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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stuck in Paradise or Cooked in the Cook Islands!

November 23, 2003

Note the basket on the handlebars  no more than 3 beers!
It's my third day on Aitutaki and I am still trying to figure out how to drive my motor scooter but I manage to get from place to place (so far). I learned an important lesson yesterday when I went into town (which comprises of about two stores) to buy some beer. Don’t put more than a six pack in the basket on the handlebars (see picture).  If you do it becomes difficult to steer with the extra weight.  There was only one solution: I had to stop and drink a couple for safety’s sake.  No one, and I mean no one wears helmets here. I don't think they even have helmets.

Aitutaki must be what Hawaii was like in the 1930's, quiet and laid back where everyone waves at you and has a moment to chat. The neighborhood kids come by to visit, and despite my first impressions about what I got myself into, I've come to love this island. If you really want to see the South Seas like they used to exist, this is as good as it gets. The moped lady paid me a visit today.  I thought it might be to give me a stern warning about my acrobatics but she didn’t come over to criticize my driving but to invite me to a wedding.  I had noticed they were building a big bandstand. I tell her unfortunately I’ll be heading home the night of the big event. She seems truly disappointed.

She tells me her brother is going reef fishing later if I want to tag along - I do and we catch a whole bunch of fish.

That night at dinner the local people put on a song and dance show - just for the heck of it - and it’s unbelievably good for such a small place.


I’m scheduled to leave tomorrow night. The locals are pretty insistent about me staying and going to the wedding.  They tell me they’ll be serving a “traditional dinner.” I'm getting nervous about making my connecting flights, but it wouldn't take much to keep me here longer.

On My Way to Aitutaki


On my way to the Aitutaki International Airport and Golf Club I observe the Moped Lady’s sons dragging a huge squealing pig by the back legs toward the kitchen and a big black pot. The pig stares at me accusingly – like maybe he has moved up a notch on the menu since I won’t be available.
   

Stuck in Lodi...  er Rarotonga - Again!

I’m supposed to be on my way home now, but that didn’t work
out. I’m stuck in Rarotonga. I arrived back from Aitutaki around 6:00pm last night and headed into town for a late dinner. When I headed back I found the airport closed – even the lights were off! Around midnight a night watchman arrives and tells me there’ll be no Aloha flight tonight. He tells me the plane didn't arrive - second time in two weeks! Not enough passengers to make it worthwhile.  There might be another one in three days – maybe.  They put the full fare passengers on an earlier Air New Zealand flight.  Since I’m a standby passenger they don’t feel any obligation to do the same for me.  As I would find out later, dead dogs have more priority on airlines than standby customers.

So here I am, stuck at the airport at 1:00am. I decide rather than hyperventilate I'll make the best of the situation. The night watchman tells me has a brother who runs a small hotel in Rarotonga. He’ll drive me over, wake him up, and tell him to put me up until I could figure out how to get home.   He tells me it’s a nice place - good value for the money.

As soon as I got to the hotel I called the head guy at Rarotonga Air that handles Aloha and he assures me I'll get as far as Honolulu - after that, who knows? The flight on Sunday looks full to Vancouver. And of course, the plane may not come in at all. He didn’t sound too pleased about being awakened at one in the morning.

The place names in Rarotonga seem to be in direct contradiction to what they actually are. For Instance, the hotel I’m staying in is called The Paradise Inn – it’s old but clean and close to town.  It used to be a dance hall in the 1940s and still has a lot of charm.   The owners are friendly and the price is reasonable considering I don't know how long might be here! One of the nice thing about the less expensive places is you meet people who have checked in to stay 4 or 5 weeks or longer.

Since I gave up my car when I left Rarotonga for Aitutaki, I’m now without transportation, but I'm only a five-minute walk to town so I don't think I'm going to bother with a moped, motorcycle, or car. I consider I've had a long run of luck with driving here, and don't want to push it.

I walk into town to get an update on the flight situation - I carefully avoid the Avis lot - in case they had an APB out on me regarding the side mirror which I had sort of wedged back into position with a stick.

I walk into the travel agency and ask them to check the status on the Aloha Flight to Hawaii on Sunday.
"It's Full,” she replies.
Break out the brown paper bag again! I begin Hyperventilating. Am I ever going to get out of this hellhole?????

I head back to the Paradise Inn and call the head guy at Rarotonga Air again.
"She doesn’t know what she’s talking about the flight to Hawaii is empty,” he said.
"But she said it was full!"
"Who are you going to believe? A travel agent or the guy who looks after the flight?"
"I'll tell you when I get on the plane," I reply.

Making the Best of a forced Layover in Rarotonga


Thursday night is “Island Night" at "The Staircase Bar. The floor show is not nearly as spontaneous as the one on Aitutaki.    I discovered that the show here is part of a  a franchise operation. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all. If there are variations between the different groups it's beyond me. The other thing that hit home was “Hey I’m the oldest guy in the room!"   They were congratulating folks on 18 years of marriage (I'm old enough to be their parents!). As soon as the floor show mercifully ended I asked for my bill and walker and left.

I’ve decided to make the best of my extra days in Paradise:  I plan  to spend the next couple of days on the deck in front of the motel with a book- maybe even try scuba diving.

[Note from Future Jeff here in 2014 – at this point I hadn't taken up Scuba Diving… now back to Past Jeff]

I tried scuba diving today – it’s what they call an “introductory dive” It was an interesting experience. I couldn't quite get the buoyancy thing right. Either I was floating on the surface like a cork, or was scraping my belly on the coral. Don't think scuba is my thing. 

[Future Jeff again – boy, was Past Jeff wrong about the Scuba diving thing]
  
If I'm not home in a week, take up a collection for a ticket!!!

Jeff

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My little Grass Shack in Aitutaki


November 22, 2003 

Swimming in the Waterfall 
It’s been a busy few days since I last reported in. Early Saturday I went to the local market. It was quite nice except for the incident with my right hand driving mirror on the rent a car. I’m keeping a low profile when I drive by the police station – just in case they look up while they’re issuing driver’s licenses to the tourists. Later I went swimming with the Australian couple I met fishing. It’s nice to have company for a change - I've stopped talking to myself as much now.

As I mentioned in my earlier post I was invited for dinner by the Canadian couple, Eldin and Sharon, who arranged my ill-fated fishing trip.  They seem to be regular fixtures at the Fisherman’s Club.  They generally start drinking about ten minutes after they get up in the morning, so they were pretty looped by the time I arrived for dinner.

They had invited some other guests - including an Albertan divorcee who is big into guns and computers.  She said she didn’t travel anywhere without a gun.  How she got one here, I don’t know.  When I asked where why she would possibly need a gun here she replied “pigs”.  

Everyone proceeded to drink a lot - except me, as I was worried about driving home. I have enough trouble driving sober.  I was worried that if I had too much to drink I might end up driving on the wrong side of the road – which is the right side of the road here – anyways it was too complicated, so I watched my alcohol intake.

Unfortunately for me gun toting Alberta Rose didn’t and I tasked with having to drive her home. The problem was she was very drunk and amorous. I had proceeded only a short distance when I felt a hand creeping up my thigh.  I pried it off – but while doing so the car drifted over to the other side of the road.  I got back into control only to feel her hand again.  She finally gave up and fell asleep.  Unfortunately she was beginning to get a bit green about the gills.  I was worried that she might throw-up at any time.  I also began to worry I was getting a contact high from the fumes emanating from her so I lowered the windows when  I had a blinding insight:  I knew why the police were issuing all those driving licenses to visitors. They were setting us up! 


I slowed down fully expecting to see the Rarotonga police moped up ahead in a road block. I would be in big trouble with the car smelling like a vomatorium and a drunken woman with a gun in her purse mumbling about shooting pigs.  I’d been driving for a while and began to worry I might have missed the turn off to her motel and was circling the island for a second time when I saw the cut-off to her motel.  By the time I got to her unit she was out cold.  I dragged her out of the car and propped her against the door fumbled in her purse and found her keys and put them in the lock and have turned the lock until it was barely holding the door closed.  As I tip-toed to the car I heard the door open and a loud thump.  I jumped in the car and took off in a spray of gravel fully expecting to hear gun shots at any moment.  

Mirror held together by fishing line
On Sunday night I dumped the old steed (the car, not the Alberta lady) at the airport.    I used a twig to prop the passenger side mirror in the upright position – hope the rental company doesn’t look at the car too carefully. I was booked on the midnight flight to Aitutaki.  Aituaki is a small island in the Cook group that makes Rarotonga look like New York.  Why midnight?   It’s because they're very religious on Aitataki and won't allow flights to land on Sunday, but they don’t object if the plane lands five minutes AFTER midnight! Go figure!  As we were approaching for a landing all I could see were a few green lights on the ground.  I pointed out to the woman sitting next to me that I’d seen marijuana grow-ops with more lights.  Probably not the best comparison to use on the plane.

Aitutaki International  Airport & Golf Club
Aitataki makes the little Airport in Rarotonga look like O’Hare International.  It consists of one long runway with a few lights and a grass shack where you pick up your luggage. The airport doubles as Aitataki’s nine hole golf course. You have to actually cross the runway twice when playing. I don’t know if it’s a two-ball penalty if your ball gets sucked into the intake of a plane taking off. On the way to the luggage stand I kept tripping over big land crabs in the dark. Evidently they go at night to the ocean to lay their eggs. Glad they could see in the dark - because I certainly couldn't.

My Aitutaki beach house
Someone offered to give me a lift to my "beach house" as the person who was supposed to meet me up didn't show up. I had been looking forward to my "Beach House" - until I got there. It seemed a lot more “primitive” then the pictures showed.  True - It has its own bathroom - outside!  It’s a composting toilet – which is just a nice name for an outhouse.
Composting bathroom = Outhouse

It’s got Mosquito netting over the bed – and a big spray can of Roach Killer on the night table. By the time I settled in at was past two.  I went to sleep, listening the scrabbling of the land crabs heading to sea to lay their eggs and cockroaches checking out the kitchen. I keep a glass of orange juice by the bed in case I get thirsty. About midnight, I heard a splash. I turned on the light to find a cockroach doing the backstroke in my glass of orange juice.  Now I know why the can of Roach Killer was on the night table.

Aitutaki Pigs
I awoke a couple of hours later to the local rooster and decided to take an early morning walk. I was startled a couple of time by pigs running across the road (too bad Nigel- “don’t mention the pigs” - isn’t here) . There are no dogs on Aitutaki – none – nada – not one!  They’re banned: there are only pigs and cats.
$650 a night????
I booked a Lagoon cruise.  It left from the most expensive resort on the island. Rooms BEGIN at $650 US night! Four nights there would cost more than my whole trip!

My Aitutaki moped
I wanted to see more of the island so I decided to rent a moped from the lady next door – who had the local moped renting franchise for the island. I had a choice of ONE!  Of course there was one little problem.  I’d never driven a moped before.   No problem she gave me a lesson – which consisted of giving me the key and pointing in the general direction of town.  She left out the part about putting up the kick-stand.   I took off in a showy shower of sparks. 

Next: Trapped in Paradise  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Don't Mention the Pigs!!!!

November 20, 2003 


COOKED IN THE COOKS – "DON’T MENTION THE PIGS!"

Well it's been a pretty bizarre 24 hours. After sending the last email I went to the Fisherman's Club for a beer (again!). I don't want to say they're getting to know me here, but when I walk in they call out "JEFF!"

While I was there one of TV Station manager’s buddies, Gordon, arrived on a beat-up moped.  He’s about 80 and looks remarkably like a British Major from the Crimea War. During the ensuing conversation I made the mistake of suggesting the national bird of Rarotonga should be the "Rooster” since there seems to be so many of them around.  From Roosters the conversation migrated to pigs – a hot topic here in Rarotonga. When I mentioned the pigs in my garden the other guys at the table began discretely shaking their heads at me as in  "Don't mention the war, Basil" (Fawlty Towers).  In this case it was amended into “Don’t mention the pigs, Jeff.”

But it was too late, the pig was out of the proverbial poke, as it were, and with spit flying in every direction Gordon launched into a diatribe on what people can and cannot do with other people's pigs. (I'm not making this up!) 

Evidentially if you catch a neighbour’s pig in your garden you can ask the local police to shoot it.(How the cops have time to do that I don't know - all they do is sell driver's licenses at 10 bucks a pop all day) Or (to get back to pigs) you can claim the pig as your own. But you’re obligated  to share the meat 50/50 with the original owner when you butcher it. When I questioned the old guy about the ethics of this he got furious saying, “How dare you discuss pigs with me!!  You have only being here 3 days!" 

With that he got up, stormed out and disappeared in a blue cloud of ancient moped exhaust. The strange thing is that nobody in the club seemed to notice. The conversation went on as if Gordon had  never been there. I made a note to avoid mentioning pigs again while I was in the Cook Islands.

After the previous night’s culinary disaster I decided to splurge and treat myself to a seafood dinner at a reputable (meaning recently inspected by the health department) restaurant. I got in my spiffy car and drove up to the restaurant – perhaps a little too close as I knocked down their sign.

On the positive side, I may be responsible for introducing valet parking to the islands, as the host, who witnessed my arrival, insisted on re-parking my car. I think she just wanted to try out a hot car. It’s probably not very often she gets to check out a three cylinder Suzuki Swift. I should have checked the odometer. She was gone a while.

I don’t think my parking skills impressed them; they seated  me in the bleakest darkest corner near the restrooms -  even though the restaurant was empty.  Any further isolated I would have been IN the restrooms. I think I heard one of them refer to it as the SARS table.

November 21, 2003

I ordered a nice Tuna steak, and a glass of white wine. The fish came – eventually-  and was quite good.  The waiter asked if I'd like “another” glass of wine. I pointed out  the custom in Canada is to be served the FIRST glass of wine before being offered another.

Needless to say I was not impressed with the service, but how to show it? Tipping here in the Cook Islands is frowned upon, so I came up with a unique solution - I'd leave a  BIG tip. That would show them my displeasure!

This morning I finally went on the fishing expedition I had arranged from back home. It was a pretty uneventful day -  other than falling off the boat and swinging over the water like an orangutan  hanging onto the flying bridge until  someone noticed I was missing and swung me back in!  The only fish we caught was a tiny Tuna –– just a guppy! 

I’m starting to get nervous about getting home. I checked with the local travel agent and she says the flight I'm to come home is 99% full – Since I’m travelling standby I'm already beginning to hyperventilate.

Well that's about all there is too report from now. I'm going back to the Fisherman's club and hope the pig farmer isn't there.

NEXT: OFF TO AITUTAKI



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cooked in the Cooks - A Blast from the Past

It’s been a busy few months with trips to Europe, New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands and Mexico, but now I’m home for a while.  My next major trip is not scheduled until  early July when I’ll be travelling to
Pamplona to run with the bulls.  Instead of wearing the white outfit with the spiffy red sash I’m thinking of wearing my Olympic torch outfit.  That ought to turn some heads!  And the torch will come in handy for pushing my way through the crowds.   It’s a GAdventure tour and I think there might still be a few spaces open if you want to join me.


I was contemplating on what to write about until then.  My friend, Wayne Cox, suggested I should revisit some of my very early travel adventures – reminding me that not many of you were on-board for those.  I thought it might be interesting to look back and maybe add some perspective and pictures to them. 


A little Perspective:

 A little over a decade ago I hadn't travelled anywhere for nearly thirty years – and that was the last time my wife travelled with me (until this past February) declaring one trip (our honeymoon) was enough to last her  a lifetime.   The highlight of that trip (or low light depending on your perspective) was me getting lost in a bed & breakfast on the French Riviera and ending up in bed with the inn keeper’s 15 year old daughter.  (It was dark – I lost my way coming back from the bathroom).

For the next thirty years I was busy raising a family and earning a living.  My wife was ill and hospitalized for extended periods of time and I found myself thrust into the unwilling role of a single parent.  It was tough on all of us, but we all somehow managed to survive and come through the other side.  During that time any thought of travelling was more foreign to me than a trip to the moon.  It just didn’t exist.

About ten years ago I found my life had somehow changed:  My wife was home and on the road to recovery from the depression that had dogged her for decades.  (She has written an amazing book on her journey which I hope will be published some day).   Both my children had survived my cooking, graduated from University and had jobs.  I had settled into a long running TV series that seemed to require my attention less and less with each passing year.

My daughter found herself between jobs and took a “part time” job with WestJet, a start-up airline.  After six months she informed me that as a parent of an employee I qualified to travel cheaply – not only anywhere they flew (which was only in Canada at the time), but on a whole host of other airlines. 

She suggested I travel soon as she wasn't sure how long she’d be in her part time job – her chosen occupation being radio journalism –a career that was about as relevant today as being  a “fireman” on a diesel train.  Her part time job eventually turned into a full time job where she happily works today in management.

When I boasted to my friends and co-workers about my potential travel opportunity the conversation usually went:
“So I could travel almost anywhere for next to nothing.”
“So why don’t you?”
“I could if I wanted to.”
“So why don’t you?”
“I don’t want to.”
…and so on until my daughter pointed out she might not always be working for an  airline - if I ever was planning to use the privileges I’d better get on with it.

Suddenly, the corner I had been painting myself into got smaller. Any excuse I found for not travelling was quickly dismissed by my colleagues.
“I’m needed at work,” I pointed out.
“We work better without you. It will be quicker and quieter without you around.”
“What if I get trapped and can’t get home?”
“We’ll take up a collection.”

Finally I gave in. I was thinking of going to Hawaii on Aloha airlines (now defunct), and checking their Website I found the plane continued on to the Cook Islands. That sounded a lot more exotic than Hawaii. Besides, I’d always wanted to travel to the South Sea Islands.  All I had to do was stay on the plane a little longer.

However the thought of travelling alone, and not knowing a single soul was truly terrifying.  I’d be like Mr. Bean on Vacation: All by myself on the beach muttering incoherently to myself.

Then I had a great idea.  I noticed there was a TV station on Rarotonga. I emailed them saying I would love to see how they produce television there. I was thrilled when I got an email from the manager who not only owned the TV station, but also owned the radio and newspaper as well. He’d be thrilled to show me around. He also had  a brand new motel that I get stay in.

I always wanted to go deep-sea fishing, so I found a fishing company in the Cook Islands. The fishing charter was owned by a couple originally from Squamish BC – just up the road from me.   Not only would they arrange a fishing trip but they’d have me over for dinner!

So suddenly from not knowing a soul in the Cook Islands I had two new friends, a fishing trip, a dinner invitation and a cheap place to stay. It was going to be a great trip. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything! To begin with I planned only to be gone 10 days.  Due to unforeseen circumstances the trip dragged out to over two weeks! It was my first (and not last) to the uncertainties of travelling stand-by.

Although it’s only 11 years ago since I took that trip it was the Stone Age when it came to the internet.   Windows XP had just been released!  Any sort of internet was hard to find in the Cook Islands then . There was no broadband – only dial up - and everything was slow and expensive. It cost over $15.00 just to send a couple of emails. 

Contrast that to today, where internet and wifi are so ubiquitous people complain if the connection isn’t strong enough to Facetime  or Skype! 

So here’s the first two entries of.....

Cooked in the Cooks

November 17, 2003

Well the trip started off a bit rocky, what with finding the dead rat in my new runners - thank you cat for the going away present. The trip was long - but uneventful. I managed to clear American Immigration in record time.

“Good morning, sir.”
“Not really. I found a dead rat in my runners this morning.”
“I hate rats!”
“Me too.”
“Go right ahead, sir.”

He didn’t even ask me where I was going or for how long, or what I do. The fact that I was a fellow member of the “I Hate Rats Club” was enough.

After 14 hours I arrived in Rarotonga. The TV Station manager's


sister who runs his “motel” was waiting for me at the airport. We stopped for a beer or two at the Fisherman's Club on the way back to the motel. The motel looked better at night after a few beers than it did in the morning. First of all, it's right on the highway so I get all the moped noise all night long, and it seems to be situated in the middle of a herd of wild roosters who don't seem to know or care when dawn is.

The bathroom's interesting - no mirrors. In fact no mirrors anywhere. I also haven't seen the TV manager or his sister since the sun came up. Makes me a bit nervous. I'm going to the market to buy a lot of garlic!!

I spent the morning in the little main town.  During my walk into town everyone slowed down and offered me a ride. People here are very friendly. I had to go to the Police station to get a local driver's license. They tell me that in all the years they've been giving road tests only one guy has failed. Don’t want to be number two so I passed on the Moped for now and got a car. The steering wheel appears to be on the wrong side. Probably going to find a few more surprises about driving here.

I'm going to spend the rest of the day looking for more suitable accommodation.

I've booked four days at Aitataki (one of the other island). While I was booking there was a cancellation and I've "lucked into" a whole house right on the beach! I can’t wait to see it!! Hopefully it will have mirrors. (I wonder if I still have shaving cream on my face - people have been looking at me rather strangely).

Contrary to my friend Dave Billman’s predictions they haven't dragged out the big black pot yet. 

November 18, 2003"I am a KING in the land of Mopeds!"

Well things are looking up. Despite my friends warnings about driving here, I have rented a spiffy Suzuki Sprint. 
I am a king in a land of mopeds! The entire Island now knows me the moment I step into the passenger seat of my chariot and look for steering wheel (It's on the left). 

I manage to sve face by muttering about my driver not showing up and disgustedly getting out of the car and walking around to the other side of the car. I get in, belt up, carefully check over the wrong shoulder, signal my entrance to traffic by turning on my windshield wipers (they are on the wrong side of the steering wheel) and launch out into traffic in 4th gear (the gears are reversed here – you have to use your left hand to shift). The mopeds swerve out of my way as soon as they notice my windshield wipers come on. I'll have Whole Island trained before I return home.

I thought the island seemed rather large, and was impressed that they have not  one - but two airports here, until I realized I had circled the island twice!

Last night I couldn't find a restaurant open so I stopped at a fried chicken place. I now found out what happens to chickens that stray on the road. Let's say the chicken got his revenge later that night and leave it at that.

Yesterday I also went back to the Fisherman's club for a beer (well ... maybe 2 - okay 3). An older lady came over and began chatting me up. After 20 minutes I discovered she was the same lady I had emailed about a fishing charter. She's invited me for a feast of Fanny Bay Oysters at her home on Saturday - Her husband just brought them back from Vancouver Island. Is there an "r" in November?" Better keep the Imodium out for that too!! 

I have now moved out of the Rooster Palace. I am on another side of the island at a place called the Daydreamer. Things have definitely improved! It's very up-scale (comparatively) and my host is a Kiwi named Bruce who likes to drink Beer and talk and talk and talk.....


NEXT:

The Infamous "Don't Mention the Pigs Incident!"

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Batman & Santa

There seems to be a “land rush” on in Yelapa similar to the recent housing rush in Vancouver.  But instead of rich mainland Chinese cruising the streets of Kerrisdale in their Mercedes  trying to scoop up any upscale housing – it’s now aging North American baby boomers walking up and down Yelapa’s main (and only) drag looking for long term rentals and driving prices up. 

Beach front Casas

Rates for a Casa in high season here  are generally about $140.00US a night for a two bedroom
on the beach, and about $100.00US a night for a one bedroom.  In the off season rates drop; and if you’re looking to book for a month or more some good deals can be made.  If you’re not adamant about staying on the beach you can find places even cheaper

There are about a half dozen restaurants in this little town, and the food is generally good to excellent.  A nice dinner for two including drinks goes for about $30.00US.   You can have good meals for considerably less if you want to stay with traditional Mexican fare.  Yelapa isn’t the cheapest place in Mexico, but it’s certainly less expensive than home.
A morning's catch


Our food costs were cut when I went fishing with a local guide, Luis Garcia.  We were out on the water for 6 hours and came home with 25 bonitas (like a small tuna) and one Dorato (Mahi Mahi).   Total cost of the day fishing was $150.00 per person (there were two of).  I doubt you could get an hour’s fishing back home for what it cost for a day here.

The tourist beach
There are five distinct groups of people in Yelapa:  there’s the day tourists who come for the day by boat from Puerto Vallarta.  They are disgorged onto the beach on the far side of the little river and spend the day baking in the sun and drinking Cervesa, then are loaded back onto the boats around four for the hour trip back to Puerto Vallarta. 

The second group is the ex-pats, Canadians and Americans - generally aging burnt outpost hippy baby- boomers  who discovered Yelapa decades ago and have made it their home away from home. They have colorful names like Texas Don, Alaska Dave, Waco Dave, Johnny Bananas and Lucky. 

Next there are the twenty-something backpackers looking for cheap hostels or somewhere to crash.

Then there is a growing group of boomers who dipped their toes into being radical in their youth and searching to reliving their lost youth in their retirement.

Finally there are the Yelapans – most of whom are real-estate speculators, owning two or three Casas per family.  You do the math – they aren’t hurting.  The town is affluent by Mexican standards.

No Mexican town would be complete without  the mandatory beggar.   And Yelapa has one, Weepie,
who has the franchise for the whole town.  Don’t feel sorry for Weepie – she does spectacularly well – especially from the day tourists.   They give her all their Mexican coins.  They have no idea what they’re worth and do not want to take them home lest the boat capsizes and they drown due to the weight of all those coins in their pockets.   I saw Weepie in Vegas in the off season, in an expensive gown pumping coins into the slots.  She pretended not to know me, but I know it was her.

We have an interesting set of neighbours.  Just next door to us are Santa and Batman (an interesting movie title don’t you think?) Santa (real name, Steve) is a spitting image of Santa Claus: same build, red nose, and stomach.  What’s scary is there’s several “Santa” clones here.  If you want to know what all those Salvation Army Santas do with the money in the kettles, now you know – they head out to Yelapa.

Vampire Bat!
Batman got the name because he was bit by a vampire bat while sleeping in a hammock on the patio a night before we arrived – and yes it was full moon! He has to go into Puerto Vallarta every few days for a course of rabies shots. (Evidently the vampire bat thing is extremely  rare -  they generally feast on cattle and there’s less than a 1% chance that they’re rabid.  At least that’s what Harold keeps telling himself and anyone else who will listen.  I think he’s probably correct because I don’t see a lot of cows foaming at the mouth stampeding down the street.)

However if I was Batman I’d be worried – I saw “Santa” on the deck carving a point on a big stick.
 I’m not worried about the rabies,  I sent Michele into the village to buy as much garlic as she can lay her hands on.     Stay tuned for the movie sequel “Vampire Santa – coming down a chimney near you!”  

Yesterday Michele made  Cerviche from about one pound of the fish I'd caught.  By the time she added all the vegetables we had a huge bowl of it  - more than we could ever eat so we took the bowl over to our neighbours:  Jeff, the folk singer took some, then we went to another couple and they took some.  We finally ended up at Batman and Santa's casa.  We explained the situation to them and Santa took the bowl from me and went into the kitchen.  He emptied the entire bowl into one of his own and put it into his fridge. He then washed our bowl, dried it and handed it back.  Michele and I couldn't believe our eyes.  Just remember that next time you leave out cookies for him - he'll go into your kitchen and take the whole package!  

The living room of the new casa
All being well our “bid” on the new Casa will complete in the next couple of days. That means we’ll be down here for three months next year.  So hopefully we’ll see some of you down here next year – just bring your mosquito and vampire spray with you.

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