Travel Journal Mexico 2012 - 2013

by Claudia and PJ Potgieser

 

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December 2012 - March 2013 Mexico

11 - 31 December 2012 Mexico
We have just made a six weeks road trip through the USA (3500 miles) and we are now in Arizona at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

December 11, 2012 we go to the small border at Lukeville into Mexico. At the American side we park our camper, go into the immigration office and hand over our American visa. We have been doing this for years; if you are a Canadian or American citizen you are not supposed to stop at the American side of the border. And customs cannot  see by our truck that we are not Americans, so stopping at the American site always creates confusion. But after we go back into the truck and wish to travel to Mexico we are stopped by an U.S. customs officer. He is looking in our passport for our visa and it gets very confusing when we tell him that we already have returned that at his colleague! But after a chat about the Dutch weather we are ready to go.

Besides the fact that we have not told our family on which day we would drive into Mexico (to prevent anxiety) we have also done something naughty. Just before departure we had read on a forum that at one person all the meat and fish was confiscated by the border of Mexico! Just one incident. From all our friends who have done the same border crossing and are already wintering in Mexico for weeks, to none this has occurred. We have purchased lots of marinated pork tenderloins and salmon steaks and stored it in our freezer. To prevent that our meat and fish will be confiscated too, we decide to roll all the meat and fish in a blanket and hide it in a false bottom of a cupboard. Of course this is risky, because if it is found, we cannot claim that we did not know.

If you wonder why we have a closet with a double bottom: well that's easily explained. In that closet we store our towels in winter and in summer our winter blankets.

 

 

 

You can imagine that we cross the border a bit nervous. The Mexican border works as follows: Just after the border you have to stop at a sort of traffic light and if you get the green light, you can drive through without being checked. At the first checkpoint we get the green light and drive through. We fill the fuel tank with cheap Mexican diesel (€ 0.65 per liter), withdraw money at the cash point and continue south. After 12 miles we arrive at the next customs post and where we can apply for our visa. This is all a bit slow, but otherwise no problems. Another familiar traffic light where we get the green light and can drive on. The meat is still hidden, because we know that we still have a third check. After half an hour is the last stop. Usually you have to make a photocopy of all the required documents, but the last days we could not find a Staples store, so we just brought our original documents.
"No copias?" the lady asks.
"No."
To our surprise, this is not a problem, she just makes them herself. Everything goes painfully slow, but after half an hour all is settled, paid, copied and printed. We get our Mexican import hologram sticker that we have to stick on the front windscreen and then we drive to the last traffic light.
"Three time's the charm," said PJ, but unfortunately the light turns red.
A handsome custom girl guides our camper into the covered area and starts laughing when this just fits. She asks if we have something to declare.
"No".
She laughs again and friendly waves us through.

Phew! We drive out of sight of the last customs post and remove the meat and fish from the hidden place and fill the freezer again.

    
           Camping in San Carlos

We spent the night in San Carlos and leave the next morning with sunrise further south.

In the afternoon we arrive in North Mazatlan, where we want spend a week. During our trip south the sunny weather slowly turned into clouds and when we arrive at the campground, it rains! That is disappointing. The owner of the RV park provides no Internet, but you can go to a Mexican guy with a request for $ 40 per month. But we do not want to stay for a month and the Mexican guy is nowhere to be found, so I try to find a solution here.

When I walk around the RV park, I am approached by a camper who is just curious. It soon becomes clear that he is wintering here (and so he has Internet) but that he and his wife will fly for two weeks to Canada the same day. So I boldly ask him if I may use his internet. Unfortunately it is not wireless Internet, but without hesitation the man offers me the use of his cable that hangs from his RV. And so we sit on their patio regularly to email and watch Dutch television.

 

         

December 14, 2013, Mazatlan Mexico
For three days it is cloudy and actually too cold to lie on the beach. But we are stubborn and try it anyway.

RV park ‘Mar-a-Villas’ is a small campground, sandwiched between high rise and the beach. We love it here so much, because the camping sites are surrounded by bamboo and palm trees and large shrubs and borders a beautiful lonely beach. But the toilet building has not changed for years and soon we have all kinds of abbreviations for the shower. Like BSAS (Burn Sandals After Showering) and BOB (Bring Own Bulb) because the light is broken for weeks.

Fortunately the weather clears after three days and we can start working on our tans.

     
                                                                    The clouds make the sunsets pretty

   
                                                               The empty beach of North-Mazatlan

We take a local bus to the center of Mazatlan and pay the driver 7 pesos per person (in total a return ticket is one Dollar). The bus stops in front of the MEGA, a super modern and large supermarket and we do extensive shopping.

The next day we do it again so PJ does not have to drive the camper into the city before we continue south.

 

 

                                  The pavement in Mazatlan, is dangerous!

 

Meanwhile we get e-mails from our Canadian friends Bob and Charlotte with the question if  we are coming to La Peņita. Char tells which sites are still available and we are in doubt. The last time that we were in La Peņita (2011), we vowed that that would be the last time because we did not want to spend another winter between all those retired people.

But if we put all the pros and cons together, La Peņita surely sounds ideal:
- many activities,
- beautiful jungle camp with a surprising amount of wildlife and birds,
- within walking distance of an authentic Mexican fishing village where you can buy almost anything,
- nice cheap restaurants,
- RV park is situated at the beach,
- at a bay where nobody else lives,
- two times a week the bread lady and veggie guy come to the RV park…

But also:
-
much gossip and drama like in a small village,
- many social obligations,
- poor and limited internet, so we cannot watch Dutch television
- and that we will be the youngest snowbirds at the RV park…

We decide to email Carole, the owner of La Peņita whether she have place for us. Her answer is, as always, we are welcome, but during Christmas and New Year we have to stay in a temporary site, because the RV park is completely full (we are talking about 125 sites!).

December 21, 2013, Mexico
According to the Mayan Calendar the world will end today. We decide to drive further south. The day passes and nothing happens.

Along the road to San Blas we stop at a lake to see if the roseate spoonbills have arrived. As I walk towards the waterfront, I suddenly hear a big splash! A crocodile that is sunning on the shore, is startled by me and fleets into water. Typical for me to run into a croc!

As we arrive at La Peņita RV park we get a warm welcome from our Canadian friends Bob and Char and after settling in on our temporary site we go out for dinner in Rincon de Guayabitos, a village further down. I choose a dish with 12 prawns in a creamy, though spicy chipotle sauce, a salad of cooked beets with pineapple (what a surprising combination), rice and some warm vegetables. PJ orders a fish fillet stuffed with cream cheese with salad, fries and broccoli. To flush it we have a Mexican beer and a huge margarita cocktail and including tip this cost us U$23. That makes me so cheerful!

  

 

The temporary site that we get assigned, is located at the entrance of the RV park (as I wrote, La Peņita has about 125 sites!) so it is very busy with cars. Fortunately we are parked exactly at a speed bump, so the cars and quads do not drive so fast. In the picture the place may seem quite nice, but after we had everything set up, we get Mexican neighbors next to us and above us (terrace campground). They seem to stow around 12 people in a few tents at one site.

You might know the phrase: "Bringing everything but the kitchen sink" ...well the Mexicans even bring the kitchen sink (and fridge, washing machine, barbecue, tables, chairs , hammock, clotheslines, tarps above the tents) if they come for a week (or two) camping. So it is a hustle and bustle around us.

We have a immediately put up a clothes line from a large fig tree to the camper to  hang bird feeders on. In less than ten minutes the hummingbird feeder filled with sugar water is occupied by four kinds of hummingbirds. Beautiful!

Unfortunately, the next day one male hummingbird decides that he owns the feeder and starts chasing away every hummingbird that comes within a foot of the feeder. The positive part is that he always returns to the same twig and I can approach him with a camera and tripod to three yards and can shoot this angry bird up close. When he sees another bird he ruffles his feathers and his chest turns from moss green to fluorescent green.

 
                                 an agitated Broad-billed Hummingbird

Later I started shooting the hummingbirds on the patios of other people, which worked out very nice.


                       Cinnamon Hummingbird                               Violet-crowned Hummingbird                       Rufous Hummingbird


                           Cinnamon Hummingbird                                                       Violet-crowned Hummingbird

Unfortunately, within a few days sugar ants took the given chance use the rope to penetrate the camper and we really have an ant plague.

I have not been able to lure the seed-eating birds and also the oriole does not drink the sugar water. So after the ant infestation we remove the rope and hang the hummingbird feeder at a palm branch. The rest of the feeders I will safe for our definitive site.

You may know that you cannot drink the tap water in Mexico. At the RV park the water comes from a well and is supposed to be drinkable. But to be on the safe side we normally buy our drinking water in large 5 gallon plastic bottles. Ramon the water guy has been bringing them to the RV park for years. We hear of Bob and Char that Ramon has increased his price. He asks three times more for a bottle than the water store around the corner that does not deliver. So we decide to go to the store weekly and buy our water there. I still wash fruit and vegetables under the tap.

And then we convert about how much money we are talking: a 5 gallon bottle cost us 65 cent at the store and Ramon is asking 2 Dollars. What a joke, but we are Dutch, so cheap!

 

 

December 24, 2012
Monday it is Christmas Eve and it's always a party at the RV park. Santa comes along, Christmas carols are sung by the Canadians and Mexicans and for the children is the breaking of the piņata. That is a star of paper mache containing candy. Children must hit it with a stick to get it open. One of the Mexican ‘monkeys’ decides to jump into the star and runs away with it while ripping it open with his hands! On the picture you see him disappear into the audience  with his loot.

              
                                   an alternative sleth

             

       

The campers bring their Christmas decorations from home and in addition to traditional Christmas lights we see also inflatable Christmas decorations. And everything moves or has even running water inside (the round thing with that Santa inside)!

 

December 25, 2012
On Christmas Day we have our Christmas dinner with 14 people, including four new friends of Bob and Char.We had a delicious dinner outside at a long table under a palm tree. I took car for dessert, two lady finger cakes with some extra rum.
The dinner gets a little out of hand when Bob and PJ get their hands on the whipped cream bottle.

 

 

 

                          

   

     


Meanwhile, our Mexican friends Angelica and Oscar have arrived and after Christmas dinner we have a drink until late in the evening. We like to have some nice young people around us again.

Angelica is just as goofy as always. At ten o'clock she wants to walk around the RV park to say hello. I tell her that everyone is in bed by now, but she does not believe me. At half past 11, she really is unstoppable and together we make a tour around the RV park. All the lights in the trailers are off.
"Well, now I believe you Claudia".
Yes, the Mexicans have a slightly different rhythm than the Canadians, but six-thirty in the morning the walking group goes for a walk, while the Mexicans are still sleeping for a few hours.

 

December 26, 2012
On Boxing Day we are invited at Terry and Leslie for a snack and a drink in the afternoon. Our Canadian friends are on a small RV park in the town of Lo de Marcos, 15 minutes south. Leslie has again made creative Christmas presents: I get a jam jar plastered with stickers glued on a candlestick; a trailer trash wine glass. PJ gets a tacky T-shirt. We like their RV park in Lo de Marcos very much, though it is very small indeed. But it is always fun with those two. We miss them at La Peņita, Leslie is always up for a joke and Terry has such a English humor.

After the first week, I am still not quite in the rhythm of walking, exercise and lose weight. Linda, the lady who teaches Strength & Stretch (a kind of aerobics on fast music, with weights and then stretching exercises on a yoga mat) is away for a few weeks. Instead there is now yoga class and that I had never done this before. I don’t think I like it.

PJ walks every day with Bob in a sports park and he walks for half an hour up and down a steep hill. He also wants to lose weight because he gained already 5 kilos after he stopped smoking. Yes, he does not smokes since August 2012!

The weather is not so great. Cloudy with 25 degrees and a super high humidity. You break up in sweat walking to the shower. The showers here are old but neat and clean.

I chat with Fernandes, a Mexican who comes here every year for many years at Christmas.
"Isn’t it cold Claudia?"
"Cold? I sweat my butt off!"
"Really? Well, our kids are asking for extra blankets overnight. "
Very funny these Mexicans.

The veggie guy comes twice a week, just as the bread truck, the shrimp lady, the hairdresser and Norma the pedicurist. A treatment costs € 8, -

I have my toenails decorated with nail polish, glitters and rhinestones. PJ thinks this is worse than having your hair braided ā la Bo Derek at the beach. It is indeed very kitschy.  

   
                     view during the pedicure                   look at the nails of this lady!                            the result

December 28, 2012
We spent another evening with our Mexican friends Oscar and Angelica and meet new Mexican people. First we enjoy the sunset on the beach and then on their patio. Angelica gives me cinnamon tea with Bailey's. A surprising combination. And we dance to modern music.

  
                                                                                                    The cute Isabel and her pretty mother Caro

    

We already know where we are going to move next. On January 6th we will move to our final camping site, where at the moment a Mexican family is still camping. Our site is in ‘Boa Lane’. Two years ago three different boas were found in the same tree and removed by the brave staff members.

Last year and this year no boa constrictors have been seen (just a baby boa, but that does not count). Nevertheless remarkable that two years ago we have seen three adult boa constrictors when our Dutch friends  Peter and Monique were here for two weeks.

December 31, 2012
New Year's Eve we have a dinner with about 24 gray pigeons in the clubhouse. Everyone makes a dish. I made a vegetable dish. And we will also provide the music. I have made a playlist on the iPod with nice dinner music for 5 hours (not that this is going to last so long though!) and a playlist full of dance music. But my plans are ruined when a Mexican family, who have set up camp next to the clubhouse, starts to play Mexican music. And they turn up the volume. I try to turn up the volume of our quiet dinner music too, but that is completely lost in the Mexican beat. Well, we just settle, because we are the guests in Mexico!

   
After dinner we dance some in the clubhouse and then we go to the pool terrace where the evening party is given. The music is so terrible that we are already in  bed before midnight. What a disappointment.

January 2013, Mexico

January 1, 2013
The first day of the new year starts bad: it rains, it not a little too! I was actually planning to bake Dutch Oliebollen, but everyone is tucked in his motor home and we spend the day reading.

The next day it is dry, but still very gloomy weather. This especially sucks for Bob and Char, because their son Chad with girlfriend Jordan came to Mexico for a week and then you do not expect rain.

   

January 4, 2013, Playa Chacala
The bad weather has lasted only a short time and now it's beautiful again, blue sky and sunny. Half an hour north of La Penita is Playa Chacala, an idyllic beach in a beautiful bay surrounded by palm trees. We spend a day at the beach.

   
  
                           A fruit snack                 Shrimp Ceviche (raw shrimp cooked in lime juice)             Flying Cojones game    

January 6, 2013
Chad went fishing for a day and caught a Dorado. We enjoy a fish dinner on Sunday.

   

January 10, 2013
And then there is suddenly a beautiful site available from a couple who have come to La Peņita for 27 years, but go back home unplanned.  It is a beautiful site with an outdoor kitchen, a wall with window, a tiled patio and a massive steel structure over it where we can create shade with tarps. Pretty soon, the kitchen is in full use, the hammock hangs and we have borrowed some extra chairs to fill up the large space. And PJ takes the camper of the pickup so we are mobile.

 

 

Six days a week the alarm rings at 6 AM and I'm ready for my morning walk with a small group. In the beginning the sun is not even risen and the colors of the clouds are beautiful. The route passes through the poor part of La Peņita de Jaltemba, but continues through the pineapple fields. The views of the sun rising and low hanging fog is always beautiful. After I shot quite some nice photos with a point and shoot camera which I always carry with me, I decide to carry around our expensive digital camera with me. My walking buddy is Geraldine, a widow who has lost her partner eighteen months ago to breast cancer.  We have long, personal conversations.

 

 

 


  Geraldine feeds a horse along the way

     

   
                                         Pine-apple fields                                                                         Two Woodstorks


January 14, 2013
Terry and Leslie finally move to our RV park and we have a nice welcome dinner party at Bob and Char’s patio.

B & C leave for a few days for a trip to the mountain village of Guanajuato and we look after their dog Chiquita. We are delightful to read in the hammock together.

 

                            

January 27, 2013
Charlotte asks if we are also going to the rodeo. I am in doubt at first, because  zoos, circuses and rodeos are not on my list of things to do in Mexico. Char says that this is with only female riders in beautiful costumes and it will be more a dressage then a cowboy reodeo. So I buy two admission tickets and on Sunday afternoon PJ and I walk into town. We want to get a good spot so we take plenty of time in the arena. Outside the arena are the girls and horses are eager to get started.

 

 

We find two spots on the first row, in the shade, on the stone steps and wath the colorfully dressed relatives who are there to cheer the ladies. For the occasion I am wearing a bright orange cowboy hat.

   

   

 

It is a contest between four groups of four different villages from the area. Only ten minutes after the scheduled starting time, the ladies and their horses appear (a record for Mexican standards where time is like rubber).
Each village has its own color combination of the dresses and the ladies have nice make up and wearing beautiful hats.

A children fanfare walks in and after lustily singing the Mexican national anthem the show can begin.

 

 

To our amazement we see that all ladies are sitting sidesaddled! Occasionally the many layers of skirts are fluttering up and we see on one side the two legs, wrapped in a white cotton pants and white boots. The girls ride intricate formations that not every village has quite mastered.

 

 

 

 

After a short pause, the real competition begins. The ladies are galloping at high speed to a certain point and try to make 'skid marks' as long as possible with the hooves of their horses. They must stay within the lines, the skid marks must be at least 6 yards long and the horse Is not allowed to move its hooves more than three times. It looks sensational and many attempts are disqualified by the strict jury. A juror looks familiar and it turns out to be our village butcher! He is almost unrecognizable in his tight outfit and big hat. He has a very funny shaggy doggie ​​that follows him everywhere. The butcher is not always happy with that and he tries to put his doggie behind a fence. But soon we see the head come out and the dog crawls under a slit through the gate. A real comedian.

 

 

After another pause for the second part of the race the riders have to run a square trail and make a circle on every corner. This must be done again within the lines. Meanwhile the sun had set, we have been sitting for already three and a half hours on the hard stone benches and I have no more light to photograph. So we decided to take off.

It has been a very successful afternoon. About two weeks in the same arena the dancing stallions will do a performance. We certainly want to go.

Every Tuesday at the RV park is Taco Night with free Margarita cocktails. Leslie is always into fun things and this time she has a hat for us all.

   

January 28, 2013
One morning we see many birds flying above the bay. I go down to the beach to take a better look and there appears to be a huge school of small fish (candle fish) moving through the surf This attracts pelicans, frigate birds and a few Mexican fishermen. There is a big fight in the surf and I've never seen so many birds together. The weather conditions are perfect and I can take beautiful pictures. The Mexican fishermen fish with only a line and a hook with a fish it (no rod) and catch big fish. They are called Torro's and North Americans don’t eat them. One of the Mexicans is beaming from ear to ear as he snags a third fish, while a Canadian who is fishing with a rod catches nothing.

 

 

Our Queen Beatrix announces that she will resign. Reason for a 'party' with our friends to celebrate the arrival of our new King.

                                  

After three weeks the songbirds finally discovered my bird feeders. Unfortunately, the hummingbird feeder broke during the small move from one site to another, but I still have a seed tray and an oriole feeder filled with sugar water. Besides orioles and hummingbirds I also attract colorful woodpeckers, and unfortunately also squirrels (and cats). The squirrel breaks the plastic oriole feeder and PJ improvises with a beer bottle. Of course my favorite brand: Corona!

   

   

But I also shoot a variety of other animals and birds in a beautiful setting at the RV park.

 
                            iguana                                                             American Crodile in our pond

 
      a very young Green Iguana (10 inches)                                            Streaked-back Oriole

 
                   a squirrel with avocado                                                  american crocodile

 
                              close-up of a Iguana                                                  three iguanas on top of each other!

 
            Two Monarch butterflies                                                                          Bullock's Oriole

   
         Golden-cheeked Woodpecker                             Masked Tityra                                         Orchard Oriole

 
         Golden-cheeked Woodpecker                                         And this is my favorite: a smiling gecko!

February 2013, Mexico

1,2 and February 3, 2013
For three days I volunteered at the Cancer de Mama Clinica at the RV park la Peņita.
In 1996 Jackie Jackson, breast cancer survivor from BC Canada started a breast prostheses project for  Mexican women who cannot afford a breast prosthetic after a mastectomy operation. She started this in her bedroom. In 1996 we are talking about maybe 30 ladies. Dealing with cancer of any type is a horrible ordeal. Being a poor woman complicates the physical aspects due to lack of available options or assistance. Add the cultural taboos to the situation and most breast cancer survivors withdraw from social activities for fear of standing out due to the loss of hair and a breast.

For many women in Mexico, just surviving the breast removal surgery is not enough, there is still a huge uphill battle for regaining self-esteem and feeling like a woman again.

Jackie’s Cancer the Mama project was  adopted by the La Penita RV Park residents in 2008. The clinic provides more than free prosthetics and a hot meal - it welcomes clients with instant fellowship, understanding, and a chance to feel feminine again - all wrapped in smiles and hugs from the many volunteers. With some 250 volunteers (women, men and of course Mexicans) and the help of the local stores the clinic cannot fail.

For the second time I am asked to take pictures of this three days event.

Meeting in January with the volunteers, were they get the explanations and can pick their choice of volunteer work

Weeks ago the preparations for the clinic have started: the donated bra’s, prosthetics, wigs, shawls had to be sorted.

The clubhouse where normally the residents play carts and Ping-Pong, is transformed into a clinic with eight private cubicles that are pleasantly decorated to ease the women's anxiety and to help the Mexican women feel respected, comfortable, and safe.     
                        

The Mexican ladies are arriving at the nearby Pemex gas station because the busses are too large to travel right to the clinic door, so park volunteers ferry the women from the gas station to the trailer park. The ladies form lines and wait patiently for the vans.

I take a ride with one of the male volunteers. Because I am (dressed in a cancer the mama clinic t-shirt and a name tag) their first connection to the clinic the ladies start hugging me. I feel overwhelmed with love and affection. The only thing I can mumble is; “Buenos días seņoras, Bienvenidos” (good morning ladies, welcome).

 

The ladies from Guadalajara come with three busses and put pink banners on the front of the bus. They insist on taking a picture with my camera with me also in it.

The Mexican ladies sign the banner and will be given to Jackie Jackson later.



The ladies are registered by Mexican girls and they ask them their name en home town, when they had their surgery, if they have been here before. Most of the women have risen at 4 or 6m and of course there is breakfast and coffee for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food is prepared by many volunteers who are working behind the scenes, cutting fruit for breakfast and vegetables for the lunch soup. Kilos and kilos of potatoes, hot peppers, onions, papayas, oranges etc. are being chopped.

500 bowls of soup are served.

  

The first 15 ladies are called and are walked to the club house by entertainer Brian and seated. One by one is called inside.

 

Greeter Brian wears a different hat or wig every time he picks up the ladies at the pool and the Mexican ladies are laughing their heads off, cheering and clapping their hands.

 

   

             
                      Donated prosthetics                       and hundreds of bra's in all sizes

I follow one of the ladies into the clubhouse and wait in a corner until she is fitted her prosthetic and bra. When she comes out of the stall I asked her to have her picture taken and she shows off her new boobs.

 

It is heartwarming to see their gratitude to the fitters and their runners.

 

These women have hope, and as the days progress, the rewards of our efforts shine through.  As each woman is fitted with her prosthetic bra and tit bit, she emerges from the filling room, coat over her arm, like a butterfly from a cocoon.  Her hands fly to her face as she views herself in the mirror.  A wide grin splits her face as she realizes how beautiful she still is, then the tears overflow.
Others shake their booty and dance through the room, out the door and into the waiting arms of loved ones.  The air is filled with “Gracias, gracias”.  There are hugs, more tears and lots of clapping and cheering from the volunteers.  “Bonita Chi Chi’s” we call out; “beautiful boobs,” as indeed they are! (text by Karen Stranaghan)

Scores of women have been knitting tit bits, cotton filled breast prosthetics complete with nipple, by the hundreds.  Displayed by size.

Runner with a load of bra’s, ready to be fitted.
 

The regular bras have to be transformed into prosthetic bras by a team of volunteer seamstress.

Pinners prepare the pockets for the seamstress

The transformation of the Mexican ladies begins quickly as they are first fitted with a wig or hat so that they can enter the fitting rooms feeling less naked. This is my favorite spot in the whole clinic. Seeing the huge smiles on their faces, the laughter when the wig ladies try out different styles, cooing oohs and aahs and complimenting them with their beautiful skins. Some of them are still so young!!

   

        

           

   

              

  
Volunteer Shirley sees a lady that she recognize from another year, the reunion is wrapped with smiles and hugs.

The ladies have the opportunity to write their life story or make a thank you card while they are waiting to be fitted. These are collected in books and translated by local Mexican girls.

   

 

Highlight of the day is when the founder of Cancer the Mama Clinica visit the clinic in La Peņita. Jackie Jackson is greeted as a celebrity and the Mexican ladies all seem to know her or recognize her. They start to chant her name and sing a song for her and none of us remains untouched.

   

Jackie Jackson receives the signed banner and a recognition award from the Mexican ladies.

  

   Sharon in a big hug with a lady she just fitted.
 

It is very emotional and that women are so grateful. I've had so many hugs in those three days! And after the first day my photos placed in a Mexican Internet Newspaper!
http://solmexiconews.com/Articles/Cancer%20de%20Mama%20Clinic%202013.htm

The second day begins not so good: Early morning I am sitting behind my laptop in the RV and ten inches from my face is suddenly a HUGE spider! Inside!! Not quite a tarantella, but in size it is not much smaller. I run straight out and leave it to PJ to solve this problem. I am therefore taking pictures at 6.30 am of the first ladies that are already trickling in.

In 2013 in three days more than 550 Mexican women received special prosthetic bras, a breast prosthesis, a cotton knitted breast prosthesis (titbit), and two ordinary bras, which are adapted to carry the titbits

February 6, 2013
Melissa (Char’s daughter) and her boyfriend Jean arrive at the RV park for two weeks and we take them out for a day. We first went to the quaint village of San Pacho.

   

    

   

 

   

And then to the surfing village Sayulita where we have lunch on the beach. In this town we have camped more often and I was wondering if my jungle trail still exists. So we drive to the trail head and the jungle trail is still there, so spontaneously we took a one hour walk through the jungle (in shorts and on our slippers!). We saw a nice big woodpecker, a bird of prey and some parrots.

   

   

And we have regularly meals together.

   
                        large shrimp with a coconut crust and a mango salsa

   

February 7, 2013
Today I do not feel like walking with the 6.30 walking group, but I want to go to the village later to buy fresh rolls. So I decide to take the 7.30 AM walking group to the village. They only walk into town and have a cup of coffee or milkshake. So I get up and at 7.30 am I am ready to go.
"Claudia, are you coming with us?"
"Yes, I did not feel like getting up at six o'clock."
"But you are wearing flip-flops!"
I have to chuckle. For that fifteen minute stroll into the village I am really not putting on my hiking boots, I can do this on my slippers!

The circus is in town and therefore every hour a truck from the circus is driving through town, with in the trunk a cage containing a lion, leopard, tiger or another big cat. I get goose bumps. Sad!

February 10, 2013
The dancing stallions rodeo is a bit disappointing. Most male riders just ride in jeans and T-shirt, often slightly overweight with a beer in one hand. A bottle of tequila goes around before they have accomplished anything. The empty beer cans and plastic plates are carelessly thrown into the rodeo ring. When the festival finally starts the horseman take turns dancing on minute with their horse On Banda Mexican live music. It is probably very difficult, but it does not look impressive to take pictures of. So after ten horses we left.

   

   

     

   

 

February 11, 2013
"Claudia, you look great, did you lose weight?".
Rosa, one of the old regulars of La Peņita, who has now moved into a house in Guayabitos, is visiting the RV Park.
"Thank you Rosa, but no I did not". (You would think after walking 6 times a week, Stretch & Strength three times a week I would burn calories, but that is not the case. Luckily I did not gain any weight too!)
"I have lost 30 pounds," says Rosa proud.
I congratulate her on her new figure and ask her what she did.
"I have used droplets from a health food store. My family doctor agreed to this, he would even subscribe it to own mother".
I do not know how the relationship is with Rosa’s doctor and his mother ... maybe he does not want her to live long! But I still ask her for the name of the product, I would love to lose 20 pounds.
Rosa gives me the name and the next day I go to the Mexican pharmacy.
"Do you sell this product?", I ask and show her the name on a piece of paper.
"Yes". The assistant rushes to the back and comes back with a package. It is not the same name, so I ask if it is to lose weight.
"Yes," she replies.
She tells me the price and asks if I also want hypodermic needles.
"What?"
"Do you also need hypodermic needles, or do you still have them?"
"Needles? Do I need hypodermic needles for this?"
"Yes."
"Eeeh, forget it" and I walk out of the pharmacy again. These drops will have to wait until I am back in the U.S., because as much as I want to lose weight, I am not going to inject myself with something.


                                          Time for a daily mango / orange / banana yogurt smoothie.

February 12, 2013
We hear rumors of a carnival parade in the village. Of course, we are unable to find out what time it starts. One person says at noon, another knows for sure that the parade will start at 5 pm and a third says that it starts at 7 pm. So at noon we walk in the blazing sun into the village and we hear that it is about to begin at 5 pm.
At 5 pm we walk back into the village and eventually the parade starts at 6 pm. There are about 15 groups in the parade (children in Brazilian costumes, floats, music bands  etc.) and yet they see no chance to keep the parade together.  While the first ladies are ready and walk through the public, the other half of the parade in still in progress, with large gaps in between.

   

   

     

     

 

 

   

 

After watching the parade we go for dinner at an Italian restaurant (with a real Italian cook) and that was nice and cozy. The waitress is Dutch, but living in England. On the square in front of the restaurant are all sort of market stalls with food and games and packed with Mexicans. And a couple of beauty misses from the parade are dancing in the square gazebo.

                              

A few weeks later we walk through the village and a boy says hi PJ.
"Do I know you?" PJ asks a little surprised.
"I was that boy in the parade with the long white wig and bright pink heels," he replies without batting an eyelid. He was in the float that asked for respect. We did noticed him/her, but to think that we would recognize him without a wig and pumps…

It is noticed how tolerant they are here in La Peņita. There is a large gay community and travesty we see more often. When I once went to buy a bikini, I saw that the male vendor had some subtle eyeliner. But when he gave me the right size bikini, I noticed his striking fake nails with rhinestones! Apparently it is all accepted here.

February 14, 2013
Today is Valentine Gala at the RV park. The day before the volunteers started preparing for dinner: a roasted pig. I photograph all the phases: the pig goes into a fire pit with stones and coal! Entertaining to watch this process.  

   

In a large hole a wood fire turns slowly into coal.
The pig is filled with pineapple, ginger, herbs, onions and oranges and then sewn close.  

   
Then the pig is wrapped in foil, a burlap sack and chicken wire. The hot coals are covered with banana leaves and then the pigs goes on top. Another layer of leaves and then the gap is filled with sand.   

   

The next day the hole is opened till the scorched leaves and the pigs are singled out.                  

                  
                               The pigs are unpacked and a few hours later they are on the plate.

PJ and I have been asked to photograph all guests upon arrival (dress code is Under the Circus Top). Everyone has really done its very best dressing up.
For us the The concept Circus is taken slightly larger, and are also many carnival-like things to see. Like the Woman with Beard, The Tattoo Man, the Fortune Teller, but also a Midway. Because we shoot everyone on arrival and the rest of the evening we also take pictures, PJ does not feel like dressing up. I am an  ice-cream seller (the ice cream cones cannot melt because they are made of marshmallows).

     
        Terry andLeslie                                                                        Yes, that's me...

     
                                                 Bob and Char

   

     

   

   

   
             Tables for dinner                          Another clown              The Perez Brothers taking care for the music entertainment

February 19, 2013
"Claudia, there is a crocodile on the beach!".
It's 12 pm and we have not experienced this  before. The croc does not lie in front of the RV park, but two miles away.
"I will give you a ride", and before I know it I am sitting as a passenger on a motorized four wheeler.
"Low angle Clau, go through your knees!" PJ cries while I am disappearing.
The enormous crocodile lies in the surf and I can take beautiful pictures. I put them on my own Facebook and La Peņita RV Park Facebook (public page) and before I know it my photos are shared by many people. Even a Mexican Internet Newspaper.

 

Although we are a bit fed up hanging out with the elderly people, these moments are priceless. Everyone knows that we like to photograph wildlife and want to help us with finding beautiful moments.

February 19, 2013, Nuevo Ixtlan Hot Springs
With some friends we go to the hot springs of Neuvo Ixtlan. The road goes through a dry jungle and is very bumpy. After an hour and a half we reach the hot springs that are located in the idyllic jungle. For hours we soak in the hot odorless water, each bath has a different temperature and we barbecue some sausages.

     

   
                                                                                                                  Geraldine

There is also a Canadian family in our group who have a home in Guayabitos. Their children and grandchildren are visiting. They get a rude awakening when they get home and there has been broken into when they were to bathing. In broad daylight, the bars on their windows were cut through and all the electronic equipment was stolen (photo cameras, Ipads, Ipods, laptops). What a downer for them.

February 23, 2013
We treat our young friends Nick and Leann on ice cream in Guayabitos, decide to have some drinks at the beach and also bring a visit to Club Oasis.

 

March 2013, Mexico
March 1, 2013, Sayulita Mexico
After nine weeks in La Peņita it is time for something different and we move to the surfing village of Sayulita, 30 minutes south along the same coast. The RV park has only 20 sites and as many cute bungalows, located on the beach and is lined with coconut palms and is run by the German Thies and his Mexican wife.

             

             

   

Our neighbors are Wim and Jopie, a 70+ couple from Holland (Rotterdam) who emigrated to Vancouver in 1966, but still speak Dutch with each other. They have been coming to Sayulita for 17 years.  I have to get used to that our neighbors can hear everything I say to PJ, but it is a very friendly couple.
Wim, who calls himself Billy since the emigration brings food regularly.  One day he shows up with a whole wheat brown bread, then a kilo of old Dutch cheese, a couple of cans of sockeye salmon or a pan with pulled pork.

   

There is a very different atmosphere in Sayulita than in La Peņita. The fishing village attracts surfers from all over the world, because of the long and constant surfing waves. The feel good vibe is caused by the old hippies, families with young children, many tattooed bodies, drug tolerance, rasta heads and flower children.

"If the Mexican Riviera is the place where all your concerns melt away, Sayulita is the capital," I read on someone's blog. The girls on the beach are slim and wearing mini bikinis, the guys are muscular and have long hair and always carry a surfboard under their arms. There is music on the beach, dancing, hoola hoops and the smell of cannabis.

Not really a place where we feel right at home, but we like that we do not know anybody and do have any social obligations.

 

   

   

Unfortunately, exactly in front of the RV park there is a rip current', a channel of water flowing seaward and that will drag you to the open sea. Well fortunately PJ and I do not like to swim, but in front of the RV park swimming is not recommended. Only if you have a surfboard, you can go into the water. There are many lifeguards on duty. Two weeks ago, a U.S. man drowned and it took 10 days before they found his body! 

 
                                     Who is so stupid to swim in these waves!                      Taking out by the lifeguards

On arrival at the RV park we are approached by the Mexican Virgilio in a VW Beetle. He had seen us drive by and jumped in his Beetle and has followed us. Virgilio has just bought the same pick-up truck and would like information about a slide-in camper. He hands me his business card and then there is a beautiful picture of a close-up of a jaguar! Of course I immediately want to know the story behind the picture. He tells us that he works for the project Aura Jaguar AC which provides the preservation of the still wild living jaguars in Mexico. I have heard rumors that there are jaguars in this jungle, but I never got real evidence. A jaguar looks like a leopard, but is heavier and has a stronger rosettes drawing.
"Do you do tours?", is my first question.
Unfortunately he does not and he would rather talk about a camper.
Because we still have to check in, we agree that he will come to visit us next week for information about campers. And he invites us for a beer at his jungle home in San Pancho. I would do anything to be eye to eye with a jaguar. Unfortunately, we hear nothing more of Virgilio.

We had already checked with Melissa and Jean if the jungle path was still there, so every morning I go walking through the woods. There are beautiful walking trails through this little piece of jungle, which is sandwiched between the ocean, the highway and the towns San Pacho and Sayulita. I do not have to get up at six o'clock, because I notice that I do not see birds before 9 o'clock in the morning. 

 
De bay of Sayulita from above, our RV park is in the palm trees.                                The piece of jungle where I walk.

Because off all the bird feeders in La Peņita I am a bit spoiled and I suddenly I have to work hard to photograph the birds. I am looking for the Trogon and a Coatimundi (= mammal of the raccoon family) would also be nice. Trogons are famous for their beautiful colors. Especially the metallic green and bright red in many types of Trogons is striking. Many trogons have a colored ring around their naked eye. Their beak is short and wide, their wings rounded and often they have what looks like a long tail with black stripes, like a barcode. They are hard to find because they do not sing like the noisy green parakeets.

The first day I immediately get the fright of my life when I hear something big thrashing through the dense vegetation. With the jaguar in my mind, it appears to be a stray horse! Well, that's the last thing I expected in the jungle.

The next day I see two coati mundi’s, but they are gone before I have taken out my camera.

   
                                                                This Coati was in Brasil

When I get home on the fourth day with close-ups of Pale-billed Woodpeckers, PJ is suddenly excited to come with me. I am happy, because walking alone is lonely.

   

We finally find the Trogon and have three. We also photograph a young adult and a black hawk, parakeets, Chacalaca and more king woodpeckers.

   
             Citreoline Trogon                                         Citreoline Trogon                                Elegant Trogon

 
                   Juvenile Grey Hawk                                                             Black Hawk

      
                      Orange-fronted Parakeet                                                   Pale-billed Woodpecker

 
           Orange-fronted Parakeet                                                                          Rufous-bellied Chacalaca

9 – 10 March, 2013
The quiet surf town is buzzing with excitement for the international longboard and SUP (stand up paddling) races. Participants from all Hawaii, Brazil, Canada, Japan, California, North Carolina and Florida have arrived. With great interest  many hundreds of viewers and photographers watch the contest from the beach. The wind, according to the experts is not so favorable, but we are excited. I did not know SUP boarding could be so agile. For two days we stand on the beach and photograph the tight tanned bodies on those long surfboards. The girls are between 12 and 16 years. A group of Huichol Indians opened the game with traditional rituals.

   

   

   

 

 

 
Vanina Walsh from Hawaii, only 15 years young, talented and pretty! She won the 1st place in the SUP women.

 

March 17, 2013
Billy and Jopie invite us for an Dutch/Indonesian meal. Billy has really done his best.

          

          

March 18, 2013
The RV park residents organize a potluck dinner and I make a fruit salad. Kevin, one of the campers has turned 54 years and barbecues burgers for the RV park. In La Peņita there would have been a chair for everyone, which will be placed in a big circle. Here the people are hanging out with a glass of wine or cocktail and chat, a couple is playing the guitar, some are scattered on chairs and others are sitting on the floor. Small differences from La Peņita, but it makes it just a bit younger at heart here.

   

March 20, 2013
We decide to go north, before Semana Santa (Easter holidays) is coming and just like la Peņita in Sayulita it will be a big chaos with Mexicans campers.

In San Blas we stop at a marsh that is now filled with White Herons and a couple of Roseated Spoonbills! In the mangrove forest are also Storks, Ibises, Night Herons, Kingfishers, Cormorants and a Black Hawk. And also this time crocodiles.

   

We drive to the toll Highway and continue our way north to Mazatlan. At a military roadblock all the Mexican vehicles are allowed to continue, but the
RV-ers with foreign license plates are stopped. For half an hour we wait in line and are getting annoyed. We know that they are looking for drugs and weapons and you  would expect that the military would also stop the Mexicans, not only the tourists. At first times these military controls can be very intimidating. Young 20 year old guys in full battle gear and with an automatic rifle slung over the shoulder are staring at you. But after ten years of Mexico we know that the military boys are often very shy and these checks do not make any sense.

Also at this roadblock two soldiers take a look in the camper, so I open the door for them and we step inside. As always they look into a few cupboards, under the mattress and in the fridge.
 

 

"Lots of beer," says the soldier.
I agree. When he opens another cupboard, he sees a supply of beer.
"More beer".
Irritated I grab a can and point at the label "Cero alcohol".
They think this is funny.
When we step out of the camper, I say angrily: "Solamente turistas?" (Only tourists?)
"No, no," the military assures me.
I point to the campers around me! "Turistas, turistas, turistas ..." and I cranky I step back in our pickup. These roadblocks are always such a formality, they never look into real hiding places, so it does not make sense.

Meanwhile, yesterday we received an email from Leslie. She writes that she is already a week in Mazatlan's Hospital with acute appendicitis. Her appendix is ​​removed (she was just in time!) and now the scar that runs over her belly still has to close. We arrive early in the afternoon in Mazatlan and visit her in the hospital. We are, in addition to her husband Terry her first visit, so she is very pleased. We talk for two hours and take a taxi back to the RV park. In the evening Terry keeps us company for a while. He also had imagined those last weeks in Mexico differently.

March 21, 2013, Mexico
The next day we leave at 5 am still in the dark, because we have a long travel day ahead.

At a fruit control roadblock someone asks if we are with the circus.
"Circus?" PJ replies surprised.
The man points to our wildlife posters on the camper of a leopard and a lion. We continue our trip chuckling.

When we have lunch along the highway the Dutch Wim and Jopie stop. They too are on the way home, but in a car, so they go a lot faster. We chat and say goodbye again.

We are just on the way as we are stopped again at a mobile police roadblock. Two officers step into the camper with screwdrivers and flashlights in their hands. That looks serious! They start screwing everything open and shine their flashlights into holes, but they remain cheerful and friendly. 

One of the officers has a ceiling fan unscrewed and takes a metal baton with a small mirror at the end. He pushes the stick out, insert it into the double Styrofoam space from the ceiling and shines with his flashlight. This space is for the air conditioner which we do not have. PJ has built in the cable of the Wi-Fi antenna booster and I must admit that this is indeed suspicious.
I suddenly think of the American ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. His most famous  characters is Achmed, the Dead Terrorist. Achmed is the skeleton of a dead, incompetent suicide bomber. But when I see the police doing his thing with that stick with retractable mirror I suddenly think of one of Dunham's most simple characters: José, a talking jalapeņo pepper on a stick. Jose wears a sombrero and talks with a heavy Mexican accent. He symbolizes the Latino stereotype. Most of the jokes revolve around him to his origins and his strange appearance.
I am tempted to ask the officer if he also has a Jalapeņo On a Stick, but decide not to make jokes.

 
 

 

After they have checked all cupboards and fans they open the fridge.
"Lots of beer".
No, not again that begging for a beer. If I show them that there is no alcohol in it, their attention fades immediately.
What I think is funny that they still have not found the hidden space of PJ's cupboard during what I think is a comprehensive check.
For the first time we also have to open the outside storage areas and one of the officers gets excited when he discovers a double bottom. PJ has deepened a cabinet because there is so much free space under the camper and has this covered with a piece of board. What a disappointment for the officer when he finally has completely emptied the whole thing out and just finds tools, paint and aerosols in that hidden space.
After an hour, we finally are on the road again.

We stay for the night at a RV park in San Carlos.

 

The last day of travel through Mexico is a long one. Well above the city of Hermosillo is another big military checkpoint, where this time EVERYONE is checked. After we waited half an hour in PJ has to park the camper behind a row of cars. There is some confusion, but eventually we understand the Mexicans have a mobile X-ray machine who drives a few laps around the row of cars. We cannot imagine that this device also works for a camper and indeed only our camper also has to be checked with real eyes. The military does the familiar things: open cupboards, look under the mattress and in the fridge.
"Lots of beer"
Sigh.

 

 

We drive to the border, deliver our hologram sticker and get the deposit refunded to our account within a couple of days. The visa is stamped and we can go to the border of the U.S. drive.

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