|What happens when you combine narrow,cobbled, windy*, potholed, Mexican roads with a 35-foot greyhound style bus driven by idealistic youngsters* to places 35-foot greyound style buses aren't meant to be taken? Well, up til this point, the only result has been some white knuckle drives through towns, lots of 9 point turn abouts, one near-death adventure with a peligroso shoulder on the highway, and a huge appreciation for bus drivers, esp. in foriegn countries.
Well, while leaving Puerto Vallarta yesterday, we encountered a new little adventure. I'm happy to report that we handled the situation like champs, just like those industrious Mexicans, using the tools at hand and our wits. Now we are in Mazatlan where we have an undetermined length stopover before making the final run north back to cold, rain, and hot chocolate.
|Monday January 21 2008||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|I don't consider myself an unskilled person*. I can swing a hammer, carry a rock, or redesign a website with the best of them. But when it comes to skills that really come in handy while travelling, I don't really have any that lend themselves to making money on the road.
Enter the circus people. Here in Mexico, they have found themselves gigs working at clubs, teaching juggling lessons to local kids, entertaining at birthday parties, and of course working the streets*. They recently came out to Yelapa to take a break from the big city life of Puerto Vallarta and within hours, they lined up a work trade for that evening: juggling for food.
Well, the juggling went over so well that after the music, they called for more. A few of the Jollies had already gone home by that time, so they called on me, circus roadie and juggle understudy extrodenaire*, to help out. I've been on stage a few times here and there and never felt very comfortable*, but never in a situation as both low key and supportive as the Oasis. I really enjoyed myself and people said I did pretty well. I didn't get any free food, however. Oh well, maybe next time I will have enough gumption to arrange something fancy for myself.
|Wednesday January 16 2008||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|"Isolated", "cut-off", "remote", "simple", "primitive", "detached"... For the past couple days, while composing this post, these words have been going through my head. None of them quite captures what I want to say, but there is a part of all of them. Hopefully I can convey what I want to you even if I don't have the right word.
I've always had an affinity for places that are somewhat removed from what I consider modern society (interstates, big box stores, electricity, access to all sorts of entertainment, services, and products). In my travels, I've had the good fortune to visit quite a few: Cinque Terra, Italy; Fanning Atoll, Kiribati; Lasqueti Island, B.C. Canada; nameless jungle village, Ecuador. I've now got another place to add to that list: Yelapa, Mexico.
Yelapa is situated around a small bay about an hour's boat ride south of Puerto Vallarta. There is no way to access it by car which means there are no cars (or roads) in town. People get around by walking, riding donkeys or horses, or, more recently, motorized quads*. Electricity came a couple years ago along with phone service, which allows for the dial up internet that I am currently using. There are a few little tiendas that sell various groceries, all of which keep their own particular hours. Almost all the residents recognize each other and always have gossip to share. The time spent walking to town is usually equally divided between walking and stopping to chat*. Wednesday and Saturday nights, one restaurant turns into a disco that all the young folks attend (and many of the old folks). It is a little gem of a community hidden between the jungle and the sea.
I've been here for over a week now. My original plan was to only stay one night, a chance to get a break from the bus and let the circus folk do their circus thing on the streets of PV*. In my time here, I've found a couple geocaches*, hiked to a great water fall, jumped some cliffs into the river, swam in the ocean, played about 673 games of ping pong*, gotten to be recognized enough around town to elicit a smile and nod from the locals, listened to live music by the around a fire under a palm tree almost every night, and totally relaxed.
Yeah, Yelapa definitely goes on my list.
|Monday January 14 2008||File under: travel, mexico|
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|Tropical climates always have the best fresh fruit (except for berry season in Skagit County, of course). You can just walk around the streets and find people selling fresh squeezed orange juice, freshly sliced pinapple, and all sorts of exotic local fruits. Fruit salads at the restaurants are awesome as well as cheap. Yep, I never lack vitamin C when travelling to warm places.
This past week, however, I've taken fresh fruit to a new level. The place I am staying has fruit trees galore. In our yard, we've got a lime tree that we can't even come close to keeping up with. I've been working on my limeade recipe daily and it is getting better*. There are also banana trees all over the place. The neighbor, who is oh so generous, has 3 different types of bananas, lemon and orange trees (which aren't ripe yet), and passion fruits. I've been making some passion fruit juice that is to die for.
Another abundant "fruit"* that I am absolutely enamored with is the coconut. You can find them littered on the beach or along the paths. It takes some work to get them open but it is definitely worth it. You get a nice sip to quench your thirst and more sustanence than you might think. Amiel, Hallie, and I split a coco on the beach the other day (that I laboriously peeled usingly only a rock) and we couldn't even finish it. Yum. Right now, I've got a bowl of coconut meat waiting for me to attempt to turn into coconut milk in hopes of making a kick ass coconut fruit shake for breakfast. I'll let you know how it goes.
|Thursday January 10 2008||File under: Mexico, food|
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click pictures for the evolution
I've never travelled with a group this large before, at least not when it wasn't totally organized where the itenerary was completely set before hand*. The experience has been interesting. I can't say that it was exactly what I was expecting but then again many parts were very close. All in all, the experience has been great. Now, when I meet a fellow circus person on the road and they ask "Have you road tripped with the circus before?" with a devlish grin, I can answer in the affirmative.
(Oh, and since I just upload this picture because it relates to the whole group thing, I suppose I will link to it even though I can't really fit it into context. Oh, and this video fits too. Group eating and group playing. Good times.)
|Tuesday January 8 2008||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|There are different ways to do a day at the beach. Some people just like to bring a book and a blanket, and just chill. Me, I get too hot in the sun and too bored just sitting there. That is why our day at the beach on New Year's Day was just my style.
There was all sorts of circus practice going on, from the professional (here and here) to the less than professional (here). Some of the local kids got in on it and got a few free lesson and a free show (and who doesn't love free?). Then there was the body surfing, which was awesome. I won't go as far as to say it was gnral shralpingly good, but it was good.
The coup d' gras, however, was the sand city we built, much to the amusement of passers-by. We had some great help from some of the local kids who wanted in on the action. One of my contributions was my rendition of Chichen Itza, which quickly went to ruins because it wasn't behind the sea wall.
Yes, it was quite a way to spend a day at the beach and a wonderful way to start the new year.
|Sunday January 6 2008||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|This past New Year�s Eve* is one to definitely file under "New Experiences" (and no, that doesn't mean I got a midnight smooch making it an even 10 years in a row.) This past NYE, I got to play professional circus roadie (I'll post my business card as soon as they come back from the printer).
The circus folks with whom I am travelling had their big gig at the Four Seasons Resort* NYE. Because of the rush of getting the bus functioning, driving halfway across a continent, etc. there wasn�t a whole heck of a lot of time to prepare re:costumes, practice, run-thrus, but that didn�t phase anyone (although had I been a part, I would have had to change my britches numerous times).
Anyway, the show happened, and despite a few glitches (technical and meteorological in nature), the consensus is that it went well (or at least everyone is glad it is over). During the fray, I found myself helping out in anyway I could (helping people into costumes, helping the magician try out his new illusion, running to and from the bus a million times*, cleaning juggling clubs, official time keeper, grabbing food for after the show, lending my* shoes to the magician, fetching fire, and more)
Anyway, here are a few pics from the show: Vern getting into the mantis, the Jollies, the puppet*. I will try to find a few more pics from other people's cameras and maybe post them in the comments when I get around to it*.
|Wednesday January 2 2008||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|I took today, our third full day in Puerto Vallarta, to go exploring, camera in hand. Sure, I felt like kind of a cheesy tourist, but it actually allowed me to fit in quite nicely with the cruise ship crowd. Anyway, here is my pictorial spread of Puerto Vallarta*.
Most of my time spent meandering about has been down on the malecon, or boardwalk, that runs most of the length of the beach. The city has done a great job of keeping it somewhat classy so it isn�t completely overrun with tacky t-shirt shops and tattoo parlors. There is lots of public art (some just purty to look at (see above) and some that you can play on). Some of the art is even temporary (with a nod to the season of course). In the evening, street performers and food stands pop up, making it a great scene. I�m hoping to head down that way soon to watch a glorious sunset with my 3rd fresh coconut ice cream of the day in hand.
I�ve also spent a fair amount of time cruising the back streets, whether looking for hole-in-the-wall food stands or because I am completely lost I can�t say for sure. This is the part of the city I�m starting to like a little better. The food stands you eat at don�t have menus in English and all the other patrons are locals. Plus it gives a better impression of what life is really like here. Anyway, this has become one of my favorite routes from the bus to the Cultural Arts Center (home base for costume making, etc. before the show).
|Saturday December 29 2007||File under: travel, Mexico|
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|Unfortunately, this picture is kind of hard to see*. Written in dust on the back of the bus, it says "100% Waste Veggi" and "Zero Fossil Fuel". While this is a bit of an overstatement (we use a bit of regular diesel fuel to warm up the engine and a couple of times when the veggie system has failed), it is something we are very proud of. When I�ve explained it to people in the past, I think they might have gotten the wrong impression, what with all the media hype surrounding ethanol, biodesiel, etc. So here�s a brief explanation of how it works.
Our engine burns vegetable oil, not biodesiel. The oil comes straight from the grease barrel behind the restaurant and into our gas tank. (Gonzo collecting is the most fun part, see?) When looking for used vegetable oil, you have to be kind of particular about quality. Most fast food places use hydrogenated oil which is bad (for some reason I�ve yet to understand). Also, not having chunks of stuff floating in the oil is a good thing. Water content is another thing. Sushi places are generally considered to be the best places to obtain the oil, although we got our first tank full from The Keg in Bellingham.
Okay, so now you�ve got a tank full of used veggie oil. Most vehicles that have been converted to run on veggie oil also still have their deisel tank and fuel lines with duplicates for the veggie stuff. The veggie lines usually have another filter or two as well as a heat exchanger, to heat up the oil. But once you�ve got all that stuff in place, you just warm up the engine and veggie oil using diesel fuel and the throw the switch, and -badda bing- your tail pipe starts smelling like french fries.
The pyschological effect of not using fossil fuels to travel is really something. You are taking something that would have been thrown away and using it to power your vehicle. While you�re still not in the clear regarding environmental impact of traveling (additional parts need to be replaced, roads need to be built and maintained, etc.), you are lessening your impact drastically. So now, when we idle the bus for the 15 minutes we�re stopped at a rest area (or, in the case of being in Mexico, a stand of trees), I no longer freak out about wasting fuel.
|Friday December 28 2007||File under: travel, Mexico, environment|
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|I can't say that it was wholly unexpected, but I also can't say that I imagined it would be this extreme. Saturday afternoon, 2 full days after our planned departure (which was, in itself, delayed by 4 days) we've made it as far as....Centralia! There wasn't one thing that caused the delays but a bunch of little things. First, the veggie oil system took longer to install than we thought (more on the veggie system later). Then a bunch of air got in the diesel system (that's bad). Then we had to shuttle everyone around to leave their cars here and there. Then we had to get veggie oil, which is quite difficult to pump when it is 34 degrees out*. Then, 10 miles out of Bellingham (at 4 am), we break 3(!) alternator belts, and have to stop at a rest stop until the auto repair shops open in the morning. Then some switches are hooked up wrong and something shorts out so we aren't pulling veggie oil but regular diesel. Now there is some filter issue that is slowing the flow of the veggie oil to the system.
Yep, lots of little things. But the moral of the story is we are making progress. Plus, I'm learning little bits about diesel engines. We're hoping to pull through the night and be to Arizona by nightfall tomorrow. Yeah, I know that is ambitious, but it's a goal.
As for the cooking, I've done one cooked meal on the road (let them eat cereal for breakfast), and I've realized that cooking on a moving bus isn't the best idea. I narrowly avoided a few big spills (as the driver avoided a few big accidents). Yeah, I'm thinking sandwiches for dinner.
Anyway, I hope to get a better post up when I'm not cooped up in a bus with 12 people all playing their own music and discussing what is going to go wrong with the bus next*.
|Saturday December 22 2007||File under: travel, Mexico|
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