Category Archives: Mainland

Mexico 2.0: Neli’s Trailer Park Adventure

Me and Jason watching the sunset in Kino Viejo.

Me and Jason watching the sunset in Kino Viejo.

Now that Victoria and Jason had decided to skip the ferry ride to the Baja and drive north through the mainland instead, we had a LOT of ground to cover. In case you don’t have one of those map thingeys, Mexico is like, really big. Even after all this time spent in a very cool country, we still hadn’t seen the whole top half! Though driving days are a snooze, I was kind of excited to check out all this new territory.

We had a quick breakfast, packed up and left the Pemex Inn in the rearview. Our first stop was to be a town called Guaymas, and it looked like it was going to be quite a drive. To my dismay, the beach was nowhere to be found, and I started to wonder if I would ever see it again. We spent hours driving through farms covered in carpets of bright green, followed by deserts dotted by scraggly cactus, twisting roots and tiny, red and purple flowers. When we finally got to Guaymas, Victoria and Jason looked around in dismay. Giant RV park after giant RV park, and not much to see as far as nature is concerned. We still had loads of daylight left, so My Family decided to drive on. A bit further down the road I caught sight of the water. We were headed back to the beach after all! We drove through a really pretty town on a hill called San Carlos, wound our way along the coast and finally found a place to set up. Totonaka RV Park was HUGE, filled with hundreds of humans and tons of us dogs. We settled in next to a cement patio and got all set up. It wasn’t right on the beach, but I could smell the ocean on the air. An improvement.

RV Park life: not very adventurous...

RV Park life: not very adventurous…

We spent several days here, and I wish I had exciting stories to share with you about that time. But I don’t. We recharged our batteries, Jason worked, Victoria read and enjoyed the sun, and Maya and I were stuck on leash. Yep, one VERY big problem with these trailer parks is the leash law. There’s no frolicking allowed for the dogs. People get to do basically whatever they want, and we basically have to sit there and watch the fun. We did get to go on some walks, and taste some of the delicious fish one of our neighbors gave Jason to cook, but otherwise the hours slipped into days that felt basically the same. We had one sort of fun night, hanging out with the nice human couple from Alaska named Chris and Jessie. Alaska is way far in the north, and they told us a how in the middle of winter it never gets light, and in the middle of summer it almost never gets dark. How crazy is that? The dark time I could do without, but a whole day of sunlight to play in? I thought it would be paradise, but after overhearing them talking about the temperature up there, I decided maybe I wouldn’t like it that much after all. Maya tried to snag the caribou jerky they brought over, so they were just fine in her book.

We left Totonaka and kept heading north, through more hours of farms and desert. I don’t understand how so much green stuff can grow out here! I guess the Mexican people are pretty good farmers. We turned off the highway and found our next destination a town called Kino Viejo. The town itself was kind of sad, quiet, and mostly empty except for the loads of sad dogs that looked like they could very much use a big meal and a comfy bed to snuggle up on. This trailer park, however, was super cool. Islandia RV was small and sandy, not covered in gravel and cement, and Jason pulled us up in a spot right on the beach. Finally, back in my happy place! Every human we met there was so nice, and the dogs were pretty cool too. After unpacking, the leashes were finally taken away, and Maya and I were free to dash about.

Finally, a beach to run on!  What more does a dog need?

Finally, a beach to run on! What more does a dog need?

Although it wasn’t planned, My Family decided to spend a couple of nights here. We had a great spot, with a palapa to shade ourselves under and a clear view of the beautiful water. There were shells everywhere, and My Family wandered the beach, picking out some of the best to keep for souvenirs. Maya LOVES shells too. She doesn’t seem to care what they look like, as long as they smell tasty. Jason wasn’t too thrilled with this development, and spent hours dragging shells out away from Maya’s seeking tongue. Other than that, Bahia Kino was super cool. Long days, really pretty sunsets, and very nice snowbirds (still without feathers). I don’t really understand why some snowbirds stay in their giant RV’s all day long (like in Mazatlan), while others sit out, go for rides, play games with their neighbors and have fun parties filled with music and delicious smelling food. I guess these snowbird creatures are just as varied as us dogs. Like how I’m not afraid of anything, and Maya runs away from plastic bags?

Seems like My Family's favorite thing to do is watch the sun go down and drink alcoholic beverages.  They never share...

Seems like My Family’s favorite thing to do is watch the sun go down and drink alcoholic beverages. They never share…

I was sad to leave Islandia, but after a couple of days we had to keep moving north. The next leg of our Adventure entailed hours and hours (AND HOURS) of driving through the desert. Northern Mexico is very pretty, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck out there without My Family! The road was also getting pretty treacherous. Jason had to speed up and slow down all the time, swerving from one side of the road to another to avoid the potholes. There was one stretch I thought would never end, and Maya was getting seriously green. She wouldn’t lay down, but just stood in the back seat, head lowered, tongue lolling across the towel she lays on. Not a happy camper on this day. When we got to Puerto Penasco, My Family was less than enthusiastic. Yet ANOTHER giant RV park, made all of gravel, filled with giant vehicles. This one at least was on the beach, but that didn’t seem to comfort Victoria or Jason at all. Apparently, the internet was bad and you had to pay extra to take a shower. Given how My Family was smelling these days, I really hoped they could come up with the extra cash.

Shelly beach.  Not great for running on...

Shelly beach. Not great for running on…

… but I managed just fine :)

… but I managed just fine :)

We spent a few days at the Playa de Oro RV park, and Maya and I were again relegated to our leashes. Jason complained that the view was particularly uninspiring, while Victoria was grumpy about everyone speaking English and paying in American dollars. I guess this Mexican town isn’t that Mexican? Victoria found out that where we were now was only a two-hour drive from the United States border, so all these people from the state of Arizona come down for long weekends. Quite a change from all the great Adventurers we had been meeting, who were all off on long country-crossing trips. I didn’t mind them that much. Everyone was pretty nice to me, and these folks do a lot of grilling! We weren’t going to stay long enough to make any friends, though. Victoria and Jason were eager to set off again. We were now the most northern we had been since first entering Mexico (more than fifteen months ago!), and had almost finished our crossing of the top half of the country. Our next drive would take us back onto the Baja, and what I hoped would be an endless array of empty beaches, ready and waiting for my paws. The trailer parks we had been staying in weren’t bad. We always met nice people, and had comfy places to sit. However, it’s not much of an Adventure. Hey, after all the places we’ve seen, I’ve got high standards! And back at the very beginning of our journey through Mexico, the Baja sure delivered.

PS: To see My Family’s photos from our time in the RV Parks, head over to Facebook.

09
Feb 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

San Pancho, Mazatlan & the Pemex Inn

Me in my happy place!

Me in my happy place!

I woke up to groaning and whining the morning we were set to leave San Miguel de Allende, and for once these pitiful sounds weren’t coming from Maya. Jason and Victoria were in pretty poor shape. As often happened in San Miguel, My Family spent their last night in town out all night with friends, and they weren’t hopping out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Although it seemed like there was more going on than just too many cervezas at the karaoke bar: Jason was sniffing and sneezing at an alarming rate, and Victoria’s right eye was puffing out of her face. Fantastic. So not only were we set to leave, but I had two sick humans on my hands! This didn’t bode well.

Sure enough, it took them AGES to get us going that morning. Not that I minded particularly. It just meant more time snuggled under the covers for me. Maya, however, was starting to panic. She never likes it when we pack up, and the longer it takes, the more frantic she gets. Apparently, she still thinks every stop we make is our new forever home. I keep trying to explain it to her, that the camper and the Big Truck are really our home, and all these places we go are just temporary adventures. Still not sure she gets it.

We said quick goodbyes to our campground friends before we left.  Looks like Zoe was ready to hit the road too!

We said quick goodbyes to our campground friends before we left. Looks like Zoe was ready to hit the road too!

After much more groaning, sneezing and pouting, My Family finally got us out of San Miguel de Allende. I curled up on Victoria’s lap as the cobblestone city receded in the distance. Maya flopped into her spot in the backseat, her tongue lolling out, drooling over the blanket Victoria lays down for her. Maya still doesn’t have many teeth to speak of, and that tongue just drags everywhere. It makes her look super silly, which means I have to rush in to rescue her any time tough dogs try to push her around. It’s tiring being the big sister sometimes!

San Miguel is smack dab in the center of the country of Mexico, which meant a very long drive was ahead of us. We were heading back to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, which, by the way, is the same coast that Venice is on! I overheard Victoria and Jason talking, and it didn’t sound like we were going to make it all in one day. I sensed a night at “The Pemex Inn” was ahead of us. When the goals of the adventure force us to cross a lot of ground in one day, Jason can’t always drive us to a nice campsite before it gets dark out. Since we were so late in starting out, that was doubly true this day. So instead of going out of our way to find a home for the night, we ended up stopping at a Pemex gas station. They’re all over Mexico, and Victoria was pretty choosy before we settled on one, just to the west of the big city of Guadalajara. It was packed with big trucks, and other drivers taking a snooze before continuing on their way. We settled in to the steady rumble rumble of the eighteen-wheelers and their air brakes, and snuggled up for the night.

The next day we were up bright and early, and quickly packed down. Jason’s sniffles were subsiding, and Victoria’s eye was already looking better. In much better spirits, My Family took off for the beach. A couple of hours later we twisted and turned our way down winding jungle roads, and ended up back in a town called Sayulita, a place we had visited over a year ago in human time. Man, was it busy! It seemed like every inch of space was taken up by restaurants and shops, packed with vacationers. There was literally no space in the campground there, so we set off to check out some other towns in the area. I didn’t really mind where we ended up, as long as it involved days of running on the beach. Maya, on the other hand, was getting seriously fidgety. She really doesn’t like the driving days.

One of the many dogs in our campground.

One of the many dogs in our campground.

We saw a bunch of other towns, but finally settled on a place with two names. San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) is a smaller town just north of Sayulita. We found a super cool campsite right on the beach and quickly got the camper set up. Then it was off to explore! Maya and I said hello to the many camp dogs, and spent the rest of the afternoon with Victoria and Jason in this super cool little town. We stopped for fish tacos (delicious), and watched the sun set at a restaurant on the beach (chilly). After weeks and weeks of being left at home in the big city, it felt fantastic to stretch my paws out and sniff around a bit.

The beach in San Pancho was perfect for running around1

The beach in San Pancho was perfect for running around1

We spent a whole week in San Pancho, and it was the best kind of fun. I’ve loved most of the stops on my Big Adventure, but nothing beats the small beach towns. San Pancho was much smaller and quieter than Sayulita, which meant almost every day Maya and I got to run on the sand off leash. I spent hours tearing around, sniffing other dogs, snapping at the waves and pouncing on Maya as we chased each other across the beach. It was sunny and hot every day, which was awesome after so many days spent shivering up in the mountains. And the campsite was so cool!

These two camp dogs were super fun to play with, even Maya liked them!

These two camp dogs were super fun to play with, even Maya liked them!

Most of the neighbors were from Mexico, and there was always something going on. There was a family that lived next to us in a couple of campers, and they were always playing music. There were guitars, violins, flutes and drums, as well as juggling and fire dancing at night. Victoria said they were ‘gypsies’, but I don’t really know what that means. Their little girl was super nice to me, always stopping by to say hello and pet me, and tossing me treats to eat when Jason wasn’t looking. Even Maya seemed to really settle into a routine here. There were tons of dogs around, which usually makes her very nervous. But they were all so sweet, and since the campsite was closed in we got to wander around off leash all the time. Basically, you’re talking the perfect doggie life here!

We did have one very strange experience in this sleepy beach town. One day, a nice Canadian couple rolled into the campsite. Jason helped them park and get set up, they chatted for a few minutes, and then we went on with our day. In the evening, a couple of their friends showed up, and everyone was pretty noisy. One of their friends had three dogs with him, and the camp dogs were NOT HAPPY. There was lots of barking and growling, which was pretty strange, because the local dogs accepted Maya and I with no problems. Eventually they all went out together, so we thought the problems were over. My Family settled in for dinner, and then got snuggled up nice and early.

It was pretty late when barking and screaming woke me up. Maya launched herself at our window, and was snarling and yelling until Victoria got her under control. But she wasn’t the cause of the noise. The Canadians were back, along with their friend who had the three dogs, and everyone was shouting. Moments later, the owner of the campsite showed up, and he was shouting and pushing the dogs’ owner. We all peered out the window, watching the chaos. The owner had a machete, and he was swinging it in the air! Every single dog in camp was barking, as two men pushed each other in the dirt. Finally, the scary man with his dogs went away, and I tried to curl back under the covers. Victoria and Jason, however, were wide awake.

Me and Krista just hanging out!

Me and Krista just hanging out!

Luckily, that was the only unwelcome excitement we had. Two days later, there was a much more welcome surprise: our friend Rufus and his family showed up at the campsite! We hadn’t seen these guys since our first weeks in San Miguel, so it was pretty cool to be reunited again. And unlike in San Miguel, all us dogs were allowed to run around off leash here. It was so great getting to really play with Rufus for once, instead of being all leashed up. We had one fantastic day together, watching the sun set on the beach, and then hanging out outside with a campfire. I wish these days would just go on forever.

Rufus!

Rufus!

Unfortunately, we had to pack up and hit the road the next day. Victoria and Jason had been talking about our next move, and I overheard that they wanted to get back to the Baja peninsula, which was our very first stop in Mexico. To do that, we had to head further north, to a town called Mazatlan, where a ferry would take us across the water. So we packed up again, said goodbye to our friend Rufus (and My Family’s friends Krista and Paul), and got back onto the highway.

After looking over our maps, My Family decided to check out a little peninsula on our way north. It sounded super pretty, so we veered off the highway and into a thin stretch of road surrounded by endless farmland. There were several campsites towards the bottom of this peninsula, but most of them were closed down. I guess there aren’t that many adventurers that come over here? Anyway, after a super long drive we finally found a nice park right on the water’s edge where we could spend the night. There were several other campers here, most of them in vehicles much larger than ours. Victoria called them ‘snowbirds’, even though none of them had wings, or a single feather I could see. Everyone was pretty tired after a long drive, so we snuggled up early and went to bed.

The next morning, My Family had us up even before the sun. It was very cold out, and everything was soaking wet with sea water. Jason packed up the camper, and we left right as the sun was rising. It was very cold, with a thick layer of soupy fog hanging over everything, but My Family thought it was really pretty. I spent the whole morning curled up on Victoria’s lap, and it didn’t really warm up until we pulled into Mazatlan.

Sunrise on the peninsula was worth getting up for.

Sunrise on the peninsula was worth getting up for.

Mazatlan is a HUGE city, like even bigger than San Miguel. Yet they are nothing alike. Here there were huge buildings, fishing boats, and literally TONS of those big campers and the snowbird creatures Victoria talked about. We found a campsite near the beach and got situated. This was nothing like the dirty lot filled with gypsies we had visited in San Pancho. There were huge campers everywhere, and each spot had a cement patio to lay out on. It’s called an RV park, and it’s sort of a strange place. There were other dogs, but they had to be on leash all the time, and most of them spent their days inside. We spent about a week in this RV park in Mazatlan, and there’s not much I can say about it. I didn’t mind the slow pace. I spent most of the time laying out in the sun, and did get a couple of beach runs in. Maya, on the other hand, was seriously bored. We couldn’t be off leash at all, which meant very little play time. And when you’re a puppy, play time is crucial. Victoria and Jason had an okay time, and did meet a couple of other nice travelers having our sort of Adventure. Yet it wasn’t particularly adventurous, OR fun in this busy city. My Family did enjoy a couple of nice sunsets and meals, but I got the feeling we were here by necessity, not really because we wanted to be.

Life in an RV park is pretty boring. Sigh.

Life in an RV park is pretty boring. Sigh.

I found that to be true when I overheard that the ferry to the Baja was the only reason we were here at all! And what’s worse, we couldn’t get on the boat! Now don’t get me wrong, I had no problem delaying this ferry ride. If you remember our last one, it wasn’t much fun. It was cold and dirty, and the heaving of the waves made me mildly nauseous. I knew it would be much worse for Maya, who doesn’t understand much of anything, let alone what a boat was like. Jason and Victoria kept trying to get us lined up for the ferry, but there was no room on a ship for another ten days. Neither of them wanted to spend that much longer in Mazatlan, so after much debate it was decided we would drive. How is that possible? Apparently, you can drive up through Northern Mexico and around onto the Baja, instead of taking a boat across the water. It would take much longer, but it would also give us the opportunity to explore a whole new part of the country that we wouldn’t get to see any other way.

With that decision made, we swiftly packed up and hit the road. Maya wasn’t thrilled to be back in the car. I tried to explain to her how much better this was than the boat, but the last time she had been on a boat was when she was a little baby, back on Lake Atitlan. She can’t remember that far back. Anyway, we had a super long day driving north, and weren’t able to make it to our next campsite. Yep, that meant another night at The Pemex Inn.

Nary a grain of sand to be seen...

Nary a grain of sand to be seen…

I have to say, I felt a little bit annoyed. I had been promised a return to the beach, but I only got one week in that awesome San Pancho place. Since then it’s been nothing but loud nights in gas stations and long days on leash in the gravel and dirt parking lots of RV parks. It is sunny and warm, but where are my fish taco tastes? Where are my daily beach runs? Where are the other dogs to play with? I sure hope things improve as we make our way north to points unknown…

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took in San Pancho and the Mazatlan area, CLICK HERE.

28
Jan 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION No Comments

San Miguel de Allende: Food, Folks & Feliz Navidad!

Me and Jason hanging out on our balcony in San Miguel.

Me and Jason hanging out on our balcony in San Miguel.

Driving days are rarely interesting days. I curl up tightly on Victoria’s lap and try to snooze through as many of the bounces and jounces as possible, sneering at Maya’s drooly face every time she tries to force her way into the front seat. While the drive from El Tule to San Miguel de Allende, our next destination (and one of My Family’s favorite spots), was no exception, it was one of the LONGEST driving days I’ve ever survived. Nothing went wrong; we arrived in one piece and none the worse for wear. However, the drive took us TEN WHOLE HOURS! That’s an awfully long time. Somewhere in the middle Maya started protesting, turning herself around and staring at the back, perched precariously on the middle armrest. Around hour nine, Jason started to get seriously punchy, laughing at things that weren’t funny, leaning forward in his seat, gripping the wheel with white knuckles and asking Victoria “how much longer?” every few minutes. By the time we pulled into the tennis courts/RV park in San Miguel where we were going to stay, Jason couldn’t walk in a straight line! 

Me and Mike, one half of my new friend Ducati's Human Family.

Me and Mike, one half of my new friend Ducati’s Human Family.

Thankfully, I immediately met some cool dogs to take my mind off the mind-numbingly boring day I just experienced. Ducati is a Chihuahua like me, but a bit tougher; he’s riding a motorcycle along with his Family, Shannon and Mike. They plan on driving all the way around the world! We also met a big, black, furry bundle of excitement named Rufus, and his Family, Krista and Paul. They have a camper that comes in two parts, and are exploring Mexico in advance of a longer trip next time around. Maya was too on edge to have much fun with these guys, but after spending so long with Morena as my only company, it was great to meet some new friends! My Family was pretty exhausted, so we tucked in early before seeing much of San Miguel.

Ducati, Maya and I waiting for treats. Our Humans love making us sit and wait and wait and wait...

Ducati, Maya and I waiting for treats. Our Humans love making us sit and wait and wait and wait…

The next few days were not the best of reintroductions to this beautiful city. First of all, Victoria’s ankle was still the size of a small balloon, so she wasn’t exactly in the mood to take us on long walks through town. Secondly, San Miguel was COLD! It’s up in the mountains, which means the nights and early mornings are seriously chilly. Luckily I had my trusty hoody, but I still spent way too much time shivering. Maya doesn’t seem to feel it, but Maya doesn’t notice much of anything, even now. I wonder if she’s ever going to get any smarter. She doesn’t even understand what a blog is! Sheesh! To make matters worse, Maya barked at a man who lost his tennis ball in our campsite, and the next morning the owner came by and told us she was too aggressive, and if she barked at anyone else we would have to leave! Anyone who has met Maya knows she’s the farthest thing from aggressive, though she does have quite the big dog bark. My Family immediately went into Panic Mode. Leave the RV park? What would we do? I overheard them mentioning we were going to have visitors (YES!), so we couldn’t just move on from San Miguel. Since Victoria’s ankle was keeping her pretty immobile, Jason went on the hunt through town to find us a place to live.

Holy Brrrr, Batman!  Lucky for me, I have my rad hoodie to keep me warm.

Holy Brrrr, Batman! Lucky for me, I have my rad hoodie to keep me warm.

It didn’t take very long. Even though San Miguel was very busy with the holidays swiftly approaching, Jason found us an apartment just a couple of blocks away. The owners had no problem with us dogs, and the apartment was right over a restaurant, guaranteeing delicious smells all day long! Jason spent hours unloading the camper and moving our stuff, and soon enough we had moved the camper into a parking spot and relocated into our home away from home for the next six weeks. I was sad to be leaving the nice dogs behind, but at least I no longer had to defend Maya from the grumpy tennis players. I mean, you’re hitting a ball into our campsite? What self-respecting dog wouldn’t bark at that?

Super scary, right?

Super scary, right?

The apartment was super sweet. It had two comfy beds to lay on, a TON of sunny spots, and a nice little balcony I could lay on as much as I wanted. Maya soon learned to jump from bed to bed, and even though the room was small by human standards, us dogs had tons of room to chase toys and wrestle. Not too shabby, if you ask me. The only negative of the apartment situation was it made leaving us dogs behind at home super easy for Jason and Victoria. That meant many nights home alone, while they went out exploring. I heard about trips to get tacos, eat chicken wings, sing karaoke, and chow down on churros in the main square. We didn’t get tastes of anything! I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. How many other dogs get to have an adventure like this? Yet when you’re used to going everywhere with your humans, it made for a couple of incredibly grumpy nights.

Me and Sarah.  We're pretty cute in our matching hoodies, dont'cha think?

Me and Sarah. We’re pretty cute in our matching hoodies, dont’cha think?

Thankfully, the grumpiness didn’t last long. Our good friends Shae and Olivia (and their humans Sarah and Hani) appeared in San Miguel! I found out they were going to stay in town the whole time we were there too!! Maya and I met Shae and Olivia in Costa Rica, but we only got to spend one day with them. I was super excited when we ended up having many more days together, with all of us dogs hanging out in one of our Family’s apartments, wandering the cobblestone streets (as Victoria’s ankle started feeling better) and even sitting in outdoor restaurants. It was a regular doggie party!

My friend Shae.  She's a poodle but we don't hold that against her.

My friend Shae. She’s a poodle but we don’t hold that against her.

The party continued with a super fun holiday: Thanksgiving. In case you haven’t heard of it, Thanksgiving is a Human holiday (though I guess only celebrated by Humans from the United States? Not sure I understand that part…), that involves getting together with friends and family and eating until you fall asleep. Basically, it’s your perfect holiday. We all got together at Sarah and Hani’s apartment, and huddled around the Humans’ feet as they cooked a massive meal. Chicken, potatoes, veggies, and even a pie for dessert! The smells were wrapping around my tiny heart, and Maya was dancing from paw to paw, staring up in anticipation at Jason and Sarah as they cooked. The Humans laughed, ate and drank the night away, making sure to give us dogs many a delicious treat. What a great day!

Cobblestone streets.  Easier on the paws than you'd think.

Cobblestone streets. Easier on the paws than you’d think.

After that, My Family fell into a nice routine. Shopping in the farmer’s market, wandering the gorgeous central district, hanging on the patio while Jason worked, and nights out with friends. The apartment was nice and comfy warm, even at night, and Maya and I had no shortage of playtime. Jason would also take us on long walks on the street and in the big park nearby. I felt right at home in this busy city, but Maya was a bit less enthusiastic. She never lived in Venice, and doesn’t really understand cities that well. I’d walk on leash all day long, but Maya darts around, afraid of every loud noise or person that walks by. It’s pretty exhausting. I’m hoping that she mellows out with more time in the city, but she might just be a country dog at heart. She doesn’t know any different, after all.

Even the walls in SMA are pretty cool.

Even the walls in SMA are pretty cool.

One day Jason came home from the supermarket with a huge box: it was a tree! Apparently there were more Human holidays coming. Christmas was just around the corner, and My Family decorated the apartment with all sorts of cool stuff. The tree sat in the corner, covered in lights and balls and what looked very much like doggie toys. Maya thought the same, and kept trying to chew the tree apart. This tree wasn’t for eating or peeing on, however. Victoria said presents were going to go under it, and some of them were going to be for me! After I heard that I made sure Maya left the tree alone.

Me and Maya in front of the tree.  See all those presents, the pile got A LOT bigger once Lorna and David showed up!

Me and Maya in front of the tree. See all those presents? The pile got A LOT bigger once Lorna and David showed up!

Have you heard of Christmas? I’ve had a few of those, but it was brand new for Maya. It’s another holiday when Humans get together and cook delicious food, but there’s also something about a fat Human in a furry outfit flying through the sky and dropping presents for children down chimneys. I don’t know, it sounds sort of sketchy to me. I was starting to get seriously excited, but we still had a ways to go before ripping into those presents. And I’d have to deal with another change first.

My Family woke up very early one morning, and stood outside in the freezing cold with a couple of bags. Before I knew what was happening, Jason was getting into a van and saying goodbye. It was another business trip! I mean, COME ON! He just went to LA! Now he was leaving again? I’m used to it by now, but Maya was aghast. To make matters worse, Victoria wasn’t feeling well at all. I could smell it on her, and I knew it was one of those times when my licks wouldn’t make any difference. It’s called ‘The Flew’, and Humans get it all the time in cold weather. As Jason was leaving I could tell he felt really bad for Victoria, but Humans have to work so us dogs have food and a comfy home. So off he went, and in bed Victoria stayed. Sarah and Hani brought Victoria fresh juice and pizza, and helped get Maya and I out of the house every once in a while. But those were some slow days. Maya protested Jason’s absence too, spending a whole night sleeping in the shower. What a strange puppy.

Look at these little doors, almost like they were meant just for me!

Look at these little doors, almost like they were meant just for me!

Thankfully, this business trip was much shorter than the last one. Jason was back in just a couple of days, happy to escape the gloomy New York City weather and return to his favorite people and pups. Victoria got better, and we were soon back into our routine. The Humans worked, read, cooked, shopped and explored the city; us dogs snoozed in the sun, wrestled, chewed on toys, went for walks and snagged delicious treats. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for more. As Christmas got closer, San Miguel got busier, and fireworks were a regular occurrence. Maya HATES fireworks, so I had to babysit her a lot, snuggling up so she felt protected. She even hid under the bed sometimes! I don’t know why she’s so scared; loud noises can’t hurt you. Luckily, our visitors came soon after.

Another thing Maya is scared of?  The hot air balloons that floated over our balcony every day.

Another thing Maya is scared of? The hot air balloons that floated over our balcony every day.

It was Lorna and David, Victoria’s parents (aka, My Favorites)! I could barely contain my excitement when they walked through the door. This was only the second time Maya had met them, and she didn’t remember how awesome they are. It took a little bit of time for her to get comfortable, but once she did, we just had the best time. They were staying in a house not too far from ours, so we saw them all the time! They would come over for breakfast, and then we’d all go wandering the city. Lorna and David loved San Miguel, the colors, the art, the beautiful sunsets and the delicious food. Christmas finally came, and oh my gosh, it was so much fun! Millions of presents were piled under our little tree, and Maya and I got to open a bunch of them! We got new toys and delicious treats that look like snowflakes, and had so much fun ripping into the paper. The Humans got some stuff too, and though they weren’t all things you could eat or toss around with your teeth, they all seemed happy. In the afternoon we all went over to Sarah and Hani’s place and had another one of those huge, delicious meals. This one even involved bacon, so Maya and I could barely contain ourselves. We got to try all sorts of stuff, and had a bunch of fun playing with Shae and Olivia. I’m not sure life gets any better than this.

Maya L O V E D opening all our presents! Thank you Lorna and David! xo xo

Maya L O V E D opening all our presents! Thank you Lorna and David! xo xo

Chillin' on the couch with Hani after we all ate way too much delicious food.  I love Christmas :-)

Chillin’ on the couch with Hani after we all ate way too much delicious food. I love Christmas :-)

Of course, then it did. Our friend Heather showed up that night! Heather’s from Venice, but she had come to visit us in Costa Rica as well. The next few days were a whirlwind. We had Lorna and David in town, and I squeezed every last moment of snuggle time with them I could possibly get. They left, but Heather was still here and before I knew it, My Family’s friend Angie came in too! On top of that, we met these cool people named James and Lauren, fellow travelers staying at the RV park (who didn’t have a dog at that point but they do now!), and another traveler named Kelly who had a dog named Zoey. So many fun people, and they all loved me!

It all came together on New Year’s Eve, maybe one of the coolest nights of my whole life. There was a big party at Sarah and Hani’s, and everyone was invited, including us dogs. A big meal, and there were five of us dogs there, along with more than a dozen people. It was the best kind of nuttiness you could imagine. San Miguel was lit up as bright as daytime and jam-packed with people. Music, fireworks, and more smells than my nose could even keep up with. Maya wasn’t thrilled with the busy atmosphere, so Jason took us home before things got too crazy. I still got to take part in the best of these Human holidays, celebrating with some of the nicest folks we had ever met. What a lucky dog!

All of us at the New Year's Eve party (umm… before we got sent home).

All of us at the New Year’s Eve party (umm… before we got sent home).

So now it’s 2015, which is a whole new year in Human time. We left on my Big Adventure in October of 2013, so we’ve now been exploring this beautiful world in the Big Camper for well over a year. Pretty amazing. We’ve had some ups and downs, but what an amazing journey it has been. I’m not nearly the same dog I was when we left Venice way back then. Our family has expanded, we’ve got tons of new friends, and I’ve seen more places than most pups get to visit in a lifetime. Pretty incredible.

A few days after the New Year we said goodbye to our friends and this incredible city. We spent almost two months in San Miguel de Allende, but really it felt like two minutes. I overheard My Family saying they could easily live here, and though I prefer the warmth of the beaches, I definitely understand why they feel that way. We had an amazing time, and everyone was a little bit sad to be leaving. However, the beaches were calling our names. After three months in mountain towns, it was time to hit the coast. I couldn’t wait!

PS: To see some of the the photos My Family took (and more pics of me!) click here!

19
Jan 2015
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 8 Comments

El Tule and LA

Did you miss me? Don't worry, I'm back :)

Did you miss me? Don’t worry, I’m back :)

Phew! This holiday season has been something pretty special! I’ve been so busy hanging out with friends, family and other travelers (oh, yeah, and Maya too) that I haven’t had a chance to blog in a really long time! Okay, maybe I’ve gotten a little bit lazy, since we made it up into the mountains and the weather turned cold. But I’ve got a job to do, and I’m going to do it! So after much delay, here’s what happened when we left Playa Zipolite.

We packed up to leave the beach pretty early in the day, as My Family had been warned this was going to be a super long, super twisty drive. Although it was both of those things, it wasn’t so bad for us. Maya thankfully didn’t get carsick much at all, even with the curvy mountains Jason had to navigate. We didn’t get into Oaxaca until late afternoon, and following a couple of stops for groceries and odds and ends, we arrived at Overlander Oasis.

Snaggletooth. Some humans call her Morena.

Snaggletooth. Some humans call her Morena.

We were immediately greeted by our friend Morena, and her human family Leanne and Calvin. It had been almost a full year since we last saw them, so I was super excited. Morena remembered me immediately, and of course deferred to my awesome presence right away. Maya, on the other hand, was another story. As you probably know by now, Maya is afraid of everything, and Morena was no exception. Morena’s a super nice dog, but we were coming into her territory, and she definitely made that known to Maya right away. It took a bit of time before they were able to get along, and more than a couple of incidents of terrified peeing on Maya’s part. I don’t really get it, but I suppose she’s still kind of a baby. I showed her that Morena was nice, and was more than happy to share her toys and lap time with her humans. I did end up having to get between them a couple of times. I mean, I’m allowed to terrorize Maya. She’s my sister. Other dogs have to get in line.

It was awesome to see our old friends, but there were plenty of new friends to meet as well. Overlander Oasis has become something of a destination for travelers like us, as Leanne and Calvin are super nice and have a really pretty campground. For dogs like us it’s amazing, because we get to explore off leash the entire time. Well, as long as we don’t venture into the cats’ territory; that’s when we get yelled at. Otherwise, our time at the OO is filled with running around, playing with toys, and meeting all sorts of wonderful people from all around the world.

Me and Joe hanging out in the sun together.

Me and Joe hanging out in the sun together.

First there was Joe, a nice man in a huge camper from Europe (that’s a whole other continent by the way, across a HUGE ocean). He gave us treats when we did tricks, and didn’t mind if I shared his sunny spot when he was laying out on his lounge chair. Then there was Jon and Alyssa, a couple from Seattle who were staying in the casita. They liked to cook delicious food and share stories about all of their traveling adventures. I also got to hang out with Robbie and Kristen, a couple from Canada who were in the middle of a long trip, planning to drive all the way to the bottom of South America. Robbie might be the tallest human I’ve ever met, and one of the nicest too.

Me helping Alyssa with her video-editing.

Me helping Alyssa with her video-editing.

Because Robbie is the Tallest Human Ever his lap is extra large.

Because Robbie is the Tallest Human Ever his lap is extra large.

The campground continued to fill up with people, more travelers in one place than I think I’ve ever seen. We met Ryan and Kathi, a couple of tent campers who had left from Vancouver, Colin and Aeurlie, truck campers from Quebec, and Katrin, a super nice French lady in a Sprinter van. At this point, there were fourteen humans staying in the OO (including mine), and the days were packed with activity. Best of all? EVERYONE really loved me. They seemed to like Maya too, but she doesn’t get the quality lap time that I do. The whole group of humans went out in El Tule that night, and though I didn’t get to go with them, the delicious aroma of hamburgers followed them back home, so it must have been a good time.

Kathi and me sharing a beer.  Overlanders like beer.  A lot.

Kathi and me sharing a beer. Overlanders like beer. A lot.

The next day was Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. That means ‘Day of the Dead’, and although it sounds kind of scary, it’s actually a super fun holiday. I thought it was their version of Halloween, and although it does share some of the same characteristics, it seems to be much deeper than that. Leanne set up an altar on the campground, and placed pictures of her older relatives on it. Victoria shared her photo of her grandmother too. I guess it’s a holiday where you celebrate your favorite older relatives that aren’t around any more. The humans light candles, drink mezcal, play music and tell tales. It’s pretty cool. All the humans went into Oaxaca for the night to celebrate the holiday, and we didn’t get to go. So while they were off, probably having an incredible time, I was stuck in the camper, watching Maya cringe every time a firework blasted off. Yep, good times. I know I have it good, but sometimes I wish I was a human so I could do some of these things.

Our street in El Tule. Not many cars so it's perfect for running around on.

Our street in El Tule. Not many cars so it’s perfect for running around on.

The next morning My Family was up early packing two backpacks full of gear. This was super confusing. We just got here, and by the look of things Jason wasn’t packing up the camper. What’s the deal? Soon I figured it out, and my tail wilted: Jason was going on a trip, WITHOUT US! He smelled nervous, and Vic was certainly a bit sad. They drove off with Leanne, and then when they came back without Jason, Maya was super confused. I knew the deal, because Jason’s had to go on trips before. I’ve even been left in a doggie hotel while my whole Family went away somewhere. For Maya this was all new territory. In fact, I don’t think she’s been away from Jason for more than three or four hours in her entire life. Victoria had a bunch of fun that afternoon, meeting another super nice couple that arrived named Heather and Dan, and checking out the town cemetery for the end of Dia de los Muertos. For Maya, that night was a disaster. She stayed up literally until sunrise, crying and staring at the door.

Me and Lord Dan.  Don't tell anyone but he was my favorite out of all the campers at the O.O.

Me and Lord Dan. Don’t tell anyone but he was my favorite out of all the campers at the O.O.

I don’t think any of us slept. I tried to console her, assuring her that he would be back, but she just didn’t understand it. It’s hard to be a puppy sometimes.

The next day, some of the travelers left for southern destinations, but a couple more arrived, nice people named Brendan and Bridget. I got more attention, and Maya and Morena started to really get along. Yet I could tell she was still panicked about Jason’s disappearance. Luckily, the time while he was gone passed pretty quickly. Maya still panicked at night (even chomping on a pile of receipts in the camper), but started calming down and sleeping more. Victoria hung out with the other campers, one of which had a dog that helped us turn the OO into a canine party palace. A vet came by and treated Maya, telling Victoria that Maya would never get teeth because she didn’t get enough nutrition when she was a little baby. How sad is that? I ran around, stealing toys from Morena while Victoria and Leanne bought fabric to make a new garland for the camper. The days were warm and sunny, the nights late and filled with human games and laughter. Other than the fact that Jason wasn’t there and one time Maya peed an ocean inside the camper, life was pretty good.

Maya, the Toothless Wonder.

Maya, the Toothless Wonder.

One morning, the day I knew would come finally arrived, as Jason strolled back into the campground! He looked super tired, but really happy to see us. The whole family went crazy. Maya and I slathered Jason with kisses before he could even get to Victoria. Maya’s tail was wagging so hard I wondered if it would fall off. He was gone for ten human days, which of course felt like MONTHS to Maya and I. Jason dropped off his gear and we all hung out. Apparently, Jason had to go back to Los Angeles for work, so that’s why he left us behind. He also got to see a bunch of his friends, so we all looked at pictures and heard the latest from our old home in Venice Beach. Maya leapt up into his lap and refused to move for hours, even while Jason tried to meet all the new campers he had missed while back in the United States.

We spent another week at Overlander Oasis, and now the My Family was back together it was absolutely perfect. Maya and Morena were pals, and the days were filled with exploring El Tule, watching the humans cook delicious food, and putting on our best cute faces to make sure we got tastes of everything. There was pizza, chilaquiles, parrillada (basically the best thing ever, a huge meal with every kind of meat you could imagine), tacos, tamales and one of my favorites – grilled cheese sandwiches. Although Maya and I spent almost the entire time within the walls of Overlander Oasis, we were totally content. Good food and nice people who love us? What more could you ask for?

Since I've already been to a lot of the places Heather and Dan are going to, I was a big help in helping them plan their next stop.

Since I’ve already been to a lot of the places Heather and Dan are going to, I was a big help in helping them plan their next stop.

We were all ready to pack up and go when My Family suffered a mini disaster – Victoria fell out of the camper and hurt her ankle! Everyone came running and found her in a lot of pain. I licked her face as hard and fast as I could, and though it did make her smile, it didn’t seem to help her ankle much. Luckily our new friend Heather works in a human hospital and knew what to do. We stayed for a couple more days so Victoria could get back on two feet, but finally it was time to pack up the big camper and head north. Our next stop would be San Miguel de Allende, one of our favorite cities on the entire trip, and a meeting with my friends Shae and Olivia (and their humans Hani and Sarah), who we hadn’t seen since Costa Rica. I was sad to go, but excited to see what was in store next. My Family shared hugs with Calvin, Leanne and the remaining campers, and promised to stay in touch with all of them. Morena ran around as we pulled out of the campground, clearly sad to see us go. I hope she knows how thankful we were that she shared her home with us!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took while we were in El Tule, head on over to our Facebook page!

30
Dec 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland

DISCUSSION 4 Comments

Mexico 2.0: Back in Paradise

Me and Maya in the backseat as we head to Mexico!

Me and Maya in the backseat as we head to Mexico!

If you read my last entry, you already know how super duper excited I was to return to Mexico. As we drove to the border, I could smell that My Family felt the same way. They loved their time in Guatemala, but the thought of leaving the rain behind and discovering some new parts of this beautiful country was filling the Big Truck with the taste of grand adventure. AND, I suspected there would be many taco tastes in my future. CAN’T. WAIT!

We strolled our way to the border between Guatemala and Mexico. We were crossing in a very different part of the country, so of course My Family was a bit nervous wondering how that was going to go. We rolled out of the beautiful mountains and down into a busy border town. Music was blaring, motorbikes were zigging and zagging around the truck, streets were transforming magically from two ways to one, and everyone in the car was beginning to get nervous. Thankfully, our concerns quickly flew out the window. This border crossing was amazing! As always, Maya and I got to huddle up in the air conditioning while Jason and Victoria handled all of the paperwork. It’s so fantastic that humans don’t think I can write! They were back in no time at all, with big smiles on their faces. Jason and Victoria couldn’t believe it, but this was the easiest border crossing ever!

We drove under the ‘Bienvenidos a Mexico’ sign and found the other side of the border to be just as easy. There were two spots to visit, but Victoria said later that everyone was super nice and accommodating, and the whole process was over before even Maya had the chance to become bored and grumpy. This country really is paradise! Jason drove off and the entire family was in good spirits. The music was jumping, and we had the whole country laid out in front of us. I overheard My Family saying that we may well spend six months here, and I couldn’t believe my luck! Two quick stops later, and we pulled into El Chiflon, a very pretty campsite right next to a river.

After a fairly long day in the truck, Maya and I leapt to the ground to explore. We had a wide open field all to ourselves, and couldn’t be happier. The sky was clear, and after so long spent cooped up in the LJH the vast open space was just what I was looking for. Our plans for the afternoon? To do as little as possible. I couldn’t believe my luck! I ran around, lounged in the sun, chased Maya, and generally reveled in the absence of rain. The only downside? The stray dogs that decided to hang around our camper. Maya and I let them have it, but they weren’t getting the message. I was more than happy when it was time to snuggle up in bed and call it a night.

The river was pretty muddy after all the rain but it was still super fun for splashing my feet in!

The river was pretty muddy after all the rain but it was still super fun for splashing my feet in!

The next day we took some time before hitting the road, so Maya and I could run around the river bank. I loved slipping and sliding along the clay shore (though Victoria didn’t really love cleaning me off) and dashing into the river. After that we were off again, this time to the city. San Cristobal de las Casas was one of the places we had missed on our way south, and My Family had heard nothing but great stories about this beautiful place. It was a super long drive, with some stressful hills and a tricky few minutes squeezing our way through narrow alleys, but finally we arrived at Rancho San Nicholas, a beautiful campsite just outside of the city.

Tons of super comfy grass for rolling around in. I loved this campground!

Tons of super comfy grass for rolling around in. I loved this campground!

This place was super cool. Another big, grassy field, with ideal pooing territory and some great dogs to play with. My favorite was Tita, a sweet girl dog who was just my size! We spent about a week here, and I loved nothing more than lounging in the sun with my new friend. Best of all? No rain! Maya and I got to run around for hours, chasing down sticks that Jason would throw, rolling around in all the delicious smells hidden in the grass, and generally loving our doggie life. Jason and Victoria had a good time too, but not quite as care-free. The internet was very bad at the Rancho, so Jason spent many days wandering off into town to find a place to work. We made sure to always give him an extra special greeting when he came home. We got to go into the city with Victoria and Jason several times too. San Cristobal is another colonial city and it reminded me a lot of Antigua, just without the volcanoes. There were people there from all over the world, eating delicious food, shopping in super colorful shops (or so I’m told; us dogs aren’t the best where color is concerned), and taking pictures in front of the beautiful central square. After the last few months in Guatemala I felt like I was in paradise.

My new friend, Tita!

My new friend, Tita!

Of course, it wasn’t all perfect. We did get one day of pretty serious rain, but nothing like what we had been seeing. There were also a couple of people at the campsite that I really did not like. Maya and I would bark at them when they got too close to the camper, but they never seemed to get the hint! Look, I’m not a biter, and I really love people, you just can’t mess with our home, you know? That’s our space! The whole thing was stressing Victoria out a little bit, so My Family started to think about moving on. San Cristobal was absolutely beautiful, and jam-packed with the sort of restaurants Victoria and Jason love the most. After all of our time stuck in cold, rainy places, however, My Family was more than ready for some sun and heat. We packed up the camper and left on our mission to find a beach.

We left in mid-afternoon, which is strange for us. Normally my family liked to leave for a new camping home early in the morning. But the drive to find the beach pushed My Family to decide to just get on the road. I heard that it would take more than a single day to get to the beaches of Oaxaca, so Victoria figured we’d just get a head start. Our first step was getting to Tuxtla Gutierrez, a very busy city where My Family hoped to fill the camper’s water tank. This was a pretty serious miscalculation on their part. The drive out of San Cristobal was beautiful but slow, with a ton of mountain driving. We ended up reaching Tuxtla in the middle of rush hour. That’s a human thing, when everyone is trying to get somewhere at the exact same time. It makes for a very slow, very frustrating (for Jason) drive. At the end of their ropes, Victoria and Jason decided to stop for burgers and reassess the situation. I snuck some french fries while they figured out the next step. There was no way were were going to reach the campsite Victoria had chosen as a mid-point before it got dark. Yet we couldn’t well camp in the parking lot of the burger place. Jason decided we’d just get as far as we could, and then look for a Pemex.

We ended up stopping for the night at a Pemex in a town called Cintalapa. In case you missed some of our other Mexico posts, a Pemex is a gas station. Yep, we were spending the night in a gas station. Jason and Victoria passed several they didn’t really like before finding the perfect spot. It was just outside of town, it was quiet, and the bathrooms had grape-scented hand soap. I don’t know why this was so important, but Jason and Victoria couldn’t stop talking about it. Apparently, it reminded them of Welch’s Grape Soda, whatever that was. Sleeping in a gas station is an unusual experience, and this time it was a first for Maya. I’m a pro at it, and had no trouble snuggling up under the Pemex lights and calling it a night.

My Family slid out of bed bright and early to get us back on the road. We still had quite a drive to get down to the beach, but with the anticipation of finally seeing sand again I leapt into Victoria’s lap and sat up for most of the next few hours, sniffing at the air as the familiar ocean smells began to take over. Maya is still not particularly thrilled with the driving days, but Victoria and Jason reworked the backseat situation to try and make her more comfortable. She was still a bit drooly, but nowhere near as bad as she had been before, and mostly just laid down with her head on the center armrest, looking sad.

Pretty sure this is what doggy-heaven will look like!

Pretty sure this is what doggy-heaven will look like!

After eight hours of crawling up and down hills and bouncing along dirt roads, we finally made it to the beach! Our first stop was a town called San Augustin. I jumped out of the car as soon as the doors opened and dashed onto the sand. It was beautiful! San Augustin is a very small town, basically a string of restaurants perched at the ocean’s edge, and My Family found a nice place to park behind one of the restaurants at the far end of the beach. The people there were super nice, and there were tons of dogs to play with. Unlike other beaches we had visited, all of these dogs were pretty cool, and most even had families of their own. That meant everyone was happy, and Maya even enjoyed their company after a little while. The beach was wide and clean, just perfect for running. And the water was crystal clear, very welcoming for my little paws.

Me and Alberto.  He doesn't really speak to the humans but I could completely understand that he loved me!

Me and Alberto. He doesn’t really speak to the humans but I could completely understand that he loved me!

We spent the next two nights at San Augustin, hanging with the other doggies, and playing with the nice family at the restaurant. There was a little boy there that absolutely loved my family and me, and spent much of each day asking questions about every little piece of the camper and petting us dogs. One dog in particular latched on to My Family and followed us everywhere. Her name was Puma, and though I liked her a lot, I didn’t like overhearing Victoria and Jason debate possibly taking her with us. C’mon, one puppy is enough! Thankfully, nothing ever came of it. All in all, San Augustin was just what I was looking for, and I would have been more than happy to spend weeks running along this beach. The problem was, there was no good internet here, and with Jason’s work week approaching we had to go find a better place for him. Oh, and the humans reported that you had to pour buckets of water into the toilets in order to flush them. Sometimes being a dog is pretty great. The world is my toilet!

Sorry, Puma, you're not coming with us!

Sorry, Puma, you’re not coming with us!

We bounced back up the beach road and out to the highway, making our way to a town called Playa Zipolite. My Family had heard a ton of great things about this beach, so everyone sported big smiles as we drove into town. We quickly hit a snag, however. The road that leads to Cabanas los Habana, the campsite right on the beach Victoria had planned for us to visit, was completely dug up. Big trucks were blocking the path, and workers were shoveling and mixing concrete. Victoria went in to investigate, and they told her that the road was closed, and there was no way to get to the campsite other than walking. Disaster!

Jason turned the big truck around and we quickly looked for Plan B. We found a pretty place called Rancho Los Mangos that was open and right on the main road. We pulled into the front gate, and Jason’s face dropped. It was beautiful. Too beautiful. A pool, big swatches of grass, and a pretty hotel. This was one of those RV parks that the snowbird creatures like to stay in. And just as My Family feared, it was really expensive! The people there were very nice, and even offered Victoria and Jason welcome coconut drinks after we set up, but My Family knew our plan to stay in Zipolite for quite some time was in jeopardy.

Some street art from Zipolite.  This is what I look like when Maya wants to play with me!

Some street art from Zipolite. This is what I look like when Maya wants to play with me!

Jason popped up the camper and we left to explore Zipolite. What a pretty town! The streets are all paved in beautiful designs, and the broad beach is fronted by restaurants of all shapes and sizes. This town had everything from tiny taco stands to beautiful restaurant/hotels perched on the side of the hill. I was enjoying the hot walk, but Victoria and Jason were getting a bit annoyed. We walked every inch of the town, looking for a better place to stay, and just had no luck. Finally, Jason suggested we walk over to Cabanas los Habanas and check out the situation. The sand was so hot that they had to drag us along, and everyone was getting grumpy. When we got to the Cabanas, we found a set of beautifully painted cabanas up on stilts, and a couple of campers who were very friendly. One of them had a car so My Family talked to one of the owners about how they could get in. Apparently, there was a tiny side road right next to the closed road that we might be able to slip through. My Family thanked them and we headed home, plotting the next day’s attempt at getting to our new campground.

That night just underlined why we had to change locations. Rancho los Mangos was very, VERY hot, without the ocean breeze to cool everything off. And there were tons of biting bugs too! We all woke up early the next day to pack up and make the attempt. The owners of the Cabanas were very helpful, and they even moved part of the fence so we had room. It was a tight squeeze, but we finally made it onto the campsite. What a difference! We parked right on the beach, with our very own palapa for shade. Immediately My Family’s thoughts about Zipolite changed. Maybe this would work out after all?

Bliss...

Bliss…

Best of all, this was Jason’s birthday! We celebrated by going out to one of the beach restaurants, where My Family enjoyed botanas (snacks) and beers and stared at the ocean. It was pretty sweet. Playa Zipolite is known as a “hippie paradise”, and Jason and Victoria were laughing at the evidence of that all day. I don’t really know what that means, so you’ll have to ask them. We spent the rest of the day and night hanging out with our new friends at the campsite, a human named Oleg who came all the way from Russia, and a nice man named Denny who was planning on driving down to Panama. Jason had a blast, and after the disappointment of the day before, everyone was in much better spirits.

I ran on the beach every day, so awesome!

I ran on the beach every day, so awesome!

We woke up the next day to find the sky dark with thunderclouds. Not a promising sight. That afternoon the rain started, and it was crazy! The wind was blowing so hard that the rain was flying sideways, right into our camper. We spent much of that day huddled inside, while Jason and Victoria worked to keep the leaky bits under control. The next day was better, but Victoria soon discovered the rain was not done. They spent some time online and found out something called Tropical Storm Trudy was on the way. Trudy’s a pretty nice name, but it didn’t seem like this Trudy was going to be so nice. The humans were expecting as much as a foot of rain and high winds over the next couple days, and here we were on the beach! Not a good combo. Jason and Victoria pulled the giant tarp out, and with the help of one of the nice men at the campground, managed to totally cover the camper and the big truck. It was awesome! Everything was blue inside, and there was a wide covered area where we could all sit that Victoria called ‘the party tent’. When the big rains came we were totally secure, and the other campers all spent time hanging out with us in the only really dry spot available.

If I wasn't running on the beach, you could find me snuggled up with Victoria in one of our hammocks.

If I wasn’t running on the beach, you could find me snuggled up with Victoria in one of our hammocks.

It took a while, but the rains finally passed and everyone was fine. The next few days flew by in a whirlwind of awesomeness. Victoria and I hung one of our awesome hammocks (thanks, ENO!), and we spent hours swinging in the breeze under the palapas, talking to all of the vendors that walked by. My Family met tons of people, from the super nice locals, to the ex-pats who have made Zipolite their home, to a bunch of other travelers. A couple of days into our time on the beach, two humans named Ike and Bethany pulled in next to us. They had just come into Mexico a couple of weeks before, and were planning on driving all the way to the bottom tip of South America. That’s super cool and all, but even better? They really liked me! Ike was super duper nice, letting me snuggle up on his lap, and even allowing for a kiss every now and then! We spent a bunch of time with these two, sharing stories and laughing at Maya’s attempts to fetch. She’s good at the fetching part, but not so hot on the bringing it back aspect. The days stretched on and on, and Jason and Victoria started to realize that they didn’t want to leave this amazing spot. It might have been Jason’s favorite campsite ever. So our plans changed. Instead of checking out one or two more beaches on this southern Oaxaca coastline, we were just going to stay!

Every day right at sunset there was a soccer game.  I wasn't allowed to play though :(

Every day right at sunset there was a soccer game. I wasn’t allowed to play though :(

We ended up spending two full weeks at Cabanas los Habanas, and almost every moment of it was jam-packed with awesome. I tasted fish, croissants, fruit, tacos, and even got to chew on a coconut! We met all sorts of nice humans, and spent many nights sitting with them under our lit up palapa, trading stories and snuggling up on laps. Sure, Maya and I were a bit barky from time to time (always, if you ask Jason), but who else is going to protect our home from people walking by twenty feet away? Finally, it was time to go. With heavy hearts we packed up the camper and left the beach behind. Luckily, we had a great next destination: El Tule, and my friends Calvin and Leanne at Overlander Oasis! We had a mountain to climb first, but I couldn’t wait to see these great humans I had loved so much on our trip south. Now that we were back in Mexico everything was looking up, and each day seemed more fun than the last. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

PS: To see some of the photos My Family took, check out our Facebook page!

01
Nov 2014
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION No Comments

Guest Post: Victoria & Jason – One Year On the Road

Today marks one year on the road! We thought the whole trip was going to be six months, and now it looks like it’ll be more like a year and a half. You can plan for almost everything, but you never really know how long things will take, where the road will lead you, or how much you’ll love the adventure. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take over Neli’s blog for a day and share some of the details with you.

Here’s a quick and dirty number breakdown: 365 days, 7 countries (with two visits to 5 of them so far), almost 10,000 miles, spending an average of $75 a day (which includes absolutely everything, from import permits to doctor’s visits to ferries, dog food to gasoline to souvenirs). That’s about $2,280 a month, which is basically what we were paying in rent back home. We spent one night sleeping on the deck of a cargo ferry, 30 nights in hotel rooms, 1 night in an 8-bed dorm room, 60 nights housesitting in Costa Rica and 38 nights in a rented house on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The rest of the time was spent sleeping in Bliss Island, our trusty camper.

It’s worth mentioning that we never made it to Panama. That was obviously not the plan. The trip was supposed to end in Panama City, but after we spent two months housesitting in Costa Rica, we ran into a snag in the rules regarding temporary vehicle import permits. Basically, we ran out of time, and were wary of getting stuck in Panama for three months. We’re disappointed we never made our final destination, but you know what they say about the journey…

It’s really hard to explain what this year has meant to us, with more new experiences, new friends and beautiful beaches than we could ever count. We’ve had ups and downs, but far more ups, and we can easily say this is one of the most amazing things either of us have ever done. We do have some standouts though, so here’s a quick look at some of our favorite people, places and things from our year on the road.

Food: If you know us, you know any recap HAS to start with food. We’ve loved trying the local fare in each country, stretching our palates while always hunting for cheap, delicious street carts. The fresh fruits and vegetables, while sometimes limited in selection, are always cheap and tasty. We had a ton of fun shopping in local markets at every stop.

Cooking on your own is one thing, but cooking together with friends makes everything taste that much better. We’re pretty sure that our friends Marcia and Andre thought we timed our ‘accidental meetings’ to coincide with lunch or dinner. Marcia also taught us how to make real deal Brazilian rice, our go-to at least once a week. Kenny and Jenn‘s carnitas could win an award, and inspired us to attempt recreating it. Sam and Erica made us curry, and now that we know how to do it it’s become our go-to for cleaning out the veggie box. We were also lucky enough to share Christmas dinner at Overlander Oasis with Calvin, Leanne, and a bunch of new friends. We’ve had fantastic homemade sushi with Sarah and Hani, and a sliders party with Chloe and Toby. In general, we try to prepare two of our own meals a day, but here are some of our favorites we’ve found along the way.

Mexico:

  • Random ceviche stand in Baja: the owner kept feeding us (free!) dishes we couldn’t recognize, but loved all the same

  • Roadside fish soup: we stopped to gas up and Victoria braved a roadside stand where the flies seriously outnumbered the people. Jason chickened out and ate a bag of chips, but the fish soup was outstanding, and Jason was seriously jealous.

  • Cracked crab at Ceilito Lindo Motel and RV Park: we slept in a dirty parking lot just so we could try this legendary cracked crab. It was worth every sleepless minute that night.

  • Il Vizietto in Sayulita: we returned several times to eat the homemade pasta and sauces, and to sit at the swing bar

  • Buffalo wings in San Miguel: The Beer Stop had killer chicken wings, offering a welcome taste of home

  • Taco stands: we ate at countless roadside taco stands in Mexico, and were never disappointed. Especially if it involved Tacos al Pastor.

Belize:

  • Pizza from Pizza Caulker: Caye Caulker has tons of restaurants, but this pizza was the real deal. You also have the option of cooking the country’s favorite hot sauce right into the pie.

  • Hot Mama’s: Speaking of hot sauce, we all love Marie Sharpe’s, but after stopping for barbecue in the middle of the country we discovered Hot Mama’s, which is now our all-time favorite.

Guatemala:

  • Barbecue night at El Retiro: We stayed in the town of Lanquin before heading up to Semuc Champey. They offer a killer barbecue once a week.

  • Mucho’s Gastropub in Antiqua: We stumbled upon this place on Valentine’s Day, and it has become one of our top dining experiences ever. Mucho’s would be at home in any major city, the food and drinks were ridiculous and beautiful.

  • Cactus Tacos: Also in Antigua, Cactus has an inventive and imaginative taco selection, including wasabi tempura shrimp tacos. Say no more.

  • Pappi’s BBQ: Yep, in Antigua as well. Pappi’s had a bbq sandwich that’s as long as your arm, and worth the struggle to eat every last bite.

  • Croissants at Idea Connection: The best cafe on Lake Atitlan, their croissants are the real deal.

  • Pop-up Indian: There’s a pop-up Indian restaurant at the cultural center near the Santiago dock in San Pedro. We’ll be making this our last meal in San Pedro.

  • Smokey Joe’s BBQ: Yep, we love barbecue. And Smokey Joe’s is the best we’ve found in Central America. Every Sunday at the pool in San Pedro, it’s everything you could want and then some. We never walked away without leftovers.

El Salvador:

  • Pupusas! Ranging anywhere in price from twenty-five to seventy-five cents a pupusa, we could (and sometimes did) eat these for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • Tunco Veloz: This pizza restaurant in El Tunco was incredible, with a staff to match. Try every pizza on the menu, but especially the PPP.

  • Rancho Clemente: We spent one night at this restaurant/campsite close to the Honduran border. There’s no menu, it’s just what they caught that day, and what’s left by the time you get there. We had shrimp and a whole fried fish, and left full and blown away.

Nicaragua:

  • Street meat in Leon: It sounds weird, but it was incredible. Right outside the main market every sundown, the vendors cook delicious meats of all shapes and sizes, and you can pile your plate high.

  • Dessert at Imagine: We had mango bread, with chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream at this tiny, artistic spot in Granada. Sounds simple enough, but it was mind-blowingly good.

  • Cha Cha Cha: This San Juan del Sur restaurant offered great ambience and live music, but the Korean steak tacos won the night.

Costa Rica:

  • Campground cookies in Monte Verde: We spent a few nights at a beautiful farm called La Colina Lodge. The cookies they sell at reception are spectacular.

  • Pizza Cahuita: This unassuming pizza place on the Caribbean was maybe the best pizza we’ve ever had, not just on this trip.

  • Bamboo Taco: A taco truck outside of our vet’s office in Uvita. Two Americans cooking killer tacos.

  • Fresh mangos: Jason pulled fresh mangos out of the trees at our campsite near Uvita, with a bamboo pole that must have been fifty feet long. For whatever reason, they tasted extra delicious.

Drinks: Chances are if we’re eating, we’re probably drinking as well. Nothing beats an ice cold beer at our campsite after a long, dusty, bumpy, stressful driving day or a homemade sundowner on the beach while wild camping. There have been some amazing finds, however. Here are our standout drinks.

  • Mexico: Baja Beans Coffee served espresso drinks that made us feel like we were back on Abbot Kinney, with prices to match. Prior to visiting San Miguel, we thought Mexican beer consisted of Tecate, Corona and other flavorless, semi-alcoholic brews. We were happy to discover there’s actually 40+ amazing Mexican brews, and we tasted several of them at the Beer Stop. The corn-based Atole is the perfect warm drink on a cold night, though Victoria didn’t like the strawberry one. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, and is so much tastier than tequila.

  • Belize: Even though the bottle is small, Belikin Beer was our favorite Central American brew. Try both the ‘beer’ and the ‘stout’ for the full experience.

  • Guatemala: The spicy margaritas at Cactus Taco are the best we’ve found so far. Coffee-wise, it’s a battle between Coffee Loco in Panajachel and Idea Connection in San Pedro, so you might as well try both, and more than once. Our new friend Oliver learned to make Super Splits while bar-tending in Peru, and brought them to Mr. Mullet’s in San Pedro, where they quickly became everyone’s favorite. We’ve duplicated the recipe many times at home. Thanks Oli!

  • Nicaragua: Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana, Flor de Cana. Enough said.

  • Costa Rica: Lake Arenal Brewing Company is the real deal. Try an IPA and let the awesome owner bend your ear for a night. We also loved playing mixologist with our friends at the Big Jungle House in Costa Rica. Two of our favorites were Lydia’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Wellner’ and Heather’s ‘It Looks Nice At the Beach’!

Places We Loved: This is a really tough one, as we found something to love in almost every place we stopped. There are some standouts, however, places we thought we could potentially never leave.

  • Mexico: The entire Baja Peninsula is incredible. We can’t believe we lived three hours away from here and never visited. Can’t wait to go back! We were also surprised by how much we loved the interior, as we thought we’d spend all of our time in Mexico by the beach. We couldn’t get enough of the mountain towns, however, especially San Miguel de Allende. We’re going back this November!

  • Belize: It’s not a standout, because we would never want to go back, but Belize City is the sketchiest place we’ve ever been. It’s the one place we felt concerned, even just driving on the road. We loved our time on Caye Caulker, but it was very short (and not particularly dog friendly). Would be a great place to go back for a fly-in holiday.

  • Guatemala: Semuc Champey is one of the most stunning and magical places we’ve ever been, especially as we had the park to ourselves. We also loved San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. The laid back vibe, great Mayan culture and incredible food make this the hardest place to leave in Central America.

  • Nicaragua: Laguna de Apoyo is a gorgeous crater lake with the best weather and water temperature we found anywhere. The kind of place you go for a night and end up leaving a week later. Playa Maderas is a little beach community north of San Juan del Sur. We could have spent months had the internet been better. Between here and Playa Gigante, we saw the most incredible sunsets of our trip.

  • Costa Rica: The entire Nicoya Peninsula is stunningly beautiful. We wished we had a ton more time to spend here. The mountain town of Monteverde is gorgeous, with a great ex-pat community to match. It’s one of the places we would consider living longer term. We spent two months in the Big Jungle House, up a mountain south of Uvita. We felt like we were living in a dream, in a 3,000 square foot home with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, and it gave us the opportunity to spend time with friends we hadn’t seen in a year (or hadn’t met in person yet).

Relationships: You would think spending 24 hours a day together, living in the square footage of the bed of a pickup truck that our relationship would have been sorely tested. We don’t know if it’s because we lived in such a tiny house before or if we’ve just had a blessed trip, but we really never argue. The trip has brought us closer together, both literally and figuratively, and beside a couple of grumpy, long driving days it’s been smooth sailing.

We’ve also found that our definitions have changed drastically. Our definition of ‘clean’, for example, is much more relative now. Both concerning ourselves and our environment. Bathrooms that would turn your stomach back home have become an oasis down here. We’ve gone from showering daily in the US to questioning whether or not we smell after the third day on the road. Cheap vs. expensive has been totally redefined: if a beer costs more than $1.25, that’s expensive. Sleeping in late means getting up after the sun has risen. 7:30 is super late. Staying up past RV Midnight (9:30) is often a challenge.

Our lives have become much simpler. We sold 90% of what we owned, and still feel like we have too much stuff. When we were leaving home, Victoria sold or donated over 75 pairs of shoes, most of which had only been worn once, if at all. Running water is a luxury. Hot water is an even bigger luxury. Toilet seats are miraculous, though we still don’t understand why they seem to be optional in many places. Gas, electricity and internet are not basic human rights, and often take some hunting to track down. Jason has spent many frantic mornings riding in the back of pickup trucks trying to find WiFi that can handle a Skype call.

Money Matters: We thought we had budgeted six months, but at this point we’ve stretched it to over a year. The fact that Jason works while we travel, something we hadn’t counted on, really helps. It changes the trip significantly, but having money coming in definitely takes some of the stress out of the picture. Victoria also got a job at a hostel while we were in San Pedro. She made a whopping $1.50 an hour, but that often paid for a special meal or two out on the town each week, and the bar tab and free laundry were major bonuses.

Friends: Obviously we miss our friends and family from home dearly. We were lucky enough to have several visitors while on the road, including Victoria’s parents (twice!), Heather and Karyn (Venice peeps), and Lydia (one of our favorite NYC gals). We hope to have several other visitors as we make our way north, and always look forward to sharing the trip with the people we love. In addition, we’ve made a ton of new friends on the trip. There’s a unique, basic connection with other travelers that turns relative strangers into BFF’s almost immediately. It’s a shared experience and set of values that unites people from different backgrounds and cultures, creating the backdrop for some incredible nights and lasting memories.

Would We Do It Again? Absolutely! Look, it hasn’t all been legendary adventures, the ‘living the dream’ ideal that many people might think it is when we tell them what we’re doing. There’s a great deal of stress, of making do without things you used to take for granted, of dealing with sick dogs, sick people, dangerous roads, unmet expectations, car trouble and scam artists. Yet we wouldn’t trade this last year for anything in the world. Traveling always expands your perspective, and traveling slowly by car gives you the opportunity to see a country through the eyes of the locals. It’s not always about the major tourist destinations as much as the unexpected detours through tiny villages you never planned on seeing. Thriving in the unexpected is a skill, and there’s no better way to learn it than by traveling slowly. There are a ton of sacrifices inherent in a journey like this, but what you gain along the way is both hard to describe, and absolutely priceless.

We head back to Mexico in a couple of days, where we plan to use all 180 days of our visa, exploring parts of the country we missed on our way south as well as returning to some of our favorite spots. We hope you’ll all continue to follow along with us, and maybe squeeze in a visit!

01
Oct 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 5 Comments
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One Year in the Life of an Adventure Dog

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Napping on the beach is one of my favorite things to do!

Today is the 364th day since we packed up the Big Truck and left the Wee Blue House behind. That means tomorrow will be one whole year away from home, exploring Mexico and Central America on my Big Adventure. Humans like to count things. They’re always marking time, noting dates and celebrating anniversaries. Since my blog is probably read by humans for the most part, it seemed like a good idea to note the occasion. After all, a year is an awfully long time. That’s like 20% of my life so far! Although I probably would have been content to spend the last year with our friends in Venice, laying in the sun and snuggling up in my favorite home ever, it’s certainly been an amazing experience. We’ve had ups and downs, but overall I couldn’t have asked for a better human family and a more interesting life.

Instead of going on and on about all the cool stuff we’ve done, it seemed like a good idea to let the pictures do the talking. We’ve spent the past year exploring California, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and we’ve got thousands of pictures that tell a better story than I ever could. I hope you enjoy reliving our adventures as much as I have!

 90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

90291, baby! This is me right before we left the Wee Blue house and our life in Venice.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Before we crossed the border into Mexico, we did a quick 2-week tour of California. This is me and Jason taking a break on one our hikes in the Sequoia National Forest.

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can't take the LA out of the dog...

Turns out not all of California is as warm as Venice. Here I am snuggled up in bed in my favorite American Apparel hoodie. You know what they say, you can take the dog out of LA but you can’t take the LA out of the dog…

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don't need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

One of my favorite things about the Big Adventure is all the empty beaches we camp on. Even better than an empty beach? I don’t need to be on-leash! Here I am stretching my legs on the Baja.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Another awesome thing about the Big Adventure? All the new friends we have made along the way! This is me getting some love from our Canadian surfer buddies.

Me running on the beach in Baja.  Life really doesn't get better than this!

Me running on the beach in Baja. Life really doesn’t get better than this!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

My friend Olivia and me playing in the water on the Baja. I miss you Olivia!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I get so many tastes of human-food on this trip! This is me and Vic shopping for croissants in Sayulita, Mexico. Yum!

I don't especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

I don’t especially love the time we spend in cities but even I can admit this is a pretty cool view of Guanajuato!

Family holiday of snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

Family holiday snap of us in San Miguel de Allende.

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home...

I get left in the truck. A LOT. I spend most of the time waiting for My Family to come home…

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn't find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Leanne and Calvin, the owners of Overlander Oasis near Oaxaca, got me my own special Christmas present just in case Santa couldn’t find me. I loved aardvark so much but My Family left him on an island in Nicaragua :(

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Here I am waiting while Jason gets his boots shined in Oaxaca. It took forever but Jason was very happy with the results!

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Me and Jason hanging out in the (frigid) pools at Hierve del Agua.

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

Vic and I out for a bike ride on Caye Caulker, Belize. It was just like when we used to go for rides back in Venice!

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don't like.

This is me the first time I heard Howler Monkeys, near Tikal in Guatemala. Don’t like.

Victoria' parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Victoria’ parents, Lorna and David, came to see me in Antigua, Guatemala. I love them so so SO much!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan.  He's not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

Me and David sharing a beer on Lake Atitlan. He’s not a very good sharer but I managed to sneak in a lick or two!

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

The first time we went on a water taxi on Lake Atitlan I thought I was going to be sick. Not cool at all.

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

This is me snuggled up with one of the Christmas presents Lorna and David got me. Thanks guys!

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn't learn that much.

Victoria and Jason took Spanish classes in San Pedro, Guatemala. I went to class with them most days, but I didn’t learn that much.

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever...

Oh yeah, the puppy. You can tell how excited I was to learn she was staying with us forever…

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Another day, another beach run. This is me shaking off after a run along the beach in El Tunco, el Salvador.

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Here we all are sitting on the wall in El Tunco. Look how tiny Maya is!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me running on the beach in Nicaragua. I really do love an empty, seemingly endless beach!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrews island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we're friends with people who own their own islands!!

Me and Vic on our friend Andrew’s island in Lake Nicaragua. Yup, we’re friends with people who own their own islands!!

Maya finally got big enough to join me on beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Maya finally got big enough to join me on a beach run in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Here we are tearing it up together.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

Our first (of many) stops in Costa Rica. This place was full of monkeys and sloths, none of whom really wanted to play with me.

This is me relaxing on Vic's lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

This is me relaxing on Vic’s lap on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica. I love relaxing.

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica.  N I N E T Y  D A Y S !

We spent 90 days in Costa Rica. N I N E T Y D A Y S !

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica.  Note to self:  Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand.  Ouch!

Me running on the black sand beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica. Note to self: Black Sand gets way hotter than white sand. Ouch!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Reunited and it feels so good! We ran into our German friends Doris and Torsten in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Costa Rica, what fun!

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Me and my friend Heather hanging out by the pool in the Big Jungle House.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

Heather came to see us all the way from Venice. Here we are again sharing a glass of wine at the BJH.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

One of the great things about living in a house again was the couch! Occasionally, I let Maya share it with me.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

My friend Lydia also came to see us in Costa Rica. I was her good luck charm when we played UNO.

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

Oh yeah, I had almost forgotten about this. Victoria made me swim in the pool every single day. Not cool Vic!

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

On our way out of Costa Rica, we spent a little more than a week going from beach to beach on the Nicoya Peninsula. Here I am running on the beach with Victoria right before the sun went down.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Me and Jason playing on the beach in Playa Maderas in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we'd all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Every night on Playa Maderas, we would all go down to the beach and wait for the sunset. My Family would drink sundowners and then we’d all run around. It was one of my favorite places in Nicaragua.

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Me and Victoria after we were dancing on the street in Leon, Nicaragua. What fun!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Our second trip through El Tunco, we went to a pizza place almost every night. This is me and Maya with Carlos, one of the waiters who liked us so much he bought us treats!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can't wait!

Lorna and David came back to see us in San Pedro, Guatemala. I heard they are going to visit us again in Mexico, I can’t wait!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Whenever Lorna and David come to visit us, they bring tons of treats for My Family AND me. This time they brought me this weird chicken pirate toy that Maya and I love to fight over, even though they brought one for each of us!

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It's got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

Here I am hanging out in the Little Jungle House we rented on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. It’s got tons of room for running around and a great deck overlooking the lake that always has a sunny spot for me to lay on.

It was super hard to pick just a few pictures that tell the story of our amazing life on the road. So I might have overdone it a little bit in this post! I can’t believe it’s been a year already. My Family says that we’ve still got a little bit more time before we have to go back home, and I intend on enjoying every minute of it. Well, except for the times when Maya won’t leave me alone. She’s awful chewy. Can’t wait to get back to our adventures, and to share them all with you!

30
Sep 2014
POSTED BY Neli
DISCUSSION 2 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 7 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

DISCUSSION 3 Comments

Hunkered down in San Miguel de Allende

 

Me on one of our many walks around San Miguel de Allende.  It was really cold, but luckily I had my puffer jacket to keep me warm!

Me on one of our many walks around San Miguel de Allende. It was really cold, but luckily I had my puffer jacket to keep me warm!

The morning we packed up to leave Guanajuato, Victoria was pretty sad. She even started crying. I don’t see her cry that often, but even before that happened I could smell that she was upset. Jason and Victoria were talking, and apparently someone Victoria loved had died. I had never heard this word before but apparently everyone and everything dies eventually, even dogs and people. From what I understand, when you die you go away. Forever. That means you never get to see the people you love ever again. I can’t imagine not ever seeing the people and dogs I love again. I have a ton of questions about this: Where do you go? Do you get to come back eventually? Am I going to die? I feel like if I was going to die at some point I’d know, so maybe I won’t? Do people know this and they just walk around everyday just not thinking about it? So many questions, and no good answers. Anyway, I gave Victoria some extra special snuggles and kisses, to help her feel better. I don’t think it really helped that much because she was still sad, but she did smile and we finally left the camper to meet our new friend Katie.

Katie works with an organization called Do Good As You Go, and my family had planned to volunteer with them while in town. I guess we didn’t tell them we were getting there in time, because there was no volunteering to do on such short notice and we were only in Guanajuato for a short while. But we did have a nice chat with Katie, and we gave her a video camera that our friend Hani had donated before we left the wee blue house. I guess that camera is going to do some good in Guanajuato, so an extra special thanks to Hani for helping out!

Cobblestone streets mean you have to pay attention to where you are walking

Cobblestone streets mean you have to pay attention to where you are walking

After breakfast at Katie’s we hit the road. Our destination was a town called San Miguel de Allende, which is in the mountains just like Guanajuato. The drive wasn’t terribly long, which I really appreciated. San Miguel is really old, the streets are very narrow and paved with bumpy stones, so Jason needed help getting inside the gate. I think he scratched the side of the camper a little bit, but thankfully nothing was broken! The San Miguel RV Park & Tennis Courts was really nice, with comfy grass to lay in and a lot of people to say hello to. Unfortunately, most of them didn’t understand My Family that well. Victoria found out they were all from Germany, which is another country far across the ocean. They don’t speak English or Spanish in Germany, which made it a bit difficult for My Family to communicate with them. But we had a great spot to stay, perfect for exploring the city.

I thought we were done climbing up and down hills when we left Guanajuato.  I thought wrong...

I thought we were done climbing up and down hills when we left Guanajuato. I thought wrong…

Our time in San Miguel was good. When Jason was working I got to lay out in the grass, snooze in the sun with Victoria, chase cats and basically take it easy. I did get to go on a few really nice, long walks through the city, and that was pretty cool. The cobblestones were fun to walk on, and there was always something to see. We met up with a new friend named Robert and his girlfriend Patricia. Robert had been doing a trip like our Big Adventure, but once he made it to San Miguel he decided to stay for a while. Jason and Victoria seemed like they might do the same thing. They loved the nice people, the beautiful buildings, the delicious food and the incredible art. Personally, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I spent a lot of time waiting around, standing outside of art galleries, watching them eat delicious food I didn’t get to try and freezing in the cold night air. Oh, and the church bells! There was a church right by our campground, and the bells would ring at all times of the day and night! Victoria joked that she wanted to keep track, because the bells went off at odd hours, like 3:22 or 8:13. Jason didn’t appreciate the 7AM wakeup call, especially because that was when the bells would ring louder and longer than ever. But on the plus side, there was really pretty live music in the streets, and even a concert we got to check out in the main square, or Jardin. There were even huge dancing dolls that would swing their jiggly arms around and shake their hair over kids’ faces.

Gato, that means Cat in Spanish.  They don't like playing with dogs, just like American cats.

Gato, that means Cat in Spanish. They don’t like playing with dogs, just like American cats.

One of the most fun nights we had was Thanksgiving, which is a holiday we celebrate back home where family and friends get together and eat a lot. Obviously, it’s one of my favorites. Victoria and Jason found somewhere that was serving Thanksgiving dinner just like at home, and it was awesome. I got to go to a really fancy restaurant, which is unheard of. There was a beautiful view of one of the town’s big churches, every dish smelled amazing, and from the sounds Victoria and Jason were making I could tell it was good. I got to taste the turkey and we made some new friends, including a nice lady that hugged me and let me kiss her face. Basically a win all around.

The biggest house in San Miguel de Allende.

The biggest house in San Miguel de Allende.

Not every night was that good. There were a couple of times that I was left in the camper alone. I made sure I didn’t scratch up the screen anymore, so Victoria and Jason would know I’m a good girl. Each time, My Family came back smelling delicious. Once it was Italian food I could smell, and yet there were no leftovers for me. The next time it was chicken wings. Chicken wings! And none for me! But Jason was pretty excited that they had finally found good beer in Mexico. In fact, they even went back a couple of days later and bought some to bring with us on the road. I’m hopeful they will share some with me this time…

We spent a lot of time just walking around town while My Family looked at buildings.  Fun.

We spent a lot of time just walking around town while My Family looked at buildings. Fun.

I know that Victoria and Jason really loved San Miguel de Allende; they even said they could picture themselves staying there long term. I hope if that’s the case they get me some extra blankets and share some more of their tasty treats. Sure, I got to try tacos and tamales and even some Chinese food… But no sips of that sweet smelling alote? Not even the smallest bite of chocolate? Maybe I’m doing something wrong?

PS: If you want to see the pics My Family took in San Miguel, you can find them here!

06
Dec 2013
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 2 Comments

Heading for the Hills

Me, taking in the view of Guanajuato

Me, taking in the view of Guanajuato

My Family and I had such a great time in Sayulita that I was wondering what we could do to top it. We had spent days with our friends, run on the beach, eaten delicious food and chased giant bugs and lizards. What could be better? Well, it was clearly going to take some time to find out. We got back on the road and started a long, long trip to our next destination, Lake Chapala. According to Victoria, Lake (or Lago, en espanol) Chapala is the largest natural lake in Mexico. That sounded pretty cool but we had a lot of ground to cover before I could check it out.

We spent the whole rest of the morning and into the afternoon on a big highway, going up and down huge hills. It was a pretty day and the road wasn’t too bumpy, so I was more than content to snuggle up on Victoria’s lap and let the miles roll by. There were an awful lot of tolls, though. Jason was grumbling about the expense, while Victoria argued that these roads were faster and safer. I dunno, I just really didn’t like all the little bumps before each toll. One cool thing, however, was that one of the tolls had nice grassy spots for peeing on, good bathrooms for My Family, and even a taco stand with delicious food!

As we got closer to our destination, the sky got really cloudy. There were a few drips of rain, which made Victoria nervous. I guess the work Jason had done at Los Barilles to seal up the roof hadn’t quite worked, and there was still a little leak inside. Well, things got worse in a hurry. The sky opened up, and it started pouring! Now, I don’t know how things are where you live, but back in Venice we didn’t see rain like that very often. It was coming down so hard that Jason almost couldn’t see through the windshield. He noticed that the car in front of us decided to pull over under a bridge, but we were almost to the lake and Jason wanted to keep going. I think he felt a little differently once the hail started. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it! Huge chunks of ice bouncing off the windshield, hitting on the hood of the big truck and smashing into the ground all around us, while the rain continued to fall. This drive wasn’t going so well.

We managed to find our turnoff and drove down a cobblestone road as the rain let up. Ahead were the gates for Roca Azul, which was right at the edge of Lake Chapala. This place was pretty neat. There were cool houses around the Park, which seemed more like a summer camp than any RV park I had seen so far. The grounds were huge, with several buildings, a soccer field, and even a huge playground for kids. There were tons of larger RVs, what Victoria calls “Big Rigs”, but nothing like our little camper. We found a nice spot under some trees and parked.

Lago de Chapala. Pretty, no?

Lago de Chapala. Pretty, no?

Lake Chapala was certainly pretty. But there were lots and lots of bugs and since I had scratched up the screen Jason ended up closing the door, which I know he wasn’t happy about. Okay, I messed up! Sheesh! That night we were all pretty tired, so Victoria and Jason made a simple dinner and after the moon rose fat and orange over the lake, we tucked in for the night.

There were lots of beautiful trees in the campground, this is where we walked to get back and forth to the good internet.

There were lots of beautiful trees in the campground, this is where we walked to get back and forth to the good internet.

Vic is afraid of heights so I had to stay on the ground to look after her.

Vic is afraid of heights so I had to stay on the ground to look after her.

The next day Jason had to work, but the internet wasn’t working so well in our camper. So he took me over to the office while Victoria stayed behind to clean up. I didn’t mind hanging out while Jason worked, as we got to sit on a cool stone bench in a really pretty field. When he took a break we got to run around on the soccer field, which was a lot of fun too. Victoria came over to hang out with us, and she and Jason started talking about us being behind schedule on the trip. Apparently they thought we were only going to spend six weeks in Mexico, and now it was looking like it was going to take a lot longer. I don’t really know where we are on this adventure, but this sure is a big country. After the work day Victoria and Jason took me for a walk around the RV park. There was an awesome lighthouse out by the lake, which looked over a huge green field covered with birds. Jason went all the way up to the top of the lighthouse, but Victoria was too scared to go up that high so I stayed with her. We walked further and saw a beautiful swimming pool, but it was a little too cold to go in. We went through the playground, and Victoria made me get on all the rides with her. I don’t know, I think I prefer keeping my feet on the ground. Jason said he thought it was a little bit creepy, all of these toys for kids and no kids around. In fact, the whole campground was very quiet. We saw almost no one, and as the sun disappeared I could tell it was making Jason a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t mind so much; I like the quiet from time to time.

One of the rides My Family forced me to go on.

One of the rides My Family forced me to go on.

Can anyone tell me why this is supposed to be fun?

Can anyone tell me why this is supposed to be fun?

In the morning we got packed up and drove to a place that couldn’t be more opposite of Lake Chapala: the city of Guanajuato. Guanajuato looked really old, with narrow stone streets and tall stone buildings. It was also REALLY confusing to drive. I could tell Victoria and Jason were getting a bit frustrated, and we had to pull over once to figure out where we were going. Finally they found the right street, and we reached the Morrill Trailer Park.

Guanajuato has LOTS of old buildings to look at, something My Family could do all day.

Guanajuato has LOTS of old buildings to look at, something My Family could do all day.

It was on a hill, looking out at another hill covered with colorful homes. There was no one around when we arrived, so Jason set up the camper and we waited to make sure it was okay to stay there. Guanajuato is very different from anywhere we’ve been since California. I could tell we were really high, as it was kind of cold and very dry. When we finally saw the woman who ran the RV park, it was almost nighttime. She was super nice and looked like an abuela (that’s grandma, in Spanish), and treated us that way. She didn’t speak any English at all, but My Family was still able to communicate with her. Now that we knew we could get set up, we faced another little problem: we hadn’t stopped for groceries. I had plenty of food, so I was just fine. But it was slim pickings for Victoria and Jason. They ended up making weird egg salad sandwiches for dinner, and shared desserts of their jiggly, jelly-like things called flan that came out of the same kind of package as yogurts. I didn’t get to try any of it, and for the first time this trip I was totally fine with that. After dinner Jason didn’t feel really well, but it wasn’t because of the food. He had a bad headache, which I guess happens to him a lot when he first goes to a high elevation. Did you know our campground in Guanajuato was about 6,800 feet up from sea level? Considering just a couple of days ago we were sleeping at sea level, that’s a big change. I kept kissing Jason’s face, but I don’t think that was making him feel any better. Also, it was VERY LOUD there. Even though the houses were far away, you could hear at hundreds of dogs barking, and they just barked all night. Add on to that the dance music coming from places all over the city and the occasional earsplitting firework exploding in the air, and you knew this was very far from the silence of Lake Chapala!

So. Many. Hills.

So. Many. Hills.

One of the many plazas we visited.  The restaurants here didn't let me in so I didn't think it was that great here.

One of the many plazas we visited. The restaurants here didn’t let me in so I didn’t think it was that great here.

Jason was feeling much better when we got up the next morning, so we decided to go explore the city. Guanajuato is made up of huge hills and cobblestone streets and alleyways that snake from place to place. Everything is built at an angle. I didn’t particularly love the walk, but My Family really enjoyed looking at all the buildings. This was nothing like anywhere else we had ever been. We reached the bottom of our hill and entered the main part of the city to see that Guanajuato is covered with gardens, great restaurants and lots and lots of people. We saw cool street artists, musicians, and painters as well. Victoria and Jason found a piece of art they really liked, and they bought it for our camper. After walking around for quite a while we sat in one of the pretty squares for lunch. There was a dog that kept hanging around, hoping to get some of Jason and Victoria’s food. I knew I was going to be the one to get those tasty treats, but he just kept hanging out. And then Jason gave him his steak! I only got a small piece, and this stranger dog got almost half of Jason’s lunch! What’s up with that?!

I sure hope he finds a Family of his own someday :(

I sure hope he finds a Family of his own someday :(

Then I realized that this dog had no collar with his name on it, no leash to keep him safe, and no Family around either. I’ve never really thought about it, but apparently there are some dogs, and even some people, who don’t have homes. This dog was like that. He didn’t have anyone to snuggle with at night, no warm blankets, no fancy outfits, and clearly no delicious food. After the bite of steak Jason gave him , the dog started drooling a lot, like he had never eaten before! I realized it was a good thing that My Family shared with this dog, even if it meant I would have a little bit less. And the more I thought about it, the more I remembered all of the dogs we’ve seen on the adventure so far. Almost none of them had a Family. I can barely remember it now, because my life is so awesome, but I didn’t have a family at one point. I wish all the dogs-with-no-homes could find good people to take them home, just like Victoria and Jason gave me one.

PS: If you want to see some of the photos My Family took while we were in Lago de Chapala and Guanajuato, they are on Facebook.

29
Nov 2013
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 7 Comments

Finally, the Mainland!

Me and Olivia relaxing in Sayulita.  I love when Olivia and her family shows up because Olivia always wants to play with me!

Me and Olivia relaxing in Sayulita. I love when Olivia and her family shows up because Olivia always wants to play with me!

First of all, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write this blog post you guys! The trip to Mazatlan was pretty tough, and since then I’ve basically been recovering on the beach. It’s really hard to tear myself away from the best sunny, sandy spots I’ve ever seen, and then when I do Jason is working so much that it’s been hard to get anyone to help me write these posts. I’ve managed to sneak some time on the computer, so here it goes!

After we drove off the ferry we had to find the San Bartolo Trailer Park, where we were going to be spending the night. It was somewhere in Mazatlan, and unfortunately my Family didn’t have a good map. The GPS wasn’t working that well either, and since everyone was so exhausted from the ferry ride it made navigating a big city pretty tough! We did it somehow, and the RV park ended up being a lot of fun. Someone had trimmed all the hedges into funny animal shapes, which was pretty cool, but even better was the fact that our friends were there! When we arrived we saw the nice British couple we had met in Los Barriles, and parked right next to them was our German friends Doris and Torsten, who Victoria and Jason met in Venice way back before the adventure even began. We were lazy, tired and sweaty, but everyone was still happy to see us. After showering my Family had rum punches at the Germans’ rig. Although I didn’t get to taste any of that, I did get a lot of attention from our friends, and most especially from Torsten. He let me sit in his lap, and gave me all sorts of rubs and snuggles. I love Torsten! After that My family went out for dinner with our friends, but they left me at home in the camper. Although I was disappointed not to get any treats from the restaurant, I was more than happy to snooze while they were away. Victoria and Jason got home pretty early, filled with food and happy to be meeting other overlanders, even though we seem to keep meeting up with the same people!

Giant shady tree in Miramar.

Giant shady tree in Miramar.

The next day we meant to get up really early so we could make it to Sayulita before sunset, but my Family was really slow to crawl out of bed. That was perfectly fine with me, but as the time passed I could tell Jason was worried we wouldn’t make it in time. Apparently we had a very long drive ahead. In the end we ended up leaving an hour late, but after saying goodbye to our friends Victoria was still pretty confident that we’d make our next destination.

Things changed in a hurry. My Family took a wrong turn, thinking they had to find one particular highway, and drove almost an hour in the wrong direction before they figured it out! A little bit of panic in the truck, but we were determined to get through it and keep going. We stopped for gas, and the nice man who filled the truck for us really liked our ‘Perro Peligroso’ sign. That means ‘dangerous dog’ in Spanish, and I guess if you know me you’d think that was pretty funny too. But hey, I can be tough when I need to be! We drove onto a big highway, and although it was helping us make up some time, Jason didn’t particularly enjoy it. There were crazy drivers everyone, led by the nuttiest truck and bus drivers I’ve ever seen in my whole life. One bus driver even tried to pass us and a big truck in the other lane, and almost crashed into three cars coming the other way! People were making up their own lanes, and driving straight at us on the wrong side of the street, all while going really fast. We were fine, because Jason’s a pretty good driver, but I could see that his hands were holding the steering wheel very tightly.

The beach in Miramar.  We had the place to ourselves once the sun started to set.

The beach in Miramar. We had the place to ourselves once the sun started to set.

We were making good time, but with our early morning detour Jason and Victoria started to think we wouldn’t make it to Sayulita, their most favorite place in Mexico, that day as planned. Victoria opened up our guidebooks and found a nice looking RV park in a town called Miramar, so we pulled off the road and onto their cobblestone driveway just before the sunset. It was good timing, as I don’t think Jason could have handled the small, windy roads packed with potholes for very much longer!

The Paraiso Miramar RV-Trailer Park was super nice. We found a place to park right in front of a huge, perfect lawn topped with one of the biggest, prettiest trees I’ve ever seen. Families were splashing in the pool and playing games on the grass. We got out and almost immediately a big dog named Archie came right up to me. He wanted to be really really good friends, but Victoria wasn’t having any of it. I kind of just wanted to run around on the lawn anyway. We sat on a bench and watched a really pretty sunset, and then headed off to dinner. They had a nice restaurant with delicious food, and this time I got to try some. My Family also met a very nice older couple named Julie and Rusty, who split their time between a small town in California and an even smaller town in Mexico. They were traveling with two dogs and a cat! I didn’t get to meet the cat, but the dogs were really nice.

After dinner we went back to our camper, and that’s when we noticed the bugs. We didn’t really see many of them when it was still daytime, but once the sun went down they came out in droves, looking to munch on us every chance they got! I don’t mind quite as much, because I can chase them, and sometimes if I’m lucky I even manage to eat one or two. They’re pretty delicious, but Victoria was absolutely fed up. My Family spent some time battling the bugs in the camper, before finally settling in to listen to the ocean waves and get some sleep.

One of Julie and Rusty's dogs.  She was super friendly!

One of Julie and Rusty’s dogs. She was super friendly!

The next day we managed to wake up on time, to pack up and have a nice breakfast with Julie and Rusty. They suggested we check out a couple of small towns, and are especially proud of where they live. I don’t think we’re going to make it through all of them, but hopefully someday I’ll get to meet those nice people and their dogs again! After breakfast Rusty showed us some of his art, which was pretty cool, while Archie tried to sniff me up and down again. We said our goodbyes and hit the road.

The drive to Sayulita was especially beautiful. We moved away from the beach a little bit, and the smells told me we were truly somewhere else now. Jason called it ‘the jungle’ and it sure looked and smelled different. Nothing but huge trees, packed in close together, and tons of birds and animals making a racket. The road was small and winding, moving us up and down mountains, but not too bumpy, and My Family was so excited to be heading back to Sayulita. We got there a couple hours later, drove through the beginning of what looked to me like a super cute town, and ended up at the Sayulita RV Park.

Sayulita sunset. We went to the beach every evening to watch this and so My Family could drink 'Sundowners.'

Sayulita sunset. We went to the beach every evening to watch this and so My Family could drink ‘Sundowners.’

We ended up staying in Sayulita for nine days. Victoria and Jason had come here before, and they tell everyone that this is where they first had the idea for the Big Adventure. Sayulita is really beautiful, with cobblestone streets, lots of art and pretty shops, and some of the most delicious food I’ve had a chance to taste. Our days were very relaxed and pretty slow, which is just fine with me. Every morning started with Jason making coffee and my Family sipping it either on the beach or at our campsite. Jason would hop on the computer and do some work, either at home, at a local restaurant called Tropical which had yummy smoothies, or at the Yah Yah Coffee Shop in the town square. Meanwhile, Victoria and I would lay on the beach, go for walks to meet other dogs, or hang out with the old and new friends we made. When Jason came home for lunch we always went for delicious fish tacos or ceviche, and every time I got to have a taste. Then we’d go for more walks, hang out on the beach and read books (well, not me, but you get the idea) and just enjoy the beautiful weather. There was a little bit of rain, but it cooled things off and got rid of the bugs for a little while, so that was just fine with me. Each evening we would walk into town and try out a new restaurant or taco stand, listen to the street musicians, watch the kids and dogs running around or hang out with our friends. Marcia, Andre and Olivia spent two nights with us, and they made delicious barbecue one night. We met a German boy named Alex who is riding a Vespa scooter from Alaska all the way to the bottom of South America. I liked his accent. Jason, Alex and Andre spent a night talking over beer, but that seemed pretty boring.

Jason drinking his cappuccino in the Zocalo (that means main plaza or square in Spanish)

Jason drinking his cappuccino in the Zocalo (that means main plaza or square in Spanish)

Over all, I can really see why Victoria and Jason like Sayulita so much. It’s full of nice people, great beaches, better food and super colorful sunsets. Victoria commented that it seemed a lot more busy than the last time she and Jason went (when I was left behind, stuck hanging out at the vet’s office in a tiny cage!), and full of tourists (what they call ‘gringos’ here), but we all still had a fantastic time. The only issue was the dirty bathrooms at the RV park, which I think Victoria complained about every single day.

Lots of things for sale in the Zocalo.  Vic got a new bracelet, I didn't get anything...

Lots of things for sale in the Zocalo. Vic got a new bracelet, I didn’t get anything…

Oh yeah, and there was one more thing I should probably tell you about. That nice German couple Doris and Torsten spent a couple of nights there as well. I love that Torsten guy so much! We had a lot of fun together, but one night My Family and our German friends went out for dinner together. They wanted to leave me at home in the camper. I don’t know what got into me, but I wasn’t happy about this arrangement, so I scratched and scratched at the door, hoping they would hear me, change their minds and let me come with them. But they never did. When they got home I almost jumped out of the camper into Jason’s arms. I knew what was coming. Jason saw it almost immediately – I had scratched holes in the screen door! They told me I was a Very Bad Dog over and over, but I guess they felt bad about leaving me behind and didn’t stay mad that long. No one’s perfect, right?

Part of the Revolution Day Parade.

Part of the Revolution Day Parade.

The day we left Sayulita, the was a big parade in town. All the girls were wearing really colorful dresses and the boys had funny pretend mustaches drawn on their faces. It was fun to watch but the parade was blocking all the streets so we had to sit around for a while in the Big Truck until we could leave. More delays, but Victoria said we have to get used to things taking longer than they did back in California. Anyway, we eventually could drive on the roads and headed out of town towards the ‘Highlands,’ where we are now. More on that later!

PS: If you want to see some of the pics My Family took, they are on Facebook!

PPS: My Family did an interview with an online magazine called SayulitaLife.com! I think that means I’m famous.

23
Nov 2013
POSTED BY Neli
POSTED IN

Mainland, Mexico

DISCUSSION 3 Comments