Monday, January 02, 2006

Canyonwren in Melaque Mexico

Melaque, Mexico 2005-06

Saturday, Dec. 17 - Early morning the day we left. We awoke about 2:30 am and had to be at the airport for a 5:40 am flight. The plane was a little late leaving Spokane but we made it to Phoenix, Arizona and found our next flight with ample time to get some food and read. We boarded the plane on time but had to sit at the loading dock about 45 minutes while they removed some luggage that didn’t match passengers. Not that big of a deal in the big picture of national security.

Our flight arrived at the Manzanillo Airport at about 3:30 pm their time. As were going through customs we met a couple from Campbell River, BC, John and Jay Ringstead. They were traveling to Barra de Navada and we thought we could save some pesos by teaming up and only using one cab, but the cab master would not take the deal and each couple had to take separate cabs. John and Jay told us where they were staying and invited us to come over and visit. We loaded the bags and hit the road for the fast and furious drive to Melaque.

Now if you have ever heard rumors about how local people drive in Mexico, believe them. They drive fast, pass close, start quick, slow abruptly and tailgate philosophy is followed religiously by the people of this country. If you move there, then something infects you and you also become a member of this cult.

We arrived at the house at about 4:30 pm, walked in, looked about, met Leone (the care taker), put our thing in the room and walked directly to Bigotes for beer and margaritas. Bigotes is located on the beach in the heart of Melaque, it has always been a great spot to wet your whistle or play some cribbage as you watch the people go by or the sun go down. We had drinks, a bit to eat and needless to say after about 16 hours of traveling we headed back to our house for the night. The place we were staying was located at #1 Reforma. This was approximately 6 Mexican blocks from the heart of town.

Sunday, Dec. 18 – Sleeping the first night in Mexico has always been a hit and miss proposition. With the hard bed, the waves crashing the beach twenty yards away and the usual mix of music, dogs and chickens, you are lucky to get your eyes closed let alone get some rest. Experience has taught us to be prepared with travel survival essential #4, ear plugs! Some day I’ll go through the entire essentials list, you know; wet ones, Tums, flash light, etc., but you have to wait for the entire list.

Our first full day consisted of lying in the sun by the pool, eating and sleeping. No kidding, that is all we did! Well we did go into town and get some groceries at Fruterias “Hawaii”. This store and one other, Super Mercado “La Herradura Abarrotera de la Costa” were our main providers of the every day necessities.

Monday, Dec. 19 - Every day we have been in Melaque it has been warm, about 85 degrees, and sunny. We are establishing some patterns in our days already. Linda gets up just as the sun rises and she goes for a run and works out. I wake up an hour or so later and make coffee and breakfast. We sit and read and then get cleaned up. After that we walk into town and eat, shop and buy donuts! The donut man soon became a nightly tradition and we seldom missed purchasing several items from him. Today for our evening dinner we went to Flor Morena and spent approx. 600 pesos ($6.00) for a wonderful meal for two.

Tuesday, Dec. 20 - Today started out like all the days so far, but this day turned out to be one of two low spots in our adventure. Linda and I were sitting around the pool when we heard a buzzer somewhere in the house. The phones have not worked and Leone is trying to get the TelMex guy in to make some repairs, so we thought it might be him. About five minutes later Leone came in with an email that was delivered by someone from La Paloma. The email was from Don and Caroline Samulson, the people who were to arrive the next day and stay with us in the beach house. It was bad news. On Friday night they had gone to a Christmas musical at their church and returned home to find out that their boat was on fire down at the marina. The Samulsons own a fishing charter fleet of three boats. Don retired last year from his job at the local college and put a lot of hard labor into rebuilding the boat that was a complete loss. This boat was his pride and joy and when we first met them two years ago, he talked with great pride about how he was going to upgrade his baby. The boat was a complete loss, it was insured but the replacement value would never cover Don’s hard work and love for the vessel. Some other boats were damaged next to his but they were fortunate that the wind was blowing in a direction that probably saved many of the boats moored around his boat. Needless to say they had to cancel their vacation down to stay with us in Melaque. They stated that they needed to pump the fuel tanks, and figure a way to move the boat to a repair yard, and of course deal with the insurance company. Linda and I felt so bad for them. We knew how much the boat meant to Don and also how much they were looking forward to their vacation in Maxico. It was a very sad day.

We walked the beach into town and went to Roosters for breakfast. We really didn’t know what to think. The email said that we were set up for fishing with a local guide on the 24th and 29th and that we should make arraignment with some of the folks we met at La Paloma to fill the Samulson’s sopts or cancel the trip. On the way home from breakfast we stopped at La Paloma and connected with Michael, a fellow from Vancouver, BC whom we fished with last time we were down, and made arrangements to fish on the 24th. Everyone was saddened to hear about the fire and they were disappointed that they would miss Don and Caroline.

Later that evening we walked to La Marina to have some sea food for dinner. We sat down and when we ordered Linda, who doesn’t eat sea food, ordered the chicken. Oh man, what a scramble, no pollo! The waiter/owner said just a minute and he ran out of the restaurant. In about ten minutes, he returned, no pollo! He apologized but we were forced to go somewhere else and eat. We walked down town and went past the taco bar at the bus station. Linda had heard that it was good and cheap. So we went in and sat down. Our dinner for two with drinks came to $6.50 US.

Wednesday, Dec 21 – Market day! In Maleque Wednesday is market day and vendors from all over the place set up booths to sell anything you need, as long as it is made in China. I guess there are a few things there that are made in Mexico, but not too many. We cruised up and down the area looking at the different tables full of clothes, kitchen items, and home made CD’s. About every other table had its own sound system with Mexican rap or mariache band music blasting the crown as they sauntered by. Linda bartered with one of the vendors and got a good price on the little bracelets she always brings her kids. I had her deal for me and I bought some of the trinkets for the students up in our area at NIC.

We walked home and had our siesta then came back and ate at El Buen Gusto then a doughnut and home to bed. The Bennett’s go wild in Mexico!

Thursday, December 22 – Linda has been getting up early and running or working out at the gym in Maleque. I guess they have some weights available and she pays a couple pesos when she goes. She has actually become one of the regular crowd, and like her club at home, the morning gang (of two) now greet her when she arrives.

This morning we walked to Barra De Navidad to look up John and Jay, shop and eat some lunch. The surf has been huge this year and the beach between the two towns has been well washed. It took about 30 minutes to complete the walk and once in Barra we found their apartment but they were not in at that time. We walked down into the town and of course ran into them with in 15 minutes. It was market day in Barra and the place was jumping. Both Linda and I bought some shorts. They cost us $5.00 US, what a deal! During our shopping we bought some tile house numbers for our place in Post Falls. So we ate breakfast, did some shopping, walked along the Malecon, and then caught a bus home. Back in Maleque we ate lunch at Ceasar Y Charlie and on the way back to our place we confirmed the fishing trip and then set up a possible tour to Colima with Ray Calhoun who owns Tours Costalegre.

The evenings entertainment was a trip to the town square, a doughnut, and then a couple laps around the plaza. We sat down and within a few minutes we met a couple from Canada (most people you meet are from Canada down here), their names were Bonnie and Jerry. They were staying at Lagunna del Tules at the end of town, towards Barra. They were very nice and had great information about traveling in Mexico.

Friday, December 23 – Today was another laid back day. John and Jay walked over and we talked with them and then the evening brought another trip to town to eat, this time we went to Emilias’ where we had a very good pizza. We turned in early because tomorrow I needed to be ready to go fishing.

Saturday, December 24 – I got up early and made lunch for the day, packed my bag and walked to La Paloma where I met the group and guide for fishing. Our guide was Gerado Kosonoy and he captained a boat called the Hakuna Matata. It was a 24 foot panga with a canopy top. Cost for boat, equipment, bait and the best captain on the coastline is $30.00 per hour with a five hour minimum. The fishermen were Michael, Eric, Paul and myself. Gerado drove us to Barra and we loaded up the Hakuna Matata.

Our destination was The 100, an area eight miles off the coast. The 100 is a reef that drops off 987 fathoms where the fish gather this time of year. From what I gathered the fishing was not the best because of the storms up north which made the water colder. The fishing is better when the water temperature is up higher. About two miles out we ran into dolphins, not just several dolphins, but hundreds of them jumping and playing around our boat! It was amazing, I could not take enough pictures! Never in my life have I seen such a wonderful sight. Ok, here is my money, my day is complete!
We veered away from the swarming dolphins and headed back towards The 100. Gerado kept in contact with other guides and one of them was his sister. She had said that there were some logs about a mile away and that they had hit some Dorado around them. From what Gerado told me logs or anything floating draws the fish. They feed on the fish, crabs and other creatures that develop little ecosystems around the floating objects. So we watch for birds, who watch for the floating islands, because they too want to catch the fish.

With in about a half hour we spotted the birds and the logs. Gerado told us to get ready and pointed the Hakuna Matata just off the logs. I was surprised how fast we were trolling but as soon as our lures got parallel with the log, BOOM, we got two simultaneous hits. Gerado said “WAIT, WAIT” and sure enough we hit another. Three Dorado at once! Three fish jumping and going every which way. Eric had the rod on the left, Michael took the rod in the middle and I took the one remaining on the right. With in about five minutes Michael lost his fish. Eric fought his a little longer but it took a big jump and spit the hook which left me to fight mine alone. It took me about a half hour to get mine boated. It was about 50 pounds of beautiful fish. My left arm hurt and the adrenalin was pumping.

We put the lines back in the water as fast as possible and cruised back by the logs. Again two hits! This time it was Michael and Paul. Michael lost his again and Paul fought his for another half hour. It was up next to the boat, Gerado had the gaff hook ready, the fish kicked it tail fin one final hard thrust, and he was gone. I felt bad for Paul but the fight was great and we did get to see the fish. Again the lures were in the water and we were cruising.

Another group of floating wood was spotted about 500 yards away and we cruised off towards them. As we passed two Dorados hit and Eric and I started our fight. Eric's ran and jumped and was gone. Mine took a huge jump and shook his head. I could see and feel my lure come loose, but immediately it reset just under the side fin. Off it shot. It ran about 300 yards off my real and then stopped. Gerado started backing towards the fish and I reeled as fast as I could. A foul hooked fish always has the advantage and this one definitely knew how to use his. I fought him for over 45 minutes and every time I got close he would run and the struggle would begin all over. I reeled and looked around, there were Dorado’s everywhere! Gerado pointed out sharks swimming around the boat. It was another amazing moment. I finally got the fish to the boat and Gerado gaffed it and dragged it in to the well at the back of the boat. My arm ached and I needed a drink.

Just after I landed my fish, Gerado said the school split and they stopped biting. We hooked about ten fish and were able to boat four. They ranged from 20 pounds up to 55 pounds. I was two for two. I think it was because I have fished more then the rest and understand keeping the line taut as you fight them. It was a great day and everyone was very satisfied with the fishing experience. We all got fillets off the fish we caught and Gerado was able to take some of the fish to his mom's restaurant easing the burden during the upcoming tourist influx.

We were back at home by 3:00 PM and I took a dip in the pool to cool off. Linda came home from spending the afternoon reading at Bigotes and after we cleaned up we went to the nearest restaurant, located about a half block from our place, called Sr. Froys.

Sunday, December 25 -

Tuesday, December 27 – Today was Colima day. Linda and I got up and walked to Ray Calhouns’ Tours Costalegre, his place is located right next to La Paloma. Once there we met the Bell family from BC, Canada (of course) and loaded into Ray's big Suburban. We drove towards Manzanillo on the highway that is under construction and then headed inland to Colima where we had breakfast and Ray orientated us to the day's events. After breakfast we had some time to walk around the middle of the city. Linda and I walked
directly to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Which was very interesting. I haven't viewed much contemporary art in my day so I can't comment on the quality or content of the work. About all I can say is I liked the paintings that looked like wood.

After the museum we walked back to the area around the three parks and all the churches. We took pictures and Linda bought a skirt from one of the stores on Main Street.

We had about two hours to walk around ant then we met Ray and loaded up for the rest of our tour. Ray then drove us out of town to Hacienda de Nogueras Museum of Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo. We spent about two hours visiting this wonderful museum. We highly recommend this as a sight seeing stop if you are passing through the area.

From there we drove up to a view point where we could get a good look at the two volcanoes, Fuego (Fire) and Nieve (Snow). Fuego is still very alive and we were able to see steam flowing from the active cone.

The final stop was a lunch stop at a very busy restaurant on the plaza in Comala. Drinks were ordered and food was placed on the table. As long as you drank the food kept coming. You were only expected to pay for the drinks; the food was there to keep you drinking. Every course of food was different and very good so you can imagine how full we got. It was getting late and we needed to get on the road back to Melaque before dark.

Just a note: Guide books say to never drive in Mexico after dark. We have first hand experience to back that up. Our drive back was terrible due to the large amount of road work between Manzanillo and Melaque. In Mexico they will dig a 16' ditch across the highway and mark it by placing two rocks sprinkled

with flour in the traffic lane. Some time they will mark the detour with an arrow in flour, some times you just have to stop and look to see where you need to go.

Wednesday, December 28 – Another Market day! We walked down and Linda shopped while I watched people. I met up with Buzz for the second time this trip. Buzz lived in a small casa at the place that we stayed the first time we visited Melaque. The owner of our apartment was his friend René. Buzz is about 84 and a talker, so I stood there in the market talking about how he has been, his dog, his wife, his travels, René, her entire history, and much, much, more. Linda shopped and I listened. I was glad to hear from Buzz, I worry that someday I won't run into him when we visit. That will be sad.

Thursday, December 29 – Paul Bailiff and I were picked up at La Paloma by Gerado for another day of fishing. The folks at La Paloma seem to be passing a cold bug around and everyone who said they wanted to fish were sick and stayed in bed. Probably a good thing for them because unlike our first day out we caught nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. We saw a few sea turtles and had a nice boat ride out to The 100. Last time we went out the radio was all a buzz about the different boats catching fish. This time the air was silent. One boat caught a big marlin, about 350 pounds worth. We were right in the general area but saw nothing.

I came home and found Linda at Bigotes again. She has become a regular there, as a fishing widow she can read her books, have a drink and wait for me to come back from the sea all because it's happy hour all day long.