Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lovely Camping Spaces in Chacala

Chacala is heating up. Temperature wise. And the humidity is rising too. For various dumb reasons I was out walking in the heat and sun at about 1 pm. That’s something I usually avoid in the summer months. But, whatever….I was ready for a shade break when I got to the homes on the beach that have camping palapas, toilets, and showers for rent. The palapas are right on the beach. And during the week the palapas are usually empty.I stopped to visit with the adult daughter at one of the homes. She was collecting the fees for the palapas and banos. She was not busy, so we visited. The shade felt wonderful.The family’s former home here was completely destroyed by Hurricane Kenna in October 2002. When I first came to stay in Chacala, in the Spring of 2003, the home had just been rebuilt, and the lady of the house had planted some very small trees between the house and the road. On the shady side of the house.

And now, four years later, the trees make a lovely shaded patio where the family sits to visit and relax. There are flowers growing and it looks lovely.There is enough shade that when it’s way too hot to stand in the sun, in the shade it’s still comfortable and breezy.While I was sitting and visiting with my friend, I realized how lovely the palapas and the ocean looked. Paradisical. Is that a word? Like paradise. Like my dream of what I wanted to come to in Mexico.I took some photos, and reminded myself I need to spend more time in the ocean, and under the palapas. I am going to add these photos to my other blogs:

In the camping section of Chacala Budget Rentals

In the camping section Chacala Nayarit

And there are some other photos of the camping area in Gardener in Mexico
It’s getting warm enough now that more local people are in the water in the evening. And more visitors from other parts of Mexico are coming down for a dip. And a nice relaxing afternoon eating lunch for hours at one of the palapa restaurants. The water is perfect for swimming year-round, but local people like the water to be about 90 degrees for swimming, and that doesn't happpen until August or so.

I can't believe how lucky I am to have this life. And to live in such a beautiful place.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maps and Short Trips Away from Chacala

A few days ago I made a very satisfying investment in my future travel plans. I bought a map of the states of Jalisco (Guadalajara and P.V.) and Nayarit (Chacala, etc). Even the Colima area, to the south) was included. It was printed about 3 years ago, and isn’t very up-to-date, but it’s good enough.
These are just random Chacala photos. This is the view from Berta's yard.

When I have specific questions about somewhere I want to go, or how to get there, I use the internet to get help. There’s a great message board “J.R. in P.V. " (, where there are people who can answer most questions about the roads and buses in this area. And Lonely Planet’s “Thorntree” ( has people who know about every part of Mexico. It’s amazing. You can ask Thorntree –Mexico anything and get some greatanswers. Or you can search the old posts for lots of info about whatever it is you are wondering about.

I think I am going to put the map up on the wall for awhile. I am wearing it out folding and unfolding it to check out different things. I love it that there are so many little towns in Mexico, with very long histories, going back into the 1500’s.

There is a wonderful monthly magazine, sold everywhere in Mexico. It’s called “Descondido Mexico”, and it has lots of ideas for trips. With good enough photos, to get an idea of what things look like. It’s in Spanish, but you can figure things out without being able to read much Spanish. Here a few of the waiters at Chico's Restaurant.
They get younger every day.And, of course, I get older
Three times in the past week I have been invited by local friends to go on somewhere with them. I haven’t gone yet, but I have been invited. Two of the trips are to the family ranchos of people I know here. In the mountains around Las Varas. I can’t wait.

And I am kind of nervous that I will feel stuck somewhere were I am not comfortable, without food I like to eat. I guess I will just take my chances. Because I really want to see where peoples families live. And what the countryside is like off the main roads.And then I am going on a bus trip (4 hours, maybe) to Mexicalitan. Mexico’s version of Venice. In that during the rainy season, the lagoon where the town is located floods, and the town becomes an island, with flooded streets, and so on.

Last year someone I know went to Mexicalitan, and brought me a yellow tee-shirt with a big photo of the flooded town on the back of the shirt. It was the first I have heard of it, and I can’t wait to go. I will probably spend the night there, and come back the next day.We are going by bus, and my friend will visit her family there. The bus to that area is sort of a 3rd class bus, and I haven’t been able to figure out when the bus goes, and how to catch a ride. Going with someone else who knows the way will be nice. Usually I just go to whatever bus terminal I am at and ask for help, but the 3rd class buses don’t seem to have terminals around here. At least I haven’t found one.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

15 Years Old in Chacala, Part 3

These are photos taken at the church, when the Mass celebrating this young woman’s fifteen birthday. I wasn’t sure how the family would feel about posting the photos, but people here in Chacala kept asking me why I wasn’t posting photos of the actual people. So I checked with the family, and got their okay. But the family members in some of my favorites photos had already left town, or not around, so I won’t post them.

Sunset Over Chacala

Last night I walked home along the beach, just as the sun was going down over the north end of Chacala beach.

I have been reading some photography magazines someone brought me. A common theme is the articles is that the light before dusk and before sunrise is a very good light for taking photos. And a nice photographer named Alan told me the same thing on the beach last winter.At this latitude, about 22 degrees, once the sun goes down, it’s dark in about fifteen minutes. Much different than up north. We are having our longest days of the year for the next six weeks or so. At the summer solstice, a month from now, the sun goes down about 7:30 or 7:40, and it’s dark before 8pm.

Anyway, last night, I got my camera out and started taking photos. Of whatever caught my eye.

The sun shining across the water, seeming to follow me as I walked up the beach.

The sun shining on the wet rocks, being covered and uncovering by the little waves.A view thru the palmsThe palms above my favorite camping area at Esparanza’s.A big family camping on the beach below El Delphin.A boy sliding across the shallow water on a piece of plywood.A few days ago, at the church, a little girl kept begging me to take her picture, as the sun went down. I love how she looks, with the light coming thru her hair.

Hand Built Houses in Chacala

I love watching the progress on some of the building projects around Chacala. Especially where the work is being done by a small crew working together and using hand tools. Usually the worksite is quiet, and the workers can talk about what they're doing.

I guess it’s probably because I am not doing the hard physical labor, but I really appreciate construction methods that don’t involve heavy equipment. I know trucks are needed to bring sand, cement, blocks, gravel , steel, tile, and sometimes water. But a lot can be done, and very quietly, by a small, hardworking crew. Of course, some workers need a boom box booming, but most do not.This photo shows what a grader can do. Almost all the construction work in the actual town of Chacala is done by small crews of workers, with shovels, hoes, buckets and other hand tools. With the occasional use of a small cement mixer. That’s usually for the one-day roof pours. When a team of maybe 25 workers, on a Saturday, carry wet concrete in white buckets up onto the new roof. Usually walking up ladders to get there.

Yesterday I was visiting a worksite, where all the building materials have to be carried about 150 feet to the work site. By hand. Of course, I am glad I’m not doing the carrying. But I love it that there’s no road into the work site, and trees remain where they stand. The structure is being tucked in around the natural geography of the site.

It’s on a slope, overlooking the water, and the structure is being built into the natural slope. Leaving as much of the vegetation and natural drainage as possible. There is one exception though.One huge rock was removed, chunk by chunk, by a young man with a mean arm and various sledges and other hand tools. I think the rock was discovered under the surface of the site, after quite of bit of foundation building had already been built. And the rock pieces will be used in the construction. Not hauled away in some giant truck and dumped somewhere.

The two little rental units across the road from me are going up fast. This much work in about four days. The basic crew right now seems to be four or five guys. Some are moving materials to the guys actually building the walls, and others mixing the concrete, by hand. They don’t use mixing troughs here. They just mix the concrete by hand, on the ground, or a concrete pad,
The new house that being built on top of a motor house garage, here in Chacala, is being built amazing fast. The six man, more or less, crew has been working a month. No machinery that I have noticed. And they are getting ready to pour the roof. I really like the design of the house. Lots of attention to where the sun will hit the building during different times of the year, and to natural ventilation. And they are building two great shaded terraces with wonderful views.
I think the place I am temporarily calling the "Motor Home House" will tie for being my favorite gringo house in Chacala. Tied with Gordon’s house. Which is always cool and nice. That’s because the south and west exposures are all shaded, and there is cross ventilation from every side. The new house has the same thoughtful care being paid to how the sun and the wind and the rain will connect with the house.

This is Laura Sura's second rental unit, on the right. Her first unit was built a couple of years ago. It's usually rented to long-term tenants. The new one has a similar layout, with a nice small, shady, kitchen patio on the back and a sunny patio on the front. The building with the arch in the lower part of the photo is actually on the other side of the street from Laura's units. The photo is a little confusing. There are some new places in Chacala with the windows on the south and west walls with no shading and no protection from the sun and rain. I doubt if they will be comfortable the way they are right now. But who knows. Some people solve design problems with air-conditioning.

I was just re-reading this post, hoping to catch the typos and mis-spelling. And I realized that I like these small, hand built projects in Chacala, because that’s how I am used to building.

We built our first house out of logs. Dead logs, cut down by hand, and then dragged out of the woods by horses. We used cross-cut saws and axes for most of the work. Finally, when we were cutting notches for the logs as we built the walls, we bought a small chainsaw to help with the notches.

That was the only machine labor we used to build a small, two story, log house. I think it was 24’ by 28’ with an 8’ covered porch. When we designed that house we were mostly worried about natural light and protection against the cold and moisture. Being at the 48 parallel.

Kind of different than building in coastal Mexico. The concerns here are also about natural light and keeping dry, but the goal is cooler and and breezier.

My second serious building project was building in abode at a place called Lama Foundation, near Taos. At about 8,500 feet. I loved building with mud and adobe bricks. And working with a crew of maybe 8 people. I mostly ran the gas cement mixer that we mixed the mud mortar in. And that was a new tool. I came there about half–way through the project, and I think they used only hand labor, no cement mixer, until right before I came. Sometimes I was the helper for a more skilled builder. Doing arches and windows, and for a few days, helping a Taos Indian man built a inside fireplace.

The Lama buildings were cool and dry in the summer, warm and dry in the winter. I don’t remember worrying about breezes, except for the kitchen, where we had big glass windows, and some opened.I guess part of what I like about watching small crews building small buildings with hand tools, is that it brings back very nice memories.

Of building nice spaces with natural materials and in a team of co-workers. And leaving the area around the buildings as natural with as much vegetation as possible. And by solving water and drainage problems on-site, not by passing them onto the neighbors.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My Brother is Seattle, Far From Chacala

My brother sent me some great photos of him on his moto. This is the first vehicle he has owned for a jillion years. Living in Seattle, with almost no street parking, makes car-ownership a problem. People seem to just rent cars when they need one.

Anyway, Gus keeps his bike decorated with various political views. And lots of people see them as he rides to and from work. Apparently no one has thrown rocks at him, which seems amazing to me. Considering the Republican strategy for dealing with people who don't share you views. Declare war on them. Of course, Seattle probably doesn't have that maybe Republicans. Or maybe they know when to keep there mouths shut.

There's another photo I liked the best, but I lost it trying to download it.

Sleeping in at Chacala

This is another Saturday morning in Chacala. We seem to be having a decrease in the number of huge semi’s rolling thru Chacala, delivering loads of soil, cobblestones, cement and sand to the local gated “development”. It’s hard to call it a development, since it’s actually the destruction of a beautiful natural environment.

I guess it’s a you say "development", I say "destruction” kind of situation.

Anyway, for the first morning in weeks I slept in, until almost 8am. As opposed to being awaked before 6am with the sounds of giant trucks grinding their way thru town. It’s a nice break, but I don’t think it’s permanent. There’s money to be made here, and people are coming from all over, like San Diego and Guadalajara to make it. The first clue I had that there were fewer trucks was that I didn't have to wipe a 1/4" of dust off the top of the fridge. I have gotten to used to the endless noise I didn't even notice there is less of it.

Anyway, all complaining aside. I ate breakfast leaning on the wall of my little patio/kitchen, and watched the birds coming in and out of the downstairs doorway. There is are a couple of big nests tucked up in the ceiling area of the entrance alcove. And lots of big and little birds fly in and out. Especially at dawn and dusk.The trash-collecting kids walked down the road, wearing their new orange tee shirts. I am guessing the tee-shirts are something to do with the Saturday morning trash/plastico patrol that’s been going all for a year or so.The neighbor’s new rental construction is really moving fast. I think this in day 4. All the work is being done by hand, except for the trucks delivering the cement, sand and block. And the workers. I think Chacala might be headed for an excess of rental stock. At least for awhile.
We are having lots of rentals and rental inquiries right now. Which is very unusual for May. I attribute this new interest in May, July, and October rentals mostly to the LA Times articles about Chacala, which was syndicated all over the country. And partly to repeated suggestions, here and on other internet sites, that May and November are good times to be in Chacala. Good weather, and very few gringo tourists. A good time to learn some Spanish, when there are few gringos to talk to.

15 in Chacala, Part 2

It’s definitely summer in Chacala. It starts getting a little humid in late May, and it hits the 90’s some days. I am sleeping with a sheet, bed clothes, and the fan on low, with the windows open. Except when music is too loud.

A few nights ago was one of the very, very loud music nights in Chacala. It was a Quincenera (15th birthday) celebration for a local girl. There was a very nice Mass/Missa at the church in the late afternoon. This is the car the young rode in, from her home to the church. She was wearing a lovely dress, and looking just beautiful.The Mass was followed by a fiesta, held in the parking lot one of the beach restaurants. A parking lot sounds like a strange location for a big party, but it worked out great. All decorated and open to the sky. The weather was perfect.

There were two separate bands, one nine-man board for the church. They played lovelyt romanitc music. I kept thinking it was a wedding instead of a birthday party.I attended both the Mass and the start of the party. I had a very nice time, until the music started, that is. It was just too loud for me, and I went home. I came back later, with earplugs in. And no camera. And it gets hard to remember who likes to have their photo on the internet and who doesn't. You would be surprised who asks me to put a picture of themselves on this blog.

I hadn’t realized there was going to me another part to the ceremony, with the girl of the evening, and her escorts. This was another time when I assumed I knew what was going to happen, and guessed wrong.It was a great party. Lots of food and drinks. Probably 500 people, almost all from Chacala, or people with relatives here. I couldn’t stand the noise and left again. But I got to “enjoy” the music from my bed. Even with the windows closed and the fans on full blast. And the earplugs in.These are some of the guys from the band at the party. I think it was a very large band. And they had HUGE speakers up on a stage.

The next morning everyone gave great reports about what a nice party it was. They had to round-up even more tables than they put out the morning of the party. Bringing tables from other restaurants, etc.I love parties in Chacala. Kids, babies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, old friends, new friends, brothers, sisters, neighbors. All visiting and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Luckily I don’t understand enough of the conversations to understand whatever rivalries are going on.