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Michoacán Dreaming

About four years ago, we spent a few weeks in Mexico where we flew into Manzanillo and took buses through to Zihuatanejo, along the Michoacán coast. From our seats high up on the bus, we slowly wound through jungle-covered hills with views of some of the most spectacular coastline of Mexico. With its pristine beaches, palapa restaurants, small villages, and great waves, we vowed then to come back and spend more time in Michoacán.

Michoacán is… well, Michoacán. This Mexican state of Michoacán is often referred to as the wild west of Mexico and it still holds up to its reputation. We don’t even pretend to be naïve to the major problems that Mexico is facing with the drug cartels and crime, very serious stuff. And Michoacán has its fair share of problems. But we try to stay informed and talk to as many people as possible to know what is happening and how things feel. So far, so good.

Upon leaving the built up area around Puerto Vallarta, we drove for two days and arrived in La Ticla, infamous for its surf as well as it’s sordid past. In the past, Ticla has had a reputation for being rough and tumble and every few years there would be issues with crime and chaos in the area. To put it this way, one of our surf guidebooks says, “This is a seedy area to spend time in.” (Add in the Fox News element of “PANIC and FEAR”, and you can quickly get worked up about all of it.) We had been keeping in touch with a couple we met in Baja – Dave and Joan from California – and hoped that we would see them in Mainland. They have spent a fair amount of time in Michoacán and it would be great to camp with them. After a few email exchanges we were happy to hear that they were heading to Ticla at about the same time we would be there.

Ticla is… incredible. We’ll just say we like it here. A lot. The surfer vibe is very positive and very international – many Europeans, Mexicans, Aussies and of course, the ubiquitous Canadians (Is there anyone left in Canada? They all seem to be following us in Mexico.) The local crime has subsided, largely due to village appointed “vigilantes” (in other words, security). Rumor has it that the “bad people” that were causing problems, are gone, and gone for good. Real good. You get the picture. Because remote areas in Mexico such as this are largely ignored by federal or state police, villages often take matters into their own hands because their livelihood is often dependent on tourists, even if it’s a just a bunch of dirtbag surfers like us. Remember, it’s like the Wild West.

We are camped on the beach overlooking the surf, on property owned by Apolinar, a friendly man with a huge smile. The freshwater river runs into the ocean nearby, hosting a multitude of birds. The village has everything we need – two small stores, a couple of restaurants, an Internet place and tons of kids and dogs. A truck with fresh produce comes through the camping area once a week, as does the aqua purificada truck. On Saturdays and Sundays a taco stand sets up in the zocolo and we feast on plates of tacos for $2.

Needless to say, the surfing here is incredible, and the consistent surf here is allowing us to really enjoy progressing on our short boards. Ticla is technically a very broad point break, but most days it has been much like a very good beach break, with many good waves. This allows us to seek out waves that suit our abilities/moods/energy for that day. We have been surfing twice a day for most days, as much as our bodies can hold up so far! Morning off-shore winds set up for more hollow waves. Mid-day consists of a nap in the hammock, yoga, or a walk to the river. Afternoons glass off for beautiful sunset surf sessions. Dinner consists of shoving as much food into us so we can surf early the next day.

We feel so fortunate to be able to experience places like this at the right time. And it is helping us get even more stoked about our next adventure in SE Asia! Yesterday morning, as I was sitting on my board waiting for waves, I wondered how I’m ever going to survive not being in the ocean every day. So, waves or no waves, I’m thankful every day that get to walk out into the Big Blue and be in the water!

Hasta luego! Hay olas buenas ahorita!

Mañana, Mañana

It’s always mañana. One thing this adventure is teaching us is the virtue of patience and it’s one thing that neither of us excels at, until maybe now. This is good for us and a sharp diversion from our very “I need to know, have and do everything now” lives in Bend. Yeah, we are pretty laid back in Oregon, but it’s still easy to get wrapped up in the busyness. At home, we found ourselves repeating the patience mantra every day as we squirreled away every dollar so we could be here.

Listen up, Grasshopper. Here, moving fast is not an option.

Exhibit A: Mexico

Mexicans use the term “mañana” often. Literally, it means “tomorrow” or “morning”, but it is actually used in a very loose form, meaning “Someday soon, when I get around to it. Or maybe not.” This is used all the time, and if you are not used to it, you become severely misled that something will actually happen tomorrow. Last week, Ilseo (he is one of the brothers that owns the land that we are camping on here at The Wall) stopped by to chat with us and see if we wanted any firewood or lobsters. Sure, we say, we’ll take anything he brings. “Mañana”, he says. About five days later he brings us some firewood.

Getting things done in civilization also takes a fair amount of patience. We stop by the lavanderia to drop off our laundry. It’s 10:30am and no one is there yet, even though the little hand painted sign says “Abierto (open) 9:00am”. Every Mexican town of any size has a propane filling station, as most people cook with propane and they bring the tanks to be refilled at the station when needed. We stopped to refill our little tank, and lo and behold, we apparently don’t have the right kind of valve and they turn us away. But after talking with the guys working there and standing around looking at them like we are helpless, they eventually take the tank, do something magical to this wrong valve, and bring it back filled. With a little patience, the impossible becomes possible and what is typically a 10-minute job takes about 45 minutes. And so it goes.

Exhibit B: Surfing

As any surfer knows, waiting for waves can be excruciatingly painful. With mountain biking, you can hop on your bike every morning and expect to pedal for a while. The trails don’t move. They don’t go the other direction suddenly one day. They don’t disappear. You don’t see them diminish in size one day and jack up into unrideable mountains the next day. But the waves are different every day and, while it seems impossible, the largest body of water on the planet, the entire Pacific Ocean, can go completely flat in a matter of a day or two. Any new surfers that show up at camp are subjected to a flurry of questions about the swell forecast. You see, they are presumed to be the last people to have been near a computer or phone and likely checked the swell before they left their last post in civilization.

Surfing here is also a bit of a game revolving around the wind and the tide and most afternoons are too windy to surf. So, while we are on a “surf trip”, we find a lot of other things to do besides surfing when there is no swell in the water or too much wind. We build stuff, move rocks, fix things, read, write, work on our Spanish, visit with other people, walk in the desert, reorganize the camper, try to catch fish, work on crossword puzzles, draw, play with the dog, stare off into the ocean, do yoga, and take naps.

That said, for surfing, the wait is always worth it.

Exhibit C: Fishing

Every fresh fish we, actually just Chris, catches is so good and delicious. So, kind of like surfing, you begin to continually seek more of it. But some days, there are no fish to be had, even though we know that here at mid to low tide, the flat sandy bottom in places is paved with Halibut. Chris’ last fish, several days ago, was a 29” White Seabass, treasured amongst fishermen. Chris, being the less seasoned fisherman of the bunch, walked around asking everyone “What the hell is this giant thing?” while veteran fishermen gawked and rolled their eyes in jest at the novice with the prized big fish. It was big and beautiful and we had two days of ceviche and another dinner’s worth of fish. And as I sit and write, Chris is on the shore trying to catch tonight’s dinner. Mañana, mañana.

Exhibit D: Dozer

Even the dog is learning about patience, if that’s even possible. Every single evening, like clockwork, a lone coyote cruises through the desert, across the dirt track, right past our camp and on to the beach. And every night, Dozer posts up in his favorite spot to greet his new buddy. Last night, as we were eating dinner at dusk, Dozer took off like a bolt and we jumped up from our chairs to see the silhouette of our eleven-year-old black lab mix chasing the coyote over the crest to the beach. I don’t think he knows that he’ll never make friends that way.

It’s all about patience. Mañana, mañana. ¿Quien sabes? Posiblemente mañana.

Eyes Wide Open

In Spanish, “abreojos” means “open your eyes” – and they are. It’s my new favorite Spanish colloquialism. Open your eyes, take it all in, add up the details to see the big picture with an open mind and heart.

A two-day drive (only 400 miles or so – but everything takes so much longer here) from our last spot at Punta San Jacinto, we have posted up here at Abreojos for a few days and it hasn’t been without triumphs and challenges. No longer “California Lite”, this is the nitty gritty, no messin’ around Baja.

As per usual – we arrive during the daily afternoon off-shore whipping winds and we are tired, hungry and have gone two days without surfing (gasp!), which makes for a couple of cranky monkeys. As we scope the area for a place to camp, we come upon a small beach encampment comprised of an 80’s era motor home and a classic Silver Streak trailer belonging to Mark and Franz, ski bums from Utah. We are instantly welcomed to camp next to them and they immediately fall in love with Dozer and start showering him with doggie biscuits. So, they become our latest victims – new people to talk to!

An 80+ kilometer drive off the highway, Abreojos is a fishing village with a very successful fishing cooperative that supports the fishermen and allows them to invest in large things like a tractor to help pull the lanchas up on the beach. The bounty is evident. Although the land is a desolate, sandy desert, the water just feels alive. It moves and ripples with life, from the stingrays on the sandy bottom to the pods of porpoises right off shore. Lobster season has just begun and the fishermen are energetic in “town”. Word on the calle is that they pulled in a total catch last year of $US 3 million (that’s US dollars, not pesos). They are proud to make their living here and are always seeking ways to improve their business.

And about those stingrays…Chris got nailed this afternoon in two feet of water. Through his reef bootie – and clean through his foot. Entry on the top of the foot, just below the big toe, exit through the side of the ball of his foot. The pain is this writhing, excruciating pain, the kind of pain that is beyond the best and most creative expletives that you can imagine. (Remember the Crocodile Hunter? Yeah, he died when a ray stung him through his heart.) The remedy is to submerge the wound in the hottest water you can handle for as long as possible. Thanks to our stellar neighbors, we were able to provide a steady supply of hot water (and Tecates for the patient and Nurse Katy). Within an hour and a half, the pain disappears, the wound almost fully closes up, and the whole incident is nearly forgotten.

On the flip side, we had our first fresh fish dinner – a nice Corvina that Chris caught right out the front door. Good eats and it provided for two nights worth of dinner, which helps our bellies and our budget!

Despite the beauty of this place, the surf here isn’t shaping up to what we were hoping, so we’ll be moving on, likely heading north again to the Seven Sisters area. Sigh – another day on the road tomorrow. Nos vemos…..

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