2009 4th Qtr Travels



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On October 1st we flew from the Houston airport to LAX and boarded an Air Pacific flight to Fiji.  Fiji is everything we remembered and more.  It still ranks as our favorite vacation spot, ever.  Once again mostly because of the Fijian people.  They are so genuinely sweet natured and they make the visit spectacular.  To see pictures from our Fiji trip, go to the Favorite Trips page.

Unfortunately Donna came back sick.  Not sure if the flu or a different sort of cold, but it struck the day we were leaving (nice it didn't use up any of those great vacation days).  The best part was sleeping all thru that 10 hour return flight.  We stayed over in Livingston much longer than we planned because as soon as Donna was mending, Don caught it too.  However, it was short lived for him and we moved on.

New Braunfels TX has the Wurst Fest every October and we decided to attend.  We drank beer, ate bratwurst and listened to music.   



We left New Braunfels and headed to one of our favorite places, Parkview Riverside RV Park on the Frio River.  We stayed almost 2 weeks.  At first joined by our friends John & Jill, then on our own.  A few pics of the area will show why it is one of our favorite spots.

Here's a view of the river from our campsite

Some other views of the river from various spots.  So clear and pristine.  The bald cypress trees are all impressive.

One special event during this stay by the Frio River was how our lives were affected by a stray kitty.  This little female gray cat was maybe 6 months old and the sweetest thing we have ever encountered.  She just wanted to be loved (and fed) and would sit in your lap all day long.  We did so want to take her with us, but Shadow probably wouldn't have like it and we weren't ready to make another 20 year commitment, but we fell in love with her and did want her life to be a good one.  We found a vet that would discount her fees since the cat was in the wild and we had her spayed & got her shots.  The park managers agreed to take her until she was recuperated and find her a home.  When we left, she was comfy at their place and they thought they might have found her a permanent home.  She will make someone a wonderful pet.

November 15th -- We head south to Laredo.  Here we will pick up our tourist visas and get a permit for the Jeep and head into Mexico.

November 16th -- We walked across the bridge and spend all afternoon in Nuevo Laredo (the place they say is so dangerous and don't go there) to get our tourist visas and car permit.  We filled out the visa application and they told us to go to any bank to pay the fee.  We walked for miles to every durn bank in the area before talking to a woman who said Oh today is the 16th.  It is a special day and the banks are all closed.  At least the ATMs were open and we could pick up a load of pesos.

November 17th -- Drove the Jeep across today and found the place we should have gone yesterday.  We could have gotten our visas here, got the car permit and hologram and paid all the fees in on place with a credit card.  Was done in an hour.  Too bad the guy at the Migracion office didn't tell us that. 

November 18th -- Planned to leave early, but didn't pull out until after 10:30.  At the border they checked our car permits closely and verified the VINs on both vehicles.  A cursory look thru the motor home and we were on our way.  Twenty miles later we come to the customs checkpoint and got the red light.  However when we pulled into the inspection lane, a very shy girl comes up and her co-worker says "she wants to see your house".  Really all she wanted was a tour which I gladly gave her.  She inspected nothing and we were on our way in 10 minutes. 

The first town of size we came to was Monterrey.  A beautiful setting surrounded by tall  mountains that were incredibly beautiful.  Unfortunately smog blotted out most of the view.  We had to climb to just over 7200 ft.  to get to the other side.  Fortunately the roads were good to excellent condition all the way.  Unfortunately we paid $916 (pesos) in tolls today.  That's about $70 and there will be more tomorrow, but probably not as much as today.  But in Mexico, the toll roads are usually better when you need to get someplace.  Only one picture since we drove pretty much non-stop.  Ignore the bug splats on the window and you can see that it is a great road and the smog ahead is thick.  This is heading south on the bypass out of Monterrey.

November 19 -- Our day was way too long.  We left about 8:20am and only stopped once for fuel and once for an desperately needed potty stop, but didn't arrive until 6pm.  Part of the problem was we missed an turn to the toll bypass and had to drive thru San Luis Potosi.  Our bad and it made our day at least an hour too long.  If we take this route again, we will make sure to make all toll roads.  Three mountain passes, only one reaching 7000 ft and lots of small towns so slow going.  As we arrived we met Barbara & Sal Contreras.  They seem very nice and anxious that we enjoy our stay.  We are looking forward to resting a couple of days and enjoying our month here.

November 20 thru 23 -- After recuperating from our long travel days we began to explore the town and countryside.  Our site at the RV park is a lovely view of the nearby Mt. Picacho.    We hope to hike up there in the next couple of weeks.

If you look very hard in the far left center of the picture you can see there are workers in the field across the way stacking the corn that has been cut and drying into sheaves.  Before the day was finished, the entire field had been fixed into stacks like the two you can see. 

Ahhh, Shadow likes the new view.

The next day we went for a ride with our hosts, Sal & Barbara up into some of the nearby hills.  Although not the original plan, we made it across the mountain and introduced them to "four wheeling".

This is the start of our trek

Sal & Barb at one of our stops to check out the view.

And the views were great

Up & over

Sal & Don checking out the road before we get too far



We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with our RV Park hosts at their home in town.  The next day we met (as we often do) with other park residents.  This afternoon it was for wild blueberry pie, yummmmm. 

We do finally get to climb to the top of the mountain.  Actually the Jeep took us most of the way up with climbing just at the end.

We arrive at the top

Sal, Kathy, Doug & Don look out at the valley below

View of the cross & mountain top from where we ate lunch

Coming back down, we come upon a crew digging a well to water the 30 thousand avocado trees they have planted.   

The next day we drive to the nearby town Mazamitla.  It's about 2000 feet higher in elevation and is like an alpine town Mexican style. 

And back at the RV  Park we see these local fauna regularly...

He lurks quietly

Lots of different varieties of hummers here.

These guys are so brilliant and so acrobatic

Thru December 15th -- During this time we went on a couple of hikes.  Once up the mountain to Sophia's place, a woman of around 60 who walks this trail every day with her donkey to milk the cows there.  The other down into a canyon just off of downtown.

First we gather to hike the mountain...

The group gathers to head out the gate at the lower left

These guys were very curious about what we were about to do

Thru the woods

Up the hill

Over stiles

Continue up the trail

What a reward in views

The 2nd hike Sal clears a path as it is overgrown

A lovely waterfall along the way

Can you see how these trees literally cling for life?

The wildflowers were still blooming as we took these walks and most were so lovely.

Christmas...and beyond -

Early Christmas Eve some of the women went to our host's home to learn to make tamales from Sal's sister Juana.  It was most interesting and rewarding.  And the tamales were great.

Tamales start with freshly ground cooked corn, taken to the mill that morning.

The process starts within 2 hours of grinding the corn for best tasting tamales

Add some broth from the cooking meat

Mix some more

Start adding lard

Keep mixing as the whole bowl of lard is added

More salt and much more mixing

Have lots of friends over to help make the hundreds of tamales. Cathie, Juana, Barb, Donna & Barbara

That night all the campers were invited to Sal & Barb's house for traditional Christmas Eve dinner fare.  Tamales and pazole, a traditional soup in this part of Mexico.  A great time had  by all.        

The end of the month was coming up and the campers had breakfast at a great local small kitchen...

Our last activity of the year was a hike to a waterfall near Mazamitla.  A killer hike, as if you aren't feeling good (and Don was not), it was a killer.

Chloe, Julia and Cindy take horses

The rest of us walk the 3 km.

Anna at the beautiful waterfall

Don didn't make it to the waterfall.




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