Friday, April 28, 2006

Quiet Sunny Days in Chacala

When I walked home last night I thought to myself, great, there's not a single camper, motor home, bus, or person camping anywhere in the big camping areas. There are about four camping spots down below Buddy's place where people are camping under ramadas. Including me. That's all.

Early this morning, before the sun was up, I was raking the debris that made an ugly little trail of mostly styrofoam crud along the ligh tide line. It's been pretty bad the last week, leftovers from all the trash people left on the beach and got washed out to sea before we could pick it up. Stuff always comes back. Styrofoam and plastic pop bottles are the worst of it. The used toilet paper must just dissolve out there or something.

Anyway, my landlady and I walked up the beach, her for exercise I think and me for curiosity and picking up trash. Somehow, after 10pm last night, three big buses must have arrived in the motor home parking area, and the passengers were out on the beach. Swimming before the sun was up. I think they must have arrived just before dawn. I think they are daytrippers because I didn't see piles of stuff being unloaded off the buses.

I am into Las Varas this morning, mostly to copy a horribly interesting article about the world water situation. I wanted to share it will some people in town who have been reading stuff by the author of "Plan B", whose name escapes me at the moment. He offers some ways we can help slow down the destruction of our earth. It was published in a local English-Spanish real estate magazine, so everyone that is interested in it can read it.

When I left Chacala this morning, I walked out to the paved road and a combi-taxi came along and stopped for me. The driver said they were going to El Capomo, a little town south of Las Varas and up in the mountains a ways. The van was full of gringos, young Canadians, it turned out, working for Habitat. They are staying at Aurora's and Concha's and looked tired. I am so impressed with people that spend their vacation and alot of money supporting building housing for people that really need the help.

The copy machine at the stationary store where I usually go for copies also had some gifty stuff. I have been looking for a gift for Aurora's mom, who is one of my favorite people in Chacala. She have given me lots of gifts and I have a really hard time finding something to give her back. Except for food and flowers, which don't really seem like good presents.

Anyway, There was a nice bag hanging near the copy machine. It had colors she likes so I bought it. Very cheap . $4USD and the vendor through in a nice gift bag. I hope she likes it. I was at the Friday street market this morning and spent another $4USD on these really cute little painted pottery dishes. Little minatures with flower designs. I have been admiring them for a year and today the seller made me a great offer. 40 pieces of really cute little cups, saucers and plates. God knows what I will do with them but I really like them. And I held off buying them for more than a year, so that shows some will-power anyway

I have been getting a number of requests lately for info and help for people wanting to try a long-term (defined by me as for more than two months) stay in Chacala. I usually suggest they look at my blog for rentals and then get back to me for help if needed. It's called and gives some idea of what's available.

After watching people come and go in Chacala for a couple of years I have some thoughts on the kind of people that seem to be happy here (for longer stays). And those who tend not to be happy. That group includes people who are heavy users of alcohol or drugs. That is, people whose sustance abuse appears to have been a problem already in their lives. Also, people who want an active social life with other gringo's often seem to be disappointed in Chacala, I think. At this moment, my opinion is that Chacala works better for people who have lots of interests and enjoy living in an unfamiliar environment. People who come here and want to make it just like the US don't seem to enjoy themselves here.

Of course, this is just my opinion. And I have some personal preferences, which, of course, I have no way of enforcing. High of my list of undesirables are sexual predators (esp. child molesters) and people who believe that Mexican drug laws do not apply to them.

Also, I don't really enjoy camping near people who don't take care of their own trash, bodily wastes, and don't seem to take any responsibility for their own environment. I guess I am still suffering the after effects of the Week of the Trash, otherwise known in Chacala as Semana Santa.

Of course, unfortunately I am not the boss of the world, so I guess my vote on this topic doesn't count anyway.

The best news is that the pump house for the new Chacala water system is being completed out on the road to the Crucero de Chacala. And a lot of the pipe ( about 10" pipe I think) has been laid and buried. It will still be the same water system I think, with the same infrastructure ( non-pressure water pipe with water to each part of town twice a week or so). As opposed to no water for weeks at a time. Except for buying water from the big water trucks that you call for. Or buying five gallon jugs from the other kind of water trucks. Anyway, people are pretty excited, or not, I think.

Alejandro, the baker, was in town for Semana Santa, making pizzas at his bakery. Great pizza. He is still in town but not doing his bakery business for now. I don't know what his plans are, but I hope he starts baking again.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Quieter Days in Chacala

Well, it's interesting to me that the camping visitors to Chacala for this week after Easter seem to be much different than the campers that were here the week before Easter. Quieter, cleaner (actually bringing their own trash bags and using them), and more aware/sensitive to their impact here. Like asking were the trash goes, etc.

Much quieter in the evening, although one of the "disco" is still playing full blast to an empty house. At least empty at 9pm. Maybe it fills up later, but last week it was empty at midnight too.

The trash pickup seems to have slowed down, but they are still coming around every other day or so. On monday about 20 Chacala people, i think the Scholarship kids and the cuesto owners, picked up alot of trash. Plus other people are out collecting trash, and things look pretty good, considering.

First moto's were on the beach during Semana Santa where on the beach this morning. At least the first ones I noticed. I didn't feel like bugging the first moto this morning but the second one was making loops. So I walked out to the beach and flagged him down, and asked the driver if he knew it was illegal to drive on the beach. I also mentioned (this is true and has already happened) the police will confiscate your moto if you don't have plates for it. I was feeling sort of bad about hassling him. particularly since he didn't have plates and he looked freaked. Then, as I watching him drive away, someone else flagged him down. I watched him talk and then when the moto drove off I went over to the person as asked him what was up. The man said he told the guy to get off the beach. I was really happy. I was feeling like I was the only person asking people to stay off the beach in their noisy little machines. Especially when there are 30 jillion little kids all over the beach.

It's been fun to meet some on the nice families camping here. Today I helped a family put up their new tent. It was their first tent ever and they were really struggling with it. We had a great time putting it up. It was a very large tent. The biggest family type tent I have seen.

I am hoping I will be moving back out to the beachfront in a couple of days. We'll see.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Semana Santa in Chacala. Final Episode. I hope

Well, when I was out swimming today I turned toward the beach and saw how beautiful the beach looked, covered with every color of umbrella. A sea of umbrellas. It was amazingly beautiful. From one end of the beach to the other.

There was also a sea of trash. Last night I picked up from Mar de Jade north to past Don Beto's and just focused on picking up everything below the high-tide line. Trying to get the plastic pop bottle, plastic bags, dirty diapers, bags of garbage, etc etc etc out of the ocean. That took five super-large plastic bags. Although I had done a complete sweep yesterday morning. Then this morning I did the high-tide sweep and got six bags. And then did the sand right in front of this camping area and got seven more big bags. After cleaning the same area yesterday. I am trying to think of picking up trash as my karma for my previous and current contributions to global warming, etc.

Had a nice afternoon drawing with Carlos, Marcito, Paulina, Luis and Jasmine. Ages two to seven. The sweetest little children. Being with them makes it easy to remember that trash or no trash, this is a beautiful place and I am lucky to be here.

It's really nice to hang around visiting a joking with the family here.
And then cleaning up the trash and shower/toilet area. That sounds strange, but working together is fun. When a group of campers leaves an area, three or four of us swoop in with rakes and trash bags and have the place cleaned up in minutes. It's pretty satisfying..

If you are interesting in sharing your experiences or photos of Chacala, or have questions for other people that have visited or live here, you can go to a blog called Friends of Chacala and participate in an open blog.

Or if you are interested in coming you can look at Chacala Budget Rentals, a blog that helps local landladies connect with English speaking renters. No cost to anyone.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Semana Santa Chacala Part 3

Well, my (ridiculous) dreams of a quiet family Semana Santa in Chacala haven't come true. There are TWO discos going from dark til 2am. REALLY REALLY REALLY LOUD and very few customers. One with no customers at 9pm, 10pm, ot 12:30am. Plus the Kokobongo kids are going nuts with their microphone off and on all evening. It's the loudest miscrophone I ever heard. Plus the jetskis were out in force today.

People tell me Thursday thru Easter Sunday in Chacala are the worse of it. We'll see. I have never seen so many examples of stupidity or thoughtlessness in my life. It is amazing. The most disgusting is people changing babies diapers where they eat, and then continuing to eat with the dirty diaper practicially on their lap. And then, of course, walking off and leaving it there. And the men walking off to the side of the road, not just to urinate, but to have bowel movements. All over the place. It's just amazing. There are toilets set up everywhere but they cost between 20 and 50 cents. Too much, I guess, for some people.

The strangest thing today was the dueling buses. There is a long-standing arrangement that during Semana Santa the Chacala beach road becomes one way going south. To enter Chacala you stay on the paved road until the first left hand turn (the one after the beach turnoff). And police enforce this traffic pattern with barricades and personnel. Today a bus drove right into the one-way road going the wrong way. Wouldn't stop for the police or the blockade and just drove in. I was riding into Chacala from the Crucero with some local people and we saw it happening.

The bus driver had just passed us on the curvy road from the Chacala Crucero, probably going more that 50 MPH. We kept going on the paved and I got out at Aurora's and walked down the hill to the beach road. As I walked south on the beach road (hundreds and hundred of people) (and all the vehicles, buses, water trucks, coke trucks, beer trucks, taxis, etc were all going south) and here comes the crazy bus. And there is a total, complete traffic jam. A huge mess. Finally the bus driver backed up to the road into Delphin's motor home camping area and things got better. I watched from Dona Lupe's restaurant. It was pathetic.

Every camping family in Chacala seems to require electric lights this year. And TV's and stereos and god knows what. The CFE (the federal electric company) was out at the various houses on the road to MardeJade/Majahua today and yesterday, beefing up the electrical system to handle the new load. There have been intermittent and brief power outages off and on for the past couple of days. I hope my fridge makes it through this. Three days to go. I kind of like it that the electric company just rose to the occasion and provided the power as needed. At least that's how it looks to me. I never really know what's going on around here, but it's to make a guess.

Monday, April 10, 2006

More Semana Santa in Chacala

Woke up to the beep beep of the vegetable truck just a morning light. I was sound asleep. I seem to be sleeping later now that I am further away from the crashing waves. Anyway, the veggie man was the first of a string of vendors, including the Coke truck. Which has upped it's prices 50% for Semana Santa. I couldn't believe it when I saw the sign. But I looked closer and the old sign is still there, covered up the the new prices. I buy a case of coke in glass bottles ever 10 days or so, so I definitely know what the prices are. Very weird. I decided to go ahead and buy a case since I wouldn't have to wheelbarrow it from Dona Lupe's restaurant. The Coke guy charged me the old (cheaper) price. Don't know what that means.

The Coke truck normally doesn't come down this road because it's so horrible, but I guess it was worth for them today today. The ice cream truck came back, first time in months. I had delicious lime sherbet. Bought a watermelon for 3 pesos, less than 30 cents, and also got TP from the miscellaneous truck. Also got E. two plants she was drooling over. A strange purple flowered geranium and a really red rose. 20 pesos each. Under $2 each. We are going to make starts from the geranium.

I have been helping out collecting the shower/toilet fee when Exparanza has to run and do something. Keeping the wet, muddy areas around the banos dry with sand. And picking up trash and etc etc. Nice day. Very warm. There isn't much of a breeze at my new campsite, and I miss that. But it's easier to cook on my little propane stove without the wind blowing through my camp.

I am going down to the beach road in a minute to see what's up. This morning things were really bustling with visitors and new stands and stuff. Everybody seemed cheerful and happy. Of course, the grumps probably stay away. A new feature for Semana Santa is a police presence. Requested by the town after a small rash of burglaries. They are stationed at the water pumphouse and near the entrance to Delphins. One of them told me he has bullets in his little sort of machine gun. I read somewhere the cops have to buy their own bullets. I don't know if that's true or not. It seem strange to have them here. No loud music yet. I am crossing my fingers. No motos or jet skits either, but the banana boats are busy out there.

Every since I moved down tothe beach I have been picking up trash morning and evening along the tide line, trying to at least keep the stuff from washing out to sea. It was hard to do that this week. At least hard to do it from Delphin's Restaurant north. Tons of stuff. Usually I just do from Buddy's place to Mar de Jade, but it was so disgusting last night I did alot more. It is pretty easy from Buddies south to Mar de Jade. I usually do the whole beach from Buddy south and only get a couple of medium sized bags full each collection.

On Saturday morning, a couple of days ago, the little moto with trailer that seems to be a new thing for the town was out on the beach. Three guys tearing up and down the beach three times, tossing coconuts away from the water. There was no trash because I keep that part of the beach clean. What a waste of energy.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Semana Santa in Chacala

Well, I guess this is the official first day of Semana Santa in Chacala in 2006. This is actually my fourth Semana Santa here, because my first three week visit, in ignorance, was during Semana Santa. Luckily I didn't realize there was anything unusual, because the only other time I was here was four months earlier, a couple of weeks after Hurricane Kenna. Which was also kind of atypical for Chacala.

Anyway the weather is perfect. People started pouring into Esparanza's in droves at about 7am. There were already three families camping here starting Friday, and four more arrived today, plus tons and tons of day trippers. Esparanza spends the day collecting fees for the showers and toilets and from campers, while Marco and Kinca, two of her sons, brought truckload after truckload of water for the showers and toilets. They pumped the water into a tank in the back of a pickup and then pumped into the tanks at the house. The water is from the laguna. Where and what ever that is.

This is actually Palm Sunday. I don't think they have Mass here but they do in Las Varas. The priest comes to Chacala on Thursday, usually, and for weddings, deaths, baptisms, first communions, etc.

Anyway. So far I am loving this year's Semana Santa. Lots of families and kids putting up tents and cooking and playing and swimming and talking and visiting. After I finish this post I am going to go walk around town and see what's up. And check in at Chico's and visit with them.
And buy some drinking water and maybe get Frank's store to pop some popcorn for me. It's my latest favorite food. I have never eaten microwaved popcorn before, and I was addicted to it the first time I ate it. I'm only half kidding.

I am not sure who is around town as far as English speaking tourists go. I saw one couple heading toward Mar de Jade this afternoon. Maybe I will see some in town. The regulars are are around I know (total of six or seven) plus whoever is at Mar de Jade, plus one couple who will be heading out soon. All the gringo motor homes are gone I think, and there were three sailing boats in the harbor this morning.

I am having such a nice day, hanging out with E, drawing with the kids, writing, drawing in my tent, reading, picking up trash, having lunch with my new neighbors, from Guadalajara, swimming, and helping E. make new signs for the restrooms, etc. I love the family life around me. Happy people, relaxed and enjoying each other, the kids, the food, and the sunshine. And the ocean too.

Earlier this year I made a big red sign for this camping area out of a deflated air mattress I found on the beachone morning and some bamboo. I noticed it was taken down a couple of days ago. But yesterday E and her six year old son asked for some permenanat marker pens so she could make a new sign by writing on the back of the old sign. It turned out pretty good. Then Carlos, the boy, and I made another colorful sign for their little candy/treats/shampoo/duritos shop. On a cardtable in the shade. Turned out pretty good. I made the actually sign and outlined the letters and Carlos filled in the colors.

Chacala is definitely not a "party" town and I hope is stays that way. This is a family vacation town, with kids and grandparents and no craziness. I really hope it stays that way. So far no motos or jets on the water today. Trash truck came by twice. Looking good.

Dog Days in Chacala

A strange thing happened this week. And the strangest thing is it happened right in front of me and I didn’t even realize what was happening.

For the last three months or so, a guy from California parked his motor home about eighty feet from where I am camping. He isn’t someone I spend any time with, but he did mention one time that he had bought dog food for the mommy dog that lives with the family where I am camping. It’s a nice black lab who is a very sweet mom to her puppies

Anyway, when this guy was getting ready to leave Chacala a couple of weeks ago, he was talking about taking Mommy Dog back to the States with him. At the time, I briefly thought “how nice”, and then tried to imagine him taking care of a dog. But I didn’t really give the idea much thought.

Then a few days later I saw him on the Chacala beach with some people, and he had the dog on a rope. I asked him what he was doing, with the rope, and he said he was having the dog spayed the next day, and was getting her a vet note so she could go into the US.

He had mentioned taking the dog to California with him a couple of times over the past few months, but I didn’t take it seriously. But I didn’t like seeing him standing there with the dog on a rope. At the time I thought, how sad if Mommy Dog would lose this lovely life she has here. No ropes or fences or whatever. Just roaming around with her dog buddies, sleeping on the sand, barking at strange dogs walking by the beach, sniffing dead fish on the beach, etc. Letting baby chicks run up and over her back. A dog’s life in Chacala seems pretty nice.

Anyway, I suggested he just get her spayed and leave her here in Chacala. He was appalled. He said something like “Do you think I would spend all that money and just leave her here?” I said I thought she had a pretty nice life in Chacala and I didn’t imagine in would be so nice living on a rope while he parked his motor home in friend’s driveways or whatever.

Anyway, that was the end of the conversation. A few days later the guy had left Chacala, and we (the dog’s Chacala family) were sitting around visiting, and someone asked where the dog was. I can’t remember her name right now. In fact, I didn’t know she had an official name. I had been calling her Mommy Dog for months.

Anyway, I realized then that they didn’t know this guy had taken the dog. Apparently he had taken her without talking to anyone in the family. They checked around and asked each other, and no one had any conversations with this guy about his taking the dog.

But what’s really strange is that it didn’t occur to me that he hadn’t asked permission or discussed his plans for their dog. Her just took her. It seems so strange that someone would do that. The dog was certainly not hanging around his motor home to any extent. She was around my camp and at family family house all the time. Oh well.

I thought the family’s reaction was interesting when they realized he had really taken the dog. The reaction seemed to be along the lines of “Well, what do you expect from gringos?” I think a lot of the stuff we do, or suggest Chacalaens should do, is seen around here has rude or crazy, or just plain strange.

And of course, maybe he thought he asked them for the dog and they didn’t understand what he was saying and just smiled and nodding. Not having any idea of what he was talking about.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Moving on the Chacala Beach

I am moving my stuff to a different ramada space for two weeks of Semana Santa. My landladie's family built it for me (in that I will be the first person to camp under it). It’s kind of away from the regular camping area. I like either is to protect me from the hoards of tourists coming fo Semana Santa or so they can have their family members stay in my old spot, or because they can rent my space for more by the night. Or some other reason. I usually feel like I am just guessing about what is really going on. I try to just go with the flow and it usually works out okay.

This morning one of the adult sons, Gecko (that’s not right but something like that) has been wheel barrowing beach sand to my new space so I will have a nice sandy floor instead of a weedy, chicken scratch area.

My space is now right near the big cage where they keep about 20 beautiful birds (parakeets or canaries or some kind of little colorful birds) that sing all day. It’s not my favorite location in the world because it’s right in the middle of where the family walks and hangs clothes to dry etc, but it is near the beach and the waves won’t be quite so loud, and the palm tree shade is good. And really, there aren’t a lot of options for cheap housing/locations during Semana Santa.

My summer house-sitting house won’t be available for a couple of more weeks, so this is fine for now. Two of the little neighbor boys just left after drawing for a couple hours. They were actually coping labels and magazine headlines in color, with crayon, in Spanish and English. Nice writing but kind of an odd activity. A nice American woman left a very large set of crayons for the kids to use and they were very excited to see them. Laid all the colors out on the table and divided them into color groups, etc.

I am writing this post from my tent with the “windows” unzipped, just looking at the ocean thru the screens. Perfectly beautiful view and a nice sunny day. Hot.

Susana and Berta and I might drive down to the botanical garden/nursery/restaurant on Friday. It’s about an hour south of PV, and I have been excited to go every since I heard about it. If it doesn’t work out to go with Susana I am going to go on Tuesday by myself. It sounds easy on the bus, but it would be fun to go with other people, so we’ll see.

I am finally getting the zipper sewn in for the bottom of my tent door. I have to replace that zipper too because I can’t get my bed out of the tent unless I can open the door all the way. Its hard to be bent over sitting on the ground sewing the zipper in, but I can’t see any other way to do it. Except to pay someone to do it. But I am on a tight budget right now because I was thinking I would be house sitting most of April and wouldn’t be paying rent for most of this month. Oh well. I still love being on the beach, so it’s okay.

One of the local builders who occasionally gives me rides into Las Varas, and who likes to show me around his current construction projects showed me his latest effort this morning. It’s for all the people during Semana Santa. A set of five very nice showers and two toilets. They are set up behind one of the little shacky stores on the beach road. Right near Fonda Lupita’s. You walk thru the cuesto into the “back yard” to the showers. They are concrete block, large stalls with nice opaque plastic divider walls and real doors that shut. They are very light and clean looking. I might try one out soon. No heated water but the big black water storage tank (tinacho) is right in the sun so the water will probably be okay.

It’s 10 pesos, almost a dollar for a shower. First he told me the showers use “Ciel” water , which is water bottled by Coke in five gallons jugs and which cost 10 pesos. But that was a joke. He clarified to me that the water was “dulce”, rather than ocean water. At first I thought the toilets had real toilet seats (hurrah!!!) but no, just plain toilets. Disappointing. I always keep my eyes out for toilets with toilet seats. Not something I ever worried about before I came to Mexico.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

End of the Chacala Gringo Tourist Season

I haven't walked down the beach to check, but I think all the motor homes from the US and Canada have pulled out or will be leaving tomorrow. There was only one boat (power) on the water this am and it left. Three sailboats arrived mid-day but they will probably be gone in the morning. More preparations are being made for Semana Santa, including roping off various areas for individual's camps and booths, doing some sprucing up and getting various shower/toilet facilities in order.

The ditch for the new town water system has made it all the way into town. don't exactly understand how it will work.

Jose Enrique turned me on to a new author/thinker a few days ago. New for me, I mean. The book is "Plan B" by Lester Brown. I have been reading excerpts and listening to videos by him on my little computer. If you google Lester Brown you will find all kinds of interesting articles, etc. I had just finished reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse" and his thinking fits right in. It seems he is trying to offer a way to save ourselves on this planet. Good luck. Most people I run into down here (from the US/Canada) don't seem to give a shit. Many can't even be bothered to pickup the trash right around. Anyway, good reading and he does try to offer a plan.

Chacala has all the normal ecological/environmental problems, including no potable water, no sewage treatment facilities, inadequate waste disposal, inadequate disposal of toxic chemicals, food grown in herbcides pesticides and fertilizers, a fishing industry almost destroyed by pollution and overfishing, burning of plastic, etc etc etc. Probably other depressing issue too, but that's enough for today.

Various construction projects around town are continuing. I can't think of anything new starting at the moment except for an ugly looking (from the disstance) cement structure up on the bluff to the south. This is the second ugly looking structure up there, and apparently being built by Luis, the owner of the new big hotel. And there is talk again about Mar de Jade building a timeshare complex between Mardejade and the town. Scary thought. I am hoping that's just a rumor.

Saw what is probalby the last of the whales this year on Sunday: a mom and baby doing tail flips or whatever they are called. Heading north.

Things are looking a little dusty from lack of water on the hillsides around town. First rain will probably be in late June. The weather is very nice these days. Wore a long sleeved shirt with my shorts the other night. Otherwise it's shorts and short sleeved shirts and flipflops. Many days the ocean is very clear and the waves change around all day long, so if y ou don't like the size of the waves, come back in an hour and it'll be different.

It sounds like the EBACH kids/families are going on another trip this summer, late July. Five days going to Oaxaca. It sounds like a wonderful idea. The people who went to DF and Guanajuato last year are still talking about the trip;.