tom, from London and the U.S. are driving their Toyota down through Mex and Central America, and Stefan, Joe, Evan, and Yosh, all riding their motos down south also. Mark took a surf lesson this morning from a former longboard champion, and I think he might be hooked. This works out well for me because it means more vacations to beach destinations instead of just the mountains. We are staying at a place called Stoner Surf Camp with the very cliche cabanas on the beach. We wake up in the morning, put our swim suits on, eat some breakfast, and hang out on the beach. This is what a honeymoon should be like! Our next stop is Puerto Vallarta, so until then...

The municipal market in Mazatlan.

Okay, friends, I tried to upload more photos but the interwebs are being very slow, and Mark has to get back to the beach for his evening surf sesh. More next time.