Friday, December 28, 2012


We went for a bike ride behind the marina and were treated to
a lovely view of town.  The Pacific Ocean is on the left.  Mountians
(covered in haze on this day) surround the town to the Eas
Our nomadic life has come to a stop.  For now, "home" is Barra de Navidad, a small town in central Pacific Mexico, situated on the tip of a peninsula that protects an estuary and lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. From December 2nd until about January 8th, the good ship Northern Passage will be quietly tucked into her slip on C dock, resting from over 5,000 miles of travel. Her crew is adjusting, trying not to look at the guidebooks and charts to figure out where to go next, trying to feel okay about living a land-based life for a few weeks.  It is an adjustment, this change from always-moving to settling in.  It feels good to learn the nuances of a town, to feel the vibe and experience the community.
The marina, with the lagoon and anchored friends 
in the background, is a dinghy ride into town.

Barra is a cobble-paved dead-end town where many people walk rather than drive.  The cruising boats who visit here commute across the canal to the town via panga (an open skiff taxi) or dinghy.  About 20 blocks of tiendas, restaurants, hotels and street vendors make up the lively village.  Also, a surf break adds to the excitement when wave conditions are right. It is a popular stop for cruisers, and a tourist destination for more rugged travelers who want to experience a little slice of small-town Mexico.

The small spec in the center is our dinghy,
the kids driving to the lagoon
where friends in another boat are anchored.

Staying here, I feel as if I am truly living in Mexico, as opposed to just passing through.  I am getting used to the slow simple almost old-fashioned lifestyle and enjoying the lack of big box stores and highways.

Richard helping make small repairs while dockside.
One big difference is grocery shopping.  Florescent-lit musak-playing supermarkets with 20 brands of ketchup do not exist here (although there is a Sam's Club about 40 miles away).  On the streets of Barra, shopping occurs in tiny "tiendas" scattered throughout the town, each about the size of a single-car garage in the U.S.  In fact, the storefronts ARE garage doors, left open all day.  The lights inside are often kept off, as there is enough sunlight to see inside.  This threw me off at first, I thought the stores were not ready for customers.

One of Carmen's favorite streetside treats
is the mango on a stick.
Each tienda, named after the owners ("Tienda Maria," "Tienda Lupe"), has a unique specialty.  It took me many days of browsing and trial and error to decode the system.  One has cheeses, another a large selection of cereals.  One carries lovely fresh fruits and vegetables.  Disappointed to find no eggs in any of them, I finally learned that eggs are kept behind the counter and are purchased one egg at a time.  Ask for "seis juevos" and you will get six eggs in a plastic bag (no carton - who would have thought I'd be kicking myself for throwing away that last egg carton?)  The next mystery was meat.  Where was the meat?!?!  After a few days wandering the streets, I discovered the Carniceria.  There, lovely thick slices of bacon are sliced to order, and beef is ground before your eyes.  I was not brave enough to try the sausages hanging in long strips and dripping on the counter.

Richard catching a wave!!  At the Barra break on one of
the few surfable days this month.
Shopping is just one of the many differences.  I have not seen a television.  People are friendly and happy.  And then there is the siesta.  From about 2:00pm until about 6:00, many of the stores and restaurants close.  I have grown to love this tradition, as I am happy to do my shopping in the cool of the night, when the stores all re-open until about 10:00pm.  Many pharmacies, tiendas, and even doctors' offices stay open into the night - but don't try to go there at 4:00pm!  I have yet to actually take a siesta.  Life always seems to be too busy.  But one of my goals is to start participating in this excellent and wise tropical-climate tradition.

The beach is about 2.5 km long and ends the small town
of Melaque, one day we walked there for a playdate!
Now, we are headed North to Alaska for the holidays.  We will take a plane to the Amtrak train to another plane.  When we get there it will be an entirely different, snowy, world.  I am looking forward to being around familiar places, people and culture.  I think, though, that I will miss this Mexican lifestyle and be ready to return to our slice of paradise.  When we do come back, we'll be heading further south, to the lands of rainforests and monkeys!  Looking forward to the next adventure.

One of our favorite things to do when on land is go for a
bike ride - this is what we found at the end of a road near Barra!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finding Alaska in Mexico

If you squint your eyes so you can't see the cacti and pretend you have clothes on instead of a bikini, you might think you were in Alaska at this untouched bay in Ensenada Carrizal, near Santiago, Mexico. A rocky shoreline, too steep to land on, a small gravel beach and lush green mountains encircle this almost closed-off circular bay.

Last evening around sunset, when we arrived, we heard the crashing of water on rocks, a sound we had not heard for a very long time, as much of this coastline is sand beach which absorbs the sound of water more than rough rocky outcroppings do. We were also pleasantly surprised to see no development in this natural bay. No palapas lining the beach, no bands or dj's announcing human presence into the wee hours of the night. The final touch that brought a huge sigh of relief to me, there was not one other boat anchored here. Aaaaahhhhhh. Wilderness.

Only a few miles via land from the major city of Manzanillo, for some reason this bay has been left untouched. Perhaps because there are not sandy beaches nor electricity. No roads can access it. There is evidence of an attempt long ago to build a structure but nature has taken over the foundation and steps.

I don't mean to imply that we are not enjoying the sand beaches, the mariachi bands, the camaraderie of other cruising sailboats. We are certainly loving these non-Alaskan experiences. However, for a few days, this little slice of untouched wilderness suits us.

We are getting the kayak and paddle board in the water, preparing to snorkel and paddle a little, then return to anchor for a siesta and lunch. A little school work this evening when it cools and later tonight, stargazing in the hammocks. It is nice to be warm, to play in and near the water. This is a perfect blending of Alaskan-style wilderness and Mexican tropical weather. Magical.

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