travelogue – McCharles family photos, Mazatlán

My nuclear family played “Mexican Train” nearly every night. That’s a game requiring dominos, luck & alcohol.

As I recall it was my modest self who won most nights.

Between games we mostly read, lounged by the pool & walked the beach.

Mom on the beach

See (in a new window) the final batch of annotated photos of the McCharles family trip to Mazatlán . OPEN icon

Next travelogue on this trip >> Mexican dental vacation.

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travelogue – Costa Bonita resort, Mexico

Our second week in Mazatlán we moved to a newer resort, further from the centre of town. Construction is booming here though we cannot understand why.

We were well pleased with Costa Bonita finding it friendly & tranquil.

Costa Bonita means “pretty coast“. For once a marketing name is appropriate as this resort fronts the best beach.

It took me over a week to accommodate to the slower rhythms of life in the tropics. My resting heart rate decreased to synchronize with the surf break.
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Where are the beach vendors? Most are several miles closer to the centre of town, at the much busier “golden zone” of resorts.

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See the messy balcony bottom centre? That’s our unit. Yvonne found it through her condo time-share association.

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A nice touch are the many welded animals decorating the Costa Bonita Resort.

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One night peeked at the (open) penthouse while taking sunset photos. (It had just sold for US$460,000.)

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Costa Bonita was quite quiet while we were there. Many units were not occupied.

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A pleasant stroll down the beach brings you to the surf point restaurant. This is a sprouting pineapple, by the way.

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You can rent water toys. Or annoy EVERYONE by renting a noisy quad.

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One group of local youth even set up a trampoline. Yes, they were both unskilled and dangerous.

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This is the Witch’s Beach.

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I kept hearing that Mazatlan is #1 in the world in Coke consumption per capita.

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Dead sea turtle washed up on the beach.

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A local gringo drove us down to the shrimp market. We loaded up for a feed!

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Fishing boats at Ceritos.

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warning – The Inn at Mazatlan, Mexico

The Inn at Mazatlán is one of the best resorts in town, no doubt. It’s been my home in Mexico since Katrina first took me there over 20-years-ago.

It is not a perfect resort. None are, of course.

One warning to would-be condo investors in Mexico.

Consider the “carrying costs“.

I paid C$5000 for 1 week a year for 23 years. My “condo Fee” started at US$75 / week / year. Very reasonable.

But when my annual bill reached US$400 for that week, I walked away from my unit, unable to sell a time-share with such a high condo fee.

My brother bought a unit at the Inn at Mazatlán about the time I walked away. His condo fee started low and is now well over US$400. He is starting to have doubts.

Fact is, you can rent a week at a 4-star resort in Mazatlán for US$400.

Be sceptical of pretty people and pretty condo pitches in Mazatlán. Things can only get worse for those who own at the Inn. Americans may be required to get a passport to travel to Mexico by 2007. Many will stop travelling to Mexico. Money will get tighter here.

This will further stifle business in Maz, still disaffected from the decrease in travel from the USA after 9/11.

If you have plenty of money, I recommend the Inn at Mazatlán — but it is cheaper to rent as you go.

The Inn at Mazatlán official website

Inn at Mazatlán

World Fantasy Convention 2008 in Calgary

No, you cannot yet buy your tickets.

Cowgary unexpectedly won the bid November 6th. My brother Randy was as surprised as anyone — and he was the man pitching cowtown.

You see Calgary had just finished hosting a very successful Western North American Science Fiction & Fantasy conference: Westercon 2005 – Due North!

Enthusiasts from that event decided to make a bid for the Worlds, last minute. And they won.

You can countdown the days on the World Fantasy website.

mucho gusto! – Mexico

Nov. 1999

rick_mugHola from Mexico!

Land of the Catholic Church, strong family ties, music, fiesta, sentimentality. And Tequila!

My parents are retired, “snowbirds” for the past 10 years. They summer in Crawford Bay, B.C. & winter in the States. They’ve been wanting to try Mexico instead of the U.S. for a couple of years, but had some concerns, especially regarding taking their Jack Russell, “Pete”, across the Mexican border.

We did some research on Mexico, then finally decided to head for Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. I drove down with them.

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This year my Dad had a cataract removed, and an “intraocular” (IOL) artificial lens attached to his good eye. The doctor was reluctant to do the procedure since my Dad is blind in the other eye (hockey accident). However, the operation was a great success, his vision restored to near 20-20. He’s much more confident behind the steering wheel.

We shared the driving, rolling down to Mexico in my Dad’s home-made fishing camper.

Driving in Mexico is interesting. We alternated modern 4-lane toll roads with narrow 2-lane “free” highways where huge trucks pass each other full-speed, no more than a hand width between them. The detours, unmarked speed bumps, and unexpected potholes are even more dangerous.

I love the deserts. But the best scenery was south of Puerto Vallarta where the narrow road snaked through lush jungle-covered canyons. Many rivers, beautiful waterfalls. Little yellow butterflies blew “like confetti” (Ronald Wright) around the truck.

We advanced steadily from RV Park to RV Park. The most modern was spectacular “El Mirador” in San Carlos, a yachtsman’s paradise. Here we watched Canada geese still flying south. I scrambled the rocky upthrusting one morning.

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I liked, too, a tiny well-run Mexican place in Lo de Marcos with its earth-shuddering breakers. Pelicans, sandpipers, & hermit crabs.

And the next night at Boca de Iguana, near Barre de Navidad, where the beach had a haunted, shipwrecked feel. I found a shore cave with a shrine to the Virgin, empty but obviously still used by the faithful. The votive candles were still burning. On the other end of the beach was a deserted, crumbling wreck of a Hotel. Was it destroyed by earthquake? The ghosts couldn’t tell me.

Our immersion in the RV lifestyle was a bit of a shock — I shouldn’t have been surprised — we LIKED it. You meet people from all over North America & Europe. They are even more friendly & helpful than backpackers.

Retired folks join “Caravan Clubs” with names like “Tracks” & “Escapees“, read magazines like “Coast to Coast” & “Family Motor Coaching”. Many are fanatically devoted to their high-tech motor homes. It seems they all travel with their pets.

Still, RVers have too much time. In one park we saw a Swiss couple cranking out German beer-drinking tunes on mechanical music boxes which they’ve hauled all over North America. Everyone brought lawn chairs over to watch. The highlight of the day. It was surreal.

We aren’t RVers. My folks want to rent. We were headed to the most popular retirement destination in this country, Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara. High on the Mexican plateau, Chapala is claimed to have the best climate in the world, though the lake itself is polluted & receding.

En route, I was looking forward to seeing, but then disappointed by, the usually spectacular “Volcan de Fuego de Colima”. The smoke & lava wasn’t visible when we drove by.

They’ve got great volcanoes in Mexico, though. In nearby Pariutin, in 1943, a farmer discovered a new sinkhole in one of his cornfields. He tried to fill it in. Ten months later it was an active volcano, 1700 feet high. As I speak, at least 2 other Mexican volcanoes threaten.

Reaching Chapala took us a week in Mexico. That was long enough in a cramped camper. Even the dog was going a little crazy.

When we reached the popular “Pal RV Park” in scenic Ajijic village, near Lake Chapala, we were all happy to have arrived. (Note: The Park was converted to owned condos in 2004.)

Here I had hoped to help search-out a nice rental unit at a reasonable price; to ensconce my parents in a satisfactory hidey-hole; to be the “Great White Son”. I anticipated about 3 days of pounding the cobblestones, hard bargaining, savvy negotiation, pushing the limits of my Spanglish.

Yup, you guessed it. My parents rented the first place they saw — while I was gone walking the dog. We hadn’t been there more than 40 minutes.

Even worse for my ego, they made an excellent choice. Couldn’t be better. A perfect spot in the very epicenter of gringo Mexico.

They rented a Casita (“little home”); very Mexican, fully-furnished, fireplace, private garden patio with fish pond as well as a roof-top patio with a view of Lake Chapala.

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The RV Park provides swimming pool, Laundromat, clubhouse, 24-hour security, cable T.V., telephone. All mod cons.

The Park is littered with fallen oranges & limes. Cows browse just over the fence. At dusk the bird bath is asplash with noisy customers. The bougainvillea and other flowering trees in the yard are spectacular.

pal_1999bChapalla is a lovely town. I could retire here!

My Mom is a little paranoid regarding scorpions, though, especially the “deadly little white ones”. We’ve already met 2 people who have been stung.

I’ll set-off for home tomorrow. It may take 2 or 3 weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

But it’s been great spending time, taking an adventure holiday, with my parents.

Hey, my Mom actually has an email address for the new millennium. How about that?

Adios!

– Ricardo