Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Nuevo Mexico City

Mexico City is a vast polluted, crime ridden smog ring of nightmarish traffic and poverty.

At least that is what I have heard all these years.

I read 'The Lacuna' a few years ago. One of the first fiction books I had picked up in years and I was captivated. Revolution, art, homosexuality, Communism and Artes of Los Campesinos. We have to go to Mexico City I said to Catherine.

No way she said.  I'm not going to get my head blown off or framed for some crime.

To be fair, the police have a reputation, rightly earned, for corruption.

Thus we went to Yucatan for a month backpacking right away from Cancun, which was considered safe, and loved it.  No gringos but us.

Then the next year my father went to Mexico City alone for a week after visiting an expat friend and said he loved it.

Catherine then agreed to venture there for a few days.

What do I see now in Mexico City?

A vast treasure of fabulous ancient buildings; some of the most beautiful architecture baroque to late medieval to Belle epoch. Mix this with cathedrals that leave you spinning at the gold, cherubs and beneficent saints.

I did a weekend intensive blacksmith course 2 years ago and now understanding how you shape iron, I was in awe of the grill work which abounds the buildings, much of it going back 400 years. The artistry! I stand in awe of the work all these fellows did, knowing how hard and hot it is to stand by the smith melting metal until you can finally force it to your will.

Who will win? You or the iron?

Most of the main districts of the city feel a bit like a very crowded Paris but in Mexico.

But as Catherine said, it does feel a bit like being on an acid trip. So packed with people, 22 million in the city and noise everywhere: the weird calliope organ grinder guys in some odd uniform everywhere like a bad circus nightmare. Who are they?

The police everywhere always in riot gear mostly checking texts on their cell phone as protest after protest occurs in Zocoala every day. Every day.

All the square surrounded by seas of gold sellers hawking religiously medals of Oro. Every shop. All the restaurants are hidden away up via gold shop tunnels to mysterious elevators that deposit you out of the rabbit hole into a fancy restaurant where you would think you were sitting in First Class on an ocean going Liner in 1910.

Stumble then upon the remains of vast Aztec pyramids where young gay men walk by holding hands. Two very ordinary looking Mexican women arms around each other laughing, then stop, and start making out for a few minutes, then kiss and continue on, so in love. No attitude there.

Awed at Diego Rivera murals today at the Palacio National.

When you first approach the main staircase,  you see all of Mexico history is played out before you like a storm of people, history, earthquakes and revolutions.

When I left the Museo De Artes National, with its lamps of dragons, I went down to Maderno. Waiting to cross the traffic a huge lightening strike and Crack of thunder like doom with only a light delicate rain.

All the pedestrians crowded waiting for a traffic police whistle.

Most people were laughing and bounding across in front of the cars with coats on their heads.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Stars, Birds and Photoplankton

20 minutes from Puerto Escondido is a 5 mile long saline - freshwater laguna that changes salinity depending on the season. This gives it an abundance of diverse and specialized life which has evolved over centuries to pick a niche in which to flourish.

My friend Margarito is a fisher on the Laguna. The father of Rudy.

I went on a bird tour with a Canadian naturalist who knows the area well.  Most interesting of birds were a particular vulture who has adapted to the eating of corpses, by growing no feathers on her head.  That way she can stick the whole skull deep into the carcass and not have to do any real cleaning or preening.

Anyone who knows birds, know that they are fastidious groomers. The vultures' other secret weapon is an adaptation whereby they always defecate on their legs and feet.

This way the icky maggots they must stand around get no traction up their body.

Not a story for breakfast but fascinating nonetheless.

Next we get the frigate birds, named after pirate ships, whose entire feeding is based on banging on other birds heads with a specially adaptive 'whacking' beak, or just pulling out their tail feathers so that the other birds get so upset they either vomit all their stomach contents or drop the fish they captured.

Try teaching that to your kids.

Then a very tufted Ibis doing a gentle and beautiful courtship ritual, slowly moving his wings in small, small graceful movements, while he gently offered his mate a large branch with his beak, to help build the nest one branch below.

I could hear Gershwin 'American in Paris' ballet playing as we looked at the interplay between both glorious birds.

Finally a personal favourite in honour of March 8th, the poly-andryous Jiacana.  A duck of whom the females will mate with some 5 to 6 males.  Lay eggs in 5 to 6 different nests while running between them, the nests being quite aways, away from each other. The different males incubate the eggs in each nest and when the chick's hatch, her males do all the caring and feeding.

The Laguna is also magical as it has phosphorescent plankton.  On our second night we took a tour in the dark of the New Moon. You go out on a launcha, a small boat, and drive to shady mangroves.

Catherine was sceptical  but agreed to give it a chance.

Jump out into the warm waters and notice that every rapid movement of feet or hands, anything producing ripples or currents causes all the plankton to glow iridescent. You are like a human glow stick. The water around you lighting like blue fireflies.

The new waxing crescent sank beneath the mangrove wall of jungle and all you could see were stars.

Up high in the Centre, the Milky Way, like a pale ribbon at the dome of the sky.

In the pitch dark paddling about, the stars clear and brilliant above us. All the other swimmers laughing and giggling, speaking Spanish. All swimming around the boat for an hour making glowing faint marks to honour, I think, the stars.

Catherine swims up to what she hopes is me, a figure in the dark water.

OK. She says " This is one of the best days of my life."

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Rudy is Dancing

In the 80 degree heat Puerto Escondido can remind one of that scene in 'Lawrence of Arabia' where Omar Shariff, warns Lawrence that they most now cross the desert of death: 'The Anvil of the Sun!'.

OK, it's not that dramatic but it is really, really blasting hot and you wither as soon as you step away from the shade.

That is why all sensible Mexicans siesta between 2 and 4 pm.

Yesterday I had a fabulous massage from a  Bruha.  She lives next to out hotel and her massage room is three stories up in a palapa, traditional palm thatched roof, with a beautiful view of the ocean.  Cool breezes relieve the heat. She calls her rooftop and escaletes,  'The Stairway to Heaven'.

After my massage I wandered back to the hotel. All the power in the town had been out since early morning and the Internet had crashed repeatedly since the day prior.  I started getting Trump panic.  Had he just pushed the button?

Man, I thought, I don't want to live out the plot of 'On the Beach'.

Trying to get control of my presidential anxiety, I elected to go for a walk.  It is the most cool by the sea.  I went to the beach bar where my surfer friend from Baha works and sat down and ordered an ice cold dry white wine.

The breeze was pretty flimsy and there was a silence in the small town because of the power outage.  All the shops just closed up.

A few small time fishermen of dubious distinction came up to sell me a fishing tour.  When that didn't work they then whispered "you like smoke weed, get you weed?"

No Gracias.

A few minutes later a worn older guy I had seen before walked up to the table. I saw him the first day we arrived. He sported a small green parrot on his Sombrero. By this I mean the ubiquitous Mexican version of a Panama hat.

He asked me if I wanted  a canoe on the Laguna where birds and wildlife are abundant. I had been out the morning prior from 6:30 am to 1:00 pm so I had, had a lot of Laguna.  But also I was flying out the next day at 8 am.

He said he understood and sat down at the table weary from the assaulting heat.

Que nombre, esta, parrot?

Where are you from he asked. Canada I replied.

The little parrot jumped down onto his hand. "He attacked by eagle and he broke wing so he not fly.  I have no son.  I have only animals.  No house. We live with trees. In Hammocks."

He showed photos of him with his wife in a traditional laguna palapa house without concrete.  He was one of the 400 traditional fisherman who fish the laguna. Also some turistas he took out and his many dogs who he calls his sons.

The parrot was now walking on the table.  Can I see him I ask?  "Yes his name Rudy."

Rudy walked up to me and I thought he was trying to bite me.

"No, no. He fine, tell him no bite turistas."

I put my hand down and Rudy hopped on my finger. He was a chatty little thing looking me directly in the eye and talking to me like an engaging 3 year old. I have no idea what you are saying little fellow, I said, but he kept chattering away.  Not repeated calls just this string of extremely varied sounds like he was just telling me things all while looking at me and waiting for some reply.

The old man sat and told me more about his life.  Then Rudy jumped down from my finger just about the same time the power went on.

The beach restaurant was suddenly blasting 'Bad' by Micheal Jackson and then Rudy started doing the weirdest thing I've seen.  He was turning his head and body exactly like Mick Jagger. I am not making this up. The old guy laughed.

"Rudy is Dancing! He likes music. To dance!"

The song changed and Rudy got interested instead,in trying to pull the serviettes out of the dispenser and groom himself on them.

The old guy, now we had introduced ourselves, was Margarito, his wife Margorita, and they had 15 cats.

Again he said sadly, "I have no son. Only the animals.  But we are animals too, humans, we all family."

He pulled out a recorder and started playing to get Rudy to dance again. But Rudy was still talking to me and focused on grooming himself on the table napkins.

Then there was a weird sound behind me and Margorito, had me look behind.  A huge black bird and smaller black grackle, were sitting on the chairs directly behind me and actually dancing. Staring at us and chattering to us.

Again, doing the Mick Jagger moves, folding out their wings in small flaps, head bobs and tail wags.

It was then that I knew Margorito was a shaman.

Rudy was still interested in the napkins and then took a poo on the table and walked up to Margorito's recorder and kept biting on the end, I think, to make him stop.

I think Rudy really had a preference for dance music.

They got up and we bid farewells, Rudy jumping back atop Margorito's Sombrero.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Wonderful Life with a Surprise

I call this post the title Wonderful Life as my second boat trip with Lorenzo brought me face to face with a giant manta ray. They look like something from pre-cambrian sea life, which Stephen Jay Gould wrote his book, Wonderful Life, about.

The giant manta must have been at least 5 meters in length if not more, swimming along the top of the ocean. Lorenzo grabbed fins and masks and he tried to get close to her.  The manta swam down only to resurface a few feet later. Then 3 passengers donned fins and masks and went in just as the manta swam beneath them.  They said they could only see a huge, dark mass. We, standing on the deck, saw the entire creature.  A giant floating sail train moving gracefully past the boat, wings in motion. Ignoring we odd things out of our element.

Soon after our giant manta disappeared, two smaller orange and green manta came by, swimming gently in a pair. Graceful as dancers.

The rays all eat plankton and a change in current bringing plankton up to the surface may have accounted for their rare appearance topside.

Earlier on the trip we again managed to see hundreds of dolphins swimming together. They were smaller than the dolphins of the previous trip, but weren't engaged in a straight out chasing hunt. Rather they were circling the fish forming a corral, with the other dolphins pushing them to the surface, so everyone could dine.  I had heard about scientists only figuring out recently that this circling was a herding strategy so it was fabulous to actually watch them doing this for well over an hour.

And where there are dolphins hunting, so are birds and other creatures.

When we first caught sight of the dolphins and drove into the centre of the leaping frenzy, suddenly Lorenzo screamed "shark!" with glee.

The young woman from New York next to me shrieked and jumped back two feet almost knocking me over.

While I was looking in the other direction a huge thrasher shark had leaped out of the water behind me.

Mantas, turtles, dolphins but alas I missed the jumping shark.

Friday, March 03, 2017

delfin daze

Went on a 7:30 am dolphin, whale and tortuga tour with Italian divers Lorenzo and Francesca and Andreas the Mexican captain.

I was told by Lorenzo that I was on a very special tour as I was the only tourist.

Both Lorenzo and fetching Francesca look as the dream team of European cool. Perfectly sculpted bodies, abs, barefoot, tanned. Slightly grizzled but hauling heavy equipment down to the beach like swaying, sexy Marines.

They threw the fins, snorkels and drinking water into a large canvas bag tossed then into the boat.

 I was still quite sick two days ago but jumped into the launcha, without troubles.

Capitan Andreas set off for the sea.

What do you want to see  Lorenzo asked earlier, smoking, like only it Italians can driving his truck barefoot.  Whales? Dolphins?

I told him I had very good whale Karma having seen very many whales in Newfoundland and Baja Mexico very close.

Ah he said, if to work in Baja, there you can charge very much.

In the launcha I said I wanted to see dolphins. I have never seen dolphins in their sea.

We go to find dolphins but must go far out he said.

We drove for what felt like an hour although it was probably 20 minutes.

Suddenly  Lorenzo loses his mind telling Andreas to steer port as he and Francesca take turns roping themselves to the bow looking in the far distance.

Lorenzo yells, look, look Beth! See the dolphins by the boats..

A few small boats are gathered near birds, then I see black shapes flying and flipping in the air.

Dolphins. Not just two or three, but hundreds and hundreds of dolphins.

The dolphins are suddenly everywhere flipping right by the boat racing through the ocean. Lorenzo and Francesca are ecstatic pulling out cameras with beautiful lens climbing on the boat like  monkeys to get a shot.

They get me to climb to the bow to look down and ahead.  The whole ocean is at least 300 dolphins all around jumping, racing throwing themselves 10 feet in the air. For every dolphin we see says Lorenzo 5 times that under the waters

Below me the ocean is like glass and I am racing with 8 dolphins in front of or beside me. On every side hundreds of dolphins jumping and flipping.

Lorenzo and Francesca and I are laughing, whooping and pointing out and sharing best dolphin jumps. She just jump 15 feet I think yells Francesca! Look at this one! I yell.

Suddenly something changes and the dolphins begin racing and we have to go top speed to try and keep up.  Lorenzo is ecstatic.  See! They have seen something and all are chasing!

We see tuna jumping everywhere like the dolphins. They chase the Tunas who chase the sardines.  The tuna want the sardines but so do the tunas. The Tunas tell them where the food is. The Tunas are the best hunters Lorenzo says.

Lorenzo and Francesca pull out cigarette after cigarette smoking like tanned Vogue models while they snap photos of dolphins so fast and massed and focused and we in the midst of this frenetic hunt.

I am laughing and we are all still going Look!  Look! There! There now!

We see all these babies leaping with their Moms, little flippers touching her. The babies always just with Mom.

I am so awed by it all.  And then I started weeping.

A profound despair in bright sunlight.

Such a beautiful brilliant complex and astounding planet we live on. Such a patrimony. Things our children will need.

Lorenzo says to me. I have told Francesca this, I am tired of diving, but I will never tire of the ocean.

He takes another drag of his cigarette, looks out. I look at the tanned, worn feet of Andreas and Lorenzo and think about all our lives.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

the baddest pipe in the world

Sadly I have been so sick for the last 4 days I have been barely functioning.  I knew as we sat on the bus that tossed us stem to stern that the woman hacking directly behind me would infect me with some Uber virus that would take me down for days.  And I was right.

Now able to at least stand I tell about playa Zicatela

The beach is kilometers long and some of the most  beautiful sand one could imagine. .

However it is one of the most  dangerous beaches in the surfing world having a riptide and under tow that terrifies even the strongest surfers.  My one surf friend from Baha, Mexico moved here to challenge his surfing skills.

No one can swim here.

What beach is best surf I asked my friend from Baha? There are many other beaches near here.

Zicatela. It is the exciting one but so dangerous.  How do you deal with the danger I asked?

You must train yourself to remain Tranquillo.

I watched surfers being rolled like laundry in waves approaching 20 feet.

Tonight the waves were like kittens lapping at the milk of the shore. Though still so dangerous one is cautioned about even walking the water that comes up to the sand.

The last two nights the waves were as if Poseiden, had taken all his rage out against the sand pounding his fists on the shore which grew smaller with each 20 ft wave.

The five surfers afloat his willing supplicants.

Happy to be Poseiden's toys, if they can be allowed to have play in his mighty kingdom.


Friday, February 24, 2017

the turtle liberation

Sea turtles are a very endangered species. Reasons 1, 2 , 3 because of us. Men rob the torto nests of eggs to swallow them with liquor to make them great and potent lovers.

The tortos, in the sea swallow gobs of plastics we throw into the ocean thus dying from a full belly of garbage.

Three, well you all know. No one should have to tell you, apparently some people think it's fake news.

Across Latin America there are many programs are trying to rescue sea turtle populations.

In Puerto escondido a number of men drive the beaches where their elders hunted sea turtle eggs. Now they hunt eggs to preserve the patrimony.

We attended the tortuga liberation yesterday. Ane old man with his very young grandkids finds the sites where turtles have laid their eggs.

The tortos come at night and these magnificent creatures lay hundreds of eggs . They lay out 5 or so false nest sights to fool predators.  The man with guardianship drives the beaches on his four wheeler, finds nesting sites,  tests the false nests, finds the real ones and measures the eggs to calculate when the little turtles will hatch.

He guards then until that date erecting fencing to protect the nests.

The eggs will  all hatch at the same time and the baby turtlesmust get into the sea that day or die.

To raise money to pay him and preserve turtles, each time a bunch hatch they advise the public and you pay a donation to help the babies to the sea.

One of the most dangerous stages of their long road to adulthood,  the turtles are helpless and must cross hundreds of meters of beach and get out to the sea before they are eaten by gulls or wither lost on the sands.

Only when they get to the ocean do their little flippers work and they have a fighting chance.

The little ones hatched this morning and Catherine  and I got two tiny things.  I named mine Rebecca after my late beloved cat who lived 22 years.  I hoped it would give her luck.  She was in a coconut shell desperately trying to go the ocean. Catherine named hers Fernando.

We went to the sea and gently let our tortos out. The tiny creatures bolted to the surf but it was so fierce virtually all the tortos were flung back to the dry beach.  Rolled, tumbled exhausted while gulls flew overhead to capture them.

When we arrived a woman was screaming furious at the turtle people about doing nothing to scare the awful gulls away.

When we got down with Fernando and Rebecca, a Mexican guy who looked like a Grateful Dead head, long haired, bare chested and wearing g a hat was throwing rocks at the gulls and they flew away not to bother any tortos.

I put Rebecca down and a huge wave hit the beach and her little flippers started like an aquaman  and she was off on her life pulled passed the breakers.

God speed Rebecca.

Fernando was having far more trouble. The waves kept throwing him back on the sand.  You could tell he was tired   I was afraid he might give up in the hot sun having been thrown back at least 8 times.

It turns out the Dead Heads name was Fernando and he started to sing a song to catherine,s turtle to keep him going to the tune of ABBAs Fernando but it was that (you will go out to the sea and come back and chick a boom chick a boom Fernando on this beach) he sang while thrusting his pelvis.

I said I don't think that that is something ABBA would, like sing, i said puzzled.  Well we all want Fernando to come back and make babies. I am helping him he replied soberly and quite logically.

Fernando finally got out and we were all laughing and cheering. He made it! He made it! We were we leaping into the air arms raised whooping.

Next was some forlorn torto I named Barney and we watched and cheered until he made it out along with Pepe who kept going backwards. Both weren,t doing so well for quite some time.

We walked back to the torto guardian and catherine asked many questions about torto life thru our driver.  The guardian said in spanish, would you like to liberate un grande tortuga?

Yes, of course, catherine replied.  These are the young of the largest sea turtle in the world.

We walked our care to the beach.  The waves were fabulous, young men skatesurfing.  The golden sun setting and mist all over the beach as a young grunge Swedish guy released his torto and toboganned, upside down head on par with torto to the sea looking in the creatures eyes the whole time.  Smiling like he had himself just given birth to his turtle.

We called  the large torto Maggie muffet after our late bouvier lab dinosaur. We hoped this would help her in the dangerous things she must, like all sea turtles, face next.

Two rollbacks. She kept pulling herself to the sea.  She made it past the breakers and in the gold of that sunset Catherine, the Dead Head, his girlfriend  and I were jumping up and down.  GO GO GO!

Hasta luego torto! We wish you all the luck Maggie so that you return in 14 years and grant the planet many generations more .


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Milla and Monte albun

I have given up on spelling. The names are not correct and it is the tablet on permanent hell autocorrect.

Milla, not spelled correctly, was a vast and important city with thousands of inhabitants. It was a mixture of the Mixtec and Zapotec indigenous nations that live near Oaxaca city. They built their sophisticated structures without mortar so that were earthquake proof.

Like the AK 47 gun, the buildings shake off dirt and the stress of shock allowing them to stand the test of time. You rattle but you have latitude, so you don't fall.

When the conquistadors arrived in mitla, the only people left were Zapotics, all the Mextics were gone. Where did they go?

The Aztec who I have already discussed, apparently decided to just kill them all. Meaning the Mextics, for what reason our guide did not know. But we do know the Aztec really, really liked to kill people.

When I as a child pondered on how the great Aztec empire was defeated by some 700 grubby Spaniards.

No one told us about the 100,000 indios who hated the Aztecs and thought it would be a good alliance to join with filthy men with horses, armour and frightening guns.

What could go wrong?

However liberation was not at hand.

Our guide an indigenous Zapotic from took us to the glorious abandoned monk fort outside of mitla.

After the Aztec fell the Dominican monks came in droves to Nuevo espana and within a mere 4 years of the conquest had now enslaved the indios and forced them to start building the great and holy edifice we see today.

It really is breathtaking. And in many of the carvings our guide said you could see all the small marks of Zapotec indigenous handiwork. Around the sides stand large guard towers so the monks could keep an eye on their slaves.

In the first motifs of Christ crucified the Dominicans would not show him suffer on the cross as they were worried this would lead the indios back to an apparent fondness for human sacrifice.  Back then there were only crosses sans nasty suffering of the lamb of god.

Large parts of the monastery were never completed as the new diseases the Spanish brought killed a huge portion of the population. As a result he people were hard pressed to throw the Spanish back when their society faced decimation

This much of the success of the conquistadors.

I asked our guide but were there rebellions or uprisings at that time?

No he said. I asked why. He was very quiet and then said it is complicated. I don,t know how to explain. Nuevo espana was a complicated place

They can get... they got into our head.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

the long and winding road

We went from Oaxaca city to Puerto escondido today via the short route, which takes 7 hours to traverse a distance of approximately 306 km.

The first hour of the trip is getting out of Oaxaca.  The next some desert highway that is similar to new mexico as a landscape.

Then to the mountains. This was 6 hours of being flung back and forth across the bus on winding mountain roads more twisted than a Gordian knot.

I took  1.50 gravel to survive the journey without quite frankly Ralphing, all over the bus or losing my cool at sheer cliff drops.

not many sheer cliffs but the motion sickness brought on by being on a flat roller coaster for 5 hours caused the poor 8 year old in the back to start puking all over and crying.

Her  mother was angry and asked the driver to slow down. She was Mexican as were all souls on the 8 person van. Except Two tursitas.

He laughed. ,malo?  I gave the mother a gravel. Driver was good for a while mostly because the  road became so fogged in you couldn't see a foot in front on the hairpin mountain road.

We stopped for 45 minutes at a small village in the mountains for comida and a rest stop. It was now tropical heat as we approached the coast. The passengers ordered glorious bowls of vegetable pork soup and tamales.

As in other places I've travelled, I must look like I come from the moon. Blond, blue eyes, very fair skin, tattoos and looking far more like a man in dress than a woman.

people stare and awkwardly look away. But then stare again.

gringos go to mexico to take photos of things different, colourful and strange.

last year in guatemala a kid asked if he could take a photo of me and I obliged. I guess now I am in his cabinet of curiosities.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

language mistakes and a bold pigeon

Learning new languages or refreshing your skills can be difficult stuff.  Two nights ago we had wine at a restaurant where catherine did not want to eat. So in spanish she tried to do the Canadian  thing to say she was not hungry and that is why she was not wanting to order food.

Like a Canadian she did the polite thing to say she would definitely return tomorrow night because, she thought she said, I have no hunger.

However what she in fact said was ,because I don't have a man,

now catherine will pull out the straight card some times but I was puzzled.

You told the waiter you have no man and need to come back tomorrow night ..

Catherine crumpled in her chair in embarrassment.  That is one of the things my spanish teachers in nicaragua kept warning me,  she said, I keep mixing hungry with a man.  To say I have no hunger is very different than saying I have no man.

Very funny for me until I confused brother with handsome.  I won't try and spell because of awful auto correct

but the next day there were these two little miscreants in the square flogging the usual stuff the sister maybe 8. Her brother about 7

As she lazed, on my table exhausted, it was by now 6 ish, I asked if the boy by me was her brother.

But I didn't. I actually asked if he was handsome.

This girl looked at me in the way all people do when you are not sure but wary.

She wanted the peanuts and the lime from the tapas plate and I gave her half then her brother.

She and her brother ran away no doubt thinking I was some creepy god knows what.

I kicked myself as I looked in the language book.  Hermosa? Not Hermano?

then a giant and quite healthy pigeon flew up on the table and like a lion of Phoenix sat grabbing the rest of the peanuts.  When I tried to shu her away she flapped her wings angrily and ate all these peanuts.

Clearly everyone wanted my peanuts.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

the Sunday market

Outside of Oaxaca proper lie many small villages within a short distance where the indigenous people, over 15 or more distinct nations, come down from the mountains and forests to buy, sell and trade their commodities.

The Sunday market is huge, the people bringing many fruits and vegetables that are still unknown to people even in mexico.  As our biologist guide said yesterday this is the patrimony of the human race.

I tried to ask a truly ancient woman with one tooth what fruit or vegetable it was, she was selling. She spoke an aboriginal language so we had to talk by hand motions.  She kept ushering me up to look at the fruit.  She broke open the pod and asked me to try. It had this weird bluish grey gelatinous seed substance inside.  I stuck my finger in and started to put the Gluck in my mouth.  Suddenly a taste lightly sweet, a bit like melon with a hint of grapefruit.  I offered her 8 pesos for the tasting and she tried to give it back.

She wanted me to buy a bag.  By this time catherine had tried it and was hooked. We went back and catherine for more.  A select bag later for 20 pesos and we wandered more.  I bought a few weird small tomatoes knowing that our patrimony with respect to food grows in old forgotten seed varieties.

I bought two strangely shaped and small tomatoes. I bit into the first one and  my mouth exploded. I was back to being about 8 when summer tomatoes in the garden tasted like tomatoes.  But this was even better.

so happy I walked to a group of women who had really weird looking oranges. In spanish I asked for one but the seller saw I had 20 pesos in my hand and just started stuffing gobs of weirdo oranges in my bag and took the 20 pesos.

Now we have all this fruit and try and share our bounty with other gringos. But there is some reticence among fellow travellers to partake of odd looking oranges whose origin comes from a market where livers, tripe and lungs are prominently displayed.

So I like to tell about fruits  better than the hall of pig heads. I had to get leave there only to flee into the dome of cricket roasters.

And I won't tell you the long lecture I have had for a week about how meat is far more disgusting and evil than eating a giant basket of chili roasted crickets..

Oaxaca part two

Oaxaca province has the largest population of indigenous people's in Mexico and many retain their diverse languages and traditions.  The majority of the land is still owned collectively by the people's though this is under grave threat.

Yesterday went on a ethnobotanical tour led by an Oaxaca  biologist and anthropologist who designed the cacti and food garden at the cultural museum.  Great stuff. The focus was on human codevelopement with plants.

For example the people of Oaxaca over thousands of years bred the tall organ cactus to be thorn less so it was less danger to us. They planted these enormous stalk plants around the prickly pear and cochonil cactus which was also bred to be thornless, so that animals would not eat them.

In turn the people got delicious and nutritional prickly pear without losing fingers or eyes to nasty barbs or spikes.  They also got a thornless cactus with a parasite problem.  However as it is said crisis can mean opportunity.

The insects produce a waxy white cocoon which, when crushed, makes the most beautiful and vivid red.  This was harvested by the people for cloth dye,  cosmetics and paint pigment.  For some time the price was higher than that of silver.

Chemical analysis has shown that paintings from El Greco to Rembrandt all utilized the famous Conchila, dye.

This saved communal land ownership in Oaxaca as plantation slave operations to produce the dye were totally unprofitable.  The best way to get the stuff was to just let the ,indios, do as they always did and demand Conchila as taxes and tribute.

Way to go little parasitic insect.

NOTE as I wrote the other day I am trying to spell Mexican and indigenous words properly however this tablet will not turnoff the worst auto correct I javelin ever dealt with thus pot luck but I do know how to spell

man's best friend

At the great Oaxaca cultural museum on Friday I was acquainted with some very interesting facts.  The zapotics used to sacrifice your pet dog once you died and bury Spot with you.  This is because your dog will automatically just go to the other side.  However humans can get confused and lose their way to the afterlife.

As your dog is already there he or she being a faithful companion will when they see you become all excited and bark, wag their tail and jump with joy.  This way, if you are co fused your pet will get you and guide you to the other side of the river. 


A city so different  than one can imagine. Why is Oaxaca just filled full of the richest culture, people diverse and brilliant from colours designs and songs and moles?

such a great night with zapotics,  guitar songs and mescal all around.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Facts learned today at the excellent museo de anthropoligia. First off one of the best museums I have ever visited. The section on the history of anthropology was fascinated and explained the story of our evolution in very clear terms using dioramas and life size models to get the picture across.

I was happy they had a life size model of our universal foremother, Lucy the austorolopithicus on display.  I took a photo of c beside Lucy but her focus was on the fact that Lucy should consider buying a good razor.

By The Way I am Spelling words correctly but the tablet has the worst auto correct problem

the section on the sun and moon pyramids 50 k from here were very well done. But go into the hall focused on Aztec mexica society and prepare to be gob stopped. Because the great Aztec empire was only destroyed starting in 1521 much of their art still remains in very good condition.

beautiful serpents, conch, toads and turtle sculpture sit alongside massive statues of goddesses and gods who lived interwoven in everyday Aztec life..

the Aztec were superb warriors who conquered large areas of Mexico today by their force of arms or by strategic subjugation of client states based on trade or threat. Or both.

they were a pretty bloodthirsty bunch, think ancient rome, who exalted sacrifice as a means to ensure the continuation of the sun, rains and therefore life.

Now before you get the idea the Aztec dispatched only those saps who were captured and then trucked up some hundreds of steps to their doom, there is another side to this.

like so many people of faith from the vikings to Christian martyrs many warriors and high status people got the honour of having your beating heart ripped out and offered as blood to renew the world as the gods originally did to create this beautiful world.

to the god who was patron to warriors one lucky potent and vigorous kid under 20 was appointed stand in god for the year and was adorned in all the gods finery and treated to his station in heaven until on the 5th month he was sacrificed in a rather gritty fashion and went to his resting place with great honour.

as a person from 21st  century canada I find it takes work to get my head around such a different world.  But then I ponder.  So I am a hot 18 year old spoiled rich warrior, let,s think like he's a star football player in a US college. I expect to go off to war in any event join the SEALS or Marines and gloriously sacrifice my life for my country. That's the best way to die and people love me

 But unlike frat boys I am not necessarily allowed to partake in the pleasures of the flesh anytime  soon because of weird keeping young men virgins.

Then they tell me. Hey kid. You become an actual god.  You dress like him and everyone treats you exactly as we treat him. And you get to do everything a potent hot warrior god gets to do for an ENTIRE year.! Then we rip out your beating heart in front of thousands cheering in adoration and you go and meet the actual god and you were toast anyway.

if you think of it that way, it makes some sense..


the canals xochimilco

The Aztec empire established their capital of tenchtitlan where present day Centro historic mexico city stands. 500 years ago this was an island in the middle of a shallow lake connected to more solid land by cause ways.

At the south end of the city still run canals built  by people to navigate the swampy areas outside the great city. People still grow food and flowers along what are called floating gardens.  That is because the Aztec created Island's on top of raised areas adding soil to create gardens of food a d flowers you reach by boat.

Today mexicans go to the canals and rent brightly painted gondolas for a slow relaxed trip along the canals.

mariachi bands, marimba players and people plying tortillas float up to you asking if you want to hire them or buy their comida..

along the canals are plant nurseries selling all variety of flores for your garden including my personal favourite plants carnivores!

What we call  ends fly traps.

On the weekend it's a non stop party kids renting a gondola, they sell you cervesa before you depart, a bucket of cold drinks before embark or just canoe up to you as you glide along the canals.

Returning  drunk 16 year old were completely baracho, and sang love songs on the distortion. Volume boom box to me and Catherine.

Bumper car gondolas coloured with the paint of a thousand artists and ancestors  dancing I  the breeze of trees, water, ducks, music and a couple vigilant puppies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

this is one big city...

22 million people in the greater metro area. You can feel the sheer tide of people just walking along madero.

When the conquistadors destroyed the Aztec empire in 1521 it is estimated there were 25 million people in the region ruled. By 1610 less than 1 million continued.  The legacy of European disease.

Went to the palace of bel artes,  a brilliant art nouveau art deco and neo class museum that is simply breathtaking. This is  city which is only second to London in terms of the sheer number of museums.

We were blessed to get into revolutionary painters of Mexico 1910 to 1950 which opened 3 days ago

Diego rivera, Frida Kalo of course featured, but many other revolutionary artists who represent the tension of the years running from regressive conservatism and fascism to communist and socialist idealism and vision.

By the time I got to fascism and the coming of the Second World War I will say I didn't find the paintings the most anxiety reducing having watched cnn this morning and seeing Flynn spicer and el president.

from there to Diego museo with a number of disturbing girl with big eyes images.
Again not particularly grounding..

however thru Almeida park to the people's art museum which was stunning.

the soul of Mexico continues to astound me.  How is it possible for such diverse groups of people to create art everywhere all the time.? Clothes, shoes, baskets, clay, masks, rock.

I loved the figure of the devil comforting his small boy when he realizes he is also a devil. Or the tree of life sculpture with mole ingredients and turkeys flanking the Blessed Virgin.

or My favourite in the Muertos death gallery a dog skeleton biting at a skeletal man's leg. In this Vista the skeleton  is clearly yelling get off but he has removed his leg and is holding it up while the dog jumps at it.

Again today c and I are astounded at the total absence of gringos or turistas.  Not even European types who have a bit more stout stuff. I have begun to feel like we are entirely alone.

And that's great. We both speak ok rudimentary spanish, are eager to learn and the people are very warm.

but it's easy to get a bit over stimulated here S c was feeling last night. Just so many people, music blaring from every shop along the pedestrian district and the whistles of the traffic cops trying to halt traffic so the thousands of people can cross.

a i

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mexico city

Great day wandering Centro historic in mexico city. Across the main square to the cathedral where mass was being held. Outside various groups of men and women dressed in Aztec clothing danced in an approximation of what have been the Aztec dance tradition. They lay out fruit and burn incense while the drummers change rhythms to alter the dance steps. Counter this with the sight of literally hundreds of police in riot gear marching single file by the dancers towards zocalo, where a massive demonstration against president will take place. It appears he is as popular as a puppy amongst a colony of feral cats.

My favourite officer was a female officer completely made up sporting pearl earrings like the queen wears, holding her face shield riot helmet, sporting full gladiatorial shin and knee guards.

After that off to temple mayor to be astounded by the Aztec constructions and the immense size of the buildings before the conquest.  At the museum you can take in the affinity the Aztec had for dispatching human sacrifices, often  great honour for beheaded warriors.

I will comment that the effigies of sacrificed infants Creeped me a tad but not as much as the obsidian sacrifice knives adorned with a faux eye and teeth.

Sunday had a festival atmosphere today with families visiting museums and sites which are free to nationals on Sunday. We watched  magician, opera singers busking la boheme, then finally a group of dancing acrobats holding court on Avenue madero.

the one thing we are quite surprised at is the total absence of any gringo turistas. We appear so far to be the sole ones. I have to assume mexico and me Xi co city,s undeserved rep as Centre of danger means we are one of the few gringo faces.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

roatan island - what's in the water?

Roatan island is surrounded by the world's second largest coral reef.  Thus it is a mecca for divers and snorkelers.

We are staying at a great little hotel run by two Canadians meaning they have Caesars.

The place is surrounded by lovely gardens filled with flowers and Coconut trees.  Countless geckos live here and watch you upside down with a wary eye to see whether you have spare fruit or watermelon to share with them. It is funny to watch them sneak down to grab a piece of fruit too big for their little mouths and try and chew it down to size before dashing away.

Also abounding the grounds are many Jesus Christ lizards called his as they are able to run across water. They run away as you walk by resembling a mini Jurassic Park of fleeing velociraptors.

finally there are the agcooties.  Rough approximate of the actual name. They are like a cross between a gopher and a bunny. They half hip hop but have tiny little ears.

Yesterday we did a snorkeling trip to Spooky Channel. We hitched along with scuba divers who assured us that it was like an aquarium just off the boat and they weren't wrong.

jump into the water and countless fish appear in colours that put the rainbow to shame.  Giant parrot fish, a dark blue luminous fish with sparkles all over their body: juvenile damselfish.

we caught up with a school of grey angelfish and with the brain and fan coral you felt like you were in Finding Nemo.

After an hour of snorkeling we were summoned back to the boat to pick up the divers. one a very gentle young man was already surfaced and hanging off a buoy. He admitted he was a nervous diver and had used up his oxygen early as a result.

While waiting for the others to ascend the captain suggested we could continue to snorkel. At this time the swells were so large and weird I suddenly remembered the long ago feeling of being sea sick.  I jumped off the boat looking green, hung off the ladder and began dry heaving as the captain laughed and said "get it out man, it happens to everyone".

By the time I was feeling better the gentle young man had lept back into the boat and I hear him say jellyfish pointing to red lashes over his legs. Just as he said this I felt the pinching sting on my left calf and jumped up the ladder. The captain poured vinegar on our legs while bubbles appeared one by one around the boat as the divers began to surface.

An older canadian couple were ecstatic, raving about the underwater caves they went through in Spooky Channel while another diver relayed his dangerous encounter with  moray eel.

I told them I still had PTSD. From seeing The Deep as a kid where Louis Gossett Junior gets his bald head crunched in half by a moray while fighting Nick Nolte.

the Canadian woman remembered the scene well saying "oh yeah!" And laughing. She remarked that every time she dives she always second guesses herself about what's in the water.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

tetanus bus

Damn. 2 whole weeks of freak cold weather followed by unseasonable pouring rains have made much of our trip a misery. The fact that all the hotels or hostels have no hot water; a curse upon us,  then followed by places with no water at all.

we fled livingston a small town. It was recommend by the rough guide as the 4th best thing to see in guatemala. A place of emaciated dogs, filth and garbage. And as my father would say: and other than that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln.

we got on an overloaded open boat at 630 am.  The guy gave us big tarp and rocketed through capsize waves that threw the small boat and us flying thru the air.  I had an India moment: I was sick from both ends, tired, fed up and angry.

Jesus fucking Christ I started screaming as Catherine and the guy next to me hid from the torrents of rain under the tarp.  I am so fucking sick of the recklessness  of these countries. I can't take it anymore!

but I did and survived though catherine wouldn't talk to me the whole day for embarrassing her.

Next a man picks us up in a tourism bus.  I began to feel like we had hired human smugglers. Only 20 minutes to the border he said taking our money and telling us how to fill out immigration forms.

Next the border where the line I choose had the one guy  taking all his elderly relations into honduras.

them some weird taxi where we were handed off to maxi.  He would take care of us we were assured.

maxi was supposed to take us into the bus station and buy our tickets for us. However our rudimentary spanish  led him to believe that he could abandon us with a clear conscience.

We were 2 Canadians and a very young  brit woman.

as soon as we got into the station  at San Pedro Sula, voted world's most dangerous city in 2012, a hustler grabbed young brit and took her to get tickets to make the 430 ferry to utila.

we followed being polite canucks. Usually I am more savvy but two weeks of being sick takes the stuffing out of you.

I have never seen a more gross bus.  I mean that in the 12 year old nineteen seventies meaning of the word.

To say it was filthy would be mild.  Hondurans are very clean people. How the hell did this bus get this way?

all the panels were kicked in and broken or just ripped out.

the seats had bugs on them and gum. There was a decking of filthy Bus Curtains Stained With God Knows what on each window.

Catherine just looked at me.

as the bus got going I cheered up a bit.  The driver wasn't a maniac as most drivers are believing that if you drive super fast and dangerously you are less likely to be car jacked.

then the sun came out and the mountains were beautiful and it took my mind off the possibility of contracting typhus from the curtains.