Thursday, June 30, 2011

The hotel

I thought now that I'm back in town that I'd post a few pictures of the hotel B&B we stayed at in Sayulita, called La Casona. Click on any of the pictures to see them bigger.

The hotel sign is visible on the left. That's how close to the ocean it is!

Ignore the lump on the bed and just look at those windows, and the colour of the ceiling. The shutters are glass and really shut the window completely, not that I ever did. The big door to the left opens onto our own private L shaped balcony with two chairs, a table and a hammock. I love the arches over the doors.

The beautiful sink

The shower - there is only that clay divider in the window, no glass or screen. A nice big open shower with no door or curtain.

The common area, with two daybeds, several tables for the guests to have their breakfast.

This is standing in the common room looking towards the staircase downstairs. The room on the left is the kitchen (there's a crate of oranges on the floor). The window that has the hearts in it is visible here.

A detail to a window that is on the outside wall upstairs.

Daybed on the common area balcony. The staircase is on the left in this picture, with the potted plants along the edge.

A detail of tiles inset in the stairway.

The chairs on our balcony.

The stairs leading up to more rooms from the common room. A bit of the doorway to our room is visible on the right.

Part of the lobby, another day bed.

The kitchen. The wardrobe held all manner of beautiful Mexican pottery for every day dishes.

A better one of the sink - they provided a wine bottle of clean water and two (real) glasses.

The other half of our balcony, the bedroom window over my bed is on the right and the shower window is beyond. Behind that little window in the wall is the balcony of Lily room, which looks towards the town. Our balcony had ocean views!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last day

Woke early and swam in the ocean for the last time. The waves were increasing in size and I got broadsided pretty good by a big one. I was watching the surfers catch it down the shore and realized too late it was going to break right over me. I put my hand over my face to keep my glasses from being washed away, took a deep breath and let it crash over me. A good metaphor for life.

I went back to the hotel and got Sal and we had our last breakfast at Paninos. She had latte and a brownie, and I had coffee and a croissant. I got my camera and we walked back down to the beach and watched the surfers, took pictures, and made friends with dogs. Then it was off to the bus stop.

At the bus stop an old man carrying what looked like homemade cheese in a bucket got on the bus, but not before giving an impassioned speech while squatting on his haunches on the sidewalk right in front of us. I don't know what he was saying but I got a strong feeling we were at the brunt of the joke. The other Mexicans around us were all enjoying it immensely.

The bus ride was a bit hairy, as before. The drivers like to pass each other over and over on the highway, come to a bus stop and both stop and then there's a race to pull out so you are ahead. The passing is complete with good natured obscene gesturing out the windows. It's quite entertaining. We passed a wreck with police directing traffic (again with the machine guns!) and an ambulance.

On arrival in Toronto the first thing I had to do was find a bathroom and the first bathroom in the airport was just disgusting! The toilets were unclean and broken, there was one sink that wouldn't turn off and it was overflowing, there was no soap or paper...this is a lot of people's first impression of Canada!

A few scary transport trucks later along the 401 we are at home, drinking duty free tequila on the front porch.

Just lying around on the beach:

Goodbye Pacific ocean. I love you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

After breakfast Sal and I decided to go riding in the morning, before it got too hot. By the time we set out it was 11 however, and the sky was blue and the sun was blazing. We found the horse riding place and signed up for a one hour ride. We had to wait about half an hour and then they took us to the river where the horses were tied up to trees. The ride was along the town roads, onto the beach, into the jungle, up the hills to the top, lookout point and back down. It was a bit hairy at times and buggy (malaria?) and the best part was running on the beach. As usual, I was too worried about the condition of my horse to really enjoy it. Poor thing was so hot. I tried to get his legs wet in the surf and he seemed to like that.

We went back to the hotel and dried off and changed. I walked down the street where the taco guy was back in business after a few days off. I kept watching for him to re-appear. He has the best tacos, with mahi-mahi. I sat on the street and watched surfers come and go and the cars changing position. If someone gets blocked in, they just open the car and move it. Everyone leaves their doors open and the keys in.

After that I got Sal to come and swim with me. We just went to the beach at the bottom of the street (main beach) and it was fantastic! The waves were huge. I had the boogie board from the hotel and a couple of times I surfed all the way to the beach on it, laughing my head off and getting a mouth full of saltwater. We stayed in for hours. Sal saw some guy with a dijeradoo thing and went and hung with him and his pals.

Once back at the hotel we decided to try Chili Willy's for dinner. I went ahead to get a table before it closed and Sal went back to the beach tables to buy a bracelet. Once I got there I changed my mind. I didn't like it and didn't want to be rushed on my birthday. We went back to Miro Vino's instead. Miguel was there, and I met Storm; Courtney's betrothed. We had arugula salad with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes, and seafood ceviche, and tuna carpaccio, which Sal pronounced "Caravaggio." There was a religious procession going by to the church so we changed seats to sit up front overlooking the street where we could hear the singing. The bar music was pretty good too.

Wound up the evening back at the hotel where I sat on the porch reading "Life" by Keith Richards, and funnily enough, I heard the strolling band, the ones with the harp, singing "Happy Birthday" to someone on the street. I liked that. Later, I heard some drunken Mexican go by singing "Satisfaction" from the Stones.

Small world.

June 23 - My birthday

The day started well. I woke early, still dark and checked my phone for the time. 6:30. I quietly rose and dressed and went down to the water. It was so dark I wondered if my phone was wrong. I went right to the water's edge and sat and waited for the dawn. The sun didn't come up in that glowing orb kind of way. It just got progressively lighter. At first I wasn't sure if the sun was coming up or the moon, which was still high in the sky, was lighting the beach. But then suddenly it was day. I decided to walk along the beach to the end, where Sal and I were yesterday, to see if the crabs were more active at this time of day. I passed three fishermen in a boat a ways out and they started waving their arms and whistling. I thought they must be hailing a friend behind me and I looked around but there was no one there. When I got closer they yelled out "How are you today?" What the hell? Are there really people this nice in the world? Broad smiles all around. They weren't having much luck but the pelicans were bobbing about beside the boat, so close they could have reached out and patted them on the head like obedient Labradors.

I walked to the end of the beach and up to the rocks, but the crabs were all in their crevices and not much was happening. There was an eerie sound coming from the rocks that I wasn't quite sure could come from a bird. I thought a lizard maybe, since now I know they can make bird-like sounds.

I turned around and started back and I saw a little silver fish, about an inch long, flipping and flopping at the edge of the water, desperately trying to get back to the ocean. I scooped it up and tossed it into the waves. Thus my birthday begins with saving a life.

I continued up the beach where I could now see a few people starting to join me. Some surfers, some more fishermen throwing nets from the beach. I saw a fellow we had spent some time with on the street chatting and he was fishing with a rod from the beach. He's about 25-28, deep brown and dreadlocked, and dressed in the official Sayulita uniform of board shorts worn low on the hips and nothing else. As I passed he grabbed my hand to shake it and pulled me in and kissed me on the cheek! It's official - the people here are so friendly it's shocking. I'm not used to it. And let's be clear here - I'm a middle aged grey haired lady. No beach babe.

I came back to the hotel to shower and breakfast and check my computer. I think Paninos is in order - some cake for the day!

ps the baby bird was gone by nightfall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 6 - Wednesday

Rain last night - lovely pouring rain. It still didn't drown out the loud music from the square. Some of the other guests here spent the night barhopping and having double shots of whiskey and beer chasers for $5 Cdn., tequila shots and margaritas. I think they just got up at around 7pm.

It looked like clearing in the morning, but there was one more rain to go, and then we headed out under heavy skies to walk to the north end of town. We went through some streets I haven't seen yet, but ended up on the main road where a guy hauled us into a little room where three guys were producing a local radio station. They were quite happy to see me and I shot a few pictures of them. Everything here sounds revolutionary to me - lots of yelling but who knows what they are really saying. Next door to the radio station was a woman selling whole rotisserie chickens. We said we'd come back after our walk. We continued along the main road and took a turn up a very steep hill towards the more expensive houses overlooking the town. Up and then down again, and there we were at the north end of the beach. We walked along this practically deserted beach for quite a ways. We got separated when Sal stopped to look at something and I walked by her. I got to the big rocks that separate that beach from the next one and decided not to risk it - the timing would have been precarious for the camera with the waves crashing against the rocks every minute. I found a dead puffer fish on a rock where someone had left it, and also a decomposing sea turtle about the size of a spare tire. I poked around with it for a bit, thinking I could take a bone with me, but it wasn't decomposed enough.

I asked two girls going through the rocks to send Sal back if they saw her and they informed me that she was behind me! This part of the beach is bordered by huge rocks and expensive homes and the rocks are covered with crabs and I even saw an iguana.

We also ran into Courtney walking her two dogs:


Three crabs: two red, one yellow

We went back into town and bought our chicken (whole chicken, two rice, sauce - $9) and had another look at the station. This time he insisted we speak into the microphone so we stupidly said "Hello Sayulita, Gracias!" and then the guy grabbed the mic and spoke in rapid Spanish for about five minutes, and the only word I could translate was "Toronto." He really didn't want to let us go but we had a chicken to eat so we extracted ourselves and went back to the hotel. It rained again quite hard in the afternoon and other than another political invasion had a pretty quiet afternoon reading.

The day started with a bang when one of the hotel staff saw a rat running up the stairs into the kitchen. She grabbed the maid and they started screaming. Of course Sal went running towards the rat and I had to stop her. She said it was a small one. The girl said it was the first time she'd ever seen a rat in all of Mexico. I'm sure it was an isolated incident, but they had to leave a trap in the kitchen to hopefully catch it. When we got back in the afternoon they found a small bird on the steps and actually came to fetch Sal to deal with it. She got her scarf and wrapped it up and put it in (my) hat for the day. Hopefully it will be recovered enough to fly away tonight. It's either some kind of swift or a baby swallow. It looks full sized but it's all brown and quite lovely. It spend the day in our room, Sal babying it when she could.

A few of the politico:

There's that "good guy" white hat again.

A little kid enjoying the water coming from the water spouts. This is a tie for my favourite picture of the whole trip.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day Five, Tuesday

I spent the morning trying to get to the bottom of my bank fiasco. Yesterday I went to two bank machines thinking the first one was out of order, but neither of them gave me any money. I had the bright idea to check my bank account online and sure enough, the money was withdrawn. I wrote the bank and they got back to me very quickly and it turns out they changed my card to deposit only. I think the fraud squad decided since I never travel that a criminal had used my card in the PV airport. Luckily they let me use the hotel phone and I was able to dial a 1-866 number and talk to the bank people. They fixed my card pretty quickly but to get that money back in will take "an investigation." I was on the phone for half an hour, most of it trying to convince them I am who I am. After that we decided to go to crab beach. We walked along the beach and up the rocks again and there were only a few people there. I'm sure it's a well used beach in high season, but it's practically all ours right now.

We swam and read and ate chips and then a bunch of Mexican guys pulled up in a truck armed with machetes. One of them shimmied up a palm tree and cut a huge bunch of coconuts which fell heavily. They ran to avoid getting beaned by the coconuts, and then they gathered them up. If they broke when they fell they got to those ones first to try and save the water. One of the tourist police trucks also pulled up and four cops piled out to watch, all heavily armed with machines guns held casually. What kind of crazy scene is this?

The whole time we are sitting there keeping an eye on the proceedings, hundreds of crabs are crawling over the beach, moving as fast as lightening. Every so often you'd see a hermit crab lumbering along slowly. You could never get close to the ones that scurry as they dive down their holes at the least provocation.

One of the machete guys took a green coconut over to a table and started hacking all the green stuff off it until it was a little brown coconut. Then he chopped a neat little hole in the top and plugged it back up with the piece of coconut meat. He caught my eye (we were about 50 yards away) and held up the coconut and nodded. How could I resist? It doesn't get any fresher than that. I nodded back and he walked over while I pulled out my wallet. I said "how much?" and he said "nada" and handed me the coconut. The other members of his team started cleaning the beach with rakes, cleaning the seaweed, of which there was about five clumps altogether. They cleaned the beach and then they cleaned the clearing to the beach. The police watched all this with their guns hanging off them, and then they got in their car and drove away. The coconut guys put all their cleaned coconuts in garbage bags and piled them up ready to take home.

Suddenly a huge rogue wave started coming up the beach and threatening our little camp. I yelled for Sal to grab stuff and run and there I was with about half a second to decide which to save - my $2000 camera or my coconut so of course I grabbed the coconut and ran. Luckily the wave didn't get to my bag, but soaked my book. By the time the next wave came I was ready and got the rest of our stuff. We set up a few feet up the beach and resumed our reading/coconut drinking. At about 4 we headed back to town and this time we followed a dirt road back in and discovered it comes out RIGHT at the back of our hotel. So now we know the easy way there. Then I went to a bank machine and it finally worked. I was totally broke and a bit worried.

We are not the artists, but whoever did it was talented - life size!

Also I forgot to add during the walk through the cemetery we saw a beautiful blue parrot like bird but I could not get a picture of it. It's this one:

Oh, and if you are reading this, feel free to comment!

Day Four

Yesterday was a bit of an off day. Sal felt feverish, which I'm sure was a result of getting too much sun on her back while surfing. We put sunscreen on but it would be washed off pretty quickly and she was out there for a few hours mainly lying on her stomach. She said her stomach was bruised from the board as well. She slept on and off all day and I hung out at the hotel and went for short walks here and there. I have had some trouble getting money out of the Sayulita bank machines. I wish I'd taken out $ from a few more machines at the airport. They give you a bigger amount and less transaction fee. Here all you can take out at a time is 1000 (100 Cdn) and they charge you between 4-6 Cdn to take it out!

But it's a moot point because the bank machines seem to be empty anyway. I am totally broke so I better be able to find one with money in it today.

I ran into Miguel today on the street and we hashed out an informal plan to go boating today but I didn't hear from him last night so I'm not sure what the deal is. Nothing to do but wait, which is easy here.

Later yesterday Sal felt better and we headed to the nearest restaurant on the beach for dinner. I had scallop salad, which turned out to be seviche, and fish fillets in butter. The proportions were huge but the meal was typical bar food. However, four beers, two dinners and an appetizer only came to $38. Cdn. We had a sweet labrador come and join us begging for food and turning her nose up at fries but accepting fish most daintily. A chihuahua bounced around the restaurant barking at things, and then suddenly a three piece band sprang up out of nowhere. They came to the table, and I know what that means, so I got prepared to pay some tips, but it was worth it to see Sal surrounded by this band looking embarrassed. The guitar player offered to sell her his guitar for only $3000 pesos! It was made from one solid piece of wood, and had three double strings in the middle and two single strings on the outsides. She played it a bit and then handed it back. He told us you can get cheaper ones at the flea market. (Come on bank machines!)

A young man came to stand outside the restaurant to listen to the band and overheard us say we were from Toronto. He is from Vancouver and staying at the yoga place on the edge of town for two months. He came and joined us and we chatted. After dinner we went along the beach and watched the Salsa band at Don Pedros and the dancers. Some of them were sharp dancers!

We ended the evening at the hotel on the porch, reading and watching the geckos.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My favourite picture!

I ran to get this picture and I just love it. I love the angle of the horse, and how clearly you see his feet and legs against the dust road. I love the angle of the rider, and how he is tipping his hat. You can clearly see his huge rowel spur (ouch!). I did not do any cropping or photoshopping - this is right out of the camera. I considered cropping the right side out but it has the political signage, so for now it stays.

Here is a slightly altered version of the above photo. I still have to get my photoshop tutorial.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day Three Sayulita

Arriving at the beach

They went that-a-way

Arriving at "our" beach

The surfing photos were taken with a rented 70-300mm canon lens.

Well guess who is playing right outside our hotel tonight? The 12 piece + band. The candidate for President (of Mexico? of what?) pulled up at around dinner time in two huge dark navy blue Chevy SUVs and out poured a bunch of guys in cowboy hats with some ladders and they proceeded to cover the closed storefronts with banners. The locals closed the street and started putting out chairs. The guy's face is all over the town so it was easy to recognize him. He gave a speech and at about 9 he wrapped it up and the band began. I thought it was loud last night when they played the town square! I guess if it isn't election season this time of year would be relatively quiet. I think all the noise so far has been election speeches and music. So there won't be much sleeping until they wrap it up. The big bass drum alone...

Today was the best day of this holiday so far, if not of recent memory. We packed our backpacks and were sitting outside the hotel by 10 am waiting for Miguel. He was late, and I was worried, but eventually the dirtiest VW Golf I've ever seen pulled up outside, with two surf boards on the roof. The black car was covered with iguana shit and surfing stickers. The guy from Mexico City was with him. We piled in and were off. We drove along the highway for quite a while and passed some places that reminded me of the backroads homes of the locals of cottage country. Pretty shanty. One of the places had homes on both sides of the road and there were speed bumps every ten feet or so. Miguel slowed down to show us why: on the side of the road was a little white altar. Just two weeks ago a small girl was hit and killed by a car here.

We made one stop for ice for the cooler at a little store. We passed a big golf course under construction. This place is going to change for the worse. It's been discovered. There will be resort style housing (time shares maybe?).

We followed the highway towards PV and suddenly veered off onto a little one lane dirt road. If you passed it you would never think it led to anything of note. We bumped down the road for a ways and we passed a truck coming out with surf boards on the roof. Miguel slowed down and fist bumped the driver and got the low down on conditions (thumbs down - which was good news for us newbies). After we parked the truck, we had to walk for another ten minutes along a dusty path to the ocean. When we came though the brush and the ocean was revealed there it was; paradise. One of those private beaches that go on forever and there are a few people (mainly surfers) there. M had brought an umbrella, the cooler and two boards. I had my camera with the rented 70-300 lens. We pitched our camp and had a beer to wash the dust from our throats.

M drew a board outline in the sand and proceeded with the first lesson. He was very thorough. After he went over the basics, he and Sal set out with the boards. She had the big one for newbies and he had a little one. They picked a spot that was all theirs. The other surfers on this beach were so far away I couldn't even get them in my zoom lens. We were alone. They padded out a ways and then a wave came and Sal turned and started paddling and caught the wave and she did just as he said and miraculously, she stood and surfed her first wave! I was laughing so hard I could hardly hold the camera still. Chema was laughing too. After that she had less luck, but only because the ocean was a bit "spikey" and harder to surf. Earlier in the day would have been better. She exhausted herself out there and then Chema had a turn, but he was a big guy and had a harder time with it. At about 2 we packed it up and headed home. M stopped at the same store and we all had another beer (in the car) and he charged me the equivalent of $30 Canadian for the whole day.

There is a huge rock island out there (very far) that is the home of a colony of blue footed boobies. When Sal asked him what was out there he said "ducks with blue feet." It turns out boats give tours of it, and there are caves you can swim into. Maybe another day.

We were tired from that much sun and surf and hung out in the hotel for the remainder of the day, with a brief foray for mahi-mahi tacos and coffee. Courtney handed us a book to read; her record of a 10 week trip from LA to Panama in a school bus tricked out as an RV, in 2008.

At one point I was sitting on the balcony and I saw the political band go by at the top of the street led by 10 or so Andalusian horses! I grabbed my camera and ran and caught up with them at the edge of town where they happily posed for pictures. The people here are so happy!

This saddle with silver details must weigh a ton. Also, that is one long shank on that curb bit! I love this horse but he has his work cut out for him.

I love how the kid in the car is checking out the horse.

The whole gang. These guys saw my camera and posed for a shot or two.