The view west from the homestead

The view west from the homestead

Sweet Chance

Sweet Chance

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


March 23rd, 2008

We are camped by a beautiful green rolling river in the Lacandón jungle in Southern Chiapas. The name of the place is Campamento Lacandones . The river spreads out just upstream and has created a wide waterfall that you can climb up and jump off of. The falls come in from many different angles. It is truly beautiful. There are also some great trees that the young (and Chris) can climb up and leap from. A three meter crocodile has been seen up just river several months ago but hasn’t shown his chops here yet. As for the birds…..see Cassidy’s blog entry entitled: “ Euphonias, Tanagers, and Honey Creepers, Oh MY! “ (Cassidy’s and Teslin’s blogs are hyperlinked near the top of our blog).
Our fellow Vagabundos, Susan and Esteban, are here as well. Susan is an avid birder, and she, Cassidy and Chris have been getting up daily at daybreak to go birding. The rest of us have enjoyed the babble of the waterfall and the beautiful sound of bird song through our pillows.
Bonampak is near the Guatemalan border south of Palenque and is in a large preserve or protected area. The area around Bonampak is managed collectively by three distinct indigenous groups’ the Lacandones who previously inhabited the Lacandón Jungle, the Choles and the Tzeltales. There are places like this one popping up all around the area, offering cabañas, places for hammock dwellers and camping. This area is relatively new to tourism. Bonampak was accessible only by airstrip until 1997 when the Mexican government built a road in from Palenque. With the road came modernization and well…you know the rest. It is a very precious place still.
There is an internet hut a twenty minute walk from here. It is owned by a Lacandón family who also has a campamento. The place is a simple room with 5 computers, shelves of wood carvings, baskets, some clay figures, and seed necklaces. The family that runs it spans 3 generations and most still dress in the traditional Lacandón tunics which are long white cotton shifts worn by the men, women and children (the young girls were dressed in colored tunics). The older man explained how they get the fiber from the inner bark of a tree, while his daughter showed us how they make cordage by rubbing the fibers firmly between their palm and leg. Behind their shoulders I could see Internet Explorer home pages.
The Lacandón people seem very aware of the pressures on their jungle habitat. Although we ourselves pose a threat to this, the tourist trade is not the greatest of their challenges. The destruction of the rain forest is happening here just as it is in more well known areas such as the Amazon. The entire drive south from Palenque, there were large herds of cattle grazing on land that was once jungle. The trees are cut down for firewood, for grazing, for fields and to provide habitat for an ever expanding population. Many people have already migrated to the area from other parts in Mexico, and the pressure it places on the land will only continue. The Lacandón seem wise stewards of the earth and I only hope that this special culture has the strength to survive the political and social pressures that come with growth.

Campeando Estilo Méxicano

It is Easter holidays here in Mexico and many are out and about. Two different times, both here and in Palenque, we were nestled down for the night when 2 tour buses arrived (around 9:30 pm) from Mexico City. They were packed to capacity with Mexicans with the best attitudes I have ever seen exhibited while setting up camp under less than optimal conditions. They piled out of the buses, searched for dry and level areas of ground, pitched small tents in the dark-all within a few feet of each other (and us)- waited without complaint at the 4 bathrooms sans TP that were too small for their numbers and not functioning well and then slept a short hot night after grabbing whatever they could eat from the kitchen. The next morning they hurriedly rolled up their wet tents and bags, lined up again at the bathrooms and then were all packed into the buses again, taken to the ruins for a visit and another long drive to their next destination. It was quite an odyssey….a little appalling at first sight, but you can appreciate it much more once you see that there were grandparents, grandchildren, city dwellers, small pueblo citizens…..all walks of life, happily going “camping” together. I would hate to hear the complaints from a bus of US tourists! These folks were all very good natured and seemed to be having a great time. Obviously, this is an affordable and accessible way for them to get out and about.


Friday, March 14, 2008


We finally said goodbye to Oaxaca after 6 weeks of school and sedentary living. We had settled in to a great schedule of 4-6 brisk 15 minute walks a day and city living. We left Saturday, March 8th, at noon alter a morning of goodbyes to our housemates and set off South on the Pan American Highway. Things were going great until the road was blockaded by “las maestras” 10 miles north of Tehuantepec. It is a very complicated story and I don’t want to minimize the importance of the schoolteachers’ dilemma or demands but road blockades have been adopted as a bargaining tactic by the teachers’ union and everyone is thus included in their struggle. Anyway, we were directed on to a dirt road at the military checkpoint if we wanted to avoid being stuck on the highway for 24+ hours and we decided to just follow other vehicles they had already diverted that way so off we went. It was a very interesting detour down an ever-narrowing dirt road with many interesting turns and ruts, which got even more interesting as night fell. We finally came to what looked like a dead end at a river some 50 feet wide but watched the lights of a pickup truck as it crossed it and they didn’t go underwater so lumbered after him with the trailer in tow. We felt like we were part of an old wagon train- just needed a cow tied to the back bumper to make it authentic. Anyway- finally made it to Tehuantepec at 9pm and crashed at the Calli Hotel. Birded in the grounds and around the pool the next day and then headed out at noon for Ocozocoautla (outside of Tuxtla Gutierrez) and the Hogar Infantil.

Day one at the orphanage was spent looking closely at the popup and getting organized again for living in the trailer. We were surprised to find that the back section of the trailer had separated from the body and there was a 2-inch gap of air leading in to the inside- not good for tropical climates! After much thought, we decided that Duct Tape was definitely the treatment of choice and proceeded to wrap it tightly alter removing the spare tire. It looks like it may work for a short-term solution and will see how it does on the highway. Anny was so impressed it got her to write a poem-she really applied herself!

Sima de los Cotorras

We heard through some friends who had preceded us that there was a great birding place close to the Hogar that we should check out. We drove out some 12-14 miles on a dirt road following signs for the selva and the sima and finally arrived at a huge limestone sinkhole some hundred yards across and several hundred feet deep surrounded by scrub trees and filled with huge trees on the bottom. Several thousand birds-mostly green parrots or “Cotorras”- roosted in the Sima (sinkhole) at night so we waited there until nightfall far the nightly return. We were not disappointed as groups of parrots started returning at 5pm as wave after wave came in for the next 2 hours. They made quite a racket as they flew in and settled in along the cliff edges and tops of trees. Cassidy and I were so impressed that we got up at 5:30 the next morning to be there at sunrise as they came out. We left with it still quite dark and arrived at the sinkhole before grey light. We heard some great bird calls in the dark so turned the car off and waited. We were surrounded by Buff-colored and Paraque Nightjars who have a wonderfully eerie call and they came quite close to us as they hunted insects in the night. We just sat there in front of the car for 10-15 minutes until it began to get lighter then proceeded to the sinkhole. It was very quiet in the Sima when we arrived with an occasional parrot call echoing around the hole. Then, as light came, wave after wave of parrots, 20-30 in a group began spiraling their way out of the sinkhole. They called continuously as they rose, seemingly calling others to join them, and then flying off in different directions for the day’s activities. This went on for close to 2 hours as we watched and listened and was quite a treat. After most of the parrots had left the sima, we walked the scrub area around the sinkhole and came across groups of noisy Chacalaca, Black-headed Saltators, Altamira Orioles, and a Squirrel Cuckoo, which is one of my favorites. We finally left at 10am and returned home.

Tuxtla Gutiérrez Zoológica

We went to Tuxtla that night to get groceries and visit the Zoo, which we had read great things about. Cassidy has a great description on his Blog-see under Links. The zoo was amazing- one of the best I’ve ever experienced- as it is a large reserve filled with large trees and scrub on the side of a mountain with several streams running through it. Almost all of the animals and birds were residents of Chiapas and there was actually more wildlife outside of the cages than within them as hundreds of birds-Chacalaca, MotMots, Guan and Curassows flew in to the park for feeding and some seemed to have taken up residency. Large rodent-like creatures the size of large cats-Agoutis-wandered the zoo’s grounds by the hundreds and the air was filled with the cries of many parrots and other birds. Spider monkeys could be seen in the tops of trees as one walked through the park- we did not know if they had escaped their own enclosure or had come to the park on their own. We walked on a great 4-5 km path that wound its way through the park over 2+ hours and as we were leaving, we were treated to a loud penetrating growl of a black panther that reverberated through the park several times. It made one think of dinner-in many different ways.

San Cristóbal de las Casas

We left on the 12th de Marzo for San Cristóbal and moved in to the Bonampak Hotel trailer park, which is quite comfortable for 4 nights before continuing on towards Palenque. San Cristóbal is a wonderful city in the midst of the highland Maya region that is unique for many reasons. The Zapatista uprising happened here in the 1990s and the area is still in flux with many communities close to here that actively support and align themselves with the Zapatista movement and others who side with PRI or other government groups. There continues to be a large military presence and harassment of Zapatista followers and sympathizers and history continues to be made as this struggle continues. The overall feel of the town is also very different with its architecture reminding one more of Guatemala and Central America than Mexico and the narrow rough cobblestone streets making even Oaxaca seem very “modern”. The tourists are mostly European---Americans are definitely outnumbered--with an interesting smattering of more “earthy” types sporting native dress and the less showered look-our kind of people! We hope to get out of the town to surrounding communities before we head out but also plan on returning for a longer visit on the return trip if money allows. Anny and I both love this place and want to explore its riches. Unfortunately, other foreigners also share this feeling as Century 21 is in business advertising new homes in gated communities, which is a little distressing. Anyway- more to come.


Las Hadas Tardes

En nuestra casa, las Hadas habían venido cada año en la noche ante de los cumpleaños de nuestros niños. Habían traído regalitos y flores, y los pusieron en la mesa. Casi siempre, las hadas traían animales de vidrio o de madera. Siempre dejaban una vela especial con flores.

Este año, mi hijo cumplió trece años aquí en Oaxaca. Tenía mucha curiosidad: ¿qué van a dejar las Hadas en México? ¡Pues….Los hadas no vinieron! Fue la primera vez qué no habían venido. El niño no lo comprendo y estaba muy triste. Le dijimos que quizás le olvidaron, o quizás, no se encontraban las Hadas de cumpleaños en México.

¡Que sorpresa! ¡El sábado, 11 días después su cumpleaños, las Hadas llegaron! Nuestro hijo nos despertó temprano y dijo: ‘¡Las hadas acaban de venir!! ‘ Pensamos que las Hadas se duerman durante una siesta larga, y por eso llegaron tarde.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


It’s silver, it’s grey
It lays coiled away
We bought it in case
and now need it each day.

Old Poppi is sagging
From the trip we are having
He’s torn in the stern
and for a rest he does yearn.

He leaks when it rains,
The couch sags and it strains
The rear’s gone and popped out,
screws are lying about.

The caulking is baked
Like the sun on a cake
While the topes have shaked
all the screws from their plates.

But all we must do
to make Poppi anew
Is apply our duct tape
to the holes where they gape.

Now the backside is tight
from the tape with it’s might
And the rain is kept out
as if in a drought.

Ahh, yes….Poppi is dapper,
with silver and white strappers
and strong as a horse,
he will carry us forth.

We continue our travels
as our trailer unravels
But we haven’t a fear
Because duct tape is near.

By Anny

Monday, March 10, 2008

10 Marzo, 2008

Hogar Infantil, Ocozocoautla

We are camped at a beautiful place outside of Tuxtla Gutierrez. It is home to about 90 children who are orphans. We were met by an amazingly helpful and cheerful group of boys who had us set up in no time. They are obviously used to visitors pulling in for the night, and were very curious about our pop-up. There are 4 spaces here for camping, and if they are full you can set up on the soccer field. They will not let you pay for your stay, but there is an organization affiliated with them in the U.S. that you can make financial contributions to on your return. It’s an ingenious setup, and benefits both sides greatly. They have a small bathroom near the camping spaces, but it is not working and has no water. Instead, Teslin and I use the bathroom in the girl’s dormitory, and Chris and Cassidy are using the one in the boy’s dormitory. The girls always greet us in English and are eager to talk (in Spanish). It is great fun.

We arrived on a Sunday and Teslin and Cassidy were quickly playing all sorts of games and surrounded by new friends. The grounds are large and clean and grassy. There is a huge playground area, basketball court, and soccer field right outside the pop-up. There are large shade trees for climbing, goats with kids, a family of pigs, and a puppy. It is quiet this morning since all the kids went to school. Cassidy and Chris were out birding early, but Teslin and I slept like babies through all the pig snorts and rooster calls. The great tailed grackles and white-winged doves, Great Kiskaddes and Clay-coloured Robins are keeing up a constant chorus. It is all very peaceful!


8 Marzo, 2008

We are once again Los Ruges Vagabundos. We’re heading down 190 south from Oaxaca having said our goodbyes to our Posada friends. Teslin is sporting corn rows that Patricia gave her this morning. We are listening to the Weavers, eating Mexican oreo cookies and feeling very, very fine. The landscape have changed from the dry mountains of Oaxaca to a thriving cactus zone starting to bloom, and now down into the lowlands where there is a huge amount of mague cultivation….you can just smell the tequila potential. The river beds now have water in them and are lush tropical lines in an ever greener lanscape.

Pues, es tiempo para escribir en español. Chris está cantando Quantanamera con fuerza en voz alta. Estamos escuchando a un grupo del los 60’s, Los Weavers, quien cantaban muchos de los políticos. Nos salimos de Oaxaca este mañana y estamos en ruta a Tehuantepec. La carretera tiene muchas curvas, y Teslin tiene un poco de mareo de movimiento. Este lugar tiene muchas milpas de maguey, y poca a poca está cambiando mas verde. Los valles que tienen agua son muy verde y vemos árboles de plátanos y papayas. Uh ho….estamos detrás una camión grande y tenemos pasar en una curva. ¡Ojalá que Chris no haga eso! Cassidy está felíz ver cambios en la tierra, porque buscando pájaros nuevas.

Todos estuvieron tristes en salir de Oaxaca. Nos despertaban por tres horas. Estábamos en Oaxaca por 7 semanas. Cassidy, Teslin, y yo hemos aprendido mucho español, y ellos tienen la confidencia para hablar con personas en restaurantes y cualquier lugar. Muchísimas gracias a todos—nuestros maestros: Luz, Pati, Monse, y Omar, y todos de las personas del Instituto Cultural. Unas gracias especiales a Patricia de la Posada del Fortín, quien era una buena amiga a los niños y nosotros, y con sus niños, Africa y Amir, nos introdujo a la cultura de familia en Mexíco. ¡Seguro que regresamos a Oaxaca!