Continuing in Chiapas State – on to Barra Zacapulco

Left off having got the visa extension. It was 1030 when I skipped out of the Immigration office in Cuidad de Cuauhtemoc. How the little place where the Immigration office was located is called a City, as in City of Cuauhtemoc I have no idea. It appeared more like a one horse sleepy town? Possibly further down the road on the way to the border of Guatamala there were more city like buildings. Who knows who cares, ‘take me to the beach’ I was saying internally!  I now was planning to get down to the Pacific coast of Mexico. It was a fair distance so I will spare you too many details of many more van rides.

I caught my 2nd combi/van for the day to Compala where I had a break & a good meal. A 3rd combi took me on to Motozintla, an hour & a half away.

This is the route between Motozintla & Huixtla, although only 45 or so kilometers there were a lot of little stops & it took a couple of hours.

Motozintla to Huixtla was only about 48 ks but took a more than 2 hours as it’s a very steep & curvy mountainous road. On the map I have put up earlier the road is just a dotted line.

We stopped for a break about 20 mins & all in all it was a wonderful ride, scenic & good fun. I shared the front seat of the packed van with a chatty young builder. The route was spectacular, lots of pine trees & very changeable weather, from low cloud & drizzle to hot & sweaty humidity by the time the van arrived in Huixtla.

Looking down the street in Motozintla.

Finding a 5th combi of this long day, in Huixtla, needed a nice walk of a few streets to find. Then it was a squeeze to get in the van as it was filled, mostly with workers leaving Huixtla to go home. The route travelled East to West along the coast to Escuintla (interesting how all the names end in tla??)

On this shortish trip we went through a control point, possibly because we were very close again to the Guatemalan border. Officers wearing white uniforms of Federal forces sort of looked at us & waved us on. Beside where we’d pulled up a couple of local police were sat watching but just chatting. The Mexican president has begun to put Federal police & military above the local police which appears to me to be leaving local officers ‘redundant. I have since asked a man from marine services about this, his comment was that local police can be ‘compromised’. So Federal forces are becoming more prolific. By ‘compromised’ I assume he means receiving backhanders from cartels? Who knows? I don’t really want to know too much might get my little finger cut off but I’m observant of what I see around me.

This is the following day, different transport.

A lady by the name of Ruby, written on her sales leaflet, heard me coughing, dregs of the cold I caught in Palenque. She offered me some eucalyptus spray medicine she was selling to help me. She passed the bottle to me & I spayed a bit on my hand & inhaled it as she was saying. She passed the bottle back to others suggested everyone try it.  I think that was to reassure me, the only foreigner, that she wasn’t offering poison for sale. A few passengers tried it but none of us wanted to buy any but she didn’t mind. However this older lady, Ruby, turned out to be very helpful when we got to Escuintla as she knew where she was going…I didn’t.

This driver didn’t follow directions where a road was closed, he just drove around the orange beacons & zipped back onto the supposedly closed road??? Of course there was no other traffic, nor was there any roadworks I saw. Beside the road many differing shades of green vegetation with some paddocks flooded. A lady was standing beside the road waiting & climbed in, there was a bit more room now as some workers had got out. Maybe she had somehow contacted the driver to pick her up I have no idea but once in the van she pulled out of a carrier bag a huge puffy coat that one would wear in the Alps!! I was a bit flabbergasted by this strange move by the very well dressed lady. Very soon though the van stopped at a bus office & the lady in the hot coat got off. Ah ha someone explained to me she was catching the bus to Mexico City (CDMX). I have had experience on some of the Latino buses they can be very icy if the air con is turned very high so that was why she had that coat on.

Also next day, flooded road.

The driver of this 5th combi trip in my day, did a u turn & dropped us remaining passengers off at the terminal, well stop really, on the highway in Escuintla. I just wanted to go to a beach, any bloody beach I was tired & felt I deserved a little relax on the beach. I’d briefly looked at the guide e-book, but distances & time limits how far one can go in a day. Looking at the map of Chiapas the chap in Comitan had given me it looked like there was at least access to the coast near here. I had no idea what to expect or, really, where I was going….yes just my sort of trip. I like to be a little lost. “Go to Puerto Arista”, my friend in Australia who was following my trip daily, had said. Yea right it’s a lot further along this coast.

Whimbrel on beach, Barra Zacapulco. Huge surf.

So I followed my instincts & Ruby. It was late though & getting dark, Ruby asked where I was going & I said to the beach. She said better to get a hotel now & go to the beach tomorrow. OK, that sounded like a damn good idea. She led me around a corner to a taxi stand, it was a shared taxi stand, ‘combi’. Again we waited until it filled, I sat in the back & Ruby in the front. 2 passengers joined me in the back & Ruby had a fellow traveller in the front seat, 6 in the taxi including the driver! Off we set for Acapetahua, I hardly registered the name of the town, it was about 20 mins away, nice green scenery. It was too late to go to the beach now everyone in the taxi assured me. I was very tired. 15 pesos later & the friendly taxi driver lifted my bag out of the boot. I was in front of an hotel.

The hotel was clean & comfortable 400 pesos the night, good wifi no window just air-conditioning. Didn’t matter I was knackered! After I made myself a couple of cups of tea & had a long shower I slept like a baby.

Next morning I went for a walk around town & bought some tiny bananas. I like the smaller varieties of banana of which there are many types. I bought about 12-15 for 10 pesos (50c).

A blurred pic of different bananas.

Along one side of the main square/parque there was a row of kitchens offering breakfast. I ordered Mexican style eggs which is eggs scrambled with cooked tomato & capsicum (bell pepper), beside which are blend beans a couple of toasted tortillas & a warmed dish of hot tortillas. Eggs, 40 pesos, pineapple smoothie 20 pesos!

Another ‘pinched’ picture, Huevos Mexicana.

In the centre of the restaurants area a lady was blending fruit up into smoothies I ordered a pineapple one. When business eased & her daughter came to help the lovely drink making lady came & sat with me for a chat. People like to chat in Mexico, she explained exactly how to get to the beach, Barra Zacapulco. She even wrote in the back of my notebook/diary directions to get there. Turned out to be a bit tricky it was to get to this beach I was glad I asked her.

Now transport was in a ‘ute’ as we call it in Australia. A flat bed truck rigged up to take passengers. Of course it didn’t leave until it was full, very full. It didn’t take me all the way to the beach either! View was rather poor, from where I sat, behind the driver.


The ‘Ute’ transport I went to the river in.

Due to tremendous rains the road had been washed away outside of the tiny town, Las Garzas. A swollen river had devoured it. To get across it a rough footpath had been made across the rapidly flowing river. Luckily it wasn’t a wide river &my bag’s wheels managed to negotiate wooden planks of the makeshift bridge.

People crossing the river. Bridge being reconstructed. BTW I heard men working from 0700-1700 were paid 250 pesos for the day!! How do people survive?
On my return this man was waiting for people to come across the river. They sold him fresh water crayfish! Lot’s of money changed hands then.

On the other side a very small moto taxi was waiting & it took me to wait at the village where banana boats leave for the lagoon & beach. 10 pesos.

Launch to Barra Zacapulco.

I was surprised to see buildings surrounded by water.

Waited here some time.

It didn’t take me long to realise it was a high tide.

High tide in Las Garzas.

I had to cross a small ‘bridge’ to get to a restaurant that had a toilet & sold bottled water.

Interesting place.

Again there was a long wait. A sign above some of the boats showed prices for both shared & private transport to a place i didn’t write down the name of & Barra Zacapulco (not to be confused with Acapulco). I could see the mangroves in front of me. I know from so many years living in Cairns, Far North Queensland that mangroves grow only in salt water so the sea must be nearby?? I had no idea there was a huge beautiful lagoon to cross. There was nothing in the guide book about this place, just a picture on the map of Chiapas of a huge sand bar which is where Barra de Zacapulco is located!

Sorry I didn’t take the pic head on.

As I waited people turned up in ones & twos they waited too. Of course we were waiting until the boat had sufficient passengers that the captain would leave. It was a pleasant place to wait & learn the fine Latino art of patience! Small birds flitted through the mangroves.

Zipping through the mangroves.

A boat load of marines came speeding down the mangroves in front of me & moored up on one of the few places between piles & platforms. 11 men dressed in camouflage got out to also wait. They were waiting for road transport out of Las Garzas. I wondered where they had been patrolling, they had bedding so must have been out bivouacking somewhere? We weren’t far from the Guatemalan border. I wondered how they coped with mosquitoes. Most of the people arriving to wait for the same boat had shopping with them, a bucket of veggies, a ‘flat’ of eggs(30), bags of groceries. Others had bedding rolled up.

When the boat was full & engine fired up we set off at quite a speed down a channel through the mangroves. I noted on the return journey a couple of days, later the skipper slowed when he came towards & passed a small wooden canoe propelled only with a single paddle & holding an older lady. A younger man was paddling her sedately down the channel.

Mangroves near where I stayed.

Speeding through mangroves filled with high rooted trees the skipper obviously knew the route & it had been cleared of obstacles, fallen trees had been sawn through. Soon we popped out to a small lagoon. There was a settlement on one bank, a few huts & children running around. We sped on to a larger lagoon, some times a wire crossed over our heads, electricity supply.

From one side of the lake to the other people were dropped off & once a lady got on with a watermelon & got off on the opposite bank at a small village. Now the skipper began to bang the sides of the boat. This was to let everyone know the boat was coming so any passengers were waiting at jetties. Boom boom boom he whacked the boat with a big truncheon like baton. I guess we stopped about 5 or 6 times & finally right at the end of the lagoon on the seaward side I was put ashore on a small jetty.

A concrete path led up to a fresh water pool & palapas (frond covered umbrella type shades with seating underneath). This was a restaurant & also check in point for their cabanas.

Walking up from the jetty on lagoon. Fresh water swimming pool.

The beach was black volcanic sand & the sea was hidden behind this raised ‘bar of sand. The waves were huge & crashed in to shore very close it looked like very deep water. I rented a small cabana for 600 pesos per night. It had 2 beds & a bathroom, very basic but good enough. Internet was extra & a small slip of paper had a code that was valid for 24 hours.

Cabana on left, hammock badly hung but sufficed.

I hung my hammock outside the cabana & walked back to the restaurant for a beer & fried fish.

Me trying to take pics on tablet. Put it up so you can see the fish meal & beer, Victoria.

I stayed 2 nights it was very peaceful & natural. Very few people although more arrived the next day, it was Saturday.

Sunset. The sea is below the big sand bar everything is on.

The window at the back of my cabana looked out to the lake. I could watch the rain falling on the lagoon. I ate the small bananas I bought in Acapetahua & cheese & biscuits I’d bought in Ocosingo between meals I bought.

If you were to visit here it would be worth bringing food & drink it can be expensive to buy every meal. Barra Zacapulco doesn’t have a lot to do so you may prefer to look at, visit, other beaches along this coast. I didn’t get to Puerto Arista. The nature & birdlife as well as the peace & tranquillity I loved but it wouldn’t be the place for everyone. I love out of the way places others prefer to be more in a crowd.

Village across the lagoon, zoomed in.

I was more interested in the lagoon than the beach with the waves making it impossible to swim. I did venture into the sea on the edge while waiting for some prawns to be cooked. The swirling wash of the waves rolled me around in the course sand. Not exactly a nice time in the sea.

As I sat eating the lagoon caught prawns & drinking a tamarind drink, the cook’s husband came & sat for a chat. One of the good things about travelling alone is people will talk to you. This man is a fisherman he was very protective in his talk of the of the lagoon. He told me currently it was about 60% salt. When the rains come it becomes diluted & it was rainy season now. He caught all his fish diving for them, in the lagoon, it’s not too deep, 6-8m. He catches Pargo & Robalo fish. This fisherman had been diving for fish 40 years, he was fit! He had sons & daughters, none wanted to learn his trade. Such a common plight. He’d paid to have his children educated & now they were Dr’s, teachers, lawyers etc.

Rain came down hard, waves crashed on the beach.

There were some young boys who fished, I saw boys in a canoe & onshore chasing bait with a cast net one day & another time a pair of boys were line fishing close to the mangroves near where I lodged. The cabana was set back on the beach & out of the back window I could see the lagoon, it was a 2 min walk to get there. Had a great time with the new (2nd hand) camera!

Local’s boats.

I didn’t see any signs of fishing out on the big ocean, possibly further out of course. Here it was the lagoon that was the main source of industry. The area is protected & the fishermen close areas off from fishing for 6 month sat a time to protect species. There was very little rubbish & none I saw in the lagoon.

Turtle hatchery, each stick has a batch of eggs under it. Dates are written on, I think date expected to hatch or date collected.

Walking along the beach I came to a turtle hatchery. I’m not that keen on this idea of collecting turtle eggs & placing them in a kind of ‘nursery’ I feel nature can do it’s job with out human helpers. Many say “Locals will steal all the eggs” Yes quite possibly but local coastal people have been eating turtles eggs forever. One imagines (in a perfect world) that some eggs will be left to produce eggs in the future?? I don’t know any of the answers, just my thoughts on the subject. I was offered to go one night & look for turtles, collect the eggs. I declined. I saw many turtles hatching & one laying eggs in Las Tunas, Ecuador.

A home on the beach, looking towards the sea, lagoon about 30m behind me.
Another home on the beach. This plant in Australia is called Spanish Sword, the points are very sharp. I have sen ping pong balls & blown eggs on the points to avoid injuries.

This area doesn’t use daylight savings time so I wasn’t sure how long a wait there would be to take the launcha back to Las Garzas. It was short & soon I was sitting on the pictured seat waiting for a combi or ute. A combi came & at the mercado in Acapetahua another combi took me to the highway at Escuintla. From there I got a BUS. a real bus with loud films & cold air-conditioning. I stayed a night in Tonalá in a dive kind of hotel but it had a warm feel & a few permanent residents. TBC…

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A break from the big trip & so many words. Photos!!

I believe these are snowy plovers? This is zoomed in, they blend in well on the sand.

As a bit of a break from my travels in parts of Mexico here’s some pics of life in Celestun.

One of the many flocks of flamingos. Lots of salt was taken from here earlier in the year.

Salt harvesting stopped when the rains began & since then flamingos have been flying into the estuary & the lagoons of Celestun.

Piles of salt draining in the hot sun in May. Note the water to the right.

Bright pink adults are accompanied by young, still in downy grey colours. I read/heard babies are born in Rio Lagartos, up on the Northern coast of Yucatan.

The piles of salt pictured above in May were to the right of here. The closer birds are young adults out further on other bank feeding.

Another lagoon in May dried out to a crisp. It’s now full of red water.

The younger ones will get more pink the more time they spend with heads down in the pink waters eating coloured crustaceans of the shallow waters.

This photo was taken from the main road into Celestun. A family group, now you can see the difference between the younger greyer ones.

Other seabirds come now too, pink spoon bills, many different types of heron & some big cranes.

Seagulls having a bath in a fresh rain water puddle on the southern beach.

There is movement in this red lagoon water. Small fish were swimming trying to avoid being dinner. Oyster catchers, whimbrels & plovers (I think that’s right names).

A local called this a blue heron.

Pink Spoonbill, beautiful, well they all are.

In August the octopus/pulpo season began & on the 1st of August hundreds of prepared boats raced out of the harbour.

A crab bait is tied onto the bamboo pole to catch an octopus. Pulpo in Spanish. Note the small boat inside the boat.

Previously, in mid July I was lucky enough to go on-board one of the larger fishing boats for the ‘Blessing of the Fleet’, something I had witnessed in Cairns but not as big an affair as here, nor as religious.

Both these larger fishing boats took onboard ‘virgin’ statues to bless the fleet. Apparently 2 different pueblos. Only one pastor went.

There were over 50 boats I counted motoring first to the North of the pier & then south to here near the mouth of the fishing harbour. A family day out to bless the fleet & hopefully not get seasick, some did & you can see how calm it is.

The season took a while to pick up & in the first few days of August many fishermen came back disappointed as there were few octopus to be caught. Crabs have to be bought to use as bait to catch the octopus & much money had been spent buying the crabs for bait for no reward of ‘pulpo’. The season picked up & is in full swing now.

Seagulls hoping for a morsel of tortilla from the fisherman’s breakfast. Northern beach side of the pier.

Here is the equipment set up of a boat going out to catch octopus. The men motor out of the harbour but before they go out to sea they stop to have breakfast.

They take a small boat inside the bigger one & it is cast of the side so more man can fish & hauled back in when time to return to the harbour. A couple of times I have thought of asking if I could go to but I know beginning the blazing sun all day would be to much for me! No shade! 

Many of the boats come out of the harbour but then anchor up either side of the pier to have breakfast. I think this is because there are less mosquitoes on the water? It might be so that they have at least left port? I swim, well wallow in the sea each morning at one part or another, i have a few favourite places to swim. Often a boat will be or will pull up there & the fishermen eat b’fast, seagulls hang around hoping for a scrap of something.

These pulpo are going to a large freezing plant right on the beach.

So here’s their reward! Ashore many bodegas or other roughly set up shanty stalls buy the octopus for prices around 120 pesos for larger ones & 90 pesos for smaller ones, per kilo. Thousands of kilos have been taken already. The season finishes on 15th of December. Hopefully some pulpo will be left to reproduce for next years harvest.

Inside the boat harbour is a hive of activity when the boats return. Unloading octopus to take to sell.

Before Halloween a Paseo de Las Animas on October 27th was celebrated.

One of the ‘altars’ of offerings set up in the town’s main park.

There was a procession from the cemetery to the church mostly with school children/ young people.

The young had prepared ‘altars’ of offerings to spirits, ghosts & banshees of the dead. Then they got dressed up into traditional dress.

Candied fruit, nuts in slabs of sugar as well as flowers & fruit & veggies.

There were 5 different places set up in the main parque featuring offerings from 2 infant, 2 primary & one senior, schools.

The children were almost all dressed in Yucatan traditional dress.

I will return my last trip & many more combi rides in the state of Chiapas next time….

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No Visa, Yes Visa

Comb/van terminal Ocosingo

Ocosingo was lovely & I would have loved to stay longer. A renowned pianist was to be featured on stage that evening as part of the fiesta celebrations. Having an expired visa worried me a bit so I thought I’d better hurry up & get it sorted out. It’s the Westerner in me. People had said that Mexico rarely threw people out of the country especially just for an overstay. Apparently if you do leave with a visa expired you just need to pay a small fine for overstays. Mexico is smart enough to realise that even if a visa has run out a foreigner generally is spending money constantly so why throw them out. 

Same map I’ve put up before but you can see Ocosingo to Tuxtla Gutierrez to Comitan to Frontera Comalapa. Above that where a line goes seeminly to nowhere is Cuidad de Cuantemoc.

Zuri had shown me pictures of San Cristobel on her phone the evening before, it was lightly snowing lightly, ugh. Although only 2 hours away San Cristobel is much higher in the mountains at 2100m. Almost every foreigner I’d met had remarked how lovely San Cristobel de Las Casas is “quaint houses, colourful, great markets & food”

San Cristobel de los Casas, not my pic.

Blah blah but I still had a cough, it was slowly getting better but snow & cold weather wasn’t going to help. If, as Immigration in Campeche had said, I’d have to hang around a few days to pay different fines/amounts, I wasn’t prepared to do so in cold weather. So I’d decided I’d go to Tuxtla Gutierrez instead & see how Immigration would be there. Tuxtla is the capital of Chiapas.

Looks like a stapler, probably adapted from one, mini sewing machine, bought on street in Ocosingo.

The cheese celebrations still hadn’t begun by the time I left at 11 ish so no cheese tasting for me. A taxi took me up the hill to the main road & the combi terminal. Again my bag was loaded & I waited for the combi to fill. Travel in Mexico is surprisingly easy. Everywhere men were eager to carry my bag, lift it into vans or buses. It was getting heavier at each stop as it seemed there was always something interesting to buy, even if small. 

Lady at this stall made me a cheese sandwich for the ride.

The next couple of trips were shortish, comfortable but heading to a big city, not what I’d choose to do. Ocosingo to San Cristobal took about 2hrs. The road climes thru green field & misty rain. In the cold combi terminal in San Cristobel I just took another van headed to Tuxtla Gutierrez. The ride was about an hour. This road sank back down passing great slabs of smooth sloping rock between lush countryside. Before we arrived in Tuxtla the sun was out & it was warmer.

Once settled in cheap hotel I went out to have a quick look around the city & on my return I noticed a pedestrian policeman so I asked him about getting to the Immigration office next day. He was helpful & explained that I should take city van line route 89. He told me which corner of which street to pick it up.

I was happily anticipating beginning the process of visa renew….ha ha ha. What a let down I was in for. Yes van 89 took me to the gates of the Immigration office. A large fenced complex couldn’t be entered until I had handed over both my simple phone & Tablet to security & had registered. Face nappy (mask) was obligatory as I was let in the gate, “For the cameras” the gate opening lady said, I wasn’t sure if she meant I should smile to some hidden camera or keep the mask on? She pointed over to where odd sets of seats were placed under a tin roof & about a dozen other people waited. They fidgeted nervously as their life support system (smart phones) had been taken at the gate. Many had papers or folders in their hands. A big banner detailed the process of re??? where by if one had previously ben in Mexico residency would be granted on production of the old tourist visa. That would have been handy. Many people I know have used this rule to take up residency in Mexico. I was here for the first time so could only apply for a tourist visa extension. 

There didn’t appear to be a queue, no information on who was next or even when we’d be seen. Everyone just waited on the seats outside as the sun began to turn towards us.

After a little waiting I asked turned to an older man siting close to me. He had a small Argentinian flag sewn on his shirt. “Who’s 1st?” I asked “Is there a queue?” Are we all waiting for the same thing?” I persisted. I didn’t think so as some Asian had a mountain of papers & kept sifting through them. Surely not everyone was here for a visa renewal?

The man thought about what I said. He was there because he’d lost his Mexican ID papers & needed it for his business he said. He then got up & went inside the building. He son returned with just a shrug of his shoulders. Another man ventured in the door to ask I guessed.

After the 2 men had been inside & were reseated an official came out & got us all to form some sort of a seated queue, we bunched up on the seats. This uniformed Immigration man said he was going to look at everyone’s paperwork & see what we each needed to do. Muy bien (very good) I thought, should be easy. As I expected many of the patient people waiting were told this or that paper was wrong, needed signing or needed extra signatures. The Asian family had some problems which I didn’t understand, nor did I want to.

When it was my turn I valiantly showed my passport, my entry small slip of paper which had been marked 6 months plus a paper Campeche office had printed with details of which law they were following & below also written in pencil 3 different amounts I’d have to pay. “Oh no you can’t do that here” the man said. WHAT I thought but didn’t shout. “Oh no” he said “you have to go to…” some place I’d never heard of. “Why” I said, “you can’t do that here”. ” You have to go to the border with Guatamala where you will be right on the frontier” he sort of stood as though one foot on one side of a border & other on other side. Umm Umm I asked him to write in my note book the name of the town I had to go to, then I got up & left, picking up my phone & tablet at the security desk outside the gate.

What a let down! However never to be deterred I ate a good meal & looked at my on screen old guide. Cuidad de Cuantemoc he’d written in my notebook. I couldn’t even pronounce it. It looked quite a way, I could probably get as far as Comitan & spend the night there. I dashed back to the hotel & grabbed my bag & got a taxi to the combi terminal.

Not Tuxtla Terminal but you get the idea, more combi/van travel.

It was a 3 hour combi ride to Comitan cost 110 pesos. The route taken was below San Cristobel which i was happy about. I dislike backtracking.

On the way I looked at a nice sounding hotel in my old guide & hoped it was still open. It was & I checked into Hotel Viray about 1600 that afternoon. A cosy place with courtyard & an OK price at 400 pesos for the night. A big plaza/square wasn’t far away & I had a walk around before it got too cold, Comitan being about at an altitude of 1600m.

Sorry very few photos, this part of the trip I was a bit too preoccupied.

It was quite a ‘posh’ area, plenty of classy restaurants & coffee shops. I ate some tacos being served on stone surrounds of gardens. It seemed that people are permitted to set up stalls after 1600 & sell food they had prepared at home. Tacos, 16 pesos each.

At a tourist booth Ernesto from local government gave me a colourful Chiapas map (one I keep putting up here)& lots of information about the city. He did put the wind up me a bit after I told him where I was headed. “Oh don’t take the road to Cuantemoc” he said the name just rolling off his tongue. I practised saying it with him, always handy to be able to pronounce where u wanna go. If not show the notebook! There has been some trouble with gangs & shootings along the way” Oh dear, I thought. Only place to get the visa I know of right now so let’s just see. “If you have to go go early” Ernesto said..

Another map from Ernesto. Plenty of lovely places to visit on a return trip to Chiapas.

Next morning spread my valuables about in my luggage & set off quite early, so early I had to wake the staff up to have the outer door unlocked. Then a taxi to a combi for Cuidad de Cuantemoc (you think this is hard to pronounce, just wait until I get a bit further into Chiapas ha ha).

I sat at the back of the combi low in my seat prepared to duck if we were stopped by banditos, if I heard any gunfire. Goodness, quite exciting but would I make it? We left Comitan around 0830 & the ride was fine! I scanned the roadsides & anticipated the worst but all was quiet. It was flat sloping landscape. No sign of unrest, we drove past a couple of military posts but didn’t stop.

The driver pulled up saying Cuidad de Cuantemoc. I was the only person to get out of the van which turned around & headed off. It was a slightly deserted place. Queued taxis offered to take me to the actual border to Guatamala but I’d spotted the Immigration office across the road. Inside one man was sitting behind a counter, no other punters except me. A good sign.

I recited my spiel about getting a visa renewal. “No” he said shaking his head “You have to cross to Guatamala for 3 nights” “I don’t want to go to to Guatamala I have an appointment to catch up with friends in Huatulco” I said. “No” he said again & I retaliated with  “Campeche told me I could get a renewal” I said again showing the piece of paper from the Campeche office. “No” he said again. I pleaded “The Immigration office in Tuxtla told me if I came here I could get it.”

That seemed to work & finally he slid a paper over the counter written in about 3 places across it in red marker pen was 150. It was the renewal form!! The man was very nice & was amused that I’d come so far plus that I was travelling alone at my age! Ha ha. He asked me al sorts of questions about travelling alone & where I’d been etc. like old mates. I filled in the form.

He said no I didn’t have to pay the 3 payments Campeche had told me about I didn’t have to hang about. I could pay him 638 pesos & then pay a man in an office just beside his another 638 pesos. I handed him 2×500 pesos. He didn’t have change. I offered 500 & 100 & he took that. I filled in the form, went out of his office & into another & paid an official man behind a glass screen, he had change. Back to 1st man’s office where he got me to sign for the 638 pesos I’d (not) given him (I only gave him 600). He then stamped everything & we chatted a while longer & I skipped out of the office!!!! YES YES YES!


As you will read in next post a little further down the road I had a celebratory feed of prawns.
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Part 3 Palenque to Ocosingo, Chiapas Mexico.

The route.

It was a warm sunny day as I waited on the wrong side of the road for a combi/van to Ocosingo. I’d misunderstood ‘en frente’ literally in front of & waited quite some time outside of annoying Banco Azteca. This bank is I think Mexico wide & is different to Western bank standards & designs. The bank, almost every branch, is located at the back of a shop called Elektra that sells electrical goods as well as bicycles, stoves, tellys & all sorts of stuff. Along the back wall are the banking counters for manual/personal transactions nearby are desks with other bank staff seated to arrange loans etc, there is also an ATM. In my opinion it is annoying because are new directions on the ATM screens. After you have put in the amount you would like to withdraw it asks how you would like the money, 100, 200 or 500 notes. The first time it caught me, I pressed 200 & only received 200 pesos, about $US20, not the much larger amount I had input prior to pressing 200. 2 days prior in Palenque this particular bank’s ATM only gave me 500 pesos with the same stupid screen. So I’m sworn off using Banco Azteca & their recently changed un helpful screens.

Honey lemon & Ginger drink. (not my photo)

So what with Banco Azteca tripping me up & having caught a nasty head cold I wasn’t unhappy about leaving Palenque even though as a nice enough city. Besides still having a nasty side wracking cough, the head full of snot feeling had gone, sweated out overnight as well as cured with many cups of hot water, honey, lemon & ginger.

These are powders that are made into drinks, cacao is one. Pics from mercado in Ocosingo.

Standing in the hot sun, many combi passed going to the ‘ruinas’ a lone combi that passed with Ocosingo written on the front turned right & stopped on the corner of the street. I crossed the road & there was the terminal of the combi company….Duh. A van was almost filled & ready to leave as my bag was shoved under plenty of other smaller ones. I bought a ticket & found a seat, the fare was 100 pesos. A man squeezed in to offer drinks from a bucket full of different bottles, cooled by iced water. I bought a weird one I think called Penol? It was explained the drink was made with blended corn & cacao…quite tasty, extremely filing & very big for 20 pesos. The drink sufficed for the whole 3 hour trip. Quite a long time to travel about 120K, possibly ADO buses would be faster but as I said before I like the smaller combi/van rides with passengers getting on & off.

Not my picture either but the road to Ocosingo, very green. No roadblocks when I travelled.

The van drove through countryside on the outskirts of Palenque. Run down homes & better looking farms were interspersed with some roadside restaurants beside some of which ladies paraded outside obviously offering their wares..themselves. Green in many shades & shaped into bushes & trees whizzed past. Flowers of yellow, red & pink caused me to mentally name them as so many are similar to tropical North Queensland. The road began to curve & wind up into the hills. We hadn’t gone far & a man got out & vacated one of my favourite seats in the van, a single seat by the window on right hand side of van. There are 2 of them in every van. I could move from the man-spanning young man dozing next to me into the vacated seat & see out of the window perfectly.

Not my photo Cascadas Azul.

The route passes an attraction Aguas Azul where there are cascades (waterfalls). I didn’t stop as with a receding cold I didn’t want to swim in cold water plus I was concerned about my visa. The visa plan now was to go on to San Cristobel de Las Casas to try again at the Immigration office. However the old guide (2010) I had on my tablet recommended a stop in Ocosingo. A passenger offered me an apple & we talked about the drink I had & fruit. A couple got on who were going to Cascadas Azul for a day trip.

Not my picture, work on roadside.

At one part of the highway, quite high in the hills, there were a lot of roadworks, not holding up traffic but men digging & putting in culverts to take heavy rainfall from the road. Deep drains were being constructed & at one corner a big concrete works had been chopped into the hillside & a machine was churning & burning up rock to make concrete. Other larger trucks were bringing rocks & moving the resulting powdered rock about. Easier to make the materials needed on site, I supposed, than travelling to & from a town. Otherwise the road was very scenic, small towns & lots of pine trees, except for that part where smoke was billowing out from concrete manufacture.

(I don’t have an awful lot of photos so I’m putting in some of the Ocosingo market produce photos in here)

Any Aussies reading this will know this vegetable. Choko it is called in Australia, quite common here in Mexico. rather tasteless but good to absorb flavours of curry etc. Sold in these piles not including the buckets.

Arriving in Ocosingo to a large combi terminal it seemed most people were just getting out of the Palenque combi & into another to continue to San Cristobel de Las Casas. “No thanks,” I said to men offering to take my bag & put in their rapidly filling combis, “I’m staying here a while”. Rolling the bag up hill I was on the look out for a reasonably priced hotel. I’d read of one in the town centre in the afore mentioned guide. I hoped it wasn’t closed as had been one I’d read about in the same guide in Campeche, bit of a a let down.

At the top of the road leading down to the town centre a house had a sign out for ‘Banos’. Often people will rent out their loo for 5 pesos. Having used it I asked the pair of ladies sitting in the courtyard if, for 10 pesos, I could leave my bag there with them while I went to look at hotels in the city. Yes they said & wheeled the bag into a room inside the house. I find one can trust people in most small places especially if you feel they are honest people, one of the good parts about Catholicism?

Was spoilt for choice of potatoes in the Andes of Ecuador. Most potatoes in Mexico quite boring, taste OK though, these looked freshly dug & different.

Down hill about 4 blocks was the city plaza, where in every town people gather. At the plaza a big trailer blocked traffic & was being unloaded with equipment. Right next to it was Central Hotel, I could see a big balcony overlooking the plaza. It looked promising & on inquiring the price was right, 350 pesos a night. I asked to see a room. I was shown one at the back of hotel? Umm? I asked if it was the same price for a room on the balcony? Yes, the porter said, but once the stage has been assembled there will be very loud music until very late. I don’t care I said & agreed to take room 10.

Room 10

Downstairs I paid & asked if I could change a note to get 10 peso to pay the ladies looking after my bag. The receptionist lady with her mask on gave me 10 pesos & said “It’s a present” Goodness I said I’d like to pay it back later. As it was I didn’t see her again. Back at the top of the hill my bag was still where I’d seen it set. I might add all the zips are always locked when I travel.

Balcony overlooking Municipal building.
In other direction The plaza.

I chilled on the balcony for a while, found somewhere to eat & returned to watch all the activities in the plaza. Construction of a very big stage involved a lot of steel scaffolding. It was in front of the municipal offices. All night I expected it to be finished & music to begin but I was fooled. The 4 day fiesta began the next day!

Truck & stage being erected.

Early in the morning after a cup of tea I set off to find the mercado to buy fruit. It was further down in the hilly town. People were setting up stalls out the front of shops on the edges of the narrow road. There was some amazing fresh produce at the big multi building market. These are some of the last photos with old camera so not very good.

This is terrible photo, it’s some sort of flower used to cook with I think. Also possibly chillies beside.

You can’t see the delicate mushrooms well but variety of bananas can be sort of seen.
These fruits very popular in many places, 10 pesos for the small container. Strange taste, bland, small stone in centre.

The camera performed reasonably well next day when I went by combi to the ruins of Toniña. These are the most recently uncovered/discovered Mayan ruins only being found in 1998.

Set in the ground man & woman I believe.
Magnificent!

I didn’t take a guide even though rather attractive chap was offering a tour for 300 pesos (about $15). I prefer to wander myself & get the feel rather than hear opinions of what went on there. You can look it up if interested.

It was REALLY beautiful lush greenery there. A shortish walk from the entrance, less than a K, led to the main site where the huge pyramids towered into the blue sky. I was still a bit flu ish so had put on warmish clothes. It turned out a hot day.

I made it to the top!
Great views. The Mayans knew where to build.

I sweated as I climbed up the many steps, thinking about the people who had constructed this so many years ago. What workmanship. When I was as high as was permitted a pleasant guard top took the pics of me. You can see the line behind me where you are not permitted to go any higher, thank goodness I said!

Can’t see where to rotate this?

Climbing back down I had a rest under a tall shady tree.

Not rotated either. Not this tree but this one was magnificent as so many orchids living on it.

That evening there was folk dancing & music on the completed stage. I put on a cardigan & went & sat on one of the many wooden chairs that had been set out for the public to see the performances on stage. I still had a cough & tried to disguise it but people nearby did look at me a bit. People can be very scared about colds & flu now..

The band that played.

First there was folk dancing. Couple came on stage in beautiful costumes & the dances depicted couples romancing or arguing, tales of life. All the photos came out awful. There were some speeches followed by a band. Then there was a very modern performance, apparently the first time for Ocosingo (I didn’t like the idea), the crowning of Ocosingo’s Queen of Saint ??? The patron saint of the town. The reason for the annual fiesta. All very Westernised, kids with crown & bunches of flowers, sash presenting etc (sorry I’m such a cynic but it just didn’t seem to fit, especially as the ‘queen’ was really tall, very white skinned & nothing like the short bodied, black haired locals) A crooner with a guitar came on stage next & insisted the queen stay seated in her throne to listen to him. My cough & sore bum from hard seats caused me to leave then. I could see & hear the continuing performance from the hotel balcony.   

                                        

Queso De Bola, not my pic.

I decided to stay another night as each morning low cloud slowly lifted from the surrounding hillsides exposing a clear crisp blue sky & green hillsides. I REALLY loved Ocosingo. I stayed 3 nights in Ocosingo & would have stayed longer but was a tad worried about my expired visa), I was told there was going to be a big time band from the state capital on stage that night. Having checked the photos & videos from the night before I decided it was time to dump the old camera. I walked over to a pawnshop & saw a nice red camera. The shop was busy people pawning jewellery so I said I’d come back.

Dried chillies

I wandered around town, I saw cheese shops & was shown Queso de Bola. It is a wax covered ball of creamy soft cheese. I bought the smallest one for 50 pesos & it lasted some time along the trip. 

Condiments, I bought red food colouring, natural.

I walked up to the highway & down another back street where I saw a sign for shoe repairs. I needed a some glue on a band on my sandal & went in. Benjamin went to fix my shoe & his wife, Loli chatted to me (so handy speaking some Spanish). Their daughter Zuri came to the small counter & tried to speak in English she was a bit shy. Then Loli kindly invited me to return to their shop/home at 1900 & she would prepare a special pineapple drink for us all. How lovely.

Benjamin, Loli & their grand daughter, Zuri’s girl.

I returned to the pawn shop where there were less people, a gold chain was being tested for purity with some chemicals. I asked the price on the camera. 4200 pesos wow a bit steep. The man said “Wait I will look on the computer to see if it’s been reduced”. It had probably been there some time, mostly these shops buy stuff so they are keen to sell. Yep it was reduced to 2000 pesos. “I’ll take it” There was a bit of a drama as like everywhere the government here is trying to keep track of people so they have introduced a new system where you mostly have to have this new tax number to buy stuff. As with many things in Mexico, this small hurdle was jumped & I walked out with a ‘semi professional’ good Canon camera.

Zuri with her cup of pineapple. cinnamon drink.

Before I went to drink Loli’s pineapple drink I had my boots cleaned in the park. About 4 or 5 men had shoe shine stands & they were siting around in a group laughing. 20 pesos & about 25 mins had my boots almost reflecting my face. At Benjamin & Loli’s home that evening I was shown to the back of the shop to a lounge room & then up to the next floor where the drink was being prepared & Loli explained the recipe. WE went up even higher to their roof top & looked out over the town. Zuri returned from her evening classes in English & we all sat around the dinning table chatting & drinking hot cinnamon/pineapple. Zuri practised her English with me, she taking the classes for a year & would like to teach English herself..

Merimba Band Los Rios.

Later I head back down town to the completely redressed stage & watched the professional band Los Rios. They were really good. I had great fun with the camera & have a few videos of their performance.

This man could certainly blow his horn!! Wonderful & loving it.

There were 13 men in the band playing Marimba music 5 men playing on the long instruments also called marimbas. What a great time they all had, you could see they loved playing for us audience. Lots of people got up to dance in front of the stage where there was room. Although there were plenty of security guards they were tolerant of one drunk man who happily danced on his own in his shabby work clothes. An older Indigenous lady stood & stared at the band open mouthed. Security staff gently showed her to a seat wear me where she sat transfixed for a few of the band songs. Behind the performers big screens played exotic patterns & over head huge lights swivelled & changed colours. It was a very professional performance. The Marimba music can be found online, do try to listen to some of the sounds. I can’t post videos. The men swayed & looked like they could be in any of the shady gangster gangs that run parts of Mexico. A great performance I thoroughly enjoyed it. A great end to my stay in Ocosingo.

Band Los Rios from Tuxtla Gutierrez, Capital of Chiapas state.
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Escárcega to Palenque

One of buildings at Palenque Ruins

In Escárcega I awoke at dawn to a fresh clean day. Dusty vehicles that had arrived yesterday as well as the plants & flowers in the hotel car park had been washed by last nights storm. While I made tea & checked my emails most of the travelling company representatives that probably use the hotel on their rounds of businesses they visit, had driven onto to their next customers. 3 chatting women sat in the reception drinking coffee & the one behind the desk took my key & happily rang a taxi for me. The driver was on his phone when he arrived & still on the same call when he dropped me off opposite the 2nd class bus terminal. A few places offered breakfast, it’s usually a cheese filled something or other meal for breakfast if you don’t eat meat.

Roasting chickens, juices dripping down onto salad veggies

One place offered a quesadilla (I still haven’t got the names of the various types of folded or wrapped, open or fried types of corn flat breads Mexico offers everywhere). It was a big tortilla, so big it overhung the plate, possibly of wheat flour not corn, folder over & filled with cheese, beside it were mounds of chopped lettuce, cabbage, sliced pink pickled onions & a pot of tomato sauce. As I ate I watched a ute (flat bed truck?) with a trailer being unloaded of crates of different fruits & veggies. The trailer had a flat tyre but no one seemed to notice or care, delivering of the veggies was the job.

Tortillas are baked from very early in the morning.

Dragging my rolling bag I passed a shop with dresses & blouses hung outside & a tarpaulin that hung over the edge of the street in case it rained & to keep the sun from fading things. I wished the seated shopkeeper Buenos Dias. He was very chatty & grateful that everyday God provided & someone bought something. “Gracias  a dios” is repeated by almost everyone thanking for every small thing in this Catholic country.

One of the thousands of Churches the Spanish built. Often they demolished Mayan buildings & used the already cut stones!

These are shops around the mercados in Merida.

In the busy terminal many masked & a few unmasked people were waiting for buses.  Escárcega is an intersection of roads headed back North or West towards Villahermosa & East to the Caribbean Coast. It is also where Mexico’s latest project is to pass, The Tren Maya. A huge project that seemed to be progressing well in the parts of the route I’d passed. Piles of tracks, sleepers & much heavy machinery was to be seen near the road on the route to Campeche. An old railway line was being followed.The planed route will begin in Cancun & continue to Palenque, it looks like it will be a great train trip to take. I believe you will be able to buy “hop on hop off” tickets to enjoy some of the towns & interesting ruins along the way.

Maya Train Route not yet completed.

Only a few direct buses go to Palenque, where I was headed they left from the ADO 1st class terminal that was closer to the main highway. Larger towns & cities have two bus terminals, in smaller places all buses arrive & depart from one terminal. I’m not keen on ADO buses as they are too officious, they play films that can be loud & the air-con is often very cold. Many tourists on timetables take ADO I prefer the cheaper “2nd class” buses, more fun. 

Map, if you can enlarge Celestun is at top.

Enlarged so you can see Escárcega.



One was to leave at 1030, destination for Villahermosa, it would pass a place where passengers for Palenque could change. I didn’t quite understand but everyone seemed confident this was the right way to get there. The bus arrived & was a TRN line, one of several that use the reloadable card to buy a ticket onboard. I’d loaded my card in Campeche. Putting 300 pesos on it gave me a 45 peso bonus! ADO don’t give free money away ha ha. There was a big queue to get onboard. A lady in front of me had a bag of something very strange. I asked what the green things were & she pulled one out. It was very big & phallic.

A VERY unusual avocado.

In a gesture that is fairly common in open hearted Mexicans the lady said I should have the avocado. That wasn’t my intention I was simply interested in what the bag of green things were. It was quite heavy but I accepted her offer as she was insisting. I wrapped it a small towel & put it in the bag I was taking onboard. Larger luggage goes under the bus, sometimes it is tagged other times not. I managed to get a window seat next to an older cowboy looking man with a big cowboy hat on. He’d had his hand on the seat as he wanted to select who’d sit next to him, seemed I qualified. He wasn’t the chatting type I could see. A blonde light skinned man in blue overalls got on the bus too. His style was distinct, he belonged to the Mennonite people who come from Europe, I think Germany, Austria & they have, I have heard, quite a few farms in Mexico. A Shop keeper in Celestun told me he buys from Mennonite’s & had shown me pics of the farm & happy smiling workers. He said they have much farmland in Campeche state.

A bus station, you can see the machine to check your balance on Ahorro bus card.

When my cowboy neighbour got off the bus 2 small children bounced out of the seat in front where they were squeezed in with their Mum & another sibling. Although quite restless they were fine travelling companions & said they too were going to Palenque. I was amazed to see the younger boy who may have been about 5 had a smart phone & he rang an aunt & grandma & an aunty even rang him, obviously they were going to visit family & everyone was excited.

Shy child in family gathering at the beach, Celestun.

We’d been travelling a couple of hours past wet green countryside when the driver pulled up for the passengers to have a toilet break & buy a drink or snack. Not much further down the road was Las Campanas, which I think is the name of the town on highway where those of us going to Palenque got off. I wasn’t sure just everyone said get off here for Palenque so I did. Here vans were waiting &  each filled with bus passengers & all our luggage was piled inside. Interestingly we drove through a big control/check point as we were leaving Campeche state & entering into Chiapas one. If one says one is going to Chiapas everyone says “Oh be careful it’s dangerous there”. It is beautiful. We didn’t even stop at the check point, I’m guessing van drivers know if someone suss is onboard & stop??? It was about a 30 min ride to Palenque.

Umm Map of Palenque, can’t find rotate button.

Arriving in the city centre I asked about cheap hotels & was directed to go around the corner & ask in that street. I found a cheapish hotel for 400 pesos a night. Further down the road was a cheaper one where the owner lady was chatty. She told me she is 80 & had lost her husband 2 years ago but is still running the posada with the help of her grown children. Although only 250 pesos a night there was no internet or hot water at her Posada. I had already contacted my Dad & changed the day for our fortnightly chat, it was now scheduled for the next day so I wanted internet. the weather was much cooler in Palenque so hot showers were preferable.

I set off about 0900 next day to what I thought may have been an Immigration office I’d seen the evening before walking around town. No it was an office for migrants, the office staff were really helpful though. They directed me to where a town service van would take me to the Nissan car showroom & the Immigration office I needed was there. It only cost 8 pesos to get there, unfortunately though staff that did visa renewals only worked on Mondays & Wednesdays, it was Thursday. So no visa here.

Palenque Ruins.

Next day I took a van to the famous Ruins of Palenque, 16k out of town. A couple of Kiwi tourists got on the van outside of the main town area & at the ruins we hired a guide to the ruins together, although later I sort of wished we hadn’t…We paid at 2 different places & walked to the main entrance & up to where the site began. My camera was misbehaving & I only have very few pictures but I’m sure you can look up online all about Palenque. There are over 200 buildings in all we only saw a very few.

Inside.

Interestingly the public could go into one of the pyramid buildings. The ceilings were quite high & how stones had been laid  so perfectly, especially that they were still standing today & they were erected so many centuries ago. Who really knows when why or how they were built?

Who knows? maybe a burial place?

Many of the building have been cleaned & are visible, some are still hidden in the surrounding jungle. & some like this one are still being cleared of vegetation & cleaned up.

Building being cleaned up to go on display.

This one you could climb to see the surrounding view. I was a bit “under the weather” with a nasty cold. The Kiwis climbed up.

Our guide said his family used to live quite close to the stream we passed on the way out. He said some years ago the Mexican government had moved everyone living on the site & had given each family 5 hectares of land to farm. The guide said his family were quite happy growing tomatoes, especially now they could get GMO seeds from Monsanto & grow many times more tomatoes than they did before….He did mention quite a few times that the Mayan ceremonies that were performed at these ancient buildings are now done in a church…Ummm.

Lastly we passed where the civilisation had taken their water supply from & saw where archaeologists from early in 20th century had built drains & water collecting pipes as they lived on the ruins studying them. As you see the photos are not very good. Better camera coming soon.

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Celestun Yucatan to Escarega Campeche part 1 of a big new adventure/trip

This gallery contains 14 photos.

I felt in the mood to take a trip & see some more of Mexico. I’ve been lazing around in Celestun since February of this year except for an interesting week long trip to Uxmal ruins in May. Maybe I … Continue reading

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Celestun, Yucatan Mexico.

It appears things have changed on this website so I’ll just try to put up what I have written.

This seaweed can look a little awful on the beach but it’s not always there (although mostly is) & moves with the sea currents. I look at it as a natural occurrence. While still in the small ugly, unloved toad fish (when caught on lines they are left to die as inedible) swim above it as do long shiny garfish.

In the estuary prawns & blue swimmer crabs are caught close to the seaweed. Fishermen in very small boats propelled only by a long pole go out early in the morning for a few hours before the sun gets too hot. They have nets also on long poles & I was told (as far as I understood the man’s Spanish) that they set triangular traps for the prawns with these nets.

So I have just put all I’ve written on the photos. Not how I would like to have done it but taking an awful time & controls all changed.

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Waves, Whales & Pebbles.

Newly Hatched Turtles

After more than a year of not writing anything I thought I’d write about this interesting place I have moved to. From the clear bright air of the Sierras in Yunguilla I’m now down in the salty sea air of Las Tunas, Manabí. It’s a small almost forgotten pueblo on an exhilarating beach.

Looking North, from Las Tunas to Puerto Rico

I moved down to the coast, to San Jose, close to Olon, not too far from here, in Feb ‘21 staying at some friend’s place until moving here in June ‘21, mid winter. The weather has been mostly cold & cloudy since then but the raw beauty of this desolate beach is best seen in winter, sun starved weather. It’s very, very different to anywhere I’ve lived before.

My part is downstairs, the open door is my kitchen & have the 2 rooms with window either side of doorway.
Looking out from the kitchen.

In areas along the beach banks of stones form on top of tiny pebbles that either wash away with high tide or are covered with the gritty sand. Many coloured stones make up the banks & are sprinkled along the whole beach, each is equally individual & beautiful in it’s own way, as everyone who picks one or two up to take home, will tell you. How do they form into such orderly banks on the beach, like bays along a coastline? Why do they form in some places & not others? I guess it’s the wave & current action that causes them to bank up in certain parts of the beach, depending on the strength of the waves & height of the tide. Winds & sea currents possibly have something to do with the ever changing contours of the beach.

Stones & Pebbles piled in banks & ‘bays’. These disappeared a few days later under gritty sand & will reappear on the right tide.

The whole coast of Ecuador differs as one travels along it. The colder Humboldt current drives the seas around these parts of Southern Ecuador & the long beach is at a slightly different aspect than North to South. The Panama current with warmer water comes down from the North, each moving slightly & effecting the water more or less in winter or summer time. It’s said the 2 currents meet around Caňoa?

Puerto Rico is the tiny pueblo at the northern end of the beach which runs down to Las Tunas & on to ‘trendy’ Ayampe. Offshore from both Ayampe & Las Tunas is a rock island known as Los Ahorcados, Strangulation Island, apparently named from when the Spanish invaded & I guess people were strangled/killed. It has a very unusual formation as you can see.


Los Ahorcados,

When the tide is incoming with rough seas, violent foaming waves cause tiny pebbles to dance up the beach in front of the foaming wave end. These little pebbles will become next century’s sand. A sand that here in Las Tunas, Manabi, Ecuador, is a grey-brown colour & gravelly. At it’s finest it’s still relatively gritty compared with white squeaky silica sands one finds in the North of Australia.

Most times the beach is deserted with just an occasional walker braving weather in mid winter, June to September (approximately) in the ‘Garua’ or drizzly season. Overcast skies have been a constant until now. Locals delight in telling us foreigners & newcomers to the area that the sun won’t be back until November, an awful lot of months of grey dull skies. Oh well I like weather. Often even the nearby Los Ahorcados are obscured by misty damp clouds. The sun has ‘left the scene’ only to be glimpsed at rarely, maybe once a month if we are lucky.

At Northern end of the beach, Puerto Rico, looking at sandstone cliffs.
Quite calm & low tide. These cliffs get really pounded with heavier seas.

Seabirds don’t mind the weather in fact they seem to be about more in overcast weather than when the sun is out. Possibly the fish can’t see their predators so easily & swim away, maybe the cooler weather makes the birds more hungry? Frigate Birds soar gracefully around on air currents circling while with others while gently gliding either up or down the coast. These birds are also known as Tijeras birds, Scissor Birds, due to the action their tail feathers make to move them around. If you watch these birds open & close their long pair of tail feathers in the air to change direction you can easily see how they got this name.

Not the clearest picture but you can see the tail scissor feathers open.

Eagle eyed pelicans fly with their heads down watching for fish movement & ready to swoop down into the foaming water on the chance of catching one. Mullet can sometimes be seen leaping from foaming waves, long silvery, shiny wet food for both birds & human. When the tides are right men patrol the waters edge, a net across their backs ready to throw hoping to catch enough fish to feed their families. At certain times the wave foam can be yellow, filled with algae, plenty of fish feed on that judging by the amount of birds & men fishing.

The men have their cast nets ready too throw at the sighting of any fish.

When not casting their eyes around for fish, orderly lines of pelicans fly with their vision focused ahead. They skim along the tops of the waves which appear to give momentum to their flight. Air currents cause the lines of birds to rise up & fall again in a symphony of flight attuned to the wind & each following the interchangeable leader at the front.

Pelicans in Costa Rica, they fly in the same formations above the waves there too.

When diving headlong into the breaking waves pelicans are undeterred by waves crashing over them. Now in November they have been joined by numerous seagulls. The pelicans turn in flight with wings bent & zoom down into the sea & their prospective meal. Like rocket missiles, they hit the sea. Sometimes several dive at the same time & they look like ‘guided missiles’ ha ha. I wonder if the seagulls hope for pieces of fish that may break as the pelicans devour them or they just hope to get a fish in the same spot? Which ever, now every diving pelican lands in the sea with one or several seagulls fluttering or floating around it.

This is again stormy times. It’s a little calmer now but no recent photos of pelicans fishing with seagulls.

From the shore occasionally, not often, one can see a fish swimming in the back of a wave, the water is sometimes so clear. Better still though, an eye catching water spout coming from a surfacing Humpback whale. Being new to the area I’m unsure of whether this season has been a more abundant one for whales or not, daily I saw an plenty of them. A white splash catches the eye as one crashes back down to the sea. Then another like a black torpedo comes out of the sea to crash back down. Sometimes a tail can be seen slapping down on the sea. At other times, when the pod is close to the shore, a fin looks like it is waving. I was surprised how close in the whales come to the shore & rolling new waves. Surfing is a popular sport here & whales seem swim relatively close to the boards. A friend who spearfishes says he hears the whales singing under the water when they are around. Pods swim slowly along the water merrily leaping out & sending plumes of water up into the air as they breathe. Black & white bellies show when they fall onto their backs. They seem to have a lot of fun! They seemed to like to hang around in this area. Puerto Lopez (20 mins up the road) offers whale watching tours in the season. I haven’t seen any whales for a month now so I guess they have gone south…

A hot sunny day. Suzi & I walked almost to the Northern end of the beach. I made her a shady tent. Took water for her, beer for me.

I walk along the beach each afternoon. I either walk to the south towards Ayampe or north towards the sculpted sandstone cliffs of Puerto Rico.

Sandstone cliffs of Puerto Rico.

Now is turtle hatching season, after the egg laying season. I was lucky enough to see a female turtle coming out of the water one afternoon on my walk. I sat to watch her as she struggled up the beach using her big front flippers. When she’d found a place she liked she dug a hole & laid all her eggs. I wasn’t that close, didn’t want to put her off or disturb her. I could see her actions though, no didn’t have the camera with me. After she’d finished laying the eggs she patted & tapped all the sand over the eggs then headed back into the water.

I sat here a few days in a row when tides were ferocious. One night the whole place was washed away.
Same spot the next morning, about 5 or more metres of beach & the sitting place with rough roof of sticks all gone.

I did have the camera when recently I happened across this bunch of babies hatching & waddling clumsily down to the water’s edge. Lots & lots of babies where hatching out from a place up above the high water point. I took pics of one emerging but the light is bad so you can’t really see it. They tumbled down the raised sand towards the sea, some turning over in their haste. Determined though they flayed about with their front flippers until they got one dug in & could turn themselves over & continue towards the freedom of the ocean.

“Off we go”

It was an outgoing tide which makes sense as if they hatch on an incoming tide, on reaching the water they may just get washed back onto the beach, an outgoing one will take them out with it. So cute to see them. I hope to see more as there are many nests due to hatch that have been marked by a group who watch for turtles laying eggs & try to protect the nests & it’s sometimes valuable contents. Turtle egg is a delicacy that’s been eaten since time immemorial here on all the Pacific coast.

Cute aren’t they?

Whether I walk to the north or south along the beach there are areas of mangrove bushes, a rare occurrence along the Ecuadorian coastline where most mangroves have been ripped out to accommodate awful, (in my opinion) prawn farms. From the mangrove bushes small, very well hidden birds call & sing, they are very very rarely seen.

Sat back from main beach, a few mangrove bushes & plenty of green growth for small birds to rummage & nest.

Some black ones fly in small flocks & are more visual & vocal. Others have such great camouflage they look like the piles of rocks & branches of the mangroves. No pictures of them. Herons can frequently be seen standing patiently waiting for a crab to come out of it’s hole in the sand & hoping to catch it. Whimbrels are about but relatively few. Tiny edge feeders like dunlins run around in pairs or small groups, quite timid at times but brazenly feeding as I walk past at other times.

Gre

Buzzards or vultures with black plumage & either black or red heads keep the beach ‘clean’, clean of dead fish, pelicans, sea lions & turtles. Whether these animals die naturally or are killed in fishermen in their nets I am unsure & loathe to point the finger but often there is something dead on the beach. Sometimes washing in & out with the tide or stinking in the same place till ‘disposed’ of by nature. Crabs come from underneath to feast & the vultures from the sky. Herons feast on the crabs that are feasting on the carcasses, a circular dining table.

No pics of vultures devouring dead sealife. Instead some PINK Spoon Bills, again in Ayampe.

So when I’ve found a comfortable spot I sit & open the beer I’ve brought. The peace & tranquillity of the raw beach scenery is magnificent. In these times of craziness in the world I find it a welcome respite from thinking about it all. Crashing waves full of foam that resembles snow come steadily up the beach, sometimes nearly touching my toes. The foam spreads like butter across the gritty sand. Whipping wind, forms balls of foam, they roll around the beach like snow balls, gathering sand as they roll. That’s when the tiny pebbles dance up the beach, tinkling they roll back down the sloping beach on the retreating wave. In the sea, maps of the world are formed by the retreating foam of past waves.

Sometimes my landlord goes past with his horses he rents out to tourists. He dresses them up so prettily.

Part of the Malecon (Esplanade) wall near where I now live, washed away during stormy weather soon after I moved here at the end of June.

You can see the pebbles that had been thrown up in the violent high tide & wall beginning to collapse.

Strong waves first threw pebbles & stones up onto the road. Then they grabbed at the 20 year old wall & pulled much of it towards the sea.

View from Northern end of Malecon. My place is past the falling down bit.

Boys & their ‘toys’ are now sort of working to repair the Malecon but it is taking some time.

(Personally I thing the heavy machinery did more harm than good) Boys enjoying themselves.
Oh Dear. It’s now a huge pile of sand waiting to be fixed, maybe next year now?

The mayor came to offer his political promises..something like “I will build the Malecon better than it ever was before”..yea yea political promises.

A big turn out for the mayor. To hear political promises we are still waiting to be fulfilled.

He was cheered though when he went from door to door offering sacks of food..umm political bribery? I declined to take a bag of food he was offering, saying he should give it to someone more deserving, nice he offered one to me though. No work has happened in the repairing of the wall for some months now. My landlord says nothing will happen until next year now, political promises are the same worldwide it seems.

Political Pacifying.
Family going home from a day at the beach.
Almost everything you could ever want comes past in ‘utes’ like this. Here is an Ironmonger! He has all parts for one’s gas stoves plus loads of other stuff!
This lady from the Sierras, you can tell by her dress & tiny shoes, is selling clothing. She goes from door to door, when she finds someone interested she will unpack her load so people can sort through & see if they like anything.
This young couple of ‘Pelo Largo’ (Long Haired) also from the mountains, probably Otavalo, are selling clothing too. They stopped for a break to look at the sea & he is helping reload their young child whom she carries on her back. The car is not anything to do with the couple. Their cart has wheels. The car is another sight seer.
A very recent photo when the sun actually came out. The river that adjoins the wetlands in Ayampe is closed now & families take advantage of the sweet water (not salt) to play. Other people fish.

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Machala to Puerto Quito. Borbón in a small riverside community. Riobamba

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Looking towards Santa Isabel from this house.

From Yunguilla Valley K60 to Machala is about 2 hours by bus. First the road passes the entrance to Santa Isabel which is at an altitude of about 1,500m, I can see the town from this house. The road winds down through arid, cactus strewn, rock mountains. At K86 the road is dicey due to a slip that happened over a year ago in the rainy season. It’s one lane only to traffic as it hasn’t been fully repaired but more of a ledge has been built up saving traffic from falling about 50m into the flowing river below.

Continuing, the road becomes level with the backed up river until the dam can be seen. It’s debated whether the dam is functioning to provide electricity or not? After crossing the dam & rounding a bend a well lit fairly long tunnel opens to scenery that has changed dramatically. Green vegetation lines the side of the road, many coloured flowers wave as the bus whizzes past. Banana trees, flowering bushes & vines let one know we are now descending through a tropical landscape. 9 times out of 10 it is foggy, low cloud keeps everything moist & dripping, some might call it dreary but it is just weather. Further down as heat burns off the cloud the now raging river runs through small villages. It was early March & the rainy season happening.

There is a quick stop in Pasaje before the bus drives the last 20 mins to Machala’s new bus terminal which opened about 2 years ago. Previously inter-provincial buses would terminate at each companies depots which were scattered around the city centre. 3 different companies drive the Cuenca to Machala route.

Machala is a coastal city & capital of El Oro province. On arrival at 1430 I bought a ticket for $16 to La Concordia on a bus departing at 2130. There were 7 hours to spare which I’d planned so I could visit Puerto Bolivar, Machala’s port district, somewhere I’d been wanting to visit for some time. Agreeable office ladies from bus line Transesmeraldas let me leave my small suitcase & basket of goodies for Yamile in the a/c office. They also told me bus nr 13 would take me to Puerto Bolivar.

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Wi-fi on the local bus if you want.

Machala had a fleet of new local buses, each had free wi-fi. In Ecuador local buses always have a set price whether you travel 2 stops or 20 so 30c & 40 mins later I could see the sea & got off to walk along a broad Malecon (promenade). Across the water mangroves outlined the small island of Jambeli where I’d also like to visit & stay for a night, another time. Jutting out from the malecon was a pier where a ‘Culture Centre’ consisting of a large function room selling ice-creams & packets of snacks. Outside families were fishing. The road was broad & divided with many restaurants, bars & nightclubs on the non sea side. I avoided menu waving haranguing wait staff attempting to lure passers by into their restaurants.

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Renovating the streets in Puerto Bolivar.

Behind the Malecon street renovations were in progress & I found a small place to buy a coffee. It was really hot so work on the roads was taking some time & appeared fairly chaotic but much had been completed.

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Check out the lady at the back. Trumpet fish being skinned & filleted.

Wandering instinctively I could see a little way off a table surrounded by people working. On approaching it they were a team of ladies skinning & filleting fish. Picking my way past over some rubble (welcome to Ecuador) I walked into a whole street of fishmongers & warehouses. This was what I had come to see.

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neat piles of clams for sale. In the street the mobile stall with umbrella is selling shaved flavoured ice.

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Fish was laid out on ice in front of each shop/processing plant. This is ‘pato de buro’, probably spelt that wrong ,it means Donkey foot & is the meat of a big shellfish.

Older guys are always keen to chat to a solo older lady & one guy invited me to walk through his processing room behind which was a short jetty in a tidal creek. Fishing boast could tie up to unload fish.

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Taken from another jetty at the back of a processing plant. Can you see the brown pelicans on the other jetty?

Across the creek mangroves were unfortunately like the foreshore, littered with rubbish. Seabirds seemed unperturbed by the plastic & old nets around them.

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Fish prices. Albacora is a tuna & Trumpet we saw being  processed earlier is priced at he bottom of the list.

Emerging back to the Malecon I was thirsty.

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Found a small shop that sold beer & had a seat to use it was between 2 bars with loud music & waitresses trying to entice customers by waving at passing cars.

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In front of where I sat the car on the right contained a couple but you wouldn’t know because the windows were darkened. When they wanted more beer they lowered the window a little & handed out 2 small beers to be replaced by the shop girl. A lady did get out of the car to use the loo in the shop. A private place to romance & drink beer? 

I checked a few small restaurants & finally found one selling fried fish, I guess if you live or work in fish you’d rather have chicken to eat? Chicken was on offer much more than fish. A plate with a very large deep fried fish, fried plantains & some salad was placed in front of me & beside it another plate with a pile of rice & lentils in sauce. Plenty to fill me for the night bus ride.

Back at the terminal 2130 became 2200 & the bus destined for Esmeraldas arrived from Hauquillas on the Peruvian border. Below the bus the luggage compartment was packed full. My suitcase was tucked away somewhere & I took my basket upstairs & sat it in the aisle. There are not too many double decker buses in Ecuador so I’d taken the opportunity & bought a ticket for a single reclining seat behind a tiny window, I settled in The reek of fresh garlic came from the basket which turned out to be quite a good air freshener as the air con on the bus was broken & we were an awful lot of hot sweaty bodies in there. A slight breeze came from the tiny window as we sped along the route, it was one of only 2 windows upstairs. It was good to get off at 0530 after a rather hellish ride, loud films of blood & gore had played until 0130.

In the darkened terminal at La Concordia a bus destined for Los Bancos was waiting in the rain, it would pass Puerto Quito. On board were some workers who’d get off at various farms, music was blaring but it was cool & a breeze came in though the open door – a big contrast for the last 45 mins of my journey. Well it was just a little further, in Puerto Quito daylight had arrived & I found a waiting moto at the bus stop. The driver chatted as we bumped our way along a rain soaked potholed red dirt track the final 10 mins to Sueños farm.

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Yamile’s private swimming pool. Part of a small stream that runs past the house. Refreshing after a long journey getting  there.

2 days later Yamile & I left on a trip she had arranged with fellow farmers to visit cacao growers in Borbón, Esmeraldas Province. It would be a 7 hour ride. A mini bus driven by Winston picked us up outside the farm gate at 0500. We drove to La Esperanza area & took another muddy red dirt road to pick up 2 German volunteers & their host farmer. In La Independencia ‘The Professor’ boarded she had bought a small orange tree as a gift to the community we were headed to. We picked 3 more farmers in 2 other places & then continued along the highway. Each farmer was interested to see the different types of cacao being grown by farmers in Borbón where the soil is differeeent & it is at sea level.

We passed through Quininde & on to Viche where we stopped for breakfast in a roadside restaurant. Close to Esmeraldas we turned towards the North & the road passed beside the sea. Finally turned off the highway to our destination, outside of Borbón. Winston had to bribe local police to let us past without some defect notice being issued on his vehicle, a fairly common occurrence in the countryside in Ecuador. Then we were meeting the locals who had a big sack full of chilled coconuts which they opened for us to drink. Lunch was also set out for us all in the ‘pueblo’ home of one of our cacao growing hosts.

 

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Yamile drinking fresh cool coconut water.

Winston drove us a little further parked the mini bus & came with us down to the fast running river.

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A little way up from the river this man was  using a very efficient method to peel old coconuts. These are used to make ‘encocado’ sauce which is a local speciality in Esmeraldas province.

We waited for canoes to come for us. Some of the group had taken them from where we had arrived & had lunch.

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Waiting for our rides.

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One canoe with some of our group in & mattresses.

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Not very big are they compared to the mattress, nothing got wet though. Each driver knew what he was doing, many years of practise on this river.

An exhilarating 15 min journey on the turbulent river in canoes driven by competent captains, brought us to the community we’d stay over night with.

They had no running water but there was plenty in the river. Each of the few houses had electricity & big screen tv’s, there was mobile phone service too. Having dumped our overnight bags we set off to look at cacao trees. Red slippery mud sucked at my boots as we went on the hunt for a white cacao tree which by this time I’d heard about in the mini bus.

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Young German couple probably Winston in the hammock.. A great view from this vantage point over the river.

On dark we bathed in the swirling river holding on to a parked canoe so as not to be swept down river to El Limon & the ocean!

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We washed in the river down by Grandmas house pictured. These photos I took the next day after rubbish had been collected, that’s the bags you can see.

After dinner us ladies were lucky enough to have beds in a house, children had been kicked out of for that night. They slept with Grandma in another house as did the German young couple who were rather unimpressed with rural housing & had been eaten already by strange bugs. Men from our group slept in a wooden hut on the mattresses we’d brought in the canoes.

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This larger boat was being built, the carpenter had come up from El Limon. Apparently it would only take 4 or 5 days to build.

A big rubbish clean up ‘Minga’ was organised by the ‘Professor’ early next morning while local ladies bustled about preparing us a hearty breakfast of fish steamed in banana leaves, steamed plantain & cups of beautiful hot chocolate.

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Our hosts, well the ladies. Interesting how the telly dominates the room.

Intrepid cacao farmers in our group from Pichincha province went in a canoe to the other side of the river to look in another cacao plantation & came back very excited as they had a ‘pod’ from the illusive white cacao tree.

We were ready for our canoe ride back to Winston’s mini-bus which he’d parked on the riverside near some houses belonging to other members of the same families. He’d had a good rest alongside the other men in the hut.

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Getting ready for ride back.. This very old canoe had no front but none of the Ecuadorians were too worried about that as they knew all the weight would be at the back so no water would enter!

Travelling back along the highway we stopped for a tasty seafood lunch at Las Peñas beach. The sea was a little too rough & murky to swim. Much mud poured into the ocean by swollen rivers during this rainy season. Winston was anxious to get home, he had a booking to drive the mini bus to Atacames from Puerto Quito the following day. Most of the passengers slept on the drive back. I joked & chatted with Winston to keep him from falling asleep while driving. We dropped everyone off at their respective towns then bought some beer in Puerto Quito (have to get the priorities right) before Winston dropped as back at Sueños.

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Pedro in the outdoor kitchen at Suenos. You can look at older posts to see more about Yamile’s organic cacao farm.

I stayed another week with my dear friend Yamile on the farm. Drinking her delicious hot chocolate at breakfast time & cooking lots of meals for everyone with many of the goodies I brought from the cool Andes. Twice tropical thunderstorms began early evening & contined into the night lasting up to 4 hours. Lightning illuminated the sky, trees & stream next to the house as it raged past, waves ripped at plants on the banks. Wonderful warm tropical rain fell reminding me of living so many years in Cairns Qld.

Being such a travel nut I chose to return to Yunguilla via Santo Domingo de Los Colorados, 2 hours from Puerto Quito & on to Riobamba then overnighting in Cuenca.

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Fish ‘Encocado’ for breakfast in the food court at Santa Domingo de Los Colorados , note the big jar full of chillies. This is  a part of the bus terminal.

Riobamba sits at 2,750m high in the Andes, it’s the capital of Chimborazo province. Previously I’d bussed through it a few times but never stopped there. Connections were such that I had 3 & a half hours between buses to check out the town briefly. It was a warm sunny afternoon & I’d left my things at the bus terminal where I’d also picked up a great paper map of the city. The main street was lined with lots of bars & restaurants so I was soon supping on a cold beer. I walked down a side street & found a small park to sit in the last rays of the sun. As usual men were sitting around playing cards in the late afternoon. At this park some stone tables had been built especially for this pastime.

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Card playing on stone tables in a park in Riobamba.

Across from the park I spotted a small restaurant with a Sharwama sign outside. On entering I spoke with the owner, a man from Syria who’s been living happily in Ecuador 23 years. Falafels were a speciality & having served mine he sat & gave me some advice on cooking perfect falafel. I told him I hadn’t been having much success so his advice was very helpful, a bonus! I dashed back to the terminal in time for the 1930 bus to Cuenca which arrived at 0030. I stayed at my friend Jonathan’s flat & next day after a running a few errands I caught another bus the hour & half to Yunguilla & a camioneta up here to home. Another fun & interesting trip was over.

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Winged Insects & 4 Legged Unfortunates

This post has photos of creatures around the house & in Yunguilla generally. While most are photos of wild animals there are a couple of photos animal that are eaten, showing the reality of living in Ecuador & may upset some westerners. None of the photos are horrific although some are a little scary ha ha!

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Yellow Crab Spider with prey.

My favourite photo is this one. I noticed the spider on green tomato plant leaves strategically waiting under the yellow flowers. You can see it has caught a fly, a lucky shot! It was one of many victims/meals the spider enjoyed while reposing patiently until something ‘tasty’ came to feed on the copious tomato flowers. I’d never seen a spider like it & sent a picture in to a special spider ID site. Although it was not officially confirmed someone in North America suggested it was a type of Crab Spider, a breed that can change colour, he noted how well it had blended in with the tomato flowers. It was a lone spider that remained on the plants for a couple of weeks until strong winds began battering the foliage & it disappeared. I haven’t seen one like it since although this years’ tomatoes are coming into flower??

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Attractive bug.

During part of the year there were many of these bugs about. Mostly the same colour or a lighter brown than this one. I thought they were quite cute until I found lots of them on the afore mentioned tomato plants. I suspect, but have no proof, that they are responsible for 85% of the cherry tomatoes being ‘stung’ with a fruit spoiling brown spot…I wonder if they could have been the product of larvae pictured on the back of big fat green caterpillar pictured in my blog post of April 2019?

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Well disguised grasshopper.

Occasionally these lovely bright green grasshoppers were on the tomato plants too. A fairly common insect worldwide. They are only ever seen alone & I find them in different plants & on the small patch of grass here. One I recently found caught up in a spider web underneath an outdoor chair. It had been there some days I guess as very dead but didn’t appear to have been sucked dry of bodily fluids by any resident spiders.

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Smallish Tarantula, brown.

There haven’t been too many of these about that I have noticed, thankfully. This one was on a basket full of dry washing I’d brought it inside so I’m not sure if it came in with the washing or was indoors already & liked the look of this under vest? I’m happy I saw it when I went to put the washing away, I took it outside & got the camera. It attempted to climb the step & come back indoors, I persuaded it to stay outside with a couple of gentle nudges with a broom.

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Close Up.

Some time ago in the morning I noticed a much larger black tarantula inside the house at top of a wall. I attempted to get it onto the broom to take out but it moved much faster than I thought it would..after it fell from the wall it ran under the sofa. Getting down on the floor I could see it under there & we looked at each other intently for a while. Some hours later it was gone, I’ve no idea where it went. I didn’t see it again but I was looking out for it for several days afterwards.

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Pair of sleeping stick insects.

When moving some planks of wood I noticed these two napping. In the dry season there are lots about. It’s interesting to watch them walking about, they wobble. I looked up online their habits & it seems they are mostly nocturnal which would explain why they seemed to be asleep on the plank.

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Larger awake stick insect, which end is the head? 

Better picture of a larger stick insect moving about. Difficult to tell which end is which isn’t it? Such weird creatures, very delicate but resilient. Even when there is some wind the hooks on their legs keep them holding on & swaying about.

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Not a very good picture but a big fat black guinea pig.

Friends in Jubones keep guinea pigs, ‘cuy’ in Spanish, as do many people. They are a favourite dish roasted. Before having spasms of horror remember this animal has been eaten by people of the Andes for thousands of years. Before the Spanish invaded it was one of the only meat dishes available. I’ve never heard of people eating llama but maybe they did & still do??? Now as in the rest of the world chicken is the most favoured meat with pork running a close 2nd.

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Lots of Lunches?

My landlady also keeps guinea pigs, she lives about 3k away. They look really cute to us Westerners but Ecuadorians just see them as food. People gather grass & different plants to feed their cuy. At a mercado (market) ladies selling carrots or beetroot will ask if you would like the tops, leaves. When you say no they will cut them off & take them home to the ‘cuy’. Often when driving roadside restaurants have them outside roasting. A big pig with crispy crackling, skin sits on a big frame often you can see the staff blasting the pig with a blow torch to crisp up the skin. There are probably a few ‘cuy’ with a pole stuck up their rear ends rotating over hot coals. They are a delicacy, Cuencanos & most people from the sierras love to eat them.

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Native Bees nesting.

 

This is a seasonal activity, this type of bees are again beginning to make nests. In this picture the ‘nest’ is in the frame of the kitchen window. They made nests in every window that had the right conditions, not too hot nor too much wind, not sun after the morning time. I was a little nervous as I am allergic to bee stings but I let them get on with their life. One day I was stung by one hiding in dress that was hanging in a bedroom window (before I had a wardrobe). I prepared to run for antihistamine tablets but waited to see how serious the sting was…turned out not to be a very potent poison in the sting & soon it stopped stinging, there was no need for the tablet. Now I’m not concerned at all about the bees doing their thing. They fill the combs with I guess eggs, a grey cover can be seen over the top of some holes. Presumably they hatch & they all fly away leaving an empty nest. No I don’t see any honey. The nests get to about 6cm in size maximum. Last year was a long rainy season as yet this year it hasn’t started & there doesn’t seem to be as many nests.

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A Different bee. This pic took a lot of patience.

Coming in the front door one day I noticed rose petals on the floor just inside the house which seemed strange but I didn’t really think about it, maybe it was a change of wind direction?? Then the next afternoon I saw what I thought was a butterfly going into the bolt hole in the door frame. I managed to get some pictures.A dedicated couple of very industrious bees were carrying rose petals from a bush about 15m away. They were making a nest. When the bee was carrying a petal it had caught my eye as a butterfly but no it was a bee! What a huge effort they put into making the nest. I watched as one bee turned around & upside down to get the petals just where they were wanted.

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The final nest, it was easier to take this picture.

Green leaves where added last to keep the whole thing in place. Petals from the previous day were already withering..I kept thinking but how will they get in & out when I bolt the door. The door is only bolted when I go out but I do close it at night. I had been invited for a beer at a neighbours that afternoon & very reluctantly I bolted the door when I left. On arriving home a couple of hours later the door was wide open, I hadn’t slid the bolt hard enough to lock the door properly, the wind had blown it open. Sadly the bees were gone never to return to the nest. I don’t think so they lay any eggs in it so all that effort went to waste. Interesting it was just one pair of bees, not the same as the ones in previous photo in window frames. I wonder what type they are & where they went to nest next?

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Red Flying insect.

This fellow was inside on the window trying to get out. Again I took lots of photos to try & get a good one of his splendid red colouring. He flew up to the top of the window where he realised there were small spiders webs so he crawled down the whole window & kept repeating the same thing. When I thought I had enough shots & it looked like ithe bee was getting tired got a drinking glass & covered it. I slid a notebook underneath & took all outside & happily it flew away.

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Vulture Eagle on the Gateway Entrance to the property.

These large birds soar up the valley in the mornings & back down in the afternoons. Often they fly right past this house which sits on a ledge, they zoom around from either above or below here, occasionally so close you can hear the wind under their wings. They look me right in the eye as they ‘wheel’ away. Although they have a rather ugly looking head which you can see when they are close or perched, they are very graceful in flight. Watching them use the air currents is very relaxing, they hardly flap their wings at all. There are some different larger birds of prey about at times but not as prolific as these & very hard to take a picture of. Ibis fly up the valley in the mornings & back in the evenings. Below me is a big private pond surrounded by trees & ibis nest in there at night. They fly towards the trees & rapidly drop into them. I mentioned other smaller birds in the Yunguilla post of April last year, there are many when your eye adjusts to the scenery. As I write this some green, yellowy kingfisher type of birds are flying from the power line to under the eaves of the patio & catching small insects & spiders. The Andean Cuckoo is splendid when I finally could see it, a very plaintive call, monotonous sounding, but fantastic plumage.

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Injured Black bird of a common type.

This bird was hit by a car on a country road near to Machala. I was with friends & we saw a car hit it. On closer inspection I saw it wasn’t dead so moved it from the road & put it in the bushes. My Ecuadorian friends thought I was stupid, they said it will die anyway as a cat or something else will come & eat it. It was alive when we left so lets hope it still is.

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South American Cane Toad.

One night I was outside under the patio roof as heavier rain started. What I thought was a frog came hopping along, it seemed to be heading down the mountainside in the direction of a small stream. Then another appeared, it was a little closer & I realised they were ‘cane toads’! Quite a lot of sugar cane is grown around here. These are a native S American toad that was introduced into Australia in the 1930’s near Cairns FNQ. In Australia now they are a huge pest & have spread to cover almost the whole country. As they are native here I don’t do as I would in Australia & try to kill them. I don’t see the hordes of them hopping about as I did in Cairns, this one is relatively small. I have seen big fat ones in other parts of S America though. There are frogs around here especially when it is raining or about to. I haven’t seen them, one I have named the Bachata frog, Bachata is a type of sexy dance in Latin America & has a sound similar to someone running a stick down a cheese grater & then a couple of taps, the frog makes the same sound, well I think it does. Maybe if I can find & kiss it it will turn into a dancing prince ha ha?

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Eggs or already hatched?

I have no idea what creature is or was incubating here but isn’t it a cute line of egg cases.

Guayaquil Squirrel

Not my photo.

This is a picture I have taken from somewhere else. I did see a squirrel just like it on the tree closest to the house early one morning. I watched it as it scampered along almost every branch or the tree & others checking for some sort of food, possibly fruit of bromeliads which are everywhere in the trees or even the fruit from other parasitic/symbiotic plants, fungi or mosses.

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Attractive ant, zoomed in.

This ant caught my eye as it is so colourful. I chased it around the ground trying to get a good picture but it moved very quick.

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Size comparison.

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Caterpillar, red skin black ‘fur’.

I’ve added the picture with the pen so you can get an idea of it’s size. Again I think a seasonal creature these tiny caterpillars are very attractive. The body is a kind of glossy, almost wet looking shiny red colour. On it’s back are tufts of black bristles. Isn’t nature just so wonderful. Another creature where it is difficult to tell the front end from the back. The black head is to the right. There are lots of butterflies around at times, I wonder what colour one will come out of this caterpillar?

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Giant Moth.

This is a poor picture of a giant moth. There are quite a few different big moths I have photos from other places of giant moths. This one is sleeping for the day.

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Piggy.

This fellow was kept for some time to fatten up in Carlos’ shed, near to this house. I helped to fatten him with fruit & veggie scraps. There was a sister that came with him but she was sold some time ago. He squealed a lot when Carlos cut his balls off, ouch. Carlos explained the meat tastes better if males don’t have balls. Next day when I fed him there was blood running down his leg & drips on the floor but he recovered. I took these photos the day before it was scheduled to be killed for a family party. He is excited knowing I’ll feed him, he didn’t know it was his last day.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

When they were 2 I named them Pinky &Perky  & would call out as I climbed down to feed them.. He became just Piggy, sometimes piggy wiggy..

“He’s fat enough to be eaten” said Carlos. It was Xmas time, 28/12/19 had been picked as his day to die. Not having eaten meat for almost 8 years now it was a little painful especially as he screamed so loud when I think he was stuck, even though I had headphones on & was in the room right at the back of the house. One has to accept local traditions. Carlos had a big party that afternoon & all the family came to help clean & eat the meat. I joined in later for a beer when all signs of pig were put away somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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