Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Chinese brother who swallowed the sea

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I don't know about you but I had an early childhood that was rich with stories and books.  Our library was limited to say the least so I spent lots of time perusing the encyclopedia and reading my favorite stories over and over.  There was one that always sent me diving deep into my own imagination both with it's story and it's illustrations.  The Five Chinese Brothers.  Remember that?  I was absolutely fascinated about the possibility of having a brothers who could swallow up the sea while I ran out and explored the ocean floor.  The ocean itself was such a foreign entity to me as I lived in a small town in Tennessee where the most water I ever saw at one time was in a creek or a lake.  I spent many hours on hot muggy southern afternoons looking at those illustrating and imagining myself walking out onto the ocean floor.

I think that is why one of my favorite beaches here in Pescadero is a beautiful expanse of sand surrounded and pocked with large rocks which are the homes to many interesting sea creatures.  The tide pools there give me hours of interesting observation especially when the tide is active.  The crabs, anemones, starfish, and snails just to mention a few take an amazing amount of battering by the force of the waves yet still have the ability to cling to the rocks and find their daily meals.  I could watch this for hours.

This is not an especially easy beach to reach but not hard either.  All you need is a decent four wheel drive truck and an adventurous spirit.  Clem and I were heading out with the dog to the local beach club on Saturday morning when we passed this beach.  We did a u turn and mutually agreed that this was more our speed so we headed down the rocky road, around the scary turn and there we were.  All alone on a beautiful pacific ocean beach.

The waves were pounding against the rocks and exploding up into the air when we got out of the truck and the power of the ocean was resonating down the beach.  Clem took off with the still camera and I had our little movie camera.  Our intentions were to attempt to capture some of the beautiful of this place to share with you.  But as all seasoned travelers know there is really nothing like being there so the few shots and clips that I will be posting today is a pale representation of the true beauty of this location.

What I find in a spot like this is mediation in its purest form.  A power so awe inspiring that just sitting and watching, listening, and feeling consumes time and propels you to beautiful relaxed spaces inside your head.  As I sat, I contemplated how the world would change if we all made finding a place like this a priority in our lives.  We are so busy working, watching tv, shopping at the mall, or working through our lists that we pass by the opportunity to go out and discovery new places and enjoy the peace that sitting still in natural beauty brings.

There are literally hundreds of places like this in the Baja.  The mountains, the desert, the sea all have secret surprises that are here for the discovering.  In a world where the population is exploding and natural habitats are being taken over by asphalt and concrete my husband and I have found a land that is still its own master.  The people who live and visit here are those who have found the peace in natural things and like an addict once they experience it they can't give it up.  That is exactly why so many people who live here simply came to visit and ended up selling their homes and uprooting their lives to reside permanently in this place of tranquility and natural beauty. My intention today was to describe all the beautiful beaches here in Pescadero that you can visit but I can't seem to arrange the words in a way that could portray their beauty and solitude.  Instead I would like to challenge you to break from your lists and come discover them for yourself.

If you are interested in a male perspective of the same day visit PAM AND CLEM IN MEXICO and read my husband's post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Simple days in Mexico

There are so many things that I want to tell you about my town of Pescadero. The fishing, the festivals, the best places to eat, and the best beaches rank high on my list. But before I do that I need to tell you about the local people of Pescadero because this is my absolute favorite thing about living in this area of Mexico.

I grew up in a small town in Georgia where I believe it is realistic to say that a good majority of the people who lived there were related to me. My mother came from a family of seven and each of those seven married and made their own large families. Consequently I had 35+ first cousins most of whom lived within close proximity. We had the usual family reunions, attended the same small church, and had the typical small town social life.

The Church
Up the mountain
Here in Pescadero that same sense of small town inter-relatedness is also the rule. Everyone knows everyone and everyone seems to be related to everyone. Recently I had an opportunity to experience the extended family life that is still prevalent here when I was invited up into the mountains to attend a religious ceremony in a very old small Catholic Church. The Church was approximately an hour away through a series of dirt roads and cow trails. There was very little evidence of people throughout the ranching area and I was not surprised when I arrived and found only a handful of people.

The Priest arrives
As with all events in Mexico time does not seem to be the priority and it was over and hour and a half before all the people slowly meandered into the dirt yard of the Church and the Priest himself finally arrived. The Priest made his way around to each family and its members blessing them and listening to their concerns.  He took as much time as necessary with each family and no one seemed worried or concerned about the beginning of the service. I was also greeted by the Priest with no obvious surprise at my presence.

Decorated Church
Soon a group of ladies brought out a large image of a Saint which was brightly decorated with flowers and streamers. It was carried into the small Church in a procession-like fashion where the Priest assumed control over the service. Because of limited space inside the small Church I joined others who watched through the windows off the porch. The interior was likewise brightly decorated with balloons, flowers, and streamers which made an unusual juxtaposition again the ancient brick walls and iconic religious images. The seats were very old hand hewn log benches with modern folding chairs interspersed.

It wasn't really necessary for me to understand specifically what was being said because the language of family, friends, and faith was spoken that day. Small children were taken to the front by their parents to be blessed, middle aged children were likewise blessed and sang their songs of faith, and then honors were given to the saintly image with both word and with song.

Band playing
It was unusual to see a three piece "mariachi" type band walk to the front and play their ranchero style music. This is not the type of music that American's associate with religious praise. It would be much like having Johnny Cash and his band show up in the local Baptist Church to sing Folsom Prison Blues. However, the serenade was an important element of the celebration that day and it gave the service an almost fiesta like feel.

The land owner
Afterwards there was the typical dinner on the grounds except instead of fried chicken and potato salad we had pozole a stew like dish made with the head of a pig.  It was quite delicious. I was honored by being served first and was surprised when several of the locals attempted to speak to me in their broken English and ranchero Spanish. I had a very interesting conversation with an elderly man who told me some of the history of the Church. His mother and father had been married there and so had he and his wife. He remembered the building being old even then and he had no real idea of its age. Services were held there every three weeks when the Priest made his way back around to their church.

The band under the tree
Soon the same "band" reassembled beneath a shade tree and began again to play. The smaller boys gathered around too and my heart lurched when I saw one man's grandson resting on his boot and watching in wonderment.  I could see it in his eyes that one day he too would play in a band. The fiesta was short and sweet and soon the food was put away and there was the shaking of hands and kissing of cheeks.

The owner of the property was an 80 year old man who told me that he had come from a large family of mostly brothers and that the people who were there were his relatives in some form or another.  He gave me a brief tour of his meager home and ranch before I drove away with an invitation to visit anytime.

boy with Grandfather
On the way down the mountain I imagined what each of these families would do that afternoon. I imagined them sitting on the front porch, tending to their horses and cattle, playing with their children, and probably making music of some sort. A simple life.  Certainly not an easy life compared to my life in the states but none the less a full and simple life.

I like to think that my experiences with the Mexicans here are the standard and not the exception to the rule. Yes, there is small time crime here mostly petty theft and those crimes are like always committed by just a few.  No place is exempt from some of this and I can honestly say that I feel safer in this town than I do in many places in the states.  I get the sense that the low crime rate here is perpetuated by the simple lifestyle and the lack of need for frivolous "things" that Americans get caught up in.  Food, water, shelter, beautiful weather, and family...what else could you want?

I appreciate the people of Pescadero for showing me the simple way of life and happiness again.  Throughout the years of growing up and living in the United States I forgot the way of life of my Grandparents and their Grandparents before them. Life has become fast and competitive and success is measured on a whole new scale.

Over the past three years I have lived with the presence of serious illness hanging over someone that I love very much.  Being the caregiver I have had to examine every detail of our lives to find a place of physical and mental healing.  I brought this special person with me here to Pescadero because of the simple people and simple lifestyle that is prevalent.  I believe that healing can only take place when one is surrounded by peace and tranquility.  I know of no other place that offers us the hope of healing and miracles as much as the small town of Pescadero.  As I end this post today I hope that all of you are lucky enough to find your own place of healing, miracles, and a simple life.

From sunny Pescadero, Baja California Sur...Adios.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Fiesta at Kenny's
One of the many great things about living in Mexico/Pescadero/Mountain Shadow RV Park is the food. Pescadero is both a farming and fishing community so fresh out of the field vegetables and fruits are always available along with fresh seafood!!!! When we are here we eat very healthy but that doesn't mean we skimp on flavor.  On the contrary food here is so much more delicious and varied than anywhere I have ever lived.

We live near the small town of Todos Santos which is an artist community.  When I say "arts" I mean all forms of art.  We have a huge population of visual artists, theatre and film artists, and gourmet food artists!! A combination of our local artisan talent along with the availability of fresh ingredients makes for some very unique and healthy fare.

Here in the park we have some amazingly convenient and inexpensive methods of acquiring our food.  On Sunday Rudolfo drives by in his little blue truck full of fresh veggies, local cheese, eggs, bread, water and of course our favorite cerveza!!  Each week we spend our pesos supporting this industrious man and his charming young family who run a local tienda.  I organize a loose request list with him every Sunday and he always delivers them promptly along with anything special he thinks I might like.

Usually about 30 minutes after Rudolfo departs our "fish lady" comes into the park with her daughter loaded down with lobster, crab, shrimp, tuna, and scallops.  Her goods vary each time depending on the season.  Twenty to thirty dollars fills our freezer with all the seafood that we can eat in a week.  God I love this place!!

Also on Sunday one of the long term tenants of the park, Mo, goes out to the "tamale lady" and brings back pipping hot tamales from a local mexican woman.  He found this woman through taste testing the tamales throughout Pescadero and decided that she produced the best. Oooooh he was right.  We buy a dozen tamales on Sunday and have to work hard to make them last three days.

Sunday has come to be one of our favorite days here in the park and last Sunday proved to be more special than most.  Kenny invited us to have dinner with him and his friend Pancho from San Jose.  They have been long time friends and Pancho loves to cook traditional mexican fare. When he invited us to have Pozole I had no idea what we would be served and was thrilled to learn that we would be dining on a traditional holiday dish.

I love to cook and Pancho turned out to be a kindred spirit.  We spent most of the night talking about ingredients, where to find them, and traditional recipes. He explained the process of cooking pozole in great detail along with how and when it is served in Mexico. I had so much fun.  We saw Pancho again a few days later and he described how to make horchata so I could make it myself instead of going into Todos Santos for my fix. Tomorrow I am meeting up with Pancho at the Mega in San Jose.  We have some business matters to attend and then we are going shopping for ingredients for mole.

This is how life is here in Baja.  Simple things are savored and enjoyed together.  I have enjoyed getting to know Pancho through his association with Kenny and now I have a mentor in the kitchen.  Below I will briefly describe his process for making pozole which is a soup/stew type dish made with pork. It is made differently throughout the various regions of Mexico. Frequently it is made with the head of the pig but Pancho says it is way to greasy for his taste so he uses ribs, back, and other lean cuts of pork.

chowing down
The first step is to cook the pork slowly over low heat in water for a couple of hours until tender.  It is then cooled and taken off the bone reserving the liquid.  While the meat is cooking 10 dried ancho chilies and 6 guajillo chilies are soaked in liquid for approximately 20 minutes to soften.  The chiles are then placed in a blender along with enough of the reserved liquid to blend into a sauce.  Three bulbs of garlic, 1/4 of an onion, oregano, pepper, and salt are also added.  When this is completed it is added into the reserved liquid along with a can of tomato puree or paste.  The meat is then put back into the soup mixture and brought to a low boil.  Just before serving, a large can of hominy is poured into the mix. The soup is ladled up and topped with chopped red onion, cilantro, radish slices, and corn tortillas.  This makes a beautiful presentation.  Oops almost forgot one of the most important ingredients...ice cold beer.

There you have it.  How to make Pozole.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You really can pet a whale

The whale calves seem to love children
It seems appropriate to start my blog with a little story about how we found a small fishing town in Baja, Mexico.  My husband and I were in Santa Barbara on business and I signed on for a whale watching tour to stay busy.  The trip itself was unremarkable but the story that I was told on the boat that day sparked intrigue into me about the land that lay south of California.  An elderly woman spun a wild tale of beauty and danger in an unspoiled area where you could actually reach down into the ocean and touch a baby whale.  I half expected her to hand me a poisoned apple that day and I thought she might be half mad until I took to the internet and googled GRAY WHALES IN BAJA. That settled it.  We were going to Baja.

It took almost two years to find ourselves crossing the border from San Diego.  Why?  Well we lived in Tennessee.  It was 2000 miles from our home to San Diego and another 1000 to drive down the Baja.  We needed months for this trip.  It did not take long to discover that this was not the same Mexico that we had visited on the mainland.  The terrain was so diverse.  Unspoiled pacific ocean beaches,  desert mountains,  miles and miles of desert flora with huge majestic cactus, and turquoise bays surprised us all along our route.  By the time we made it to the south of the peninsula we were addicted to driving down the side routes to some isolated area looking for another surprise.

Our camper at Los Cerritos

It was one such route that brought us to become part of the Pescadero Community.  I had read a small "blurb" about possible beach camping in a place called Los Cerritos at mile marker 63 and as we came closer to this area we decided that this would be a great place to rest for a few days.  As we made our way down the washboard dirt road we suddenly noticed a tire rolling past us.  Yep!  It was ours.  The axle on our camper snapped in half.  Locals immediately helped us to the side of the road, we were given permission to camp there in sight of a beautiful beach, and six weeks later we were sad at the prospect of leaving.

This email is how the truck found us
During that time frame we met so many people.  We were fed, entertained, introduced to friends and families, and before long we had become part of the landscape.  On our way home we decided that we would someday sell our house in Tennessee and move back to Pescadero.  Since then we have stayed for months at a time during all of the seasons and most of our family and close friends have been here to visit us.  It has taken us four years to make it back permenately.  After selling our home, marrying off our and educating our children, and relieving ourselves of burdensome possessions we finally pulled away from Tennessee bound for the Baja.  That was approximatey one month ago.

Our friend Kenny at "Shut Up Frank's"
We have been back in Pescadero for a little more than a week now and have just become settled back in to a gorgeous private RV Park that our friend Kenny Sewell built.  We feel so fortunate to be part of this community and have Kenny as our friend.  One of my goals with this blog is to lead others to this area and possibly to our RV community.  We are relatively small with only 22 sites but there are a select few still available.  I will be linking my blog to the Mountain Shadow RV Park site for any of you who want to know more about our home.

Can you believe it.  I took this photo.
I saw it with my own eyes!!  
I plan to tell stories about the cast of characters who live in Pescadero and the surrounding area as well as give factual information about driving the Baja, places to stay along the way, internet resources, restaurants, activities, and more.  We are living our dream in a magical place that just came our way.  Hopefully some of you will be inspired to look for magic and adventure too.  In the meantime I am going to end this post with some photos of our first trip to the Baja and YES you can pet a gray whale here!!