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.