Walden World

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

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.