Saturday, March 4, 2017

Finding "Real" Mexico: Barra de Potosi in Words and Pictures

Its been a while since I blogged about anything but our recent trip to Mexico deserves more than a few photos posted on facebook or instagram.

For the past few years Taylor and I have enjoyed visiting Mexico, we fell in love with the beaches, the culture, and the chance to get off the grid, and unplug.  Last Spring we visited San Juanico ( small fishing village with some amazing surfing)  Getting to San Juanico was not easy, its 750 miles  south of San Diego and it would require 15+ hours of driving, or 2hr plane ride and a 4 hour drive. in the essence of saving time we chose the latter. The drive from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean was an adventure in and of itself. What it exposed us to was the "Real" Mexico, outside of popular tourist towns, all inclusive resorts and spring break hot spots. Certainly I would say towns like Santa Monica ,Myrtle Beach , Wisconsin Dells, and Orlando are part of the culture of the USA. So to are those touristy spot in Mexico.  Are they the "real" USA or Mexico, I'd argue no ( a discussion for another day) but they have a part to play. You want "real" you have to get out of those tourist traps and high walled complexes. We were  bound and determined that our next trip south of the border we would continue our search for more of the "real" Mexico.

If you, like me have seen  Shawshank Redemption on TBS a million times, You will no doubt have heard of Zihuatanejo ( it's where Red meets Andy at the end of the movie). Pretty much everyone shortens the name down to Zihua as a time savings if nothing else. Zihuatanejo is a mouth full for sure.
Taylor was telling me that Zihua shares the airport with the all inclusive resort town of Ixtapa

I had done some research prior to our trip, but my main focus was to get us off the grid and onto a sandy beach. I searched google maps, travel blogs, trip advisor etc. Found a small little village south of Zihua called Barra de Potosi, (simply Barra to the locals) . A quick search of B&B's and unique housing options, and we settled on a little place called Hacienda La Rusa , It was just a quick cab ride south of the airport, but as we had hoped, we found someplace "real" 

I could go on and on about the lodgings and the lovely folks who run and work there. The owners Staysa and Mike are some of the best people you could ever meet. What they have done to help the animals in Barra and surrounding communities with their organization Amigos de Animales is just amazing! Check out the photos, we were blown away, you would pay over $400/ night for a room like this in the US. 

Our friends Stasya and Yogi

From the backgate of the B&B  it was about 20 steps to the beach and what would become our base of operations for the next few days , La Condesa.  This little spot is one of many emramadas ( arbor in English) that is exactly what they are, small driftwood and bamboo frames with coconut palm frond roofs. There are about 10-15 emramadas in town but La Condesa was closest and had unobstructed beach views worth a million dollars. The menu was filled with local fresh seafood, handmade tortillas, and one of the best pina coladas that I have ever had. 
This is the Lagoon which is separated by the actual barra, you can see some of the enramadas along the beach

the view north from La Condesa along Playa Blanca

Cheap beers and priceless vista..

good view of the enramada and the gorgeous views

Taylor and I both enjoy adventuring and exploring, so we decided to take a day and do a bit of exploring. We were told that we could paddle the lagoon or  a short hike to a 25 mile long deserted beach. Naturally we decided to do both, we set off on paddleboards at sunrise, returned about an hour later, a short trip but a great workout on a small SUP.  

New SUP took a bit to get used to so Taylor starts out "knee standing"  aka: kneeling 

Surrounded by mangroves on a back channel in the lagoon, dry jungle up on the hill

The mouth of the lagoon: when we visited the barra was completely separating the ocean and the lagoon

Our hike in the afternoon to the uninhabited Playa Tortuga ( turtle beach) took us across the barra and into the dry jungle/ mangrove forest. It was so interesting to see the plant communities change so abruptly, from the aquatic, to nearly desert.  We saw, mangrove trees, coconut palms, airplants and cacti of all shapes and sizes. As a self described  biology nerd it was really fun to hike through a new ecosystem and see all the different plant and animals. Upon reaching the beach we found we were not alone, about 15-20 brown pelicans who were diving just past the breaking waves. It was so pleasant to see an completely undeveloped and uninhabited beach. As its name implies this beach is a very important nesting ground for three species of sea turtle. As it turns out we had great timing, after spending an hour or so on the beach, we ran into a tour group of about 30 young kids making the hike. Personally I was glad we just had to share the beach with the pelicans!

Amazing giant orchid cactus, close relative of the "Christmas Cactus" 

Beatutiful colors on this airplant (tillandsia)

Trail through the dry jungle/ mangrove intersection

When we got back from out hike a few cool down cervezas were definitely in order. We hit the pool and a few Coronas, cleaned up and made our way out to the beach to watch the sunset. Watching the sunset is something I will never ever get sick of, its even better when you  get to share it with your favorite adventure partner. 


If you know me, you know I am obsessed with fishing. I normally travel with the most advanced tackle , rods and reels. This trip was different, I hadn't planned on fishing and left all of my gear at home ( so a sure sign that the fishing would be good) . So it started while I was sitting on the beach the first afternoon. I saw a bunch of birds working along the shore, mostly brown pelicans, cormorants, terns,  but then more and more birds showed up, magnificent frigate birds,  turkey vultures and diving birds called brown boobies. I have been around enough to know that when the birds start gathering like that, something is about to go down. Sure enough, just past the breakers about 100 yards the beach  the ocean is frothing with activity , I can see a big bait ball being herded into the shallows, fish blowing up through the middle and all around. As I sit there on the beach no rod, no reel, no lures I am having a huge FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) moment. Despite wanting to be out there I sit back down and order another beer. The waiter notices the ruckus over my shoulder and yells into the kitchen, 30 seconds later there are two guys in board shorts running down the beach with big hand lines. They wade out into the breakers ,  making huge swinging cast with their homemade lures the birds are diving all around and then one guy hooks up then another, within the next five minutes  half a dozen more guys come streaming out of the enramadas and are running down the beach towards the feeding frenzy.  Bamm!!!, I am watching as one  of the first guys is hooked up,(fighting a big fish through crashing surf  is hard enough, fighting that same fish on a handline is really challenging). He fights the fish for about 10 mins and finally drag a huge 20-25lb pacific jack crevalle up the beach from the surf. He tosses that fish up the beach and barrels right back in the surf. A few cast later and he is hooked up again this time he was fighting a skipjack tuna, they were interspersed with the jacks making the water boil with activity. Then as fast as it happened the baitball broke up and the activity slowed.  During the next few hours while I was relaxing on the beach I saw another 3-4 frenzies, each one being predicted in advance by the frigate birds which seemed to appear out of nowhere. 

Fast Forward to the next day, Taylor and I are walking along the beach watching birds gather again and me just talking about all the fish I would catch if I just had brought a rod. It wasn't long after we ran into another couple who we were staying at the B&B with. He was also a fisherman and mentioned that he had been using the owners gear, and that I was welcome to borrow it.  Whoo Hoo! I have a chance... Maybe, I was hoping I wasn't goin to be trying with some freshwater bass setup. To my surprise our friend comes back with a big Penn surf reel and a 12ft Okuma surf casting rod. This dog will hunt!!! I tie on a large flashy spoon and throw it out in front of the fish I can see crashing bait in the surf. BANG first cast and I am hooked up!! I fight the fish through the crashing waves and get it up near shore and make a huge rookie mistake, instead of dragging the fish up the sand like I saw all the guys do previously I grab the lure, them watch helplessly as my 6-8lb skipjack flops back into the ocean and speeds off.  Two cast later and something hits the lure and then bites right through the line... lure gone.With none of my own gear I try and fish with a small fresh water spoon, but i cant cast more than 15 yards due to the wind and heavy gear. I give it up for the morning and decide I can try again later. Lucky for me the owner had a nice big yozuri tuna popper, I tie that on a wire leader and head back out for the afternoon bite. The wind had kept up which was pushing the baitfish up along shore and giving the fish and birds a good chance of corralling them.  Made a few blind long cast with no takers and then on the next cast the bail flipped closed during the cast and the lure snapped right off the line,  I was about waist deep in the water and I could see the lure floating there, knowing that if I took my eyes off it to drop the rod on the beach I would lose it. I just started to swim, one arm keeping the rod out of the water and the other doing a crude side stroke.  I caught up with the lure about 60 yards offshore in about 10 -12 feet of water. Now the tricky part getting myself back in to land with dunking the rod , losing the lure or y camera. I make it back on land, all the while my wife and our fellow B&B travelers were watching wondering why I was swimming so far out. Taylor wasn't concerned so no one else batted an eye.  Well I was lucky that I got the lure back and that I didn't catch a fish because my knot wasn't tied right and definitely would have slipped off losing the lure and the fish. I retied my knot and headed back out looking for the birds. The frigate birds were heading my way and  then as if on cue the water below me erupted baitfish were smacking into my legs and up my shorts, then a few big fish ran into me,  I cast right out into the frenzy and may one pop with the lure and then it it got smashed. The fish took off like a rocket, even with a long rod and heavy line it was hard to make any headway, drag was screaming and I was chasing the fish up the beach through waist high breaking surf.  I assumed this was one of the big jacks that I had seen earlier based on the fight in the fish I knew it wasn't small. After about what seemed like an eternity ( actually about 10-15 mins) I get the fish in the shallow water. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice I grab the rod and drag the fish up the beach. That's when I notice that our B&B compatriot Susan was there take some action shots!! ( My wife didn't want to jinx me since I had lost the last fish trying to show her, so she stayed back and kept my beer company😉) 
Big jacks right in the surf (look for the long dark spot in the breaking wave) 

Skipjack tuna corralling bait in the surf , frigate birds waiting from above 

Fighting the fish and breaking waves is not easy, just had to get a bit more leverage a low angle

Beautiful yellow-green back on this fellow, hooks are still in his face

This is one Happy Guy!

Popper at sunset! 
After getting the fish up on the beach and seeing the few that were harvested the day before I didn't give it a second thought. Dinner was served.... I was only after that I had given it to the waiter at La Condesa that I realized I NEVER see jack crevalle on the menu, like EVER. Oh boy, did I just kill a nasty tasting fish!? Either way we were committed, the fish was off in the kitchen still flopping. Waiter suggested 1/2 Vera Cruz style and 1/2 garlic , I knew that if anyone knew how to cook a jack it would be these guys, so I gave them the go ahead and sat down to revel in the catch with a cold brew! After about 25 mins two huge plates come out, one piled with all types of citrus, avocados, onions and peppers (Vera Cruz) and the other grilled with roasted garlic and onions, plates of fresh made tortillas followed.  The meat of a jack is very red and can spoil very quickly giving it that very undesirable fishiness (which is why you don't see it on menus ever). The fish in the platters was grilled and was as dark as a steak, but where you would typically expect a strong flavor it was light and flaky and the citrus and garlic cut right through the oiliness of the fish and it was devoured by our small but very grateful group. I am not sure about you, but as a fisherman nothing gives me greater pride than being able to provide my friends with a great story and even better meal. 
Our lovely host Stasya telling me how proud she is of me, apparently it is very rare for a "gringo" to bring a fish out of the surf

Family style fish on the beach! Nothing Better!!!

Downtown Barra, the one main street is paved and planted with some great palms

Virgin de Guadalupe is big in Barra 

This lovely woman custom made us a poncho for our niece during our visit!! AMAZING 
All in all this trip was just perfect, we found "real" Mexico and had a completely relaxing and adventurous time. We met some people who we will never forget, and made friends from people who were complete strangers a few days earlier. Shoot we even had them in our Pirate Themed Mexican Wedding one evening. Barra is a vibrant town with AMAZING people and culture and it was truly a joy to spend time there. Leaving was so difficult, as it should with any vacation worth it salt.  We can't wait to come back! I turn 40 this year so maybe that's a great excuse to swing down to Barra, Next time I wont forget the fishing rod !! 
AAARGH , Our Pirate Themed Wedding was a blast, Taylor certainly thinks so!!!
Best. Background. Ever.

LOVE THIS WOMAN!!!!  Adventure Wife...Adventure Life !!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Natural Negative-Ion Therapy Delivery Locations... (AKA) Waterfalls

 Water... water.has a complex relationship with the human, are bodies are comprised of nearly 60% water, we need it, three days without water, you hallucinate and die, too much water and your cells explode and you die. Fall in water that is too cold, your body shuts down and you die, stay in a hot tub for to long you overheat and you die...Despite the danger it can bring water is the life blood of the planet. Water has immense power, whether in the form of a devastating tsunami or just your average raindrop. It has the power to erode through billions of years of bedrock to create such wonders as the Grand Canyon and Columbia River Gorge. It also has the power to revive as it delivers nutrients throughout to the Amazon basin and  floodplains along the Nile. The human being is drawn to water, for life, for work, or for play.  I am a human and my connection to water is not unique, it is in fact quite the opposite, everyone I know would relish the chance to sit by any body of water in a relaxing moment over a dry arid place. Water soothes the spirit, be it the crash of the incoming tide, or the gentle lapping against a boats hull. It moves us to great exploration both on its surface and far far below and to great relaxation along the shores or rivers, lake, ponds, and oceans.  But nowhere are the benefits of water felt more than at some of its most tumultous interactions with the land... Waterfalls

Which brings me to the name of this post Natural Negative-Ion Therapy Delivery Locations. Places where water crashes have been proven to have exceedingly high concentrations of negative-ions, molecules are stripped of electrons as water is thrashed about down a gully or onto coastal rocks. Among the benefits of negative ions on the human body include an increase in the rate at which serotonin and dopamine are oxidized in the bloodstream as well as the interception of microbes and germs in the air, and in many cases a generalized feeling of euphoria.  We have tried to create these ionization devices, but typically they are not effective or are extremely effective and create hazardous O-zone molecules. Personally I'll stick to the natural sources of these charged particles to get my dopamine and serotonin up.  Next time you are at a waterfall I challenge you to find someone sullen or frowning. Waterfalls are the jetskis of the natural world, they are cool, exotic and you never see anyone on one that is sad. 

Having moved to the Pacific Northwest recently I find myself thinking AND hiking around more and more waterfalls. Here are a few of my favorites from around the world, both large and small, I cant help but smile and feel the overwhelming sense of relaxation and serenity even just looking at the photos.  Enjoy!

Amazon Waterfalls
There are notably few waterfalls in the Amazon basin (once you get out of the Andes) The falls on the Rio Aturia (a small tributary of the Rio Negro) have played a huge role in my family, it is one of those places that is etched forever in my memory and  its one of the places that my ashes will be spread went I leave this mortal coil.

Pedro and I circa 2000

The tanic waters of the Aturia look like tea against the dark rock and look like cranberry juice against the white sand downstream (2000)
Beth and I on our "little stream" so many great memories from here, but sharing it with my little sister is an experience I will never forget  (2011)

The Brawn women enjoying the cool water and a shot of "51"  (2007)

waterfalls can provide additional services, such as a massage chair (2001)
It doesn't get much better than this...

The lovely Jeanne enjoying a cool dip

The caves and waterfalls in the Presidente Figueiredo natural area

Hawaiian Waterfalls 

I think this is Kauai , taken by Pete on his honeymoon, still it beautiful

Another waterfall that I pretty sure was taken by Pedro on Kauai 
IAO Needle on  Maui

A waterfall in the distance while on a solo hike in the west Maui Mtns

Michigan and Wisconsin Waterfalls

 Upper Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Lower Tahquamenon Falls

Small waterfall plunging into Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Michigan's UP

Amnicon Falls , near Superior Wisconsin 

Another small waterfall within Amnicon Falls State Park 

Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls

Wahkeena falls 

Multnomah Falls

Horsetail Falls

Loowit Falls

Metlako Falls

Little Tributary creek along Eagle Creek Trail 

Random Waterfalls

Wolf Creek tributary to the New River in West Virginia

Glacier Creek , Rocky Mountain National Park 

Frozen Waterfall, Red River Gorge, Kentucky
My obsession with waterfalls is far from over, I hope to get out and explore more this summer, and absorb as many negative ions as possible. Here's hoping that you can as well!!

Cheers, Bernie