Tapachula Mexico … Cant Wait To Go Back

I will definitely go back to southern Mexico. It has been one of my favorite places so far. It is simple beauty.

After taking an overnight bus from Oaxaca to Tapachula, Chiapashttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapachula,_Chiapas

chiapasI got on a village bus to my host’s home in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. The village is called Cacahotán and is such a beautiful and lively hamlet at the bottom of a waterfall. 

This place is full of coffee bean farms. So pretty. Red berries hang full from each branch. Long oblong pans thick with picked beans in various stages of sun drying.

The sun is so much closer there than any other place I’ve been, except the Virgin Islands. Tapachula is the border city to Guatemala, the beginning of Central America.

My host, Ahmet is a great and talented guy. He is a 30 yr. old poet that also happens to co-own a newspaper. As with all my male hosts in this part of the America’s he lives with and helps his entire family. His parents and high school age brother live in the family home and at night lots of family comes over to play guitars and sing.

The family all welcomed me with huge smiles. Only Ameht and his teenage brother spoke any English at all and both wanted me only to speak it so they could practice.

After a cup of coffee (I arrived at their home at about 7am) Ameht and I went with his mom to visit his grandmother, sister and niece.  I love to go into the homes of the locals when I travel. You get a great sense of the people and area that way.  Ameht’s home consists of two stories with an attached garage and patio which his father has turned into a mechanics garage for their income.

An interesting fact I noticed while I was in Mexico and Central America is that for such a huge area for coffee importing they, for the most part, only serve instant coffee in their homes. Weird.

Once I had met the family I went with Ameht and his mom to see his grandmother, aunt, and niece. Again I got to see other local’s homes. I have to say I was quite a novelty for them. Lots of smiles while they looked me over so that was cool. After we left there, Ameht told me he wanted me to go with him to this “little get together” for a friend of his.

What he didn’t say is that it was an event for his friend who happened to be a famous poet there. Ameht was the emcee for the event and a painting was unveiled and dedicated. Ameht is a poet, I have posted one of his poems in the “pages” section of my blog. We went to the event at a place called, Campo experimental Rosario Izapa.

Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center
Agricultural Learning and Experimenting Center

It was so much fun. I met so many interesting artist, poets, politicians. I had a wonderful time and would very much get involved in this Center if I lived nearby.

The full day I was in Ameht’s home and Southern Mexico he took me to visit his friend’s Hotel up the mountain. He had to do some work on his newspaper (which is a wonderful online periodical about cultural, political and news events in Chiapas http://periodicoensuma.blogspot.com/ and I recommend reading it and or “liking” the fb page).

I loved the van ride to the Hotel. It was majestic. We went there for Ameht to work on the bio of a famous chronicler (who own’s the hotel), Antonio Valera Saá.

Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá
Chronicler Antonio Valera Saá

Mr Valera Saá and his  family opened their arms up to me. Fed me and asked me many questions. I was part of the family for the day. It is a BEAUTIFUL hotel that overlooks the mountain into Guatemala. The name of the hotel is Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez. 

Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez
Hotel Colonial Campestre in Union Juarez

The next morning I said all my goodbyes and followed Ameht through the town to where I could find a ride to the Tapachula, Mexico border with Guatemala. I was leaving Mexico and starting my journey through Central America.

Thankfully Ameht went with me because I never would have found the cheap ride in what looked to me like a WWII tanker. It was fun and the guy gave me a ride for free as long as I taught him some words in English. I was on my way to Guatemala…

My Wonderful Adventures in New Orleans, Louisiana

My time in New Orléans ended the third week of December. I learned so much, saw so much and laughed so much that I am in love with this city. I usually blog about an entire place in one post, but I’m not going to do that with my time in New Orléans aka NOLA. I want to post about my adventures first and then I will post my blog on what I have learned about the people and their hearts and perseverance since the devastation of  Hurricane Katrina. I had previously visited The French Quarter three times in the 1990s. I was told, and found out for myself on this trip, that visiting The French Quarter is in no way really visiting New Orléans. That is why I chose to spend some real quality time all over New Orléans this trip. I am so glad I did.

The food!!!! OMGosh, the food!!!!!

I had an idea of some of the food stuffs that I wanted before I got there… Muffuletta (most amazing sandwich ever), chicory coffee and alligator bites. But I had no idea the culinary treats I would get to enjoy… I was lucky enough to couchsurf with a great guy, Vince. Between him and his neighbors I was treated to many many culinary delights. They also were kind enough to take me to all their favorite local pubs.  People in NOLA are apparently as serious about their football as the rest of the south and we spent each Sunday at a different pub watching the games. One of these Sundays two of my friends joined us from Knoxville, TN. Patrick and Will Horton are two of my favorite Downtown Knoxville people. Seeing them always puts a huge smile on my face and they give the best hugs ever.

There were two other couchsurfers with me and we all had a blast. I think the pictures below are worth all the words I could say… We laughed and reveled all day. Finn McCool’s, http://finnmccools.com/,  is by far my favorite of the pubs. The owners are so kind and fun. After meeting the owners,  Pauline and Stephen Patterson, the night before at a private party we went to the pub’s Christmas party that Saturday night. This is a bar full of locals with lots of Irish flare. The owners are from Belfast and had owned the neighborhood bar in Mid City New Orléans for several years before Hurricane Katrina hit. Once they were allowed back to their place they saw that there was extensive damage that left them questioning if they should even reopen. With the help of their many loyal customers they took 6 months and rebuilt.  I am so glad they did…

My Trip to The Gold Mine Areas of Northern California

Salmon Swimming Up Stream

My trip to California was so diverse. I have done everything from Disneyland to marking off seeing salmon swim upstream from my bucketlist. I have worked and played hard and met so many wonderful people. Even though I grew up in California I had never been much past north San Francisco. So it was through new eyes that I went on to Redding below the southern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range. Beautiful.

I was very lucky to have my aunt, Patty, as a tour guide through this gold mining country. We went to French Gulch where we saw all the old mining establishments. My aunt took me to a local bar. This place has been in business since the civil war. The proprietor was so nice and showed us all kinds of stuff including ancient log books with bar tabs dated all the way to the day Lincoln was shot . The bar has been in his wife’s family the entire time and the memorabilia is everywhere and MUCH more extensive than most museums. I took my brother back when he came up a few days later.

We also did the surrounding lakes and trails. It struck me

Redding California

how much it all reminded me of East Tennessee. I wanted to go to Lassen and the hot springs there but didn’t get the chance.

I did get to go with my cousins on a bike ride to the newish Sundial Bridge in Redding. So cool with all kinds of trails around the river. We rode and rode. Stopped to sight see a Bald Eagles nest, watch fly fishermen, and just walk a bit. I took my brother here too when he came over.

Whiskey Town and Bandy Creek
Sundial Bridge with Sean

These pictures are all great memories…

Sundial Bridge and Bike Ride with My Cousins

Next a bit on time with family after a very long time…..

Hostel Obispo my new WWooFing property….AWESOME

I have been in San Luis Obispo for several weeks. It is a special place. I can see why the students of Cal Poly want to stay when they graduate.

I arrived on Greyhound from Santa Barbara at 11:00 am. A nice smooth ride with only two very short stops. Once here it was a really short walk to the Hostel. Thank goodness cause, as I found out at the SB station, my two pieces of luggage weighed 49.5 and 56.2 lbs. I am supposed to be lightening my load, but seem to be getting more. I will change that while in SLO aka San Luis Obispo.

Once at the Hostel all the staff were waiting for me and we headed off to my welcoming luncheon. We walked with the Hostel dog in hot pursuit. About four blocks later we were at the Bistro, Buona Tavola: http://www.btslo.com/. Delicious. Northern Italian Cuisine. Most all had the specials. And we shared a wonderful bottle of red wine. It was such a cool way to get to know one another. We sat outside in the courtyard laughing and eating. There are pictures, but they are currently on a camera in Portland, Oregon. I will post them when they come back south.

I didn’t start working for a couple of days to give me a chance to acclimate. Nice.

There are three general shifts here:

The breakfast shift: Homemade sourdough pancakes made fresh daily with organic free-trade coffee. This shift includes starting the loads of sheets from the previous nites guests and taking any incoming calls.

The cleaning shift (this is the one everyone starts off on for the first couple of weeks): All beds remade with clean sheets. The wash hung….I had never hung the was on clothes lines before that first shift here – getting back to basics and all. Bathrooms cleaned and floors swept. Of course being the anal retentive person that I am I also have spent much time cleaning the corners and oiling the furniture.

The Hostel is closed btwn 11 and 4:30 so after the cleaning shift everyone is about their own business of other jobs or play.

At 4:30 the Hostel reopens and that shift consists of getting the sheets off the line and folding them. Checking in guests and making sure everything runs smoothly during check-in time.

Here are a few pictures of the Hostel…

There is so much to do in SLO. There are several beaches all within 15 miles of the Hostel. Avila, Shell Beach and Pismo are for laying out and surfing. Morro Bay and Montana de Oro are more majestic and full of nature. So far my favorite central coast place has been Montana de Oro. I have always loved Big Sur more than any place I’ve traveled. BUT Montana de Oro may have replaced it if not tied with it. I will write about it in my next post.

On the other side of SLO are the foothills. Lots of easy and moderate hiking. These peaks are called the Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County. http://santalucia.sierraclub.org/ninesis.html.

One of the hikes is called Cerro San Luis Peak. It has a concrete “M” on it, sorta like the HOLLYWOOD sign, and people hike to the top of the top of the letter and sit or take photos. They can see hawks and such flying below them. It is a very SLO thing to do. I have not done this, because of my very weak ankle (but I have played volleyball in a vineyard, so maybe it is just an excuse, hmmm, maybe I will analyze that later or maybe not).

Of course there is plenty to do in San Luis Obispo…

The town was built around a creek that runs through it. There are bars, novelty shops and restaurants that run along the river. Children go onto the rocks and play in the flowing river while their parents watch or join in. There are many people who go there to read or to do homework. It is a fun and serene place to hang out with many benches and rocks to sit or lay on.

There are concerts, much like Knoxville’s Sundown in the City, every Friday nite at the creek. Also every Thursday there is an evening Farmer’s Market downtown. This is NOT your usual Farmer’s Market, but a party/festival. It goes from 6pm till 9pm and fresh farm food purchasing is just one of the activities. There is music, all kinds of food vendors, and all the townies out for an evening of meet and greet.

I have been riding one of the Hostel’s bikes around town quite a bit. One of my co-WWOOFers has taken me on several exploring rides. Here are a few of those pictures (oh and I’m volunteering  painting sets while I’m here at the Community Theatre that is in this collage)…

Well that is about it for tonite.

My next post I will show pictures of Montana de Oro State park and several of the beaches around SLO…

La Jolla Beach…..


One of the live-in grounds keepers, Coree, works at a cute sushi restaurant called Sushi on the Rock in La Jolla and was kind enough to let me drive in with her one day when she had a night shift. I was able to get there about 2pm and stay till around 11pm when her husband, Ian, picked me up on his way home from surfing. I went to art galleries, the beach, my first hookah bar and did lots of people watching.

I couldn’t wait to get down to the beach. I had promised Marley that I would take a picture of my feet in the water so that is the first thing I did. I had my feet in the cold water and was adjusting the camera when I went to click the frame I felt a weird rubbery heavy thing slosh over my feet as the wave came in. Startled I looked over after the wave began to recede to see the sweetest jet black baby sealion had come up over my feet and was just a foot away from me. He was adorable!!! I was so excited. He and I stayed side by side for about a half an hour. He taking looks at me and me at him. AMAZING!

After I finally left my new friend I went for a walk along the beach walk way. This section of beach is called Children’s Pool Beach ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children%27s_Pool_Beach) and has only recently reopened after being closed for years. On the bottom right hand side of the collage at the top of this page is the Lifeguard Station. I thought it was so cute. Many pelicans and seals and sea lions were enjoying the view as much as I was. Played in the tide pools and talked to the crabs.

I just cannot explain how giddy I feel when I am by the ocean. I am and always will be in such awe and wonder there.

After I spent some time at a deli shop, The Living Room, overlooking the water and doing some computer work I went for a walk to see all of the art galleries. La Jolla is known for their art galleries. One of my new all time favorites is The Dr. Seuss Gallery: http://www.drseussart.com/. I got such a quick out of this place. Who knew there was such humor in the man? Okay I guess the world did and does, but there is more humor than the children books we are all so familiar with.

I did visit a few other galleries and all were wonderful. I visited one that had many paintings that depict Dante’s works by a Spanish artist that I thoroughly enjoyed.

After my visit around town I was getting cold. I missed being cold in the summer evening so much while I lived in the never cooling summer evenings of Tennessee.

I went back to The Living Room. Upstairs is a hookah bar. I had never been to one, but had heard a lot about them.Very cool and a bit different. I am adamantly against smoking as anyone who knows me even slightly knows about me. So this den of hookah smoking had never appealed to me. Well what an experience. I enjoyed it. There were groups of people sitting around tables with these hookah.


There was no awful smell. Actually the opposite. All the air smelled clean and sweet. I was a bit memorized. Ian, the grounds keeper and Coree’s husband, came and picked me up at the hookah bar about mid-night to take me back to the ranch.

About two weeks after this I left the farm to go couch surfing for a couple of weeks. Here is a collage of the hookah bar and one of my last days and going away party at Hidden Valley Ranch (oh yeah and my one and only time of trying a hookah:

Hookah Bar, The Living Room, La Jolla, CA
Last days in Escondido and my sad attempt at Hookahing 😉

Next up, my beach hosting experiences…