We were cast from the deserts of Baja into the jungles of the Mexican mainland. The nights are damp and warm and the days bright, green and sweaty wrapped in a hot breath of thriving life. We’ve been robbed of our things but not of our humor. We’ve come across crocodiles and iguanas and billions of mosquitoes and ants ready to have lunch. We’ve found a Latvian extended family on the shores of Puerto Vallarta, who’ve taken in the wandering cycling family. Its been beautiful and bizarre. And that’s only 500 KM. We’ve got only a few photos for you (courtesy Eva and Krišs Šici) of our time in Puerto Vallarta, but hope you also enjoy some of the very professional drawings the whole LatvianAlaskan family has put together.
02/02-06/15 (La Paz to South of Escuinapa)
On the 2nd, we dropped off our bikes to have the small presta valve holes drilled out to accommodate larger standard valved tubes – as finding presta valve replacements, thus far, has been difficult in Mexico.
Augustine walked some 30-35 blocks, as we meandered through town for other random items. Seemingly, she held no malice towards her parents for this. Once you get off the marina, La Paz turns into a more natural place and less of an insane tourist trap. Little abarrotes and restaurants littered about, casting deep cool shade on their plastic Corona or Coca Cola chairs and tables. Older couples sit on the sidewalk in front of their houses, enjoying the shade and listening to music, staring off beyond the street and concrete.
On the way back to Glendas house, stopped in at a Mariscos restaurant (seafood place). We’d seen it the day before, packed with locals and very few gringos. Seemed like the right place. Upon sitting down you get a great heaping pile of totopos (still warm) with one flaming hot salsa, followed up by a small bowl of spicy camarón broth with tiny arms and claws of the cutest crabs you’ve ever seen. This all before you actually order food. Quite tasty.
On the 3rd, we picked up our bicycles around 1PM. We then took a slightly stressful trek of 20 KM to the ferry terminal. Stressful due to the fact that it was populated with more hills than expected and it is very rare for us to actually have a specific time we are supposed to be somewhere.
Just 5 KM outside of La Paz everything goes back to what we’d seen most throughout Baja. Solitary looking places on the edge of the earth. Brown only broken by cactuses and the sea. Arriving at the ferry terminal we met back up with our Penny Farthing friend Joff as well as Tyler (Seattle adventurer). Met two new cyclists as well. Felix is an Austrian riding a unicycle (that’s right, a one wheel contraption) and Swiss by the name of Reto, who though like common mortals rides a two wheel bicycle, has traveled much of the world by bike.
Spent the evening on the ferry exchanging stories with Felix and Reto, while Augustine ran around the sun deck chasing children and enjoying the cool breeze of the evening. Ance and I slept together on a narrow booth seat that constituted more rest than actual sleep.
On the morning of the 4th, ate an institutional ferry breakfast – a plate full of beans, tortillas, eggs and salsa that was sloshed together into an impressionistic representation of a Mexican breakfast. It was all washed down with beans of a coffee tree burnt to a mediocre perfection, served watered down and excessively hot.
As it turned out, we’d left La Paz late and upon getting into Mazatlan we found out why. There is some sort of mechanical problem with the car deck door – pretty much the only means of getting on and off the boat. They had to bring in cranes and attached cables to lower the loading door. That tacked on another couple of hours just hanging out at the dock, staring out towards town.
We eventually got off and the cycling gang we’d found ourselves part of all met up in the historic old town of Mazatlan at a restaurant with a white board proclaiming “2 X 1 Beer.” It was hot and who can pass up a two for one? While talking about everyone’s cycling plans enjoying cold beers and a strawberry slush for Augustine, a retiring Canadian woman announced “your drinks are paid for, just tip your waiter.” Its kinda amazing the effect that a gang of sweaty bicyclists, especially with a Penny Farthing and Unicycle, will have on people.
We left with Felix and Reto to find a place to camp for the night. We tried to head to the water on the southeasterly part of town, but an elderly Mexican dissuaded us with the simple phrase “muy peligroso.” Ended up finding a rundown hotel for 300 pesos (20 dollars). We had a cyclist pool party, whipping out our stoves and talking way too late into the night.
On the 5th, headed out of the hotel in Mazatlan around 11AM and bid farewell and good luck to Reto and Felix. We needed to tool around town for a bit to find some bicycle things. Bounced through the streets of Mazatlan. Frantically busy. Taxis blasting quivering tunes. Buses and cars dashing through the chaotic streets. Vendors of every sort shouting out the deals of the day. A lively loud and hot breath of life at each corner.
Finally got on the road out of town with only a few hours to spare. Stopped for the night at a small stream fed by a hot spring. Washed our feet in the scalding hot water that created its own mini fog bank in the evening. While eating dinner, discovered a slow moving iguana poking about. Slipped into a deep dark coma of sleep.
On the 6th, we rolled past Agua Caliente, through El Rosario to just outside of Escuinapa to camp in a mango grove. Stopped in El Rosario for lunch near a beautiful church in the hot sun, taking shelter in the little casts of shade we could find. Ance struck up a conversation with a woman sitting in the park. Two little boys and a girl hung around us while we ate lunch, staring at our alien ways. One boy worked up the courage to ask for a peso, we gave him a candy, which seemed to suffice.
The landscape has turned green on the mainland. We feel that we’ve traveled worlds away from the Baja. The only brown you see are dirt streets, everything else is covered in a blanket of green. Its damp and hot. Ance can’t get over commenting each hour that its like we are returning to summer. For me, I feel like its just a different kind of summer. After wading through the twisting streets of busy Escuinapa, we pulled down into a mango grove, where we found a little deserted shack.
02/07/15 (South of Escuinapa to Acaponeta)
The shack under the mango trees turned out to be a wonderful hideaway. An old man and his wife came through with a machete, looking at the trees. They smiled and talked with us a bit, asking where we were from, all the standard questions. The old man indicated that the bent up and hole ridden roof of the shack we’d slept under was in that condition due to the mangos falling when they’re ripe during June.
We made out of the grove a bit late – lots of pancakes to make and eat. Now the heat has changed its character. Its now thick and damp, like a warm sweaty lover always wanting hugs and kisses from you under 25 pounds of down blankets.
Stopped in another mango grove for lunch. We are all slowly being eaten alive by a wide array of biting flies, mosquitoes and no-see-ems. We’ve apparently totally forgotten our Canadian days of bugs, bites and habitual scratching due to our tours through the deserts of Baja and California.
A man with a bicycle rolled out of the grove. Strapped to his bicycle was a 10 gallon fuel dolmar, a 2 gallon plastic bottle of chain oil and a mid-sized chainsaw. In the makeshift basket on the handlebars he carried a few liters of water. Quite the site. He was heading home for lunch.
Ended up stopping at a house just outside of Acaponeta. We’d asked a man and a woman (only identified as La Señora) if we could camp in their yard for the evening. Ance heard La Señora, laugh and say we could camp wherever we wanted.
Later in the evening a man came up and asked me, in rapid and agitated Spanish difficult for me to exactly decipher, “What are you doing in this place? This is private property.” Ance saved us with quick broken Spanish, letting him know that the Señora said we could camp wherever we wanted in the yard. He seemed satisfied with this and said everything was fine.
We slept in damp nylon sacks glad we weren’t kicked out of Señora yard.
02/08/15 (South of Acaponeta to outside of Rosamorada)
Woke early to fog. A veneer of dampness, not quite cooling, lingers on the skin. Augustine did not want to get up. Scratching herself, she blames the tags on her clothes for her incessant itching, and not the 40 bug bites dotting her body. Explaining this turned out to be a difficult endeavor.
Luckily, Augustine got to play with kids of the nearby house. Apparently, the daughter and son of the man who asked us what the hell we were doing in the backyard last night. The mother came and talked to us in very slow and deliberate Spanish, using simple words for us. She let us know we could head down to a nearby river to wash up, which we did immediately after eating breakfast.
Before making haste to the river to clean-up, we’re introduced to the grandpa. He’s got a grand voice and handsome accent when he speaks English. He came out with a soccer jersey on holding a slingshot, looking, with his grandson, for the perfect sized stones to load the slingshot with. Letting his smile trail up to the sky he shook hands with us and wished us happy travels and health. One of the liveliest 70 year old grandpas I’ve ever met.
We scrubbed and lingered in the river for an hour or so and finally headed out. While washing, giant vultures tearing apart a carcass on the nearby beach. Identity unknown.
Another lunch in a mango grove. Road is a rolling cascade of hills. Incredibly hot and muggy. Life is thriving here, filled to the seams with moisture and green. Plants of every sort packed to the hilt of the road.
Turned out to be a short day. Rolled into the pretty little ranchero of Rosamorada and took forever to get out. Mother and her son took a liking to Ance and Augustine. Little boys gather round us and interrogate about our origins, why we don’t have a car and if we speak Spanish. While rolling out of town, searching for a celebratory tequila, I stopped into a little shop.
Met an uncle and nephew pair who lived in Los Angeles and San Diego off and on. Already knee deep into a Sunday siesta, they offered up shots of their best tequila and a couple homemade drinks. One with tequila and some sort of local fruit. Already getting late, I had to refuse additional shots, having to explain I needed to pedal a bicycle.
Light coming to an end, we asked a few locals where might be a good place to camp. Opted for a little dirt road on the outskirts of town next to a small river. Our Spanish is improving, Ance’s much faster than mine, but we’re moving along.
The nights are damp and warm. We’ve modified our cycling schedule to ride a bit more in the latter part of the afternoon with a siesta during the hottest part of the day.
02/09/15 (Bandito Day in Rosamorada)
Shortly after writing in my journal last night, I went for a late night dip in the nearby creek to avoid the feeling of sleeping in my own sweat and slime. I retreated to the tent and fell deep into sleep. I was awoken around 11:30PM in the dark to Ance whispering “someone’s coming.”
An instant later a bright headlamp was flipped on and blindingly shining on us. A man’s voice rapidly spit out some Spanish that was pretty much indecipherable to us. “¡Disculpe! No entiendo,” we repeated. It wasn’t until he said “Money!” that we understood that we were getting robbed at gunpoint.
With some sort of insane courage Ance began speaking all the Spanish she had to explain that we didn’t have any money. We sleep in a tent. We don’t have money for a hotel. We have money for bicycles. We have money for food. Do you want some food? We have tortillas. Do you want tortillas? We have candy. Do you want some candy? We have money for our child. We don’t have much money.
Upon hearing that we had a child, the one with the bright headlamp took a glance at Augustine sleeping. “Ah, bebe,” they both whispered under their breath and a bit uneasily. Here a strange series of events unfolded. One asked me “Kere fumar?” By this I understood that they wanted a smoke, so I said, “Si, yo tengo.” Instead, one of them tossed me a cigarette.
I then proceeded to smoke a couple of cigarettes in my skivvies chatting with two armed young guys who came to rob us. Somewhere along the line, the obvious leader, explained that they were thirsty and asked if they could take one bicycle to the store to buy a Coca Cola. We tried to explain that there was no way we were going to give the bicycle. We did, however, have some juice mix that we could make in one of our water bottles and give to them. They seemed to reluctantly go along with this idea.
After awkwardly speaking about where we were from and how far we’d come by bicycle, our bandito friends called it a night and said goodbye. I ended up not being able to sleep and stayed up for a couple more hours reading. When we awoke in the morning we found that all our bags had been rifled through and everything that could be considered valuables were taken including:
- Three bank cards
- 200 pesos
- New watch (Ance had gotten it for my upcoming birthday!)
- Multi bike tool
- Set of rain gear (this is the funniest to me)
Either to a testament to how hard we can sleep or how stealthy the bandidos were, they apparently moved our bags away from where we were sleeping and methodically went through each bag. They then very neatly returned everything into the bike bags and nicely put them back exactly where they were. They were also nice enough to leave us one bank card. Probably one of the most polite robberies we’ll ever experience in our lives.
After a bit of scratching our heads and wondering how in the world we could have slept through highway robbery, we went straight to the police station. The whole affair was pretty comical. We first shared our story with whom seemed to be the chief of the municipal police of Rosamorada.
Then we all jumped into a police truck and headed to the scene of the crime – our placid campsite last night. Pictures were taken, details noted a few times over. Then we were escorted to the local internet cafe where we could jump onto a computer to change all of our passwords. By escorted, I mean three police officers hung out just outside the internet cafe smoking and waiting for us to finish up our password changes.
We were then brought into the office of the interrogator, where we shared the story again (possibly three times in slightly varying ways). A nice middle aged gentleman listened to our story and slowly banged at his keyboard getting in the details, while teasing Augustine from time to time. That took about 3 hours.
The day pretty much being blown for getting anywhere on a bicycle, along with the costly lesson we’d just had, we went to the town center to see the church, grab some ice cream and contemplate the bizarre turn of events in the last 12 hours.
We’ve camped outside of the police station for the night and intend to leave tomorrow. Ironically, Rosamorada happens to be one of the prettiest and quietest towns we’ve stopped in, filled with locals smiling and waving and children overflowing with questions. Similarly, the police officers are all pretty awesome. The night was spent making dinner outside of the police station, listening to a local band practice for their next gig, while Augustine chased and played with neighborhood kids until dark.
02/10-11/15 (Rosamorada to San Blas)
We left Rosamorada slowly. The sun began to beat down in its steady work around 8:30AM and didn’t let up for the rest of the day.
Recently, I’ve had the absurd impression that we are actually waking up early. Let’s say 6:30AM. But here the roosters and people (kids included) are dressed and signing by 5:30AM with smiles and bright full faces of a full nights sleep. Not puffy, but thoughtful and ready.
We lingered for breakfast and dried out our smelly sleeping bags, caked in sweat, dead skin and sleep. Before heading out, walked down the nearby creek and rinsed off. Compared to the Baja, its a jungle here, everything is so green wild wet and heavy with a warm breath of eternal summer. A verdant carpet of shag that goes on forever, hiding the contours of the earth and giving shelter to a billion mosquitos and countless slow moving iguanas.
We stopped for lunch at this seemingly deserted house spray painted with “Se Vende.” (For Sale). Turned out to be the habitation of two families with a steady trickle of children coming to poke at the gringos who’d come to eat lunch on their front porch. Augustine pulled out all her toys, children sat in a circle, staring at us, laughing, smiling, dying for a thousand answers to questions we couldn’t understand.
Had a sweaty lunch and continued onto the turn off to San Blas. We stayed the night at a 24 hour truckers restaurant inside a banquet hall ruled by a giant Señora. Everyone obeyed her orders from her table, where she sat until deep into the night. She collected the money from patrons and answered hundreds of questions that apparently had to be channeled through her for approval.
Had an awkward, music filled, engine rumbling night of sleep punctuated by an endless line of truckers trucking to the bathroom that happened to be right near our tent. Keep in mind our tent was inside a banquet hall, with a roof and walls and everything. Comically, at around 3AM, three or four roosters strutted around the banquet hall and cackled, a screeching call to the sun that echoed off the walls.
We awoke on the 11th a bit exhausted, though humored by the nights entertainment. Perhaps a better way to put it would be, we awoke for the final time at our present abode. Set off to San Blas around 8:30AM. Rolling hills all the way. Just before getting into town, saw a sanctuary for crocodiles.
Pulled into town and shopped around from birthday supplies. I turn 30 today. Got ice cream and horchata, sat in the plaza cooling off right after I got my haircut. Hopped onto the bicycles and road out towards the beach to look for a place to camp for the night. We stumbled across a surf camp called “Stoners.”
Ance recognized the name and we ended up meeting up with Clove and Rita. We’d ran into them while going through Vanderhoof, British Columbia and Clove had told us that they’d be at a great surf camp in San Blas. Of course, we forgot completely about the whole thing, until magically we were all in the same place again. Great random encounter and it so happens that Rita shares a birthday with me – and unfortunately, Sarah Palin. Shared some cake for the occasion.
Spent the rest of the day snacking, killing mosquitoes, getting thrashed by the waves and generally being lazy, enjoying a celebratory rest in San Blas.
02/12/15 (San Blas to Los Platanitos)
Hit the waves and beach in the morning. Breakfast. Coffee. Leftover cake. Nose full of saltwater, ears full of sand. Made off into town fairly early to wash clothes. Somehow we managed to forget to pay Stoners for our nights stay. No one seemed to notice. Went back to pay. They seemed surprised I’d returned. Finished clothes, stopped at bike shop, jumped on internet, got veggies and some other food supplies.
Muggy hot mosquito, no-see-em haven around here. Headed out of town by 12:30PM. Almost crashed into each other when we spotted a crocodile right by the road. Flat ride for 10KM or so before great green curving hills and blocked views by a heavy jungle looking heap of leaves and trees.
Stopped for watermelon at a road junction, bought from an elderly deaf man tirelessly weaving palms. Continued on up a mountain side that overlooked the large bay that San Blas sits on. Ups and downs and curves and sweat. Decided to roll down this incredibly steep cobblestone street into a little place called Los Platanitos.
We were instantly invited to pitch a tent under a casita for the night in one of the four restaurants that sat right on the beach. Splashed around in the water for awhile and had dinner with Pepe. Pepe is a Mexican guy who at 35 has already traveled around the world hitchhiking and is now travelling by bus with his three dogs, living off his beautiful music all the way to Argentina. Great big soul of a man with songs that sing in you long after he’s finished. He ended up giving a flute to Augustine that he made out of bamboo before the night was through.
02/13/15 (Los Platanitos to Rincón de Guayabitos)
Woke at 5:45AM. Everyone seems to wake and move earlier on the Mexico mainland. Fisherman are shoving their boats into the waves, three guys are pumping the shit and waste water from the day before out of a manhole near the restaurant. Soon after, the waitresses and cooks, we met yesterday, show up, all piled into one pickup truck. They set to sweeping, chopping and cooking, all the while chattering away with the crashing waves nearby.
Began making coffee at 6:10AM, which is stupidly early for us. Had breakfast with Pepe. The bugs are insanely hungry from our gringo blood. We are all basically walking sacks of bumps waiting to feed the next family of starving mosquitos.
After breakfast, Pepe brought us to the place he has been gathering oysters for the past few days of his residence in Los Platanitos. Gathered oysters for an hour or so in a little slough area. A slow lazy rain dribbled on and off in an noncommittal fashion for the entirety of the morning.
Back to town, we got instructed on properly opening oysters and the divine preparation – pinch of salt, squirt of lime and a drop of hot sauce. “You know, they say that oysters are an aphrodisiac, I just hope they just give your legs power today.” Set off up the extremely steep cobblestone street out of Los Platanitos, seemingly only populated by night by vagrants like ourselves.
Road continued to be quiet and fairly flat for my day with Augustine’s trailer. Had lunch in the plaza of Las Varas. Everything was a bit array due to a carnival hosted there the night before. Overcast day kept us reasonable, meaning the air is still thick as salt water but we aren’t getting cooked by the sun at the same time.
Since the late departure from Los Platanitos, we took a short lunch. Got a flat while attempting to roll out of Las Varas. While fixing it, man with a plethora of beer sitting on his table asks us what the area code to San Diego is. Sadly, we don’t know. He looks at us incredulously, all the area codes are the same in the United States, what is it? We cannot properly answer this question. He still invites us over to his table for beer and wishes us happy travels.
Trucked onto Rincón de Guayabitos, which our map failed to warn us was a super gringo resorty town. We’re camping just outside of some gargantuan monument to wealth right now, right on the beach. The cops tolds us to come here, we’re hoping the home owners around here won’t call the cops.
Had a swim before getting into the test. Waves in the night seem confused and wild. Rain has been sprinkingling in its meandering fashion all evening. With the waves crashing closely, slept in the belly of a whale dreaming of cold icebergs and a world devoid of mosquitos.
02/14/15 (Rincón de Guayabitos to Sayulita)
Woke a bit later than usual. The warm lazy rain continued through the night. So strange to be in Mexico and the entire beach is swamped with Canadians and Americans doing their power walks and painful runs in the mild mornings and nights.
Went for a couple of swims after finishing up breakfast. A pair of those gracious Canadians came up to us after we had waved. Chatted about our trip and our recent run in with those polite banditos.
Bryan and Candy turned out to be from Montreal and couldn’t help but pitch in funds for our adventure. Prior to that, they offered up their house for a shower and food and pretty much everything they could think of. They’d walked away for awhile after talking with us and then came back with some pesos, asking that we take Augustine out to eat. Kinda hard to refuse the generosity. Thanks so much to them!
Short kilometers to Sayulita, but rolling through a small pass on a fairly dangerous road for cyclists. Too many cars and us crammed onto a narrow winding road. Got into Sayulita right when the sun begins it hot scorching kisses through the palms.
Parked bikes, jumped on the internet and got directions from Julia to her and Jonah’s house. They were spot on, though it was a short novella, which included directions that went something like: “continue on dirt road past the cobblestone street on the right. Go past the ugly green fence and turn left. Continue on that road past a white house with a black fence with a little sign that reads Los Pasos.”
Arriving at Julia and Jonah’s place was like entering a shady jungle oasis. Julia is a great cook with a neanderthal diet kick at the moment. Joana is a perfectionist with the finest taste in coffee, brewing it slow and methodically, serving it up in mini cups of desire that might as well be put on the federal list of addictive drugs. He also builds a mighty fine, and intricate, chicken coop castle while distilling his own raicilla. A type of tequila that will make your tongue swim and your head sing on earthy tastes of spicy rainbows.
On Top of all of this, their simple concrete house sits with open rooms overlooking the greenest verdant coastal rocky hills and cliffs. Dreamy crashing waves tumble and rumble, slowly, methodically,working rock faces to sand.
It was a beautiful place to stay with beautiful easy going people.
02/15/15 (Sayulita to Puerto Vallarta)
Slightly bigger day than usual, given our recent pace and distance combo in the wet atmosphere, bleeding sweat. That was also before we tacked on another 10KM or so for getting a tad bit lost and overshooting our turn to our Latvian hosts.
I’m currently writing in Augustine’s Winnie the Pooh notebook (mine’s out of pages) and was almost obliged to write with a pink pen, until a graphite pencil magically materialized, allowing me to avoid the feeling of being an eleven year old girl avidly jotting down the epic adventures of my life in pretty colors and heart shape dots. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
We took the Punta Mita road out of Sayulita, which was longer but by all accounts safer than the Mexico 200 highway, which even into Sayulita was a bit insane.
Jungle beauty dirt road with a bird sung theme track to either the Jungle Book or some fanciful Jungle Dream album you’re supposed to put on when trying to relax. Moist but cool in the shade, we enjoyed a cycling jungle safari for a good 5KM or so.
Started out late from Julia and Jonah’s house due to a series of events one must just shrug at. Either we were hoodwinked by the bicycle shop owner in La Paz or we didn’t clearly communicate what we wanted done with our bicycles. See, I thought we asked for a tune up and for the holes in our bicycle rims to be drilled out larger to accommodate for standard bicycle tube valves. What we got were shiney clean bicycles with one wall of the rims drilled out, which though halfway there, didn’t quite meet my expectations of a completed job – particularly when I went to swap out one of Ance’s tubes with a standard valve that clearly, and still, did not fit.
So, Jonah and I spent a bit of the morning drilling out the holes and sanding them down, which besides not really wanting to leave their little jungle paradise, accounted for us leaving at about noon.
After bumping and lazily gazing through our dirt jungle road, we popped out onto the quiet highway to Punta Mita to climb a small pass and basically road flats all the way into Puerto Vallarta. We did make a pit stop at the ubiquitous Oxxo for an AC stroll and a cold icy drink. Our hot water bottles weren’t cutting the cheddar, they were melting it. I do apologize.
Turning off the Punta Mita highway towards Vallarta, its pretty much this hodge podge of resorty and local looking clutter mashed up against one another. We didn’t really have a clear idea (as it turns out) where exactly we were supposed to turn. We knew for certain we need to make a left and each person we flagged down to ask about the street name, we were definitely mispronouncing, motioned south – just three kilometers more.
After 6KM we stopped into an internet cafe to get our bearings. We went 5KM to far. Finally found the road we were looking for and meandered our way through cobblestone streets into the los trabajadores part of town, where we met up with our Latvian hosts and now good friends – Eva, Kris and Karls Šica. They are what, I guess, you could now call Latvian Mexicans, having lived in Mexico now for the past seven years.
They’re renting out this yellow house that’s half mansion, a quarter church and some fraction of a fixer-uper/electrical disaster waiting to happen. It sits adjacent to a busy cobblestone road on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta itself. We’re a collection of gringos in a purely Mexican part of town. Apparently, the locals in the neighborhood have taken to calling Eva “Patrona,” for reasons that no one finds exactly clear, not even Eva.
Pretty glad to have landed in Puerto Vallarta. Tired and sweaty, we took showers and crashed into the temple of slumber, listening to the sporadic chattering of birds and the ceaseless life churning on the streets below.
02/16/15 – 03/01/15 (Puerto Vallarta Rest Days)
It’s much harder to observe the rhythm of the days and somehow chart the passing of time when we are at rest. Eva and Krišs have taken us in like family. We’ve of course done the practical things in recovery mode from our bandito tales. Ordered new bank cards, found a replacement laptop, random bike parts. Krišs and Eva, just today, found us a new replacement camera as a gift. Way too nice. We should be all ready to depart tomorrow for our plunge further south.
Its been relaxing, as if coming home to relatives we really love being around. Augustine has a part-time friend and sworn enemy in baby Kārlis. They take turns following each other around, playing in the sandbox in the yard and coveting whatever else the other happens to be holding in their hands at any given moment.
Eva is a photographer and Krišs is a font/graphic designer. We’ve spent some time building up a website for Eva’s wedding photography (www.evasica.com). The rest of the time we’ve spent swimming in a haze of extended family traditions: family meals, trips to town and the beach, tasting local wares and watching some of the finest movies I’ve ever seen (Krišs happens to be not only a great cook but a bit of a film buff – comes with the art background, I think).
Augustine has taken to putting on sunglasses when taking a nap during the day. She calls them her sleeping glasses. We’ve taken a day trip to a beach just north of Puerto Vallarta. Its filled with Mexican tourist and seafood restaurants where rambunctious bands play and you can bring your own beer. There are a sea of children wandering the beach and destroying the trampolines that stand just outside each restaurant.
Everyone is smiling and a steady hum of talk, laughter and music is just under deafening. Its an atmosphere that really seems to be beyond the ability of the States or Latvia to conjure up. I am not so sure how to put it, but its sort of like going out with your family devoid of the standard regulations that seem to be constantly at work, say in Latvia or the States – children are supposed to sit marginally still and not pester nearby strangers ears or space. That’s not applicable, or even really desired, on these Sunday afternoon beach front restaurant getaways. It was also pretty wonderful that in order to get to the seating area of the restaurant, you have to stroll through the makeshift kitchen, where half a dozen waitresses and cooks are scrambling about but still find the time to smile at you and run their hands through your kids’ hair in a kind greeting.
Beach vendors sell everything from kites and toys to ice cream and cotton candy, as well as fried food and jewelry and hats and shirts and a whole other boatload of knick-knacks and things you’d never need or even really be able to keep, but you find yourself buying, sucked into this rolling wheel of a fiesta that rolls and rolls and sings and chatters on and on with or without your being there. You’re just this small notched gear within this revving, tripping, stuttering engine of simple happiness. Blind and permissive.
This little curve of beach, blanketed in music and children, is hidden from the troubles we’ve created for ourselves – poverty, pollution, climate change, crime, corruption, shitty politicians. It all seems invisible, even if just for a moment. Seemingly all you need is warm weather, live music, food, children, beer is nice, sand and water, as well as a willingness or an openness to just let things dance as they should.
Apart from the beach, we did happen to find ourselves in downtown Puerto Vallarta on Mardi Gras. We are all so wrapped in our own realities, it did not even occur to us that it was actually Mardi Gras, until we noted the scantily clad gay males dancing up hot thunderstorms on passing parade floats with colorful beaded necklaces everywhere. Perhaps not totally appropriate for children, but we managed to just focus on the dancing, which the kids seemed to enjoy.
For the most part, we’ve all fallen into a family like routine. Krišs and Eva, having those real lives, still work their butts off. So we’ve spent a good deal of time figuring out the ebb and flow of two families living together and somehow, it seems to have worked out quite well for everyone.
We’re shooting to jump back onto the bicycles tomorrow. It seems a bit odd for me to even type that. We’re going to really miss our little Latvian Alaskan Mexican extended family. We hope everyone is well!