Thursday, September 25, 2008


Our Future?

Is this perhaps our future - bagging groceries for tips in Mexico? Given the scary economic situation in the states & worldwide, I certainly hope that our cruising kitty continues to allow us to live our unique lifestyle. Heck, living on land would be a lot more expensive anyway! We're expecting to live fairly cheaply in Central America this coming fall/winter.

In Mexico, the baggers at the larger grocery stores do not get any wages. They all work just for tips. During the day, when the kids are in school there's a fleet of older folks who do the bagging (old baggers?)

When it is not their "turn" to "get" to bag your purchases, they wait on the special benches. All dressed up in uniform, eyes forward, ready to jump up when it is their chance. At least they are experienced enough to put the cold items in with other cold stuff and not put my milk on top of the fresh warm tortillas!

Last time I posted, I wrote about my Beaded Lattice Socks and showed a close-up photo. Today I'm sitting in the Vallarta Yacht Club which has FAST internet so I can show you another photo - the full sock.

No, that's not my leg. I used a body-double - a foot model for this photo (thanks Michelle on sailing vessel Coastal Passage II who has nice legs!). Also, released this week to the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo! group are my Yipes! Stripes! Baby Socks.

These little guys aren't for the faint-of-heart mamby-pamby knitters as there are mucho, mucho, mucho yarn ends to weave in when you are done with the knitting. But isn't it worth it to spend that extra time when you can control the color stripes and end up with a great little sock? I think so.

Oh crap. There I was being a good little firstmate and taking the dirty laundry up to the laundramat when the dock cart lost one of its two wheels. Yep. Major dock cart failure. And this was the only cart I could see. It was 96 degrees and humid and I had already gone on a long exercise walk with Jonesy in the morning.

So, off I went to find another dock cart. Why are there never dock carts when you need them? I walked, walked, walked down the docks of the marina. Finally, over 1/4 mile away I found TWO carts. Grabbed one. Turned around. Walked back 1/4 mile to the scene of the accident. Re-loaded and walked up to the laundramat. Life on a sailboat isn't always fun.

So, how do I reward myself? PEDICURE! Yep, Michelle and I spent the afternoon getting our toes gussied up (see? I told you she had nice legs). We even got matching polish on our toes. Just because we live on sailboats doesn't mean we don't want to look nice sometimes!

Last week we walked down the beach in the evening to participate in the release of the baby Olive Ridley turtles!

Here they are, freshly hatched and entering the warm seas for the first time! Jonesy launched a couple close to the water's edge.

They are so cute! We could see their little heads bobbing up for air as they struggled against the waves trying to swim out to sea. Very few will live to adulthoood. We hope to see some of these guys in a few years all grown up! As we are cruising we often see these big giants floating along, sometimes with a bird riding on their backs.

Bye-bye baby turtles!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Botanical Gardens in the Jungle & Vanilla Orchids

First - the progress photo of my "Guernsey Pullover" which is from our Knitalong on the Gansey List Yahoo! group. They yarn is Cottage Craft wool in the color Fundy Fog which is a heathered lavendar color. After endless stockinette (plain knit) it will be a relief to get into the patterning on the yoke!

I love the fake side seam - it is really just a purl stitch in the sea of stockinette, but looks like a seam doesn't it? And I'm using some of the stitch markers on the fake seams that I made the other day - new knitting jewelry.

Finally! I talked some (six) fellow cruisers into driving up into the jungle to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens! I've read about the native vanilla orchids they have on display and have been itching to go see.

The gardens are on the south side of Banderas Bay, just a short drive south of Puerto Vallarta. The drive around the bay and up into the mountains was absolutely stunning (yes, I looked up from my Guernsey Pullover knitting often). As we are nearing the end of the 5-month rainy & hot season, the jungle was in full glory.

Because these mountains are almost always in the clouds/thunderheads, waterfalls decorated the steep walls of the ravines along the road - all gushing wildly. We passed the little towns of Mismoyola and Boca de Tomatlan - great places to hang out for beachside seafood & beer under thatched roof "palapas".

The gardens have several different eco-environments to expore - a lush ravine with ferns & fungi, a raging river over giant boulders, sunny hillsides with tropical fruit trees, blue agave (source of tequila) and flowers. Our little troupe explored it all.

Because this is an area where it rains almost every day, the trails were wet & quite slippery! In some steep areas we were provided with some nice railing to hang onto. I'm happy to say that nobody fell down. The sounds of birds, rippling, dripping water, insects, amid the quiet of being in a remote area was mesmerizing. We felt so priviledged to be able to be there. For $3 US a person, we had this paradise all to ourselves.

There were a few places where we had to "billy-goat"up and over boulders along the raging Los Horcones river. Yep, we walked that trail up until it ended. Then we hiked back and climbed back up the hill to the Welcome Center.

Of course, this being Mexico, there was a dog who decided to travel along with us. Here's a photo of John from the sailing vessel Batu with our escort. This sweet german shepard mix actually became our guide when the trail was washed out and we didn't know which way to turn. Simple. Follow the dog - she's done this probably a thousand times!

Here's a photo of Terry & Michelle from the sailing vessel Coastal Passage II crossing over a creek where the trail had been washed out. Terry wore long sleeves & pants to avoid bug bites. With the heat and humidity I decided to just overdose on bug spray and go sleeveless.

Along the way we encountered giant Banyon trees, interesting fungi, ferns, bromiliads, and vines of every type. Many had signs which told us what we were looking at - in Spanish and some in English.

Occasionally we would see these trees that had bark that sparkled like red metallic! They shimmered in the filtered sunlight and really caught the eye. Unfortunately, we never figured out what they were called. The photo just doesn't really show how spectacular these trees were in the surrounding green of the jungle.

Whew! All of that strenuous activity kicked up our appetites. Good thing there is a restaurant in the Welcome Center! We focused our eyes on the large structure up on the hill. With thoughts of oven-baked pizzas and mexican specialties, we managed to climb the grassy brick steps up to the building.

Goodbye river - we gotta EAT!

Photo of Jonesy at one of the areas we had to climb over boulders - that's the backside of Clista from the motor vessel Shilo scrambling up the rocks. Not to tattle on her, but she's in her 70's! This is how I want to be at that age; agile & bright! Go girl! Photo of me by the river.

And here's a photo of the boulders and swift moving river.

Wow! The facilities are amazing! The Welcome Center is a multi-leveled open-air tropical paradise. Comfortable chairs, native Mexican artwork furniture, and colorful table coverings invite visitors to sit and relax while gazing out across the jungle. I crashed, hot & exhausted onto a daybed as soon as I saw it. It was a hot day as usual this time of year, so the damp breeze coming off the mountains was refreshing and very welcome.

Our little group collapsed at a table up on the veranda. Immediately, a fellow brought out a tray of FROZEN washcloths! The cooling on our faces, necks, arms, legs, wherever was immediate. What a marvelous idea!

With large glasses of limonada (limeade), jamaica (a sweet tea made with bright red hibiscus flowers) and beer, we relaxed and simply soaked in the beauty of the mountains.

Our meals arrived. Oh my gosh! This was some of the best food I've ever eaten! Was it being in the great outdoors? The atmosphere? Who knows. But what I do know is that I practically licked my plate clean. Only the memory of the stern voice & glare of my grandmother had she observed such a violation of etiquitte kept me from doing so. The tortillas were hand-made only seconds before being served.

Jonesy had a chicken quesadilla with guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, and a crema sauce. I had beef fajitas, rice, and the best refried beans ever. Prices were even reasonable, especially when considering the remoteness of the location and the wonderful ambiance. No wonder folks rent this building for weddings! I highly recommend it!

After lunch we browsed the gift shop where I bought a neatly bound report on the vanilla orchid. yep, vanilla comes from an orchid that is native to Mexico. From Mexico, it was transported to other worldwide locations and eventually started to grow wild in other jungles.

Outside of the restrooms is a display of many framed collections of moths, butterflies, and GIANT BUGS! A cabinet displays hundreds of seashells and more big beetle-like bugs.

Want to research the flora of Mexico? Well, here's your library! Have a seat and browse to your heart's content.

Curl up in a chair on the patio. Order yourself a beer and take a break. Remember, this is all open-air - no doors!

And speaking of open-air - the kitchen also is totally open, thus letting the natural breezes flow through the workspace like natural air conditioning.

The large brick pizza oven sits downwind of the rest of the kitchen which allows the heat to flow directly out to an open, non-occupied area. Well, not occupied except for the Senora who was busy preparing our fresh tortillas in the shade of the big trees!

So, here it is! A VANILLA ORCHID! It's the green plant climbing up the
trunk of a tree. Not too spectacular is it?
We must all agree that the after the seed pods are processed the scent and flavor are heavenly.
There is a yellow flower which produces the "bean" pod. We found only one and it was just opening. Here's a close-up photo of this almost-flower. A vanilla flower lasts only ONE DAY so we felt pretty lucky to see even this.

The Vanilla Orchid has only one natural pollinator - a bee - so commercial plants are all hand-pollinated which is very labor-intensive (thus expensive).


Andrew, captain of the sailing vessel Amizad always stops and admires my knitting. He has been facinated by how it is done - how do those loops produce a sock? Well, I was so pleased with somebody/anybody talking to me about knitting that I decided to gift him a pair of hand-knit socks! Voila! The Andrew Socks!

Now I get hugs and kisses every time I see him. Priceless.

Introducing the GANSEY GAYLE Hat! This is one of the first designs released to the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo! Group! This pattern will be free on the group throughout the life of the knit/crochet along (December 2008). Every week we will release at least 4 new, free patterns for you to enjoy for your holiday knitting! Come join in the fun!

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