Monthly Archives: January 2014

Belize It Or Not: Rainy Days and Changing Plans

I can't really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

I can’t really see out the front window but I like watching the trees fly by.

Hey everybody! Sorry it’s taken me a while to update my blog. This has been a decidedly strange time for the Big Adventure. After spending what felt like forever in Mexico, my favorite new place in the world, we were on a whirlwind through Belize. My family was super excited about starting the next part of our trip, but as I’ve come to see during my new traveling life, things don’t always go according to plan.

First off, there was the day we left Mexico for Belize. My Family had planned on getting up first thing in the morning, as early as the sun. Instead, we stayed up super late the night before with some new friends, and ended up getting a slow start on our border crossing day. This caused the smell of stress to fill the big truck, leaving me shifting around nervously on Victoria’s lap. The trip to the border of Belize and Mexico was super quick, and we got out of the country exactly as My Family thought we would. The interesting part started once we got to the Belize side of things. I knew there might be trouble, because all My Family had been talking about for the past two days was the fact that we didn’t exactly have my papers in order. I guess Belize doesn’t like new dogs so much, or they’re nervous about making sure everyone is healthy. Given all of the lonely, sick dogs I saw wandering around, I didn’t understand what sort of harm I could do. But they required My Family to ‘import me’, with all sorts of applications. We hadn’t received a peep back that our application was ready, and as Victoria had feared, the nice health officer had no paperwork on me.

I tried to look well-behaved and bug-free in his office, but it felt and smelled too much like the doctor for me to relax. I dragged as hard as I could towards the door, while Victoria smiled a lot and chatted constantly in her happiest voice. We had all of the rest of the border crossing handled quickly, but ended up waiting three whole hours for the paperwork to go through! Finally we could all breathe a sigh of relief. I was going to be allowed into Belize, and so we continued on our Big Adventure.

Of course, with our late start and delay at the border, the drive to our first camp spot started WAY later than we had hoped. Once we saw the road that would lead us to Sarteneja, a tiny village out in the northeast corner of Belize, Jason started seriously worrying about time. I had to agree. I’ve been on all sorts of roads on the Adventure so far, and the paved ones are my favorite. The bumpier the road, the less comfy Victoria’s lap starts to feel. And her lap is usually the best place to be. This road was like one, long, continuous bump. There was some beautiful stuff to see, though. Bright green jungles, a free ride across a river on a boat pulled along on a rope, huge farms with people wearing suspenders and bonnets (Victoria said they’re called Mennonites, and they certainly didn’t look like anyone else we had seen since leaving California!), and lots of horses, cows, goats, chickens and other dogs. The drive was actually a lot of fun, until the sun started going down.

My Family debated for a while about what to do, but there weren’t many options. We were literally in the middle of the jungle. It was too late to go back, and there was nowhere to stop and wait for morning. The only choice was to keep going, and break one of the few rules My Family had set up for this trip. We were going to drive at night. Soon it was pitch black, and Jason steadily and slowly wove in between huge potholes and across muddy ditches to get us to Sarteneja. There were some nervous moments to be sure, but I managed to curl up and catch a little sleep. When I woke up we were at Backpacker’s Oasis, our first stop in Belize!

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis.  He was a musician.

Some guy named Bob. His picture is all over the place in Belize, even on the bathrooms at Backpackers Oasis. He was a musician.

Even at night I knew I would love this place. It’s a working farm, and it smelled amazing. There was a nice, jungly spot with soft grass for us to park, and a common room for hanging out with the other dogs and campers. It was the first time I had seen local dogs with their own comfy chairs, so I knew immediately that we’d get along. The girl dog was a little bit mean at first, but once she saw that My Family was cool and I wasn’t going to try and take over we got along just fine. And the other campers were super nice as well. We were all there from all over the world, somehow finding each other in this tiny spot in the middle of nowhere. We spent two awesome days here, and on one of them we walked into town. There were lots of dogs there, and not many of them liked me. But the people were super nice, and the food I got to try at the restaurant was really really yummy.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers.  It was fun until I got tired.

Both nights at Backpackers, me and My Family stayed up late hanging out with the other travelers. It was fun until I got tired.

We left on a nice day, just before everyone was expecting a big rainstorm. I guess My Family didn’t want to attempt those roads when they were even more muddy, and I was happy to go along with that plan. We started early, but took some extra time before we left so Jason could take some of the air out of the tires. This ended up being a really good idea. The trip away from Sarteneja was way less bumpy and bruising than the way there. Especially considering we passed some spots where huge trucks were literally plowing the dirt road back into shape as we drove by! We finally found some pavement, and soon reached a place called Belize City.

We passed through Belize City super quick, which suited me just fine. The place smelled strange, desperate and scary in a way I had never experienced in Mexico. The people’s houses were in bad shape, and no one looked particularly happy. I didn’t really understand this that well. Jason and Victoria were talking about their surprise. I guess Belize is expensive? That means food and treats cost too much money. And yet the people didn’t seem like they could afford any treats at all. Sounds pretty unfair to me. Jason drove the Big Truck out of Belize City to a place called Old Belize. I could smell the ocean and the fish long before we saw the Marina where we’d be parking.

This place was super neat. Very pretty, with big boats rolling along on the water. Now, I am not a fan of the water. It’s cold, it’s deep, and you can’t run in it. My Family had tried to get me to swim a couple of times in Mexico, and I was pretty sure I had made it crystal clear that I wasn’t interested. I took one look at that huge ocean with its rumbling waves and dug my feet in. I wasn’t getting anywhere near that, thank you very much!

Luckily, My Family wasn’t planning on that either. We parked well away from the water and settled in for the night. They left me inside while they went to eat dinner, but I wasn’t too disappointed this time. It was windy and cold outside, and I was more than content to curl up under my blanket and wait for them to get back. They returned soon enough, and we settled in for the night.

I don't really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I don’t really mind being left in the camper, even though it happens All The Time, as long as I can peak out the window to see if Victoria and Jason are on their way home.

I dreamed about a relaxing day, digging in the mud, running towards the water and then quickly away, and maybe strutting by the other dogs to show off my designer collar and fine, Venice Beach grooming. Instead, the alarm blared way too early, and unlike on most mornings Jason and Victoria actually got up and turned it off. We were packing up the camper, but differently this time. Backpacks were coming out. Did that mean another trip to a hotel? I got pretty excited, because that probably included a super comfy couch somewhere. I soon found that there was going to be a bit of an adventure before I’d find myself on that comfy couch.

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up.  Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We got up early enough to see the sun coming up. Who knew getting up so early could be so pretty?

We waited for a taxi that didn’t show up. My Family was getting nervous, so they accepted the offer of a nice man at the Marina who said he would drive us into Belize City. I saw his two-seater pickup truck and quickly realized there wouldn’t be room for all of us and our stuff. Would they leave me behind?! Instead, Victoria and I climbed into the truck while Jason and the bags went back in the truck bed. We bounced and jostled our way into the city with Jason out in the open air, holding his hat to make sure it didn’t blow away. It didn’t look particularly safe to me, but Jason was smiling big so I stopped worrying.

Our next destination was a ferry terminal. This is when I started to get nervous. Wait, My Family expected me to get on a boat? I don’t do boats. They go way out into the water, and there’s no escape. I’d rather be forced to swim in the waves all day than get on a boat. But it appeared I wasn’t going to be given a choice. Jason hoisted me up, and I gripped him just as hard as I could as we got onto the boat. I tried my best to sleep through the next forty-five minutes of noisy, rolling chaos, but I just could not get comfortable. I couldn’t smell land at all, and was completely surrounded by water smells. In espanol, I would say this was absolutely, no bueno. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore we arrived on Caye Caulker, a beautiful island.

See ya later, Belize City!

See ya later, Belize City!

I was immediately in a better mood. There was sand all around, and I got to pounce and prance through it while My Family lugged all of our stuff behind me. I have to admit, it’s not a bad life. We walked and walked, and finally showed up at a series of strange cabins with bars on the windows. I wasn’t getting a good feeling here, and sure enough, my nose was proved correct. The owner of the place wouldn’t allow me to stay here, even though he had said he would! Jason smelled desperate and sweaty, while Victoria was super angry. We trudged off, and soon I realized we had no place to stay! We stopped for lunch at a restaurant where My Family could use the internet, and with just a little bit of work they found a solution. Boy, was I happy about this! As soon as we got to the Hummingbird Cottage, I knew I’d be totally content if we never left.

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I'm never allowed to do anything as fun as that...

In Mexico AND Belize, dogs get to hang out on the roof. I’m never allowed to do anything as fun as that…

This place reminded me so much of our Wee Blue House back in Venice that I almost thought it had been built just for us. There were comfy couches, a big porch I could wander off leash, and even a comfy chair with a pillow that was just like the one we had outside back at home! The only downside was being left in the bedroom while My Family went out for dinner. But the Cottage was far away from town, and they didn’t think the restaurant would allow dogs. What is with the dog prejudice in Belize?! I hope some really good writer who works for a bigger blog reads this, because there should be an expose or something.

Just like the Wee Blue House.  Except purple.  And on something called stilts.

Just like the Wee Blue House. Except purple. And on something called stilts.

The next day I was allowed to join in the adventure across Caye Caulker. Victoria set me up a comfy seat on the front of her bicycle, and we rode up into town as a Family. The roads were just dirt, which were mostly mud now from all the rain, so there was a lot of zigging and zagging going on. We eventually stopped at a place to have breakfast, where I didn’t get to taste very much at all. At least I had a good view and a great breeze on the front of the bicycle. We rode on from there to a place called The Split, which is the small bit of beach where people go swimming on the island. It was a pretty spot, and I was enjoying myself nicely until Jason made me go in the water. I don’t know why he laughs every time I doggy paddle; I sure don’t think it’s that funny. Now wet and shivering, Jason and Victoria started studying the sky. It was getting dark; rain was on the way.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came.  Don't. Like.

At The Split just minutes before the rain came. Don’t. Like.

We weren’t on the bikes for more than two minutes before the downpour came. At first My Family tried to ride through it, but I was happy to see them heading under an overhang for some shelter pretty quickly. It was freezing in the rain! We waited until the rain slowed down a bit, and then rode carefully around the huge puddles to get back home. It rained in bunches that day, but cleared up enough for My Family to ride out to dinner that night. I was left home, again! But at least I was warm and cozy in the cabin. Victoria and Jason got home super late, covered in mud and laughing about basically everything, so I guess it was a pretty good person night.

We got up the next morning very early again, to head back to Belize City. My Family had debated staying on Caye Caulker longer, as our initial plan was to spend four nights on the island. There is a cat sanctuary there that Victoria had hope to volunteer with. But the cottage wasn’t available any more and we didn’t have any other options. Not that I’m all that crazy about cats, but I saw that Victoria and Jason were pretty sad that they were going to miss out on another opportunity to help out the animals. I wanted to tell them they could help me out tremendously by getting me back to dry land any way but on a boat, but it’s clear my communication skills need some work. We took the same boat back, and this time in the pouring rain. Seriously, I am not a fan.

We spent a very rainy day back at the Marina, and a long night filled with noisy dogs and noisier people. Everything felt wet and cold, and I would have been happy to never get out from under the covers. But we had to dry out and pack up, so we could make it to the next destination.

San Ignacio was to be our next campsite, a town on the border of Belize and Guatemala. Yep, you read that right. We were already heading to our next country! I was pretty shocked to hear that. I mean, we had spent three months in Mexico, but only one week in Belize? I took a peek at the map before we started the drive, and even I could tell Belize was a lot smaller than Mexico. But I could also tell we were missing a lot of it. Thankfully, the drive to San Ignacio was super pretty. The rain held off a little bit, and the countryside was incredible. I noticed that the signs were all in English, and realized I hadn’t heard almost any Spanish since we crossed into Belize. Apparently, Belize people speak English as their main language. They’re the only country in Central America that writes in English, and uses measurements like miles, pounds and dollars when dealing with people things. They also listen to a lot of reggae music, which made Jason super happy.

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Tons of room to run around at The Trek Stop! Woo!

Our final campsite in Belize was a place called The Trek Stop. It was really pretty here, in the jungle with all sorts of birds and butterflies to look at, plus tons of delicious bugs to chase down. My only complaint was their camp dogs. Boy, were they pushy! They certainly wouldn’t get by in Los Angeles with those sorts of manners. Because of those bullies I ended up staying in the camper most of the time, which isn’t much fun. But I didn’t mind after a little while, because it got really cold outside! My Family stayed at the restaurant pretty late, using the internet to post photos, and they were both shivering when they got back to the camper. Thankfully, no matter how rainy and wet it was, My Family and I were always warm and cozy under the covers.

As I was drifting off to sleep, I tried to collect my thoughts about our time in Belize. It felt pretty hectic. Nothing seemed to go exactly to plan, and the rainy days that followed us from Mexico definitely threw a wrench in things. But I still met all sorts of nice people and dogs, had some delicious food, and enjoyed two great days in a cottage that reminded me of home. Maybe it wasn’t a perfect leg of My Big Adventure, but it sure left me with a lot to blog about. Thanks for reading!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in Belize, head over to Facebook!

25
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Belize

DISCUSSION 13 Comments

Banditos, Breakdowns & Bribes

Me at Hierve del Agua after My Family tried to make me go swimming.

Me at Hierve del Agua after My Family tried to make me go swimming.

After My Family recovered from the fantastic Christmas celebration, it was time to hit the road. We did have one last cool visit before leaving Overlander Oasis. On our last day, Jan and Mona from PanAmericana 2013 pulled into camp, with their puppy Lissie. She was super cute! Lissie had a ton of energy, and spent most of the day tumbling around with Morena and it was fun seeing how excited Lissie was about pretty much everything. I hope Lissie knows how lucky she was to have found a great family in Jan and Mona!

We left Overlander Oasis the next day, and I have to admit I was kinda sad. I plopped my head down in Victoria’s lap and pretty much didn’t move for hours. I knew we’d have other fun adventures, but I bet I could have stayed at OO forever. We drove through a couple of small towns, got lost in the middle of a field filled with goats, crossed a mountain on a winding dirt road, and finally ended up at a place called Hierve el Agua. Victoria discovered that this means “the water boils” in Spanish, but the pools of mineral water we found there were freezing! There was a cool stream of mineral deposits on the side of the cliff that looked like a waterfall frozen in time, and we had an awesome place to set up the camper. We spent the day wandering around the pools, and I managed to evade Jason’s attempts at getting me to swim. Then we settled in at our campsite, where we were joined by a couple of other campers in tents. They were nice enough to share their campfire with us. It’s cold up in the mountains.

The mineral pools at Hierve del Agua.

The mineral pools at Hierve del Agua.

The next day we left the mountains and drove for a state called Chiapas. I could tell that Jason and Victoria were really excited about this. Back in Baja, in a restaurant in Cabo Pulmo, a couple from Mexico City told My Family this was the most beautiful place in the country. I was pretty busy trying to get a taste of Victoria’s fish at the time, but My Family had been looking forward to this day ever since. It pretty much just seemed like another day on the road to me, but Victoria and Jason were pretty antsy.

 The problem was, the roads towards Chiapas took a very long time to drive. They were skinny, bouncy and twisted in what felt like every possible direction. Before I knew it the sun was setting, and Jason smelled nervous. We weren’t anywhere near where My Family had planned on staying for the night, and there didn’t seem to be any way we’d make it. We were driving by a Pemex gas station in a small town just before the state border, and Jason suggested we try staying there for the night. This was something I’d never heard of before. Sleeping in a gas station? Apparently it’s something people do all the time on Adventures like this, but My Family hadn’t tried it yet. That night we had no choice.

The night in the Pemex actually ended up to be kinda fun. There was loud music playing, the security guard hung out with us most of the night (after Jason offered him a beer), and the food at the local family restaurant was delicious. It smelled amazing when Jason brought it back to the camper, and I got so many tastes I began to wonder if my birthday had come early.

We had a surprisingly cozy night of sleep, and then continued on our way, passing into the state of Chiapas within an hour. I have to say, it was worth waiting to see it in the daytime. Curving mountain roads, misty jungles, green farms and the tiniest villages we had seen yet. We only spent a day driving through this area, but I know My Family would have liked to stay much longer. My only complaint with this day was that My Family stopped for the most delicious smelling empanadas at a nice lady’s roadside stand, and I didn’t get a single bite. We pulled into our next campsite, a place called Mayabell outside the town of Palenque just before dark. It had been an awful long day in the car, one of our longest yet, and Jason seemed pretty exhausted. But Mayabell was a beautiful place, in the jungle just outside something called ‘ruins’. This I really don’t get. If it’s all ruined, what the heck would you want to do there?

My view out the window at the Mayabell campground.

My view out the window at the Mayabell campground.

That night it started pouring rain. This was more rain than we had seen on the whole trip, and just about the most rain I can ever remember seeing in my life. It just kept coming, sounding like thunder on the roof of our camper, and keeping me firmly glued to my bed in the camper. Worse than the sound, though, was the leaks! Victoria smelled in a near panic, because two windows in our camper were leaking. It was really bad, but thankfully we stayed nice and dry in bed.

The next day, everything was soaked. The sun struggled to show her face, and the Mayabell camp was a soggy, muddy mess. Now I don’t know about you, but wet, muddy paws are not one of my favorite things in the world. Victoria and Jason were feeling great, however, because this was New Year’s Eve! So humans keep a calendar, I guess because they like to name things so much. Today was the last day of the year 2013, and people use it as a reason to eat and drink a lot. Eating is firmly on my ‘favorite things’ list, so I’m all for that! Victoria and Jason went to the Mayabell restaurant for a special dinner. No dogs allowed, so I sat in the camper, taking whiffs of the food floating by on the breeze, and enjoying the music floating my way as well. My Family finally came back from a super long dinner, and soon after their new friends, Brodie and Diane came by. They were super nice people. Brodie’s on his own Big Adventure, riding a bicycle through Mexico and Central America as part of Ranger Rides. My Family and I stayed up super late with our new friends, even enjoying the traditional countdown to midnight being screamed from the restaurant. It was seriously one of the most fun nights of the trip, as far as ‘people fun’ goes.

On New Year’s Day my family had planned on getting up early and hiking out to the ruined things before getting back on the road. But things really didn’t go according to plan. First of all, thanks to the late night none of us wanted to get out of bed when we were supposed to. Then, when we were finally all packed up and ready to go, Jason noticed that one of the straps holding the camper to the big truck had broken. Yikes! It was a good thing he noticed, but it took a couple of hours for Jason and Victoria to raise the camper off the truck and fix everything. By the time we actually left Palenque it was well into the afternoon, making it crystal clear that we weren’t going to make our destination that night. Instead of getting to Campeche as Jason and Victoria had hoped, we ended up spending ANOTHER night in a Pemex station. This one had a Burger King, so My Family had a fast and easy meal of comfort food (I snagged a french fry. Maybe two.) and free internet for the night.

The next day we got up bright and early and made our way to Campeche. This was a super pretty city, and the first sight of the ocean since we left Sayulita! Apparently, this was the Caribbean Sea, not the Pacific, which means we had crossed the whole width of Mexico. Pretty cool. Campeche had a restaurant that wouldn’t allow me in, so My Family got some food to go and we sat out in the town square. Delicious food and a very pretty day. From there we headed for Uxmal, basically because My Family wanted a second chance to see some ruins. We parked the big truck in a grassy field next to the park, and as soon as the sun started to set I heard Victoria start to scream. The bugs were pretty bad, and they decided to climb all over her, including squeezing under her clothes! She wasn’t particularly happy about this, so she and I snuggled in the camper while Jason went and got tickets so they could go see the ruins. Wait, you have to pay? Could I ruin my bed, set it behind a gate and charge for it? I don’t know, some human stuff is just beyond me.

Big church in Campeche.

Big church in Campeche.

When we left the next day, the clouds were dark and ominous. It seemed we hadn’t left the bad weather behind. We kept driving east, hopeful to make a town called Tulum by early in the afternoon. Along the way Jason pulled us over in a small town because he had found somewhere to give the truck an oil change. We pulled in a nice man’s driveway, and Victoria and I played with his kids and their dogs while Jason and the nice man got the job done. By the time we left, it was pouring rain. And it kept raining, on and off, for the rest of the day. As we kept driving on and on, Victoria smelled nervous. She thought the drive was taking way too long. Sure enough, we had made a wrong turn. But My Family didn’t realize this until they had already gone too far to turn back. At the end of the day, we ended up driving more than two hours extra, and didn’t pull into Tulum until right before dark. It was still pouring rain, and after our longest driving day yet Jason didn’t think it would be safe to keep going. So guess what? We ended up parking in a Pemex. AGAIN! And unlike before, this was pretty miserable. When we popped up the camper we discovered the leaks were really bad. And after long days of driving and rain, it seemed like everything My Family owned was either smelly, soaking wet or some combination of the two. Jason and Victoria seemed miserable. Certainly not one of our better days.

Walking down from the wall around the city of Campeche.

Walking down from the wall around the city of Campeche.

It rained all night, and was still raining the next day. Although Jason and Victoria had hoped to stay and explore Tulum, the weather was so bad that they decided to take us all the way south, to the town of Chetumal. It rained the entire way, and by the time we got to the Yax Ha RV resort, literally everything we owned was wet. My Family hung everything up to dry, pulled out a huge tarp to cover the camper with, and basically breathed a big sigh of relief. It looked like the worst of the rain was finally passing, and I finally got a little time to lay in the sun. The campsite was beautiful, right up against the water, with soft grass to run around in and birds to chase.

My private playground at Yax-Ha.

My private playground at Yax-Ha.

Over the next few days, My Family prepared for our trip out of Mexico. They tried to repair the leak in the camper, and got the worst of it handled. They finally got a chance to shower, which certainly helped the smell inside the camper, and wandered the small town outside the RV park. We met some other overlanders, a nice couple from South Africa, and a great couple from Colorado with three awesome dogs of their own. We did have a little more rain, but with room to spread out, delicious food cooked in the camper or from the local restaurants and plenty of nice company, we had everything we needed. Before I knew it, it was time to head for the border. After almost three months in Mexico, we were going to cross into a whole new country!

Me, hanging out at Yax-Ha. Loved it there.

Me, hanging out at Yax-Ha. Loved it there.

Before we left Venice for the Big Adventure, a lot of My Family’s friends were a little nervous about our trip. I could smell the fear on them every time Victoria or Jason started to talk about Mexico. People had all sorts of concerns. It was too dangerous. Too much could go wrong. People even asked Jason if he was going to buy a gun to bring along! Guns are probably my least favorite people thing. If you asked most people, it seemed like all we would come across in Mexico was banditos, breakdowns and bribes. But I’m happy to report My Family and I had an absolutely incredible time in Mexico! A beautiful country, with delicious food and some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. It just goes to show that you can’t let fears or what you hear on TV to stop you from exploring the world. I didn’t know exactly what My Family was getting me into when we started this trip but at this point, over one hundred days into my Big Adventure, I know how important it is to see new places, explore different cultures, and step out of your comfy zone sometimes. After all, life’s supposed to be about the adventure, right?

PS: If you want to see the pictures My Family took during our last couple of weeks in Mexico you can find them on Facebook.


11
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 6 Comments

Christmas in El Tule

Me, hanging out in Oaxaca.  Some of you have complained that there aren't enough pictures of me here on my blog so I've included a bunch this time around!

Me, hanging out in Oaxaca. Some of you have complained that there aren’t enough pictures of me here on my blog so I’ve included a bunch this time around!

First of all, a very Happy New Year from My Family to yours! Victoria and Jason told me to say that, though I’m not exactly sure what the fuss is all about. Today seemed just like yesterday to me. But now it’s 2014, and we’re still on the Big Adventure. And man, has life been good! I want to tell you all about what’s been happening, but I’ve been so busy with things I haven’t had a chance to post in way too long. So before I can say anything about New Year’s Eve or what’s happened since, I have to tell you about the three weeks we spent mostly in a little town just outside of the city of Oaxaca, called El Tule.

The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Oaxaca was super pretty, with the Tundy twisting and turning up and down mountains. I kept hearing Victoria ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, so I even picked up my head from her lap to take a look out the window every now and again. I can see why they loved it so much, although there’s not much to smell when you’re going so fast.

After we drove through Oaxaca I could smell My Family starting to get nervous. I guess the GPS (which is a little computer that points us in the right direction) stopped working, and the notes Victoria had written down to get us to the next place weren’t making much sense. Jason kept us pointed in the right direction, and soon enough we found our way to Tule, and a camping spot called Overlander Oasis.

We rolled into camp late in the afternoon, and were immediately greeted by Morena, the camp dog. I don’t know what sort of dog she is, but she sure has a lot of energy. Morena immediately ran out of the gate and jumped up on Victoria, and then spent the next several hours following me around smelling my bum. It was sure a lot to take at first! But as we settled in Morena calmed down, and I could tell we would quickly become friends.

My new buddy, Morena, and me.

My new buddy, Morena, and me.

Overlander Oasis is run by a very nice couple from a place called Canada, which I guess is way far North of here. They have a bunch of cats too, but I didn’t hold that against them. They were super nice to me and my family, giving us the best spot in camp to set up! The super nice British couple Wendy and Steve, who we had hung out with in Mazatlan was there, as well as another couple from England, Jayne and David, who have been on the road for years. We had a nice night together, and then settled in to get some sleep.

The next morning both groups of campers were gone, and we had the place to ourselves. Plus, an extra surprise: Wendy had bought us donuts! Apparently the neighbor lady comes by with fresh donuts every morning, and Wendy had left a couple of them for us. I even got to try some! Now, this was a place to stay for a while. We relaxed for much of the day, and then Calvin and Leanne, the folks who run the place, invited us to something they call The Peanut Bar. Basically, they sat around with My Family drinking beer, eating peanuts and tossing the shells on the floor. I didn’t get any peanuts, but Morena and I were allowed to wander around off leash, crunching on the salty shells. Not a bad day at all.

Me, snoozing in the sun at Overlander Oasis.

Me, snoozing in the sun at Overlander Oasis.

When we woke up in the morning Jason had to start his work week, but he had a comfy place to sit and good internet, so he was pretty much taken care of. We met another couple traveling from Canada that evening, and My Family went out with them for dinner. I didn’t get to go, but the weather was so good here, and Morena was such good company that I didn’t mind at all.

As the week went on Victoria wasn’t feeling that well, so we took it easy for a while. Morena and I strolled around the campsite, laying in sunny spots, sniffing particularly tasty stretches of grass and running after the cats until Jason or Victoria yelled at me to stop. My Family wandered out into Tule several times, and sometimes I got to go with them. The first time was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Leanne invited us to join her for something called the Celebration of The Virgin of Guadelupe. We walked over to the pretty church in town, where all the kids wanted to pet me. I don’t know what it is here in Mexico, but they always yell out “chihuahua!” and smile at me. Have they never heard of a chi-weenie? On that note, I’ve actually seen far fewer chihuahuas here than I thought. My Family kept saying we were traveling to my original home, but clearly the chihuahuas have moved on! In fact, Victoria found out that people in Mexico actually buy Chihuahuas from America and bring them down here! Crazy.

I think I lost track of my point. Oh, the Celebration! There was a parade around the church, with people lighting candles and singing songs. Other people lit off these huge wheels of fireworks that rained sparks on everything and made a HUGE boom! I didn’t like the sound all that much, but everyone seemed happy and I could smell that my My Family wasn’t worried at all. I guess it was okay. As it got dark, there was music from a big marching band, and everyone in town gathered around a square. Suddenly, townspeople circled around the crowd throwing things. This was called a Candy Toss, but they were tossing all sorts of things. I saw bottles of water and beer, tupperware containers, bags of chips and even sandwiches. It was chaos! I’m sure I would have been trampled if Victoria didn’t carry me for most of it. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

Whizz-Boom.  Don't like.

Whizz-Boom. Don’t like.

That was a pretty typical sort of night for Christmas in El Tule. We spent a ton of time walking around the town, which was super cool. The street that Overlander Oasis is on had a ton of dogs. They barked and barked at me each time we walked past. I guess they were grumpy that they didn’t get to go on more walks. There was a turkey farm too, which smelled absolutely delicious. I saw some chickens and roosters, which I don’t like one bit, and made plenty of new dog and people friends. We walked to shops, ate crazy delicious tacos, fresh grilled chicken and more tamales than I could ever want. Everyone was super nice, and were very patient with Victoria’s and Jason’s attempts at Spanish.

One of the many times I was left at home while My Family went out for dinner.

One of the many times I was left at home while My Family went out for dinner.

One of the best parts of our time there by far were our days just hanging out at Overlander Oasis. It was so comfy there. I got to lay about off leash almost the entire time, except when the neighbor dog came around wanting to wrestle with Morena. Calvin and Jason worked on a couple of projects for the camper, making it more safe for our trip further south. Leanne kept baking delicious treats and sharing them with us. I couldn’t always get My Family to give me a taste, as some of it isn’t good for dogs (or so they tell me), but it always smelled so so good. Smells would just float out of Leanne’s kitchen and right into our camper, almost as if it was being pumped in. This was pretty much heaven. There were so many smells – roasting coffee on Calvin’s barbecue, spicy peanuts that Jason bought at the dry goods store, Ratatouille that Calvin and Leanne made and Brazilian rice that Jason made (with Marcia’s recipe!), warm atole, broccoli fritters and basically anything else you can think of!

The Hotel Camba

The Hotel Camba

I did get to see the city of Oaxaca for a night, which was pretty cool. I knew something was up because Victoria and Jason were packing two backpacks, which they pretty much never do these days. And then once my travel bed came out I knew the adventure was headed in a new direction. We found a taxi and Victoria had a full on Spanish conversation with the driver on the way into the city. We stopped in front of the Hotel Camba, which was a super cool place. It was so pretty, with most of it outside of our room in the open air. There were two beds in the room, which was awesome, because I got to jump from one to the other over and over again.

Woo Hoo!

Woo Hoo!

We went out exploring for the afternoon, and saw more people than I think I’ve seen since we left on our Adventure. We walked to the Zocalo, which is the center of Oaxaca. Beautiful trees, a couple of big old churches and TONS of restaurants. I couldn’t take a single step without snagging a whiff of something delicious. We stopped for lunch and I got to taste pretty much everything. Then I took in the sights while Jason got his boots shined. It felt like it took forever, but he was all smiles when it was done. I wish I could tell you what Oaxaca was like at night, but I got left in the hotel while My Family went out for dinner. Now THAT really did feel like forever. They left the TV on for me, but that didn’t really help pass the time all that much. I mean, even I don’t want to watch bad American movies overdubbed into Spanish.

Getting Jason's boots shined felt like it took forever.

Getting Jason’s boots shined felt like it took forever.

We left Oaxaca in the morning, stopped a couple of times to do some shopping and then settled back in at Overlander Oasis to get ready for Christmas. Calvin and Leanne were expecting a bunch of people, and My Family was going to cook some of their favorite dishes to contribute. Jason was basically in charge of the scalloped potatoes, while Victoria was taking the lead on Sticky Toffee Pudding. I could smell that they were a bit nervous, just wanting it to come out well. But once all the cooking really got started, I knew they had nothing to worry about. Besides, if nobody liked it I’d be more than happy to eat the leftovers! Leanne and Calvin had us over for breakfast, and even gave My Family a present. There was a new toy in it for me, too! It’s this really cool anteater, with all sorts of great pokey bits that are perfect for chewing on. And the squeaky inside is good and loud. Yep, perfect present.

I haven't gotten presents at any of our other campsites.  Thanks, Overlander Oasis!

I haven’t gotten presents at any of our other campsites. Thanks, Overlander Oasis!

Once Calvin got the Turkey in the oven the smells were just about enough to drive me crazy. It was so much fun, though. I got to hang around while everyone cooked in the kitchen, and once Calvin and Leanne’s guests started arriving the table filled with a truly special dinner. And then: treachery. Jason put me in the camper. I wasn’t getting a spot at the table?! Unthinkable! And yet that’s how it went down. I didn’t get to come out again until dessert. Okay, I guess I can be a bit of a pain sometimes when dinner’s happening. But can I help it if people naturally want to give me treats when I look at them? After all, I’m pretty darn cute.

Goodbye, Morena!  I hope we get to see each other again soon!

Goodbye, Morena! I hope we get to see each other again soon!

As Christmas came to an end, I knew we were soon going to be leaving El Tule. Jason was getting antsy to hit the road again, and Victoria was thinking about trying to get back to the warmth of the beach. They might have been ready to go, but I sure wasn’t! This place was pretty much heaven. There’s not much more a dog could ask for than Overlander Oasis and El Tule, Mexico. We had spent so long here that I was beginning to hope this was the end of the Adventure, and that maybe we could just stay. But if there’s one thing I’m getting used to on this trip, it’s change. As long as My Family is there, I don’t mind where we go. That was even more clear to me during the holidays. We saw so many dogs without families, not just here but all over Mexico. They don’t have anywhere to go during special occasions, and don’t have anyone to share treats from the table with them. I’ve got a blog, a big truck to ride in, a comfy camper with a bed to sleep in, and two humans that love me lots. I’m really one lucky dog.

 PS: My Family has a bunch of photos on Facebook, you can find them here, here and here!

05
Jan 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

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