Monday, October 31, 2005


Yesterday I was up bright and breezey to be picked up by Cantamar Club to go on my eagerly awaited trip to see the sea lions on Isla Espiritu Santos. There were just three of us in the bus and as I was the last one to be picked up we whizzed off Pichilingue immediately. The hotel that the club is run out of is just next door to the ferry terminal, not the most picturesque of spots but well suited for trips out to the islands. It also turned out to be a dive hotel. We arrived to general chaos. Several boats were going out, full of divers. Eventually someone directed me to the place I could pick up some fins, a mask and snorkel and suggested I went and got a coffee. When I booked I had been told I would have to pay extra for breakfast so I asked if it was OK to take a table and the waitress just waved her hand. So I went and helped myself to toast and scrambled eggs and no one batted an eye lid!!! Back on the dock I got on board the Una Mas, as directed, along with about 20 divers. We had three female japanese dive masters and our pilot, Jorge. We steamed ahead for one and a half hours and eventually arrived at a small rocky pinnacle upon which sat a beacon and a couple of sea lions. I was to be the only snorkeller and the others would make 2 dives here. I waited until they were in the water and then made a tour of the 'island' and watched the sea lions. And they watched me and swam under me and generally tried to figure out what this thing in the water with them was! There were lots of fish too - damsel fish again and lots of rainbow wrasse. Below me was a ball of jacks circling slowly, they also came to see what I was when I dived down towards them. I saw a moray eel and even a red and orange camoflage patterned octopus. By 1 I had been in for a few dips and the divers had dived and Jorge had made lunch - tortillas with a chicken filling that tasted strangely of fish! We motored back towards the port stopping at another dive point within glimpsing distance of Isla Espiritu Santos but above a wreck 20m down - not so good for snorkelling. By now I realised that we weren't going to see the 300 or so sea lions on the island, and I was hopping mad!!!! Once back on dry land I made my complaint but the guy behind the desk just shrugged, its seems the other trip had been full and instead of telling me thay had put me on the other boat. I headed back to La Paz and was grumpy all evening. I know there are really nice people here in Mexcio but I am getting rather tired of the attitude that some people take.........

Saturday, October 29, 2005

La Paz by boat

This morning I reached La Paz in Baja California, after an 18h ferry ride!! I spent my last morning in Mazatlan visiting the blink-and-you-missed-it sized archaeology museum and various art galleries - though I didn't buy anthing I was sorely tempted. The boat left at 4 and I had to be there two hours earlier, it took me a while to find the waiting area but when I did I was pleasantly surprised to see not so many people waiting. We boarded and I made friends with the other europeans going to La Paz: Anita and Mirco (from Austria and Sicily) and Monica and Andrea (from Switzerland). They had invested in cabins while I was going to rough it in the Salon! I found my seat - right in front of both the TV and the AC. I stashed my bag with the guard and went to find some air. Overlooking the quay I met Luis and Oscar, a couple of lorry drivers who wanted to practice their english, though this turned into them wanting me to teach them.... beer and tequila were mentioned..... it was time to leave them to it. But Luis had a special nack of finding me, so I cold shouldered him and he eventually got the message and left me alone - phew!
Dinner (and breakfast) was included in the price of the ticket so the five of us ate together - I seemed to come out best with a sort of pork stew but the others had totally unidentifiable and I think fairly unpalitable offerings!! (Needless to say I didn't go back for breakfast) The sun had set as if liquid gold was pouring into the sea and after dinner we marveled at the stars - we could see the milky way and also I spotted a couple of shooting stars! Anita was very amused that they were called 'shooting' stars and not falling!! And then it was bedtime. I retired to my seat but could barely hear myself think and kept getting attacked by a small child with his lorry..... so I walked around the salon and found a quiet corner. There were bodies strewn about - wrapped in blankets and the more enterprising had mattresses too. I was roasting so just used my jumper as a pillow and tried to sleep. Well, as you can imagine it wasn't the most comfortable night of my life but at least they turned the telly off around 10.30pm!!
So upon disembarking I said farewell to Anita and Mirco who were off to los Cabos and got the bus up to La Paz. I walked round to Hotel Lorimar and was so surprised to see Monica and Andrea checking in ahead of me (they had taken a taxi). So I have signed up to go snorkelling tomorrow with the sea lions!! And I think tonight I think a group of us will go out for dinner together! (The clocks change here tomorrow too, so I shall stay 7h behind GB).

Thursday, October 27, 2005


I arrived in Mazatlan yesterday after a 10hour bus ride from Guadalajara! It was quite eventful too - I got to watch three films and we had the sniffer dog come on to the bus! I also passed from normal Mexico time into mountain time so I am now 7h behind the UK. As I was on the bus for so long I decided it would be good to stretch my legs and walk into the centre of Mazatlan. The book said it was about 1.5km! But it took me an hour - and yes I was carrying my rucksacks and got slightly lost but I recon it was more like 2miles! And I was sooooo sweaty when I got to the centre! I tried to find the Hotel Central but must have walked past it and so I am staying at thr Royal Dutch B&B, run by Wim and his Mexican wife Alicia. They made me feel very at home, and in fact its like I am staying with old friends as the room is full of art and antiques! I popped straight out to see if I could get a ferry ticket to La Paz but the office wasn't open. I had a fabulous vegetarian dinner of garlic mushrooms (almost a soup) and oyster mushrooms al la plancha! Yummy!
This morning, after a superb breakfast of fruit and yoghurt, I zoomed down to the ferry terminal and got a ticket - I leave tomorrow for La Paz. Then I walked up to the lighthouse. This nearly finished me off - I was sweating myself into a small puddle by the time I got to the top! But the view was fabulous, I should mention that it is the highest functioning lighthouse in the world at 500ft. Sadly the view also highlighted the pollution, which hangs over the city like a pinky-grey cloud. Overhead I caught sight of 6 frigate birds and as I came down, trying my hardest to break an ankel on the dusty rocks, I saw both green and black iguanas. In fact, in Guadalajara I saw a lad with one of the green ones sitting on his shoulder! I then proceded to walk all the way around the bay (8km), passing numerous statues, mostly of naked ladies, but one was to celebrate 100years of brewing beer on the Pacific coast and was a giant fermentor made into a fountain!
I went as far as Zona Dorado (the golden zone) where I had to practically swim against the tide of American tourist buying tat! I have to say this is my least favorite part of Mazatlan, the old area where I am staying has so much more character and no pushy touts. But each to their own. I didn't stay long and took a bus back to the centre. Or at least I though so. As we passed a right turn for the Centre I decided it was time to get off, and as luck would have it I found myself outside a hypermarket. So as I like to mosey round these places I popped in. Once I had been reprimanded for not handing in my bag I had a thorough browse. I bought some supplies for my boat trip but also bought myself a wee cake! They have gone Halloween mad here with nightclubs offering free drinks and the selling of many pumpkin shaped things. So my cake is a wee pumpkin - I shall savour (?) it later! Back in Viejo Mazatlan I had lunch at Arterios (yes that means artery and there was even a picture of one in the menu, I had a vegetarian sandwich - more mushrooms!) and then have appreciated the AC in this internet cafe!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


The party consisted of some very tired folk drinking Dave's very strong margaritas - which were excellent but did make us all rather sleepy! Today I caught the bus from Melaque up to Guadalajara. I had planned on going on to Mazatlan as well but the bus would have got me in at 11pm so I am here for a night. Its a great place! I have had a very merry few hours wandering around the streets and going in and out of the shops. I took a taxi from the bus station into town, the driver was very helpful and half in english half in spanish he told me that the hotel I had selected wasn't in the best of areas so recommended another - which is very pleasant. The other I have just walked past and is in the middle of the market area. There's a very pleasant atmosphere in the centre of town - lots of little stalls selling jewellery and such like, and though they're not quite as keen on icecream as the Chileans I have an ice cream with me here in the internet cafe!

Monday, October 24, 2005

An end and a beginning

Well another busy few days hasve passed since I last blogged. After my brief session in Barra in the delightfully air-conditioned internet place I joined the others for a really scrummy lunch of fish in garlic sauce. We had ice-creams walking back to the van and then came back to La Manzanilla. Yesterday was a day of great induc}stry. Having learnt many of the techniques required we took kayaks across the bay to another reef for a snrokelling survey of the fish. I was really cold in the water and I was very glad of my shorty wetsuit. There are lots of puffers and damselfish and many more spceies out there. Then in the afternoon we got to do more rubbish surveys - which we now have down to a fine art and whizzed through lots of them. Sadly we didn{t finish all the sites and Paco will have to do some when we have all departed. So last night I was really tired but it was really worth it.
Today has also been an exhausting day - we went to the mangrove this morning and did a bird survey. Have I emtnioned already that this is where the crocodiles live? There american crocks - the biggest is 4m but luckily the crock arm of the study is finished. Paco has showed us some piccies of the tagging of crocks that was done last year- no thanks ! And then this afternoon we have been finishing off the signs for the interpretive trail and setting them in concrete along the path. We had 5 teenagers come and help us which was great - many hands made light work! Even so its been a tough day and though tonight we{re to have a celebratory dinner I´m sure we´ll be early to bed again!
More news: I had planned on going down to the Yucatan to see all the Mayn sites but as the weather has been so bad I shall change my plans and head for Baja California instead!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

And today....

is a day of rest as we have been exceptionally busy for the last few days. We had more lectures and then spent the afternoon in the field. My group went on a litter survey with Paco. We got to use our newly gained GPS skills and to estimate how much rubbish was in a dump site. Then on Thursday we all worked together on the interpretive trail in the mangrove, clearing wood from the path and lining the edge with tree trunks. Sounds unexciting but I was really enjoying swinging my machete! I had a bit of a scare when I went back to the house though as I found a scorpion in my bag!! Yikes!! Luckily Fred (our tame entomologist) stepped on it. And then yesterday we had a whole day out. First we went bird watching and then on to the UNAM biological station. Wow! This was a really well set out research facility, we wandered along there interpretive trail and got to appreciate the tropical dry forest. Then we were whisked off to Tenacatita for a picnic lunch and a spot of snorkelling (all in the name of science!). Clad in wesuits we tried to identify fish with Paco, who is a Marine Biologist. What fun, but I was exhausted by the time we got out of the water. So today is our day off and we have come to Barra de Navidad for a spot of ´culture´ and to do shopping if we want to. So until next time...adios!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Back to school

Today was great - though I felt like I was going back to school as I set off this morning with my rucksack filled with pens and booklets! We learnt some Mexican history and then about the mangroves and the bird life. This afternoon we leant how to use a GPS and how to use binos! Not that the latter part was terribly new to me but they also have a telescope and can hook it up to a digital camera which was pretty cool!
Going back a bit - after I had blogged yesterday I set off back to the hotel where I met Fred, from Philidelphia, who too had been here for a couple of days but at another (more expensive) hotel! Paco and Vanessa, two of the organisers met us there and took us to meet everyone else. Dee, fron Maine, and Luiza, from Brasil, had arrived the night before and had stayed at Casa de Maria, where we are staying. Susan, from Mobile Alabama, and Denny, from Rio, had come down with Dave our organiser and runner of Immersion Adventures. And there´s Santiago who is Dave´s assistant and who wants to study ecotourism next year. So thats everyone, we were to be joined by a chap from Egypt but he couldn´t get a visa. We went down into the village for dinner at Immersion Adventures HQ and Linda cooked prawn kebabs, rice and salad - yummy!!! After a few ´getting to know you comrades´ type games we had a briefing on the project and were then left to find our own way home - which wasn´t too hard.
We´ve been put into teams and I am with Fred for dining duties, we had to sort out breakfast and lunch today - lots of cereal for breaky and then boiled eggs and tortillas for lunch, which went down very well. Then I am in a research team with Susan and Denis. Tomorrow there will be more studying in the morning, this time of marine fish and how to identify them, then we´re off into the field. I am toasting like a marshmallow so I shall don as much suncream and long sleeves as possible without roasting, and hopefully will not burn any more!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Coco Ostiones

So I left you yesterday as I was about to get to La Manzanilla - a place nobody was willing to admit existed! Well I hopped in a micro (taxi) and scooted down here and even found the right hotel! Not that they had any idea of who Earthwatch were. So I dumped my bags and headed for the beach and very beautiful it is too. There´s a huge cresent of brown sand and the waves were lapping it and many people were playing in the sea. I pottered about. La Manzanilla is pretty tiny (well compared to Brum anyway) and I think I covered most of the centre in a few minutes. I had spotted Pepes pizza on the way in and although what I really wnated was to sink my teeth into a huge steak I settled for a familiar pizza. It was great and I washed it down with agua fresca - which I thought might just be water but was in fact a pinkish red drink from a big vat with a sweet flavour (no tummy problems). Anyway I slept very well - a full 12h! And this morning I went for a dip in the sea before breaky! Which in itself was interesting as there was nothing at the hotel so I had Ques... and fresh orange at Restaurant Yola. Very tasty too - sort of fried tortilla in little bits with a tomato sauce and cheese. The rest of the day has been spent at Crispins Coco Ostiones. I wandered along the beach for about 20min and found a shelter of palm branches (a basher). So I set myself up and gently wiled away the afternoon. About 3.30 three chaps on bicycles went by and one waved. He came up the beach and said hello and went into the house behind. A few minutes later he came out and we chatted about how I was where I was from the usual questions. Then he offered me a coconut - very yummy in the sunshine! So now its nearly time to meet the guys from Eartwatch. I hope everything goes to plan and now that I have found this place may be I can tell you more of my adventure over the next few days!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

And so my adeventure begins

I´m here - in Mexico! After travelling for 48h I am nearly at my destination - La Manzanilla (Hotel Posada Tonala) in Jalisco state. My flights went off without a hitch and I landed in Mexico city yesterday at about 6pm. I swiftly made my way over to the Northern bus terminal and bought myself a ticket for Manzanillo, for an overnight bus. I got myself a bottle of water and when my stomach started rumbling I bought a mole verde pasty - a big puff pastry affair with some kind of nut on the outside and a creamy spicy green chicken filling - not bad. I went to catch my bus but it never seemed to arrive. A chap from the bus terminal asked where I was going and he then told me that my bus had already left - no I said its gone early! But then he corrected me - my watch was wrong by an hour!!!! Stress and lots of "NO!"s later Rodrigo calmed me down and got me on to another bus to Guadalajara without having to pay anything! I wish I could say I slept like a baby but sadly not I slept in 30min bursts as it was cold and there was a constant stream of Mexican pop music...... So this morning at 5am I arrived in Guadalajara (and saw my first cockroach ambling along the pavenment) and swapped buses to go to Manzanillo. More pop music and several hours later I arrived in a sweltering coastal city. I had only an hour to wait for the bus to La Manzanilla and read my book (which is the Time Traveller´s Wife, its magic but if I had known it was so sad I would have read soemthing jollier for my first few days!). I went to the bus and asked the driver to tell me when to get off but he says he´s never heard of the place I want to go to! So its with apprehension that I boarded the bus. We headed south. This is a bad sign as I´m pretty sure that I should be going north. I got off after an hour and returned to Manzanillo. I check my details again and find another address and head for there! So now I am in Melaque/San Patricio and I feel like I´m in the right place. The camomile tea is doing a marvellous job and the sun is cracking the pavement as Dr S would say. So, hopefully, more updates later!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

London in the rain

carluccio's Posted by Picasa

Continuing in a 'lady of leisure' frame of mind I went down to see Mum and Dad on Tuesday evening and then yesterday we all went in to London for a jolly. First call was Carluccio'sfor coffee and panetone! Then just round the corner we were dazzled by the brilliance of the crafts at the Chelsea Craft Fair. This is its 25th year, and was truely spectacular, though a little on the expensive side for me! We meandered our way down the Kings Road and lunched in Patisserie Valerie on the best croque monsieur I think I have ever had. With the rain starting to fall we jumped on the tube and then walked up to Stanfords for a map of Mexico and a bird book, which they didn't have. We pottered up to Waterstone's in Piccadilly and, having purchased the bird book, had coffees and read books! Finally another tube journey took us to Wagamamas in Covent Garden (the Yasai Yaki Soba was delicious).

coliseum Posted by Picasa

And so to the highlight of the evening - The Magic Flute by ENO at the newly refurbished Coliseum. The set they used was the same as one Mum and Dad had seen back in Holland, complete with nest coming down from the roof for Papageno and Papagena. I never realized how many references there were to Isis and Osiris in it! One of the most spectacular scenes was when the brotherhood appeared on stage in front of a lattice of Egyptian hieroglyphs lit from behind in red!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Birmingham's Best kept autumnal secret

highbury park Posted by Picasa

Being 'lady of leisure' I got to do something yesterday that I have been planning to do for a little while - I went to see the autumn crocus at Highbury Park. I used to cycle through the park everyday and so could keep an eye on the flowering of the crocus up at the Yew Tree Road entrance, but since I moved my cycle route has changed. So it was with baited breath that I walked through the park from Kings Heath High Street. And I wasn't disappointed - the carpet of purple flowers was spectacular. I would highly recommend a visit for anyone in the vicinity. Another great thing happened yesterday - I have graduated from being a novice at the climbing wall! No excuses now for dropping J!

Friday, October 07, 2005

End of an Era

mailbox Posted by Picasa

I can't quite believe that this is my last day at Aston, five years have gone by very quickly. So transmission will become a little more sketchy on laughingsnail and hecticium until I sort out an internet connection at home or find an internet cafe! I have a couple of months before I start work again so it is with great excitement that I can say that I shall be off to Mexico a week on Saturday, for a month. I have signed up for an Earthwatch expedition for the first week and then I shall do a little travelling. I am hoping that I won't get washed away by a lot of rain!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day and the theme for this year is space. Not feeling terribly inspired (and also not being a great poet) 48h ago I managed to come up with this little offering, nothing to do with space but a lot to do with the Universe and U.

For Seasons

For Autumn
I will bring you one hundred crisp crunchy leaves
In sunset red and yellow.

Fow Winter
I will bring you a pine cone
Sparkling with Jack Frost's jewels.

For Spring
I will bring you the first daffodil
Fresh with dew, its scent heady and intoxicating.

For Summer
I will bring you a clutch of pebbles
Warm from the sun, rounded by the sea.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Autumn colour

westonbirt Posted by Picasa

I popped down to see Wampe yesterday and we went to see the leaves that had already turned at Westonbirt Arboretum, which was just getting into the swing of things! A couple of weeks and the colour will be spectacular! Happy Autumn!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

EBBP Bread and butter pudding

savory bread and butter pudding Posted by Picasa

I felt totally inspired by my parcel from Lilian so I popped down to the international market for some french cheese - Tomme de Savoie. There was lots going on - giant paellas and tartiflette being cooked, giant meringues for sale just to mention the things I tried. Back home I created a savory bread and butter pudding with Lilian's pear and walnut bread, a savory custard and the tomme. It was just a case of following a recipe for the regular sweet version and baking it for 30min. I thought I had made enough for 2 but I was ravenous and ate the lot! For dessert I had one of the giant meringues from the market with ready made custard. All very yummy.

isle flotante Posted by Picasa

I am still contemplating the many possibilities......
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