Beautiful Birds, Snakes, and a Super New Friend! Week Five - 2/22-2/28/21

Updated: Mar 28, 2021


Our weeks in Mexico are getting better and better. I hardly have much time to dedicate to writing about it. We have so much to do here in Lake Chapala. I spent Monday and Wednesday morning sorting out pictures and writing but after a few hours needed to get outside. The weather here has been gradually warming up and afternoons are spent by the pool a lot of the time. 31 Celsius or 88 degrees Fahrenheit. I still walk at least 2 miles around the resort each day and the trees are coming alive with color! Lots of orange, yellow, and purple blossoms right now. It's very beautiful at Roca Azul . The monarchs are emerging from their Chrysalis and we are seeing new birds every day.

In the afternoon on Monday, we went to the Malecon in Jocotepec. It’s about a 10-minute drive from the park. We were looking for new birds. We find the majority in the early mornings or late afternoons. The Malecon had more folks walking around and the vendors were setting up for the evening. We had very good luck finding birds too. Both Larry and I were snapping pictures. We go in different directions sometimes and we double our sightings. We walked up and down the jetty and on the way back, near the boat ramp in the water plants, Larry spied a long black snake.

We got some good shots as it seemed to be sunning himself. Soon, with our snake eyes on, we saw another. Larry tried to get to them but they were in the soggy plants, it didn’t work. We weren’t really even sure what kind of snakes they were but my hunch was that they weren’t venomous. We usually go by my hunches! We later found out it was a Blackbelly Garter snake. Some fishermen said they were good to eat! I decided we would come back again to find snakes here. We continued to walk and birdwatch. I like to use Inaturalist to look up birds and reptiles.

Tuesday, we drove into Ajijic to hike with our camping friends, Deb and Robin.

We wanted to hike to the chapel we discovered last week. We thought it would be an easier hike and we could get lunch when we finished. Well, it was a super easy hike. We finished it in less than 20 minutes! We had great views of Lake Chapala and Ajijic. Larry and I wanted to hike further to the ceremonial grounds but Deb and Robin felt accomplished at the chapel. We continued for another hour of hiking while they walked down to Ajijic for breakfast at Emilia’s. We met up with them on the Malecon when we finished the rest of our hike. It was their first time at the Ajijic Malecon so they were happy just walking around this area. On the way back to the park, we did stop for a beer and snack, mostly for Larry. He had a full lunch! We ate at El Arca. They had lots of animal statues and colorful stained glass windows. Deb and I had Micheladas! I have discovered a new drink I like. Yum!

Wednesday after I finished my story and doing laundry, we still had some time for a mini-adventure. We have only driven on the northside of the lake so far. We thought we’d take a drive on the south side. Carol and Marvin, our camping neighbors like to have shrimp at a cute little place in the town of San Juan Soyatlan. It was a short 30-minute drive. We explored the Malecon for a bit. It was small and seemed like more for the local fisherman than tourists. That’s okay with us.

We walked out on a small pier that literally went nowhere... just into some trees. We made a spectacular discovery there. We watched a brilliant green hummingbird building a nest! I got a few pictures of her. We are planning on going back again to check on her babies. We found some chickens and ducks on the beach that someone was keeping there. Larry picked up a baby chick for a quick second as the mom watching was keeping an eye on him. We also found a donkey tied up on the beach next to his hut. Very interesting place. We found the little restaurant that our friends described and decided it was time for a beer and snack. It was called La Cabana.

The owner, I presume, was super friendly and very attentive. He was young and smelled like he drank all of the profits. We tried the shrimp with our beer and complimentary chips and salsa. Our new friend put on some ‘Rock” music for us on his jukebox. He offered to take our picture together and kept telling us, “He loved us”! He didn’t know much English so this was quite comical for us.

Thursday was a big day for us. We got up early to go birdwatching in Ajijic. We were confident we would find the meet-up point as John, from the Lake Chapala birders, had sent a map! We had a group of just 6. We wore masks or distanced ourselves for the 2-hour walk. It was just up a road right off highway 23. It took us past a beautiful event center and along some tall trees. A great place to spot birds. John was great at identifying them, sometimes just by the calls. Both Larry and I got some pictures of many of the birds we saw. Larry walked way behind and he was able to find a bird that John had missed too! As we walked toward the canyon, Larry spied something in the distance in a bald tree. It was hopping around like a squirrel. We all were very excited to see 3 more of these Squirrel cuckoos. Soon after this discovery, we found another of my favorite birds, a Russet crowned motmot. All in all, the birding was great! We saw 44 species of birds. Larry and I got pictures of at least half of them!

We went out to brunch after at Emilia’s because Deb and Robin had said it was so good. I had the most fabulous salad with beet hummus, strawberries, and goat cheese. Larry had a tasty omelet. We really enjoyed our meal and will probably return again if we have a chance. We had massages scheduled in the afternoon in Ajijic so we had a few hours to burn. We decided to go further down the road to Chapala. We walked the Malecon and they had opened up a lot more than the last time we were here. We were able to walk out on the piers and explore a bit more. We went inside the old historic hotel by the Malecon to discover it was a government building. It had art and murals all over the walls and we spent some time looking around. Chapala is such a beautiful city. We have barely done much here yet. For more information and things to do in Chapala. About an hour before we were to go back to Ajijic, we stopped by the Beer Garden for a snack. Larry enjoyed a beer and I had my second Michelada so far. I’m really liking these drinks! I made an interesting discovery in their Banos. For 10 pesos (50 cents US) you can buy a miniature toothpaste, brush, and floss in a vending machine! It was too adorable. I bought one!

Our massages were great again at Total Body Care Spa. We were so relaxed and happy on the 30-minute drive back to our park. As we pulled up to the trailer, we saw the guys playing baseball again. I told Larry to grab his glove and run over. When Larry got out of the truck, all we heard was, “Larry! Larry! Larry!” That was so cool. Larry played with them until dark again. They asked him to play on their team in Guadalajara on Sunday. He said no that he’s never played baseball. I will keep encouraging Larry. How often will he get this chance? He just needs to go for it!

Friday morning we were too tired to go out to hike. We would usually do a hard hike but we were feeling beet! We just went to the Jocotepec Malecon to look for birds and snakes in the morning. We did great right off finding snakes! Many were sunning themselves on rocks and Larry figured he would easily catch one. They move very fast and just glide back into the water and swim away.

While we were doing this, a gentleman walked by and asked what we were doing. He spoke good English but his accent let me know he was Mexican. He was very friendly and we stood there and talked for 30 minutes. I think the snakes were happy we were busy. His name is Tino and he has lived most of his life in the United States. He was born in Acapulco but left Mexico when he was 25. He spent a lot of time as a professional dancer, traveling in Mexico, the US, and Europe. He had returned last year to have hip surgery in Guadalajara and bought a home in Ajijic. He told us that he had bought more property around the other side of Lake Chapala and was building a house. He said his view of the lake was spectacular. I asked if we could go see his place. He said he would love to show it and we exchanged numbers. What a pleasant encounter!


Saturday I did my usual walk around the park. We were going to get together with the other campers in the afternoon for cornhole and pizza. John and Stephanie were treating everyone to pizza. That’s all we needed for a reason to have a party! We had a bigger group of people stop by to play and to visit this time.

Since it’s very warm in the afternoons, we moved the games under the trees by the volleyball and basketball courts. We met a few new folks like Lulu and Al. They have been living here in a container house for 3 years. They just got back from Boston where they have a family. Another Canadian couple stopped by to visit. They were originally from Nova Scotia, moved to Vancouver, and now are temporary Mexican citizens. Ben and Silvy. They have a huge motorhome in the corner of the park. I partnered up with Ben to play a game as Larry and I split up this week. Larry is still undefeated but I believe I lost at least one game. I didn’t keep track. I was enjoying the conversations more this time. Silvy was talking about her travels and the people they have met along the way. She told me of a wonderful couple they met in the Arizona desert 3 years ago from Petaluma!!! What!? That’s my hometown. I asked who they were. Perhaps randomly me or my mom might know them. The couple is in their 80’s and their first names are Dean and Erica. My mom knows them!!! What a crazy small world we live in. Besides the fun new people, we also had the regular crowd. Deb and Robin were there plus Carol and Marvin. We invited everyone that passed by on the path to come and play our game with us. We had a few young Mexican boys that spoke no English play and were very fast learners. On the weekends there are many Mexican citizens here and we had 4 or 5 others stop to play. Memo and his girlfriend Addy came by too. Addy is quite a good athlete. She rocked volleyball and now she’s a rising cornhole star! It was such a great day.

In the evening, Robin came over with his guitar and played by the fire. We had a wonderful full moon and Robin played some great music. He finished writing another song and sang it for us. Internet Friends - YouTube I asked Robin if he ever played professionally because he’s so good. He said, “Well yes, although I don't need to do it for the money. My first full-time gig was in Bucerias, Mexico at Sabor Y Sons. Translates as Flavor and rhythm. I have picked up gigs as a studio bass player, and I suppose it was very handy to help keep body and spirit together when I was really struggling with making child support payments. I played at Amanda's Coffee shop in Cripple Creek, Colorado, and the Headframe Tavern in Victor. Other than that, I had few gigs at the Country Lodge in Woodland Park, Colorado but they dropped me after two shows. I think I got too loud for them. It was a motel and some guests probably complained. Live and learn. I've played at coffee houses in Florida and also a farmer's market and got paid for playing at an RV park there. Also, I've played at a rehabilitation hospital in Tennessee. So if I had to survive on my earnings I would have starved a long time ago but a little extra money from time to time comes in handy.”

I asked him what his favorite experience playing was and he said, “Hard to pick a favorite experience. A few good stories are the time I was in Bucerias and a bunch of drunk Mexicans came in and wanted to hear La Bamba. I had to tell them over and over that, I didn't know La Bamba but it was looking ugly so I did my best attempt at it. I now know it. A few others are when some drunk chicks get really into one of my songs and start taking their clothes off. I always like tips in the tip jar, the most authentic form of applause there is.”

What is your favorite band? “ Too many to list. Depends on my mood. Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Marty Robbins, Chris Issac are a few that come to mind today.”

“Favorite place to play?...., a big stage with a good sound system and a good sound man. They are worth their weight in gold as far as making you sound good. I played at a swap meet in the Carroll County coliseum once. Very nice show.” He is self-taught. He gives lessons from time to time. And he says that practice is the key. He’s played at a few places in Nashville and surrounding areas. He told his musical friend that he doesn't want to be famous. He’s seen all the BS that the famous musicians go through and it's not something he wants to put up with. His CD, The Thought that Counts is available on Amazon or you can stream it on Spotify, although he really doesn't like Spotify. It's been two years since he made that one and thinks he’s almost ready to do a new one. I really like Robin. He’s one of my favorite people that I’ve met on the road. So easy to hang out with and generous with his musical talents.

Sunday we had plans with our new friend Tino to go see his home that is being built on the hills. He met us here at Roca Azul and came to see our trailer. He seems just as interested in our lives as we are in his. We showed him our maps of the places we’ve been to in the US, Canada, and Mexico. He said that we’ve seen more of Mexico than he has. We told him that we were leaving in a month and he was welcome to travel along with us. Larry drove us over to his property. It didn’t take long to get there but we did drive up quite a ways on a bumpy dirt road. The property does not have electricity yet….. that will come later. The view was amazing, especially from the second floor. Right now, his home is the only one on this hill for a long way. In the future, they will be developing it as we saw down the road, new sites being sold for homes. They have already made roads and infrastructure. While we were at his property, the people came to work on it. There is a lot of cement and brickwork which is typical of the homes here. After we walked to a small pond hoping to see some birds. We saw cows!

Tino told us more about where he lived in the US. He spent time in San Diego, Atlanta, Georgia, and then the big island of Hawaii. He has property on the mountain there and some cabins that he rents out. He rented them on Air BnB for a while and that was his income. He really was excited to tell us about how he built his cabins. He enjoys nature and quiet peaceful places. We enjoyed the time we spent with him and I am hoping to see him more before we leave.

When we got back to the trailer, our chrysalis had opened. Our butterfly was wet and laying on the bottom of the container. We took him out and placed him on a flowering plant. It said on the internet that it could be up to 2 hours before the wings fully unfolded. We waited patiently but they never fully opened. I’m afraid that we didn’t place the chrysalis in the container correctly and may have damaged his development.

I feel bad. Very bad. It says that they only live for 2 to 4 weeks. Now I am caring for a crippled monarch. I feed him sugar water every day and he lives on our flowering plant. He will have the best life that I can give him now.



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