Monday, December 29, 2008

What's in that tube?

Phil reminded me of an exciting event from our vacation that I forgot to mention during my recap of our time in Ticla. As dentally hygenic individuals, each night before bed we would brush our teeth before climbing into the car. However, by this time of the night, the sun had gone down and it was dark, and we either usually could not find our lantern. So one of the evenings, I divied up the toiletries and headed up to the bathrooms to shower. Mom and I went to the women's bathroom and Phil went to the men's and of course he was finished sooner than we did. Later, when we arrived back at the campsite, Phil asked me what I gave him to brush his teeth with. I told him it was the Colgate that we had gotten from our dentist as a sample. He said that no, it was not toothpaste... it was the other similarly-shaped and similarly-sized tube of Cortizone that we had bought to help soothe the itching of bug bites. Unfortunately, Phil did not find this out until it had been spread across the bristles of his toothbrush and lathered up his teeth with it! Oops!

(I told him to look on the bright side-- at least his mouth was not itchy afterward!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day Five- Tizupan

The next morning we packed up our campsite and headed south for our next destination, a beachfront town called Tizupan. We arrived and pulled up under a palapa where my parents have stayed in the past.

There was a guy named Gregory who was staying in the campsite next door and packing up his gear to continue on his trip south. He was from Boston and was traveling on just a motorcycle, hoping to end up south of the Panama Canal if he could figure out how to get his bike that far south. We chatted about his trip and our experiences and my parents recommended some other spots for him to stop during his travels.

We set up camp and had a quick lunch, then Mom, Dad & Phil all decided to head out surfing!

The beach was rocky so they walked down to the shore with their shoes and then I retrieved them and brought them back to the campsite while they surfed. The waves were not too big and perfect for Phil to learn on and Mom to practice on. Dad stayed farther away in areas where he could get slightly larger waves and would not be in the way of the other two.

They spent about an hour in the water and when they came in, their shoes were brought to them so that they would not have to endure the rocky shore on their bare feet.

After the surf session, Phil and I took a long walk on the beach. First we walked left to the end of the rocks but the walk was short and there were some fishermen catching bait in their nets and we didn't want to get in their way, so we decided to walk back past our campsite and walk all the way to the end of the beach in the other direction. During our entire trip, I was searching for heart-shaped rocks, and this walk was no exception. I even had my parents searching while they walked the beaches! We found a few good ones and also some really beautiful shells that we brought back with us- they were bright pink and they are kind of like a clam since they fold inward toward each other, and both sides of the shell are identical. The animals were already gone from the shell so we picked them up. We probably came back to Texas with 20 of them!

We returned to the campground and showered and got ready for dinner. As with every night, we watched the beautiful sunset.

We grilled game hens and had salad and toast with it, which was delicious. Afterward, I toasted marshmallows on the grill for dessert! This night was probably the most beautiful of them all- it's hard to tell from the photo but the sky was orange near the horizon but the moon and some stars were already visible, so the contrast was gorgeous!

I even pulled Mom away from doing dishes for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful view!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day Three - Relaxation
Dad went out fishing and then surfing. When Mom had returned from her long morning exercise walk with her friend, she accompanied me and Phil as we waded across the river (the water was waist high and cold in the river!) to watch Dad surf. He had gone around the point to get better waves which seemed to be what most of the surfers were doing. As we walked over, we passed a surfer who was bleeding from the head because of a surfing injury! This was not the only time we saw this type of injury at Ticla so I am glad Phil did not decide to try surfing here.
We found a log to sit on and watched Dad surf while basking in the morning sun. After about half an hour, Phil and I decided to take a walk farther down the beach. It was rocky where we were, so we wanted to get to the sandy part of the beach so we could more safely go for a swim. Mom decided to head back to the campsite so that she could get together with some friends for yoga, so Phil and I walked to the very end of the beach together. Where the beach ends, there is a cliff and Phil climbed up to explore. I climbed up just a few feet, not all the way, but the view was beautiful from that height.

We came back to the camp after our walk and hung out in the hammock for a while and read. It was very relaxing and the weather was nice and warm.
Later, we had a snack of guacamole at the restaurant in our campground, and then walked up to town to use the internet to email and let Phil's mom know we had made it safely there. We hung out some more and later my parents grilled pork tenderloin for dinner with salad and toast. They say that they usually become the envy of the other campers at their campgrounds because they eat "real" food (as opposed to canned sardines and such) and I can understand why. Dinner was delicious!

Day Four - Day Trip
Phil woke up early and went fishing on the beach with my Dad. The evening before, they had spotted a fishing hole in the ocean and put a stick in the sand-dune to remind them the following morning where it would be. Mom and I woke up and took a walk on the beach (with mom calling out exercise moves and tips like "Suck and Smile" which translates to suck in your stomach and smile while you walk, despite what it might bring to mind otherwise) and we joined the fishermen to see how they had done. Unfortunately, they did not catch any fish so we had to go to the taco stands for dinner... (and we promise this was not sabotage on Phil's part since he doesn't eat seafood!)

We decided we wanted to see some other beaches in the area and we had heard from the other people in the campground that the beach at Maruata was great even though Mom had not been impressed with it in the past when she had been there. We decided to pack up and drove our vehicle back up to the highway to head South to some different beaches.
We first stopped in La Manzanillera. The beach there reminded me of the beaches in Cabo San Lucas. It was very pretty and the big rocks on the shore were remniscent of the ones we posed by just a few years ago. We did not stay much longer on this beach because we were anxious to get to our other destinations.

Next, we drove farther South to El Faro (which literally translates to "the lighthouse" so there are more than one El Faro beaches in Mexico). We had a nice time at this beach. We arrived and there was basically nobody there yet which was great.

We took a swim in the ocean and then Mom and I decided to lay out and do some reading on the beach while Phil and Dad went snorkeling. While they were out in the water, a bus load of people showed up at the beach and the beach got super crowded, which was to be expected since it was a Sunday. These people had obviously been to this beach before because the teenager and 20-somethings of the group quickly climbed up on the rocks in the water and as a wave would come through between the rocks, they would one at a time jump off the rocks into the water below. All of their friends and family in the water closer to the shore would cheer them on each time. It was pretty fun to watch, although I figured it had to be kind of dangerous if it was too shallow to jump into the water before the waves came through...

Soon thereafter, the ice cream truck showed up! Similar to an ice cream truck in the US, except it was a jeep and it drove right onto the beach!

We all mused at first that this guy must be money laundering or something because there was no way an ice cream truck could bring enough revenue in to be able to afford a brand new Jeep in Mexico, but then as over 30 minutes passed and every single person on the beach (other than us) had purchased in ice cream cone and the line was never-ending, we realized we were very wrong and this ice cream business was quite lucrative actually!
We also entertained ourself on this beach by playing with a golden retreiver who had come with 2 people who were staying back at our camp-site in Ticla and picked a spot on the beach right next to us. The dog was so well-behaved and loved to fetch anything. Phil and Dad got roped into the stick-throwing but it was relentless after a while when the dog couldn't get enough. It was cute, though, because the dog would bring the stick right up to our chairs, and when we didn't pick it up, the dog would pick up the stick and actually lean it up vertically against the legs of our chairs so that we didn't even have to lean down to pick it up and throw it. Wasn't that thoughtful of him?

We ordered Limonadas and a plate of Camarones de Ajo for lunch and ate and drank on the beach and under the palapa, although the plate of food was kind of weird in that the shrimp needed to be peeled when they arrived at the table, shell and little bitty legs and all. I wasn't expecting this and it kind of made it less appetizing. But I ate it anyway, and my mom helped shell and de-leg the shrimpies like good mommies are supposed to do for their daughters.
Next we got back into the car and drove to Marueta. This is where we kind of got lost, although it turned out to be a wonderful thing! We drove into town and there was this big new building that was not there last year, so my parents did not have any recollection anymore of how to get to the beach. We drove down one street but there was lots of construction and rebar in the road on one side while the other side was torn up with piles of bricks. We turned around and drove down the next street over, which was a dead end. We went down a third street which led back to the first street. We had not yet seen a glimpse of the ocean! So we drove back to the closest road to the highway and turned down it, which led us to some sort of landing strip for airplanes, again not the beach. So we decided to go around the other side of the building and take a new road. We decided to follow the car driving ahead of us just to see where he led us, and it actually led us down a dirt road toward the beach! We found a camp ground and turned off to the side of it and I decided to just get out and see what the beach looked like before we left altogether and headed back to our camp. We walked up over the sand-dune and saw the most beautiful beach!

From the top of the sand-dune, the beach sloped down and rested between tall rock cliffs on either side, so the water was crystal clear and the waves were not too big. The ocean just rolled in and out so it was perfect for swimming! I stripped my cover-up off and ran into the water for a swim! It was wonderful to see a beach that was not rocky and easy to enter/exit. After my swim, I just laid directly on the sand and sunbathed. Phil and my Mom decided to go over to the rocks to the left of the beach and it turned out that there were caves that you could walk all the way through to another secluded beach just like this one! They came back and told us how cool it was so we all went to take a look for ourselves. It reminded us of two years ago on our trip to the Virgin Gorda where we were able to explore the caves.

On the right side of the beach there was another set of rock caves. The only other people on this beach were some older Canadians and we asked them if the caves led anywhere, but they had not yet entered them. We learned that they did go through and we were able to find yet another gorgeous and isolated beach! This was such a cool spot that we decided was our favorite beach of the trip and would love to return to and spend time camping there. But it did not have any good waves for surfing, so my Dad wasn't as enchanted as we were.

After enjoying Marueta we decided to drive down another dirt road and we ended up at a dead end road. We got out of our car and walked up to the beach over the hill and found that we were on the back side of the part of Marueta that my parents had been to before, where there was more of a surf spot. We ran into our neighbors from the campground who had been out surfing there. As it turns out, they drove straight through the road construction to get to this beach at the spot where we turned around due to the piles of rebar and construction materials in the road!

That evening, we had dinner at 2 taco stands in Ticla and went to sleep after a long day of beach-going and driving. Count: Taco Stands #5 & #6.
Days 5-10 to follow; stay tuned. This is where I stopped writing in my journal during the trip so the remainder of the posts are bound to be less detailed and shorter entries!

Friday, December 19, 2008

I figured my posting the photos on Facebook would tell a good enough story of our trip to Mexico but apparently that is not the case and people want a narrative. I even tried to get Phil to do this blog entry but he opted out and here I am, blogging instead of making my Christmas list on a Friday night, just days before Christmas... so here goes!

Day Zero- Trip to Valley

We woke up at 4:30am to pack the car and I had to get dressed for a meeting at 10:30am in Edinburg while trying to keep Sam & Henna's snouts & fur off of my outfit. We were on the road by 6am, right on schedule, so we felt good. We stopped for powdered donuts on the way for breakfast of champions before my meeting (if you are wondering why I was worried about dog hair on my dress when I was just going to get powdered sugar all over it, you would be smarter than I was at the time...). Phil was a trooper and hung out in the car while I went to my 2 meetings in Edinburg, but we were done with both and headed south by noon. We stopped at Whataburger for lunch (guess whose decision that was?). We arrived at my parents' condo and ate lunch and hung out for a while before getting back in the car and heading to Wal Mart in Port Isabel to try to buy an iPod dock/alarm clock and a GPS navigational system. We had a hard copy of a 2008 Guia Roji map of Mexico but Brad insisted that a GPS was the way to go. When we got to Wal Mart, however, we found out that none of the navigation systems come with Mexico maps loaded on them and we would have to pay over $100 extra to get a map of Mexico for it, so we opted out and stuck with our hard copy of the map!
That evening my mom made a turkey meal so that we wouldn't feel like we totally missed out on the Thanksviging celebration all together. We had turkey, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, brocolli, and the next day we had turkey left over for sandwiches on the trip! We headed to bed early so that we would be well-rested for the trip.

Day One- Driving, With Stops

We woke up at 5:00am and packed up our last minute things so that we could be on the road by 6am, following my parents in their camper. We stopped at the corner store for energy (Rockstar for Phil and fountain soda for me) and ice and headed towards the border (Matamoros)! We had a little hiccup at the border because we tried to get the car permit in Phil's name since he would be driving, but since my name is on the title of the 4Runner, we had to re-do all of our paperwork and resubmit (to another person at the counter) in order to avoid having to present our marriage license which was back in San Antonio! We were probably at the border for almost an hour which was longer than my Dad had planned, so he started to get antsy and pace around the place. He told us that the first thing we needed to do when we came back to the states after our trip was to change the title into Phil's name... don't tell him but we won't be doing that. It costs $35 or something and for what? It works just fine the way it is!

We headed out from the border around 7:30am after getting our visas and car permit and by 9:00am my parents were already making a gas/bathroom stop! (I think I forgot to mention that we all went to the bathroom before leaving the house and again at the border.) They proceeded to make another stop that morning for a bathroom break, and then we stopped for lunch. With all these stops, we figured we made up for the lost time at the border!
For lunch we stopped in the mountains and had a beautiful view as we ate our turkey sandwiches.

Phil was getting over 26 miles per gallon during the drive so we were very excited to have brought his car and not carry too much heavy luggage! We continued to drive through mountainous terrain and as we got close to the end of our travels for the day we got stopped and searched at a checkpoint. The officials were so professional and nice, and it was very quick and easy, so we felt completely at ease. We made it to Lagos De Morenos by 6:00 that evening and checked into our hotel which was only 260 pesos which translates to $20 per night! It was a very small room which fit just the furniture- a bed, TV, bedside table, and small desk and chair. There was a closet and a bathroom which was all open without a door to the shower so that when we took showers, everything in the room got wet! Luckily, my Mom had warned us not to leave our toilet paper in the room while showering because it would not be usable afterward since it would be soaking wet!

We walked down the main street and had tacos from 2 taco stands for dinner and were very satisfied. We decided to start keeping a count of our taco stands visited on the trip, so here were #1 and #2 already on the first day! After dinner, we read our new books that we had picked up before leaving SA and went to bed early. We were tired after a long day of driving.

Day Two- Our First Glimpse of the Ocean!

We woke up early again so that we could be on the road by 6:30am. We hoped to avoid traffic in Guadalajara but ended up making it there just at rush hour. As we drove into town, we noticed a brown cloud of smog covering the city, so combined with the crazy traffic, we didn't get a good impression of the city. Although we are told that there are very nice parts of the city with museums and such, we just didn't visit those parts as we drove through. It was not very easy to follow another car (my parents) in the heavy traffic, and the exits and road signs are not the easiest to follow, so it was certainly an adventure. Phil saw a car next to him get rear-ended, which didn't help because it made us think how terrible that would be to have to deal with that on our trip! Luckily we made it through town and didn't even get lost. We stopped for breakfast tacos on the other side of the city at the same place my parents stop at every year (have I mentioned yet that my Dad is a big fan of routine and basically every stop we make is one that he makes every single year?).

My parents needed to stop for propane for their camper so we found a re-fill station and stopped. The tank, however, was frozen to the camper (or rusted to the camper?) and neither Phil nor my Dad could get it loose. In the midst of trying, Phil sliced his thumb open... at least we were able to figure out that the location of our first aid kit was not very handy since I couldn't find it in time to help! Luckily, my mom knew just where their first aid kit was located so she was able to get Phil a band-aid and Neosporin quickly. But anyone who has cut themselves like that knows that this type of injury is painful and can easily open back up while it's healing, so it was too bad it had to happen at the very beginning of our trip!

Around 1:00pm, we finally started seeing signs of the coast! We came across these huge fields of palm trees which were planted in perfect rows and they were so tall! Some of them were stripped of their coconuts which we could understand but some of the others had the entire tree cut down which we figured was for wood, but we did not know what coconut tree wood is used for... the trunks are so small!

And shortly thereafter we saw the ocean! We arrived at La Ticla in the early afternoon at the campground where my parents have stayed for over 25 years. (When my parents were dating they took a trip together to Mexico and came to La Ticla. They realized when they could travel on a trip like this together that they were compatible and decided to get married when they returned! They have a photo of their 30-ish year old selves at sunset on the beach in Ticla that has been framed in our house forever.) Over the past few years since my parents have been traveling together to Mexico, they have made a group of friends whom they see every year in Mexico on these vacations. So when we showed up, they basically knew everyone there and every came out to greet them! We got introduced to their friends and then set up camp under a palapa on the beach. We took a beach walk first thing- the weather was a bit cloudy but pretty warm so it was nice, definitely a change from the weather we had been experiencing in SA the week before.

We watched the beautiful sunset...

...and then walked the short 5 minute walk up to town for tacos. Count: Taco Stand #3. We sat at a table right in front of the lady preparing the tacos and Phil unfortunately had his back to the lady as she chopped the meat and he kept feeling it hit the back of his t-shirt. Finally when he got hit in the back of the head with chopped pork, he decided to move around to the side of the table... The pork tacos she served, though, were delicious and ended up being our favorite tacos in Ticla. We joked later that we could always eat the pieces on the back of Phil's shirt if we needed a taco fix!

We slept on our bed that night for the first time in the 4Runner which consisted of 2 layers of egg crate, a feather comforter, a regular comforter, and 2 sheets. It was actually very comfortable! We had rolled down all the windows to let a breeze through and put up mosquito nets on the outside with magnets. It got so cool during the night that we actually had to use a blanket, which was just perfect for sleeping.
Days 3-10 to follow... stay tuned!