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Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

In the Kitchen

This past week’s assignment was to photograph something in the kitchen. Some of my classmates photographed stemware or glass ware on a colored surface and one somehow managed to  get a photo of the underneath of his washing machine.

This year we have had an abundance of lemons–as in past years. I picked them all a couple of weeks ago and we have enjoyed them in a lemon meringue pie–my grandmother’s recipe that dirtied several bowls and a saucepan in the making, a pasta dish, over fish, vegetables, and sometime soon with hot tea.

I cut one into a half and two quarters, positioned them in a blue bowl I bought in Mexico while at a Spanish language class, put our microwave bacon cooker under one edge to give it an angle and shot away. Some pomegranates were also near by but didn’t show well against our cutting board countertop.

this week it’s a self portrait—not sure what I will do with that—but I’ve got several days to think about it.

Weir Lemons in a blue bowl



October 25, 2010 Monday morning

Our original plan had been to eat at El Taste last night for dinner but no-one felt like a large meal after our huge appetizer mid afternoon. So we opted for the hotel restaurant with appetizers and dessert—a chocolate flan made on premises. It was chocolate cake baked with flan on top, very tasty but I prefer regular flan. The fish cream sauce here is more strongly flavored and I wonder if I can reproduce it at home—perhaps a French ccokbook has a similar recipe.

We breakfast again at the hotel restaurant sitting outside with a good view of the marina—expensive huge motorboats to one side, expensive huge sailboats with a few live-aboards on the other. We discover breakfast menu items vary from day to day even though we ordered the same things—my Spanish is adequate for simple meal requests. Too soon it is time to say good-bye and head to the airport. Don and Carol will be leaving on Wednesday; Carol quizzes me again on some Spanish bargaining words—la cuenta (bill) and Cuantos (how much?) I make everyone say what they liked best about the trip—Glen liked the stacked rocks, Don Alvaro’s smile as he said each sauce was very good as he pointed to the different sauce bottles on the table, Carol enjoyed Alvarito’s constant chatter whenever his father was not present although she didn’t understand a word he said, while my favorite part was the colors of the water and the beach.

Airport security is not difficult but a bit confusing as we had to go through several lines back and forth from ticketing to baggage clearing. There are very few people here and so it doesn’t take long. Our flight is smooth, I try (unsuccessfully) to get a photo of Espirtu Santos from the air.

Mexico City is busy but we have a short layover. Security is very tight here; we had a hand search of our carry-on luggage twice plus our checked baggage twice and then we were searched with the ladies being searched more often than the men; searches were gender specific or generated by pushing the random button at baggage check.

My truck was waiting patiently for us in the parking lot. Back to work in the morning and then to process all the photos!

all my photos of this trip can be seen at

A day on the Malecon

October 24, 2010 Sunday

Rafael and Alvarito shuck clams

It was good to sleep in a real bed but I continue to have a great deal of pain on my right side from my graceful fall on the mountain. I am worried that it might be a crack in my pelvis although once I get upright, I can walk without much difficulty.

Dinner last night was at Los Magueqas. Rob continues to try Spanish totally unsuccessful but Rafael and Alvaro merely laugh and patiently correct pronunciation. I have pollo en mole, a very traditional dish. Mole is made with chocolate similar to Cincinnati chili. A Chicken breast is flattened to a thin filet and served over a lettuce leaf, rings of sweet onion and chopped peanuts. Rice seems to be always served as a small bowl packed with rice and then flipped upside down. My parents would have called it a sauce or dessert dish—usually serving applesauce or rhubarb sauce or pineapple chunks in them. Dessert was flan, very sweet.

We breakfast at the hotel restaurant, Glen and I share an omelet. We walk along the Malecon at a leisurely pace enjoying the pelicans, a home-made boat featuring 2 by 4’s nailed together for a mast; a large group of frigate birds float on the thermo cline. We stop at La Fuente for ice cream and sample the cactus sorbet—tasting like kiwi but a brilliant red color with black seeds. We take pictures of the many sculptures including the paper boat man which is my favorite.

A sports bar at the very end looks inviting and has a restroom and so we stop for a drink and a small snack. Glen and I have ceviche de camaron  appetizer which arrived in an absolutely huge square bowl. We wondered what portion size actual meals would have been.

Walking back we wander through some of the artisan markets, Carol bought a lovely bracelet made of local stones wire-wrapped with cover and a pair of silver wire-wrapped earings. I find two gorgeous abalone thimbles and tea-cup plus a paper mache turtle with a bobbing head. I stop to talk to a man playing a saw with a fabulous inlaid abalone handle—made by prisoners.

Back at the hotel, Glen takes a nap while I read at the pool.

Back at the hotel

October 23, 2010 Saturday

Shoe scorpion avoiding system

Back at the hotel, freshly showered and in clothing that is not sandy or wet, sipping a cold Fanta Naranja by the pool, listening to the twittering of the birds in the aviary—how can life be better?

Tonight is our farewell dinner and although I’ve had a great time and feel reluctant to leave, it will be good to be back home and back to work. I have a lot of photos to process, blog to write and upload. I had planned to write each night in my netbook but the charge would not have lasted that long.

Last night was very long, my right side was very painful and I worried I might be getting a sterile abscess from my fall. Five trips to the ladies and two to Paco in the moonlight probably did not help but fortunately both were a short trip. I am sorely disappointed as I thought my body had finally adjusted to kidney function during the day hours not night time but it seems I am back to ‘normal’ for me. I should be grateful for the excellent night’s sleep I had every night except last.

kayakers heading for last beach

Rafael is eager for us all to paddle kayaks today. Rob and Sue look a bit apprehensive about paddling singles but the plan is set; Glen in rear seat with Carol, me in the front occasionally wetting my paddle while Don said he was keeping up his fitness by doing nearly all the work and trying to burn off some of the extra calories consumed this week. Rob makes a somewhat inelegant entrance into the orange kayak which everyone agrees is the most tippy.

Breakfast, as usual, was quite wonderful; finely chopped apples with yogurt and granola—all the vegetables and fruits have been so uniformly chopped or sliced, I still cannot believe a food processor was not been hidden somewhere amongst the kitchen supplies. Second breakfast was potato pancakes with more egg and flour than I make but still quite tasty with honey.

Our paddle today is around the south eastern side of Espiritu Santo. There is a light breeze and the water is nearly flat. We watch pelicans fishing with one hitting the water close to the shore so hard it looked like his beak was stuck in the water. It took a long time for him to recover but finally he sat up properly and primped his feathers.

Two rays swam below and I saw a few minnows and some yellow-striped fish, all quite small with none larger than four inches. We paddle around some stacked rocks, the water sounds so loud when it crashes into them and then is sucked out of the caves. Half a dozen blue-footed boobies sit on a rock above us, their feet a brilliant turquoise blue against the guano stained red rock. I wonder what purpose the blueness of their feet served.

We rest mid-way on a lovely sandy beach. There are more rounded rocks here reminiscent of Rocky Mountain streams. Feathers float in the water and are on every beach. We pick up some trash, stow it in Rafael’s kayak and start paddling again.

It doesn’t seem that far but the wind has picked up and is blowing directly at us. Don and I surf a few waves generated by our support panga with Alvaro pretending to row although the engine was running. We land on the same beach we started from; divest ourselves of kayak skirts and climb aboard the panga.  Alvarito stays on the beach guarding the kayaks. It is a short ride to the pier where we are met by our van and lunch—submarine sandwiches and a big surprise—Ice Cream!

Sea Glass and Frigate birds

Underside of mangrove trees with salt crystals

October 22, 2010 Friday

Shells on this beach are very smooth and small, as though they were bits of fine china processed in a rock tumbler. I regret again my failure to bring along my water color pencils so that I could capture the wonderful colors.

We are facing Baja California Sur with La Paz bay directly in front of us; Cabo San Lucas to the left. The water is a delicious color scheme of lime green, heather blue, and indigo. This campsite features a group of very busy yellow-jackets, actually honey bees upon closer inspection, all hunting for water. None of them seem to bite but a light breeze seems to chase them away. Alvaro hands us a Bimbo pastry—a bran piecrust around a pineapple jelly preserve—very tasty. Bimbo/Bimba has the same meaning here as in the U.S. but here there is a male version.

Lunch is ceviche made from conch caught yesterday in the mud flats.

Glen and Don after water entry from the panga

After lunch we take the skiff to the stacked rocks; we paddled yesterday nearly all the way there. High tide makes the sea caves quite small. The kayakers make a water entry climbing over the side of the skiff to get into the kayaks; it was easier than they thought it would be but I stay aboard the panga.

We take care of necessary chores—emptying Paco, dumping the garbage—and make our way to shore. It has a significant drop-off so the skiff gets very close to shore.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow night we will be in the hotel with a real bed and indoor plumbing. I’ve had a great time although today I noticed the tops of my feet were a bit sun-burned. Shells on this beach are very smooth and small, as though they were bits of fine china processed in a rock tumbler. I regret again my failure to bring along my water color pencils so that I could capture the wonderful colors.

We have the beach to ourselves—a mile of lovely sand and polished shells. We walk down the beach but the going is a bit hard as the shells are piled so thickly. Our tent goes up quickly including the rain fly and the scorpion sticks. The weather has been perfect, a bit hot today but after the wind came up it was perfect.

 Carol and I hunt for sea glass; she found four pieces including a lovely foam green one. Glen and I find tiny ghost crabs barely a quarter inch across scuttling across the sand, I find a tiny hermit crab in a periwinkle shell, Carol finds a much larger one and Don holds it in his hands looking much like a hamster wheel. Glen and Don decide to take it back to camp and study its tracks.

Happy Hour today features mussels soaked in vinegar with onion looking much like smoked oysters. By now we all feel rather sandy and grubby as our attire has consisted of two or three shirts and one or two pairs of either shorts or long pants during the entire week.

We watch pelicans fishing and frigate birds circling overhead while Alvarito takes the skiff further out into the bay forthe night.


October 21, 2010


evening sky

Packing up the tents and camping gear is a complex process, particularly when everything must be loaded onto the skiff including any extra people not paddling. Today we had two choices, paddle on the eastern side toward the mainland or down the Baja side. Everyone opts for the Baja side as it has many coves to explore plus it is four miles shorter. Tomorrow’s paddle will be on the eastern side as our campsite will be on a long sandy beach judged to be one of the best beaches in the world.

I ride in the skiff—I think everyone is tired of my handicap but most particularly me! I fall again today—twice, once in the lady’s bathroom trying to balance myself—no handicap bars on the canvas screen! The rock was crumbly and I landed on a small pile of driftwood and hoped that there were no scorpions or biting things in that pile. The second time was getting off the boat-wet with spray—I swung one leg over the rail and then the second and promptly found myself on the beach. Fortunately the sand was squishy wet and relatively soft and all I suffered was a loss of dignity.

On the skiff, we stop to dump our garbage and clean out Paco. The sea gulls were thrilled at their breakfast feast, flapping their wings excitedly as they foraged. We stop at another tour site, very fancy with beach cabanas, huge sun showers, walled tents with cots and dressers plus a full size kitchen. Alvaro and Alvarito go ashore and return with sodas, fresh tomatoes and lemons.

The food has been wonderful, all cooked on a Coleman camping stove. We’ve had a lot of fish caught that day or day before by Alvarito. Last night we had a fish stew prepared with green peppers and onions with a dessert of sliced bananas and raisins covered with thinned sweeten condensed milk somewhat reminiscent of Indian fare.  Breakfast this morning was fresh papaya and fried bagels. The fruit is always so uniformly chopped, I looked for a food processor hidden away, but it is all done by hand.

Birds here have been endlessly fascinating to us all. We all watch the pelicans fishing—a clumsy entry into the water and then a right turn flip. The blue footed boobies sit on a ledge above the canyon wall, circle about and then dive straight as an arrow into the water without any splash. A kingfisher scolds as they get too close and occasionally I hear a cactus wren chittering away. Buzzards are on one end of our beach campsite and lunch on puffer fish. Yellow-footed gulls strut back and forth, unique in the world to this place.

I find a live puffer fish near shore and we all poke and prod the poor thing, watching it puff up with air. Rob takes hold of its tail and holds it up, amazed at how heavy it was and aghast afterward that the spines he did not touch might have had poison in them.

We go kayaking down part of the eastern side of Espiritu Santos and see several sea caves. Glen and I stay outside but Rob and Sue put a double through as does Don. He said it would be heart rate raising adventure which neither Glen or I desired.

Glen finds a scorpion under a log near me—all of us calling for Rob who expressed a deep desire to see a scorpion but had been talking to Paco. He poses behind Alvarito who holds the scorpion previously flushed from his hiding place by Glen and Don who was assigned the task of scorpion herder. Rob says he will photoshop the photo with the scorpion being much larger and himself holding the scorpion.


Sunset was glorious—again! The sky is all orange against purple mountains of Baja; the opposite side toward mainland Mexico is pinky yellow highlighted by a huge nearly full moon. Don points out various constellations and sees a shooting star.

Paco is on the east side of the island over a lot of unstable rocks nearly at the water on the mainland side and under a fig tree. There is a catamaran moored there and on each of my trips I focused on its running lights so my path was nearly twice as long as it needed to be. I miss seeing any of the indigenous large black rackets but did not regret not finding snakes on my way.

Photos can be seen on smugmug at:

you can also take a look at photos from Glen, Don, and Sue from Canada

Sea lions

October 20, 2010


walking along the beach

I have been trying to decide what color the water is. Sometimes it is so dark, an inky blue so dark it seems black and far away. Then it becomes a dark turquoise with a soft pea-green near shore mingled with a soft heather blue.

Then it might be a dark greeny blue with a slightly greener heather blue with light turquoise green behind. The amount of the light color is amazingly large compared to the dark but the overall effect is dark.

In late afternoon, the sun reflects off the waves and the orangey hill-mountains patches of orange intermingled with the dark greeny blue of the water. The distant hills are a purply pinky-orange.  Both the sunrise and sunset are reflected on both sides of the sky with the opposite side being less vivid but equally colorful.

Today we take the skiff over to the sea lion rockery. Rafael instructs us on the proper interaction with the sea lions. The puppies are more interested in playing with humans and will swim up very fast until they almost touch the snorkelers or diver’s face mask. They may bubble at the face mask which invites a contest; we were instructed not to bubble back. The sea lions guard the distance between the swimmers and the rockery. Two single kayakers approached the rockery creating a great deal of unhappiness amongst the sea lions. The males roared and several jumped in the water and swam back and forth to indicate the boundaries.

Everyone is tired after an afternoon of swimming and are happy to spend an hour or so drinking pina coladas while watching the sunset and telling stories.

Paddling and ceviche

October 19, 2010

grinding stone from ancient people of Baja

Less wind this morning; Alvaro prepares hot coffee on the Coleman camp stove and I guzzle it down. Granola is in a large zip-lock bag and it flies away as I spoon it onto my yogurt and fresh fruit covering Alvaro with what looks like powdery snow. He just laughs and says it is okay.  We all lounge about, I think I am the only one that slept well despite several visits to both Paco and the ladies bathroom all in the dark. We go on a hike past a fresh water well complete with bucket and home-made windlass. I am very sore on my right side and stop here while the others continue up the hill. I hear a wren and hope to see one in the fig trees nearby but no luck.

Lunch was a wonderful ceviche made from yellow-tail and a cactus salad similar to a 3 bean salad. Our second breakfast that morning was quesadillas made from aserado cheese, a soft stringy cheese much like mozzarella.

The group further down the beach have walled tents with solar cells, huge sun showers and huge kitchen with probably real appliances. The guides and cooks all seem to know each other well and there is a lot of borrowing of foodstuffs and trading of stories.

We pack up and Carol and I ride the skiff to our new campsite on Isla Partida, an island separated from Espiritu Santos by a narrow channel at low tide. Packing the boat with all the gear is an interesting spectacle with everything needing to fit in just so. The paddlers take off and we empty the garbage pail and Paco far in the middle of the Sea of Cortez. We unload the skiff at our new campsite and I thought about putting up our tent but got no further in the project but good intentions. Early in the week, we discovered identifying the path to Paco and putting up our tent was best done in the daylight and preferably not after supper. Sunsets were spectacular along with the moon-rises but still it was very dark very quickly.

The paddlers appeared and we went out for a short run around the bay. Glen and I went out in one kayak, Carol and Don in another while Sue took out a single. The water here is so clear—we saw trigger fish, Sgt. Majors, tiny minnows and then surprised a group of tiny flying fish. There was a small blue footed Boobie colony, their feet a brilliant turquoise blue against the orangey red of the rocks. A kingfisher scolded us as we paddled near him.

We have ceviche again tonight—it is so tasty and so fresh.

Paco is up the hill behind a cactus, a challenging trip during the day as the rocky path is quite unstable. The moon and Jupiter are out and Don patiently points out constellations.

Spectacular fall on the mountain

October 18, 2010


is it a group pedicure or just everyone changing shoes for the hike?

The wind blew most of the night and we listened to the rain fly flapping amidst the rolling sound of the surf. It is too windy to take the kayaks out this morning for us less adventuresome folks and so we take a hike up to the top of a ridge through some very rough terrain. I fall—a big surprise—as one minute I am upright and scrambling up the path and the next minute I am flat on my back rolling down the side of the mountain. Glen said it was quite spectacular and he was sure I would have to be carried out. After that, Don pulls me up in spots as does Glen. It is so frustrating not to do what I remember I can do.

Late morning is no better with a lot of whitecaps and so we all ride the skiff to our next campsite. There is another group there with walled tents. We are somewhat jealous as they can stand in their tents and they have mattresses on raised bed frames instead of thermarests on the sand. This group is here to swim or snorkel.

We set up our tents, Rob and Sue being really quick about fitting the exoskeleton tent together. I am glad they have not proposed a timed tent setting up contest. Glen sets up the rain fly with additional weights to limit the flapping and puts some sticks in the sand to dry his shoes at night and prevent scorpions from crawling inside. We take the skiff and go back down the coast to our original planned lunch site and take another hike up another mountain. It is rather rough but in a shady spot we see the rock painting of a turtle; and see the grinding stones. Rafael studied archeology and reviewed the history of Baja California with us.

There is time before supper for Don and Sue to go snorkeling in the little bay while the rest of us felt quite hot so we soaked in the ocean and then rinsed off under the sun shower, amazingly and delightfully warm. Alvarito captured some clams earlier in the day that became ceviche for Happy Hour. Pina coladas and margaritas along with wine and beer are available but of course I can’t have any alcohol.

 The wind is picking up again but the moon is bright.

La Panga and wet exits

October 17, 2010


view from the panga on our way to Espiritu Santos

We had a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then gathered at the front door of the hotel to meet Rafael. Our first task was to collect our PFD’s, snorkeling equipment, and Lycra suits and then take a skiff out to the first beach. The kayaks were waiting for us, two singles and two doubles with an additional kayak for the guide.

Patiently he explained and demonstrated a wet escape which included getting into the kayak from the water and adjusting the spray skirt.

A wet escape from a kayak was practiced by all with much laughter from the guys as they awkwardly climbed into their skirts. You might think that being half Scot would have made that experience a bit easier. I was surprised to find that I could do that wet escape without sputtering although I did not manage the three knocks on the sides of the kayak while upside down in the water. I was assured that a double was unlikely to tump, particularly since our plan was to have Don be in the rear and do the majority of the work paddling. Now that we were all wet, we sat down and had lunch.

view from the top of the mountain/hill overlooking one of the many bays

We took an easy paddle in the late afternoon, very easy for me as Don did all the work. The island is volcanic with a layer of brecia, sedimentary rocks topped by tuff and then pinkish basalt. The Basalt is very architectural in appearance and for awhile I thought there was a condominium at the end of the point. Vegetation is sparse with a few tall Saguaro like cacti and cholla. We see a frigate bird colony nesting near an old pearl farm started by a French man long before the days of masks or swimming goggles.

Camp is set up with each couple setting up a tent. Rob and Sue fly a Canadian flag on their tent, while Glen and I have the rain fly up which flaps all night long. A tarp is set up with short beach chairs for us while Alvaro and his son Alvarito prepare the evening meal. The girls bathroom is a canvas screen at one end of the beach with a hole, toilet paper in a canister, water free hand cleaner and a trash bag for the toilet paper. Men were asked to go belong high tide line and face the ocean.

Paco  the psychologist is the name of the porta-pottie which is placed in a secluded spot with a blue dry-bag containing toilet tissue and waterless cleaner located at the beginning of the path. We are all instructed in the use of Paco and it becomes a challenge to find Paco in the daylight. Sometimes it was up a hill or over a ditch or behind a cactus or through salt cedar.

closeup of basalt

The water here is so beautiful, turquoise and deep blue and purple and lime green and so warm—in the 80’s. It will be full moon in a few days and the suggestion was made for a moonlight paddle. Our guide didn’t say no but I think he resolved to keep us so busy and active we would be so tired by dark we would want nothing more than bed.