Friday, March 3, 2023

Ooh Mexico


Jimmy Buffett sang a cover on his 1995 album from a James Taylor song, "Feeling Blue running your stateside game, loose your load leave your mind behind.....Ooooooh Mexico" and that about summed it up...too much thinking....

I have not written a blog for a while, I lost a computer due to '''cat fur in the fan."  Famous words from the Tech at Best Buy opening up my laptop..."What is the name of your white cat?"  Luckily the $1000 repair was under a Geek Squad took over a month to get it back, and it has taken a while for me to get it going again.  

Now, it was time for another trip, a trip scheduled to Mazatlan, Mexico.  The plan was to visit my wife's Brother and sister-in-law with her sister they have been at sea in their sailboat.  So would you actually go on a trip with the following warnings?  

"The State Department issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory for the state of Sinaloa due to crime and kidnapping. This means that the U.S. government may not be able to help you if you are in a sticky situation while in Mazatl├ín. The travel advisory is so high in this state because of high crime rates."  

This is the same alert level for places like North Korea, South Sudan, and Libya.  The only places worse...the Donbas of Ukraine and Iran

You know just being next to the border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California I have felt unsafe.  Sometimes even from the Border Patrol meant to keep us safe.  I have been shot at in Texas.  (I think I was on USFW land being used to grow weed).

I did not want to go on this trip, but found it impossible to not go, since if my wife was going anyhow, I would never live with myself if I stayed and she went and ...Mexico got her.  I lost sleep for weeks.  I spent days organizing our personal effects. Saving passwords, I even cried as I wrote final letters each to our three children encouraging them and shared my most intimate thoughts, reflecting on the highlights, final thoughts, and apologizing for my failings as a father.  

My wife's sister's reservations got cancelled and I hoped it was an omen but they rebooked them at a different hotel.  I was finally forced to book the air flights. I slept the last night 24 hours before we were scheduled to go and got up and knew I would rather die with my wife then live alone.  So frustrated and nervous we went.  I was an emotional wreck by the time we got in the Tampa airport.

You can guess that by writing this, we did not get killed by Narco traffickers or by drinking the water.  We got home.  What if you ignore travel warnings and still nothing happens?  Was the US State Department paranoid, or were we (as in I) just crazy?

I gave a packet to my neighbors to "give to my daughter, when we go missing."  Not if but when...It was odd for them to hear.  They asked questions.  I just said we are going to Sinaloa, look it up.  They soon understood.

On a good note, we got upgraded from Houston to Mazatlan, when I get upgraded on United, something is really wrong.  It was bad good news.

Initially, I despised the drug addicts for giving rise to the cartels, then the cartels for being cartels, then the Mexicans for putting up with the bullsh%t.  We got there, the most scary things in the Mazatlan airport were the people trying to sell us time shares. Slick pushy con meal, fee boat trip, free...yea nothing is ever free.  Okay, imho, buying a timeshare in Mexico, means maybe you deserve to get fleeced.  Then I was mad at the timeshare people, and now, I am most mad at the tourists who buy that crap, and I still am.  Since a US person cannot legally own property in Mexico, buying a timeshare means what...?  I began to look at the rubes being duped in the lobby of our hotel.

There was a comment online that people should avoid Mexico because they are enabling all of this....I think things like this need to be heeded.  There were tourists asking the people at the front desk if it was safe to even leave the lobby or to even get in a a few were also worried.  Most looked clueless that Mexico was not Texas.....but it is Mexico!

Mexico....I have not stayed at the west coast of Mexico since 1997 when we went to a medical conference in Ixtapa for a week and stayed in a nearby city.  Some two years later, we went to Cozumel, and I have stopped there twice on Cruise ships.  I have written before I hate Cozumel.  In the 26 years since Ixtapa and now to Mazatlan, Mexico is still the same.  Maybe the roads have a fewer potholes but the vehicles are beat, the buildings done on the cheap, some unfinished, the hotels are over the top in size next to uneven sidewalks, garbage in vacant lots, and with slums a few blocks or even a few feet away.  The inside of these hotels look cheap and like the Nineties are calling and want their walls back.  

Mexicans with money seem to be a problem, some obviously were kept watch by guards on the drug payroll.  They act like everything is fine and normal, and yet it all looks like if the big fault moves just offshore (and there is a big fault offshore), it all will come tumbling down and Mazatlan would look like Turkey. (There is a BIG fault just offshore BTW). The place is a mix of trophy wives, girlfriends, spoiled Mexican children intermixed all the while overweight Canadian and American tourists (including me), typically retirees also acting like this is all normal with their ill fitting shirts, strange hats, and looking and acting like they are marks for all sorts of scams.  

If the US government warned us all to be careful...being drunk, dressing and acting like Americans and flashing money in the lobby and taking loudly at meals about their assets....maybe they deserve to be sold timeshares or worse?  We got called for the special "welcome packet."  We snuck through the lobby to avoid the timeshare sales squad each time separating and using the old oh I need to ask my spuse if we were intercepted, and found ourselves at overpriced one somehow I think by paying cash, the waiter even got all of the money.  I tried to keep out a watchful eye, but 

1) the weather was cold and windy and the beaches at Mazatlan had water that looked scarier for disease than the men watching the drug captain's trophy women and children.  Mazatlan has a sewage problem

2) My wife's family wanted to go do some things....walk the area, they bought concert tickets, wanted to check the restaurant scene...although I had hoped we could just sit and enjoy the resort and never leave....alas you just could not.

3) the resort we had was sort of under construction, painting next door, building a seawall, and piles of material just outside our building.  Noise and more noise.  There were no flowers, few birds, and well, I was not thinking of showing off my big camera for a seawatch...

4) So even I was getting bored....  after a while, at least getting kidnapped was something interesting, and there was little interesting that I had seen there.  I guess I'd die birding...

You know, Mazatlan look as though it was a fine idea in 1990, but it looked tired in 2023, even without the dangers...people who "loved" it had not been any other place, because of they had....they would have went there.  You could wade into the beach in Cozumel, here...?  Too rough, too cold, too toxic.

We went to see the in-laws boat and ate dinner in here,  Brave people sailing in such a small craft with just two people, Portland Oregon to Mazatlan....

   They risk death everyday at sea, Mazatlan must seem like crossing the street to them.  The 36 foot Gypsy.

The view from the hotel.  It was not inclusive.  The drinks so heavily watered down you could not even taste the alcohol.  We ate a couple of passable breakfasts.  They were short of pool lounges.  They had little beach.  You could take a trip to the island but I was unsure what the attraction was....Pelican nests ...thirst?

Functional spartan room with twin full-sized beds, hard mattress, rodents in the airducts, lost of traffic noise and you could here bingo calls from the hotel next to you, but it had a nice breeze.  FOX and CNN only English TV.  $200/ night

So I got to #4 and throwing caution to the wind, I made contact with a friend of a friend who had a friend who knew someone that would take us birding.  They "guaranteed" our safety, for $150 each.  A day before it turns out, the guide named Jose, was up at the tufted jay place, where even my "friend" was certain it would never be safe to go.....luckily, we went some place else.  It was still out there in the middle of nowhere

Mazatlan melts into desert scrub almost immediately.  When you are out of town, you are out of town and nowhere.  

We went to a preserve mostly noted for jaguars and hiked 5 miles, locking ourselves in.  The key under a hidden rock  Most likely the dangers there were big cats and heat. I was uneasy as we trudge looking for some birds.  I found a few lifers, and saw many Arizona birds.  We missed a couple that I did not see, the guide did, and we ate some food cook over the woodstove when two new stoves stood a few feet away.  Possibly they did not have electricity nor propane. 

Purplish backed jay

Golden cheeked woodpecker

Elegant quail

black throated magpie jay

rufous bellied chachalaca

I added nine lifer birds, which considering the paucity of my Mexican bird list the haul here was rather light, but how many birds is a bullet worth?  We did not bird at a second location.

We drove to see a set of odd petroglyphs on boulders by the sea.  We like these things and my wife was more impressed with them than the birds.
Possibly a frightened Olaf

A pelican

We passed a man hiding a rifle under his shirt on a motorcycle coming out.  Luckily it was not pointed at us.  Generally, there were no police outside of the city and few in it.  Not sure if all of the shooting in Mazatlan in January has given way to a truce or everyone was tired after Carnival.  

We went back to the rather small dumpy looking airport, not the airport you would expect of a high end tourist place, the plane came, a woman in 1st Class got interviewed and was kicked off the plane and left without incident.  The random inspections at the gate were mothers of small children.  We were a little poorer, we had successfully avoided the time sales team and the kidnappers with equal success.  We left Silja's sister behind with our water and coffee and well wishes and flew home.

No shootings, no signs of the army, and no burnt out cars, well.....On the way back to our RV from the Tampa Airport we came across this..

A burning car on the Veterans Expressway, it was just an accident but still it made me think.  Life in the USA is dangerous too.  I have been to dangerous places, South Africa for one, but I have been to Latin Countries that I have felt totally safe, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Argentina to name some and Mexico...well Mexico is Mexico and it should be better, but alas it will never change IMHO.  I guess it is all of our faults.

We survived and I got a few birds, and I will renew my vow to stay away from life South of the Border...

Be safe wherever you go


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