Vuelvo a San Blas

Technicolor Sunset
Technicolor Sunset

I returned to the boat in Mazatlán not knowing if I would sail north, west, south, or leave it at El Cid. The circumstances of the wind and other elements made clear over the next days that I would go south to Bahía Chacala, one of my favorite spots in Mexico, a place I always seem to get pushed out of before I’m ready to leave.

I motored out of Marina El Cid on Saturday morning, turned left once clear of Isla Venado, hoisted the sails and shut off the motor. It was a beautiful day, pleasantly warm, just enough breeze to push me south at a comfortable speed. Just before sunset dolphins appeared and played around the boat. The sun set behind low clouds on the horizon and wasn’t visible. The show after sunset was spectacular, a technicolor panorama constantly changing, yellow, red, orange, violet. As the sky darkened Jupiter and Venus became visible just above the horizon to the west, shining more and more brightly as the darkness intensified.

Late at night with no moon the stars lit up the sky as they blazed, seeming close enough to reach up and touch. As I watched the water flow past the boat I noticed it light up with phosphorescence, a green glow in the boat’s wake. Then the dolphins were back, swimming alongside and ahead of the boat, and as they broke through the surface of the sea the phosphorescence would flow off of their backs, and it was as if I was sailing through the heavens, guided by dolphins with stars streaming off their backs as they led me to nirvana.

Dolphin on the Right
Dolphin on the Right

Sunday evening I was off San Blas and decided, since I was tired and it was still several hours sail to Chacala, to stop at the marina for the night. I’ve been in and out of San Blas several times and am familiar enough with the route up the river to be comfortable doing it in the dark. I docked at the marina late in the evening, there were several messages on my phone, I knew I would not be sailing farther south and would leave the boat in San Blas once again.

San Blas is perhaps the most miserable village I’ve been to during the past year in Mexico, and yet there is this beauty to it. It sits in the middle of World Heritage mangrove swamps that are teaming with life, and much of that life consists of things that want to eat you – crocodiles, mosquitoes, jejenes. The streets are either bone jarringly rough cobblestone or car swallowing mud pits. Half of the buildings are abandoned decaying relics. The best hotel in town sits next to a gutted shell of a hotel with trees growing through the roof. It’s so hot and humid in the summer that after the slightest exertion you have to jump in the pool to cool off.

Yet in a country known for friendly and helpful people, San Blas stands out for its hospitality. For some reason despite the terrible streets more people ride bikes than anywhere else I’ve been in North America. There is beauty in the dilapidation, the crumbling church with the leaning bell tower, the magnificent trees growing through the buildings and lifting the sidewalks, the constant growth and renewal. In Mexico practically every building has rebar sticking out the top because there is this optimism that someday another floor will be added. That optimism epitomizes the beauty of San Blas.

Optimism
Optimism

Wednesday morning I went to breakfast at Wala Wala. Pedro, the owner, who was sitting with an older gentleman, got up to take my order and then went into the kitchen. The gentleman he’d been sitting with came over and introduced himself as the local doctor and said, “Estoy triste, quiero tocar y cantar.” He picked up a guitar and started playing and singing, Besame Mucho and similar songs, and it was amazing, like something out of Buena Vista Social Club. He played and sang for about 30 minutes, and as he left I told him “La musica era mas hermosa, muchas gracias” and he replied “De nada, estoy feliz.” That is San Blas.

Tepoztlán

17 November 2019

A Magnificent Tree
A Magnificent Tree

Earlier this year while riding the bus from México City to Oaxaca we passed through a wonderful area of high mountains and expansive forests, and I thought it was a place I would like to return to. When the people who gave me a ride to Teotihuacán asked if I’d like a ride to Tepoztlán, in the area I’d seen from the bus, I accepted. The only catch was that since they are from the U.K. and not comfortable driving on the right, they wanted me to drive through México City, at what turned out to be morning rush hour. Quite an experience, one I hope not to repeat, we made it with no damage to their rental car, a minor miracle.

During the week Tepoztlán is a sleepy little mountain village just a few miles south of México City. On weekends it wakes up as Chilangos (residents of México City) arrive to enjoy nature. It borders Parque Nacional de Tepozteco and is surrounded by other national parks including Iztaccihuatl-Popocatepetl. The forests are magnificent with huge trees blooming with brightly colored flowers – orange, violet, red, white. There are steep hiking trails throughout the mountains, many built by ancient civilizations. There is a short trail at the end of the main street that goes up to Pirámide Tepozteco. It is a 25 minute walk to the top, only about half a mile long but climbing 1100 feet.

Calle Principal on a Weekday
Calle Principal on a Weekday
Pirámide Tepozteco
Pirámide Tepozteco
Sometimes I Wish I’d Brought Shoes to México
Sometimes I Wish I’d Brought Shoes to México

I am having a wonderful time hiking each day in the mountains and forests, relaxing in the quiet village. The bungalow I’ve rented has a beautiful garden where I can sit and enjoy a quiet cup of tea in the afternoon. México is an amazing country with such a fantastic variety of places to visit, and the people are always so friendly and welcoming, you can’t help enjoying yourself and being happy.

My Garden in Tepoztlán
My Garden in Tepoztlán

San Miguel de Allende and Teotihuacán

11 November 2019
Pirámide del Sol
Pirámide del Sol

As I watched the sun rise over the Pirámide del Sol from my bed this morning, I remembered how as a child I would look at the sun and think how every person and every thing that has ever lived on earth or will ever live on earth has seen or will see the same sun, has felt or will feel the warmth from the same sun. The time each of us has here seems so short from that perspective, and each of our lives so insignificant, but there is also a sense of connection, or oneness, with all of humanity and all living things past, present, and future.

Then I would think how every atom in my body had the same power as the sun, so within me was the power of trillions and trillions of suns. A feeling would come over me that I was the key to everything with this immense power within me to unlock a new Golden Age.

I hadn’t planned on coming to Teotihuacán or San Miguel de Allende. The wind wasn’t promising for sailing, I was growing tired of Mazatlán, so I flew to Mexico City and got on the first bus to someplace interesting. San Miguel de Allende is a colonial town with beautiful Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, numerous art galleries and upscale restaurants. I enjoyed walking in the hills each day, music and dancing in the Jardin each evening, great food and friendly people.

Jardin Allende
Jardin Allende
Cobblestone Street
Cobblestone Street
White Bell Tower
White Bell Tower

As I was leaving my boat to fly to Mexico City, my neighbor told me I absolutely had to visit Teotihuacán. From then on it seemed like a constant barrage of people were telling me not to miss Teotihuacán. So when someone offered me a ride I took the hints and went. I spent today wandering the site and climbing the pyramids. It is an amazing place, built two centuries ago by unknown people who then vanished. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world, an immense structure. It’s interesting watching all of the people, each here for their own reason, to hold a ceremony, to take photos, to study the architecture, to meditate, to sell souvenirs. Individually we each do our own thing, collectively it organically comes together as a wonderful dance.

The feeling I’d had as a child stayed with me throughout the day. As I walked and watched the world around me, smiling, occasionally sharing a few words or a laugh with others, I was joyful and happy.

Walking back from dinner this evening the full moon was rising above the Pyramid of the Moon, the perfect ending to a wonderful few days.

Sun Above the Platforms
Sun Above the Platforms
Pirámide de la Luna
Pirámide de la Luna
Cactus
Cactus

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo And Back To Puerto Vallarta

Zihuatanejo

The terrestrial travels in southern México are complete. Tomorrow the pelagic travels resume. I am sitting in the shade near the water. A light breeze keeps me cool during this warmest part of the day. It is a tranquil Sunday afternoon. Frigate birds glide silently overhead, never flapping their wings. The water in the marina is calm, with just the hint of a ripple from the breeze. The palm trees sway ever so slightly. The jungle covered hills are dark green in the afternoon sun, the sky a light blue, the water a shade or two darker. In a few minutes I will walk to the beach, swim a mile or so straight out to sea, past the people playing in the surf, past the jet skis and parasail boats. Just a mile from shore it is a different world, quiet, calm, serene. I will float on my back out there for a few minutes, then swim back to the other world, refreshed. Tomorrow I will sail further out into the sea. Why? What is the reason, the purpose? I’m not going anywhere in particular. I’m not doing anything in particular. Or am I? Some of us swim, some of us sail, some of us play music, dance, farm, paint, cook, build, create, make, repair. Why? Because it’s what we do. It’s our part in the game, in the grand opera. Of course there are twists and turns in the plot; I’m not the same person I was yesterday, and I’ll be someone else tomorrow. What will I do then? In this moment I will swim.

Playa Zihuatanejo
Playa Ixtapa at Sunset
The Reason I Won’t Be Cleaning The Bottom Of My Boat At Marina Vallarta

Oaxaca

Oaxaca

I took the bus from México City to Oaxaca on 11 February 2019, a beautiful trip through forests, mountains, and deserts. Not far from México City there are views of the volcanoes Iztacchuatl and Popocatepetl.

Oaxaca is wonderful. Locals and visitors stroll the pedestrian only streets near the Zócalo in the evenings, watching street performers, looking at artisanal goods in street stalls, and eating in the cafes and restaurants. There is live music every night in the Zócalo near the cathedral.

Music and Dancing in the Zócalo

I’ve added a map of my travels in México here.

Ciudad de México

Catedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad de México
Templo Mayor de México Tenochtitlan
Bellas Artes

I flew into México City on Friday evening, 8 February 2019, and have had a wonderful weekend in the city.

My hotel was in the ‘Electrical Equipment’ neighborhood – many small shops specializing in a particular electrical category such as switches, cables, conduits, or high voltage transformers. I love cities that have specialty neighborhoods like this. I spent the weekend walking and only covered a fraction of the city – it is huge in terms of both population and geography. There is so much here to see – Mayan ruins, colonial architecture, beautiful parks, and so much more.

My favorite place was Triana Cafe Gourmet in the Mercado San Juan. The owner, Pablo, makes one of the best espressos I’ve ever had, rememberers you and introduces you to everyone at the counter after your first visit, and does a little dance every time he grinds coffee.

Centro Histórico
Avenida Paseo de la Reforma
El Angel de la Independencia
Bosque Chapultepec
Barquitos en Parque Chapultepec
Chinese New Year Celebration

I’m leaving in the morning for Oaxaca, but look forward to returning to México City in the future.

Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta

Eclipse of the Moon

I departed Marina El Cid in Mazatlán on the morning of Sunday 20 January 2019 headed towards Bahía Banderas. Sunday was a beautiful day of sailing with light winds, calm seas, and warm sunshine. That evening as the sun set in the west the full moon rose in the east, and a phenomenal show began. As I sailed along the full moon lit up the sea, reflecting off the calm waters. Then the earth began to eclipse the moon. At full eclipse the orange moon looked close enough to reach out and touch, and in the darkness the stars became bright and began to twinkle, flashing in the sky. Shooting stars blazed across the heavens. I listened to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald as I watched the show, then as the eclipse came to an end the wind died and I fell asleep.

And that was the last of the wind until early Tuesday morning. I drifted generally south, sometimes catching a whisper of a breeze. When the breeze picked up for a few hours Tuesday morning I was able to sail to the harbor entrance at San Blas, then I motored up the river when the wind died again and docked at Marina San Blas for 3 days.

After enjoying village life in San Blas and meeting an interesting group of sailors, I left on Friday 25 January for a short sail to Bahía Chacala, arriving there late in the afternoon. I anchored in the bay and not wanting to inflate my kayak I decided to swim to shore for dinner. Things look closer from a boat than they actually are. I know this, but I was still surprised at how far from shore I actually was. It was a long swim, and the swim back to the boat with a full stomach and darkness closing in was even longer. In the morning I still didn’t feel like inflating the kayak so I swam in again for breakfast.

Bahía Chacala is beautiful with volcanic cliffs covered in jungle dropping to the sea and palm tree lined beaches. Unfortunately the anchorage can get uncomfortable in certain conditions, and that started to happen Saturday night. So Sunday morning I hauled up the anchor and sailed to Bahía Banderas, arriving late in the afternoon at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful sail to finish my journey south. When the winds change I will be sailing north.

Barchetta Veloce Anchored in Bahía Chacala
Playa Chacala
A Thing
Puerto Vallarta Street

San Blas

Iglesia Antigua, San Blas
What say the Bells of San Blas
To the ships that southward pass
From the harbor of Mazatlan?
To them it is nothing more
Than the sound of surf on the shore,—
Nothing more to master or man.
But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
To whom what is and what seems
Are often one and the same,—
The Bells of San Blas to me
Have a strange, wild melody,
And are something more than a name. – excerpt from The Bells of San Blas, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I have stopped in San Blas as I pass southward from the harbor of Mazatlan.