Archive for March, 2010

From (Almost) Honduras

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

We left Antigua de Guatemala early this morning, and ended up in Esquipulas, another gorgeous colonial town which is right on the frontier (border) with Honduras.

After talking to many people, ex-pats, touristas, and locals, we decided discretion was the better part of valour and it was prudent to avoid El Salvador altogether.  Hence, we found ourselves winding our way north and south to make headway east.  Also, unfortunately, we could not avoid Guatemala City….where we got lost for a bit (about a half an hour, including a navigation stop).  The roads on the way in were well marked, but the signs petered out on the east side of town, along with the freeway (we needed to go South to North to pick up the road we needed…there is no ring highway, alas). 

However, with our trusty Garmin hand-held GPS, which does NOT have street level maps, but does know where exactly the hell you are at all times, we were able to wind our way through the (crazy) city streets….to an insane intersection where we knew we were on the right track.  Don’t even think about driving in Central America without a good GPS.  Maps are fine, but the GPS has saved our butts on numerous occasions before (in CR).  Today was as low stress as being lost in a foreign country could possibly be, thanks to our handy little GPS.  Plus, the Iguana Man knows how to drive like an expert in the mucho macho insanity.  Life is good.

The roads in Guatemala were terrific in comparison to the first 100 km in-country.  No worries on that count.  Antigua de Guatemala is in a volcanic region…rather a jungle.  Getting past Guatemala City, the terrain became much more like the high mountain desert in Mexico.  After a few hours on mountain roads, the road (CA9) straightened out, running along a river valley, all the way to Puerto Barristos on the Carribean.  We left that road (and most of the big truck traffic) thankfully, about 2:00 p.m.  Headed back south, again through mountainous terrain, toward the Honduras border.

There is just no good way to get to there from here.  Once you accept that fact…and enjoy the very scenic scenery, life is good.  As we winded our way to the south, the country did not seem to be so poverty stricken.  In fact, we saw some beautiful estancias.

Incredibly, once we left Guatemala City, there seemed to be some sort of Guatemalan cycling confab….we passed hundreds of cyclists, in twos and threes, slogging up and down the mountains!  Loco.  As we made our approach to our destination for today (Esquipulas)….there were numerous signs for hotels (finding hotels is somewhat of an art usually…but that is for another post)….including one that at first glance I thought said “internet gratis”.  Well, upon second sighting of said sign, it did in fact say “Hotel de la Fe” with free internet.  And as we made the final turn into town (this is a large town)…it was on about the second block into (insane) traffic (Easter Week again) and conveniently located on the correct side of the road.  So we pulled over, and lo and behold, they even had underground (and secure) parking.

So….all is grand.  It’s about time to go walkabout and find some food and a farmacia to replenish our Immodium (’nuff said!).  I’ll log back in later and post some pictures….and if I get ambitious, start a new Guatemala photo page. 

~ Blonde Gator

Greetings from Antigua de Guatemala

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

What a lovely little town.  Originally founded in the 1500’s the town was demolished in an earthquake in the 1770’s….there are still many ruins here, which are slowly being restored.

Here’s where we are today….at a nice coffee shop on the main square in town.  It is quite beautiful, as the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom.  Purple flags are up everywhere for Easter week….lavender and yellow seem to be the colors de jour.

Plaza Centro de Antigua de Guatemala

Antigua de Guatemala

We’ll stay here until tomorrow….as the Procession for the Easter Holiday begins Thursday.  Yesterday we also wandered around the town, and there was a street fair….the street foods smelled delicious.  The textiles here are quite interesting.  I’m going to buy some of the native weavings to make some pillows with when we get home….the weavings here are colorful and quite beautiful.

Street Fair

Cathedral

There are people selling local food, and textiles everywhere.  The town is filling up fast for the Easter weekend.

There are many ruins here….this is just one of many, it is beautiful.

Ruin

Detail of Ruin

Okay…that’s it for now….we’re about coffee’d out (I bought some local coffee and chocolate yesterday….so I can try my hand at mole once we get to Costa Rica).  We’ll be on the road again tomorrow, I have no idea whether we’ll be able to find wi-fi in Honduras and Nicaragua, so it may be a few more days until you hear from us.  We plan to be at our destination in Junquilal on April 5th.

Until then, start thinking about making this trip some day.  It is truly an amazing adventure.  We’ve met lots of people from all over the world, just this a.m. a couple of Brits & Kiwis.  Cheers!

~ Blonde Gator

Greetings from Chiapas

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

We’ve reached our last state in Mexico, Chiapas.   Yesterday was the beginning of the Easter Holiday week, and apparently almost everyone has reached their destinations.  The roads were very empty, and much to our delight, we found ourselves on GREAT roads yesterday, where we had expected them to be difficult.  We were on autopistas and then a 4 lane divided freeway.  Life is good.

We navigated south and east away from Puerto Escondido, along the Pacific coast….although the road is somewhat inland.  We winded our way through the mountain valleys, desert one minute, lush, tropical valleys the next.  Once we left Oaxaca, Chiapas became more cattle country…although we passed miles and miles and miles of mango farms.  I have to think of the Mango king, oh how he’d have loved yesterday’s trip.  Tiny yellow mangos, big purple and green ones, and medium sized red ones.

Since it’s the Easter Weekend, we decided to try a little coastal village to see if there were any interesting rooms available, unfortunately, not….so we’re just off the main road in Mapastepec, about 2 hours from the border.  We met some Californians on the road yesterday, who had left Tamarindo CR (about 20 minutes north of our destination).  They’d done some exploring, and we have some great tips.  Oddly, after 3 years in CR, they’re planning to move to Antigua, Guatemala.  With young kids, they weren’t happy with the beach/school environment for their children, plus they had friends/family in Antigua.  Oh, and my across the street neighbor, Louis, will be visiting Costa Rica next month sometime, Blonde Mom is trying to get the details, but I think he’ll be close enough for us to visit him, too!  It truly is a small world.

I didn’t take very many pictures yesterday, but I was flabbergasted as we were driving, literally out in the middle of nowhere, and came upon a wind farm!  There must have been at least 200 windmills, at least half of which weren’t turning.  This is your future, stoopid warmers!

Windfarm ~ SNAFU ~ they should all be facing the same way & turning

This was apparently the Eurus Wind Farm, largest in Latin America, and cost $550M.

I’m having a hard time envisioning that on the beaches in Florida.

Eurus Wind Farm

Okay, we are soon to be off, headed to Antigua, Guatemala.  I’m told it’s pronounced An-Ti-Gwa, unlike the Carribean island of Antigua, which is pronounced On-Tee-Ga (which I was told repeatedly when I visited that lovely little place back in the early 80’s).  We’ve met a few people on this trip who raved about Antigua, supposedly killer leather goods, so I’m signing off.  The sooner we eat, the sooner we get on the road, the sooner I shop!

~ Blonde Gator

The Anti-Argh!

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Just got back from dinner (the killer robalo for the last time)….and opened my (now-functioning) e-mail.

I had a note from Blonde Mom…..guess what she deemed Obama?  (Mega Spew Alert)…..here’s exactly what she wrote:

   You never know when His Shitship will hit the TV.

Somebody call the paramedics, I’m dyin’ of laughter here!!!!

More Argh!

Friday, March 26th, 2010

I’ve been having computer issues ever since about Houston.  My mouse (wireless) had been freezing up, and even w/o it, using the touch pad.  It’s a PITA to restart, but whatever.  Well, today, my Outlook took dive. 

Iguana Man thinks he has the Microsoft disks in the car, but they are unfortunately not in the disk book that is conveniently NOT in the car boxes.  Of course.  If anyone has Microsoft Office 2007, and you can send me the Scanpst.exe file (located in your Office files, Under Office 12) I would be eternally grateful.  That file, which repairs your personal e-mail file, is not on my computer. 

We’ve managed to restore an old archive, but I’ve also lost my e-mail contacts, so kindly ping me back at either my blondegator or bellsouth addy.

It’s scorching hot today, about 32C or perhaps 92C.  You’d think being from Florida we’d be used to the tropical heat and humidity….but this has been the coldest winter I ever remember.  Mom said she had the heat on again last weekend….thank you Al Gore!  Perhaps a dip in the pool in a bit, we’re trying to stay out of the AC except at night.

We visited the laundry lady again today, so this afternoon we are going to repack the bags, and the car, in order to blow town in the morning.  We expect to be in Guatemala by Monday.  As I mentioned earlier, we ran into a Canadian who really talked it up, so perhaps we shall explore for a few days.  We’re not expected to the Iguana Azul until April 5/6….and I want to blow through El Salvador & Nicaragua in one day.  Later.

~ Blonde Gator

A Bitch About the Banks! Pay Attention

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Seems the Nanny State has gone above and beyond a paternalistic government.  Now the Banks are “minding” your money for you….or for us.  Iguana Man went to withdraw some funds (in Pesos) and was informed “services are not available”. 

After crappy Skype connections, an e-mail or two, he finally broke down and called via cell phone, only $1 a minute.  To tell the asshats on the other end to “release” the card….just because they see new activity, they feel free to stop the card.  Morons!  They want a “travel form”.  Say what???

Incidentally, this was WACHOVIA!  Let them know this is NOT acceptable!

So….if you decide to travel, let the idjits know not to freeze your damned card….and when you get back, change banks!  ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!

~ Blonde Gator

Le P’tit Hotel, Puerto Escondido

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Tres bien!  We’ve truly enjoyed our stay here….I earlier posted our “blog spot”….a table and chairs under the thatched roof, on the second floor, with a lovely ceiling fan….where we get assaulted by mangos about every 45 minutes….poor planning on the mango’s part….they miss every single time.

The entrance to our room (on the left, but you’d never know that…from on the white tile ‘step” on up is a mural, as is the rounded top doorway.  Also, check out the mango on the floor to the left of the “entrance”:

Trompe D'oieul Entrance to Our Room

Our room….if you decide to stay here, it’s worth the extra $$ to get air conditioning.  Although it’s pleasant enough, about 87 degrees by my reckoning, I have to have a.c. to get a good night’s sleep.  Notice the wonderful closets (I think that’s a TV….LOL, I haven’t turned one on since we left Houston).

The Room

The view out the front of the hotel….the beach is just beyond the building across the street, and you can see the top of the XTerra next to the “P’tit Hotel” sign….one of the truly nice things about this little hotel….off street  parking:

View from the Balcony, Toward the Beach

Finally, the detail of the palm thatch roof overhead of the Blog Spot.  Very cool.  I’d like to do this at home.  B’ster assures me it is waterproof if well maintained.

Palm Thatch Roof

Michel is the owner of Le P’tit Hotel in Puerto Escondido…it’s on the internet.  Room 1, although it doesn’t appear to be “prime time” (i.e. no ocean view) is large and air conditioned, no hammocas por los bambinos, nor lofts for the abuelitas.  Nice room….close to the pool.   Cheers!

~ Blonde Gator

Going Galt

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

My friend Tim in Costa Rica reports that his “inquiries” (his site is linked under my handy Costa Rica links page) about retiring in Costa Rica have gone up exponentially since O’Care passed.

So we are not the only ones planning to go Galt.  I am relieved not to have to watch first hand our country being dismantled by the socialists.  Even my mom is totally fed up!  Most of her e-mails are rants. 

The whole thing is so utterly predictable, I see the whining now that we conservatives are being mean and using dangerous language.  What did they think would  happen, we’d smile and say “please sir, may I have some more?”.  Argh.

I’m not in the mood to rant, but I just wanted to mention what Tim said.

Oh yeah, our hotel is filling up for the Easter week…a bunch of les francais checked in yesterday.  Oddly, as I attempt to learn spanish my french is coming back, which is somewhat confusing.  But at least I’m able to converse sometimes!  B’ster says the same thing….about his Chinese.  It’s an odd mix we’re speaking these days.

~ Blonde Gator

It’s Called Fishing and Not Catching For a Reason :)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

I managed to screw up my blog on this from yesterday, so I blasted it…shall attempt to recreate it today.

We left Puerto Escondido about 6:45 in a panga, a local flat bottomed fishing boat, powered by an outboard.  Here’s the harbor and the fleet of local boats:

Puerto Escondido Harbor

We headed east, passing the mouth of a river, where the surf was up….way up.  The wiki link says Puerto Escondido is one of THE surfing hotspots, and looking around, I can believe it.  While it is gentle in the harbor, and out on the deep briney, there are spots where the surf is huge.

River Mouth, East of Puerto Escondido

The town is only a few miles along the coast, once it’s over, it’s over….miles upon miles of desolate beaches, with an occasional uber mansion right on the beach (not such a great idea, this is apparently prime hurricane and tsunami real estate).

Beach & Mountains, East of Puerto Escondido

We hit the hot spot for baitfish…I caught 16 out of 20!  We were laughing so hard, I’d haul one in and not even complete my drop back before I’d holler “I’m on” and start reeling like mad.  The skipjack tuna (or oceanic bonito) is a prized billfish bait all over the world.  On the big boats, they have “tuna tubes”, fat pvc pipes about 2′ long, through which water is forced.  When catching a bonito, it’s dropped head first into a tube until needed for live bait, where it’s sewn a harness and allowed to swim behind the boat waiting for a big marlin.  In the case of sailfishing, which we were doing, the bonito belly, soft and white, is shaped into a bait that swims like a fish.  It’s an art to make a sailfish bait out of bonito belly.

Oceanic Bonito

We didn’t see a single billfish, alas…tis why they call it fishing, not catching.  But we did see a turtle and a whole bunch of dolphin, jumping for joy as they are wont to do.  It always makes my day.  I was kind of hoping to find some yellowfin tuna co-mingled with the dolphin, but that didn’t happen either.  We came in around noon, having had alot of fun for not very much money at all.

Puerto Escondido from Offshore

Near Approach to Puerto Escondido Harbor

When we returned to the beach, the boat was met by the captain’s wife, who was pleased at our catch, she promptly took them to her restaurant.  Bonito is a staple here.  While having a beer, our host informed us that a local lady would be delivering chicken tamales later that afternoon, did we want any?  Hello!  I love tamales.  So, later yesterday afternoon, 8 delicioso tamales were delivered to our room.  Note to packing list…paper plates & plastic tableware are neccesito.  The perfect end to a lovely day.

Today we’re working hard on the art of goofing off….a swim may be on the agenda.  Quien Sabe?

~ Blonde Gator

Just Another Day in Paradise

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Thankfully, we are now seriously stuck in wind down mode.  We’ve been here two nights, and plan on staying two more nights.  Puerto Escondido is a fabulous little resort town, sleepy and beautiful, charming, and apparently only busy during Easter and Christmas. 

We goofed off today, I actually reverted to type and slept in until almost ten a.m.!   Yay, I’m over the change heebie jeebies.  It always takes a while.  Iguana Man thoughtfully dropped the laundry off this a.m., we are now fully recharged w/clean clothes.  I think the total bill for wash/dry/fold for both of us, two full weeks’ worth, was $7 USD. 

We wandered down the road and had great omelets, mine w/spinach and Oaxacan cheese, Iguana Man with ham & cheese?  The “chili” or “sauce picante” varies, but it is all delicioso!  Then we wandered around, poking our noses into a few little shops, met a nice guy who had a silver shop….I’m going to return before we leave to pick up a few things.  We stopped for a couple of beers at a beachfront spot….and I kept raising my hand “Laundry”!!!  No no, we have until 3.  Not so!  The laundry lady closed at two….we had to run up the street, but she waited for us to arrive.  It’s all good.  Unfortunately, I left my memory card in my computer, so no pictures today.

Best news….my whining must have worked.  We are going sailfishing tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m.  I hope to have some great pics for everyone tomorrow.  The ocean here is incredibly gorgeous, we sit on the little bay with the frigate birds overhead.  Surf’s up about a half mile to the south.  The beach is quiet today, as the ankle nippers are in school.

Incredibly, I only found the pool here today!  It is beautiful, on the 2 1/2 floor.  This little hotel is a gem.  The walls have all been faux painted, I’ll take some pics, but the entrance to our room is a trompe d’oeiul mural that has had Iguana Man close to walking into the wall!  The maids sweep and mop the tile three times a day….our room is kind of faux plaster finished….with custom wordwork throughout.  Thankfully, formica is not a known substance here, for which I am grateful.  Did I mention we’re a block from the beach?

Okay, ’tis time to wake up the Iguana Man, I am definitely up for round two of robalo…perhaps I’ll ask the owner and/or chef to suggest a different preparation tonight. 

And I just have to laugh, my blog has been picked up by some aggregators…Sports Illustrated, too!  Which means I’m now getting comments from people whom I have never met.  I started this blog to keep all of my friends and family up to date, but it’s kind of fun….I’ve also been pinged by Costa Rica Today and a Guatemala service.  Just think….you can say you knew me when!

Okies.  Iguana Man has awakened himself…says “I’m hungry”…..so time to turn off the Toshiba.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator