Sunday, 26 August 2012

Only three weeks to go ..........

We've had a quiet week really, Chris has still been struggling with his knee and heel so I have been walking the dogs myself. That has proved mostly uneventful and they have been reasonably well behaved. The field next to koala is a great place, there are a few paths and then masses of new greenery which they just love to frolic around in. The temperature has been a bit cooler so we haven't been taking them swimming to cool down.

The kids all went back to school on Monday and it was like flicking a switch, suddenly the site was quiet in the week and it was just like when we first got here.Up in town it is quiet too and I asked in one of the shops and they said that there will be very little money till the corn harvest and lots of people are out in the campo working in the corn fields.

We went into Tepic again this week, to get supplies and to change some money into dollars ready for Peru. As we were coming out of Walmart i could hear the tell tale sound of our drumming neighbours. It seems they go to Tepic to drum at the traffic lights!!

The church in SAMAO



Earlt morning cloud sitting above tha laguna
I went back to kinder on Thursday and pleased to see that there are 6 children. Edith, the teacher had found three small black puppies on the main road near her house and for some reason she thought that we would take them and find homes for them!! Nope.......she must have said 3-4 times..........if Marlena was here she would take them!! Hopefully she has found homes for them or they will have to go to the vet -kinder than letting them struggle on the streets. The new kids seem nice but we will least it is good that there are a few more.

We have been swimming more this week, the laguna is about 3 feet higher ( a huge increase in volume) than when we first arrived and as the weather has been more rainy in the daytime the water temperature has reduced. Also the lack of holidaymakers means we don't have to play dodge the speedboats!!

We had a little spell of 3 days where we had rain during the day, it made the air much fresher and it wasn't very heavy and of course it is still warm. The corn is growing well and the rain will help it fatten.

On Saturday we had a trip out to some waterfalls near Cofradia and then went to a village called El Real. Athough it is only 5 km away from the laguna it seems like another world, far more people on horseback and a quiet pace of life. There was a set of gates opened with what looked like a small water viaduct. It was a private house but the owner , Antonio, invited us to have a look. The " viaduct" was a waterway built from adobe that carried water to the silver and gold mines. He was a lovely man who was super fit as he did triathlons.........he had calves you could have drummed on!! The majority of people we have met have been so friendly and helpful and if you ask nicely, and in Spanish it does open doors.

Chris has had some bad news from home this week, his mum is in hospital in Southampton. She has had fairly major surgery and is in intensive care. She is stable and slowly improving. There is no suggestion he goes home but she is 80 and has been in poor health for a few years so we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Chris continues with his Spanish classes and I can hear an improvement, he is more confident and can create sentences which is good. We have got our classes booked in Sucre in Bolivia. We will live with a Bolivian family and have 4 hours of classes each day. 

Today instead of lunch on the laguna we went back to the lovely BBQ spot. Again fabulous food, I had goat and Chris had pork. They make the tortillas by hand, so i bought some for home and they make cheese so bought one of those too!!

We have the three nuns coming for lunch tomorrow. Loretta , who lives in SAMAO, and B and Rita who live near Tepic but come here for the weekend. B and Rita are Irish but have been in Mexico for years and they work in the new federal jail in Tepic. It should be a good meal with plenty of craik!!

Well that's all for now folks, till next time.

Vaya bien

Norma x

Saturday, 18 August 2012

A day out in Mexcaltitan

Normal service is resumed with photos!! 

Tepic cathedral


Loretta-the nun!!

The end of one of the streets in Mexcaltitan

Eugene and Lexi
Apologies to those of you that I confused last week.........we leave here 18th September and head to Peru on 19th and travel in South America till February 2103 and only THEN will we fly from Brazil to Barcelona and then home!!

This week we have had variable weather from boiling hot Sunday to cooler with a bit of refreshing rain some days but the whole place continues to be greener than green and plants in the field next door have now grown to over 6 feet. Various wild flowers are appearing and last Sunday there were half a dozen small parakeets in beautiful shades of green. We are also blessed with thousands of butterflies everywhere, they just flutter up as you walk.This is all around us, it is a very relaxing place to live..........if it wsn't for the drummers!!

On the food front we had Chris' special BBQ ribs yesterday-they were yummy. On Sunday Chris, Miguel and I drove out to a restaurant in the countryside called La Sierra. It was Mexican fast food and definitely not MacDonald's!! Its was a BBQ place so as you sat down they came with a salad ( which we found out to our cost was chill++), some home-made cheese, home made gorgeous tortillas and the inevitable salsa.......which can be red or green and is always hot!! There were no menus just choice of lamb, beef or goat. After four months of abstinence I had lamb and it was to die for, they cook whole legs of lamb and then shred the meat..........muy rico-as they say in these parts. As we entered the restaurant there was a BBQ with loads of different meats on, so I asked the waitress what it was and she brought us a taste......a large plate with pork, grilled lamb and chorizo. Although it was simple food, beautifully cooked and speedily served in simple surroundings we nearly fell over when we got the bill. Three plates of lamb, the starters, two beers, two drinks, a coconut ice cream endless fresh tortillas and it was 235 pesos which is under £12. We pay that for two plates of coconut prawns in the laguna. As you can't really buy lamb in the butchers we will definitely be back!!

Chris was up in town on Wednesday for his Spanish class and I nearly lost one of the dogs.......thankfully he turned up. We all went into the field and the 3 dogs went racing away and five minutes later there was still no sign of them. I walked the usual route and Lexie turned up so I put her lead on to avoid losing her again, got near the end and little Lily turned up..........but still not a sign of Eugene and usually you can see where he is as he moves the plants around. 

So I took the other two back to the house and set off again to look for the final bit of the jigsaw---------I love the Spanish word for jigsaw el rompecabezas. It was hot and I walked around the field again until a very tired looking and sheepish Eugene came out from the undergrowth. It took him about half an hour to cool down but at least by Chris came back I had all 3 dogs!!

Yesterday I had a fabulous day out with Miguel. I picked him up at about 6.45 am and the laguna was shrouded in low cloud -it looked fabulous. We were heading for Mexcaltitan, an island where it is believed the Aztecs first created a city. We drove north to Tepic and then out north west on the road to Mazatlan ( just in case anyone wants to look at a google map!) 

About half an hour past Tepic we stopped for breakfast at a roadside never know what to expect in Mexico........quite a big place we had huevos revueltos mexicana y frijoles y tortillas ( Mexican style scrambled eggs, with onion and chill and beans and tortillas) Behind where we sat was a large swimming pool with bright yellow painted walls and a couple of of which had  a Marilyn Monroe style blond in a purple bikini!! Random!! 

We then drove through Santiago Ixcuintla and you then take a road heading north that ends at the ferry at La Batanga. The road goes through a couple of villages , one with a church painted Wedgwood blue, then it becomes a  fabulous flat and straight road. It changed from pasture to miles of wetland with beautiful waterlilies and  storks, heron and egrets. Then it became mangroves as we drove up the middle -you could see for miles if another car was coming-the only obstacles were herds of cows enjoying a dip in the water. It was so peaceful and different.

The information we had suggested there was a ferry timetable across to the island ; so we weren't sure how long we would have to wait. But a little old man came across to the car said horita ie NOW , he hinted he would look after the car ( I gave him 5 pesos) and off we went. 

The lancha was 80 pesos for up to 5 people but we looked up the road and there was no sign of anyone else so decided to just go. It was a ten minute trip through the mangroves and then for 50 pesos more we went right around the isand. We were both staggered at how small it was ..........and a very simple design a central square ( it was circular!!) with streets radiating from it and then one parallel street going all the way round. We had planned to enjoy the local speciality Shrimps-most of the work is shrimp fishing but it was too close to breakfast. We wandered round town , it was hot as we were now at sea level ( SAMAO is quite high) and visited the tiny museum and the church of St Peter. It was a lovely little place but there are no signs of the Aztecs, no artifacts etc , so who knows?? We were the only tourists on the island and gringos to boot so we felt pretty noticeable, but as usual everyone was really friendly. Surprisingly there was no queue , or wait, for the return lancha. 
Mexcaltitan-from the air
P.S. This is not my photo!!

The car was still in one piece and the little man was now the toilet attendant , basic but clean!! We set off to retrace our steps and drove slowly down the road enjoying the flora and fauna of the wetland. 

As we had driven through Santiago Ixcuintla we had spotted a Jesus statue on a hill so thought we would stop off. It was easy to navigate the town centre , mostly one way, and we parked outside a beautiful church in the Plaza Principal. Sadly, the doors were closed but to the side there was a gate open so I thought it was an alternative entrance but it was only the church offices. I asked a woman in the office if it was open today and she said 4pm ( it was about 12.45) . She then asked if we wanted to look and she opened up the church specially for us. Such lovely people xx

It was the parish church, so quite large, very peaceful and a lovely interior with pale green walls, a beautiful cupola and carved pews etc. From there we walked out into the full heat of the day and ended up in an open door ice cream parlour.........seemed a better option than lunch in the heat. Again we chatted with alovely man from anearby town who gave up his table for us. We looked  at a few of the colonial buildings and then set off to find the Jesus statue.........we got part way up a very cobbled street but it petered into nothing. 

So we headed off home.......... bought some lovely biscuits from a guy filling up at the petrol station........this is Mexico!! 

 It was a long day I got back to the laguna about 4.45 pm but it was very enjoyable. I was glad Miguel had suggested it, it was a place I had hoped to see on our beach trip but we changed those plans at the last minute.

Today is Saturday so, once the dogs are walked ,we will have breakfast out and then unless I can think of an excuse I need to do some cleaning in the house it is cloudy and cool so it would be a good time to do some housework. Chris isn't too good at the minute he has a bad heel.........plantar fascitis ........I think .......and it has set his knee off!!Chris is beavering away on the plan for Chile and I need to get the Argentina one started, it will be better to have a rough outline before we go as you don't get much time when you are on the road!!

We want to come back to Mexico someday and see the country, together with other parts of central America. A camper van would be possible as the distances are not huge like in S America but that it for the future!!

Hope life is good wherever in the world you are.
Till next time

Norma xx

Friday, 10 August 2012

Just over 5 weeks left!

Its 6.30 am here at the laguna and it is cool and quiet, well quietish!! Bit of birdsong and insect noise. It continues to amaze me how stunningly beautiful it is; as I was swimming yesterday the laguna was still and the landscape so green.

We have only 5 weeks left to enjoy this before we set off on an entirely different adventure and even with that I have got the final parts planned. We arrive in Barcelona on 26th February , early in the morning, and leave the next day. Normally we would leave booking a hotel/hostel till nearer the time, but I just checked out a few places and saw that more than half of the hotels were booked for that night. Tried a place I liked and got a reply to say there is a 3-4 day international mobile phone congress on!!  So, I've booked a room , with free cancellation in case out plans change. We have the flights back booked now, Singapore airlines Sao Paulo, Brazil to Barcelona and then the next day Barcelona to Newcastle with Easyjet.

We've had a busy week ,on Thursday Miguel came down to the laguna and Chris did fabulous ribs on the BBQ. The pork ribs here are about a foot long with loads of lovely lean meat on them. For starter I did a traditional Mexican dish with Jicama. Its a root, a bit like Kohl Rabi but its very crispy and refreshing and you slice it thinly and serve with chili and lemon juice...........well what else this is Mexico!! 

On Friday we thought we would go and have a beer outside the little shop in the laguna, but there were a load of locals who were wasted, so we drove to Catalina and they were still open and we had a couple of beers with a view of the laguna. It was lovely, as usually, Moni and Aurora are hard at work and we only get a brief chat but we sat and chatted to Moni and learned a bit about her family. She is one of 10 and now runs the restaurant and lives across the road in a house behind the restaurant. We chatted about all sorts and all in Spanish, Chris has improved amazingly. He works really hard to revise for his lessons and he can now do sentences which is great.

Last Saturday we went to Tepic in the car to stock up on essentials, wine, granola etc We went to a Mexican buffet place for lunch and saw our first live Olympics -we managed to catch Jessica Ennis in the 800m, the long jump gold and I am sure our shouting at the TV helped Mo Farrah to gold!!

On Sunday after church I went to check on Loretta , the nun, who finally seemed to have turned a corner and then popped in to see Maria de Jesus. She is a lovely lady who lets Chris and Pedro use her house for Chris' Spanish lessons. I wanted to have a recipe for Pozole, so got one for both the red and green varieties. (Pozole is a traditional pork stew type dish with corn) She also showed me how to make a dish with requeson, which is low fat soft cheese. We chatted about different foods and I said I sometimes cooked Thai food. We then had our favourite coconut prawns for lunch at Catalina.

Tuesday we booked the car in for a full service and went to Tepic on the collectivo and just wandered round like tourists. Its very efficiant, it goes from the market square and once it is nealry full it sets off. It takes about an hour, costs 25 pesos, and drops you off at the main square in Tepic. The cathedral was open and it was very simple and very reflective. There are 2 main museums, one of which is the regional museum. The latter was closed so we could only visit the Cinco Pueblos, the five peoples, which was tiny and told a bit about the main indigenous groups in Mexico. 

The highlight of the day was a vegetarian restaurant which had a wonderful buffet spread. For 85 pesos (£4.50) we got fresh pineapple and parsley agua fresca ( its a sort of watered down juice, really refreshing) and then as much food as you wanted. There were little tostados with guacamole, lovely spinach pancake pinwheels, creme of garlic soup ( a local speciality), there was a wonderful array of salads, fresh quesadillas, cabbage stuffed with requeson, a lovely soya souffle, tamales ( steamed corn, it reminded me of steamed pudding) potato and cheese cakes . It was all so tasty and the staff were lovely. A definite place to return to before we leave. 

On the way back there was an example of the relationship between men and women in Mexico. There was en elderly couple behind us on the bus and they got off before SAMAO and he got off first and held out his get her to pass down a polystyrene container .......and there was me thinking he was going to help her down.........oh no she had to struggle herself.!!

Jose in the garage is a lovely guy.We collected the car and the service had cost £32.50 , a big chunk being the cost of the oil for the oil change. The labour was 100 pesos, £5, and it was cleaned inside and out.

Wednesday Maria came down to the laguna and we made a Thai red chicken curry and a Thai sweet n sour vegetable. We also did a funky snack thing I learned to do in Koh Lanta with salad leaves that you make into little pockets and fill with dried shrimp, ginger, onion, chill, lime and then drizzle with honey. think she enjoyed it, when I went to pick her up she had a funky yellow 1800cc VW beetle in the garage. It is 32 years old , so even though she can appear the serious school teacher, ( she was a headmistress in her final job) maybe she had a racy past!!

I had a quiet day to myself yesterday as Chris was up in SAMAO helping fix windows in the dispensario, they have more to do today. Its one of the advantages of living in a place that you get to feel part of the locals. 

Tonight we are off to Samao to eat with Miguel; Isabel, his landlady will make some food for us. We are then off to Maria's house for a evening of games!! We aren't really cards and dominoes players but it should be fun to play in Spanish!! Of course my competitive spirit will mean I want to win. ( Reference swingball, before my family make that comment!!)

Well that is about it for this week, hope you enjoy reading about our time here in Mexico and lovely to hear from people. No photos this week..........double ration next week!!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Greetings from the laguna

Morning, or afternoon or evening depending on which time zone you are in!!

One of the things blogspot allows you to do is to see where people are logging on from in the world..........Russia seems to be a strange place to have a large number of views!!

We are back to normal life in the laguna which is just stunning now, 6-8 weeks of rain has made it into the greenest of places and when it comes the rain is so refreshing. We get thunder and lightning 4-5 times a week and it rains a little bit most days and a lot some days. It's scary sometimes and the other night the window frames were rattling with the thunder overhead.Last week we woke up to rain one day and it drizzled on most of the day.

The weather has been doing funny things to the laguna though, the algae has been worse but yesterday we had our first swim and it was wonderfully clear. The Mexicans look out at us as if we are mad, our hairdressers asked did we wear life jackets and weren't we scared of the eels, another person asked had we seen the monster!! Well, no, we just swim, sans life jackets and the only thing we see is the odd passing leaf!!

I've had a dose of Delhi belly this week-think it might have been the breakfast last Saturday. Lazed around feeling sorry for myself just wanting some peace and quiet...........huh no chance in Mexico, what with the drummers, the birds, the insects etc Feeling better now though and it did get rid of the little bit of weight I put on on holiday. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say.

Chris and I are in planning mode for South America, I might start my colour-coded spreadsheet soon ( this is something that only people who have been with me on a trip to the Edinburgh fringe will understand). He has various pieces of paper with his hand written hard to read......good job I spent years deciphering the handwriting of doctors when I worked as a dietitian.

Our friend Loretta is making slow progress, she has had typhoid and I am staggered that the order of nuns don't vaccinate the sisters who venture off to foreign parts. I'm hoping to visit today to see how she is doing. My jabs are up to date for everything possible except rabies.

I was ill over the weekend and was so looking forward to luscious coconut prawns but had boiled rice and plain grilled fish...........this Sunday...........the prawns. Tomorrow Michael is coming for dinner ( he was ill last week to ) and Chris is firing up the BBQ and he has been marinading huge pork ribs all week. I don't like loads of meat but I'm sure they will be delicious. 

This pirate ship is specially for my little mate Alexander xx

Having climbed to the top..........

There is only one way down!!
We keep hoping that we will get some cooler morning weather to walk round the lake but we have had clear warm days and cooler much better than June!! When we go to South America it will be really cold at night in many places , those Andes are pretty high!! Maybe I should stop the HRT and have built in central heating.

That's about it for now, I'm off to town about 10 and next week we are off to Tepic on the collectivo-that should be fun. Collectivo's are small minibuses and they leave once they are full. Its about an hour to Tepic and it drops you in the Plaza Principal-we thought we would go and look at the cathedral, museums etc.

Apologies about last week's blog-not up to the usual standards-the spellchecker on blogspot doesn't always's hoping.......

Till next time

Norma xx